8/12/15 at Progressive Field

If I hadn’t planned to be at this game several weeks in advance, I definitely would’ve skipped it. Not only were the Yankees in town (which meant the attendance would be much higher than usual), but the previous night’s game had lasted 16 innings! Just my luck. Even though the weather was perfect, I was certain that there wouldn’t be batting practice — yet here I was:


This was my second game of a five-day road trip, so there really wasn’t any chance to avoid it. The only thing I could’ve done was listen to my friend Brandon, who had originally tried to convince me to attend the previous game instead of this one, but there was a Bob Feller replica jersey giveaway the day before, and I wanted no part of that.

As Brandon and I walked around the stadium, I noticed a huge change in center field. I knew that the Indians had redone some stuff in the outfield, but wow! Look at all this open space just inside the gates:


I was stunned to see the batting cage set up:


Could it be?! Were the Yankees and/or Indians going to take BP despite having playing past midnight?!

Ha. No. This is what I saw an hour later when we got back from lunch:


No batting cage. No BP. Just bad luck and a lost opportunity.

Brandon is a professional videographer, and I had agreed to pay him to film me at each stadium on this trip, so we were both disappointed to cancel our video plans for the day. Without BP, it just wasn’t worth it.

Shortly before the stadium opened, this was the scene outside the center field gates:


That whole area had also been redone.

Just before entering, I had a nice conversation with a pair of Yankee fans named Bekah and Joe — more on them in a moment, but first, here’s what I saw in right field:


That’s Andrew Miller. He was throwing with one of the Yankees’ bullpen catchers, and I *really* wanted to get the ball from him because I thought it might be my only chance for the day. Joe and Bekah were standing beside me when I called out for it. Because there were so many Yankee fans everywhere, I was surprised when Miller looked over and tossed it in my direction. The ball tailed a bit, so I reached out in front of Joe to catch it, but he didn’t mind. He and Bekah wanted me to keep my streak alive, so if anything, they were glad to see the whole thing play out. I then gave the ball to Joe and told Bekah that if she didn’t snag one, and if I got another, I’d give it to her. Everyone was happy with that arrangement. Here they are:


A few minutes later, Bekah posted this tweet, and I’m glad to report that she did end up getting a ball on her own.

By the way, Joe and Bekah weren’t attending the game together. In fact, they didn’t even know each other until we all started chatting outside the gates.

There was lots of time to spare after that, so I wandered and took photos of the new configuration in right-center field. Not only had the bullpens been redone, but there was a new section of seats out there. First, here are the bullpens:


Here they are from the side:


In the photo above, the gap between bullpens (several steps higher than where that photo was taken) is a great spot to get a toss-up from the Indians, especially pre-game or whenever a pitcher is done throwing. They’ll have to exit the bullpen there in order to head down the steps to the field, so you’ll be right in their line of vision as they finish up and look for a worthy recipient.

Check out the glorious new cross-aisle in the right-center field seats:


The only bad thing about it is that it’s more than 400 feet from home plate, but balls DO land there. Also, just so you know, you can’t get into that section without a ticket for it, even during BP.

Look at all this weird platform-y space at the front of the section:


That’s concrete, so I assume that when balls land there, they bounce pretty far — perhaps all the way over the netting and into the bullpen. I don’t know because the STUPID GAME THE NIGHT BEFORE HAD LASTED 16 INNINGS AND NOW THERE WAS NO BATTING PRACTICE.

Back in the regular seats in right field, I ran into a guy named Nikhil who’d brought his copy of my latest book, The Baseball:


I signed it for him, and we chatted a bit, and then I headed back to my section in right-center. I had figured it would be great for batting practice with all the lefties on the Yankees’ roster, and it seemed like a good spot to hang out during the game, so I’d bought a pair of tickets there, including one for Brandon.

As you can see below, there was some action in the Indians’ bullpen:


A few minutes later, pitching coach Mickey Callaway tossed me my second ball of the day:


At 6pm (one full hour after the stadium opened), fans were finally allowed to leave the holding cell — I mean, the right field seats. As you might expect, everyone hurried toward the Yankees’ dugout for autographs:


I got some food (a grilled cheese, if you must know, with sharp cheddar and chorizo) and then headed over to the newly-renovated right field corner. Look at all this open space for fans to move around:


THAT is how a stadium should be designed. No one wants to be confined to their seat and/or to a covered concourse where they can’t even see the full arc of a fly ball. Open air and standing room is a winning combination.

Here’s something else that’s new and brilliant:


Remember the old bullpen down the right field line? Rather than completely tear it out or fill it in with something overpriced and gimmicky, the Indians built a staircase down to it. They only allow 25 people down there at once, I think, and there might even be a limit for how long you can stay, but that’s reasonable. Here’s what it looked like as I headed closer to the field:


Here’s the space itself:


Small. Cozy. Adorable. And what a nice opportunity for fans to see a unique part of the stadium. Bravo to the Indians for making their great stadium even better.

Here’s the view of the field from the old bullpen:


Here’s a panorama, taken by Brandon, that shows me sitting on the bench:


Back up in the concourse, I was blown away by all of the *quality* standing room that the Indians had installed near the right field corner:


In my expert opinion, a good standing room area must satisfy these two requirements:

1) Not be covered by anything, or at least not have an obstructed view, such as being tucked back underneath the overhang of the second deck. The standing-room areas down the left field line at Target Field, for example, are covered, but they still work because of the smart design. Have a look.

2) Not be more than 400 feet from home plate, or at least not much more. The party deck in deep left-center at Safeco Field, for example, is almost too far away but still within the limit of being acceptable. Have a look. You’re kind of far removed from the action out there, but you’re close to the bullpens, and you’re within shouting distance of the center fielder.

Does your local stadium have a good place to stand? Think about it. The answer is probably no, and that’s a real shame. Busch Stadium (see here) and Comerica Park (see here) both have standing room in the aisles in foul territory. Camden Yards, of course, has a magnificent standing-room area called the “Flag Court” down the right field line. Minute Maid Park has standing room below the arches in left-center. At PETCO Park, fans can stand in the cross-aisle in right field. And don’t even get me started with Kauffman Stadium. There’s standing room all over the place — in foul territory and also in right field. Anyway, you get the point.

Brandon and I headed back to our section before game time. Several players were warming up . . .


. . . including both starting pitchers:


That’s Danny Salazar on the left and CC Sabathia on the right. My, oh my.

As these guys walked off the field . . .


. . . I got a ball from Sandy Alomar Jr. — my third of the day:


Look how many people watched Salazar warm up in the bullpen:


Here’s a photo of him that Brandon took:


Indians security has a weird rule when pitchers are warming up. Basically, if you’re in the new section in right-center field, you’re not allowed to stand in the cross-aisle near the pitcher. There are poles that hold up the netting, and you have to stay on one side of a certain pole. It’s arbitrary and bizarre. Standing beside the pitcher is too distracting, but standing directly behind home plate is okay? Look at this photo I took after Salazar had finished:


There had been a bunch of people standing right there during his warm-ups. Here’s another look at that spot from farther back:


Anyone in the stadium can stand there. You don’t need a special ticket, but you can’t go past that barricade into the seating area.

One day earlier, I had been in touch with the Indians about doing something media-related at the game. As it turned out, they interviewed me live between innings . . .


. . . and it was broadcast on the jumbotron! I was not expecting that. When they said they’d film me in the 2nd inning, I figured the TV sideline reporter would come talk to me for a couple of minutes while the game was taking place. As it turned out, this interview was awkward as hell because (a) the entire Indians and Yankees bullpens were sitting right behind me, and (b) I heard my own voice booming back over the speakers with a slight delay. If I could do it all over again, I would probably undo this interview. That said, I think it turned out alright, and it was certainly nice of the Indians to give me the opportunity.

Every batter in the Indians lineup was right-handed (or at least hitting from the right side against Sabathia), so as the bottom of each inning was about to get underway, I ran over to the left field side. The first part of my route required me to head through the cross-aisle:


After passing through the barricade, I turned to the right, alongside Heritage Park:


Here’s what it looked like at the top of the stairs:


I kept going straight toward that tree in the middle of the previous photo, and when I reached the walkway, I turned left:


Then I headed toward and underneath the bleachers, eventually turning left into a tunnel in straight-away left field:


This was my view as I approached the field:


Here’s what it looked like on my left:


Look at all that space! And I was allowed to hang out there. And there was no competition! And of course there weren’t any home runs hit to left field the entire night. But hey, it was still fun to wander and, for a change, not have anyone yell at me or ask to see my ticket.

I don’t think I ever sat in my ticketed seat, but no one noticed or cared. I sat close enough, and there were a few empty seats, so whatever. Here’s what it looked like in right-center field:


This was the view to my right:



A little while later, I nearly did a double-take when I noticed this on the scoreboard:


See what I’m talking about? Hisashi Iwakuma had thrown a no-hitter against the Orioles.

As the Indians put the finishing touches on their 2-1 win, nearly everyone in the stadium was standing:


Even though the Indians didn’t appear to be heading to the playoffs, it was still a big moment because it knocked the Yankees out of first place.

Finally, as players from both bullpens walked across the field . . .


. . . a 50-something-year-old man in my section, who’d been heckling/disparaging me all night (and threatening not to let me catch any home runs even though he was trapped in the middle of the row in front of me), gave me the finger on his way out. He held the pose just long enough for me to pull out my camera and take a photo, but I’ll refrain from posting it here. Mainly I just wanted to capture the moment to remind myself of home.


44_the_two_balls_i_kept_08_12_15• 3 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave one away)

• 537 balls in 75 games this season = 7.16 balls per game.

 71 lifetime balls in 8 games at Progressive Field = 8.88 balls per game.

• 1,128 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,343 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 24 donors for my fundraiser

• $162.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,650.16 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,503.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

8/11/15 at U.S. Cellular Field

Let’s begin with a three-part photo — that’s really the best way to explain how the day got started:


Part 1: I flew from New York City to Chicago.
Part 2: I met my friend Brandon Sloter at the airport.
Part 3: We had some harmless fun on the way to U.S. Cellular Field.

This was going to be my first of five games at five stadiums in five days, and it was clearly going to be the most fun. That’s because I’d made plans to meet up with a guy named Dan Katz, aka Big Cat, who runs the Chicago branch of Barstool Sports.

Here we are:


(Best. Shirt. Ever.)

Big Cat really IS big, but not just in terms of his physical size. The dude is a celebrity. There’s no other way to describe it. Never mind his 141K Twitter followers; two nights earlier, he had sung drunken karaoke with Cubs All-Star Anthony Rizzo and General Manager Theo Epstein.

Given the fact that Barstool Sports had dissed me several times in the past, I was prepared for Big Cat to make fun of me, so I was stunned/delighted when I realized that wasn’t his goal. He admitted that at one point, he didn’t think too highly of me, but when he saw me snag A-Rod’s 3,000th hit, he was sold. He kept referring to me as “Foul Ball Guy” — a nickname I’ve heard semi-regularly over the past few years — and told me he was now “Team Foul Ball Guy for life.”

The purpose of this trip was for Brandon to film me at each stadium and make a bunch of videos for my YouTube channel. (He’s a professional videographer, and yeah, I paid him.) The purpose of meeting up with Big Cat was for him to do his own video for Barstool. And also, you know, to have fun. Here we are being filmed by his video guy, whose name was also Dan:


Big Cat was supposed to receive passes to get us inside the stadium early — a tremendous perk because the White Sox only open the gates 90 minutes before game time, so in order to actually see the home team take batting practice, one needs special privileges. How lame is that? Unfortunately Big Cat’s connection fell through, but we were saved at the last minute by one of my fellow ballhawks, pictured below on the right:


His name is Rick Crowe, and it just so happened that he was getting rewarded on this fine day with early access from his season ticket rep. This was only the second time all season that he got to do it, so the timing of my trip was incredibly lucky. It also didn’t hurt that Rick was super-friendly. He could’ve told me, “See ya when you get inside at 5:40pm,” but instead he got permission from his ticket rep to bring us all inside — me, Big Cat, Brandon, and Dan, along with two of his own friends. In the photo above, the guy on the left came in early with us. That’s the legendary and elusive Dave Davison. He would’ve been featured in my latest book, The Baseball, as one of the Top Ten ballhawks of all time had he not declined to be interviewed. Here I am with the other guy that Rick brought inside:


That’s Rich Buhrke, and guess what? He *is* in the Top Ten section of the book (see pages 273-274).

