Field Trippin’: Arthur W. Perdue Stadium

As I was going through my camera today, I noticed that I had pictures from a visit me and my family had made during our vacation to Arthur W. Perdue Stadium.

Located in Salisbury, Md., it is the home of the Class-A affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles, the Delmarva Shorebirds. They play in the South Atlantic League, or Sally League for short. It is the launching pad of many Major League careers as is the first stop for many draft picks in their journey to the MLB.

There is nothing quite like going to a minor league baseball game, as it is the game in its purest form. No flashy bells-and-whistles, big corporate influence, and there is just something about seeing big leaguers before they make it to The Show.

Unfortunately, the 2012 season is a bit of a down one for the Delmarva Shorebirds as they just don’t have the highly touted prospects as they have in past years. It has shown attendance wise, as the 5,200 seat stadium had roughly 1,000 patrons despite a beautiful night for baseball.

One thing I also noticed about attending a game here is quite different than other minor league games I’ve attended, as there isn’t really much in the side-show department as compared to other teams. No zany promotions or events between innings, which made the already stale atmosphere seem more so. Part of the fun of going to a minor league game is seeing a ridiculous ice cream eating contest or Dizzy Bat race. The only real quirky gem of the park was a merry-go-round located down the left field line that was a hit with kids in attendance.

While some of the minor league fun was missing from the ballpark, I have to say that Perdue Stadium was a very nice stadium. $5 General Admission tickets for most of the ballpark was a steal, and the ballpark itself was clean and rather large. The staff was also a joy, as you could really tell they enjoyed working there and talking baseball with the fans. Nothing ruins the experience more for me than a cranky staff around a stadium, so kudos to the Shorebirds on that.

As with any minor league stadium, there were great ads that covered the fences.

The ballpark wasn’t located in the Salisbury, but about 10 minutes outside of the city on Route 50. It made for a pretty drab surrounding neighborhood as only trees and a four-lane highway were around the ballpark.

There was also plenty of history lessons throughout the ballpark, including a free Marlyland Baseball Museum, and these banners that were around the main concourse that honored former Shorebirds that made it to the major leagues.

As with any place, there was a Pittsburgh Pirates connection.

Their mascot, Sherman, was constantly roving the ballpark and interacting with fans.

The Shorebirds dropped another game to the rival Hagerstown Suns and saw their record drop to 20 games below .500. I certainly hope they can turn it around for the organization’s sake, as they do many things the right way.

All in all, I’d have to rank Perdue Stadium around the middle of the pack as far as minor league stadiums go. You get a good experience for the price, and if you are in need of a baseball fix while staying at a resort along the Maryland or Deleware coast, it is a great option. However, if you are looking for a true minor league baseball atmosphere, you may want to look elsewhere.

March Madness Pittsburgh Style

Remember me?

You probably do. I used to post on this blog when I didn’t have 20 credit hours at school, a high school basketball to cover, a really good college basketball team to cover, and a part-time gig to get me some money so I can eat something more than the grass on my front lawn next year to worry about.

Lucky for you, my loyal readers, “The Quarter From Hell” is officially over which means more time to devote to content on here.

I begun Spring Break the way every good sports fan would by plopping in front of my television to watch 12 hours of college basketball per day with the beginning of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. This year, however, there was a twist.

My dad is a Duquesne Dukes season ticket holder. In exchange for having to watch the yearly torture that is Dukes Basketball (they have not played in the NCAA Tournament since 1977), he had the opportunity to buy tickets to the First and Second (I absolutely refuse to refer to them as Second and Third Rounds) Round games that were being hosted by the school.

I had never been to an NCAA Tournament game before Thursday, and I can’t recommend it enough. Me and my Dad arrived at the arena at 11:47 a.m. and with the exception of being booted out briefly between sessions, were there until 12:14 a.m. on Friday.

12 hours of live tournament basketball is a great experience. You get to see a lot of teams you’ve only seen on ESPN before, experience the quirky traditions of each school, and be a part of the emotion and fun that makes the tournament so great.

After the four games Thursday and two Saturday, I’ve decided on my “Pittsburgh Pod” awards. Please discuss snubs in the comments if you so desire.

