I headed out early to get a bite to eat at Friday’s Front Row Bar & Grill inside Miller Park.
I parked my truck and began my 10 minute walk to the stadium. It’s a peaceful stroll, it’s free where I park and it brings back memories of Milwaukee County Stadium.
I’ve taken this walk hundreds of times over the years.
Here was my view from across Interstate 94…
Here’s a tidbit of information: The site where County Stadium once stood and Miller Park now stands was once a gravel quarry called “Story Quarry.” The neighborhood directly to the north of the site is called the “Story Hill” or “Story Park” neighborhood.
My walk continued down an old pedestrian sidewalk…
The end of the pedestrian sidewalk takes you here…
…the NORTH General Parking lot. Cost to park here = $8.00. It’s tailgating heaven. As you can see in the pic above, diehards came out equipped with gazebos to stay dry and insure the best possible tailgating experience. Rain was in the forecast.
After passing back under the freeway through a tunnel, I came to this…
…notice the street sign?? Yeah, Bud Selig is still highly regarded around Milwaukee.
He did run the Brewers at bottom dollar for years. Perennial losers for over a decade. But, he will always be respected for bringing baseball back to Milwaukee. For that, I’m appreciative.
I went into the stadium and began watching the Brewers take BP.
Not long after, I gained the attention of Brewers pitcher JORGE JULIO (who had just fielded a baseball). I framed my glove like a catcher as if I was about to receive the pitch. He turned and lobbed it to me. It fell short. I said, “thanks anyways.” He held up one finger as if to say, hold on, I’ll try again. A minute later, he fielded another baseball. He turned in my direction and I once again framed my mitt like a catcher. This time, he put more on the throw and I barely had to move my glove. Smack! BASEBALL #1. I turned to my right and rang the pitch up as a strike.
So far, he’s been used in mop-up time during games. Because of that, I’m not sure what his future in Milwaukee holds. However it works out, he’s been good to The Happy Youngster so far this season.
It had the word “FISH” written on the sweetspot.
If you remember from this entry, I had discovered the Brewers were getting creative with marking BP balls.
I kind of like it. Makes snagging that much more interesting…if that’s even possible.
That was it for the Brewers portion of BP.
The Brewers are usually off the field by 5:35pm for a 7:05 game.
NOTE: Gates to Miller Park only open 90 minutes prior to game time during the weekday. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day, Gates open 2 hrs. before the game only on weekends. That takes valuable BP time away from the fans. Now, imagine driving 5 hrs. across the state of Wisconsin to see your favorite team practice and play. Only to get there and see the opponent taking BP. Your kids ask you, “where are the Brewers?” You respond, “geez kids, the Brewers Operational staff are like the Fun Police. When there’s a little fun to be had, they swoop in and prevent it. Alright, I’ll step down now.
The first group of D’Backs hitters in the cage included Chris Young, Justin Upton, Felipe Lopez and Josh Wilson.
Let me tell you, Upton was hitting some bombs. That kid swings like Babe Ruth.
I managed to snag one of the Little Bambino’s bombs…on a bounce.
I estimated BASEBALL #2 traveled 460 feet before landing back to earth.
That mark on the side panel is where the ball met a bleacher seat when it finally descended to earth.
D’Backs pitcher JON RAUCH was roaming in left field during BP. I tried gaining his attention but to no avail.
A few minutes later, I finally got his attention. He had fielded a baseball and was preparing to toss it up to me in the 2nd level LF loge bleacher section. The throw fell probably 20 feet short. It was the worst attempt by a major league player to throw a ball to a fan as I’ve ever seen. All he said was, “oops, sorry.” The tone of his voice was sarcastic. His body language said, ‘whatever.’ So, I said, “next one, buddy.”
About 10 minutes later, a baseball rolled directly below me to the wall. I yelled down to Jon Rauch again. I said, “how about a 2nd chance?” He looked up to me and tossed it up-this time right on target.
BASEBALL #3 came courtesy of the tallest player ever to play in the major leagues. At 6’11” tall, Jon Rauch could have slam dunked it in my glove from where he was standing (okay, that’s an exaggeration).
The remainder of BP was rough for me.
A Mark Reynolds baseball was caught right next to me. My glove was one of three in the scram and I didn’t come up with it. I ALWAYS expect to come out with it…even in a crowd.
Later, Eric Byrnes hit one right at me in the front row down the left field line. I had been looking down at the field when he hit it. D’Backs pitcher Jon Garland pointed up to the sky as if to say, ‘head’s up’! I looked up into the sun and saw a white speck coming at me. I reached out my glove at the last second in self defense. It hit squarely in my glove and dropped harmlessly to the field. I felt like absolute crap. I DO NOT make errors. That was my 1st true error on the season. If you I get slammed into or something stupid like that-that’s one thing. But there was no excuse for this one. All on me.