It was great to catch up with him and the other guys, and of course I appreciated their generosity. They knew I’d be running around like a madman and competing with them for baseballs, yet they still welcomed me into their circle and brought me in early. That’s classy.

Just before we headed inside, I was recognized by a group of fans who wandered over and said hello. Here I am chatting with them:


And then?

Here’s a photo of Dave and Rich in left field during the final calm moment of the afternoon:


With the exception of racing a ballhawking legend (Dave) who screamed to distract me at the last second, my first ball of the day was fairly routine. It was a home run that landed in the left field bleachers and rattled around a bit. I don’t know who hit it. All I can tell you is that it was a right-handed batter on the White Sox.

Then something wacky happened. Thankfully both videographers got footage of it because if they hadn’t, no one would’ve believed me. Remember when I posted this tweet? Here are some screen shots to show how it went down. It began as I was using the glove trick to retrieve a ball from the gap behind the outfield wall:


As I was reeling it in . . .


. . . I heard the crack of the bat and looked up. Big Cat and Brandon were standing beside me, and they looked up too:


The ball was pretty much heading right at us! There was nothing I could do because (a) my glove was still dangling on a long piece of string and (b) Brandon was blocking me from attempting to make a bare-handed catch.

I sensed that Dave was circling behind me and assumed that he was going to catch the ball, so as Brandon flinched and ducked out of the way, I had already turned my attention back to the glove trick.


I heard the ball hit something soft and figured it was Dave’s glove. The guy is as good at judging, tracking, and catching home runs as anyone I’ve ever seen, so he had to have caught it, right? That’s when Big Cat shouted, “Ohhh! It’s in the bag!”

Dave reached for the ball . . .


. . . and asked, “Whose bag is this?”

Big Cat said, “Zack’s — it counts as his.”

I was confused.

Dave told me it “went right in the bag,” and I was like, “No way.” By that point he had placed the ball back in the bag, so I reached in to try to figure out what was going on:


I still thought he was kidding, so I tried to give the ball to him . . .


. . . but he wouldn’t take it. He said, “It went right in the bag! That’s your property. I’m not taking it.”

Big Cat was amazed. “Even your bag is catching balls!” he said. Then he walked over and looked at the camera . . .


. . . and added, “That’s just the Foul Ball Guy magic right there. Zack puts his bag down and the bag catches balls for him. Some guys have all the breaks.”

Dave later joked that he was going to Walmart to buy 100 cheap backpacks and place them all over the bleachers.

My fourth ball was another homer that landed in the mostly-empty stands. This time, instead of screaming, Dave threw his glove at me from about 50 feet away as I bent down to pick up the ball. He’s silly.

Then Big Cat got ejected from the stadium . . . temporarily. The White Sox were pissed at him for entering with Rick’s ticket rep after his own request for early access hadn’t been granted, so yeah, toward the end of White Sox BP, security walked over and lectured him and escorted him out. I think I was allowed to stay because I’d talked to Rick about this several days ahead of time, and he’d added my name to the list. I don’t know. Thankfully Big Cat made it back inside with a bit of BP remaining.

Here he is battling the sun:


During the Angels’ portion of BP, I only managed to snag one ball, but it was a good one — a deep home run by Albert Pujols that I caught on the fly. That was my fifth ball of the day. Big Cat still had none, and since he’d never gotten one in his entire life, I wanted to make sure he didn’t go home empty-handed.

We headed over to right-center field for the last group of BP:


Sometimes I feel like I have a great chance of catching a ball, but this was the opposite. It was dead out there. I just knew it wasn’t gonna happen, so we headed into foul territory, and I lent him my Angels shirt:


It looks good on him, right? That’s because it was an XL. Why did I have a shirt that big? Because I used to weigh a lot more, and I used to think it was cool to wear floppy clothes.

Here we are at the dugout just before BP ended:


I was hoping to get someone on the Angels to toss him a ball when everyone cleared the field.

In the following screen shot, you can see my hand pointing at him from the left side:


I had gotten the attention of bullpen coach Steve Soliz, and look! He threw a ball to Big Cat:


Here’s my man reaching out for the easy catch:


Even though it was a warm-up ball, he was pretty excited:


Then Soliz tossed a ball to me too. That was my sixth of the day, two of which I’d given to kids.

After all the players and coaches were gone, Big Cat and I removed our Angels gear and posed for a photo with a fellow ballhawk named Yacov Steinberg:


Then I spent some time with a few other folks:


In the four-part photo above, starting on the top left and then going clockwise, I’m with:

1) a young man named Larry Larson, who had brought copies of all three of my books
2) Larry’s brother, Nick, who had me sign a baseball
3) a Top Ten ballhawk named John Witt; see pages 279-280 of The Baseball
4) 2015 BallhawkFest attendee Gabi Josefson

Big Cat, meanwhile, had been tweeting about our time together, which, not surprisingly, had gotten the haters all worked up. His replies to their negative comments were priceless. Check out this one:


Here’s another:


It was great to have Big Cat on my side.

After the national anthem . . .


. . . I waved and shouted at Mike Trout, who spotted me in the crowd and waved back — pretty cool that he still recognizes me as the guy who caught his first MLB home run.

Here’s where we sat during the game:


As you can see, the first 10 rows were kind of crowded, but the back of the section was nearly empty:


Here I am schmoozing it up with Big Cat:


If someone had launched a ball in our direction, we would’ve had some room to maneuver, but unfortunately there were no home runs in the first half of the game. Perhaps out of boredom and/or self-loathing, Big Cat went and got a full-sized ice cream helmet sundae for $17. Look at this damn thing:


I’m all about dessert and ice cream, and admittedly I suck at moderation, but dude. Seriously? Here he is eating it:


Did you notice the whipped cream that he’d gotten on his glove? I scolded him for that in his video, which you’ll see in just a bit. Also, FYI, I’m glad to report that he was wearing that hat ironically.

After an inning of solid ice cream eating, Big Cat returned to the concession stand and got another spoon for me. I’m not sure if he was being generous or if he was just trying to distract me for the lulz, but he seemed to take pleasure in throwing me off my game. The only home run of the night happened to be the first of Trayce Thompson’s career, and yes, I *was* preoccupied with the ice cream, okay? But the ball landed two sections to our left in the middle of the second row, where it was bobbled back onto the field by a bunch of fans. In other words, there was no chance for me to catch it. Take a look for yourself.

In the 9th inning, we headed to the seats behind home plate:


I was hoping to get a ball from umpire Marcus Pattillo, but he didn’t give any away. (Hmph!) Even if he had, Larry and Nick Larson had already claimed the best spot, so I probably wouldn’t have gotten one.

I was disappointed that Mike Trout went hitless, but that was the case for most of his teammates. The White Sox won the game, 3-0, and limited the Angels to five hits. That said, it was a great day overall. It was nice to reconnect with Brandon (whom I hadn’t seen for months), and of course it was fun hanging out with Big Cat, who was both kind and hilarious.

Now it’s time for a couple of videos. First here’s the one that Brandon made:

Now here’s the video that Big Cat put together for Barstool Sports:

Good times! Thanks for watching and an even bigger thanks to Big Cat for being a part of it all.


34_the_four_balls_i_kept• 6 baseball at this game (four pictured here because I gave two away)

• 534 balls in 74 games this season = 7.22 balls per game.

 75 lifetime balls in 11 games at U.S. Cellular Field = 6.82 balls per game.

• 1,127 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,340 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 24 donors for my fundraiser

• $162.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,650.16 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,503.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

8/4/15 at Citizens Bank Park

I drove down from New York City for the day with a few friends. This young man was not one of them . . .


. . . although I do consider him a friend and was glad to run into him outside the gates. His name is Harrison Tishler, and he’s a fellow ballhawk.

Here are the guys who made the 100-mile drive with me:


In the photo above, the man on the left is a writer named John Proctor. He was working on a long “philosophical” story about me and wanted to see me in action at a stadium. The dude wearing sunglasses is named Andrew Gonsalves. He’s from Los Angeles, loves the Dodgers, and is one of my closest friends. (He’s the guy who filmed me snagging a baseball in my hotel room at the Rogers Centre in 2011.) The gentleman on the right is named Jeff Rose. He’s actually a Reds fan, but was wearing a Phillies hat for some reason.

The line to get in was very long . . .


. . . and there was no reason for that. The Phillies only open one gate at 5pm, and at that gate, they only use two (out of eight) metal detectors. What’s the point of that? If a few hundred people are waiting to get in, why make it difficult for them?

You can see the line wrapping around the stadium in the following photo:


More importantly, the woman waving at the camera is named Meredith Kim. She works for my favorite charity, Pitch In For Baseball, which was having an event/gathering at the stadium. That was my main reason for attending this game. I thought I was going to be doing an unofficial Watch With Zack experience with some local kids, but that didn’t happen — not sure why, but hey, whatever. I was just glad to be there, and it didn’t take long to get my first ball:


It was thrown by Phillies pitcher Luis Garcia after I asked him for it in Spanish.

You know who else snagged a ball? This guy:


That was the very first ball that my friend Jeff had ever gotten, and it was a good one — a BP homer by Maikel Franco that landed deep in the seats. He offered it to the nearest kid, who gave him a funny look and rejected it. I wasn’t there when this interaction occurred, but according to Jeff, the kid was like, “That’s really special — YOU need to keep it!”

Speaking of kids, look at this one:


That’s quite an interesting Dodgers shirt, huh? His name is Rowan, by the way, and we chatted a bit during batting practice.

My second ball of the day was tossed by Cody Asche in left field, and then I used my glove trick to snag my third ball off the warning track in left-center.

During the Dodgers’ portion of BP, I got two home runs in right field. The first was hit by Andre Ethier, and I scrambled for it in the seats. The second was hit by a lefty that I couldn’t identify, and I caught it on the fly after backing up on the stairs and jumping.

My sixth ball was another homer that required a leaping catch, this time in left field, and I happened to glove it right in front of a very tall man. For a split-second, I thought he was gonna be pissed, but as it turned out, he was excited to have been “robbed” by me of all people. He’s on the right in the following photo:


(Uhh, yeah, I was just a bit sweaty.)

His name is Rich. He has season tickets in left-center field and had actually gotten in touch six weeks earlier to offer them to me for a handful of games — for free! How incredibly generous. I was glad to finally meet him in person and get to know him better.

In the photo above, the guy on the left is a fellow ballhawk named Jeremy Evans. He looks like a real grown-up now compared to this photo of us which was taken four years earlier on 7/23/11 at Camden Yards. It seems we only run into each other every two years, so it was great to catch up.

Before the game, I tried to get a ball from the Dodgers’ bullpen, but instead, all I got was a photo of Alex Wood’s wonky pitching motion:


This was his first game with the Dodgers after having been traded from the Braves.

Here’s where I sat during the game — or, in this case, stood along with everyone else when Jimmy Rollins stepped to the plate:


After spending 15 years with the Phillies, this was his first at-bat with the Dodgers. And he struck out.

Here I am with Meredith during an inning break:


I gave her two of my baseballs for her young daughters.

Here’s David Rhode, the executive director of Pitch In For Baseball:


Later in the evening, I caught a hot dog during the “Hot Dog Launch” — the first time I’d ever achieved success in that event. Check it out:


Going strictly by numbers, my accomplishment was as impressive as catching a home run. There was only one longball hit the entire night — a grand slam by Maikel Franco in the 7th inning — and this was the only hot dog that the Phillie Phanatic shot into fair territory. John (the writer) seemed to be impressed, which is good. He should’ve been. It really WAS incredible. I don’t care what else he writes about me as long as the hot dog makes it into his story.

Here’s how the hot dog was packaged:


Paper and tin foil. Okay.

The hot dog itself was nasty. (I’ve come to realize that ALL hot dogs are nasty, but this one was particularly bad.) The meat itself was low quality, and the temperature was barely warm, but worst of all was the soggy/mushy bun. Have a look, if you dare:


Out of morbid curiosity (and to avoid the guilt of being wasteful), I took a big bite.

Yeah. Not good.

I had already eaten this and gotten two scoops of ice cream, so don’t worry — I wasn’t hungry.