Favorite Player To Watch- Jared Sullinger, Ohio State

Sully showed why he is such a fun player to watch in both games putting up big numbers and showcasing his talents on both ends of the floor. He has that LeBron James-type build to him at 6-foot-9, 280 pounds and has great inside and outside games. The kid is built to play in the NBA and was easily my favorite to watch over the weekend.

Honorable Mention: Scoop Jardin, Syracuse- Scoop did it all for the Orange in their win Saturday over K-State. He anchors the ‘Cuse fast break attack which have been a treat to watch all year.

Best Fans– Loyola (Md.) Greyhounds

They had to wait until 10 p.m. Thursday night to receive their drubbing at the hands of the Ohio State Buckeyes, but the Greyhound faithful relished being able to see their team in the tourney for the first time. They sold out their allotment of tickets and had a whole section in the upper deck full of students. Even though they were down big late, their enthusiasm never wavered. Props to you guys

Honorable Mention: Gonzaga Bulldogs- Any fan who travels well over 2,000 miles to see their team play will never be questioned by me.

Best Band- Kansas State Wildcats

I’m spoiled as an Ohio Bobcat fan to have the Marching 110 performing at every home game, however the band at K-State comes in not far behind. They definitely had the best song selection, and their unofficial fight song, “Wabash Cannonball”, whipped their fans into a frenzy. It was fun having them right by my section for both of their games.

Honorable Mention: Southern Mississippi Eagles- Since Southern Miss couldn’t bring many fans, their band did a good job filling the void.

Best Mascot- Otto the Orange, Syracuse University

Otto has always been my favorite mascot to play with on the Mascot Modes on the NCAA Football and March Madness games and the little ball of energy was definitely the best costumed character to grace CONSOL. Seriously, how can’t you like this little guy?

Honorable Mention: Brutus Buckeye, Ohio State Buckeyes

Best Villans– Jim Boeheim and the Syracuse Orange

Although not a single upset happened during the weekend, Syracuse became dangerously close to being the first No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed. Some bad calls went against UNC Asheville late, increasing the hate for Syracuse to face. They were booed every time the score was announced the rest of Thursday and through the game on that Saturday.

Best Celebrity Sighting– John Stockton

The legendary Jazz point guard was in town to watch his son play for Gonzaga. He was shown on the scoreboard during a time out and the place went nuts. I was desperately hoping he would break out a pair of the famed short shorts for a one-on-one game against Reggie Miller (who was broadcasting), however that was just a pipe dream

Honorable Mention: Bruce Hornsby- Not only is he a brilliant musician, but his son Keith plays for UNC-Asheville

Best Moment– UNC Asheville Tying Syracuse in the late stages.

So close yet so far. The crowd had slowly been building favor toward the Bulldogs all afternoon, and after Jeremy Atkinson tied the game at 54 with a little over 6 minutes to play, the crowd of 18,000-plus exploded. Chants of “Let’s Go Bulldogs” rang throughout the building as Syracuse called a quick time out after the fact. It was at that point everyone knew they were watching something special.

Honorable Mention: Guy Landry Edi’s dunk against West Virginia- Best dunk of the weekend that ended up being the nail in WVU’s coffin, allowing Gonzaga to advance.

Best Game– Gonzaga vs. Ohio State

Both sides came to play and there was plenty of good action. Sullinger and Thomas led the Buckeyes to a hard-earned victory. Nothing instant-classic worthy, but the crowd still got way more than their money’s worth.

Honorable Mention: UNC-Asheville vs. Syracuse- After working as a member of the media all basketball season, it was really nice to be a fan for a change for what was almost a historic game.

Even though the games made Pittsburgh “Chalk Town” rather than “Upset City”, it was still a blast to attend the games. Rumors are that Pittsburgh may even host a regional in a couple of years, something I fully endorse. I promise I’ll start posting on here more often and check back for a baseball preview soon.

And oh yeah, go Bobcats.

72 Hours

Ask any Ohio University student what’s the toughest part about going to school there, and you will get a variety of answers.

Some will tell you it is trying to stay focused on academics during spring quarter and the fabled “Fest Season”. Others will tell you finding a place to live as an upperclassman or getting a table at Shively Dining Hall.

