7/21/16 at FirstEnergy Park

Let me start by saying this:

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Who’s Alex Katz? He’s a guy I met several years ago at Citi Field. We were both trying to catch baseballs in the left field seats, and after crossing paths at several other games, we became friendly. It turns out that he’s an amazing baseball player — a left-handed pitcher, to be specific, who was drafted last year out of St. John’s by the Chicago White Sox. Three months and two rookie ball teams later, he wrapped up his first pro season with a 2.20 ERA and solid numbers across the board. He began this season with a Class A team called the Kannapolis Intimidators, which, in case you don’t know or are too lazy to look it up, is based in North Carolina. That’s quite a distance from my home in New York City, so when Alex told me that he’d be playing in Lakewood, New Jersey for a few days, I made a point of going to see him.

The drive took about an hour and a half:

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Parking was cheap . . .

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. . . and the stadium was teeny:

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It had been several years since I’d attended a minor league game, and I’d forgotten just how laid-back and fun the atmosphere is. Before the stadium officially opened, I asked one of the ticket people if there was a bathroom I could use. Two minutes later, I was standing inside the team’s front office/reception area:

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It was, indeed, THAT easy. No attitude. Just friendly people who genuinely wanted me to have a good time.

I should mention that I’d driven down from New York with a videographer — not Brandon (who normally films me) or Jeff (who had joined me in San Diego for the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game), but a new guy named Josh. Here he is setting up his camera:

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We moved closer to the stadium for the opening shot. Then I picked up our comp (and rather large) tickets, courtesy of Alex:

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In the photo above, those are Alex’s parents, Adrian and Gary. I can’t even begin to imagine how proud they must be of their son.

FirstEnergy Park doesn’t open to the general public until one hour before game time, but because I was hanging with a player’s family, I received VIP treatment and got inside an extra half-hour early. This was the result:

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That ball was thrown to me by The Man himself — Alex Katz. Here he is waving to me:

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I had lots of room to run on a grassy berm. This was my view to the left . . .

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. . . and to the right:

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Unfortunately, though, no one could hit worth a damn, and BP ended five minutes later, so the ball from Alex was the only one I got. (I don’t count minor league games/balls in my stats, so whatever.)

After BP, I wandered over to the 3rd base dugout and caught up with these guys:

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The man on the left is named Scott, and he was super-friendly. He had recognized me outside the stadium and actually given me a brand-new South Atlantic League ball, just to be nice and make me feel welcome. He and I ran into each other throughout the day, and I truly appreciated his kindness.

While the BlueClaws took infield/outfield practice, I got some waves and hellos from a bunch of kids on the warning track:

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Some of them recognized me from YouTube and were excited to see me here with a cameraman, so that felt good.

A little while later, I caught up with Alex outside the clubhouse:

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He had actually poked his head out to have a quick word with his family, so I seized the moment and grabbed a photo with him.

I’m only going to post three screen shots from the video in this blog entry. Here’s the first:

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That’s what I had for dinner — chicken teriyaki. It was VERY good, so if you ever find yourself at this stadium, look for it. There’s a little stand on the 1st base side.

Here’s what I had for dessert — Oreo churros:

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Ohhhh yes. I stayed nice and full after that for the rest of the game.

Here’s what the right field berm looks like:

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Everything was calm and relaxing out there, as you can see:

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Here’s the batter’s eye:

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If there had been more than a few minutes of batting practice (and if anyone had any power), that walkway would’ve been useful because I could’ve used it to run back and forth from left field to right field.

This was my view for the first half of the game:

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I was sitting right in front of Alex’s parents. (There’s a shot of them in the video.) At that point I was wearing my glove more for protection than because I actually expected to snag any baseballs, but look, it happened!

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Did you notice the ballboy giving me a thumbs-up in the background? He tossed me that ball because he recognized me. I think his name is Paul. (I hope I’m remembering that correctly. I sometimes suck with names.)

Here’s a selfie with Alex’s parents and two of Alex’s friends:

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In the photo above, the guy with the sunglasses on his head is named Randy. The guy wearing the light blue cap is named Steve, and if he looks familiar, that’s because he’s been working for the Mets forever.

Here’s the second screen shot:

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I think that’s self-explanatory.

In the middle innings, I moved near the Intimidators’ bullpen down the left field line:

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Did you notice Alex (No. 10) warming up the left fielder? He’s a reliever, so I kept waiting and hoping that he’d get in the game.

This was my view with an inning or two remaining:

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Alex didn’t get to pitch, and to make matters worse, his team lost. On the positive side, there was an on-field Pokémon GO promotion after the game, so I got to hang out with him on the warning track:

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We decided to do a little interview for the video. Here’s the final screen shot as proof:

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After saying goodbye to him, I wandered into center field:

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That’s where I did the closing shot for the video, and on the way out, I took a panorama in the concourse behind home plate:

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Do you remember Scott from the photo after BP near the 3rd base dugout? Here’s a photo of the trunk of his car:

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He’s a photographer and yeah . . . also an autograph collector.

As for the video, CLICK HERE to watch it. Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten a ton of comments from people asking/telling me to attend minor league games in various places. I appreciate that, and while I *did* have fun at this game, I just want you to keep this in mind. Perhaps I’ll go watch Alex play somewhere else next year. In the meantime, I’m happy to report that he was recently promoted to the Winston-Salem Dash and made history in his first appearance, ending Francisco Mejia’s 50-game hitting streak. I’m rooting like crazy for Alex, and I hope you do too. If you see him, tell him that Zack in New York says hi.

2016 All-Star Game

It was a beautiful day in San Diego, and thanks to this sign on the sidewalk, I knew I was heading in the right direction:

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There were actually lots of signs advertising/pointing to different events:

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I decided to start by checking out FanFest, but before I got there, I was distracted by this:

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I knew that in just a few hours, there’d be thousands of fans crammed against the barricades, cheering all the players rolling past in the parade. For now, though, things were calm, so I took advantage by doing something silly — and you can see it in my YouTube video. That’s right! Deal with it — a little teaser to leave you hungry and wanting more. The same videographer who captured all the action the day before at the Home Run Derby was with me again.

FanFest took place at a huge convention center located several blocks from the stadium. Here’s what it looked like outside:

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Here I am inside posing near a huge baseball:

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Did you notice my snazzy new shirt? I mentioned it in my last entry about the Derby — a new purchase that nearly put me in debt.

FanFest had countless things to see and do. Here I am talking about it:

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One of those things was a baseball talk led by John Smoltz:

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The topic was preventing pitching injuries. I would have loved to stay and hear the rest of it, but time was limited.

By the way, a funny thing happened in the video during the talk. After I commented about how a Hall of Famer was sitting just 30 feet away, a kid recognized me (“Are you Zack Hample?”) and asked for an autograph and selfie. The timing was so perfect that you might be tempted to accuse me of staging it, but that’s truly how it happened. I’ve been getting recognized a lot lately; I usually choose not to include footage of it in the videos, but every now and then I’ll make an exception.

Let’s get one thing straight, though — this is who everyone *really* wanted to see:

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That’s Padres 1st baseman Wil Myers. He had participated in the Home Run Derby the day before, and in just a few hours, he’d be the starting cleanup hitter for the National League. Of course the line to meet him had already been cut off at that point, so I wasn’t able to get a photo with him. That’s when I knew it was time to leave.

As I approached the stadium, I walked along a street that was set up with all kinds of fun stuff:

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It was nearly empty because everyone in downtown San Diego was camped out along the parade route. Here’s what it looked like right across from the stadium:

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Several players were about to roll up in their trucks:

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Here’s Jose Altuve waving to the crowd:

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Here’s Ian Desmond looking dapper as hell:

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Here’s Manny Machado before getting out:

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Many more players were still due to arrive, but after 10 minutes there, I’d had enough. Some people make a whole day of the red carpet parade, arriving early to claim the best spots and then sticking around for the whole thing. I can’t deal with that. I don’t like being trapped with big crowds, and my attention span is limited.

As I walked away from the parade route, I found myself crossing the street behind the truck that had transported Mookie Betts:

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FYI, you’ll find a link to the video toward the end of this entry, so keep scrolling/reading. Right now I’m just providing a few extra details and photos.

The stadium opened half an hour earlier than it had the day before, and the employees in left field were, to put it lightly, unprepared. One woman demanded to know what I was doing inside the stadium, and less than a minute later, a male guard stopped my cameraman and insisted that the gates hadn’t yet opened.

“Then how could we be here?!” I asked. It was the dumbest situation, and as other fans started trickling in, the employees realized what was up.

Once again, I decided to hang out in left-center field for BP. This was my view:

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That spot had worked well for me the day before, but for whatever reason, it was DEAD at the All-Star Game. Look how crowded it got:

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Dozens of fans all around me got baseballs — a combination of home runs and toss-ups — but I just couldn’t make anything happen.

Finally I got a toss-up from this random kid in center field:

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Do you remember the commemorative baseballs I had snagged the day before? I got a bunch of Futures Game balls and All-Star Game balls, but no Home Run Derby balls. Therefore I was *extremely* happy to get this from the kid in center field:

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That was the only ball I got during the American League’s portion of BP. Then both leagues took turns posing for team photos:

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My cameraman (not Brandon but a different friend named Jeff) went up to the 2nd deck to get some shots from above. Here he is waving at me:

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He succeeded in getting the shots. I, however, failed to snag any more baseballs, so in case you’ve somehow lost count, I finished BP with one.

I grabbed some food (a fried chicken sandwich, if you must know) and then headed off on a mission: to find my buddy Heath Bell. He had texted to say that he was in Suite 33, but evidently there were two levels of suites, and neither of us knew exactly where I needed to go.

While wandering around and trying to figure it out, I stopped to pose for a photo with more oversized baseballs:

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I just can’t resist. I have a history of doing that. See? Oh look, here’s more evidence from the past.

After asking twice for help/directions, I finally made it up to the terrace level. Here I am discussing the beautiful stadium design:

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Most stadiums, by the way, require fans to have suite-level tickets just to get anywhere near the suites, but here at PETCO, there was enough other stuff on this level that it was open to everyone.

When I found Suite 33, Heath welcomed me inside. Here’s what it looked like:

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Here I am with the man himself:

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During that particular portion of the conversation, he was telling the camera that if I ran out onto the field, he would throw me a ball from the suite. What a guy! (How do I know him? Watch the video. You’ll get an explanation.)

Here I am with his son Reece:

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I only stayed for a few minutes and then headed upstairs for the pre-game ceremony. Click the following photo (a high-res panorama) to enjoy the true splendor:

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Did you notice all the people on the balconies of the building behind the light tower? Here’s a closer look:

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Just after the national anthem concluded, six U.S. Thunderbirds performed an incredible flyover at 600 miles per hour! I knew it was coming, but still wasn’t prepared and was actually startled. Thankfully Jeff was ready with his camera and got a really cool shot:

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Here’s where I hung out during the game:

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PETCO Park has standing room build into the cross-aisle in right field; somehow, despite waiting until game time to head down there, I found a spot.

Here’s Mike Trout on the jumbotron in the bottom (yes, the BOTTOM) of the 1st inning:

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Why was the American League batting in the bottom of the inning at a National League stadium? I was confused until my friend Brent explained it. Basically the All-Star Game took place in Cincinnati last season. Next year it’ll be played in Miami, and in 2018 it’ll happen in Washington D.C. — all National League ballparks. To compensate for that, the American League was the “home” team here at PETCO. Very strange.

Did you notice the “fun fact” about Trout below his photo on the jumbotron? He’s the first player ever to win consecutive All-Star Game MVP honors. #GOAT

Here’s what the cross-aisle looked like on my right:

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I was hoping to catch a home run, and man, let me tell ya, if anyone had hit a ball near me, I would’ve had a great shot.

Here’s who I spent most of the game with:

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That’s Brent on the left. Remember him from this photo on 9/24/14 at PETCO Park? That’s when we first met. He’s a great guy and super knowledgeable about baseball. The man in the red hat is an even older friend. His name is Ismael, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a very long time, you might remember this photo of him from when he put me on the phone with Heath Bell on 8/31/08 at PETCO Park.

There were three home runs during the game, but unfortunately they all went to left field. Therefore my only chances came on warm-up balls thrown by outfielders. Here I am reaching for one:

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I didn’t snag it.

Here I am late in the game — just a random candid moment:

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Here are the fireworks that went off after the home team won, 4-2:

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Eric Hosmer won the MVP. (He went 2-for-3 with a homer and 2 RBIs.) Here’s the award ceremony from afar:

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Here’s Hoz on the jumbotron:

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I like Rob Manfred’s face — not specifically in the photo above, but in general. Is that a weird thing to say? I just think he looks friendly.