This was my view late in the game:


Throughout the night, I met various people who were connected to Pitch In For Baseball in various ways. There were more than 100 folks in our group, spread out in the left field seats. Although there wasn’t a defining moment or unifying event, it was still nice to be there with so many other people who shared a common interest: helping kids play baseball and softball.

Here’s a selfie with my friends in the background:


Andrew had his glove and kept threatening to cut me off if a home run came near us. That was cute — reminded me of a chihuahua barking at a great dane.

The Franco grand slam did land in our vicinity — roughly 10 rows down and half a section to the right. There was a split-second after he connected when I jumped up excitedly, but quickly realized I had no chance.

Here are the four of us after the game:


Final score: Phillies 6, Dodgers 2. And by the way, Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-5 with a double.


• 6 baseball at this game

• 500 balls in 70 games this season = 7.14 balls per game.

 370 lifetime balls in 39 games at Citizens Bank Park = 9.49 balls per game.

• 1,123 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,306 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,626.16 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,479.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

8/1/15 at Citi Field

Do you remember an event called BallhawkFest that took place for the first time on 7/23/11 at Camden Yards? Two years later, I attended BallhawkFest on 8/3/13 at Citizens Bank Park and had quite an eventful day. That’s when I had a black eye at the start, caught a John Mayberry homer in the 2nd inning, and later got hassled/ejected by stadium security.) Thankfully there was no drama at BallhawkFest in 2015. Take a look at the following photo and you’ll see what I mean:


See? No drama whatsoever.

All of the guys pictured above are members of a ballhawking website called MyGameBalls.com. The man in the white t-shirt is named Alan Schuster. He created that site and organized BallhawkFest. In the photo above, he was going over the procedures for our own Home Run Derby.

I spent most of my time at shortstop and in left field, but here’s a brief look I got from the area behind home plate:


In the photo above, the pitcher (former minor leaguer Leon Feingold) and batter (his girlfriend Fukumi) are not members of MyGameBalls.com, but they’re two of my favorite people in New York City, so I invited them.

Here I am taking some swings:


My excuse for looking stiff at the plate and not hitting for much power is that I had a “strained intercostal muscle” on my right side. (No, really. You have to believe me.) It hurt when I laughed. It hurt when I sneezed. It even hurt when I took a deep breath or rolled over in bed. One week earlier, my ribcage was so painful that I’d gotten X-rays, and ever since then, I’d been icing it several times per day. And now here I was swinging a baseball bat because I’m an idiot. What can I say? I couldn’t resist.

The final round of the Derby featured the massive Mark McConville of Suffern, New York, versus the scrawny-by-comparison Alex Kopp of Baltimore, Maryland — and guess who won? That’s right . . . Alex. And he did it in dramatic, tie-breaking fashion. Mark had tremendous home run power, but given the fact that one point was awarded for each batted ball to reach the “outfield grass” on the fly, Alex managed to poke and slash his way to the top.

Here’s a group photo that we took after the Derby (with everyone’s names and MyGameBalls.com profiles below):


1) Leon Feingold (holding a big bag of popcorn; that’s how former competitive eaters roll)
2) Tim Anderson (wearing some super-stylish shades)
3) Ryan Feuerstein (wearing flip flops for some reason)
4) Alex Kopp (who deserved to be standing in front after his historic performance)
5) Rick Sporcic  (who generously provided all the baseballs)
6) Greg Barasch (who doesn’t look all that athletic but is dazzlingly smooth)
7) Emilio (the youngest participant without parental supervision)
8) Leon’s friend (whose name I forget, but I do remember that he played in the IBL)
9) Zack Hample (the first person to wear the official BallhawkFest shirt)
10) Alan Schuster (without whom none of this would’ve happened)
11) Mateo Fischer (who now ballhawks at Target Field since going to college in Minnesota)
12) Ben Weil’s friend Sonny (who displayed some good power during an early round of BP)
13) Ben Weil (aka the one and only “Benny Bang Bang”)
14) Mark McConville (whose longballs nearly smashed a few windshields on 11th Avenue)
15) Gabi Josefson (who traveled here with his father, Avi, all the way from Chicago)

Somehow Jacob Resnick (who helped Alan with some organizational stuff) wasn’t in that photo, but you’ll see him in the next group shot, which was taken at a baseball-themed bar/restaurant in Midtown called Foley’s. Here’s what the place looked like on the outside:


We all felt very welcomed . . .


. . . thanks to Rick Gold, who knows the owner and met us there for lunch. Here’s our group at a long table in the back:


Alan was in the process of organizing a drawing for some baseball-related prizes, which had been donated by a Chicago ballhawk named Rick Crowe.

In the photo above, look for the green shirt hanging at the top. See the portion of the wall directly below it? Those are all signed baseballs in that case. There are thousands more displayed elsewhere at Foley’s. It’s pretty damn cool.

We hung out there until about 3pm and then took another group photo:


That’s Jacob Resnick on the left. Rick Gold is standing behind Ryan, just to the right of Emilio.

After lunch, we walked to the subway at Times Square:


Here are a bunch of us on the No. 7 train:


Then we stood around outside Citi Field and waited:


Some of us had to wait a bit longer than others. That’s because the Mets offer early entry on the weekends to season ticket holders.

Before I headed inside, I got a photo with Gabi who’d brought his copy of my latest book, The Baseball:


You’d think that being inside a stadium half an hour earlier than most other fans would result in a huge day, but (a) I had to compete with Ben, Greg, Rick Gold, Ryan, and a few other folks and (b) Citi Field is a tough place. My first ball of the day was a homer by a Mets righty that I caught on the fly in left field:


Then I headed over to right field, which, at Citi Field, to put it lightly, is not a great place to snag baseballs, but hey, every batter in the Mets’ next group was left-handed, so where the hell else was I supposed to go?

Ben was positioned one section to my left . . .


. . . and his wife, Jen, was standing one section to my right:


See her there above the Honda logo? If you look very closely at that photo, you’ll notice a ball sitting on the grass below her in the gap behind the outfield wall.

Here’s a photo that she took as I attempted to snag it with my glove trick:


That was my second ball of the day.

People often ask me if the glove trick is allowed at Citi Field. The answer is murky. It depends on who’s watching. Some guards tell me it’s not allowed while others don’t seem to notice or care — that is, if their bosses haven’t issued an order THAT DAY over their walkie-talkies telling them to stop me. I’m not joking.

My third ball was tossed up from the left field party deck by a guard, and my fourth ball was thrown by Juan Lagares in left field. Then the Nationals came out:


The following photo doesn’t begin to show how crowded it got:


I wish I had photos of the packed left field seats at the end of BP, but oops, I forgot. I did manage to snag a couple of home runs out there before it got totally insane — one on a bounce and another off the facade of the second deck. I gave two of my six baseballs to kids.

This was my view during the game:


Look how crowded it was:


This game had the second-highest attendance (42,996) in the history of Citi Field!

Good for the Mets.
Good for New York City.
Bad if you’re trying to catch a baseball.

Why was the crowd so huge? Because it was a summer Saturday with perfect weather and there was a fireworks show scheduled after the game. Also, the Mets and Nationals were battling it out for 1st place in the NL East, and Jacob deGrom was pitching.

This was the scoreboard in the 4th inning:


A pitcher’s duel? UGH!! I was antsy and had too much energy, so I headed to the upper deck. I hadn’t been there for six years, so it was all pretty much new to me. Check out the huge baseball stitches painted onto the open-air concourse behind home plate:


This was my view from the last row:


I wandered all over the place for the next hour. I wanted ice cream but didn’t bother because the line was too long. I didn’t know what to do with myself, and then something wonderful happened. I found a ticket for Section 126, so I watched the final inning of the game from a decent spot:


The Mets had come back to take a one-run lead, and the crowd was *really* into it:


Mets closer Jeurys Familia retired the side in order in the top of the 9th.

Final score: Mets 3, Nationals 2.

I tried to get a ball from the players walking in from the bullpen . . .


. . . but it was no use. Losing teams usually aren’t generous.

Ten minutes later, I took a photo of — could it be?!?!


Oh no, wait . . . it was just fireworks:


While that was taking place, I rounded up my fellow ballhawks for a group photo:


Here’s the final “box score” from BallhawkFest, which shows who snagged baseballs and how/when/where they got ’em. Props to Gabi for catching the only game-used ball of the night.

On our way out of the stadium, I tried to pose for a photo that would show the four-digit number on the back of my shirt:


That number represents my lifetime total of baseballs, or at least what the total was when the t-shirt orders were placed. Do you remember this group photo of everyone’s shirts/numbers from 2011? Or this one from 2013? I wish we’d gotten a similar photo this time, but we just didn’t get around to it.

This next photo should be called “Straight Outta Flushing”:


That was taken just a half-mile from Citi Field on a cruddy back road near the chop shops. Stupid Alex had left something in Ben’s car (which was parked near that gloomy spot), but rather than meeting him at the subway after he’d retrieved it, the rest of us decided to walk with him. So there we were, hoping not to get lost or die.

On the way, Greg made a snide remark (containing an expletive, of course) about all the stray cats running around, and just then, out of nowhere, a crazy cat lady appeared and defended her furry friends, screaming at us about how they’re homeless and hungry and how we should be helpful and more sensitive. (Greg’s comment, by the way, wasn’t particularly insensitive. He merely asked, “What’s with all these [bleeping] cats?” I thought it was a good, reasonable question, and in fact I had been wondering the same thing.) Her outrage didn’t frighten us or motivate us to join the ASPCA. Instead it made us hysterical — but the funniest moment of the night was yet to come. That took place when all seven of us crammed into Ben’s small-ish car for a ride to the subway. Check it out:


Here are some of the highlights from the short ride:

TIM: “For the record, this is a hundred percent Alex’s fault.”

GREG: “You and your [bleeping] Bobblehead.”

ZACK: “Mateo, your hair is very soft on my thighs.”

MATEO: “I’m glad.”

ZACK: “This is gonna be funny when we all get out. It’s gonna look like a [clown] car.”

GREG: “How many points [on your license] do you have, Benny? Are you up over a hundred yet?”

TIM: “So basically, he’s gonna go to prison if we get caught.”

ZACK: “Benny, are you the one that told me that you once ate pancakes while you were driving?”

BEN: “I ate soup while I was driving.”

TIM: “Can we not coast next to the cop car?”

ZACK: “We’re about to get rear-ended.”

ALEX: “Mateo’s about to get rear-ended, lemme tell you!”

And so on. I have a four-minute audio recording, and it’s basically the funniest thing ever.

The Citi Field portion of the day was difficult for a number of reasons, but I’m glad we finally did BallhawkFest in New York City. The rest of the day sure was fun.


33_the_four_balls_i_kept_08_01_15• 6 baseball at this game (four pictured here because I gave two away)

• 485 balls in 68 games this season = 7.13 balls per game.

 1,231 lifetime balls in 166 games at Citi Field = 7.42 balls per game.

• 1,121 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 782 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 503 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

8,291 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,626.16 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,479.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

7/22/15 at Yankee Stadium

People often ask if I’ve ever gotten into a fight for a ball, and until recently, my answer had always been no. Sure, I’d been elbowed and shoved a few times over the years, but it was never serious. Unfortunately that changed during batting practice at this game. After catching a home run in right field during the Yankees’ portion of BP and then going for a toss-up from the Orioles, I was flat-out ASSAULTED — and the worst part of it was that my mom was with me.