RULE #1 of Ballhawking: Never watch a BP baseball you can no longer snag.
I had violated rule #1 and paid dearly for it. I had been watching a baseball hit in a different location and I was not paying attention to the next pitch.
That was it for BP. I had to lick my wounds.
NOTE: The D’Backs were not very accommodating as far as toss-up baseballs were concerned. They wouldn’t even look to the crowd. Oh well.
Before the game started, I made my way down to the visitor’s dugout. Felipe Lopez and Chad Tracy were warming up in front of the dugout.
The national anthem began. They stopped tossing. After the national anthem, they resumed. After they finished, CHAD TRACY walked to the dugout with the ball. I asked him for it and he rolled it on top of the dugout to me for BASEBALL #4.
When the game began, I made my way out to my seat out in right center field. About 99% of the time, I play for game home run balls. It brings my total baseballs snagged down a tad, but throughout my whole ballhawking career, game home runs have always been the emphasis.
Felipe Lopez led off the game with a home run into the right field bleachers (lower level). That was it for game home runs for the day.
In the 2nd inning, I had a visitor to my section.
Take a look at this sharp dressed little man…
…his name is Ethan and he’s 8 yrs. old. Check out the t-shirt Ethan is wearing.
Recognize that?? For his good taste in clothing (or his Mom’s, for that matter), Ethan got himself a major league baseball. Ethan is one cool dude. His wonderful mother, Sarah (not pictured-but accompanying him), tells me baseball is becoming his thing. Attaboy!
TO EVERYONE READING THIS: If I see you or your kid at a game wearing my shirt, I’ll give you a ball, too. It’s that simple. “Happy” supporters get rewarded.
The Brewers ended up winning 4-1. The home crowd was too loud for an ump ball and the D’Backs all disappeared into the dugout without a glance to the crowd.
My day was finished.
I must admit, I’m getting a little spoiled. I was actually disappointed in only snagging 4 baseballs on this day.
I told you I have lofty standards.
2009 BALLHAWKING STATS
- 4 total balls 4/30/09
1 batted ball
2009 TOTAL BASEBALLS
4/7/09 = 5 baseballs
4/8/09 = 10 baseballs
4/9/09 = 10 baseballs
4/10/09 = 3 baseballs
4/11/09 = 5 baseballs
4/12/09 = 5 baseballs
4/13/09 = 11 baseballs
4/14/09 = 6 baseballs
4/21/09 = 5 baseballs
4/27/09 = 15 baseballs
4/28/09 = 9 baseballs
4/30/09 = 4 baseballs
88 baseballs (12 games)
7.33 average per game
Okay…what I’m about to tell you took place on April Fool’s Day.
But the thing is, this story is no joke.
Without further ado…
I arrived at Maryvale Baseball Park at approx. 9:13 am for the morning workouts. The Brewers were playing the D’Backs later that day at 1:05 pm. I had some time, so, I wandered over to the minor league fields to watch some batting practice, fielding drills, etc. etc.
While watching the AAA team for the Brewers, Nashville Sounds manager and former Brewers star Don Money flipped a baseball to me. Baseball number 1 was out of the way.
As I walked past the catchers doing their catching drills, a baseball bounced over the fence (they were adjusting the pitching machine and didn’t have it quite lined up yet). I walked over and claimed ball number 2. One of the easier ones of the trip.
I wandered over to the AAA batting practice field. An unknown Nashville Sounds player hit one over the fence that I ran down on the bounce. The funny thing was that I wasn’t even trying to play for a baseball in this area. I was just in the right place at the right time.
This would prove to be my day.
The gates to the stadium opened at 11:30 am for the 1:05 pm game.
When I ran into the stadium, I was delighted to see the D’Backs take batting practice. Sweet!!
As I ran in, I noticed an easter egg lying out on the right field berm. On the run, with numerous people behind me, I scooped it up and continued over to left field.
When I arrived over in left field, I noticed yet another easter egg lying on the left field berm. I plucked this one off the grass for another easy souvenir.
An unknown D’Backs player (possibly Chris Snyder) hit one out that I snagged on the bounce for ball number 6.
As I was running back over to right field for a lefty group, I decided to take a slight detour over a small hill way behind center field. It was an easily overlooked area. What did I see? Yet a 3rd easter egg lying on the grass. It pays to take an extra second to look. Keep in mind, the stadium had been open for about 10 minutes when I discovered this one. Ha!
