Wednesday, April 25, 2007

04/25 - New Streak Begins

Wouldn't have believed it if I didn't see it, but the Brewers' Rickie Weeks put one out of the park and on to Waveland. Pretty remarkable, considering the 20+mph winds blowing in from the northeast. But he kept it low and ripped it down the line, just barely clearing the angled fence by the edge of the bleachers.

No idea who got the ball since I was once again watching from the comfort of my couch at home. Judging by the throw-back efforts, my guess is it was NOT one of the regular ballhawks. Whoever threw it back was slightly off with their aim as the ball landed in the seats behind the Cubs bullpen. I've seen other throws end up in the bleachers, i.e. they just didn't throw it far enough to make the field, but this was the first time I've seen it so far off line to end up in the regular seats.

Interestingly enough, this homer probably wouldn't have made it out in the old bleachers configuration. If you remember, the high fence behind the family section went all the way across. With the new configuration, the height of the railing follows the walkway, so where the steps go down, so does the railing. Scott Rolen had a similar home run last year - line drive that curled around the foul pole and barely made it over the railing. In the old configuration, that would have just slammed against the back fence.

So the street homer streak begins again, though now we take a little break as the Cubs go on the road for a week.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Wednesday, April 25: No BP, HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-45 [W-32,S-13], HR-5 [W-5,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-8 [A-3,C-5]

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

04/24 - Street Streak Stopped

Not much to report on today. Took a walk around Wrigley this afternoon - checked in with the autograph hounds by the Harry Caray statue, saw some Brewers players come in, said hello to some of the workers, and took a look through the right field knothole opening. A few Cubs getting loose on the field, and one Brewer doing push-ups and sit-ups.

Well, I certainly didn't need to be reminded of my own lack of conditioning, so after checking the wind (gusting in pretty good from the northeast), I decided to head home and take care of some other pressing matters. Yes, I know - hard to believe, but there are other things in life besides ballhawking.

So no ballcounts today, and no confirmation on if Ramirez's homer last night made it to the street or not. Len & Bob did talk about it on tonight's broadcast - they seemed to think that it did make the street. Since it was Ramirez's 200th, evidently there was some attempt by the Cubs to get it back, but the way Len & Bob described it, there was no way to be sure that they were getting back the right ball. Could have been quite the melee out there or maybe it was a solitary passer-by.

Meanwhile, Prince Fielder continues to own the Cubs - he hit another homer tonight. Cubs are losing 4-0, it's the top of the 9th, bases are loaded and Fielder is up again. I think I'll just stop typing now...

UPDATE (5/4/07): My sources tell me nothing came out during BP and Ramirez's HR did make it out. See 5/4/07 post for details.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Tuesday, April 24: BP-0, HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-45 [W-32,S-13], HR-4 [W-4,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-8 [A-3,C-5]

Monday, April 23, 2007

04/23 - Four in a Row??? YES!!!

Cubs take some early BP around 3:30 and with the wind blowing hard out to right, I set up along Sheffield. My patience is rewarded when two balls come out. The first one almost hits a construction worker as he's loading tools onto his truck. He seems a bit confused when I give it to him, so I start to explain about batting practice, but quickly realize he speaks almost no English. I'm guessing he's Russian or Eastern European.

So I try sign language - I point to Wrigley, then the ball and motion with my arm showing how it came out of the park. Pretty obvious, right? Well, not quite. My new friend turns and makes like he's going to throw the ball back - he thought I was telling him he had to return the ball!

I chuckle a bit, and stop him before he gives up his souvenir. I point to him, then the ball and motion for him to hang onto it. Just then the second ball comes out, bounces up against a tree and rolls out into the street. I pick it up, show him the ball and then put it in my pocket and point to myself.

Ah... I think he gets it now. He smiles, and turns to his co-worker coming to the truck, shows him the ball, and starts talking a mile a minute. Needless to say, I didn't understand a word of it, but I certainly got the meaning. It's not just little boys and girls that enjoy getting a baseball for the first time...

Weather turned nasty around 4:30 or so. Wind shifted, temperature dropped about 15 degrees in 5 minutes, and skies started to cloud up. So I went home. I'm pretty sure both teams had a regular BP session but the wind was blowing straight in from center at about 20 mph, so I'd be surprised if any made it out. I'll try to find out tomorrow and update the counts if necessary.

Ok, so now I'm home watching the game on TV and I'm not 100% sure, but it looks like Ramirez's homer (200th of his career) went through a fan's hands in the top row and out onto Waveland. If that's true, then that makes it four games in a row with a street homer. The Streak Continues!!! Well, maybe. I'll have to check on that tomorrow as well.

Bad news is Brewers have tied it up to take it into extra innings. Good news is Albert Pujols is nowhere near Wrigley Field. Unfortunately, Prince Fielder is. He jacks a homerun to the right-field basket in the top of the 12th. Brewers win 5-4.