Another big one is filling the six-week void that is Winter Intercession. Due to the quarters system, students are off from Thanksgiving to New Years. Luckily for me, I was able to get a job and of course, cover some fun events.

My first full week off featured me returning to the $7.65 per hour grind of working in a toy store. While it is fun at times, and the team I work with is great, it doesn’t take many spoiled, bratty houswives yelling in your face at 7 a.m. over not having Just Dance for Kids in stock to realize that it is far from a desirable place to make a career.

To avoid letting this get me down too much, I was able to get experience writing right off the bat over break, covering two big-time events: The annual “City Game” between Duquesne and Pitt, and the 2011 MAC Championship which was held in Detroit, all in a three-day window.

The craziness began on Wednesday, November 30 at CONSOL Energy Center.

This was the first “big-time” event I had covered. After checking in and heading to the media room to get settled, seeing every Pittsburgh sports media member you could think of was surreal. The facilities were top notch. I had never gone to a place that has an actual “media workroom” or a buffet for the press consisting of more than a sandwich ring. My spot on press row was surrounded by members of the Oakland Zoo that made the trek up Forbes Avenue.

The game was attended by 15,580 people, the largest ever for a meeting between the two teams, making it a very unique atmosphere. Though the Dukes fell for the 11th consecutive year, it was still an entertaining game and seeing people you’ve seen on T.V. such as Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon in the flesh following a game was still something that has yet to sink in.

On the way out, I got lost (big surprise, right?). But while I wondered the bowels of the NHL’s newest facility, I got a unique view of the coolest parts of the arena.

Here is a mural outside the Penguins’ dressing room.

The doors to their locker room.

Right across the hall from there is the prestigious “Suite 66”, a luxury box with seats right on the glass next to the bench.

The suite features a clear glass wall that allows the fans lucky enough to get inside a chance to see the players make the walk down this hallway to the ice.

When I finally found my way, I then noticed this unique glass mural at the administrative entrance. It features the names of all Penguins to win the various trophies of the NHL.

After spending Thursday morning and afternoon working, it was back to Downtown Pittsburgh to board a bus at 12:15 a.m. to Detroit for the MAC Championship.

After arriving in a wet snow at 5:30 a.m., I got some sleep in our hotel room before taking in the sights of Detroit.

I stopped by Comerica Park and the cavalcade of Tigers guarding the ballpark.

I ate lunch at the Hockeytown Cafe.

Here is the GM Headquarters, known as the Renaissance Center. Our hotel was located in the middle tower.

I know Detroit has gotten an incredibly bad reputation as a depressed area, but it really was better than I was expected. It was eerily deserted for a workday (a Friday), which probably answers questions about the economic situation there. I still never felt like I was in danger, and some parts really impressed me including Ford Field.

There is a reason why it has hosted such huge events as the Super Bowl and Final Four, as it was a really beautiful facility. Even though this was a much smaller-scaled event, having something like the MAC Championship there made it feel like a big-time game.

It also blew my mind how much cheaper everything was inside. Souvenir drinks ran you back $6.95 at a concession stand, but you get unlimited refills. The same goes for $6 popcorn. I can’t think of an NFL stadium having that kind of deal. Parking was also much, much cheaper than what I was used to seeing on the North Shore back home. If you’re short on dollars, you may want to become a Lions fan.

I was perched a whopping eight stories above the field, much higher than I was used to.

The nice part about a domed stadium would be the fact that the press box was in the open, as there isn’t a need for a pane of glass to keep the elements out. It really made it feel as if you were a part of the game more than your typical outdoor stadium.

The game went just about as horrible as you could expect, with the Ohio Bobcats blowing a 20-point second half lead to the Northern Illinois Huskies, leaving the ‘Cats still without a MAC Championship since 1968.

The post-game interviews with head coach Frank Solich and senior linebacker Noah Keller were painful. Adding insult to injury, you could hear the celebrations of the Huskies echoing down the hallway. Though they were still able to make a bowl game, you could just tell this game was going to stick in the heads of the players for a long time.

The loss stung for any member of the Ohio University family, including me. Covering the team all year and getting to know the players throughout the season made it extra hard to swallow such a tough defeat after seeing the student-athletes work so hard toward their goals.

