8/12/08 at PNC Park

This was the second game I’d ever attended at PNC Park. The first was seven years ago, and I don’t remember much. I know I snagged seven balls that day, but I didn’t have a blog or a digital camera back then so it’s almost like it never happened.

Anyway, THIS day started with four crappy hours of sleep and continued with a seven-hour drive from New York City, a confusing check-in at the Holiday Inn Not-Express, and an interminable wait for a taxi to the stadium. By the time I made it there, half a dozen people were already waiting on line at the center field gate so my picture-taking was going to have to wait one more day.

PNC Park opens two hours early for season ticket holders and 90 minutes early for everyone else. Long story short: I was stressed out of my skull but ended up getting inside two hours early. This is what it looked like in the left field bleachers:


I used the glove trick to snag my first ball of the day in straight-away left field as Ian Snell was coming over to retrieve it. He was amused.

My second ball was a home run that I caught on a fly after ranging 30 feet to my left through a long, narrow row between the benches. If my friend Brian (aka “puckcollector” in the comments section) hadn’t told me to bring sunglasses, there’s no way I would’ve caught this ball. The sun was absolutely brutal. I had to look right at it whenever a ball was hit in the air, so I’m officially passing along Brian’s advice to all of you: BRING SUNGLASSES if you’re going to PNC Park. Trust me.

Due to a combination of stupidity, bad luck, and quirky architectural design, I still only had those two baseballs when the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30pm. (An example of the bad luck: I was BP_from_RF_08_12_08.jpgscooting through the second row, about to make an easy basket catch on a line drive home run, when a man in the front row who had lost the ball in the sun darted to the side in a last-second attempt to duck out of the way, but he ended up ducking right into it and getting in my way as the ball slammed off his shoulder and plopped back onto the field.) I ran out to the right field seats, thinking it might be better there…but no, it was a total waste of time. The wall was too high. It would’ve been tough to use the glove trick, only because the ushers and security guards would’ve had a chance to stop me. The section was too steep. There were too many tunnels and railings. There was no room to run. And it started getting crowded.

C_balls.jpgI went back to left field, changed into my Reds shirt and Reds cap, and snagged three more balls during the remaining half of BP (all of which were marked with a “C” on the sweet spot). The first was tossed by a player that I couldn’t identify, the second was a deep home run that I caught on a fly in that open area behind the benches, and the third came via the glove trick near the foul pole. Not bad, not great. It could’ve been worse, but I also could’ve hit double digits by this point if I’d REALLY been on my game.

As for that open area behind the bleachers…here I am standing there:


It was a great spot except for one thing: it was well over 400 feet from home plate so there weren’t too many guys who could reach me.

One problem with the bleachers at PNC is that the wall measures 383 feet from home plate in straight-away left field. That’s kinda far. Another problem stems from the fact that fans in any stadium always cram into the first few rows; the bleachers here only HAVE a few rows–a mere half-dozen in one spot–so despite the low attendance at this game, that whole section still got uncomfortably crowded toward the end of BP:


Batting practice ended at 6pm–about 20 minutes earlier than usual–so I lost a few more snagging opportunities. It just wasn’t a good day, and I was kicking myself for not going to see the Mets in D.C. instead.

Just before the game started, I snuck down to the Reds’ dugout (which is on the first base side at PNC) and got my sixth ball of the day tossed by some guy I’d never heard of. Adam Rosales? I hadn’t even noticed his name when I printed the team’s roster the night before. Seriously, who is he? Who were half the players in the game? I thought I was watching minor league baseball.

I moved to the seats behind the third base dugout and ran down to the front row when Javier Valentin lined out to end the top of the first inning. Doug Mientkiewicz caught the ball and flipped it to me on his way in. Check out the bat imprint on it:


Can you tell what it says? There’s a faint reverse imprint (as if you’re looking at it in a mirror) of the first six letters in the word “Cincinnati.” See it?

I moved back to the first base side and tried going for third-out balls behind the Reds’ dugout, but I didn’t get anything. I kept getting kicked out (and eventually threatened) by an old view_behind_1B_dugout.jpg
crabby usher, which was especially frustrating because the Reds must’ve tossed 20 balls to the people in the front row throughout the game. No joke. Not only did every third-out ball get tossed into the crowd, but 1st base coach Billy Hatcher gave away the infield warm-up ball every inning as well. And there were other balls that got tossed up…foul balls from the ball boy, random balls from the players and coaches. It was crazy. And yeah…I had to stay 10 to 15 rows back and watch helplessly as all of this was taking place.