And now, finally, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: the video! Click here to watch it, and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I have lots more stuff on the way.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

39_2016_home_run_derby 1 baseball at this game (pictured here)

 478 balls in 59 games this season = 8.10 balls per game.

157 balls in 16 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 9.81 balls per game.

 25 balls in 5 lifetime Home Run Derbies = 5 balls per game.

1,225 consecutive games with at least one ball

 85 different commemorative balls

 9,111 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

• 14 donors for my fundraiser

• $123.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $618.85 raised this season

• $191,122.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

2016 Home Run Derby

This was the sixth time I’d ever been to the Home Run Derby, and it was the first time that I brought a videographer, so yeah, prepare yourself for some YouTube action.

I arrived at PETCO Park way too early and took a seat on the ground, leaning against the gates. This was my view (looking back out at the street):

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Inside the stadium, there was a countdown clock for the All-Star Game:

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Yup, I had lots of time to kill, but that was fine. I made some phone calls, listened to music, ate a sandwich, read the news, ignored social media, and photographed Mark Melancon standing around:

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Look who else I saw walking down the street:

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That was Clayton Kershaw. No one noticed him (or rather, no one approached him) and I’m sure he loved it.

By the time the stadium opened, there was quite a crowd:

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Here I am (on the left) with several ballhawk buddies — Boog, Leigh, and Boog’s son, Jacob:

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Jacob had grown quite a mustache since I’d first met him on 6/15/16 at Angel Stadium.

When PETCO finally opened, I caught up briefly with my friend Devin for the third time in a month. Here he is:

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Devin attends every Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. I think I might need to start doing that too.

Did you notice that batting practice hadn’t yet begun? By the time the American League started hitting, the stadium was already getting crowded. I had decided to focus on getting toss-ups during BP, and things got off to a good start. Here I am (wearing a Blue Jays cap) getting a ball from Edwin Encarnacion:

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It was a Futures Game ball:

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Allow me to quote myself from the video: “I actually don’t count balls from the Futures Game itself, but if I get one at the Derby or the All-Star Game, then that does go in my official Major League Baseball collection, so I’m pretty psyched to have gotten this one.”

Leigh caught one soon after, and we compared. His was brand new and mine (already protected in a ziploc bag) was mud-rubbed:

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A few minutes later, I jumped and caught a toss-up from Dellin Betances:

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That was also a Futures Game ball, and I handed it to this kid:

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As it got more crowded, it seemed there were half a dozen arms/gloves reaching for every ball:

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My third ball was thrown by Marco Estrada. It was another Futures Game ball, and I’m sorry to say this, but I was kind of annoyed. Poor me . . . I know. But seriously, I wanted a Home Run Derby ball, and I was hoping to get one during BP so that I wouldn’t feel extra pressure to catch one during the Derby itself.

Here’s Zach Britton throwing me my fourth ball of the day:

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That ball and the one I got right after from Aaron Sanchez were both All-Star Game balls! Check it out:

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My sixth ball was tossed by a player’s kid — not sure who. And guess what? It was another All-Star Game ball.

That’s when the National League started taking BP:

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Here’s what it looked like on my right:

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My seventh ball — another of the All-Star Game variety — was thrown by a guy with “MACKAY” on his jersey:

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Does anyone know who that is?

Meanwhile, where were the Home Run Derby balls? Those are usually the easiest ones to get at these midsummer events, and All-Star balls are the toughest. Last year in Cincinnati, there were no All-Star balls during BP, and as a result, I never got one. The same thing happened at the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco, and I’m still bummed about it.

Even though Todd Frazier plays in the American League, his kid was roaming the outfield during National League BP, and he threw me my next two balls. Those were both All-Star balls, and I gave them both away.

Toward the end of BP, Clayton Kershaw walked over to say hello to someone, so I reached out for a fist-bump:

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He delivered:

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As he walked past, he looked up at me . . .

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. . . and then said, “Hey, you’re the guy that gets all the balls.”

(His voice is a bit faint in the video, but you can definitely hear him if you pay close attention.)

“That’s me!” I replied, resisting the urge to thank him for the three balls he’d thrown to me over the years.

That was the end of our exchange — short and sweet.

There were lots and lots and lots of Cubs players in San Diego. Here they are posing with Harold Reynolds:

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In the photo above, from left to right, the Cubs are Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Dexter Fowler.

Here’s Zobrist tossing me my 10th and final ball of BP:

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That was another All-Star ball, and I handed it to the littlest kid behind me:

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After BP, I wandered through the center field concourse . . .

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. . . and ended up here:

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I grabbed some food and ate while Fall Out Boy performed two songs. This was my view from the “Park at the Park” in deeeeeeep right-center field:

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Just before the Derby got underway, I stopped by a merchandise tent and bought an All-Star Game t-shirt (which cost so much that I’m truly ashamed of myself). You’ll see the shirt in my next entry/video, so for now, I just want to show a minor goof in the tent’s display case. See if you can spot it:

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Post your answers and guesses in the comments section. I’ll reveal it there if no one gets it right.

Here’s the spot that I picked for the Derby:

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It would’ve been nice to have more space, but then again, it would’ve been nice if that staircase had stayed empty. Here’s what the section looked like on my left:

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Before long, the staircase was packed:

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I truly had no room to maneuver, so I knew fairly early that I didn’t have a great shot at catching a home run. The good news, however, was that five of the eight participants were right-handed, and after the first round, all three of the lefties were eliminated.

The MLB Network had an entire suite/balcony on my right. How many people can you identify in the following photo?

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Giancarlo Stanton put on an absolute display during the Derby, but everyone was launching baseballs all around me. I kept coming close, but just didn’t have luck on my side. My videographer (not Brandon — a different friend named Jeff) did a great job of capturing the action and the excitement of being right in the thick of it. Here are four screen shots of fans holding up baseballs:

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In the four-part image above, did you notice me on the lower right? I was sooooo close to that ball, and look at it! It was one of those new crimson balls:

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You know who else nearly caught a home run? Charlie Sheen. Here he is enjoying the attention from the crowd down below:

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Stanton and Mark Trumbo hit some COLOSSAL home runs that sailed completely over the seating area of the 2nd deck and landed in a packed standing-room section up above. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even in the back half of the 2nd deck, I was positioned too shallow. One of Stanton’s shots was estimated at 497 feet; one of Trumbo’s hit the jumbotron!

The final round featured Stanton versus Todd Frazier. This was my view:

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Jeff took a photo of me from below as I joked with a guy about who had the better angle to reach for a ball:

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Here’s a screen shot of me buried in the crowd:

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There really wasn’t any other place worth hanging out — at least not where I was allowed to go.

And that was it.

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Stanton won the whole thing with grand total of 61 home runs! It was an epic performance. Simply being there was exciting, and of course I was glad to have snagged a bunch of commemorative BP balls, but I couldn’t help feeling bummed about not catching anything during the Derby. I feel like I did everything right. I picked a good spot in the best section. I just didn’t have much range, and like I said, I didn’t have good luck. It happens.

Here are the six balls I kept:

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Time for me to start thinking about the 2017 Home Run Derby in Miami, but in the meantime, here’s the video from this one. Enjoy!

BALLHAWKING STATS:

 10 baseballs at this game (six pictured here because I gave four away)

 477 balls in 58 games this season = 8.22 balls per game.

156 balls in 15 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 10.4 balls per game.

 39 balls in six lifetime Home Run Derbies = 6.5 balls per game.

1,224 consecutive games with at least one ball

 84 different commemorative balls

 9,110 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

• 14 donors for my fundraiser

• $123.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $618.85 raised this season

• $191,122.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Behind the scenes at Yankee Stadium

People often ask what I got in exchange for snagging and returning Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit. You can find the full answer on the FAQ page on my website, but basically, this behind-the-scenes tour was part of the package. It wasn’t the Yankees’ idea. I specifically asked for it, and I waited 13 months to actually do it.

Here’s what it looked like outside the stadium at 2:30pm:

1_panorama_outside_yankee_stadium_08_02_16

The Yankees were “on the road” at Citi Field, so things were fairly peaceful here.

I headed over to the fancy lobby at Gate 2:

2_lobby_at_gate_2_08_02_16

That’s where I met Eddie Fastook, the Executive Director of Team Security. Remember him from this photo last season? He’s the main guy I dealt with on the night I snagged the ball.

As we got started together on this one-on-one tour, he told me we were going to visit several places where I wouldn’t be allowed to take photos. That was a bummer, but hey, he makes the rules, and I was excited just to be here.

We took an elevator down to the “000” level. That’s the area below the stands where fans basically never get to go. Here’s a photo of it that I took last year. We jumped into a golf-cart type of vehicle and headed up a ramp to the spot where the team buses pull in. As you can see, that area was being power-washed:

3_powerwashing_bus_entrance

One of the Yankees’ buses (soon to be departing for Citi Field) was waiting right behind us:

4_bus_ready_to_go

Then we drove here:

5_behind_the_center_field_wall_08_02_16

I got out and took a few photos from the warning track:

6_view_from_warning_track

I thought of my 17-year-old self on the field at Angel Stadium and wished the younger me could’ve somehow been here with the current me.

Our next stop was the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field:

7_panorama_yankees_bullpen

That was pretty sweet, but it was nothing compared to what I saw next. Eddie drove us back through the concourse, and we stopped outside the Yankees’ clubhouse! I’d never been in there before, and evidently the Yankees no longer allow fans to see it on official/group tours. I wasn’t allowed to take photo of the entrance, but basically, it was a hallway with oil paintings of celebratory moments from recently history, such as players running toward the mound to jump on top of each other after winning the World Series. There were probably a dozen of these paintings, none bigger than about three feet tall, and on the right, there was an open doorway to one-person office.

Before long, we ended up here:

8_famous_clubhouse_sign_with_joe_dimaggio_quote

For those of you who aren’t too familiar with Yankees lore, that’s a very very very VERY very famous quote on the dark blue sign.

Did you notice the stairs in the previous photo? Here’s where they led:

9_eddie_leading_me_to_batting_cage_area

That’s Eddie walking ahead of me. When I caught up with him and looked to my left, I saw the Yankees’ batting cages:

10_yankees_batting_cages

I asked if I could take some cuts. The answer was no, only because of “liability” issues. What a pain. I don’t blame Eddie or the Yankees for that. That’s just the world being dumb. All I could think was, “I PLAYED COLLEGE BASEBALL, AND I’M STILL IN GREAT SHAPE, AND I’M NOT GONNA GET HURT, AND I WON’T SUE THE YANKEES, OKAY? SO JUST LET ME HIT!!!” But anyway . . .

When facing the cages and then looking to my left, here’s what I saw:

11_bats_and_batting_gloves

Here’s a close-up of the bats:

12_bats_closeup

Turning to the left again (so that I was facing away from the cages), here’s what I saw:

13_doorway_to_dugout

Those doors lead right to the dugout, so basically, when a DH needs to get loose before his at-bats (or anyone wants to take a few swings for any reason), he can do it easily. And when it rains and the tarp is on the field and I’m cursing the universe for the lack of BP . . . there *is* BP. It just takes place here where fans can’t see it.

Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pics of the video room, but I did get to take a peek inside. It’s located close enough to the dugout that when a certain door is left open, the coaches can shout and ask about a close play without having to call. (This would be done for instant replay/challenge purposes.)

The room itself is probably only 10 feet wide and 20 feet long — kind of a sleek but ordinary conference room with no windows, several computers, and a bunch of big TVs. Eddie told me that the players know how to use all that stuff, so without having to ask for help, they’ll often go down in there right after they’ve batted and study replays from every imaginable angle to see what they did right or wrong.

The next stop was the dugout:

14_inside_the_yankees_dugout

Eddie had to go deal with something else for about 10 minutes, so he left me there all alone. That was fun. He told me I could step out onto the warning track, but asked me not to stray too far or walk on the grass. Obviously I honored his request. It was just nice that he trusted me.

Here’s a panorama from the top step of the dugout:

15_panorama_from_yankees_dugout

Here’s a selfie:

16_zack_in_the_yankees_dugout

I filmed for a couple of minutes, thinking I’d post it later on YouTube, but eh. I don’t want to post stuff just for the sake of posting stuff. I’d rather upload videos less frequently and have them all be amazing. Maybe that’ll change someday if the demand for my videos increases a whole lot.