UPDATE (5/4/07): Six more balls came out during regular BP after I left. And Ramirez's homer did make it out. See 5/4/07 post for details.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Monday, April 23: BP-8 [W-1,S-7], HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-45 [W-32,S-13], HR-4 [W-4,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-8 [A-3,C-5]

Sunday, April 22, 2007

04/22 - Street Streak at Three

Well, it took extra innings but the "consecutive games with a street homer" streak was extended to three today as Albert Pujols blasted a three-run homer to deep, deep, left-center in the 10th to win the game for the Cardinals. Final score was 12-9, more akin to a football score, which seemed appropriate given that Bears placekicker Robbie Gould was the Guest Conductor for today's 7th inning stretch.

Quite a few homers today (Edmonds, Barrett, Duncan, Rolen, Ramirez and Pujols) but only Pujols' left the park. Rolen's blast almost made it though. Landed in top row of bleachers where it bounced off a fan's hand, over his head to the walkway area behind the bleachers where another fan tried to grab it in mid-air but she deflected it back even further towards the street. I thought for sure the ball was coming out at this point, but then it hit the railing and bounced back onto the walkway where a small scrum ensued.

Back to the Pujols' homer... I was playing him straightaway to left so all I could do was watch the action farther down Waveland by the alley. Dave was in the lead of those chasing the ball, but by this point in the game, there are always people everywhere outside the park, so as luck would have it, a passer-by (looked like a vendor) got close to it first. A glove goes flying, ball bounces back into the street, and Dave and VendorGuy are pushing/pulling each other trying to get to it. VendorGuy had position though, and eventually grabbed the ball from the ground.

Batting practice was somewhat of a disappointment considering the gusty 20mph winds from the South and the combined slugging potential of both teams. Even with the bleacher expansion, I was expecting more like 18-20 out instead of nine.

Brewers are next team in but the weather is supposed to take a turn for the worse - about 20 degrees colder, wind blowing in, and scattered showers. The street-homer streak is definitely in jeopardy...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Sunday, April 22: BP-9 [W-8,S-1], HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-0, Roof-1 [A-0,C-1]
Season: BP-37 [W-31,S-6], HR-3 [W-3,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-8 [A-3,C-5]

Saturday, April 21, 2007

04/21 - Bartman in the Bleachers???

The south winds that ballhawks dream about aren't quite here yet - still some easternly flow to it off the lake. So BP wasn't anything too exciting - one from the Cubs and three from the Cardinals. But the sun was shining, temps in the 70s, and the Cubs were putting the hurt on the Cards, so it was a pretty good day all around.

Michael Barrett delivered the big blow with a three-run blast in the first inning. Given the wind direction and my personal belief that "catchers always pull", I positioned myself down the line again. Sure enough, I see the ball coming up, almost right at me. I ran across the street, right up to where the stairs lead down from the bleachers, and was all ready to make a nice basket catch. All of a sudden, a fan reaches out and tries to make a barehanded catch over the railing.

Holy Moises Alou - it's the return of Bartman!!!

Ball goes off his hand, over my head, and heads down Waveland towards the firehouse. Wes gives chase, but ball bounces right into the hand of a passerby, who proceeds to pull out his cell phone and call everyone he knows...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Saturday, April 21: BP-4 [W-4,S-0], HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-28 [W-23,S-5], HR-2 [W-2,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-7 [A-3,C-4]

Friday, April 20, 2007

04/20 - First Street Homer!

Finally... some warm weather. Lots of sunshine, temp in the low 60s. Not a great wind, so BP was poor (only one out) but no one seemed to mind. Ballhawks were out in full force today - Rich B. and Wes making their first appearances of the year, to join Moe, Dave, "Old School" George, Rich R. and myself.

Game moved along rather quickly - scoring only one run through six innings will have that effect. So with the Cubs nursing a 1-0 lead, we head to the seventh inning when things got interesting.

Wes scored a ticket so he was in the bleachers, near the left-field line and I was shadowing him from the street. Preston Wilson up for the Cardinals with a man on. Cra-a-a-ck! I see Wes start to run to his left along the back concourse, so I follow suit out on Waveland. Then I see Wes put the skids on and turn back to the right, so I try to do the same. By this time I can finally see the ball and it's hooking big time towards the left-field foul pole.

Thankfully the ball is hit high enough, so I've got a chance to catch it on the fly, but I lose sight of it behind one of the poles for an instant, and when I pick it back up, it's coming right at me. Hits my glove, bounces off my chest and down onto the street rolling away from me. I look up; not too many people around but I'm not taking any chances so I toss my glove ahead of the ball, slowing it down enough so I can pick it up.