Justin Upton hit a BP bomb in my direction that I ran down and gloved on the fly.
Conor Jackson “jacked” one to left field that I snagged on the bounce.
D’Backs young stud Justin Upton hit another bomb in my direction. I took off in a sprint, camped underneath it and gloved it on the fly for double digits. Woohoo!
Conor Jackson hit another one to left field that I gloved on the fly. That made 3 gloved on the fly during BP.
After BP ended, I headed over to the D’Backs gate to try for some autographs.
A few players obliged.
From left to right: D’Backs LF Conor Jackson signed the baseball shown above. RF Justin Upton signed the game ball above and former star 3B Matt Williams kindly signed a baseball for me.
It was really turning out to be my day…it was about to get better.
In the top of the 3rd inning, D’Backs 3B Chad Tracy hit a bomb to dead center. It hit off the hitter’s eye above the yellow line and bounced back onto the field. Brewers CF Mike Cameron picked it up and turned to me standing on the right field berm. I held up my glove and he fired a seed right to me. I caught it for number 12 of the day and game home run number 3 for the trip.
Brewers RF Corey Hart stepped to the plate. I was sitting on the left field berm.
Crack! Holy crap-here it comes!
I’ll let the following video tell the rest of the story…
Now, if Ellen or Rachel Ray or Letterman or Oprah would just call…I’m waiting and willing!
Actually, someone did call. Bickley and MJ from 910 AM in Phoenix wanted to do an interview. Of course, I obliged.
If you don’t know who Bickley and MJ are-they’re the award winning sports talk show hosts in the Phoenix area. They’re two of the best in the business. I found out first hand.
Click here for my radio interview on 910 AM KGME.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you!!
CHRIS DAVIS – 3/27/09
MIKE WILSON – 3/30/09
CHAD TRACY – 4/1/09
COREY HART – 4/1/09
- 3 BP baseballs snagged on the fly
- 2 game home run baseballs (1 on the fly/1 toss-up)
- 4 BP baseballs snagged on bounce
- 3 easter eggs
- 1 toss-up baseball
13 baseballs total 4/01/09
+ 3 baseballs 4/02/09
+ 1 baseball 3/31/09
+ 10 baseballs 3/30/09
+ 3 baseballs 3/29/09
+ 9 baseballs 3/28/09
+ 6 baseballs 3/27/09
45 baseballs (7 days)
I’m skipping DAY 6 for now because I want that day to be the “grand finale.”
You’ll know what I mean when I post that day because it was an amazing freakin’ day.
But, anyway, on ahead to DAY 7-the last day of our trip.
The Brewers were playing the White Sox @ Maryvale Park at 12:05 pm.
I arrived nice and early and made this day geared a bit more for autographs and pictures since I hadn’t really grabbed too many sigs on this trip.
I watched the AAA team take some batting practice in the morning. It was a good chance for me to take an up close and personal look at some of our future stars. I’ve been reading all about them for awhile now, but this was fun to actually see them in action.
The aforementioned Alcides Escobar was hitting and lined one down the left field line. It rolled far enough foul and close enough to the fence where I was standing that it trickled right out of an open gate and into my waiting mitt. I was on the board.
The gates opened at 10:35 am but it didn’t matter because there was no BP. Again!! What the hell people??? BP is half the fun…throw me a bone, willya??
Anyway, the game started at 12:05 pm and I took my post in left field on the grass berm.
Nothing happened during the game that’s worth writing about. After the game ended, I again headed down to where the umpires exit the field.
Home plate umpire Cory Blaser and his crew were walking off the field when I yelled out to him, “Cory, Cory Blaser. Can I get a baseball, please?” Without hesitation, he grabbed a game ball out of his pouch and tossed it to me.
Cory Blaser then tossed one to a 12 year old kid standing next to me. The kid muffed the catch (probably because he was too cool to bring his glove to the park) and it ricocheted right to me. I grabbed it but handed it over to the kid because I had already gotten mine.
I counted this baseball toward my stats because I was the first fan to obtain possession of it…a longtime ballhawk rule of mine.
Our trip was over.
But, stay tuned for DAY 6 which I have chosen to do last. Check it out and you’ll know why!
- 1 BP ball (Pacific Coast League baseball)
- 2 ump game balls
3 baseballs total 4/02/09
+ 1 baseball 3/31/09
+ 10 baseballs 3/30/09
+ 3 baseballs 3/29/09
+ 9 baseballs 3/28/09
+ 6 baseballs 3/27/09
32 baseballs (6 days)
Today was a family day. We went to the zoo. We went out for lunch. We diddled-we daddled.
But, this is a baseball blog-not a family activity blog.