The bat/helmet racks were empty:

17_empty_bat_and_helmet_racks

Did you notice that one thing on the bulletin board? Here’s a closer look:

18_dugout_bench_field_rules

That’s, uhh . . . pretty strict and specific. And it should be.

Here’s the last photo I took before Eddie came and got me:

19_view_from_the_yankees_bench

Our next stop was the locker room. I wasn’t allowed to take photos, so once again, I’ll do my best to describe it. (There aren’t many photos of it online. Here’s a teeny one that’ll give you an idea of what it looks like.) The room, roughly 40 feet wide and 80 feet long, was shaped like a puffed-out rectangle, with lockers lining the curved edges on both sides. Of course the lockers aren’t really “lockers” in the traditional sense. They’re about four feet wide and made of wood, and they have shelves and cabinet doors and a tall empty space for clothes on hangers. There’s only one little portion in each locker that actually locks, but the place is guarded 24 hours a day and also monitored with cameras, so even though most of the players’ stuff is out in the open, no one is going to mess with anything. There are big TVs mounted high up near the ceiling above a huge “NY” logo on the carpeting in the center. Eddie told me that some of the players are so superstitious that they won’t ever step on the white portion of that lettering. (Gimme a break with that hocus-pocus.) The famous facade of the upper deck has been recreated in miniature form in the locker room, lining both walls above the lockers and highlighted with snazzy, rich blue lighting.

Eddie and I were standing near a small fridge with bottled waters. He offered one to me, and he drank one too as we talked about various stuff — mostly how the players and media interact. We had walked in though the front portion of the room, which is the only place that the media can enter. At far end of the room, there’s a sign that says something like, “No media beyond this point.” While all players are required to be available for the media (anywhere from 50 to 125 reporters on a normal day), the veterans prefer to have their lockers near the back so that they can easily duck into the off-limits area if they need some time to themselves. I heard that Mariano Rivera used to have the locker just past the midpoint of the room on the left side, where there happens to be an elevator-sized concrete pillar that shielded him. Oh, and on night games, the media is allowed in there from 3:20 to 4:20pm. After the game, they have to wait 10 minutes, and then they get to be in there again for another hour. Eddie told me that Rogers Centre has one of the biggest lockers rooms; Wrigley and Fenway, not surprisingly, have the smallest. The Fenway locker room, I was told, has exposed pipes all over the place along with dripping water. And it smells bad. Maybe THAT’S the curse of the Bambino.

Speaking of old Yankee greats, in a hallway just outside the locker room, there’s a large portion of navy blue/padded wall with an “NY” logo in the middle. Many players have signed the wall with silver markers — like, probably 150 or so — and only the Hall of Famers get to sign it in the middle near the logo. Derek Jeter has already signed it just to the left of the logo, so if he ever happens to get inducted, he’ll be invited to sign it again in the center. Players like Goose Gossage and Oscar Gamble have signed that wall, along with guys like Scott Kamieniecki and Kevin Maas. It’s a pretty cool slice of Yankees history.

The final stop on the tour was the weight room — maybe 30 feet wide and 50 feet long? I don’t know. I wasn’t taking mental notes. I could be way off, so let’s put it this way: it was bigger and nicer than any fitness room I’ve ever seen in a hotel. There were treadmills and various machines along with free weights in every possible increment. The most interesting thing was a TV mounted high on the wall that listed the names of a bunch of pitchers along with different exercises and dates. Other than that, it was just an ordinary (though nice) weight room. Of course I was still fascinated because it was the Yankees’ weight room.

That’s it! The whole tour lasted a little more than an hour. Many thanks to Eddie for showing me around and continuing to be so nice.

6/27/16 at Yankee Stadium

QUESTION: What happens when there’s a three-and-a-half-hour rain delay in the 9th inning on a weeknight . . . and THEN the game continues?

ANSWER: Read this blog entry.

I know this is supposed to be the place where I talk about my balls, but for once, I don’t want to dwell on that. I’ll tell you quickly that I snagged a dozen during the Yankees’ portion of batting practice — some in right field and others in left — including an Easter egg 15 minutes after the gates opened. It was one of those days. Everything was going right, and I didn’t bother taking any photos until the Rangers were hitting. Even then, I only took two during BP. This was my view from right field . . .

1_view_from_right_field_during_bp_06_27_16

. . . and here’s what the seats/crowd looked like on my right:

2_semi_crowded_seats_on_my_right

During the Rangers’ portion of BP, I snagged six more baseballs, including a pair of Prince Fielder homers in the right field bleachers. That brought my total for the day to 18, which might sound incredible, and okay, yes, it was pretty damn fun, but (a) I still wasn’t close to breaking my one-game record of 36, and (b) I had much more fun later on.

During the game, an older friend of mine came over to say hello and showed me that he, too, had a Wilson A2000 glove:

3_wilson_a2000_old_and_new

A bit later, I noticed a fantastic cup holder fail:

4_cup_holder_fail

These are the things I like to photograph — no disrespect to folks who lug fancy camera equipment and get scintillating action shots, but I’m more interested in the wacky and bizarre.

That said, here’s when it began to unfold:

5_here_comes_the_tarp

If you look closely at the photo above, you can see (in blurry yellow numbers on the facade of the upper deck) that it was 10:41pm. Why wasn’t the game over by then? Couldn’t this massive rain delay have been avoided altogether?

Uhh, yeah, it was totally unnecessary for two reasons:

1) The game was delayed for 21 minutes at the start by the threat of rain. Everyone was sitting around waiting and wondering, “WTF?”

2) After it HAD been raining steadily for quite some time, Aroldis Chapman walked the leadoff batter in the top of the 9th inning. The Yankees were clinging to a 6-5 lead, so manager Joe Girardi came out and talked to the umps, and whaddaya know? THAT’S when the game was finally delayed — such coincidental timing! Yankee fans defended Girardi and the umpires, arguing that it had to be delayed at that point because it was too wet and Chapman couldn’t grip the balls and someone could’ve gotten hurt and blah blah. Rangers fans thought it was total B.S., arguing that Girardi clearly hoped the game would never resume, thereby giving his team a cheap win.

This reminds me of a story from sleep-away camp when I was 12. There was a big tennis tournament, and I ended up in the finals against this snotty, hot-shot kid, who had teased me mercilessly all summer. He also happened to be the son of a famous sportscaster and, admittedly, was a more polished tennis player than me. Somehow I had a narrow lead late in the match, and guess what this kid did? He complained that it was too windy and tried to get the match postponed. I was like, “It’s windy on my side of the court too, bruh,” so we kept playing, and I won, and he cried, and it was the greatest moment of my young life. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it all these years later, it’s still one of the greatest moments. I hope he quit playing tennis as a result and still cries about it.

So yeah. While it WAS raining pretty hard in the top of the 9th inning, it wasn’t raining noticeably harder than it had been in, oh, let’s say . . . the bottom of the 8th.

I have no idea what Girardi said to the umps, or what it was like to be out there on that wet, squishy field, so I can only say that from my limited perspective as an outsider, it seemed strange for the game to be delayed at THAT moment, just as the Rangers had a hint of momentum.

Fast-forward to 11pm. It was still raining, and the radar looked bleak, but no official announcement had been made about the game. Naturally, most fans had left by that point, but I had decided to stick around.

I needed food, but there was only one concession stand open (Nathan’s), and there were only two options remaining: hot dogs and chicken tenders. Here’s what I picked:

6_chicken_tenders_because_there_wasnt_much_else_available

I wish that Sweetgreen, Fresh & Co., and Chopt would all open up concession stands at Yankee Stadium, and while we’re at it, Peacefood Cafe too.

This was my view as I ate:

7_tarp_covering_the_infield

Fast-forward again, this time to midnight. There STILL hadn’t been any announcement about the status of the game, but obviously there was a chance that it would resume. Otherwise the Yankees would’ve cut their losses on any remaining food at Nathan’s and kicked everyone out — and it wouldn’t have taken long. Look how empty the seats were at that point:

8_smattering_of_fans

I’m sure there were a bunch of people chillin’ in various clubs (Legends, Champions, Audi, Delta, etc.), but based on what I actually saw, I was practically drooling at the idea of how much fun I’d have if/when the game resumed. Until then, I decided to wander and take photos.

It was 12:24am when I made it to the left field seats:

9_no_one_in_left_field

It had stopped raining at that point, and the radar looked decent, but there were no groundskeepers in sight. They must’ve known something or maybe Girardi had locked them all in his office.

There was no one in the center field concourse:

10_center_field_concourse_empty

To further prove it, here’s what it looked like on my right:

11_center_field_concourse_empty

By 12:35am, it started drizzling again. Evidently that was more water than the tunnel in right-center field could handle:

12_wet_tunnel_in_right_field

There was one other fan in the right field concourse:

13_one_other_fan_in_the_outfield

I’m not sure what he was looking at — the beer menu? I guess he didn’t know that Nathan’s was the only game in town.

Here’s the Yankees’ bullpen:

14_no_one_in_the_bullpen

The right field seats were empty too, of course:

15_no_one_in_right_field

By 12:43am, the drizzle had turned into a steady rain, and guess what? I didn’t have an umbrella! I’d gotten completely soaked during the game — shoes, pants, shirt, and cap. My backpack was also horribly soggy. I had tried to fight the water for an inning or two but ended up accepting my fate, so the fact that I was now getting rained on once again didn’t matter. In fact I enjoyed being the only person/idiot walking through the seats.

The warning track was going to need to some serious help:

16_view_from_the_right_field_corner_06_27_16

These garlic fries weren’t in much better shape:

17_garlic_fries_and_watery_ketchup

A few minutes later, it began raining hard. These guys didn’t have umbrellas either:

18_police_officers_getting_rained_on

On a scale of FML to WHATEVER, how do you think this cop was feeling?

19_police_officer_getting_rained_on

At 12:50am, I heard someone yelling at me as I headed closer to the infield. It was a security guard in the concourse. He waved me up the steps and told me that I wasn’t allowed to walk through the seats.

Yes, really.

I wasn’t trying to go down into the Legends area. I was just walking through the normal seats. An hour earlier, I had actually been told by a supervisor on the 3rd base side that for the rest of the night, fans could sit anywhere in the 100 Level, but for some reason, the guard on the 1st base side felt the need to be all guard-y. He told me that if I wanted to enter another section, I had to walk though the concourse and then head down the steps.

By the way, here’s what it looked like from the concourse:

20_view_from_1st_base_concourse

This was the scene at 1:16am:

21_panorama_from_the_3rd_base_side

The rain delay had started more than two and a half hours earlier, and the Yankees still hadn’t made any announcements about it. What’s up with that? If they didn’t know anything, it would have been nice for them to say so, but then again, I was gonna stay regardless, so it really didn’t matter.

At 1:37am, after the rain had once again tapered off, the grounds crew (and umpire crew) walked out onto the field:

22_grounds_crew_finally_coming_back_out

I nearly danced a frickin’ jig when I saw them starting to remove the tarp:

23_grounds_crew_removing_the_tarp_06_27_16

Jon Daniels and Brian Cashman (the GMs of the Rangers and Yankees) met in foul territory to discuss the situation:

24_jon_daniels_and_brian_cashman

While the grounds crew worked to get the field ready, I caught up with Prince Fielder’s son Haven:

25_haven_fielder_and_zack

Haven and I have gotten to know each other over the past couple of seasons. Whenever I see him out on the field shagging baseballs during BP, he hooks me up, and when I saw him during this rain delay, he told me that he’s been watching my YouTube videos. What a fine young man! I hope he makes it to the major leagues someday.

I also spent some time with Prince’s wife, Chanel:

26_zack_and_chanel_fielder

She and I go way back to the 2015 All-Star Game. Do you remember this photo of us?

At 2:04am, the Yankees began playing catch in front of their dugout:

27_yankees_players_warming_up_at_204am

Starlin Castro ended up throwing me his warm-up ball, and several minutes later, just before the game finally resumed, right-fielder Aaron Hicks threw me HIS warm-up ball. There was literally no competition; I was the only person who asked him for it. That was my 20th ball of the day, and by the way, I’d already given away 12 of them to kids. (“Hey, d-bag, why do you need to point out how many balls you give away?! You should give them ALL away!”) (Anyway . . . )

Here’s what it looked like in right field during the top of the 9th inning:

28_no_one_in_right_field

OH. EM. GEE.

I wanted the Rangers to score one run and tie the game, and then I wanted it to last forever.