I then returned to my normal life in Bethel Park Saturday, including work the following Monday. After the first bratty customer to give me a hard time, it really dawned on me: A bad day in sports writing, including witnessing one of the worst losses I had seen in my life, beats the absolute crap out of doing anything else for a living.

Ohio vs Temple: Blackout Live Blog

4:25- All black everything.

When the 2011 schedule was released, I along with many others saw this as just another weeknight game in November. Boy, was I wrong.

For the third consecutive year, this matchup will determine who controls their fate in the final three weeks of the season. Throw in the first time that ESPN is broadcasting from Peden, along with the school’s inaugural “blackout”, and you’ve got a recipe for the most hyped Ohio Bobcat football game in ages. I’ll be heading to the stadium around 6 p.m.. Keep it here for updates throughout the night.

6:29- Made it to Peden. Some things to start.

-Plenty of scouts are here tonight. The New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, Houston Texans, and New England Patriots all have representatives here. No idea who they are looking at in particular but scouts always come in droves to weeknight games.

-More importantly, a representative from the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl is expected as well.

-Senior linebacker Noah Keller is wearing number 62 tonight.

6:35- Going to try and get on the field for warmups to get some pictures.

7:37- I’m back. Lot’s of recruits here which is nice to see.

7:42- Student side has filled in nicely, rest of the stadium not so much. But that is to be expected on a Wednesday night.

7:44- Temple has allowed 5.8 points per game on the road this season. Wow.

7:50- It’s go time.

7:56- Your random nugget from the media notes: Temple is the only one of the 13 teams in the MAC to play their home games on grass.

7:59- You know what would be cool, if the scoreboard at Peden would be big enough to showcase these awesome intro videos by Evan Shaw and co..

8:02- The team enters with Johnny Cash blaring. Temple wins the toss and defers. Now the first of many times that we will wait for TV tonight.

8:11- That didn’t take long. Tyler Tettleton making it look easy as the ‘Cats march down the field in 2:05 to go up 7-0. Mind you Temple averages just 10 points allowed on defense per game. After the huge scoring drive it’s time to see the defense handle Temple’s running game.

8:29- ‘Cats take over on their own 10 when LaVon Brazill showed his incredible speed on a 56 yard end around. Ohio goes three and out immediately after and Weller’s 53-yard FG misses. First missed opportunity of the night for the Bobcats, something they can’t do much longer.

8:32- Safe to say the blackout looks good on TV.

8:35- Temple trying to get a spark by sending Chris Coyer in at QB. Expect plenty of runs with him in.

END OF THE FIRST QUARTER

Ohio 7
Temple 0

-Ohio had three plays of 25 or more yards in the first quarter. Very uncharacteristic of the Temple defense.

-Coyer leads Temple with 23 rushing yards. He has played one drive. The Owls running nothing but zone reads with him trying to keep the Bobcats on their toes.

-Tyler Tettleton’s composure with the pressure Temple has been bringing is outrageously good. He has dodged numerous sacks.

-If the Owls want to have a chance, they need to get Pierce the ball.

8:52- Donte Foster coughs up the ball which is recovered by the Owls. A late hit allows Temple to set up shop at the Ohio 17. 5 plays later Coyer finds Evan Rodriguez on his first pass attempt of the year for a touchdown. All of a sudden it’s a completely different ballgame.

9:02- Bobcats strike back led by the arm of Tyler Tettleton. He throws, receives and then finally runs to get a touchdown for the Bobcats.

9:11- Ohio forces a thee and out. Temple winning the time of possession battle 12:01 to 11:25. They are used to a much bigger margin.

9:22- Another missed FG and Temple pounces on the opportunity. They go 69 yards in under two minutes. It’s a tie game that shouldn’t be. Coyer finally found Rod Streater who has been burning Omar Leftwich all night.

9:32- HALFTIME

Ohio 14
Temple 14

Some tidbits

-Ohio is dominating this game on paper. They are out-gaining the Owls 261 to 153 and are winning the time of possesion battle. Turnovers and missed (field goal) opportunities are the difference.

-Temple’s Bernard Pierce has just 28 yards on 12 carries. Backup QB Chris Coyer on the other hand is taking advantage of the fact Ohio is unprepared for him.

-It’s going to be an interesting second half. Hopefully the student body hangs around.