I look around and the closest person to me is the Hot Dog guy - if you've been to a game, you know who I'm talking about. He's out there almost every game, dressed up in this hotdog costume, walking up and down Waveland handing out coupons for a local establishment and every now and then he raises both hands and does this little dance that cracks me up every time I see it.

I suppose if I had to lose the ball to someone because of my misplay, I'd want it to be to the Hot Dog guy. And I am somewhat embarassed that I didn't catch it on the fly. But George says "Hey, it's not an error if you end up with it." I like the way he thinks, so I hereby do appoint "Old School" George as official scorer for the ballhawks.

Unfortunately, that homer proved to be the game-winner for the Cardinals, as the Cubs lose another one run game, 2-1. Maybe this will get Lou ticked enough to schedule early BP tomorrow.

UPDATE: YouTube strikes again - someone actually recorded my throwback of the Wilson homerun. Kind of hard to make it out, but clearly not one of my finer efforts. Only got about two thirds of the way to the infield. I'd like to blame it on the bleacher expansion, but truth is, I'm just over-the-hill...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Friday, April 20: BP-1 [W-1,S-0], HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-1,C-1]
Season: BP-24 [W-19,S-5], HR-1 [W-1,S-0], Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-7 [A-3,C-4]

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

04/17 - Alfonso Pipp?

With Felix Pie's impressive debut today in center field, should Alfonso Soriano be worried, a la Wally Pipp back in the Lou Gehrig days? Well, I can think of 136 million reasons why he shouldn't be. But once he recovers from his hamstring tweak, I'm guessing he'll be back in left field, with either Pie staying up with the big league club, or Jacque Jones shifting to center in an attempt to showcase him for a trade.

Regardless, it was an impressive debut, and I got to see it first-hand, i.e. from inside the ballpark. Decided to take advantage of the Cubs' "value days" and sat in the bleachers. Maddux pitching for the Padres was an added bonus, and watching Pie get his first major league hit, rbi, and gunning down a runner at home in the 10th inning with a superb throw was just pure gravy.

This one went 14 innings, ending with the Cubs on the short end of a 4-3 score. I think Vegas is now taking bets on when Lou tosses his first base...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Tuesday, April 17 : BP-6 [W-6,S-0], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-1 [A-0,C-1]
Season: BP-23 [W-18,S-5], HR-0, Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-5 [A-2,C-3]

Monday, April 16, 2007

04/16 - "Michael ok"

That was the subject line of an e-mail I got this morning from my brother. I thought it odd - why wouldn't Michael (his son, my nephew) be ok? Then I read the e-mail and became aware of the shootings at Virgina Tech, where Michael is a senior. Thankfully, he was at a job interview on Monday so he was nowhere near the campus.

Still, as the day unfolded and each hour brought more and more tragic news, I couldn't help but think "what if". Pretty unnerving, especially since my brother had just been in Chicago over the weekend for a campus visit with his other son. We spent Friday night catching up on what's going on with all his kids (he has a daughter in college too) and their career plans. Great kids, smart kids, and bright futures for each of them. Yet, here it is, just a few days later, and things could have been so much different.

Can't even begin to make sense of it all - I'm just thankful Michael's ok. My heart goes out to the families and friends of those who died, and all of the Hokie Nation. I know it's not much, but taking a cue from the Washington Nationals, I plan to wear a Virginia Tech hat this season outside of Wrigley as soon as I can find one.

"We are Virginia Tech"

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Monday, April 16 : BP-6 [W-6,S-0], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-17 [W-12,S-5], HR-0, Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-4 [A-2,C-2]

Sunday, April 15, 2007

04/15 - Wearing Jackie's Number A Nice Touch...

...but emulating his baserunning would have been better.

Cubs down 1-0, and Soriano starts the bottom of the sixth with a lead-off double. Theriot is up next and smacks a single up the middle. Ryan Freel, a converted infielder with a not-so-great arm, is playing center field for the Reds. So if you have one of your fastest runners on second base in a close game, wouldn't you send him home on a hit? I would. But the Cubs didn't so Soriano is on third, Theriot is on first and I'm muttering to myself.

But then the genius of the Cubs baserunning strategy hits me. It's Jackie Robinson day and Soriano is one of the Cubs wearing #42. So maybe, just maybe, he's going to take this to the next level. Wouldn't it be cool if he decided to make the ultimate tribute to Jackie by trying to steal home?

Alas, 'twas not to be. Jones and Lee strike out, and Barret flies out to right. Inning over with Soriano stranded on third. Cubs lose 1-0.