Kirby Yates was now pitching, if you can call it that. He struck out Shin-Soo Choo but then hit the next two batters to load the bases. That’s when I took the following photo:

29_view_from_foul_territory_06_27_16

I had moved into foul territory because Adrian Beltre had stepped to the plate. I had so much room to cover that I hardly knew what to do with myself. I figured I’d stand in foul territory for the righties in case they sliced a foul ball, and I’d run back out to right field and play straight-away for the lefties.

As it turned out, one of the righties did hit a foul ball to the 1st base side, but wouldn’t you know it — it landed all the way at the back of the 100 Level, right near a couple of fans who barely had to move. I ran three full sections for it, just because I could, but I knew I had no chance.

After falling behind in the count 0-2, Beltre ripped a line-drive single to left field, scoring two runs and putting the Rangers on top, 7-6. It was a stunning turn of events, punctuated by distant yet distinct cheering from the few remaining Rangers fans and family members.

Being in an empty stadium is a heckler’s dream. I had no desire to harass the players, but I couldn’t resist the urge to say SOMEthing, so when Prince Fielder was digging into the batters box, I decided to talk to Aaron Hicks. In a normal voice, I said, “Aaron, this is a very special moment for the two of us — alone together out here in right field.”

Heh.

I know he heard me. I just hope he was at least two percent amused. What would YOU have said to him? Or to anyone? It was so weird — totally surreal and peaceful, which are words not typically associated with Yankee Stadium. I was having THE BEST TIME, but now of course I wanted the Rangers to make two quick outs and for the Yankees to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th. Unfortunately Fielder was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, and Elvis Andrus hit a two-out, two-run single to increase the Rangers’ lead to 9-6.

Wow. But hey, that would just make it even more exciting when I caught a walk-off grand slam, right? That’s how I was looking at it.

Here’s what it looked like when Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the 9th:

30_camera_man_and_empty_right_field_seats

He ended up hitting a weak grounder to the shortstop and barely beating it out at 1st base — or did he? The ump called him safe, and the Rangers challenged because that’s what everyone needed at that moment: another reason for the game to be delayed. That’s when I realized I should film something for YouTube, so here you go. CLICK HERE to see a little selfie-style slice of life from Yankee Stadium at 2:38am.

Castro was ruled safe (woo-hoo!) and advanced to 2nd base on a groundout by Didi Gregorius. Chase Headley followed with a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate!

That’s when I took this photo of the right field bleachers:

31_right_field_bleachers_empty_06_27_16

I couldn’t actually see into the bleachers from down below; I had to reach my phone up high in order to get that shot.

My new BFF Aaron Hicks grounded into a fielder’s choice, so now there were runners on the corners for Jacoby Ellsbury. Can you imagine how insane it would’ve been if he’d hit a home run to right field? I was so ready for it, but instead he lined out to left field to end the game.

Womp-womp.

Here are the last two members of the Rangers’ bullpen walking across the field:

32_final_score

Part of me was disappointed that my moment of baseball bliss had ended so quickly. The other part of me was ecstatic that I’d gotten to experience it at all. Prior to this, the smallest crowd I’d ever had the pleasure of being part of was on June 3, 2002 at Coors Field. The Rockies were getting blown out, and there was a two-hour rain delay around the 7th inning. This is what it looked like when that game resumed. That was pretty good but nothing compared to this ridiculous night in the Bronx.

Even the streets were empty . . .

33_empty_street_after_the_game

. . . and for once, on my way to the subway, I wasn’t forced to inhale second-hand cigarette smoke.

Wait a minute, did I say subway? How about no. When I made it to the corner and saw a bunch of taxis waiting there, I treated myself to a quick and comfortable ride home — best $20 I’ve ever spent.

The next day, I was featured on the Gothamist website, and later on, when I made it back to the stadium, I heard something funny from a bunch of security guards. During the long rain delay, a call had gone out over the radio system about a fan who was wandering all by himself in the outfield seats. The guards knew it was me, and they were amused. I wasn’t in trouble. Security was keeping an eye on me, as they would have done with anybody in that situation, just because.

Thank you, Joe Girardi and Mother Nature, for an unforgettable night!

6/17/16 at Dodger Stadium

I had two big goals for this day at Dodger Stadium. Most importantly, I wanted to make a better YouTube video than the one I did here in 2012, and second, I wanted to snag at least 10 baseballs. I always hope to hit double digits, but on this particular occasion, I started the day with 90 lifetime balls at this stadium, so I was hoping to reach 100. I suppose that’s one of my longterm goals — to reach triple digits at every current stadium.

I got inside early with some friends who are season ticket holders and headed down near the left field foul pole:

1_zack_near_the_foul_pole_06_17_16

Did you notice all the players standing around in left field? Batting practice hadn’t started yet. That’s how early it was. Every day at Dodger Stadium, season ticket holders get inside THREE HOURS before game time. That’s just not fair. I mean, good for them (and for the Dodgers for being so fan-friendly), but it just makes me hate New York.

There wasn’t much action at first. I tried unsuccessfully to get a toss-up, and then Joc Pederson ignored my request to sign my 9,000th ball (which he had hit during BP four days earlier at Chase Field). Oh well. I’ll get him someday. Maybe. Possibly. Or not? No? Well, who needs him anyway!

After BP finally got underway, I snagged my first ball by running quite a distance through an empty row. Here I am taking off for it:

2_zack_running_for_ball9021

Look closely at the following screen shot, and you’ll see the ball rattling around in my row:

3_zack_running_for_ball9021

And then?
More dead time.

For the first hour, fans were confined to the left field side, which wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that the entire first group of Dodgers BP consisted of left-handed batters. Chase Utley? Adrian Gonzalez? I think they were hitting, along with Pederson and Corey Seager.

My videographer, Brandon Sloter, got a shot of Clayton Kershaw in the bullpen:

4_clayton_kershaw_bullpen_session

I moved back to the left field corner and waited. This was my view:

5_view_from_the_left_field_corner

Brandon rejoined me for the next group and got a decent shot of my second ball — a home run by Justin Turner. Here’s a four-part photo that shows how I got it:

6_zack_snagging_ball9022

Let me provide some commentary:

1) As soon as the ball was hit, I climbed back over a row and started moving into fair territory.

2) I took a quick peek at the ball, but didn’t need to keep looking at it. I knew where it was going to land, so I focused on getting to that spot as quickly as possible.

3) It looks like I was about to glove it, but in fact the ball was just beyond my reach, so I accidentally swatted it deeper into the section.

4) I climbed back over a couple of rows and grabbed it. Phew! Note the clock. It was still more than two and a half hours until game time.

A few minutes later, I had what should’ve been an easy, uncontested chance to snag another ball. Look where it landed:

7_ball_landing_near_me_in_a_totally_empty_spot

As you can see, there was no one else near it. All I was gonna have to do was scoot through that glorious cross-aisle and pick it up. Maybe walk up a couple of steps? Gosh, what a challenge, right? Well, actually . . . yeah. The ball took a RIDICULOUS deflection and landed one full section behind me. Here I am watching it and realizing that I needed to change directions:

8_zack_watching_unlucky_ricochet

Look where it landed:

9_ball_landing_near_another_fan

It plunked down right in the row where that kid happened to be chillin’. Bad luck for me meant good luck for him, so it really wasn’t that bad after all. I just think it’s interesting to have footage of an extremely unlucky bounce; ballhawks complain about stuff like that all time, so even though I didn’t end up getting the ball, it’s fun to actually have video evidence.

Here I am (one sneaker in the air) reaching for a ground ball:

10_zack_reaching_over_wall_06_17_16

I barely missed it. So many close calls.

For the Dodgers’ final group of BP, I moved to the left field pavilion. Here’s what it looked like from where Brandon was standing in the front row:

11_view_from_left_field_pavilion_06_17_16

I wasn’t up there with him. Instead I was camped out on a staircase down below:

12_zack_on_a_staircase_down_below

There are far more opportunities *in* the bleachers than down below (or down the foul lines), but I picked that spot because it’s different. It’s fun to scamper around in a mostly dead area directly behind an outfield wall. How many other stadiums are set up like that? The outfield configuration at the Oakland Coliseum used to resemble that, but now there’s nothing else like it in the majors.

My staircase strategy paid off when a right-handed batter (not sure who) barely cleared the wall with a ground-rule double. Here I am chasing it down:

13_zack_running_for_ball9023

Back on the staircase, I handed the ball to the nearest/smallest kid:

14_zack_giving_ball9023_to_a_kid

That was one of five balls I gave away over the course of the day.

When the entire stadium opened at 5:10pm, I headed over to the right field pavilion:

15_zack_right_field_pavilion_06_17_16

FYI, that’s the “all-you-can-eat pavilion,” and you need a right field ticket to be there, even during batting practice.

Brewers outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis was throwing a ball against the wall, so I walked over and asked him if he wanted to play catch. Even though I was the only fan out there, I didn’t expect him to do it. He used to play for the Mets, so I’d seen him a lot at Citi Field, and he never seemed to engage with fans during BP. I’m not sure if he was stand-offish or just super-focused on preparing for the games, but in any case, he was like a completely different person here in L.A. Without hesitating, he threw me the ball:

16_zack_playing_catch_with_kirk_nieuwenhuis

Then I threw it back:

17_zack_playing_catch_with_kirk_nieuwenhuis

Usually, when I play catch with guys on the field, they’ll let me make one or two throws and then end it. That wasn’t the case here. Nieuwenhuis and I played catch for three solid minutes, and you’ll see a good chunk of it in the video. He threw curveballs. I threw knuckleballs. And of course there were plenty of four-seamers. It was incredible to have an extended one-on-one interaction with a major league player inside a stadium. That doesn’t happen often.

Nieuwenhuis ultimately let me keep the ball — my fourth of the day — and I got another soon after from Jeremy Jeffress.

Once again, I had several close calls during the Brewers’ portion of BP. Here I am almost catching a deep fly ball behind the wall in right field:

18_zack_close_call_on_a_deep_fly_ball_in_right_field

This was my reaction after it hit the top of the wall:

19_zack_reaction_to_bad_luck

If that ball had sailed two feet farther, it would’ve been an easy catch. And look! The same thing happened to me in left field during the final group of BP:

20_zack_close_call_on_a_deep_fly_ball_in_left_field

I wasn’t feeling good about either pavilion, so I headed briefly to the right field corner:

21_zack_near_the_right_field_corner_06_17_16

That spot turned out to be dead, so I hurried to the 1st base dugout just before BP ended. I hoped to get a ball from the Brewers when they cleared the field, but they sure didn’t make it easy for me. Look at this:

22_zack_near_dugout_after_bp_06_17_16

When teams finish hitting, they always dump the baseballs from the BP basket into an equipment bag — and they always do it on the warning track. Not today! The Brewers made the basket-to-bag transfer all the way out on the foul line, which meant I didn’t even have a chance to ask for a ball. Life is hard.

Just as I was getting ready to give up on that spot, Darnell Coles, the team’s hitting coach, walked over with two baseballs in his back pocket. He tossed one to a girl on my left and flipped the second one to me:

23_darnell_coles_tossing_ball9026

By the way, in case you’re wondering, he was heading through the seats to talk to someone he knew, who obviously didn’t have a ticket for the ultra-fancy section down in front.

Take another look at the photo of me in the right field corner. See the dude in the red t-shirt? His name is Jason, and we had a nice long chat near the dugout after BP. He lives in southern California and attends lots of games.

Shortly before game time, I got my seventh ball tossed up from the Brewers’ bullpen:

24_zack_catching_ball9027

It came from pitching coach Derek Johnson.

I wandered a bit at the start of the game and eventually made my way to the outfield. Look how crowded it was:

25_so_crowded_during_the_game

Security at Dodger Stadium has changed quite a bit since my previous visit in 2013. It used to be impossible to move around. To get into the left field pavilion, you specifically needed a ticket for that area, and if you had a ticket there, you couldn’t go anywhere else. I used to buy two tickets for every game just so I’d be able to move around. To get into the lower level of the main part of the stadium, you needed a ticket there; you couldn’t even go downstairs from the 2nd deck. The rules were so restrictive that it was nearly suffocating. (Don’t get me started on the parking situation. That still needs an overhaul.)

What’s different now? The Dodgers have expanded the perimeter of the stadium so that there’s a concourse behind the pavilions:

27_wandering_behind_the_bleachers

Anyone with any ticket can walk all the way around the stadium . . . on the inside! If you want to go into the left field pavilion for BP or during the game, no one’s going to stop you, so I headed over there to say hey to my friend Devin Trone:

26_devin_trone_in_left_field_06_17_16

Remember him from Angel Stadium? I’d seen him there just two days earlier. I hoped to say hello to Bobby Crosby (aka “Dodgerfilms“), but he wasn’t there. I did, however, get a chance to catch up with my buddy Benny Amesquita.