Fast forward to 5pm. Brewers were playing the Padres @ Peoria Stadium. I got there early for BP. I rushed through the gates like my pants were on fire only to find no batting cages or nets on the playing field. WTF!!!?? You have to be kidding me!
That sucked. So, what did I do you ask? I twiddled my fingers for an hour and a 1/2 until the first pitch. Talk about torture.
The game was uneventful and I just wandered around for 3 hours.
Brewers lost 6-5.
After the game concluded, home plate umpire Delfin Colon was walking off the field with his crew when I asked him for a game ball. He dug in his baseball pouch and tossed me one.
At least I didn’t go home empty handed.
- 1 ump game ball
1 baseball total 3/31/09
10 baseballs 3/30/09
+ 3 baseballs 3/29/09
+ 9 baseballs 3/28/09
+ 6 baseballs 3/27/09
29 baseballs (5 days)
I arrived at Maryvale Park to watch the morning workouts. I was forced to stand in the grandstands (staff would not allow fans to shag baseballs on the grass berm) as ball after ball fell harmlessly to the vacated left field berm area.
After workouts concluded, I was able to get a few autographs. The following Brewers signed my baseball: Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Casey McGehee, Bill Hall, Jason Kendall, Jeff Suppan, Mike Rivera, Corey Hart and Mike Lamb.
Off to Scottsdale Stadium for the 1:05 pm game.
I arrived at Scottsdale Stadium and headed to the left field berm for BP. There were a ton of people, kids, guys with gloves, etc.
I snagged one on the fly in BP by running up the berm about 50 feet and jumping over some blankets that were saving someone’s spot on the grass hill. The baseball was hit by #20 HOLM of the Giants.
That was about it for BP…very poor. So, I headed over to the Brewers side for a warm-up ball. I spotted Brewers minor league catcher Carlos Corporan. I yelled to him, “Senor Carlos, dame la bolla, por favor!” Carlos turned and looked right at me. Without hesitation, he fired it into my glove.
The game was a pitcher’s duel. At one point, I sat directly behind Brewers GM’s Doug Melvin and Gordon Ash in the 2nd row above the Brewers dugout.
When the game concluded, I was positioned above the Brewers dugout where the umpires were leaving the field. I spotted home plate umpire Paul Schrieber. I yelled out, “Paul, Paul Schrieber. Can I get a baseball, please?” He looked up at me with a funny look on his face and said, “you’re good” and flipped me a game ball from his pouch.
- 1 BP baseball snagged on the fly
- 1 toss-up BP baseball
- 1 ump game ball
3 baseballs total 3/29/09
9 baseballs 3/28/09
6 baseballs 3/27/09
18 baseballs (3 days)
I got off to an early start. I left my hotel around 8am and headed to Maryvale Baseball Park. I arrived at the park around 8:30 and started wandering around. Only a few of the big leaguers were out in the cages. Fielder, Gwynn, Jr., Rottino, Hall, Sveum and Yount. There was no potential for snagging so I wandered some more.
I found the Single A Brewers team hitting on one of the side fields, so, I set up camp.
A young player by the name of Rapoza #55 tossed one over the fence to me. Upon further inspection, it was a Florida State League baseball. Very cool.
About 20 minutes later, I spotted #14 PASCUAL, a minor leaguer for the Brewers. So, I yelled, “dame la bolla, por favor, senor!” He snapped his head in my direction and flashed a toothy grin. Between us, was a high netted fence that prevents baseballs from leaving the park in left field. Behind the fence is a parking lot, so, you can imagine how many windshields this net saves. But, it was now standing between me and baseball #2. So, I pointed over the top of this 80 foot fence. I then held up my glove for #14 PASCUAL. He looked up and fired it high into the sky. I took a few steps back, reaching the end of the sidewalk and the start of the curb and caught it. “Gracias!” To both #14 and baseball snagger Zack Hample for his bi-lingual snagging tactics.
It’s hard to see, but the baseball above (#2) was an Official Minor League Baseball with President Pat O’Conner’s stamped signature.
BASEBALLS #3 and #4
The stadium gates opened @11 am and I raced to the left field berm to claim my turf. The first Brewers group to hit was FIELDER/HARDY/WEEKS/KENDALL. The first 3 are BP studs. Prince jacked one to deep center and I took off after it. I chased it down on a bounce when I heard another one land about 100 feet away. I ran toward the sound and gloved it on a high 1st bounce. Two baseballs in 10 seconds!!
A few minutes later, I gloved one on the fly off the bat of J.J. Hardy.
It should be noted that there were a lot of people present with baseball gloves.
