August 23, 2010
PNC Park is always a great place for me and often times can be considered my home away from home. This is my first season being considered a season ticket holder, however I attended 24 games in 2009 and 17 games in 2008. Considering that I have attended 21 games thus far this season, I have a lot of opportunities that come my way.
A main reason why I decided to purchase season tickets was because of the early batting practice. I decided this year to become a ball hawk and join my friend Erik Jabs' Ball Hawk League (BHL). This has provided me with a ton of opportunities to socialize with people who share similar interests and also an opportunity to snag with some great competition. Thus far in the season I have snagged 35 baseballs, and also received signatures from Ubaldo Jimenez, Adam Wainwright, Billy Wagner and Ryan Braun to name a few players.
For this month's column, my first ever column for mygameballs.com, I decided to feature a couple of things that I was fortunately able to experience this week.
On Tuesday August 17th, I came extra early to PNC Park as I was given the opportunity to watch the Pittsburgh Pirates take batting practice on the field. Opportunities like these are hard to come by, and my ticket agent for the team gave me an early heads up on this special event. These events allow for a maximum of fifteen people and only occur a handful of times throughout the season. There were rules that I had to abide by such as not calling out for players and not going onto the grass, but my experience turned out to be a very enjoyable one.
When I checked into the stadium for the event, I was given a lanyard that allowed me to be on the field and also told to sign a waiver that way if I was injured by a batted ball, the Pirates could not be sued. I was not worried about being injured as I had brought a glove with me in case any baseballs came that way.
A short while later, I was escorted onto the field and placed behind home plate. After a quick hello to Pirates starter Jeff Karstens, I had a couple minutes to check out my surroundings. I have been on the field plenty of times before but it was the first time that I truly was able to appreciate being on it.
I tried to take as many pictures as possible as various events unfolded, but soon enough Pirates bullpen catcher and all around great guy Herbie Andrade showed up to shake all of our hands and talk to us. He then posed for pictures, and after a few went over to pitch batting practice to Andrew McCutchen, Chris Snyder and Jeff Clement.
There were various points where first base coach Carlos Garcia was hitting baseballs to Ronny Cedeno and Garrett Jones and they would throw the baseballs back to him. There were points where Garcia misplayed some bounces, and I capitalized grabbing a couple of baseballs in the process.
During my time on the field, I talked to various people and watched many of the Pirates hit.
As the experience came to a close, I got a baseball and a pen out as I knew that it was about time for batting practice to end and for potential autograph signings to begin.
Someone managed to get Pedro Alvarez's attention, and sure enough he signed for everyone who asked him to. I also managed to get a signature from the previous night's starter James McDonald.
The experience was certainly a great one but the very next day, I happened to have another wonderful experience.
When I am not a Pirates fan, I am a journalist. I am only 18 years old, but I am very persistent and driven and thus have conducted many interviews that people my age have not been able to. For example, I conducted interviews with two Pittsburgh Pirates last season, and I was told that that was the first time in twenty years that anyone has been able to interview a Pirate (let alone two) on the field.
For this opportunity I was given the chance to job shadow Pirates PA announcer Tim DeBacco. We met in September 2009 when I sent him an email expressing my interest in journalism and told him that I would be honored to meet him. Sure enough we met and discussed meeting again next season. Two weeks ago, I lined up an opportunity to job shadow Tim for a couple of innings and see what he and those around him do. I could also ask questions to further my understanding for what he does.
The meeting occurred Wednesday August 18th during the third inning. I took an elevator to the press box and then took the short walk to the room where Tim was. I respectfully waited until the inning break to knock on the door.
I have to say that I was amazed by all that Tim does during a game. Among other things, he announces all of the hitters, plays all of the walk up music you hear the hitters step up to the plate to, he tells someone working alongside him what music to play when something happens such as when the Pirates walk or get a hit. He also keeps the time during the inning breaks to make sure that everything is running on schedule and also is active during the inning breaks.
I asked him a wide variety of questions involving the many aspects of his job and also brought a pen and paper to take notes on everything that occurred. During my two innings I spent with Tim, I got to meet the man that calls the perogie races and I asked him questions about his experiences as well. The main thing I learned from everyone I encountered in the press box was the importance of multitasking. Because of the many duties the PA announcer has, it is important to be on top of everything. I also learned that because Tim has worked for the Pirates for a while, he uses his experience, improvisation and impulse to help him achieve his many duties as PA announcer.
When I had to leave the area, I thanked Tim and everyone around me for helping learn aspects of my craft that I never truly grasped. Upon leaving, Tim had nothing but praise for both myself and my progression as a journalist. Tim's kindness and support gives me the confidence that the career path that I have chosen is indeed the right one.
Both of these experiences this week were beneficial in different ways. Being on the field allowed for me to further appreciate the athletes and what they do on a daily basis. While I was in the press box I was able to experience my profession through the eyes of others. The experience allowed me to realize how far I have come as a journalist and how excited I am for my future.
Thank you so much for reading my debut column for mygameballs.com. For more information on my experiences this season at PNC Park please visit: http://wewill1992pirates.mlblogs.com
Zac Weiss is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.