One place where you have to show a ticket is the right field pavilion. As I mentioned earlier, that’s the all-you-can-eat area, so obviously it wouldn’t work if anyone could wander in there. Here’s what the main concession stand looks like:

28_all_you_can_eat_concession_stand

Here’s the soft-drink area right around the corner:

29_all_you_can_eat_soft_drinks

As someone who pretty much *only* drinks water, I was happy to see these . . .

30_empty_water_jugs

. . . but by the middle innings, most of them were empty. <WARNING — RANT COMING.> I tell ya, water drinkers get shafted. Why is it that the cheapest and most common liquid on the planet is often unavailable? I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been at picnics or luncheons, and EVERY other drink is available except for water. In one cooler, there’ll be six different kinds of beer. In another cooler, there’ll be Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, and juice — maybe even chocolate milk for the kids — but no effin’ water! Why is it perceived as being weird to want to drink water? Open bar? Great! Give me a glass of ice water, please, and for the love of Abzu, don’t put any lemon in it! If I wanted lemonade, I’d order it. Just give me some plain-ass water, okay? I don’t need the sugar or the calories. My taste buds are mature enough not to need additional stimulation between bites. JUST. GIVE. ME. WATER. All you people out there who offer to buy me beers at games, thanks, you’re awesome and generous, but I’d rather drink water. Always. Do you hear that, Dodgers? I want to drink water. H2O. And yes, I’m aware that the soft drink machines provide water, but when I use those, the water comes out of the same spout that gets used for other stuff. I don’t want random soda molecules tainting my water. Does that make sense? This is a very serious and troubling issue. Replacing those water jugs should be your top priority — right up there with making sure that the bathrooms have toilet paper and that the home plate umpire has baseballs to put in play. Thanks for your cooperation. <END RANT.>

Here’s what I ate and drank:

31_food_from_the_all_you_can_eat_pavilion

In addition to the two hot dogs, I got nachos and cheese, peanuts, popcorn, and of course a cup of water . . . with Coca Cola logos on the side.

The all-you-can-eat pavilion should be called the “all-you-can-bear-to-eat-before-you-hate-yourself pavilion.” It’s not exactly high-quality fare, but I suppose it’s a worthwhile one-time experience.

Around the 7th inning, I exited the pavilion in search of ice cream. Heh. If I’m gonna have sugar, I’d rather make it count.

Check out this new/huge/snazzy concession area:

32_new_concession_area_at_dodger_stadium

There was no ice cream there, so I had to walk all the way into foul territory to get some, but you know what? I was happy just to be allowed to walk into foul territory without showing my ticket. Accessibility, baby! That’s what up.

Look at this beautiful dessert:

33_chocolate_ice_cream_06_17_16

Mm-hmm, yessir!

Here’s another nice thing about Dodger Stadium that I don’t recall seeing in the past:

34_seats_overlooking_the_bullpen

Those seats behind the bullpen are open to everyone. You don’t need to show a ticket to be there. Just show up and grab an open spot. Outstanding.

You know what really sucked? Leaving the stadium in the 9th inning with the score tied, 2-2, because I had a flight to catch back home to New York City. Here’s what the stadium looked like as I headed toward the edge of the parking lot with Brandon:

35_stadium_from_afar_game_still_going

We listened to the game on the way to the airport. Justin Turner won it with an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th.

As for my two goals that I mentioned at the top, I fell short of double digits, but I can live with that. It just means I’ll have to come back soon and snag my 100th lifetime Dodger Stadium ball. The video, however, is another story. Brandon is still working on it, so who knows how it’ll turn out? (My prediction: great!) Subscribe to my YouTube channel, and you’ll get an alert when I post it. I’ll also add a link here, so stay tuned.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

36_the_two_baseballs_i_kept_06_17_16 7 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave five away)

 394 balls in 48 games this season = 8.21 balls per game.

• 97 balls in 12 lifetime games at Dodger Stadium = 8.08 balls per game.

1,214 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,027 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

• 14 donors for my fundraiser

• $123.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $618.85 raised this season

• $191,122.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

6/16/16 at PETCO Park

My day started with good food and great company:

1_lunch_with_heath_bell_and_his_son_reece

That’s Heath Bell and his son Reece.

(For those who are new to this blog, I became friendly with Heath in 2005. Now he lives in San Diego, and sometimes we hang out.)

After the meal, we drove to their new house, and they showed me all the massive renovations that are being done. One thing that didn’t need any work was the trampoline in the backyard, so of course I jumped around for a bit:

2_zack_jumping_on_the_trampoline

After spending half an hour there, we headed to their current/soon-to-be-former house. Here’s Heath with his other son Rhet:

2b_heath_and_rhet

The highlight of my day was playing catch out in the street:

3_playing_catch_with_reece_and_heath

I’m always happy to play baseball, but in this case, I was downright excited to throw with a former All-Star closer (who, by the way, still HAS IT). Here he is throwing a wicked knuckleball to me:

4_heath_throwing_knuckleball

We were just getting loose at that point . . .

5_zack_throwing_the_ball_to_heath

. . . but it wasn’t long before he dialed it up.

Despite being two years removed from his MLB career, he was recently clocked at 94 miles per hour! (He coaches youth baseball and throws/pitches BP all the time, and of course the weather is always good in San Diego, so his arm has stayed strong.) Why doesn’t he attempt a comeback? Because he’d rather be with his family. It’s that simple.

Here I am catching one of Heath’s faster throws, which he estimated at 85 to 90mph:

6_zack_catching_a_very_fast_throw

This was my reaction:

7_zack_reacting_to_fast_throw

You might think you throw hard, so let me just say that if you can’t actually HEAR the ball cutting through the air, your arm is crap. (To be fair, my arm is crap.)

I don’t usually worry about my safety when playing catch, but this was indeed one of those rare times. The only other example that comes to mind is when I threw with a 6-foot-6 monster / former minor league pitcher named Leon Feingold in a small gymnasium with baseball-colored walls. There’s almost something non-human about how the ball explodes out of a professional pitcher’s hand.

I was hoping that Heath and Reece would join me at PETCO, but the young man had an All-Star Game to play in, so Heath had the audacity to choose that instead. Here were are together in the street:

8_zack_and_heath_bell

He told me we could catch up again at the MLB All-Star Game if I made it back out to San Diego, but at that point, I wasn’t sure about my plans.

As for PETCO Park, look at this nonsense:

9_beach_gone_at_petco_park

What’s wrong with that, you ask? Here’s what it used to look like. There used to be a ton of open space. Now it’s a huge two-tiered party deck, the lower portion of which is completely inaccessible to fans with normal tickets. As a result, this was as close as I could get to the field for the first half-hour:

10_zack_on_the_new_crappy_party_deck

Oh look! Someone took my picture from afar:

11_zack_photographed_from_afar

Did you notice the barricades in the previous two photos? All they seemed to do was get in people’s way and piss off the usher who had to keep fixing them. Here’s what I’m talking about:

12_baricade_knocked_down_of_course

Just so you know, I was NOT the person who kept knocking them down. The culprit was a drunk, aggressive man who charged forward whenever a player tossed a ball into the crowd, but still, what a dopey setup.

I always used to snag a few baseballs during that half-hour chunk of time in the area formerly known as “The Beach,” but not surprisingly, I got a grand total of ZERO on the party deck. Even though I live on the other side of the country, I’m extremely bummed about this change to the stadium.

Here’s how I got my first ball of the day:

13_playing_catch_with_dan_firova

That’s Nationals bullpen coach Dan Firova throwing it to me, and check it out — I threw it right back:

14_playing_catch_with_dan_firova

We played catch for a solid minute or two, and then he let me keep the ball.

After that, I got miked up for a TV interview on ABC News:

15_zack_getting_miked_by_steve_smith

The guy doing the miking/filming is named Steve Smith. Is it even worth mentioning that he’s extremely friendly and laid-back, or is everyone in San Diego born that way? Steve and I have a mutual friend, and we’ve done several segments together in the past. Here he is getting another shot of me:

16_zack_interviewed_by_steve_smith

A little while later, when the Nationals were playing catch along the left field foul line, one of their throws sailed high and landed in the seats. I retrieved that ball and handed it to a little kid.

Over the years, I had averaged more than 10 balls per game at PETCO, but I didn’t come close to that number on this particular day. The seats were crowded, and there just wasn’t much action. Here’s what it looked like from left field:

17_view_from_left_center_06_16_16

This was the view to my right:

18_two_new_rows_on_the_right_06_16_16

The last time I visited PETCO, those first two rows weren’t there. See that red thing draped over the dark blue concrete ledge? THAT is where the outfield wall used to be. The extra seats, however, didn’t help me one bit, though I’m sure I’d get some extra baseballs if I spent several days here.

During the middle group of Nationals BP, I headed out to right field and didn’t get anything there. Once again, it was crowded, and there wasn’t much action, so I gave up on that area and hurried to the 2nd deck in left field. I managed to get one ball there during the final group, thrown by coach Nilson Robledo.

Let’s talk about the 2nd deck for a moment, shall we? Click here to see what it USED TO look like. (Did you click that link? I’m not messing around here. You need to do that.) See all that lovely space? Yeah. Here’s what it looks like now:

19_no_more_cross_aisle

Here’s another photo, taken down in front:

20_no_more_cross_aisle

Yikes.

There are so many seats crammed into that spot that it’s impossible to move, not just for baseballs, but like . . . at all. Is it against the rules now to get up and use the bathroom?

After wandering all around the 2nd deck and imagining where balls would land during the Home Run Derby, I said goodbye to Steve and caught up with these guys:

21_leigh_zack_rick

That’s Leigh Barratt (aka “Padre Leigh”) on the left and Rick Gold on the right — two good friends and talented ballhawks.

Ready to see my dinner?

22_pork_sandwich_and_macaroni_salad

YEEEEOW!!! I was good for the rest of the night after eating that.

This was my view from right field during the game:

23_view_from_right_field_06_16_16

There’s standing room built right into the cross-aisle. I love that spot.

Do you remember this guy from my previous visits to San Diego?

24_ismael_still_doing_his_thing

His name is Ismael, and he’s *always* there. He has only missed a handful of games since the stadium opened in 2004.

Here’s an equally diehard fan, who really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really REALLY likes Wil Myers:

25_wil_myers_fan

She shrieks (like, for real) whenever Myers steps to the plate, and yes, you can pretty much hear it no matter where you are in the stadium.

As the innings rolled by, I didn’t expect to snag any more baseballs, and you know what? That was fine. I was enjoying hanging out in right field with the PETCO Park regulars — almost taking a “night off” from the normal grind, if you will.

My attitude changed with two outs in the top of the 6th. That’s when Anthony Rendon hit a home run to left-center field, which appeared to ricochet out of the seats and drop down into the gap beside the bullpen. I waited for a moment to figure out what had happened. Several fans were peering down over the wall, so the ball had to be there.

And . . . ?

No one had a ball retriever, and I didn’t see the ball get tossed up. That’s when I decided to run over.

If an usher had asked to see my ticket in left-center field, that would’ve been the end of it for me. There wouldn’t have been any way around that, but this wasn’t New York. The Padres were in last place, and the stadium was half-empty, and no one noticed or cared when I headed down into that section. Here’s what I saw:

26_anthony_rendon_home_run_ball_in_the_gap

Wow.

I asked a father and son sitting near me if that was the Rendon home run ball, and they said yeah. (For my own peace of mind, I just had to make sure.)

My goal was simple: use the glove trick to reel it in.

Some ballhawks count home run balls that are tossed to them, but I don’t. I only count mine if I get them unassisted. That means I either have to catch them on the fly or grab them in the seats or . . . that’s right, use the glove trick. In all my years of doing this, I had successfully used the trick twice for game balls — once for a David Justice ground-rule double at SkyDome in 2000 and another time for a Justin Upton homer at Citi Field in 2014. I also used the trick unsuccessfully on 9/10/11 at Comerica Park. That’s when I accidentally knocked a Joe Mauer homer off a platform into the bullpen; I ended up getting the ball tossed to me by a security guard, which effectively nullified it. Yes, I’m still pissed about it. Yes, this self-imposed rule is completely arbitrary. Yes, I’m going to get on with the story of the Rendon homer.