Let me start by showing you a photo of my neck, and then I’ll explain what happened:


Soon after the Orioles started hitting, Miguel Gonzalez retrieved a ball near the warning track and looked up into the crowd for a worthy recipient. The stands were so crowded that I almost didn’t bother going for it, but given the fact that Miguel recognizes me and has been pretty cool to me in recent seasons, I moved down to the front row and called out to him. As soon as he saw me, he smiled and flipped me the ball, but I didn’t catch it because some big guy standing behind me lunged forward aggressively on my right side, reached all the way across my body to the left, and knocked the ball away with his glove, bumping me kinda hard in the process. (This guy was roughly six feet tall and looked like he was about 20 years old.) Miguel picked up the ball and tossed it to me again. It was *clearly* intended for me, but this other guy was on a mission. This time he bumped me even harder 532691067_RRa_BAL_1505and swatted the ball away for a second time. I was really annoyed, but Miguel just seemed to be amused. In a way, I suppose it was kinda funny that this other guy was getting so worked up over a ball, but what happened next was no laughing matter. Miguel retrieved the ball for the third time, and I gave him a target with my glove in a spot where the other guy wouldn’t be able to interfere: far to my left and down below the outfield wall. As soon as I caught it, the guy grabbed me from behind and tried to body-slam me against the seats and the concrete wall down in front. It happened so fast out of nowhere, and I was completely taken by surprise. He was an inch or two taller and probably outweighed me by 30 or 40 pounds, so I did my best to stay on my feet. As we thrashed around, I got scraped on the edge of the wall and got pretty banged up all over, including my face. This deranged man was actually trying to injure me, prompting a zillion thoughts to flash through my mind. Mostly I could not believe that it was happening. The whole thing seemed fake. Rather than trying to separate myself from him, my strategy was to grab/hug him and tuck my head down and try to stay as close to him as possible, therefore preventing him from getting any distance from me so that he couldn’t cock his arm back and punch me with full force. Somehow, after maybe 10 or 20 seconds (which felt like an eternity), it ended. I don’t know how or why. Maybe someone pulled him away from me, or maybe he just stopped when he realized that it’s not cool to attack people for no reason.

It just so happened that the ball was sitting at my feet, so I picked it up and assessed the damage to various parts of my body, all of which were stinging and pulsating. After a moment, someone handed me my hat. Then I looked around for my mom, who thankfully was sitting in the next section behind a wall of people and hadn’t seen any of it. And then I noticed that the guy who’d attacked me was trying to make a quick exit with an older man, presumably his father. They rushed up the stairs, and as a security guard started heading down, they cut across the seats toward the next tunnel. I yelled at the guard to stop them, and sure enough, they were caught.

All the fans around me were like, “What the hell was that guy’s problem?” and “He just attacked you out of nowhere!” People asked if I was okay. Someone pointed out that my neck was bleeding. One guy said I should press charges, and several folks offered to be witnesses on my behalf. I overheard a few people mumbling stuff like, “Oh my god, That’s Zack Hample!” and “That’s the guy who got the A-Rod ball.” The whole thing was a bizarre spectacle, and all I wanted to do was hide in a bathtub full of ice.

More guards arrived along with high-ranking supervisors and a few police officers. The Orioles were in the middle of BP, so I didn’t want to leave the seats, but I had no choice. They led me up to the concourse to get an official statement from me, and once that was done, I was told to wait for the medical staff to examine me. Meanwhile the attacker and his father were standing 15 feet away from me! Why were we all being kept so close together? I didn’t want to look at them, but then I realized that for legal/safety reasons, it would be good for me to have photographs of them. Here they are:


As you can see, I’ve blurred/pixelated their faces to hide their identity — for now. I discussed pressing charges with stadium security. They told me that the guy who attacked me is mentally handicapped, and I was like, “So what? Of course he is. No sane person would do something like that,” but in the end I decided not to pursue that course of action. One of the highest-ranking supervisors told me that if I ever see these guys in my section in right field, I should immediately tell security, and they’ll be removed. That’s nice, I guess, although it’s disappointing that they’ll even be allowed back inside the stadium. But then again, if the Yankees banned people for fighting, they’d lose half their fans.

While the attacker stared off into space, his father glared at me as if *I* had done something wrong. I just looked at him and shrugged as if to say, “WTF?”

“He’s just trying to get ball like you or anybody else!” he said in his son’s defense.


I vaguely recognized these guys from a handful of games over the past few seasons, and the more I thought about it, it occurred to me that I once had an unpleasant encounter with the father. I’m pretty sure he yelled at me a couple of years ago after I had the nerve to drift near him for a home run during BP. He was like, “You have your spot, and I have mine! Come back over here again, and I’ll put you right on your ass.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

Anyway, several witnesses spoke to security on my behalf. Here’s one of them:


Here’s the contact info for another:


One of the guards had scribbled that down in his pad and let me take a photo in case I needed to follow up.

A few minutes later, the medical staff arrived and checked me out. They wanted me to head to the first aid room so they could clean my scrapes and prevent an infection. There were still about 20 minutes left in BP, so I asked if I could come see them again within the hour. They said that was fine but that I shouldn’t wait too much longer than that, so finally I got to head back down into the right field seats. Everyone wanted to talk to me, including the players. Miguel Gonzalez apologized for his unintentional role in the whole thing, and Brian Matusz (who has also recognized me for years) came over to discuss the incident.

In the photo above, do see the name Sean written down? That was one of the witnesses. Here I am with his son Cory, who had snagged a ball and wanted to get a photo with me:


I wasn’t in the mood to smile.

Toward the end of BP, I drifted to my right through an empty row for a high home run. As the ball was about to land, I flinched and turned away because it was within reach of the people in front of me. I didn’t want to get drilled by a deflection, so I stuck out my glove for a potential no-look, waist-high, back-handed catch, and whaddaya know? No one touched the ball, and I somehow caught it. That felt good, and I handed it to my mom:


After BP we headed to the first aid room. Here I am dealing with some paperwork:


The medical staff told me those were fingernail scratches.

After spending 15 minutes there, I tweeted about having gotten assaulted. Not surprisingly, the haters had a field day with it. Here’s a very small sample of the negative things people were saying:


Of course it didn’t end there. A bit later, when I tweeted a photo of my pulled pork sandwich . . .


. . . someone responded by asking how many little kids I knocked down to get it.

Shortly before game time, I posted a bunch of tweets describing the assault. I mentioned that I’d gotten punched in the face, which I fully believed at the time. My nose hurt so much that I couldn’t touch it, and my jaw was in so much pain that I struggled to eat. As it turned out, I don’t think I was actually punched. I do know that something hit my face. Maybe it was the guy’s elbow. Maybe it was a seat. The point is, I took a lot of heat for “falsely claiming” that I was punched, so let me say that I wasn’t trying to mislead anyone or make the fight seem extra dramatic. At the time, my whole face hurt like hell, and like I said, I definitely felt something hit me, so I assumed I’d gotten punched. That’s why I said it on Twitter. I’m sorry about that, but I assure you that everything here in this blog entry is 100 percent true and correct. I would gladly take a lie-detector test if anyone doubts my innocence (and wants to set it up).

Fast-forward to the top of the 3rd inning. With a runner on first base, Ryan Flaherty connected on a fastball from Ivan Nova . . .


. . . and sent a deep line drive in my direction. Here’s a generic screen shot of the ball heading toward the right field seats:


Here’s Flaherty rounding the bases:


And hey, look! Here I am hugging my mom with the ball tucked inside my glove:


Here are three blurry screen shots from a slow-motion replay that show me jumping and catching the ball:


Ever since snagging the A-Rod ball, I wondered what would happen if I caught another home run. Would the announcers recognize me and say anything?

The answer was yes.

During the slow-mo reply, Michael Kay said, “Wow, that is the same guy who caught A-Rod’s 3,000th hit — Zack Hample. That’s unbelievable.”

Former Yankee and current announcer Paul O’Neill (or was it John Flaherty?) then said, “Now is that just right place at the right time or is it placement out there? Does he have a scouting report — a spray chart?”

“I believe his season tickets are right there,” replied Michael. “He always sits there, but during batting practice and in some games, he said he actually studies where a guy might hit a ball. You don’t buy that, Paul?”

“Obviously it works,” said Paul. “He’s got a whole boatload of baseballs at home. He’s obviously got a lot of time on his hands.”

Then, after Caleb Joseph struck out, Michael added, “It was also misunderstood by people when he said that he had [8,000] balls that he caught at ballparks. Not in games! He goes early and collects baseballs during BP, so it’s been 8,000 total. He actually wrote a book about it. There he was snarin’ that one.”


Here’s one more screen shot of me and my mom:


I was in the process of (playfully) arguing with a fan who was (seriously) getting on my case about not throwing the ball back onto the field. Here’s the full video of the home run, along with the replay and commentary by the announcers:

Yes, I made a nice little jumping catch on it, but the only reason that was even necessary was that I misjudged the ball in the first place. Flaherty hit a rocket right at me. It was such a low line drive that when he first connected, I thought it might not even reach the seats, so I jumped up and moved down a step. That’s when I realized that not only was it going to be a home run, but it was going to carry several rows deep, so I moved back up and then had to jump. But wait! Here’s my excuse. According to ESPN Home Run Tracker, the ball shot off the bat at a speed of 111.2 miles per hour, which is extremely fast! To put that in perspective, Alex Rodriguez hit a 453-foot homer two innings later that “only” went 109.9 miles per hour. Okay? So forgive me for being fooled by the ball hanging up in the air. Also, the apex of Flaherty’s homer (meaning the greatest height that the ball ever sailed above the field) was only 51 feet. That’s in the bottom one percent of all the home runs hit in the major leagues this season.

Here’s a photo of the ball — my 34th lifetime game home run:


Here I am with it:


Given everything that had happened earlier, it felt GREAT to have caught a home run. Also, this was the first homer that my mom ever saw me catch in person. Double-celebration! Here we are with the ball:


This was our view of the field later in the game:


Here’s Flaherty and his homer on the jumbotron:


The Yankees ended up winning the game, 4-3, and it only took two hours and 33 minutes, which means my mom wasn’t totally wiped out at the end, which means she might actually join me for another game someday. Here we are on the subway heading back to Manhattan:


A few hours later, someone sent me screen shots (actual photos of their television) of me on ESPN. Evidently word had spread about my home run catch, and it reached the nightly news cycle. Here I am holding up the ball and doing my best “I’m not excited because it was a visiting team home run” face:


Here’s my mom with a big smile:


Here I am hugging her:


Even though the letter “s” was left off the end of my book title, I like the BIO BLAST. Is that a regular thing in ESPN highlights? I’d never seen that before.

Anyway, what a day, huh? The best quote came from my mom, who said, “It sure isn’t boring being with you.” That was sweet, but I could actually use some “boring” in my life right about now.


• 4 baseball at this game

• 453 balls in 61 games this season = 7.43 balls per game.

 1,003 lifetime balls in 148 games at Yankee Stadium = 6.78 balls per game.

• 1,114 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 775 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 276 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball

• 34 lifetime game home run balls (click here for the complete list)

8,259 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,626.16 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,479.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

7/20/15 at Citizens Bank Park

Do you remember when I was filmed on 7/3/15 at Yankee Stadium for a short documentary? Well, at this Phillies game, I was filmed by a different crew for the same project. Here they are in the parking lot:


In the photo above, from left to right, you’re looking at:

1) Ross Hockrow (director, director of photography, and editor)
2) Jack Harrison (production assistant)
3) Chris Spaide (camera operator)
4) Matt McDonald (producer)

They all work for a company called Triple Threat TV. I had met Matt years earlier for a different project, so it was great to reconnect with him and spend a few hours together.

We all headed inside the stadium’s Staff & Media Entrance at around 3:45pm:


Here’s what it looked like inside:


We met up with a PR guy who walked us out into the 100 Level concourse. Then we took a “media only” elevator . . .


. . . upstairs to the press level:


We were led into the “media relations workroom,” where the crew took a few minutes to get settled:


I passed the time by looking around and taking a few more photos. Check this out:


Did you notice the home plate-shaped sign on the left side of the doorway? It says, “PR STORAGE.” I never knew that such a room even existed, and for the record, I did not go in there. I was just glad to be behind the scenes at a major league stadium and see whatever I could without snooping.

Here’s something else I noticed:


As someone who tries to catch home run balls, I was thrilled to be at a game in which both starting pitchers had ERAs over 7.00. How often does that happen?

At around 4pm, I headed back downstairs with the crew. Look what was taking place:


The Phillies were taking early/situational BP with fast, game-like pitching. At one point, Domonic Brown crushed a line-drive homer into the empty right field seats. Rather than wandering over there and looking for the ball, I headed to the left-field foul line with the crew:


I did a sit-down interview for about 15 minutes . . .


. . . and was then filmed standing in the front row, looking out at the field and posing.

Just as the Phillies were getting ready to start regular BP, we all headed out to left field. Here’s Ross filming me from a spot near the foul pole:


He had me sit in an end-seat and look out at the field for about 10 seconds, then get up and walk quickly to the next staircase and move back a few rows and pick another seat and stay *there* for a short time. And so on. I probably sat in six different seats. I guess he needed some B-roll footage of me moving around in the stands. It wasn’t always clear why he needed certain shots and angles, but he seemed to have a specific vision of how it was all going to turn out.