As for the game itself…whatever. I mean, it WAS Major League Baseball (at least that’s what I was told), but there really wasn’t much to get excited about. Two lousy teams. No superstars. Unenthusiastic fans. Terrible cheese steak (with no cheese). What is there to say? I actually missed Shea and Yankee Stadium. (Did I really just say that?) Edinson Volquez pitched well and earned his 14th win. Mike Lincoln also pitched well and earned his ninth hold. Valentin and Brandon Phillips hit home runs. Rosales and Chris Dickerson picked up their first major league hits. Corey Patterson went 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .194. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals called a great game.


I’m at a loss.


? 7 balls at this game

? 308 balls in 43 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.

? 539 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 130 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

? 3,585 total balls


  1. aherr44


    Rosales got called up because Joey Votto is on the bereavement list. I’m sorry you had to see the Reds in their current state. They definately resemble a minor league team at the moment:( This weekend in Cincinnati is going to be brutal for me! It will be my first time seeing the Reds in person since before Griffey and Dunn were traded. Pray for me! lol!

  2. mjblue23@insightbb.com

    Been reading for a while, first time commenting. Rosales was called up to replace Votto while he’s on the bereavement list. I saw you on TV after the game, they panned onto you for about 30 seconds as you were yelling at someone on the field, you were in the right field corner. George Grande said you were a die-hard Reds fan and made the trek from Cincinnati to see your team play.

  3. meikd423

    Wow. 2 last place teams in the worst division, the west, are more exciting than this. Since Griffey and Dunn are gone, the reds arent that great. except for edinson volquez.

  4. beach71389

    I had a similar experience at PNC last summer. Very sunny, not very easy to snag. I did get to see Lowe take a perfect game into the 6th though. Forgot who won. It is a nice park though with a beautiful view of the Pittsburgh skyline and that cool yellow bridge. Any chance you’ll make it back to DC or Camden this year? I should be there a few more times before I have to go back to school.

  5. 81timesayear

    Hey Zack, sorry to hear about your rotten luck. I got the chance to catch a couple of games at pnc last year just before the 4th of july. i think its the most beautiful park in baseball. if you have the chance definately hang out on the roberto clemente bridge and go see the view from the upper deck.

  6. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    It could have been worse. You could have been at the Padres game. We’re even worse than the Reds and the Pirates. Apparently we’re stingy too. Hopefully, tonight will be better for you. I feel double digits for you tonight.


  7. nysetrader76@aol.com

    Hey Zack – sounds like you had a good day at Shea on Sunday. After you left and I told you that there wasn’t any balls down in the right field gap (I already looked, I guess I did a sloppy job of looking), I did a second scan just as I was getting ready to leave. What did I see? Yes, I had an extra long string for the glove trick just in case there was anything out there. A ball was lodged up agiainst a water bottle and a pepsi cup. Since that was so high up, and you don’t have much room to work with, I first tried to do the glove trick directly, but the bottle and cup messed me up. I tried for 10 minutes trying to swing my glove to move the trash first, but being so far down, and not being able to get any momentum, I had to give up. It did give the fans up there a good laugh and all seemed amused by this. That would have been by far my most difficult ball ever if successful. One thing I can say about Yankee, as crowded as it gets, most people don’t bring cup or glove tricks, so if anything comes up to the wall, it’s usually a pretty easy pick up. It was great meeting you, I’m sure we’ll run into each other at Shea or Yankee again soon. Erik

  8. Txbaseballfan

    Hey Zack, well you know, even Michael Jordan had bad days, so don’t lose any sleep over it. You always have the friendly confines of Shea & Yankee to look forward to when you get home. See, things are looking up already!(For the others reading this, I am joking by the way.)

  9. meikd423

    oh, and that ball that had the imprint, was that the ball where Mientfgghjgjkfk made the AMAZING catch that made sportscenter top 10??