I set up my device and waited until the moment felt right. That turned out to be when someone started heading over from the Padres’ bullpen. I think it was Griffin Benedict, the bullpen catcher, but anyway, I basically had to get my glove down over the ball before he got there and picked it up, but unfortunately the ball was a bit too far out. Still, he was intrigued enough by the device that he stood there and watched me swing it out in an attempt to move the ball closer. It seemed like he was going to let me get it . . . until he started kicking dirt on it in order to bury it! Thankfully he was only joking, and he did ultimately let me get it. Here I am with the ball in my glove:

27_zack_with_anthony_rendon_homer_ball9020

Here’s the ball itself — my 43rd lifetime game home run:

28_ball9020_anthony_rendon_homer

Stadium security had a brief word with me after that, but it was nothing serious. They didn’t confiscate the ball. They didn’t eject me. They just asked me not to do it again, which was surprising given how many times I had used the trick at this stadium in the past, including this ball in the very same spot while a security guard spectated.

Here’s the father and son who had confirmed that the ball was THE ball:

29_zack_with_tom_and_braden

Their names are Tom (on the left) and Braden (on the right). Nice guys. And hello, photo-bombers in the back. I see you. You want to be in the photo? How about some closeups so everyone can see just how beautiful you are:

30_photobombers

I should mention that by snagging the Rendon home run ball, I helped raise an additional $123.77 for the charity Pitch In For Baseball. This season, all of my game home run balls are supporting the cause and helping kids play ball. Here’s more info about my fundraiser in case you’d like to get involved.

Back in right field, I caught up with my buddy Franklin:

31_franklin_the_usher

He’s one of the friendliest stadium employees I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting (and he knows a TON about baseball).

Did you notice the All-Star logo on his shirt? Hmm . . .

With one out remaining in the game, I photographed the new party deck in right-center:

32_new_party_deck_replacing_the_beach

It looks snazzy, but I can’t help feeling sad about what used to be there.

Here’s what the right field cross-aisle looks like:

33_cross_aisle_in_right_field

Let’s hope that never gets filled in with additional seating.

Final score: Nationals 8, Padres 5.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

34_the_three_baseballs_i_kept_06_16_16 4 baseballs at this game (three pictured here because I gave one away)

 387 balls in 47 games this season = 8.23 balls per game.

• 146 balls in 14 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 10.43 balls per game.

1,213 consecutive games with at least one ball

 43 lifetime game home run balls (not counting balls that were thrown to me); click here for the complete list

 9,020 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

• 14 donors for my fundraiser

• $123.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $618.85 raised this season

• $191,122.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

6/15/16 at Angel Stadium

It had been three years since BIGS Sunflower Seeds sent me to Angel Stadium. Now I was back with my videographer, Brandon Sloter, to do a ballhawking video for my YouTube Channel. Here I am doing the opening shot in the parking lot:

1_zack_intro_for_video_06_15_16

(Guilford College in the houuuse!)

By the time the stadium opened, there was quite a crowd outside the gates:

2_devin_trone_outside_stadium

Do you recognize that guy in the photo above? (No, I’m not talking about Mike Trout high up on the wall in the background.) That’s my friend and fellow ballhawk Devin Trone. Whenever I attend games in Anaheim or Los Angeles, he’s there — same deal with Home Run Derbies and All-Star Games — so it was nice to catch up with him.

After making a quick stop near the left field foul pole . . .

4_zack_near_left_field_foul_pole

. . . I headed out to left-center field.

My indecision cost me a baseball.
This stadium drives me crazy.
Look at this challenging setup:

3_zack_in_left_center_field_06_15_16

Whether trying to catch a baseball or just watch the game, it’s awfully frustrating when the front row is 50 feet away from the field. Dead space in the outfield is the worst, and this stadium has a lot of it.

Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to snag my first baseball of the day. Here’s a four-part photo that shows how it played out:

5_zack_snagging_ball9012

Here are some details:

1) I was about eight rows back when I saw the ball get hit in my direction.

2) Judging that it was going to fall short, I ran down to the third row and started moving to my left. Note how the employee in the red shirt is standing there casually and ignoring the ball as it plunked down beside him.

3) The ball took a massive bounce over my head (see it against the sky?) and landed in the row where I’d initially been standing. Duh.

4) No one else was going for it, but I still rushed to get there and pick it up. Then I confirmed with one of the regulars that it had been hit by C.J. Cron.

Here’s the ball — No. 9,012 lifetime:

6_ball9012

I only had one more quasi-chance during the brief remaining portion of Angels BP. Take a look at the following screen shot and see if you can figure out what happened:

7_zack_not_snagging_this_ball

Basically a home run bounced past and barely missed that big blue thing. I was hoping it’d hit the rounded edge and deflect toward me, but no.

When the Twins took the field, I headed over to the 1st base side and got a ball thrown to me:

8_zack_catching_ball9013

I’m not sure who hooked me up, and in fact I struggled throughout BP to identify the players.

Brandon followed me out to the corner spot in right field. He doesn’t like being photographed, so I cropped him out of this shot which was sent to me by Matt Jackson — another friend and fellow ballhawk:

9_zack_being_filmed_photo_by_matt_jackson

Here I am lunging for a ground-rule double:

10_zack_lunging_for_a_ball

Cool action shot, right? Well, the ball bounced a foot beyond my reach.

Here I am getting a ball tossed by Ervin Santana:

11_ervin_santana_throwing_ball9014

I handed that one to this little fella, who had told me earlier that it was his very first Angels game:

12_zack_giving_ball9014_to_a_kid

I headed back to left-center field and continued to struggle with bounces. Here I am barely missing one after having drifted down the steps:

13_zack_not_catching_this_ball

I’m an idiot. All I had to do was NOT MOVE, and it would’ve been an easy chest-high catch.

Here I am getting my 4th ball of the day from the employee in left-center:

14_employee_throwing_ball9015

He’d already given baseballs to all the kids down in front, so by the end of BP, he must’ve figured it was time to chuck one to me. I gave that ball to a kid late in the game.

After BP, I met a father/son ballhawking duo named Boog and Jacob:

15_boog_zack_jacob

They are GREAT guys, and I’m not just saying that because they’d brought two of my books for me to sign. I really had a nice time hanging out with them. And by the way, I need to point out the fact that Boog is close to my age and has a son who’s . . . like, an actual grown-up! That’s just weird. I can’t imagine having a kid right now (hopefully someday) let alone one who’s old enough to grow facial hair. WTF. My dad was 51 when I was born. I wonder what it’s like to have a father who’s so young.

Anyway, look what I saw during the lull after BP:

16_zack_approaching_home_run_leaderboard

Obviously I had to walk over and check it out up close:

17_all_time_home_run_leaderboard

That’s* an* impressive* bunch* of* names.*

After a quick peek at the Big A . . .

18_big_a_from_ramps_to_upper_deck

. . . it was game time. My seat was behind the Twins’ dugout . . .

19_view_from_1st_base_side_06_15_16

. . . but I didn’t really want to stay there all night. I think it’s dumb to sit in foul territory when Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are in the starting lineup, so I decided to stay there until I got a 3rd-out ball, and then I’d think about heading elsewhere.

Thankfully it didn’t take long. When Trout grounded out to end the 1st inning, I headed down to the front row and got Twins 1st baseman Byung Ho Park to toss me the ball. Here I am (now fully decked out in Twins gear) reaching out for the catch:

20_zack_catching_ball9016

I often have a kid in mind before I catch a ball — someone that I already know I’m gonna give it to. That was the case with the Ervin Santana toss-up in right field, and I did the same thing here at the dugout, so when I walked back up the steps, I handed it to this guy:

21_zack_giving_ball9016_to_a_kid

Someone told me later that a game-used ball hit by Mike Trout — even a ball that resulted in an out — is worth hundreds of dollars. I suppose that’s true, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and I don’t care. Quite simply, it was fun to snag that ball after the 1st inning, and it also felt good to give it away to a young fan.

I headed out to left-center field after that. I was prepared to talk to the usher and show him my dugout ticket and ask nicely if I could sit in his section for a few innings — maybe even offer him a ball to give to the kid of his choice — but guess what? No one ever asked to see my ticket, so I picked this empty spot down in front:

22_view_from_left_center_field_06_15_16

It didn’t stay empty for long:

23_seats_more_crowded_in_left_center

Those guys in the front row ended up recognizing me and admitting that they, too, didn’t have tickets for that section.

People often ask me how I’m able to move around during games, so that’s how. In certain sections in certain stadiums, it’s simply not an issue. The ushers WERE closely guarding the dugout seats (one guy rudely denied me on the 3rd base side when I was hoping to say hello to Mike Trout before the game), but 430 feet from home plate in a section with a lousy view? No one cared, and that’s how it should be.

Late in the game, I headed out to right field and met the famous “TROUTNET” guy:

24_jonathan_and_zack_with_troutnets

His name is Jonathan, and you can check him out on Instagram. He was incredibly friendly, not just to me, but to everyone. He brings three TROUTNETs to every game and lends them to random people every inning so they can try to catch the outfielders’ warm-up balls. Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout take turns throwing balls into the crowd throughout the game, and they always aim for the TROUTNETs. How cool is that? (I also think it’s cool that Angel Stadium security allows Jonathan to bring these inside. I can assure you they would not be allowed in either stadium in New York.)

I gave it a shot for several innings and came really close at one point:

25_zack_using_troutnet

If you look closely at the screen shot above, you can see Jonathan filming himself making the catch. I said that Calhoun and Trout throw the balls to people with those nets, but sometimes their aim is a bit off.

This was my late-inning view from right-center field:

26_view_from_right_center_field_06_15_16

After the final out of the Angels’ 10-2 win (in which Trout scored three runs — aww yeah!), there was a whole lot of fire:

27_postgame_fire

Good times!

Here I am watching the flames:

28_zack_and_fans_illuminated

Just before heading out, a fan named Ivan asked me to sign his baseball with a gold marker:

29_ivan_with_signed_ball

I think that looks snazzy.

Here’s the last photo I took inside the stadium:

30_sprinklers_after_game_06_15_16

From a numbers standpoint, it was kind of a blah day. I’ve been averaging more than eight balls per game this season, so to “only” get five was a bummer, especially when I was being filmed and hoping to put on a good show. Angel Stadium is a difficult place to catch baseballs, but I still could’ve hit my average with a bit more luck and a less stupidity. If I had headed directly to straight-away left field upon entering, I would’ve gotten a home run that landed in the back bullpen and bounced into the seats. If the home run just beyond the outer edge of the seats had clipped the blue/rounded Sherwin Williams ad, it would have deflected to me. Then there was the ground-rule double in right field that eluded my glove by about a foot. There was also the ball that I misplayed back in left-center by drifting down the steps. And finally there were a few close calls with the TROUTNET late in the game. I don’t think I could’ve reached double digits (well, maybe I could’ve if I went for pre-game balls near the bullpens and/or along the right field foul line and then tried to get a ball after the game near the dugouts or bullpens), but I clearly underperformed. By saying all of this, I don’t mean to complain but rather demonstrate how there were a bunch of woulda/coulda/shoulda moments. That’s often the case, but there seemed to be more of them at this particular game. Oh well. It was still a fun day.

The video is still being edited. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and/or check back here for an update. I’ll add a link when it’s ready.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

31_the_two_baseballs_i_kept_06_15_16 5 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave three away)

 383 balls in 46 games this season = 8.33 balls per game.

• 44 balls in 7 lifetime games at Angel Stadium = 6.29 balls per game.

1,212 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,016 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

• 13 donors for my fundraiser

• $113.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $455.08 raised this season

• $190,958.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

6/14/16 at AT&T Park

It had been three years since my last visit to AT&T Park. That’s when BIGS Sunflower Seeds sponsored me and sent me to all 30 major league stadiums. Now I was back for another big reason: to film a ballhawking video for my YouTube channel. Here’s how it all went down . . .

I started by doing the opening shot from a promenade on the other side of McCovey Cove:

1_zack_intro_for_video_06_14_16

It was cold and windy, and I was severely underdressed, but what the hell was I supposed to wear? I’d been in Phoenix the day before, where it was about 243 degrees, and after this game in San Francisco, I was planning to be in Anaheim, San Diego, and Los Angeles. Should I have lugged my heaviest winter jacket around for five days only to wear it once for a few hours? Nah. I chose to suffer instead.

It was roughly three hours before game time when I headed over to the portwalk:

2_approaching_the_portwalk

Do you remember this guy from my last visit to AT&T Park?