At around 4:35pm, the Phillies started hitting:


It was amazing to be the only fan in the stadium, but I still had some competition. In Philly, the ushers are allowed to keep balls that land in the seats before the gates open; that’s why you’ll never find an “Easter egg” when you run inside.

Here’s Chris filming me from the side, and if you look closely, you can see an usher standing two sections behind him in the front row:


Ross was right behind me, as was another usher/wannabe ballhawk:


There was so little action during the first group of BP that when one of the ushers got a ball tossed to him, he offered to throw it to me so that there’d be footage of me catching a ball. I politely declined, but he insisted, so I let him do it, and Ross filmed it. And then I snagged seven balls within the next 15 minutes. (In case you’re wondering, I didn’t count the ball from the usher, and I promptly handed it back to him.) The first was a ground-rule double by Ryan Howard, the second was a deep fungo to an outfielder that carried all the way to the front row, and the next five were home runs by right-handed batters that landed in the seats. Just before the gates opened, I sprinted one and a half sections to my right and caught a homer on the fly. I gave most of those balls to the ushers and supervisors. Look closely at the previous photo and you’ll see two of them sitting in the last row.

Shortly after the gates opened, I snagged my ninth ball of the day — another homer by a Phillies righty that landed in the seats. I had to climb back over a few rows for that one.

That’s when I met up with a young fan named Ethan, who had brought his copy of my second book, Watching Baseball Smarter:


He and I ran into each other throughout the day, and I’m glad to report that he snagged several baseballs.

Late in BP, when the Rays were hitting, I moved to right field . . .


. . . and got two more home runs — my 10th and 11th balls of the day. The first one landed in the seats, and I handed it to the nearest/smallest kid. The second one pretty much came right to me, and I caught it on the fly.

My 12th ball was tossed by a Rays coach that I couldn’t identify. (Sorry for the lack of names — terrible, I know.)

After BP, I rushed to the Rays’ dugout on the 3rd base side . . .


. . . and got my 13th ball from bullpen catcher Scott Cursi.

Then I headed back to left field and said goodbye to the guys from Triple Threat TV. One of them had to work early the next morning in New York City, and they weren’t allowed to film anyway during the game, so they took off.

I had no intention of leaving. I had a media credential that gave me access everywhere — even the clubhouse, although I resisted the urge to go there. Instead I headed up to the press level. Here’s what the field looked like from the press box . . .


. . . and here’s what the actual press box itself looked like:


There was a bulletin board nearby with all sorts of official memos:


Here’s one that focused on pace of game procedures:


The press dining room was just to the left:


Here’s what it looked like just inside those doors:


Check out the menu:


I did not ask about the healthy options. Screw everything about that! Being in the press dining area of a major league stadium is NOT the time to be healthy — not for me at least, since I’ve only gotten to have a few press-level meals in my entire life. I handed the woman a $10 bill, signed my name on the list, and headed inside. Here’s the little food line/cafeteria area:


Here’s the dining room:


The game was about to begin, but I didn’t care. I just wanted to eat as much as possible and relax. Here’s what I got:


It was quite good — not the highest quality food, but it was solid and did the job. And that’s not all I ate. I also got four scoops of ice cream — two scoops in each of these cups:


Lots of people wonder how I’m not obese. Seriously. I actually get asked about this on a semi-regular basis, and I’ve finally realized why. It’s because I often post photos of huge/unhealthy meals, so let me just say that I don’t eat like this all the time. When I’m at a buffet, WATCH OUT, but the rest of the time, I try not to use food as a source of entertainment. Last night, for example, I was at Yankee Stadium — not in the Legends area but in my ordinary outfield seat. All I ate for dinner was a protein bar and a few handfuls of raw cashews. Would anyone want to see a photo of that? Uhh, no. And when I got home, I was very hungry, of course, but rather than calling my favorite diner and ordering a bacon cheeseburger with onion rings (as I would’ve done when I was 16, which is why I weighed 45 pounds more back then), I ate an orange and drank two cups of water. That made me feel full and bloated enough until I went to sleep two hours later. So you see? I’m not a disgusting pig all the time. I’m usually healthy and sensible, and therefore when I do find myself in an all-you-can-eat situation, I unapologetically stuff myself like a madman. Also, I only drink water. Like, always. Most people consume hundreds, if not thousands, of calories per day on juice, milk, soda, and alcohol. Those calories simply don’t exist for me. I’m not trying to preach — just explaining myself because like I said, lots of people have been wondering.

Anyway, both starting lineups (and the umpire “lineup”) were written on a marker board just outside the dining area:


The game was already in the 2nd inning. I took a peek at all the writers hard at work in the press box . . .


. . . and was *so* glad not to be one of them. I could’ve pursued that as my career, and perhaps I still could, but I just never wanted to. If you work in professional sports, you basically have no life outside of that because they’re mostly played on nights and weekends. Sometimes it seems like I have no life during the season beyond attending games, but (a) the season is 180 days, and I only attend games half the time, and (b) I really do enjoy it. I love being a fan and running around and catching baseballs. Any job that prevents me from doing that — even one in Major League Baseball — would make me feel bad.

I thought about using my credential to access and explore the club/suite level. I really could’ve gone ANYwhere, but the ballhawk in me just wanted to get back down to the outfield seats. On the way, I photographed the press level hallway . . .


. . . and took a quick peek inside the Phillies’ radio booth:


When I was on the press level on 7/3/15 at Yankee Stadium, I was told not to take any photos — not even in the hallway, but here in Philly, no one noticed or cared.

The left field seats were fairly crowded:


I didn’t like my chances of catching a home run, but I sat there anyway:


In the 9th inning, I moved to the seats behind the 3rd base dugout:


Jonathan Papelbon was pitching, and let me tell you — he was dominant. He threw 14 pitches, all for strikes, and retired the side in order to lower his ERA to 1.72. This might sound strange, but at this point in career — being a bit older, having a bad attitude, and playing for a lousy team — I think he’s underrated.

I didn’t snag any balls during the game, but I still had a great time. It’s the best feeling to be able to go or sit anywhere at a major league stadium.

Now, keep scrolling past the stats for two more photos . . .


• 13 baseball at this game

• 439 balls in 59 games this season = 7.44 balls per game.

 364 lifetime balls in 38 games at Citizens Bank Park = 9.58 balls per game.

• 1,112 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 379 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 277 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

8,245 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,469.62 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,425.12 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

The day after the Phillies game, the Triple Threat TV crew met me at my mom’s place to film my baseball collection. (That’s where I keep most of the balls.) Check it out:


Those barrels hold about 3,200 baseballs. Each the drawers, which you can kind of see above and below, holds 144:


Overall there were about 4,000 balls in the room, which is less than half of my collection — or should I say, less than half of what I’ve *snagged* because I’ve given lots away. The rest were downstairs in a storage locker, but whaddaya know? Ross was still impressed and got all the footage he needed.

The documentary should be airing soon . . .

2015 All-Star Game

Do you remember what I said in my last entry about the weather in Cincinnati? Basically, it’s unpredictable and infuriating, so don’t be fooled by the blue sky in the following photo:


That was the scene outside Great American Ball Park nearly seven hours before game time. I hadn’t planned to attend the Red Carpet Parade. It just happened to be taking place when I got there, so I hung out for 10 minutes and watched several players arrive, starting with Max Scherzer:


Jonathan Papelbon rolled up soon after, followed by Justin Upton and Matt Holliday. It was a true extravaganza, and while I was tempted to stay longer, I really just wanted to head to the left field gate and claim a spot at the front of the line. Here’s what it looked like as I made my way over there:


Great American Ball Park is confusing because there are multiple levels on the outside. In the photo above, do you see the ramp on the right (in the shade)? That’s the way to get up to the gates outside the second deck in left field. I wanted to enter on the 100 Level, so I stayed on the left (in the sun) and ended up here:


That’s me with a friend from California named Devin Trone — a fairly well-known ballhawk with more than 1,400 lifetime baseballs. He attends the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game every year and always hangs out in the outfield. And by the way, this photo of us was taken an hour and a half after I arrived at the gate; none of those people standing behind us were there at first.

Here’s one way that we passed the time:


In the photo above, Devin is being interviewed by a friend of mine from New York City named Muneesh Jain. During the season, Muneesh always seems to be traveling to various major league stadiums. He co-hosts a baseball podcast with his famous friend Anthony Rapp. It’s called The Clubhouse Podcast, so check it out. You might even find his interview with me outside Great American Ball Park if you dig through the archives.

Forty-five minutes before the gates opened, it started raining. OF COURSE. Look at this garbage:


Hang on a second. That photo doesn’t really show what was going on. Here’s a better look:


Thanks, Cincinnati. Way to treat an out-of-town guest and make him feel welcome.

Half an hour later, it stopped raining. Thankfully there was no more precipitation in the forecast, but now what? There was so much water everywhere! Look at this huge puddle outside Gate B:


Could the outfield dry out in time for batting practice, and if so, would the players and groundskeepers even bother? I figured I was screwed, but Muneesh had a more positive outlook.

“It’s the All-Star Game,” he said. “Of course they’re gonna take BP.”

Just before the gates opened at 4:30pm, I had to make a tough choice. Basically, the front row around the entire stadium was going to fill up with fans, so I had to pick my spot carefully. If there *was* going to be BP, I wanted to be in the outfield, but if the tarp was going to stay on the field all afternoon, then I wanted to be near one of the dugouts so I could try for a toss-up.

I picked the outfield, which was clearly the riskier but potentially more rewarding option. Here’s what the field looked like from my spot:



At 4:45pm, the National League All Stars strolled out to center field for a team photo:


Here they are posing for the throng of photographers:


As the players dispersed a couple of minutes later, I noticed half a dozen Dodgers posing for a smaller group photo:


At 4:53pm (23 minutes after the gates opened) several National Leaguers began playing catch along the right field foul line. And yeah, the tarp was still on the field:


Not good!

But wait. Then I noticed all the BP screens sitting on the warning track:


What did that mean? That there was still a chance of BP taking place?

The forecast was supposedly clear, so what were the groundskeepers waiting for? With each passing minute, BP seemed less likely. I was THIS close to giving up on the outfield when I got a text from a friend who works for MLB (who wishes to remain anonymous). Here’s what it said:

“Hey it’s _______, just saw this come across my email.. BP TIMES: NL BP 5:35-6:15, AL BP 6:20-7.”

That made me sooooo happy. And sure enough, within a few minutes, the grounds crew began the process of removing the tarp:


As the small screens were rolled into place from the right field corner, the most important piece of equipment made an appearance. Behold the batting cage!


If I were more emotional (and unconcerned about my contact lenses falling out), I would’ve shed a few tears of joy, but instead I held it together.

In the previous photo, did you notice the American Leaguers starting to walk out from the 3rd base side? Here they are posing for their own team photo:


Look how many Royals there were:


A bunch of those guys were coaches, but still. Wow. That’s what happens when a team reaches the World Series the previous year and the manager gets to bring everyone. Hell, even bullpen catcher Cody Clark got to make the trip.

While all those guys were standing around, I noticed that Alcides Escobar had a ball in his hand, so after Nelson Cruz took a selfie with Hector Santiago, Albert Pujols, and Mike Trout . . .


. . . I called out in Spanish and got him to throw it to me. Unfortunately it was a Home Run Derby ball:


Yeah, I was glad to have gotten *a* ball, but I’d gotten two Derby balls the day before, so now I wanted a commemorative All-Star Game ball.

This was my view as the National League’s portion of BP got underway:


That might look nice to you, but as far as I was concerned, something very important was missing: the players’ kids. Where were they?! Was there a new rule that they couldn’t be out on the field at all before the All-Star Game? Remember my interaction the day before with Prince Fielder’s son Haven? He said he’d look for me during BP and hook me up with an All-Star Game ball — but if none of the National Leaguer’s kids were anywhere to be seen, that didn’t bode well for my chances of seeing Haven.