9:49- And with that, the exodus begins. I love this student body but hate them at the same time. So apathetic.

9:55- Ohio gets a lucky three-and-out to start the half. The receiver falls out of bounds just short of the first down mark. Ohio ball at their own 17.

10:03- Teams trade punts early in the 3rd.

10:06- Huge swing after a Streater catch at Ohio’s 2 gets called back due to pass interference. A net of -44.

10:08- Coyer fumbles at the Ohio 15. Harden makes them pay with an 81-yard run. Everyone thought it was coming back as a ref threw a flag as he dove unnecessarily into the end zone. Instead it was a sideline foul on Ohio. Run stands 21-21.

10:22- Things starting to open up. Bernard Pierce is free at last. 20-yard run ties the game up. 2:43 left in the third.

10:30-END OF THE THIRD QUARTER

Ohio 21
Temple 21

-Ohio cannot contain Chris Coyer. He has 131 yards on 11 carries. If they keep biting on his reads, Ohio will lose this game.

-Don’t know what else to say for Ohio offensively in the 4th. They get momentum but then have the drives stall abruptly. The Temple defense is playing much much better in the 2nd half.

-Updates will be a little more sparse here late. Tune it to the twitter (@suhlmann12) for more info on the game.

10:34- Temple’s gutsy move of a fake punt pays off for Temple. Huge gain into Bobcat territory could be the difference.

10:40- Bobcats get a stop but not quick enough. Brandon McManus sneaks a 27-yard field goal into the uprights to give Temple their first lead of the night. 24-21 with 10:57 left.

10:51- 8 plays, 80 yards, Ohio has the lead again. LaVon Brazill’s ridiculous catch inside the Temple 5 survives a review and sets up a Tettleton pass to Thompson. 28-24 with 7:51 remaining.

All Fun League

This day had been a long time coming.

After stumbling upon the Arena Football league as a young kid one day on TNN (Yes The Nashville Network) it instantly became a sport I took interest in.

The only problem was, Pittsburgh has never had a franchise in my lifetime. The only time I got to enjoy this game was watching it on TV. Finally in 2011, I would get my chance with the establishment of the Pittsburgh Power.
My schedule of school, interning, and a bunch of other things made it difficult to get to a game. I finally was able to get out to Consol for their final home game of the year against the Arizona Rattlers.

If you are unaware of what the Arena Football League it essentially takes the game of football as presented in the NFL and flips it completely. With loud music, plenty of trash talking/ TD celebrations, and fast-pace play, it is very different from what is seen in the fall.

The Consol Energy Center could not be more suiting of a place for an AFL team. The ridiculous sound system the arena offers had my drink resting on the balcony ledge nearly shaking while rap music blared during warm ups. The entry the team had through fountains of sparks was pretty cool too.

The one goal of Arena Football is to be as fan-friendly as possible. They certainly did a good job of achieving this by bringing fans closer to the game than any other sport. Balls that get thrown into the stands are allowed to be kept by fans. There is no out of bounds so fans close to the front are literally inches from the field of play. The loud, and at times obnoxious PA announcer encourages fans to boo bad calls. After the game, AFL rules mandate that the home team be made available for autographs on the field right after the game. Little things like this make the experience unique.

The atmosphere the fans put forth is great too. Though roughly 7,000 fans were in the building (pretty good by AFL standards), the arena got loud while the team was on defense. I’d argue the sea of vuvuzelas and other noisemakers made it louder than the Penguins games I’ve been to at the new digs, even with the place half empty. You can’t go wrong with the $15 general admission tickets, though I question why a team would charge $180 for the front rows with such an inferior product. A good part of the seats in the lower bowl up close were empty.

As for the game, the rules have almost a WWE-like fix for the offense. Any penalty the defense commits results in a first down. The offense can have a man charging toward the line of scrimmage as the ball is snapped, and defenders cannot twist while trying to rush the quarterback. Rules like this explain how the Arizona Rattlers scored 10 touchdowns in the 10 possessions they had on the evening.

Perhaps the biggest downfall the AFL has is the lack of talent. Back in its heyday of the mid 2000’s, it wasn’t uncommon to see teams with payrolls of $2 million. Now with player making just $400/game after the financial restructuring of the league, they can no longer attract the players they used to,. Tts days as the second best football league in America are over.

