Pirates notebook: Giants fan absconds with Sanchez's 1st home run ball

The Pirates' Tony Sanchez is congratulated by Andrew Lambo  after Sanchez hit a solo home run in the fifth inning against the Giants on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
The Pirates' Tony Sanchez is congratulated by Andrew Lambo after Sanchez hit a solo home run in the fifth inning against the Giants on Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, in San Francisco.
Photo by Getty Images
Travis Sawchik
| Sunday, Aug. 25, 2013, 6:42 p.m.

SAN FRANCISCO — The hunt for Tony Sanchez's home run ball continued Sunday.

The Pirates' rookie catcher hit his first major league home run Saturday night in San Francisco, a line shot off two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum that landed well up into the left field bleachers at AT&T Park.

Conveniently for the purposes of stocking Sanchez's personal memorabilia collection, a ball was thrown back on to the field.

There was just one problem: it wasn't his home run ball.

“Pretty smart fans here,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “That's why (third base coach) Nick (Leyva) didn't jump all over it when he saw it roll by him. He saw green lettering on it. We are in recovery mode.

“It happens in Wrigley a lot. They act like they are really cool throwing it back. But they keep the ball. They bring a ball to the park.”

Sanchez examined the Pony League baseball at his locker following the Pirates' 6-3 loss Saturday.

“They gave me a joke of a Pony League ball. Is that really what they threw back? I guess that's my first home run ball,” Sanchez said. “My first home run ball is in someone's house.”

Hurdle said the ball and fan had not been located as of early Sunday afternoon.

“What you do is, you'll look at videotape and turn it over to security to try and identify the fan and then make a presentation through our clubhouse manager,” Hurdle said. “More often than not, you're able to pull it off. ... The hunt continues.”

The home run came in Sanchez's 45th career plate appearance and against a pitcher he has a personal connection with.

“I draw up first home runs for the past month that I've been here. Every day you think about it. You wonder who it's going to come off of. It's funny it came off Lincecum,” Sanchez said. “He played for my college coach in the Cape Cod League. In his first (at-bat), after he struck me out, I said ‘Hey, Coach (Steve) Englert said what's up. He started laughing.' The next at-bat, I had ended up hitting that home run, he comes up and he's just staring at me. I go, ‘I'm going to text Coach (Englert).' “

Personal assistant?

Sanchez has become something of Francisco Liriano's personal catcher. Hurdle said Sanchez's defensive strengths, such as blocking balls in the dirt, match up well with Liriano's pitches, which often include sliders or changeups finishing below the strike zone.

“I think it's also a good learning curve for Tony to be working with a veteran pitcher,” Hurdle said.

‘Mission October'

The Pirates will be the focus of the debut episode of “Mission October,” a half-hour Fox Sports 1 television program that is going behind the scenes with several teams chasing postseason berths. The episode airs at 7:30 p.m. Monday on Fox Sports 1.


There has been plenty of black and gold in the stands as Pirates fans traveled well on the club's West Coast trip.

Daniel Cannon, 22, formerly of Pittsburgh, went to AT&T Park on Sunday wearing an Andrew McCutchen T-shirt. He recently moved to Oregon.

“It's a very exciting time,” Cannon said. “We've needed this, and it's been a lot of fun.”

Pepper games

Closer Jason Grilli (strained right forearm) threw his second bullpen session Sunday and said it went smoothly. He will throw his simulated game as scheduled Thursday at PNC Park. Grilli hopes to be game-ready by the end of the month. … Gerrit Cole will throw more pitches during his next bullpen session in an effort to stay sharp. His next scheduled start was pushed back to Thursday to limit his innings. ... OF Starling Marte will have right hand examined Tuesday morning in Pittsburgh. Marte has not particiapted in baseball activities for the past several days.

Travis Sawchik is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at tsawchik@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Sawchik_Trib.

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