Eventually I got another ball tossed up from a random employee standing down below:


Bah!! Another Derby ball! And that was it for the National League. Here are the players jogging off the field:


Look how crowded it was on my right:


Here’s a photo, taken during the American League’s portion of BP, that shows the fans behind me trying to get a toss-up:


There was a middle-aged woman behind me (not pictured above) who was extremely rude and aggressive and actually shoved me a bit. She’d gotten angry when I snagged my second ball of the day, as if she were entitled to it and I had somehow wronged her. I hadn’t reached in front of her for it. I simply *was* in front of her, so in addition to being rude and aggressive, she also wasn’t too bright. What kind of strategy is it to stand directly behind someone who’s taller than you?

Much to her dismay, during the middle of American League BP, I got another toss-up from an employee down below. Much to *my* dismay, it was another Home Run Derby ball. I only saw one All-Star Game ball during BP, and it was being carried by an employee walking along the warning track, so basically, those balls were not in use, and that really sucked. When I become the commissioner of Major League Baseball, that’ll be my first order of business; if a commemorative ball is going to be used during a game, it must also be used during batting practice. Then I’ll worry about steroids and competitive balance and pace of game and instant replay and Pete Rose and all those other petty issues. And of course I’ll make sure that these annoying “fan entertainment crews” (or whatever they’re called) are not allowed on the field during BP. Look at these bozos:


The guy standing farthest away had a mini-basketball hoop and backboard attached to him. Its height was easily adjustable, so when his cohorts tossed little foam balls into the crowd and the crowd then chucked them back at the hoop, the guy would manipulate it (and bend, lunge, stretch, duck, etc.) so that it was in the right place every time and the ball would go in. As if that’s not annoying enough on its own, let me remind you that this took place DURING batting practice . . . when players were trying to hit home runs and launching ball after ball into the stands. It was so unsafe for the Reds to have this crew out on the warning track distracting fans that I wanted to jump down there and tackle them, but then I would’ve gotten kicked out of the All-Star Game, so I decided it wasn’t worth it.

Anyway, for those of you who aren’t aware, Yankees reliever Dellin Betances wears his height as his uniform number:


The dude is 6-foot-8. How cool is that? (Mark Teixeira practically looks 2-foot-5 when standing beside him.)

Late in BP, a home run was hit *right* to me, and as I reached out for it, a different aggressive fan lunged forward and swatted my glove with his, causing me to drop it. But I ended up getting the ball tossed to me anyway. It was a Derby ball, of course, as was the one I got right after BP. The final ball was also tossed up by an employee, and I handed it to the nearest kid. In case you lost count, I snagged five balls and kept four (and, for the record, helped/allowed several fans around me get balls).

Then I got some food:


The image on the left shows a pair of chili cheese dogs, and on the right? Nothing special. Just some vanilla ice cream with sprinkles. (You don’t wanna know what I ate for brunch. I went to Golden Corral and stuffed myself with so much unhealthy crap that you’d gain weight just from reading about it. And let’s not even talk about the drive-though meal I got after the game. I’m completely ashamed to the point of self-loathing.)

Eventually I wandered up to the second deck and photographed my baseballs:


Rather than sitting in my seat for all the pre-game ceremonies (which I’m never really interested in when watching on TV from home), I kept wandering. While the Reds were honoring Pete Rose and other major league legends, I was observing this:


I’m a terrible person, okay? I admit it. I enjoyed seeing that food cart topple over (I totally saw it coming), and then I loitered and gawked and tweeted about it, and now I’m continuing to talk about it here on my blog. I love watching Fail Army videos on YouTube (though not the ones where people get hurt, like all those ill-conceived bike jumps and skateboarding accidents). I can’t help it. When an old lady falls into a lake while clumsily getting off a boat or when a little kid lets an entire birthday cake slide off a tray and plop frosting-side-down on the carpet, it thoroughly delights me. And you know what? If I ever forget the basic laws of physics and something stupid and embarrassing happens to me and other people laugh, I’ll be fine with it. In fact, I hope someone gets it on video so I can laugh at myself later on.

Here’s where I sat during the game:


That photo was taken during Mike Trout’s at-bat in the top of the 1st inning, three pitches before he blasted a leadoff homer to right field off Zack Greinke, who hadn’t given up a run for about 14 years prior to that. When I’m the commissioner, I’m also going to make sure that the All-Star Game is renamed the “Mike Trout Game.” It has the same number of syllables, so why not? And c’mon, let’s face it, that’s who everyone was there to see. Don’t be fooled by the standing ovation that Reds fans gave The Toddfather. They’re all secretly in love with Mike Trout. And look, here’s the man himself at bat later in the evening:


I can’t remember what he did in that at-bat, but I’m sure it was something amazing. He finished the game 1-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored and won the MVP Award, so you know, whatever.

Even this guy was probably rooting for Mike Trout:


Look who was sitting in my row during the game:


That’s Haven Fielder — Prince Fielder’s son (and yes, he was wearing my glove). He told me that he and all the other players’ kids weren’t allowed to be on the field during BP. That was a huge bummer because he definitely would’ve hooked me up with an All-Star Game ball, and MAN, I really wanted one. The red stamping looked sharp. I had only snagged one red-stamped ball in my entire life: the 2000 All-Star Game ball. And you know what? I didn’t even attend the All-Star Game that year. I just happened to get lucky and snag a ball from it during BP later in the season. Now that I was *at* the 2015 All-Star Game and dying for one of the balls, I didn’t even come close. Funny how that works (and by “funny,” I mean “utterly depressing”). I was in a good spot for 3rd-out balls, but the players pretty much kept them all.

Shortly after I took the photo of Haven, his mother (Prince’s wife), Chanel Fielder, asked if she could get a photo with me. She said she was going to post it on Instagram, so I asked if I could tweet it and share it on my blog. The answer was yes, so here we are:


Chanel knew all about my baseball collection and said that her kids get more excited seeing me than they do with most players. Why? Because they meet players all the time, so what I do seems extra special. She was extremely friendly. I didn’t want to distract her from the game or intrude on her time with her boys, but she wasn’t concerned. She gladly chatted with everyone around her, including the four members of Brian Dozier’s family, who were sitting directly behind us. I also talked to them at length, and again, I was somewhat hesitant about the whole thing because I didn’t want to be a nuisance, but they kept asking me questions about my collection and all the stadiums I’d visited. I got a photo with them later on, but for now, I’ll just say that when Dozier hit an 8th-inning homer off Mark Melancon, it was pretty cool to high-five his wife.

In the 9th inning, I moved closer to the dugout:


Aroldis Chapman was pitching, and quite simply, he made the American Leaguers look like Little Leaguers. Look how hard he was throwing:


They had no chance. Brock Holt, predictably, struck out, as did the next two “hitters” — Mike Moustakas and Mark Teixeira. Even though the National League was losing, 6-2, at the time, it gave the crowd one final reason to get excited.

In the bottom of the 9th, Ryan Braun hit a leadoff triple and came home on a sacrifice fly by Brandon Crawford. That was it for the scoring. Final score: American League 6, National League 3.

I tried to get a ball from home plate umpire Tim Welke, but it was a lost cause. He only gave one away to someone on the field, and then he ignored everyone else and rushed out of sight.

Several minutes later, this was the scene:


Here’s what it looked like behind the 3rd base dugout:


My friend Ryan and his son, Will, came and found me:


They were nice enough to let me stay with them in Kentucky (10 minutes from the stadium) for three days.

Here’s Mike Trout doing his MVP thing on the Jumbotron:


While that was taking place, I got a photo with several members of Brian Dozier’s family:


The woman leaning in on the right is his wife, Renee. I’m not sure about the other two people, but they were all sitting together, so they’re probably related (or connected through marriage).

Here I am with Brian Dozier’s father-in-law:


They were all SO nice. During the game, I had asked if we could all get a photo together. They said yes, but then I never pushed for it, and in the 9th inning, I ended up moving closer to the field. I figured I’d lost my chance, so I was surprised when they all came and found me and suggested the photo. Brian was interviewed on the warning track at one point, so they probably headed down to see him and then noticed me standing nearby, but regardless of the motivation, it was a lovely gesture on their part.

Here’s Mike Trout heading off the field:


Here’s the stadium after most people had cleared out:


Here’s one last look at it from the Kentucky side of the river:


The whole All-Star experience was fun but stressful — just what I expected. And hey, on a final note, while I’m glad that Trout won the MVP, I’ll never be happy about the American League winning. Any league that doesn’t let the pitchers hit is lame and shouldn’t be taken seriously.


• 5 baseball at this game

• 423 balls in 57 games this season = 7.42 balls per game.

 98 lifetime balls in 8 games at Great American Ball Park = 12.25 balls per game.

• 24 lifetime balls at 4 All-Star Games = 6 balls per game.

• 1,110 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 378 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

8,229 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,313.08 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,268.58 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

2015 Home Run Derby

If there’s one thing I don’t like about Cincinnati, it’s the weather — sunny one hour, rainy the next, and then sunny again? I wanted to look up at the sky and scream, “MAKE UP YOUR MIND!!!” but instead I kept an eye on the radar and got completely stressed out. This is what I was dealing with:


It WAS going to rain . . . hard. The only question was when. And how would that work — if it rained in the late afternoon, would there not be batting practice before the Home Run Derby? If it started raining after that, would the Derby itself be canceled? Every local news channel was giving nonstop weather updates, and I heard a rumor that MLB was considering a “doubleheader” the following day — doing the Derby in the afternoon and playing the All-Star Game at night — but it was supposed to rain the next too. Of course.

I decided to eat my sorrows away at one of my favorite restaurants:


I’m not kidding. I truly love Waffle House, which doesn’t exist anywhere within 70 miles of my home in New York City, so whenever I see one on the road, I take advantage.

In the previous photo, the guy driving is a friend named Ryan whom I’d met on 9/12/11 at Great American Ball Park. Do you remember this four-part image of me from that day with various folks that I met for the first time? Ryan is on the lower left. We kept in touch after that, and he told me that if I ever came back, he could provide me with a place to stay.

Did you notice the young man riding shotgun in the previous photo? That’s Ryan’s 10-year-old son, Will. Here we are with our food:


I had a double order of hash browns “smothered” (with sautéed onions) and “covered” (with double cheese). I also had two scrambled eggs, a biscuit and gravy, and a waffle. Yessir!! At a New York City diner, that would’ve set me back about $25, but here in the beautiful midwest, our entire meal cost less than that.

After breakfast we drove across a bridge from Kentucky into Cincinnati . . .


. . . and got a nice view of the stadium:


Don’t be fooled by the clear, sunny sky. The rain was coming.

Ryan and Will had tickets to FanFest at a convention center half a mile from the stadium. I was semi-interested in joining them, but not for $35. Look at these crazy prices:


When I tweeted that photo at the time, a gentleman named Matthew Walthert replied, “$30 for a 2-year-old kid. Hahahahahaha—good one, @MLB! Way to target the next generation of fans.”

I couldn’t agree more. In my opinion, a fun and reasonable pricing system would be to charge people under 35 according to their age. A ticket for a two-year-old would cost two bucks, and my friend Ryan would have to pay $10 to get his 10-year-old son inside.

As it turned out, I only paid $10 because I found a scalper several blocks away with a stack of print-at-home tickets that he’d somehow gotten for free.

Here’s what it looked like outside the FanFest entrance:


Here’s a big sign on the inside:


Here’s what it looked like just inside the main area:


Pedro Martinez was posing for photos with fans nearby . . .


. . . but the line was endless, so I didn’t even bother. And that’s the story of FanFest. In my experience, anything worth doing requires a terribly long wait, and the rest of the stuff? Well, let’s just say that a lot of it didn’t really excite me:


For most people, FanFest is a once-in-a-lifetime event, so naturally they’re psyched about it — and hey, good for them. If they want to wait on line for hours to meet a player or take their kids to get balloon twisters, that’s their choice, and I have no problem with it. Personally, it’s not really my thing. My main reason for going was to catch up with this guy:


(Yes, I changed into my “Homer” shirt for that photo.)

That’s David Rhode, the Executive Director of my favorite charity, Pitch In For Baseball — you know, the one that recently received $150,000 from the Yankees. David was at FanFest for two reasons: to collect baseball and softball equipment and to raise awareness for his charity.

He had several local volunteers helping at his table, so when things slowed down a bit, he took me upstairs to a secret storage room and gave me a Pitch In For Baseball t-shirt:


In the previous photo, did you notice the wooden crates in the background? Here’s a closer look:


That looks like it could be the opening scene of a baseball horror movie.

