With an intimidating number of 79 balls staring me in the face to reach the elusive and exclusive 400 club, I had to plan some extra Cleveland games. Especially since the Pirates have moved up their bp time which takes away from our stats as a whole, because they are having some sort of meetings after bp.
I need to get some good Cleveland games to help me get there.
Today would be just that, and more, a MONSTER game for me.
I arrived after the drive from Pittsburgh at about 1:30. There is frequently early bp so I walked over to get at ticket, and to check out the hr porch.
Sure enough, the Royals were taking some cuts.
I put my glove on and hoped that a ball would reach the hr porch and roll out. The most important part of this time was good Reconnassaince. As a few Royal players hit balls into the right and center field seats I charted where they were at in the section so that when I went in later I would know right where to go to find them.
So I did this for the entire Royals early bp, counting about 6 total balls that would be in the right field seats.
When it was done, I went to stand in line and do a crossword puzzle.
The crossword puzzle was interrupted though, by more cracks of the bat.
I looked in to see a group of Indians righties in the cage taking an early bp now, so I placed a few things in front of the line to hold my place and returned over to the exterior of the hr porch.
I waited and hoped a ball would find the hr porch and roll out, and eventually a ball would be crushed high off of the side of the left field bleachers in the picture below. The ball took a big ricochet and rolled to about the middle of the hr porch. It would not roll enough to come out of the gate. Fortunately, a worker who was uninterested in keeping the ball saw me out there with my glove and tossed it over the gate for Ball#1.
Thanks worker guy.
Also, during this time I was able to do a little more recon, I charted three more balls that were hit into the right field seats, and what seemed to be a bunch hit into the Heritage Park area.
When I waited first in line, no possible competition would arrive until about 4:00, with the gates opening at 4:30. A few college aged guys and a teenager with a glove would show up behind me. For a while there I thought I would have free reign on the balls I reconned earlier, now I would have to rely on accurate planning and quick movement if I was to snag them.
When the gates opened, the recon was a success. I went to the middle section where I had charted 4 balls and found 3 of them. I then continued over to the right center section to see if I could find one of what I charted to be about 3 balls I saw land in this section. I was able to find 1 ball in this section. Balls#2/3/4/5. Here is how the population at this time looked.
During the Indians first bp group one of the leftied who I couldnt identify was hitting a few bombs, both in the area pictured above, Ball#6 was a scrum after it hit a seat that was easy to get to, and Ball#7 was a caught home run that I had to extend high for as it was close to carrying over my head.
During a break in action as the Indians switched groups I decided to check Heritage Park good for some of the balls I saw sailing in their earlier. I looked pretty well and ended up finding Ball#8 which was well within reach here.
After this I returned to right center for the Indians group of righties. While waiting for home runs I continued to scan the seats for balls being that I know I didnt find all the balls I saw hit into the seats. I wasnt sure if other fans found them or not so I kept scanning. Which would ultimately pay off as I found another one of the balls I charted as going into right center earlier hanging out here in this seat for Ball#9.
I then moved back into a good right center position for the Indians righties. One who I couldnt identify hit a ball that was coming straight in for a landing on the top of the concrete wall in fornt of the first row, good thing I was in the front row because I was able to catch the ball on the fly for Ball#10 before it would have taken a huge bounce probably ten rows back into the section.
When the Indians players wrapped up their bp I decided to check Heritage Park more thoroughly for any balls I may have missed earlier that were hit in during the early bp sessions, and for any balls the righty Indians had hit into there. I was able to find another ball in Heritage Park here for Ball#11.
It was tucked up against the wall and hard to see, so I may have passed this up earlier. I changed into my Royals blue shirt and headed back into the right field seats. When I got to the seats the Royals must have got off to a hot start because I saw a ball sailing into the seats about 10 rows ahead of me. The ball took a huge ricochet off of something and came way up into my vicinity. There were two teenage girls who were totally uninterested and didnt give chase at all on the ball. I made up the ground and picked up Ball#12 here.
While this was happening I noticed a couple of balls that were blasted towards center in the Heritage Park vicinity again. Back up I went to search for more balls there. When I got there a man and his son were looking and the kid had 2 balls in his hand, so apparently the Royals to this point had hit more balls in there then I observed. The man told me that there was one just out of reach and I looked in where he was. I acted quickly grabbing what looked like a suitable stick laying in the mulch of the trees. I told the guy that if I could get it out it was all his and he was like ok go for it. I extended in and gave the ball a few pulls with the stick and brought it in close enough to grab it for Ball#13 here.
At this point as I entered back into the right field seats I was beginning to think about breaking my one game total record of 16 balls.
With my Royals blue on, one of two people with Royals gear, I noticed a ball that Jesse Chavez, an ex Pirate, was going to retrieve near the wall. In plain view of Jesse I asked if he would toss me the ball. He made no hesitation and threw me Ball#14.
More action would quickly follow. A Royals lefty smoked a shot that was a semi line drive that landed on the track. I positioned where I thought the ball may barely clear the wall and surprisingly it did. A gloveless fan in the front row who was also surprised reached out to no avail and I made a back handed snag of the ball right at his side for Ball#15. I gave him the ball after making the catch.
2 more balls and I would break my one game total of 16 record.
With about 5 mins until left field access was given I hurried over to get into line to enter the left field bleachers. I had noticed a few balls land in the bleachers, and hoped that the ushers wouldnt grab them up. When I ran in I searched pretty well and came to the conclusion that they had. So I played on the left field cross aisle and waited for any more hit balls, but bp was winding down and I still needed 2 more balls.
On what turned out to be the final pitch of the Royals bp, an unknown righty rocketed a ball about midway up in the bleachers. I made a quick break on the ball and was able to beat out one other fan for the ball, Ball#16.
BP was over, and I was stuck on number 16, needing only one more to reset my one game record.
It was time to really scour the entire left field bleacher section top to bottom.
I started on the right side and scanned from the bottom to the top, and repeated this sequence all the way to the other side of the bleachers. When I went all the way around I still needed one more ball and I was done scanning. I made my way down to the tunnel to exit, and looked into the front row of the final section to check and lo and behold, in the last row of all the rows I scoured was Ball#17 hiding underneath the bleacher near the corner where no one had saw it throughout the bp.
I reset my personal record of balls in one game at 17 balls.
Now, during the time that I was in line waiting to get into the left field bleachers and the time that I was in there snagging balls, there was a chance that I had missed any additional balls hit into Heritage Park. So I went there for another scan through.
About half way through my scan I noticed a slight glimmer of whiteness tucked right up against the wall. Yet another ball from Heritage Park, and it set the bar even higher with Ball#18.
Sweating, and happy for such a big day I made my way to an empty section to label the baseballs, calculate my hit/thrown/found breakdown and take a cool pic of the record breaking cache of balls.
A great day in my home away from home, Progressive field.
That took a big chunk out of 79 balls to get to 400, making my magic number for 400 now 61 balls. With a few more trips to Cleveland and the remaining Pirates games, plus 2 games at Target field in Minnesota I feel a bit better about making it to the 400 club.
Stats and todays baseballs (2 of which were given away)