3_joe_dirt_posing_with_a_baseball

Here’s a photo to refresh your memory. His name is Joe Dirt, and he has fished a *lot* of home run balls out of the water, both during BP and games. After I caught up with him for a bit, the Giants finally started hitting. Here I am looking at the field through the gates:

4_zack_peering_through_the_gate

My goal was simple. I wanted to snag a baseball on the portwalk before the stadium officially opened, and look! It happened:

5_zack_portwalk_snag_ball9005

If you don’t have a water retrieval device, the best way to snag a ball on the portwalk is to get a player or coach to chuck one up/over/out of the stadium. That’s what happened in the four-part photo above. Unfortunately I’m not sure who hooked me up. I didn’t get a good look at his face, and no one else recognized him.

Before heading over to the Marina gate, I met a guy named Rodrigo who had brought his copy of my book The Baseball:

6_zack_and_rodrigo_with_the_baseball

I signed it for him, and we talked for a few minutes. He’s a huge baseball fan and passionate about ballhawking, so it was nice to see him get a baseball later on.

Over at the gate, I caught up with my friend Bill — a regular ballhawk at AT&T Park:

7_bill_and_zack

Bill has been great to me over the years, giving me advice about the stadium and just making me feel welcomed in general.

Then I caught up with these trouble-makers:

8_sam_zack_juliana

Those are my cousins Sam and Juliana, who might look familiar if you’re a diehard fan of this blog. Remember them from this photo on 8/14/13 at the Oakland Coliseum? Or this photo on 7/17/12 at Dodger Stadium?

Anyway, when I ran inside here in San Francisco, this was my view from left field:

9_view_from_left_field_06_14_16

Now check out what it looked like on my right:

10_empty_cross_aisle_in_left_field

Is that glorious or what?

Unfortunately that aisle always gets packed within a few minutes of the stadium opening, so as great as it looks in the photo above, it’s actually a waste of time to stay there. That’s part of the reason I headed to right field for the final group of Giants BP:

11_zack_in_right_center_field_06_14_16

In the photo above, did you notice the deep fly ball descending on my right?

It was tough to snag baseballs out there. Here I am explaining why:

12_fans_on_the_warning_track_06_14_16

As you can see, there were dozens of fans on the warning track. They all had special tickets. That’s how they got to be there — good for them, but bad for me because it made it nearly impossible to get toss-ups in the seats.

Before the Brewers started hitting, I got a ball thrown to me by Jonathan Villar on the 1st base side:

13_zack_catching_ball9006

Yes, that’s me after changing into Brewers gear. I came prepared with a good outfit because of how tough this stadium is. (Big thanks to my friend Ben Weil for lending me that jersey.)

Look how crowded it got in left field:

14_zack_in_left_center_field_06_14_16

I was all the way out in left-center because that was the only spot where I had a bit of room to work with . . . and it paid off. Here I am reaching up for a home run — my third ball of the day:

15_zack_catching_ball9007

I have no idea who hit it.

Back in straight-away left field, I caught up briefly with a guy named Alex Patino:

16_alex_patino_greeting_zack

If that name is familiar, it’s because I featured him in The Baseball as one of the top ten ballhawks of all time. Turn to pages 283-284 to see the interview I did with him. It’s truly hilarious. Here’s my favorite quote — his answer to my question about the worst ballhawking injury he ever suffered:

“I got taken out by a big fat usher lady. We call her Helga. She checked me, like, I ran into her stomach. She’s about six-three, but to me she’s like six-a-hundred, and I ran into her panza. I went down, bro. I didn’t even move. My knee twisted, and I didn’t want to show it, but I was [in serious pain]. And she knew she did it too. You’ve seen those boxing videos where they get knocked out and the guy’s just looking down at you ’cause you got knocked out? That’s what it looked like.”

I regret not getting him in the video, but things were hectic, and we didn’t have much time together — but hey, that just means I’ll have to go back.

After BP, I got my fourth ball from a ballboy at the 3rd base dugout. Here he is flinging it to me:

17_zack_getting_ball9008

FYI, you can’t get down to the dugouts at AT&T without dugout tickets, even during BP. I knew this ahead of time and splurged on a pair of nice seats.

A few minutes later, a kid asked me to sign his hat:

18_signed_hat_06_14_16

Normally I sigh hats underneath the bill, but this one was black, so obviously I had to sign it elsewhere. Since the gray portion was flimsier than the bill, I signed it while he was wearing it. That was fun.

Then I wandered to a few different spots and took some photos along the way, starting with this:

19_overpriced_baseballs

That’s a lot of money for a baseball, but they ARE “authentic.”

One place I checked out was the garden in center field, which actually provides fresh fruit and vegetables for the two bistros there:

20_center_field_garden

That opened a few years ago, but it was new to me.

Did you notice the batting cage sitting there? I went over and touched it, just because. Whenever I’m in a beautiful, unique spot, I always wonder why the stadiums in New York City don’t look like that, and then a harsh reality sets in: people would destroy it.

After a little trolly action . . .

21_zack_trolley_car_in_center_field

. . . I passed by the Marina gate . . .

22_crowd_entering_marina_gate

. . . and headed to the outer edge of the right field upper deck. Ready for some more beauty?

23_upper_deck_tunnel

Wow.

Just as the Giants were taking the field, I did a quick shot for the video:

24_zack_in_upper_deck_06_14_16

(Hey, because of where the right fielder was standing, it looks like I have an earring.)

As for the game, check out my awesome view:

25_view_during_game_06_14_16

My seat was in the second row next to the stairs. I basically knew I was going to get a 3rd-out ball, so it was just a matter of when.

My cousin Sam was sitting several seats to my right with his father (my first cousin), Howie:

26_howie_and_sam_on_the_right

Juliana was sitting there too, but I guess she’d wandered just out of the frame when I took that photo.

The 2nd inning ended with a Denard Span groundout. First baseman Chris Carter fielded it and tossed to pitcher Matt Garza, who caught it on the run and stepped on the bag. Garza then tossed it to 2nd baseman Scooter Gennett, who’s basically the designated 3rd-out ball tosser. Here’s what happened next:

27_zack_getting_ball9009

As you can see, I was already down in the corner spot beside the dugout, and Gennett tossed me the ball. Here’s a closer look at it:

28_ball9009_from_scooter_gennett

I then gave one of my BP balls to a girl:

29_zack_giving_ball_to_a_kid

After that I signed another BP ball for Silly Sam:

30_signed_baseball_for_sam

Then I signed the gamer for Juliana:

31_signed_baseball_for_juliana

I’ll have you know that the “Peace out, bro!” line was her idea.

There were lots of baseballs to go around. Here’s a double photo that shows the kid in front of me catching a ball and then hiding it behind his back while asking for another:

32_kid_going_for_multiple_baseballs

Don’t be like that kid. Put your first ball away so both of your hands are free. Come on! And of course I encourage everyone to be generous with baseballs. No one ever has the right to peer-pressure you into giving balls away. If you snag 20 in one game and want to keep them all, that’s your choice, but if you have extras, it’s nice to share the love.

While my stupid videographer was taking stupid photos in the upper deck for his stupid Instagram, THIS happened:

33_bat_from_jonathan_villar

Yeah.

I was sitting in my seat and looking at my phone between batters when I heard something hit the short metal fence in front of me. I assumed that a player had tossed up a ball which fell short, so when I looked up, I was shocked to see a baseball bat rolling away from me toward the far edge of the dugout roof. I jumped up and darted down the steps to the corner spot in the front row, just to the right of the dugout. The bat had completely rolled off by that point, and two Brewers players were starting to poke their heads out to decide who to give it to. I waved to get their attention, and they handed it to me. That’s it — simple, random, and awesome.

The trademark portion of the bat was coated with pine tar and *very* sticky, and as you’ll see in just a bit, the handle had a large, splinter-y crack. That didn’t matter to me. I was just excited to be able to add another bat to my collection because they’re pretty hard to come by. I’ve attended more than 1,400 major league games, and this was only my 10th bat. You can see all them here, along with some other “bonus items” I’ve gotten through the years.

Wanna know what else my videographer missed? Another 3rd-out ball, once again tossed by Gennett, but this time I was half a dozen rows back. In case you’re wondering, it was the ball that ended the 4th inning — a Brandon Belt pop-out to Villar.

After that, the Giants’ social media team paid me a visit and photographed me for their Snapchat:

34_zack_on_giants_snapchat

(I had to borrow a ball from my cousins for that photo. Oh! And I should mention that their father, Howie, snagged a toss-up during BP.)

Late in the game, I wandered a bit and ended up here:

35_usher_holding_sign_06_14_16

As A Courtesy To Both My Eyeballs And Grammatical Sensibilities, Please Don’t Begin Every Word With A Capital Letter.

The Giants won the game, 3-2, behind a strong eight-inning performance from Madison Bumgarner. There was only one home run all night — a 5th-inning blast by Jonathan Lucroy that I wouldn’t have caught even if I’d been sitting in the outfield, so whatever. But really, it was a good game.

I didn’t expect much from the Brewers after the final out. Losing teams generally aren’t in much of a ball-tossing mood, but nevertheless I gave it a shot near the home-plate end of the dugout:

36_zack_near_dugout_postgame

Bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel was the last guy in the dugout, and just before he disappeared, he threw me my seventh and final ball of the day.

Here I am doing the closing shot for the video:

37_zack_closing_scene_for_video_06_14_16

Did you notice all the seagulls in the background? You can see them all over the bleachers and outfield in this photo:

38_stadium_empty_after_game_06_14_16

Two final thoughts:

1) AT&T Park is both beautiful and difficult. It’s super-crowded and competitive during BP, but I still love it there.

2) The video is almost ready. I’ll add a link here when it’s done, but in the meantime, you might as well subscribe to my YouTube channel. There’s lots more good content on the way, and you’ll hate yourself if you miss it.

***UPDATE***
Here’s the video.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

39_the_four_balls_i_kept_06_14_16 7 baseballs at this game (four pictured here because I gave three away)

 378 balls in 45 games this season = 8.4 balls per game.

• 49 balls in 9 lifetime games at AT&T Park = 5.44 balls per game.

1,211 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,011 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

• 11 donors for my fundraiser

• $102.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $411.08 raised this season

• $190,914.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

6/13/16 at Chase Field

This was my first game of a five-day/five-stadium trip, which required even more planning than usual. It wasn’t just dealing with flights and hotels or having to coordinate with my videographer Brandon. The biggest challenge was making sure *not* to snag my 9,000th baseball before I made it out to Arizona. Seriously. I had to skip a couple of games that I normally would’ve attended, and I stayed in the outfield at other games when I would’ve preferred to work the dugouts. See how psycho I am about all of this? (But c’mon, admit it — you love it.)

I began this day with a lifetime total of of 8,994 baseballs. Here I am outside the stadium talking about it in the opening scene for the video:

1_zack_intro_for_youtube_video_06_13_16

FYI, Brandon is still editing the video, but he gave me all the raw footage so I could grab a bunch of screen shots for the blog. Here’s another that shows me entering the terrace of the Friday’s restaurant in deep left field:

2_zack_entering_fridays_terrace

That terrace is open to the public before the rest of the stadium opens. You don’t need a ticket for the game, and you don’t even need to buy any food, but you should show up hungry and spend money anyway to support the Diamondbacks because, in my opinion, they’re the most fan-friendly team in Major League Baseball.

In the following image, do you see the employee in the light blue shirt in left-center field?

3_zack_on_fridays_terrace

He was looking for home run balls that had landed in the bleachers, so naturally I called out to him and tried to get him to toss one up.

It worked!
Sort of.

Here he is tossing a ball . . .

4_employee_tossing_ball_from_below

. . . but unfortunately it fell short:

5_ball_thrown_short

He retrieved the ball and tossed it up again . . . with the same result. And it wasn’t even close. It fell short by at least five feet. Had it been 15 years since he’d thrown a baseball. Or was he afraid to throw it too hard and hurt me?

“I’m coming up there,” he said.

“I wanna see a throw!” I shouted.

I didn’t mean to be picky or demanding. I just thought it’d be more fun (and look better on video) to have him chuck it rather than hand it to me.

He made one more attempt and managed to reach me! After catching the ball and showing it to the camera, I handed it to a man for his daughter:

6_zack_giving_ball8995_to_fans

After that, all I got was the attention of several players and coaches. Here’s Patrick Corbin looking up at me . . .

7_zack_asking_for_a_ball

. . . and here’s Garvin Alston making a windmill gesture with his arm to indicate that he couldn’t throw it that far:

8_coach_garvin_alston_saying_he_cant_throw_it_that_far

Lame.

In the past, I’ve gotten lots of balls on the terrace, but now that I finally had a videographer here and just wanted ONE cool shot of a ball being thrown my way, no one was willing to hook me up.