Can you spot Todd Frazier in the following photo?


His head is practically touching the “T” in the word “FanFest” on the huge baseball. People in Cincinnati absolutely LOVE him — and why not?

Here’s another view from above:


I was killing time at that point because the weather had turned to crap. I had an umbrella, but it was small and flimsy — the kind that would be useful for a few minutes in light rain, not for walking half a mile in a torrential downpour. I waited near the exit for quite a while, hoping for the rain to ease up, and when it finally did, I made a run for it. Two minutes later, with my sneakers and pants on the verge of getting soaked, I spotted a taxi at a red light and jumped in:


The ride cost less than $10 including the tip — money well spent — and by the time I got out, the rain had pretty much stopped:


But now what? Was the sun going to come out in time for BP? Or was the dreariness going to continue through the afternoon?

I took the long route around the stadium toward the left field gate. There were lots of TV trucks on the right field side . . .


. . . and there was a whole lot of nothing as I walked alongside the river:


It started raining again, so I picked up the pace and eventually reached my destination:


In the photo above, do you see the guy in the yellow shirt? That’s a fellow ballhawk from Pittsburgh named Nick Pelescak. I can’t remember the last time I’d seen him. It had probably been a couple of years, so it was great to catch up. Here I am with him and a local ballhawk named Cole Adkins:


Moments later, Cole told he’d brought four copies of my books for me to sign. On several occasions in the past, someone had brought one copy of each of the three, but because Cole had taken it a step further, I decided we needed photographic evidence:


An hour later, all the ushers lined up to get inside . . .


. . . and an hour after that, there were hundreds of fans on line behind us:


It had finally gotten sunny, and I received some great news from Ryan, who was watching the MLB Network at a nearby restaurant. He said the tarp was coming off the field and both teams were going to take BP.


Just before the gates opened, my friend Jeff Siegel caught up with me.


Does he look familiar? Check out the first photo from my blog entry about the game on 9/8/14 at Citizens Bank Park. See him standing there with the same camera? He’s been getting footage of me for a documentary, so when I headed inside Great American Ball Park . . .


. . . he stayed right behind me:


It didn’t take long for me to get on the board. One of Roberto Kelly’s sons threw me a ball after he finished playing catch in the outfield, but unfortunately it was a regular ball:


Whatever. I was glad to have *a* ball, and the day was still young. I figured I’ve have plenty of chances to snag a commemorative Home Run Derby ball.

A little while later, I spotted two Hall of Famers in the walkway down below:


That’s John Smoltz (shielding his eyes from the sun) and Pedro Martinez. Pedro signed a few autographs for the fans in my section. I probably could’ve gotten him to sign my ball, but instead I focused on snagging another. It took a while, but I did finally get a Home Run Derby ball from another player’s kid — not sure who. Check it out:


I don’t care for the main “Home Run Derby” logo — I think it’s bland and generic — but the stamping on the sweet spot is incredible! I’d never seen anything like that.

Ryan had asked if I could hook him up with a Home Run Derby ball if he and Will didn’t get one. The answer was yes, but I told him that if I only got one, I’d want to keep it for myself.

Look how crowded it was in right field . . .


. . . and look who was now standing below in the walkway:


It was Jeff! He used his media credential to get down there.

Throughout BP there were various people standing on the warning track and passing back and forth through that walkway. Most of them kept the baseballs, but a few did get tossed up, including my third of the day — another Home Run Derby ball, which the fans on my right asked me for. I had to explain (and I’m sure they didn’t believe me) that I was saving it for a friend and his son who were letting me stay with them.

That was it for the National League’s portion of BP.

Soon after the American League started hitting, I got my fourth ball from Haven Fielder — Prince Fielder’s son. I was surprised and thoroughly delighted when I realized it was a Futures Game ball:


Most ballhawks count balls from the Futures Game, but I don’t because it’s an event played by minor leaguers. Whenever I say that, people are like, “Yeah, but the event is sanctioned by MLB, and they use official major league balls, and it takes place at a major league stadium,” to which I reply, “So, if MLB brought in busload of Little Leaguers and gave them official balls, you’d count those?” It just doesn’t make sense to me, but whatever, people can count what they want. As far as I’m concerned, balls snagged at the Futures Game don’t count, but if I happen to snag a Futures Game ball during BP before the Home Run Derby, then it *does* count. (That happened to me once before at the 2008 Home Run Derby.) (Similarly, I wouldn’t count balls from the World Baseball Classic, but when Heath Bell saved one for me and gave it to me on 7/23/09 at Citizens Bank Park, you bet your ass I counted it. I’ve also counted minor league balls that I snagged during BP at major league games, but I would not count a major league ball if I happened to snag one at a minor league stadium.)

Anyway, I ended up giving that Futures Game ball to the kid next to me because Haven tossed me another that happened to be mud-rubbed. And then he gave me a thumbs-up:


Haven is awesome. Earlier this season, while he was shagging baseballs on the field during BP at Yankee Stadium, he spotted me in the stands and came over to say hey because he recognized me from YouTube. Here at the Home Run Derby, he told me he’d look for me the following day and give me an All-Star Game ball *and* a gold ball from the Derby. (Wow!!) I asked what I could do for him, and when he shrugged, I asked if he’d seen my latest book, The Baseball. He said no, so I told him I’d send him a copy. I asked where I should send it. He told me to mail it to the Rangers’ stadium in care of his father. I asked if his father would actually see it or if it’d get buried with all the other fan mail. Haven said he’d get it, and he later caught up with his dad in shallow center field and pointed me out. I tipped my cap, and Prince gave me a little head-nod.

Look how crowded it was in the left field stands:


It was also damn-near impossible to see. Look at the long shadows behind the players standing on the field:


Everyone was basically staring right at the sun.

At one point, when Mike Trout wandered within 100 feet of my spot, I gave him a shout, and sure enough he remembered me as the guy who caught and later gave him his first career home run ball. He waved and then told a few of his teammates about me, or at least I assume that’s what happened because they all turned around at the same time and looked at me.

After BP, there were more than half a dozen balls scattered on the warning track, but none near me in left-center, so I made my way over to the unoccupied camera well in straight-away left. A few minutes later, all the balls got tossed into the crowd by a random employee. I snagged one of them — another Futures Game ball.

As it turned out, Ryan and Will had not snagged a Home Run Derby ball. I told them I had them covered, and they were very appreciative.

Here’s where I hung out for half an hour before the Derby:


This was the view to my left:


There was a concert. And there was fire:



This guy was *really* into the whole thing:


Eventually the eight Home Run Derby participants were announced:


From left to right (and yeah, I know it’s a lame photo taken from far away), you’re looking at Anthony Rizzo, Prince Fielder, Manny Machado, Kris Bryant, Albert Pujols, Joc Pederson, Todd Frazier, and Josh Donaldson.

I wanted to hang out in right-center field for the Derby — it seemed like there’d be a decent amount of space there — but that area was heavily guarded and simply off-limits:


I was, however, able to stand in a tunnel in the second deck in straight-away left field. The view wasn’t great . . .


. . . but I figured I had a decent shot there with an open staircase on either side. And look who was there with me:


Throughout the day, I was recognized by dozens of people outside and inside the stadium. After BP, I heard someone shout my name from above, and when I turned around and looked up, three guys yelled “Booo!!” and all gave me a thumbs-down, but aside from that, everyone was friendly. One man — a chef who owns a fancy restaurant in Columbus, Ohio — gave me his card and offered me a free dinner if I’m ever there. Another guy asked where I was going to be sitting for the Derby and offered to get me into his section in right field. I took him up on it in the later rounds and had a nice view for a few of the lefties:


Did you notice the guy wearing the American flag suit? He ended up catching a Joc Pederson homer, reaching high up and to his left, so I had no chance. On another occasion, a different fan directly on my left snagged a ball, which landed on *his* left and ricocheted right toward him. Once again I was very close, but missed out because of bad luck. And look! Jeff was still filming me:


Here’s what it looked like on my right:


I came within about 10 or 15 feet of several balls in left field, but it turned out that I was positioned too deep. The new format of the Derby is great (except for the lack of gold balls), but it messed me all up. I was expecting lots of balls to travel 450 to 500 feet. That’s how it used to be when players had 10 “outs” and could take pitches and have time to recover after swinging as hard as possible. But now that the players each have a five minute time-limit, it seemed that most home runs traveled 400 to 450 feet. I think the players were concerned about wearing themselves out, so they eased up a bit.

Hometown hero Todd Frazier ended up winning the Home Run Derby, and the place went nuts:


I was excited for him and all the fans, but on a personal level, I was bummed that I hadn’t snagged anything during the actual Derby. (Nick from Pittsburgh had a great spot in a wheelchair aisle closer to the left field foul pole and snagged two! Congrats to him.) Overall, though, it was still a fun day.

Here are the four commemorative balls I had in my possession at that point:


Here’s a collage of some Twitter action that had taken place throughout the day:


I met so many great people. Big thanks to (almost) everyone for being so kind. I’ve taken a lot of heat in New York this season, so it was great to get some love on the road.

As the stadium was clearing out, I caught up with Ryan and Will and gave them a Home Run Derby ball:


Then we headed out together and walked across this bridge to the Kentucky side of the river:


And then? We hit up a Wendy’s drive-thru — something else I never do in New York. For the two full days of this trip, I decided to completely let myself go and not feel the least bit guilty.


• 6 baseball at this game (and yes, for my own stat-keeping purposes, I do consider it a “game”)

• 418 balls in 56 games this season = 7.46 balls per game.

 93 lifetime balls in 7 games at Great American Ball Park = 13.29 balls per game.

• 1,109 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 377 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 72 different commemorative balls (click here to see my entire collection)

8,224 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,313.08 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,268.58 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

7/10/15 at Citi Field

This was a Watch With Zack game, and my “client” was a nine-year-old boy named Alexandre, who had never been to a game before. How is that possible? Because he’s from France. His mother is a longtime family friend, so when they planned their trip to New York City, she arranged for me to take her son to Citi Field.

I met up with Alexandre in midtown at around 3:30pm, and we headed out to Queens together on the No. 7 train. He and I had met several times before, and he speaks fluent English (with a charming accent), so it wasn’t awkward at all. On the contrary, it was nice to have lots of time together so that we could get to know each other better.

Soon after we exited the subway, I took a photo of him standing beside the original Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium:


Then we headed over to the gates and got someone to take a photo of us:


While waiting for the stadium to open, I was approached by a young fan named Alex who’d brought two of my books for me to sign — Watching Baseball Smarter and The Baseball. Here we are:


Alexandre chatted a bit with some of the regulars, and when the stadium opened at 5:10pm, we all hurried inside. Some people headed toward the foul lines for autographs, while others went to straight-away left or right field in the hope of catching a home run. I figured our best shot was to go for a toss-up from one of the Mets players in right-center — a long run from the Rotunda entrance, but Alexandre did a great job of keeping pace with me.
Within the first few minutes, Jon Niese walked over to retrieve a ball on the warning track. Given the fact that he recognizes me and, generally speaking, doesn’t seem to want to add to my collection, I knew I had to get a bit creative with my request.

“Jon,” I said, “is there any chance you could spare a baseball, please, for my young friend who’s here all the way from France for his first game?”

It was a mouthful, but I got it all out just before he picked up the ball. And it worked! He looked up at us and threw it to me. I gave him a huge “thank you” and then handed the souvenir to Alexandre:


For stat-keeping purposes, since I was the one who obtained possession of the ball first, it counted toward my grand total. Alexandre didn’t care — he was just thrilled to have a baseball at his first game — but I really wanted to help him snag one on his own.

We headed to left field for the Diamondbacks’ portion of batting practice:


I got two toss-ups there. The first came from Oliver Perez, and I gave it to a kid who had just gotten bonked on the head by a home run that took a crazy deflection. (He was fine, and his mother was grateful.) The second came from a player that I couldn’t identify — probably Rubby De La Rosa — and I gave it to Alexandre.