  10. joshscards

    haaaa. i was watching a tivo’d episode of mets weekly and happend to recognize a familiar face!!…did you know you were on the opening after the OH SO ANNOYING GUISEPE FRANCO?…anyway, it was the game you brought your big glove to shea

  11. joshscards

    i dont know why it says this is my user name…but its JOSHS AUTOGRAPHED CARD COLLECTION

  12. joshscards

    i guess THREE comments in a row is a little much (sorry)…but “joshscards” is my new username i guess

  13. goisles


    1) This is where ball snagging gets in the way for me. You were at arguably the most beautiful ballpark in the majors on what appeared to be a gorgeous night. I also know that they play great music on clear sounding speakers during BP. However, the snagging opportunities (or lack thereof) took your mind off the sheer beuaty and peacefulness of that oasis in downtown Pittsburgh and had you wishing you at Shea??? C’mon!!!!

    2) Puck C says RF isn’t that bad when we were there.

    3) Minnesota Metrodome: We will be there for two games next week v. Oakland. Does anyone have reliable information on when the gates open.

    4) Islanders hired a new coach. Less than 8 weeks until the first puck drops! Less than 12 weeks before the Islanders are officially elimonated from the playoffs.

    PadreLeigh–Nice catch! You stole that one right away from the guy on the direct line.

  14. thet206kid

    Even though the Mets and Yankees are not doing that great,, we are spoiled over here when other cities pretty much have minor (major) league teams,, not only are the players non stars but the owners dont care about winning,

    Anyway, i am going to the Baseball hall of fame in cooperstown for my 12th time, it should be great and i will have a lot to write about

  15. braves04

    Leigh, nice job on the catch. Channel 4’s shot of you was great. Too bad PETCO’s not more homer friendly for you.
    I’m not worrying about snagging this week vs. Chicago. Not worth putting up with all those visiting fans.

  16. zackhample

    I survived Game 2 at PNC Park. Tough place. I’ll probably be posting an entry about it on Friday…

  17. cougars94

    Hey Zack, on August 3rd my family and I went to Tropicana Field for our first time and BP was almost COMPLETELY empty cuz even though the line was huge to get in, almost everyone hangs out in the concourse cuz it’s like a miniature fan-fest over there. i went to the Tigers bullpen (which is on the field near foul line) and politely asked Coach Chuck Hernandez for Zach Miner’s warm-up ball after his session was over. Sure enough he kept his promise and tossed it to me and NO ONE was in my section except for my brother. Later on during BP, a ball landed on the right field warning track and no players were near it. I noticed there was an usher kicking out people who didnt have front row seats behind outfield wall to sit there (even during batting practice!)*Zack i suggest u buy those tickets if u ever visit there* But ur allowed to sit anywhere from 2nd row and beyond. so my brother politely asked the usher if we can go to the front row only to pick up the ball with a contraption device (aka the Glove Trick). she told us we could try it if it works. my brother picked it up with ease and that was OUR 2nd of the day. after that we decided to enjoy the stadium. oh and we got Andy Sonnanstine autograph and almost Scott Kazmir (which i probably wouldve gotten already had he stayed with the Mets)..well srry for the long comment but i had to share my story, ttyl

  18. gregb123

    So, I’ve been in Cleveland and Detroit all this week. Going back to Jacobs Field tomorrow. I snagged my second foul ball in three nights a couple hours ago. I’ll try to post a full report and set up a photo gallery when I get home in a couple days if anyone’s interested.

  19. meikd423

    I was watching sportcenter the other night and they said that cameron was really doing well making a sliding catch and hitting a homerun. when i saw it, i was thinking “i bet leigh caught that one” and then you posted the comment!!!!!! Congratulations!

    i fogot to mention this, but i went to the pirates v. mets game the other day. 2 crappy things happened. the first was in BP. i asked pedro feliciano for a ball sitting on the track in the right field loge. his throw was off line and right to this other guy who immediatly gave it to a kid about 5 years old right next to me. what did the kid do???? he threw it back onto the field and it was a perfect commemorative that looked game used. it sucked.
    Then, i started chasing foul balls in the loge. i started to talk to this guy who was sitting on the aisle seat right next to the tunnel i was standing in. i told him how it was good for foul balls and he said he always wanted to catch one. my mom called me and told me to come to the seats for a second. i ran up to the seats to talk to her and saw a foul ball ball smack the facade and guess who caught it. the guy standing right next to me, who i was talking to. the very next pitch, a ball goes right back into the tunnel and i see the guy jump over the railing and chase it down into the concourse. i would have easily caught both on a fly. but he ended up getting both of them. just thought i would share that.