Not much came out during BP, thanks to a strong North wind. MLB had said they were going to use special commerative balls during the game, so after the first inning, I went around and played roof ball. Got one from David Ross of the Reds, but no special markings - just a regular MLB ball. Found out later that another ballhawk, Rich, also got a roof ball, but his was normal too. Late in a game, Barrett hit a long foul ball that made it out of the park, and that too was just a normal ball. So I'm thinking that once again, Bud was blowing smoke...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Sunday, April 15 : BP-1 [W-0,S-1], HR-0, Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-2 [A-2, C-0]
Season: BP-11 [W-6,S-5], HR-0, Foul-1 [W-1,S-0], Roof-4 [A-2,C-2]

Saturday, April 14, 2007

04/14 - Fairweather Hawk

I don't think it got much over 40 degrees today, and a cold breeze blowing in off the lake dropped the wind chill to the low 30s. At least that's what told me from the comfort of my home. I like to think I'm a dedicated ballhawk, but even I have my limits.

But I did check with my sources and needless to say, nothing came out during BP. Or the game for that matter. Cubs did win though, 7-0. Even had a suicide squeeze. Good-bye 3-run homers, hello small ball? Perish the thought...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Saturday, April 14 : BP-0, HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-10 [W-6,S-4], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-0,C-2]

Friday, April 13, 2007

04/13 - Friday the 13th

On my way to today's game, I stopped by that gate area in right field where you can see into the park just to make sure there was going to be BP that day. Sure enough, the Cubs were on the field and Carlos Zambrano was in the cage. Based on the ferocity of some of his swings, he looked plenty mad. As manager Lou Brown would say "Good, I like that kind of spirit in a player..."

Unfortunately, none of that ferocity translated to much of anything in BP, for either team. Plenty of fireworks inside the park during the game though, as Big Z blasted a double AND a homerun. Cubs up 5-0 after four innings with your ace on the mound - sounds like a win, right? Yeah, right...

Reds score six runs in the top of the fifth and hold on to win the game. Zambrano gets the loss, but Will Ohman is the one who walked in the tying and go-ahead runs. That's Ohman, as in Omen. On Friday the 13th, no less. Cue the Twilight Zone music...

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Friday, April 13 : BP-2 [W-0,S-2], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-10 [W-6,S-4], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-0,C-2]

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

04/11 - Snowed Out

Well, I suppose if it's warm enough in January to wear shorts as it has been for a day or two these last few years, it shouldn't come as a surprise that it can snow enough in April to postpone a baseball game. Anyone in Cleveland can surely relate.

So no game today at Wrigley - rescheduled for the Thursday after the All-Star game (July 12).

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Wednesday, April 11 : Nothing - snowed out
Season: BP-8 [W-6,S-2], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-0,C-2]

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

04/10 - Different Day, Same Result

Ok, so the novelty of Opening Day has worn off, but the results are still the same - another Cubs loss. But hey, eight games do not a season make so keep the faith, right?

A little more sunshine made things a bit warmer, but even with some nice Southeast winds, only four balls made it out during batting practice - and they were all of the bounce-out variety. Went home after batting practice and listened to the game on the radio. Which brings me to...

Sounds of the Day: Ron Santo was in midseason form on the radio. Lots of "Geez" and "Man oh man" and "Gosh" all over the place. Even in a loss, or perhaps that's especially in a loss, the man still paints a beautiful baseball picture.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Tuesday, April 10 : BP-4 [W-4,S-0], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-0
Season: BP-8 [W-6,S-2], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-0,C-2]

Monday, April 9, 2007

04/09 - BrrrOpening Day 2007

About 40 degrees at first pitch, but quickly got colder as the wind kicked in off the lake, bringing a little bit of flurries here and there. Cubs lost, but you probably already knew (or guessed) that. The Bears' Devin Hester threw out the first pitch but I was kinda hoping he'd 'return' the ball to home plate, spike it and do a little dance...

Not much of a batting practice - understandable, given the weather. Maybe a half-dozen made it into the bleachers, and I think only two - both by Houston - made it out onto the street.

Pre-Game Sight of the Day:
The U.S. Army Golden Knights decided to drop-in, literally. About 10 troopers parachuted into Wrigley Field, carrying various flags and banners and landing in the outfield. Very cool.

In-Game Sight of the Day: After enduring the usual [mostly] good-natured barbs and insults from the left field bleachers with a smile, The Astros' Carlos Lee caught a fly ball for the third out, turned around as if to toss us the ball, but stopped at the last second, laughed, and then trotted in towards the dugout. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Post-Game Sight of the Day: As my girlfriend and I were leaving the park, we encountered quite possibly the politest drunk fan ever. Given the crowds, a slight collision was inevitable, but even as she staggered towards us, she was coherent enough to say "Excuse me" and apologize well before she bumped into us. A refreshing change of pace from the usual drunken masses.

UPDATE: "Old School" George tells me two balls came out on Sheffield during BP, so I've updated the ballcount totals.

Out of the Ballpark Totals:
Monday, April 9 : BP-4 [W-2,S-2], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-0,C-2]
Season: BP-4 [W-2,S-2], HR-0, Foul-0, Roof-2 [A-0,C-2]