After BP we headed back to right-center field, where a guard tossed half a dozen balls into the crowd from the dead area behind the outfield wall. Here’s a screen shot from a video that shows him tossing one:


Here are three more toss-ups, the last of which sailed right toward us:


I was hoping that Alexandre would snag it, but it was just above his reach, so I caught it and handed it to him. It turned out to be an old Selig/Training ball, which was kinda cool, but my friend Chris Hernandez got one that was much more special. Check it out:


In the photo above, that’s Chris on the left with a “final season” ball from Shea Stadium. Those haven’t been used since 2008 (?!?!) and he’d never gotten one, so you can imagine how excited he was. In the middle, you can see Alexandre with his Training ball, and on the right is a fellow ballhawk named Andrew Korpacz who’d gotten a regular/Manfred ball. All three of those had been tossed up by the guard after BP.

To recap, I had snagged four balls and given one to a random kid, which meant that Alexandre had three:


Aww yeah!

As you can see, he had also gotten a free shirt. It was “Emoji Night” or something ridiculous like that.

During the lull between BP and the game, I caught up with a friend named Jeff Sammut, who was visiting from Toronto. Here we are:


If Jeff looks familiar, that’s because he hosts a late-night talk radio show on a station called Sportsnet 590 The FAN, and he has appeared on my blog several times. Remember this photo of us from the first time we met after the game on 5/27/11 at Rogers Centre? We ran into each other a year later on 6/28/12 at Yankee Stadium, and two years after that, when I was in Canada with my rubber band ball, Jeff had me back in the studio. He’s a great guy and knows a TON about sports. Follow him on Twitter and check out his show. Even if you live far away. You can listen live on the internet.

After saying goodbye to Jeff, I had a brief conversation with Diamondbacks bullpen catcher Mark Reed, who has recognized me since 2013. And then, without my asking, he tossed me a ball — my 5th of the day. Chris could’ve easily robbed me (because he was standing nearby and had a better angle), but knowing that I have a personal connection with Reed and that he ball was intended for me, he let me have it. And then I gave it to Alexandre.

At around 7pm, I took Alexandre to get some food:


It’s a good thing he’s a fast eater because our seats were behind the 3rd base dugout, and at the end of the 1st inning, we had a chance to snag a ball. Kevin Plawecki grounded to 3rd baseman Jake Lamb for the final out, at which point we hurried down to the bottom of the staircase. As 1st baseman Paul Goldschmidt approached with the ball in his hand, I shouted his name and then pointed at my young companion. Goldschmidt looked up and gave a subtle nod, and just before he disappeared below the dugout roof, he rolled the ball to Alexandre.


Here he is with it:


What a great feeling for both of us. He was excited to have snagged his first ball on his own, and I was glad to have helped. Alexandre, unfortunately, had never heard of Paul Goldschmidt, so I tried to explain how good he is and how special it was to have gotten a game-used ball from him.

Here’s a closer look at the ball:


After we got that ball, the few other kids in the section realized that they might be able to get one too, so Alexandre suddenly had a little competition. Here he is with two other kids at the bottom of the stairs:


To be clear, it was a friendly competition. The other kids recognized me from TV, and I talked to them (and to other fans) throughout the game. Here’s one of the kids running up the stairs excitedly with a ball in his hand:


I’m telling you, there were plenty of baseballs to go around. In addition to all the 3rd-out balls and foul squibbers that ended up getting tossed into the seats, Diamondbacks 1st base coach Dave McKay gave away the infield warm-up ball every inning. The first two innings, he hooked up a pair of kids sitting one section over, and before the bottom of the 3rd got underway, I saw him toss a ball to a grown woman in Mets gear. I figured I’d give it a shot the following inning, and whaddaya know? I got it. No competition. He rolled it right to me on the dugout roof. That was my 6th ball of the day, and it was the only one that I kept.

In the 6th inning, with the Mets leading, 4-1, I explained infield warm-up balls to Alexandre and gave him detailed instructions about how and when to try to get one. I told him that if he felt comfortable, he could move over to the next section on his own and that I’d keep an eye on him. He wanted to go for it, and here’s what happened:


In the photo above, I’ve circled his glove in red. He was in the perfect spot, but McKay tossed the ball to someone else.

Fast-forward an inning. I lent Alexandre my Diamondbacks cap and encouraged him to give it another try. This was the result:


Did you notice the pinstripes on the inside of his glove? Twenty-four hours earlier, he didn’t even own a glove, so my mother bought one for him at the last second — at a Yankees Clubhouse Shop.

Alexandre had snagged two baseballs on his own, but he hadn’t faced any competition, nor did he actually have to catch them, as they had both been rolled to him across the dugout roof. Juan Lagares made the final out of the 8th inning with a fly ball to left fielder David Peralta, and as Alexandre scrambled down to the front with a growing cluster of kids, I had no idea what to expect. I wasn’t concerned that he’d get hurt — just that he might get boxed out of position and end up feeling a bit frustrated. I hurriedly grabbed my camera as the Diamondbacks approached the dugout. All I knew was that the ball had been thrown around, but I wasn’t sure who had it. Alexandre, still wearing my D’backs cap, instinctively shuffled over to the left side of the staircase when he realized that the player with the ball — A.J. Pollock, I think — was approaching from the left side. (My MAN!!) And then the ball was tossed his way:


Here’s a closer look:


Despite all the other kids who were jostling for position and reaching for the ball (and despite the fact that a baseball glove was essentially a foreign object to him), Alexandre caught it! Outstanding!!

I was so proud of him, and I’m sure he felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment. Can you imagine snagging TWO game-used baseballs at your first major league game ever? And getting a 3rd one during the game as well? And being given four extra balls by the legendary Zack Hample? Okay, sorry, I got a little carried away there for a moment, but seriously, Alexandre must’ve been feeling like a superstar.

The 9th inning had a little excitement when Yasmany Tomas led off with an extra-base hit and got hosed at 3rd — or did he? The Diamondbacks challenged the call, and after a lengthy review, he was ruled safe. This was our view one minute later:

20_view_late_in_the_game copy

Tomas scored on a one-out single by Welington Castillo, and that was it. Final score: Mets 4, Diamondbacks 2. (Tip of the cap to Noah Syndergaard who struck out 13 batters in eight innings.)

After the game, Alexandre and I posed for a photo with some of our baseballs:


Then he picked out a brand-new, stars-n-stripes Mets cap at the team store:


On our way out, I explained who Jackie Robinson was and took Alexandre’s photo with the huge “42”:


Then we ran into a well-known fan named “COWBELL MAN” . . .


. . . and headed back to Manhattan on the subway:


What an awesome day.


• 6 baseball at this game

• 403 balls in 54 games this season = 7.46 balls per game.

1,193 lifetime balls in 159 games at Citi Field = 7.50 balls per game.

• 1,107 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 771 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

495 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

41 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least one ball; click here for a whole lot of Watch With Zack stats and records

8,209 total balls


pitch_in_for_baseball(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,313.08 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,268.58 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Lisa Ann and A-Rod’s 3,000th hit

I’ve written a lot about the night I snagged Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit, as well as the press conference when I gave the ball to him, but I haven’t shared much about the two weeks in between. One of the highlights was getting to show the ball to my family and friends — and believe it or not, no one appreciated it more than former adult film star Lisa Ann. She and I had attended a Mets game three days before A-Rod made history, and when I emailed her to ask if she wanted to see the ball, she replied, “UM raising BOTH hands … [HECK] yeah DUDE I can’t even believe you! I will be back in NY Sunday.”

Well then.

We ended up meeting early on Monday morning, just after I finished doing this live interview on a show called Canada AM. The segment was taped in a studio in the Time Warning Center near Columbus Circle, so Lisa met me right outside:

1_lisa_ann_and_zack_columbus_circle copy

The timing and location could not have been better. Not only did I have the ball with me because of the TV interview, but Lisa had plans for us right around the corner. Her friend Nando Di Fino, who, like her, hosts a fantasy sports radio show on Sirius XM, was on the air from 9am to 11am and invited us both to join him. Here’s Lisa pointing at a sign he’d made, directing us toward the studio:


Here are Nando and Lisa in the studio . . .


. . . and yeah, that’s a box of Dunkin’ Donuts Munchkins on the desk, courtesy of Nando. Those and a small pack of peanuts (from a vending machine at the Time Warner Center) were my breakfast.

Prior to going on the air with Nando, I was worried about my lack of knowledge about fantasy baseball. I’ve never played it — I’m too busy chasing baseballs in the stands — so what the hell was I going to talk about?

As it turned out, it wasn’t an issue. Nando asked me lots of questions about myself and the whole A-Rod experience. He and Lisa talked fantasy, and they got into other topics as well, including some fascinating stuff about the adult film industry.

During a break between segments, Nando took a photo of Lisa and me with the ball:


I figured we’d be on the air with Nando for 20 or 30 minutes, but he kept us there for the entire show! It was basically a 100-minute interview. Amazing.

Toward the end, he got me talking about fantasy by naming the hitters in his lineup and asking where I’d position myself in the stands at the various stadiums where they’d be playing. That was pretty cool. I’d never been asked that before.

After the show, I took a selfie of the three of us:


Here’s a random connection: Nando and I are both friends with Benjamin Hill — a full-time writer for minorleaguebaseball.com, who has played a huge part in my baseball experience over the past decade. Remember my first attempt at catching a baseball dropped from a helicopter? Not only was Ben there, but he had put me in touch with Jon Boswell, the Director of Media Relations for the Lowell Spinners, who allowed me to attempt the stunt at his team’s stadium.

Anyway, after wrapping things up with Nando, Lisa took me to brunch at a nearby restaurant/bakery called Maison Kayser. Here we are at a table outdoors:

6_zack_and_lisa_ann_at_brunch copy

Here’s a photo of Lisa getting ready to dig into her main course:


We both ordered the quiche lorraine, and hey, we both got raspberry tarts for dessert:


The meal was incredible, and the pace was slow and relaxing. One random passerby asked Lisa for a photo (she politely declined), but that was just a small distraction in our wide-ranging conversation.

You know how there are people in your life that you’ve seen 100 times, and you never have anything to say to them? Well, Lisa is the opposite. This was only the second time that we’d ever hung out, but it felt like we were old friends. I can’t explain it. She’s just super-friendly and easy to talk to, and we have a bunch of stuff in common. One thing we discussed at length was how to deal with media attention and notoriety. She is VERY much in the public eye, so it was great to hear her perspective and advice — and believe me, I needed it. Since snagging the A-Rod ball ten days earlier, my life had been a blur and was turning into a spectacle.

After the meal, Lisa took me to a hotel in midtown . . .


. . . that has a huge balcony/terrace that’s open to the public. We were pretty much the only ones out there, so we took a bunch of photos with the ball. Here she is posing with it:


Here she is photographing it on a glass shelf on the lower portion of the terrace:


This was the photo she got:


Here’s my photo of the ball with Times Square in the background:


Here’s Lisa holding the ball . . .


. . . and here’s another shot of it on the shelf:


We were there for at least half an hour — maybe even a full hour. We both had other plans in the late afternoon, but until then, we enjoyed giving the ball its own little tour of New York City.

Before we left the hotel, I took a photo of the terrace:


Beautiful! (Right?)

The terrace seemed to wrap halfway around the building, and on one side, there was a huge tent:


We didn’t go in there, but whatever. It was just nice to see.

Our next and final stop was Times Square. Here’s Lisa right in the middle of it:


Given how recognizable she is, I was surprised that she wanted to be in such a crowded area. (She got approached half a dozen times throughout the day, including an encounter with a creepy doorman who shook her hand and then kissed it as he said, “I’m a big fan of your work.”) But you know what? Times Square was great. Lisa said she feels comfortable there because of all the cops.

In the previous photo, did you notice the steps in the background? We headed up to the top for one final photo together with the ball:


Then we headed back down, carefully dodging all the tourists along the way, and headed toward the subway where we hugged goodbye. What a fun day! (Thank you, Lisa, for a great time! And to everyone reading this who’s 18 and over, follow her on Twitter at @thereallisaann. She’s always up to something fun.)

Finally, in case you’re wondering how my girlfriend, Hayley, felt about my outing with Lisa, here’s a screen shot of what she said on Twitter:


Best. Girlfriend. Ever.

She and I are not exactly the jealous type of couple, so for us, this really isn’t a big deal. If anything, it’s just funny to see how everyone else freaks out about it. Hayley is actually looking forward to meeting Lisa, who recently invited us to her comedy show in New York.


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