A few minutes later, Rickie Weeks hit a smash that I gloved on the fly.
J.J. Hardy hit another one I gloved on the fly.
The next group to hit included Bill Hall. Hall usually is a BP stud. Not this day. Although, he did manage to hit one in my direction. I took off after it and caught that one on the fly, too!
Upon closer inspection of the Bill Hall BP homer, I noticed it was an ’08 All Star game baseball. Cool stuff.
The 2008 All Star baseball used in Brewers BP at Maryvale Park 3-28-09. Ball was hit by Brewers 3B Bill Hall and caught on the fly. That unique blue mark was most likely from the hitter’s eye at Maryvale Park. (They have a blue metal backstop-this baseball must have been hit by another player beforehand).
The rest of the Milwaukee Brewers hitters did their best Pittsburgh Pirates imitation and failed to reach the warning track.
I decided to go down to the box seats for the 9th inning and a different view. While above the Brewers dugout, a baseball came popping over the dugout roof. I was in the 2nd row and reached out my hand and claimed it before it hit the ground.
Right place-right time.
Brewers won 4-2.
- 4 baseballs snagged on the
- 2 snagged on the bounce
- 3 toss-up baseballs
9 baseballs total 3/28/09
6 baseballs from 3/27/09
15 baseballs (2 days)
Okay…so, the laptop came with us to Arizona. Wouldn’t ya know it, our internet connection would not allow me to log into mlblogs! You can imagine how ticked off I was.
But, better late than never, right?
Here it goes…
We left our home around 5 am on this day. The Milwaukee Airport is approx. 10 minutes from our home. When I pulled up to the baggage drive to drop off my family, my 3 yr. old daughter said to me, “are we in Arizona?” (I guess that 10 minute car ride felt like an eternity to her)
I didn’t think I was driving that slow 🙂
Our flight was on time. When we boarded and settled in, my daughter looked up at me with her big tear-filled brown eyes and yelled, “I wanna go home, now!” I thought we were about to have a meltdown. When the plane finally started to move, tears were replaced with a familiar smile. We’re about 30,000 feet in the air when my daughter asks me, “why are all the clouds on the ground?” Inquisitive 3 yr. old minds want to know, I guess.
Our 2 month-old infant, Jack, was crying and screaming for a majority of the flight. I know, I know. You’ve all been on a plane with a crying infant and you thought to yourself, please…just shut that kid up! But, come on…give them a break next time. If you have kids-you understand. If you don’t and you’re still judgmental, put on earphones, talk to yourself, do whatever…just suck it up, willya?
We finally arrived, got settled into our hotel and grabbed some lunch.
Finally…I was about to make my 2009 ballhawking debut. Look the hellout.
I arrived at Maryvale Baseball Park at around 2:30 pm for the open practice. I proceeded to head to the left field berm area. After about 3 minutes, Brewers 3B Casey McGehee hit one high into the Arizona sky. I ran about 10 feet to my left and about 10 feet down the grassy hill where I camped underneath it and caught it cleanly on the fly.
They say you can tell how you’re season is going to go by the 1st one of the year.
I hope so.
A few minutes later, Bill Hall hit one that was a ways from me. I ran it down on the bounce.
At this time, an employee informed me no one was allowed on the berm during practice…what? Whatever. She was only doing her job. It’s the people in charge that need their heads examined. Way to go Brewers. Take away the one fun thing left.
While the nice security lady was telling me this, McGehee hit another one. I snagged it on the bounce and kept it. Ha! That’ll show ’em.
I had moved over to the 1st base side when I yelled to Brewers pitcher Jeff Suppan. I asked him if he had an extra. He looked down at the baseball in his hands and fired it high in the air to me. I was standing over 100 feet away with no glove on (I took it off because I was no longer out in home run territory). So, I bare-handed it cleanly. I prefer the glove. Besides, bare-handing baseballs is over-rated. Guys want to look cool bare-handing a ball, but there’s too many little bones in the human hand to be screwing around doing that.
6:05 – first pitch Brewers @ Texas (Surprise Stadium)
In the bottom of the 6th inning, Rangers 1B Chris Davis smacked one to left and I snagged it on the first bounce. 1st game home run of 2009! Not an official stat, but cool just the same. I love the rush of snagging a game home run baseball.
Spring Training or not, on the fly or not, that feeling never gets old.
After the game concluded, the umpire trick paid off. Home plate ump Dan Bellino tossed me one near home plate.
- 1 baseball snagged on the fly (BP)
- 2 snagged on the bounce
- 1 toss-up ball
- 1 game home run baseball (Chris Davis)
- 1 ump game ball
- 6 baseballs total 3/27/09