  20. dhbball

    Zack sorry PNC was tough this week but it is a very nice park to be in, Though I seemed to have better luck in Pittsburgh I stood in the very corner in LF and got 9 by just standing there the wall is low so not too hard plus I had two guys lower me down to grab one which alarmed security but was worth it, sorry man where ya gonna be next.

  21. aefeq


    Looking forward to your story about last night’s game. I agree with Fatherpuck about snagging sometimes getting in the way of really appreciating where you are (and about the Islanders being out of the playoffs…I am a big Devils fan!). I think PNC is the nicest park. Last year, my son and I each got 2 balls early on and then just decided to walk around and take in the beauty of the place.

    Almost nothing better than relaxing on a nice summer evening in a place like PNC.

    Greg, hope all is well in Cleveland! Looking forward to the pix.


  22. gjk2212

    zack-tough luck man. still, i really wanna go there.

    greg-id be interested in some pix..

    leigh-i was watching sports center the next morning with my brother, and when i saw cameron hit it to where id seen replays of you sitting before, i knew youd have a shot. i saw a guy that looked like you (from zacks and your posted pix at least) reach over and catch it, and i told my bro i thought it was you. crazy stuff.

    my next game will be either next tues. weds. or thurs. at cbp. midweek series vs. washington-sweet.

  23. ddddddssd

    im thinnking that the met opens 1.5 hours early on weekdays and 2 hours early on weekends

  24. Jake

    Fatherpuck/puckcollector –
    your comment about the Islanders is funny. I am a huge Coyotes fan and that is usually how it goes with us, hopefully not this year. We have to get you guys back for last year’s loss. I can’t wait for the season to start.
    Padreleigh –
    That was a great catch.

  25. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    Padreleigh -way to go ,Iwas directly 20 feet above you on Cameron HR,you need to get a new glove,it slipped out ,oil it with leather softener, CH 4 guys said Chase Headley didnt glove it but the guy in seats did glove it.

  26. zackhample

    Sorry for the delay in answering these comments…and sorry for being brief, but I also have about 100 emails that I have to get through (as well as lots of other non-baseball things to take care of, if you can believe it). For everyone who’s been sending me links to their blogs…I really appreciate that you want to share them with me, but I truly don’t have time to look at them right now.

    Thanks for the info on Rosales.

    Right field corner? I was behind the dugout on the first base side. Is that what you meant? Or could it have been someone else? Anyway, thanks for leaving your first comment. It’s nice to hear from you.

    Would’ve been great to see Griffey. I’d actually semi-planned this trip while he was still with the Reds. Nice spelling of Mientkiewicz. Did he make a great play on that ball? I forget. Sorry about your foul ball woes. That sucks bigtime.

    Camden Yards…August 27th and September 11th. I already have tickets so even if it rains, I’ll (almost definitely) be there.

    Thanks for the advice about checking out the upper deck. I probably would’ve done it anyway, but it was nice to get the suggestion from someone who’d been up there.

    Yeah, thank God I didn’t have to see the Padres. :-p

    Aww, man, I’m sorry you didn’t get that ball, and I’m sorry I didn’t see it. I wonder if I would’ve been able to get it, but from what you described, it sounds like it would’ve been hard for anyone. Maybe it would’ve been easier with a cup trick.

    Wow…being compared to Michael Jordan…that’s a first.

    The Mets got footage of me with the big glove?! Really?! I had no idea. Cool.

    Believe me, I was fully aware of the beauty of the ballpark throughout BP, even when the snagging wasn’t all that great. I think my second PNC entry captured that. (I just posted it a few hours ago.) Not sure about the gates in Minnesota. Sorry…but I hope you have a great time! And as I told Puck Collector, let me know how it goes.

    Twelve visits to the Hall?! Dear Lord, I’ve only been there once.

    Nice work at the Trop…and thanks for the heads-up about that awful front-row rule. That’s good to know. I probably *will* make it back down there before that stadium closes.

    Hurry up and share the details, son!

    Well, it wasn’t THAT bad, so don’t be too sorry for me. Looks like my next game will be in Philly on August 19th.

    I’d have a tough time arguing with anyone who says that PNC is the nicest stadium.


    I got your email, but I haven’t had a chance to write back yet. I’ll definitely get to it this weekend. Maybe even tonight…

  27. mjblue23@insightbb.com

    Yeah, that was it then. It wasn’t a good angle and all I could tell was that it was the first base side.

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