But flaws aside, I still found myself having a great time even though the league-best Rattlers crushed the Power. Yes, it may not be a perfect game, but it is different, and I like different. The biggest goal of Arena Football is to make sure it’s all about the enjoyment of the people coming through the turnstiles. Any organization that operates with that goal is a winner in my book.

Pirates vs Red Sox 6-26-11

It was a date circled on the calendar for some time for Pirate fans. The weekend that the much-hyped Boston Red Sox made their appearance. Couple that with the fact that the Battling Buccos were still staying in the hunt, would make this a very intense series.

I was unable to attend the games Friday and Saturday due to being away on vacation, and was impressed with the team effort taken to win both those games. I fully expected this series to be the beginning of the end for the Pirates, but then again has anything gone according to plan in 2011?

I arrived to the ballpark and hour before game time. All I could think was “Wow!” The Clemente Bridge was packed with people, Federal Street was bustling more than any game I had ever seen. I guess this is what the big time feels like.

For the third time this season, and the second time in the series, the Pirates set an all-time attendance record. It was as close to a playoff atmosphere as the park has seen in it’s 10 year history.

As for the game, Pirate James McDonald went against Andrew Miller of the BoSox. McDonald was his usual self, throwing a ton of pitches, but not giving up many runs. It would be the fielding that would cost the Bucs the chance at the sweep. Andrew McCutchen’s horrible throwing/fielding decisions cost the team it’s first run. I love the bat and speed from Cutch, but his defense leaves a lot to be desired.

The Pirates would take advantage of Boston errors to get the lead 2-1 however, but it wouldn’t last. A ball thrown into centerfield by McDonald on a bunt let the Sox tie it up, and the next inning Boston broke it open despite not getting a single hit in two innings of scoring three runs. A tense moment came when pinch-hitter David Ortiz demolished a ball just foul that almost cleared the right field bleachers. He would walk and later score on a sac fly by barreling over new catcher Eric Fryer.

Down 4-2 the Pirates couldn’t muster another rally. Although the team lost because of poor pitching and fielding (numerous walks and three errors) I don’t think I’ve had more fun at a Pirate loss. I hope the team can keep it going and keep getting crowds like they are. It certainly would make for a memorable summer.

Four Games in Four Days: Pirates-Mets series

After turing in the dreaded Precision Language final early Thursday morning, I was free for the summer. After packing up and heading home, it was time to start enjoying my summer.

Lucky for me, the Pirates were wrapping up a season-long home stand with a four game series against the New York Mets. I have attended all games in a three game set before, but had never completed a four-game series. Here is a recap.

Friday

Back in the friendly confines of PNC Park for the first time in nearly 50 days (that’s a long time for a season ticket holder). It felt good to be back at my summer home. There was no one that I would rather have pitching my first game back than Charlie Morton.

He has been dynamite in 2011 for the Pirates, and he is always fun to watch. This night, however, the luck wouldn’t be on his side. The Mets took control early, and scored five runs in the fourth where every ball seemed to either drop in for a hit, or cause the Pirates to make an error. The offense that is suffering from many injuries couldn’t get anything started, and the Mets cruised to an easy 8-1 victory.

Despite that, it was a great night for a game

This guy, however, was put to sleep by the Pirates offensive woes.

Saturday

The next day’s game would be much more event-filled. I hadn’t gotten to see much batting practice so far in 2011, but today I got my chance. The gates opened at 4:30 for season ticket holders, and unlike other days, STHs get access to the whole bowl rather than just the bleachers. Since many had their sights focused on getting home run balls in left field, I picked the deserted seats down the third base line to get some snags.

I got my first ball shortly from pitching coach Ray Searage. Since the ball was close to where I was standing, and there was nobody else around, he had no choice but to throw it to me. At the same time, Jeff Karstents was trying to chuck some balls up to a kid with his mom in a suite in the upper deck. Since he came up short, the ball made it’s way down to me. I was able to throw it up to them. unbeknowst to me, there were some other kids up there too who also wanted balls. This is a nightmare for a ballhawk. Since I didn’t have any emotional attachment to the Searage ball I had a minute ago, I sent that one up. Pedro Ciriaco hit a ball into the 100 level seats down the line. A usher directed me to it, and it was ball number two on the day.