Fifteen minutes before the gates opened, I exited Friday’s and got in line outside the gates with two of my local friends:

9_kenny_zack_tony

In the photo above, that’s Kenny on the left and Tony on the right. Great guys. It was nice to catch up with them for a bit.

Once I made it back inside the stadium for real, I used my glove trick to snag my second ball of the day from the left field bullpen:

10_zack_glove_trick_for_ball8996

Then I headed to right field and talked about the stadium along the way:

11_zack_left_center_field_concourse

The D’backs finished hitting by the time I made it over there, so I threw on my Dodgers cap and promptly got a toss-up from Scott Kazmir. Here I am reaching up for the grab:

12_zack_getting_ball8997_from_scott_kazmir

A few minutes later, I got Joe Blanton to throw me a ball:

13_zack_getting_ball8998_from_joe_blanton

That was my fourth of the day and No. 8,998 lifetime.

I picked a spot in straight-away right field and said to the camera, “Corey Seager is up right now. It would be really cool get number nine thousand hit from him, but I’m still two away right now, so it’s kind of unlikely.”

And hey, whaddaya know? Seager ended up hitting a home run right to me. Here I am reaching up for the catch. Look closely and you can see the ball streaking toward my glove:

14_zack_catching_ball8999_corey_seager_home_run

That was No. 8,999. The next ball was going to be THE ball, and I wanted to make sure to identify the player who hit or threw it. Of course I was so hyped up about everything else that when the moment arrived, all I could think about was the ball itself. Here’s where I was standing when . . . someone connected and sent a home run flying in my direction:

15_zack_starting_position_for_ball9000

I could tell right away that it was going to fall short, so I scooted down the steps and turned left:

16_zack_midpoint_on_ball9000

Then I drifted through an empty row and reached out for the catch. Once again, you can see the ball streaking down toward me:

17_zack_catching_ball9000

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the kid in front of me made a valiant effort and barely came up short. In fact the ball might have tipped the end of his glove. Normally, whenever I catch a ball near a kid, I’ll hand it right over, even in situations like this when I’m behind the kid and he wouldn’t have caught it anyway, but sorry, I wasn’t about to give away my 9,000th ball. That said, if you know the kid pictured above (you can see more of him in the video), tell him I’m looking for him, or if you ARE that kid, get in touch with me. Send me a photo of yourself from the game wearing that light green shirt — I need proof that it’s really you — and I’ll send you two baseballs.

Anyway, here I am holding up the ball right after catching it:

18_zack_showing_ball9000

A different kid on the staircase gave me a fist-bump:

19_zack_getting_fist_bump_from_kid_after_ball9000

Then I took a moment to admire the ball:

20_zack_looking_at_ball9000

Here’s a closeup:

21_ball9000_bp_homer_by_joc_pederson

I wasn’t sure who had hit it, but I’d gotten a good look at his batting stance. He was holding the bat vertically and had a pronounced leg-kick, and when he came up again (right after Seager), I took a couple of crappy photos:

22_joc_pederson_batting_stance

I asked some Dodgers fans nearby, and they said it was Joc Pederson.

Yes!! Of course!! Duh. That should’ve been obvious, but whatever, I was just glad to have gotten the ball and that Brandon had gotten it on video and that I now knew who had hit it. Mission accomplished.

I headed back to left field for the next group of hitters, but wasn’t satisfied with my location. Here I am looking back at the elevated concourse in left-center:

23_zack_eyeing_left_center_field_concourse

That suddenly felt like the place to be, so I headed up there:

24_zack_left_center_field_concourse

It was dead.

I walked down a few steps onto the balcony and peered over the edge:

25_zack_leaning_out_over_balcony

I wanted to make something happen, but there just weren’t any opportunities. And then, suddenly, as if sent by the planets above, a Diamondbacks employee appeared out of nowhere and handed me a baseball:

26_zack_getting_ball9001_from_diamondbacks_employee

Here’s exactly what’s happening in the four-part photo above:

1) The hand-off, along with a “welcome to Chase Field” greeting. I wasn’t kidding when I said this is the most fan-friendly team.

2) Pointing out the Diamondbacks logo on his shirt to confirm that he really did work there. I don’t accept/count balls that are offered to me by other fans, but I’ve always counted balls that come from stadium employees.

3) Thanks and a hearty handshake.

4) “Hey, I’ll take it.” There’ve been so many employees (mostly at Shea Stadium in the 1990s) who’ve tried to prevent me from getting baseballs that when I’m shown a little love, I gladly accept it. I consider it payback.

Here’s a zoomed-in/blurry screen shot that shows me using the glove trick for my eighth ball:

27_zack_glove_trick_for_ball9002

That happened along the left field foul line, and I handed it to the closest fan.

Then I headed back to straight-away left field. Look how crowded it was:

28_left_field_bleachers_during_bp

Yes, hello, I see you standing there on the benches.

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Congrats for making it onto my blog.

It was nearly impossible to catch home runs out there. Here I am getting robbed by one of the regulars:

30_zack_getting_robbed

Here I am flinching on another home run:

31_zack_flinching_on_deflection

I was fearful of a deflection, and sure enough that’s exactly what happened, but thankfully it went away from me. See the guy wearing the backwards gray and black cap? The ball whizzed right past his face. He’s lucky he didn’t end up with a black eye or a few loose teeth.

Toward the end of BP, I headed back to the left-center field concourse:

32_zack_back_on_the_concourse

I had a hunch that someone might launch a ball up there, and anyway, it was too damn crowded down below.

Several minutes later, it happened. I think it was Kiké Hernandez who connected. Check it out:

33_zack_catching_ball9003

That was my ninth ball of the day, and I handed it to a kid who had just walked past me:

34_zack_giving_ball9003_to_a_kid

People often ask if I get recognized a lot at games. The answer is yes, and for some reason, it happened more than usual here in Arizona. At one point, a group of half a dozen kids approached me while I was rushing from the left field bleachers up to the concourse. I explained that I was busy and asked if they could find me after BP. They said yeah, and I don’t know what happened next — whether they told all their friends or if word somehow spread or if people just spotted me, but when the players finally jogged off the field, I ended up doing an impromptu meet-and-greet with dozens of fans. It sounds ridiculous, but I’m telling you that’s what happened. See for yourself:

35_zack_signing_autographs_after_bp

Somehow every kid already had a baseball, and they all wanted me to sign them. I also signed tickets, hats, a book, and other random objects. And everyone wanted a selfie. And then there were group photo requests. And lots of questions about my baseball collection, my schedule, my next YouTube video, my favorite stadiums, etc. Aside from the fact that I was starving and needed to pee, I was glad to hang out with everyone. I can see how it would be a burden for *actual* celebrities to receive that kind of attention ALL the time, but for me, it only happens at baseball stadiums. Seventeen years ago, it definitely went to my head when people recognized me. Now I’m just glad I can make kids happy by giving them a few moments of my time. It’s a weird but lovely feeling.

Here’s what I had for dinner:

36_chinese_food_and_candy_apple

Can someone estimate the calories for me? I hope it was at least 2,000, but that’s probably pushing it.

I was hoping that Joc Pederson would sign autographs before the game, but no, only Corey Seager did:

37_corey_seager_signing_autographs

As I explained in the video later on, “I don’t really go for autographs much anymore, but I have gotten every thousandth ball signed by the player who hit or threw it.” That said, I need Joc, so if anyone has advice or any connection to him, please let me know.

Also, I should mention that I’ve gotten every thousandth ball at a different stadium. Ready for the complete list? Here goes:

Ball No. 1,000 — thrown by Pedro Borbon Jr. on 6/11/96 at Shea Stadium
Ball No. 2,000 — thrown by Joe Roa on 5/24/03 at Olympic Stadium
Ball No. 3,000 — snagged with the glove trick on 5/7/07 at old Yankee Stadium
Ball No. 4,000 — thrown by Livan Hernandez on 5/18/09 at Dodger Stadium
Ball No. 5,000 — BP homer by Alex Rios on 5/28/11 at Rogers Centre
Ball No. 6,000 — tossed by Brad Lidge on 6/8/12 at Fenway Park
Ball No. 7,000 — BP homer by Anthony Rendon on 8/27/13 at Nationals Park
Ball No. 8,000 — Gerardo Parra game foul ball on 5/15/15 at Citi Field
Ball No. 9,000 — Joc Pederson BP homer on 6/13/16 at Chase Field

If there’s one thing I learned from that list, it’s that I need to scrounge up some photos and screen shots (from a video I filmed on an old palmcorder) and blog about Olympic Stadium.

Before the game started here in Phoenix, the roof opened:

38_roof_open_pregame

Ahh, how pleasant.

I was excited because we had tickets in a GREAT spot:

39_home_run_aisle

Did you notice the guy in the “Marino” jersey on the right? That’s who I gave the ball to on the Friday’s terrace — quite a coincidence.

During the game, I spent a lot of time chatting with this guy:

40_friendly_fan_with_sign

His name is Keith, and he has a season ticket there — and he’s very friendly. Two months earlier, he made the news by catching two Paul Goldschmidt homers in one game. Here’s an article about it.

That row/aisle is meant for disabled fans and their guests, but if there are unsold tickets after a certain point, they get released for sale to the general public.

Check out my view of the field from that spot:

41_view_from_right_field_during_game

There was a boisterous group of fans at the swimming pool:

42_people_in_the_pool

BROSEIDON was overseeing the merriment:

43_broseidon

Lots of the people there were in costumes:

44_people_in_costumes_in_the_pool

Here’s a group photo of them:

45_group_photo_in_the_pool

“Protect this pool.” Heh.

I would have loved to join them, but the pool area is reserved for private parties. Oh, and it costs about $3,500 per game, and it’s sold out for the rest of the season. Who wants to join me out there next year? C’mon! We can pick a date as soon as the 2017 schedule comes out and all chip in and thrash around for home run balls in the water.

Did you know that there’s a locker room with showers next to the pool?

46_tunnel_to_locker_room

Pretty cool spot.

Here I am late in the game, hoping for a home run ball:

47_zack_in_home_run_aisle

All those red chairs are reserved for pool people. I guess the D’backs need to provide actual seats in case those people want to sit down? Of course none of those folks ever left the pool area (except to go to the locker room), so I had all that open space to my right for the entire game.

There were three home runs — two to right-center (by Goldschmidt and Seager) and one to left-center (by Jake Lamb, who is extremely underrated). That was it. No action for me.

Late in the game, a friend and his wife gave me their dugout tickets on their way out, and look where I was able to go:

48_tunnel_to_a_close_up_spot

That tunnel led right up to the Diamondbacks’ on-deck circle:

49_view_from_up_up_close_on_the_3rd_base_side

Here’s what it looked like on my left:

50_jody_jackson_on_my_left

In the photo above, do you see the woman with blonde hair facing away from the camera? Her name is Jody Jackson. She’s a reporter/anchor for FOX Sports Arizona, and I’ve gotten to know her over the past few seasons. Do you remember this photo of her that I took behind the scenes on 8/13/13 at Chase Field? No? Well, clearly you should comb through my archives and read my old entries, but anyway, it was nice to get in a quick hello with her.

It was also nice to have a shot at getting a ball from home plate umpire Carlos Torres after the final out of the Diamondbacks’ 3-2 victory, but let me just mention something first. I don’t wear an umpire hat to get attention from the umpires. I wear it because I think it looks sharp, and since I don’t have a favorite team, it’s a good way to stay neutral while showing my love for the sport. That said, check out Torres’s reaction when he spotted me:

51_funny_look_from_umpire_carlos_torres

Tee-hee!

I don’t think my hat made a difference. He probably would’ve given me a ball regardless. Here I am catching his gentle toss before he disappeared down the steps:

52_ball9004_tossed_by_umpire

That was my 10th ball of the day. I’d given away four of them, so here are the six I still had left:

53_the_six_balls_i_kept

Finally, here’s something I always do but rarely show — my ballhawking notes from the game:

54_notes_06_13_16

I can write much neater when I try. These are just quick scribbles to help me remember all the balls that I snagged.

On a final note, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and stay tuned for the Chase Field video. It’s coming soon, and it’s gonna be amazing.

***UPDATE***
Here’s the video.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

 10 baseballs at this game

 371 balls in 44 games this season = 8.43 balls per game.

• 94 balls in 10 lifetime games at Chase Field = 9.4 balls per game.

1,210 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,004 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

My fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

• 11 donors for my fundraiser

• $102.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $411.08 raised this season

• $190,914.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

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