The Pirates ended practice shortly after, and the Mets came out to hit. I was still the only person down the baseline. Jose Reyes was the first to hit, and sent one of the first pitches he saw just over my head down the line. It landed in a seat a few rows back and I was able to pluck it up for ball number 3. Since the Mets players were ignoring the kids up above me, they began to call on me to throw yet another one up. Thinking on my feet, and not wanting to look like a jerk, I reached into my bag and threw up the Ciriaco ball. I didn’t want to get rid of the Reyes one I just got, he’s one of the best players that I’ve snagged a ball from. Jason Pridie of the Mets saw my act of goodwill and hooked me up shortly after.

With four balls on the day snagged, I got closer to the hitters to get better shots of them hitting.

After a little while, sluggers Jason Bay and Carlos Beltran were due up. I went out to the outfield seats to attempt to tie my career high of five baseballs. I played the less crowded right center field seats and waited for Beltran to hit one my way. He crushed a ball that I began to break back on toward the Riverwalk. I had overrun it and it was dropping short of me. A man with a glove dropped it into a handicapped seat at the top of the section. Another guy grabbing it pushed it to the seat where it rolled out. I got down and trapped it with my glove. A crazy fumblerooski to get my 5th ball.

I went to the bullpen to watch the pitchers warm up. The game featured an intriguing pitching match-up with the hard throwing James McDonald of the Pirates going against Met knuckleballer R.A. Dickey.

I went to my seats to watch the game. It would be the first that Jason Bay had played in Pittsburgh since being traded in 2009. I could not understand for the life of me why Pirate “fans” booed him. He was always a class act and an all-star here. He never really did anything that ticked me off.

Later in the game I moved to seats closer to my parents who were attending the game. The third largest crowd in PNC Park history was on hand, primarily to see the post-game Skyblast show featuring the band Huey Lewis and the News.

The Pirates were able to get just enough offense. A two-run double by Andrew McCutchen was the difference. Despite getting hit hard, and struggling with his control at times, McDonald was able to keep the Mets in check.

Since all of the 39,000+ were sticking around, the atmosphere was really electric as Joel Hanrahan mowed down the Mets in the 9th to preserve the 3-2 victory.

The show after the game didn’t disappoint either. If you have never been to a Skyblast show before, I highly suggest you check one out. It is a big pyrotechnic extravaganza featuring fireworks and live music.

There were fireworks from every place you could imagine including the field, the barges on the river, the Roberto Clemente bridge, and the scoreboard.

Some were even fired off of the skyscrapers across the river.

Huey Lewis had a good show, though I wouldn’t rank it at the top of the ones I have seen. I must say I am really looking forward to when Train comes in August. There aren’t many better ways to spend seven dollars.

Here is my pull. I noticed how the balls the Mets used had the logos way off center and crooked.

Sunday

Yeah it was another forgettable game after a very good one the night before. Kevin Correia pitched very well, but came unglued in the 8th inning when the Mets blew the game open. The only excitement for the Pirates on offense came when Lyle Overbay flew out to deep center field. The firework controller thought it was a homer but it wasn’t even close. He launched them by mistake. Clint Hurdle was ejected after arguing that the center fielder Angel Pagan trapped the ball against the wall. It was yet another great day for baseball so it wasn’t a complete waste.

Monday

I could see the finish line. Attending four games in four days is quite a grind, and Monday’s would be the last one needed to complete the task. I wasn’t feeling batting practice, so I headed to the stadium for first pitch. It was a cool night that was dominated by another great outing from Pirate pitcher Paul Maholm who mowed down the Mets. I was also very impressed by the play of new catcher Mike McKenry who was acquired from the Red Sox just hours before the game. There were a couple of crazy plays including fielder interference that led to the first Pirate run, a home run by Brandon Wood, and a near triple play. Hanny shut it down for the 17th time in 17 chances. He’s quickly becoming one of my favorites. The game went very quick as it wasn’t even dark yet when the game was in it’s late stages. The city had a weird orange tint as the sun set.

I saw some good and saw some bad in my first game back, and I am looking forward to spending many more summer days and nights at the ballpark.