June 2005

Weak week

MONDAY: The Mets were off. The Yankees were in Baltimore. No game for me.

TUESDAY: I had to be at work at 8pm, so I went to Shea but left immediately after batting practice. Frustrating. (But at least I got ten balls.)

WEDNESDAY: I was free for BP, but it started pouring at 3pm, so I stayed home all day (and took a boring nap) and went straight to work for my 8pm to 2am shift.

TODAY: The Yankees have an off day, and so do I. The Mets played an afternoon game at Shea, but I don’t do day games after night games (hey, kind of like Mike Piazza) because there’s no BP.

FRIDAY: The Yankees will be in Detroit. The Mets will host the Marlins, and it’s fireworks night. I hate fireworks night. There are too many people, and none of them leave the game early…except me, on this particular fireworks night because I’ll be working from 7pm to 1am, so I won’t even get to stay for all of batting practice. I’m thinking of skipping it altogether.

SATURDAY: The Yankees will still be in Detroit. The Mets will play Florida again, this time at 1:20pm. Another day game after a night game. No thanks.

SUNDAY: The Yankees will be getting swept in Detroit, and the Mets will be playing at 1:10pm. That’s too early. Shea will open at 10:40am. I’d have to leave my place at 9:30am, which means I’d have to wake up by 9:15am which, as far as I’m concerned, is the middle of the night. Anyway, it’s the July 4th weekend, and the stadium is going to be packed, perhaps even more than usual because of the Mets’ sensational promotion: Stars & Stripes Cap giveaway (courtesy of Delta Air Lines!) for the first 25,000 fans.

And then it continues from there, with day games (that I won’t attend) at Yankee Stadium on Monday and Tuesday (July 4th and 5th), and other nonsense after that. I have no idea when I’ll get to another game. Not good.

6/28/05 at Shea Stadium

Less than a minute after I ran inside Shea and headed to left field for batting practice, someone on the Mets hit a ball that landed in that narrow gap between the seats and the wall along the foul line. A security guard warned me not to go in there. I asked if I could lean over and grab it from the seats. He nodded. I got it. Big reach. At least four or five feet down. I had to kick up my feet and do a balancing act on my stomach on the railing. That made it 397 consecutive games with at least one ball.

Moments later, Chris Woodward hooked a foul ball into the first row of empty blue seats, 20 feet to my right. There were four big guys (who looked like they belonged at a keg party) standing several rows behind the spot where it landed. I was already moving. They reacted slowly. I raced over. One of them barged down the steps at the last second and nearly smashed into me, but I squeezed past him and grabbed the ball half a second before he got there.

JoseoffermanBefore long, Jose Offerman stepped into the cage and lofted a lazy fly ball down the line. I took a couple steps forward into the blue seats, reached out, and caught it on a fly. Too easy. It was my 100th ball of the season–and my 8th consecutive season with 100 or more balls. So much for my Rheal Cormier prediction. The guard didn’t say anything, but the other guys did. They were mad. The score was Zack 3, Keg Party 0. (Baseball gloves work better than cell phones.)

Another Mets batter smoked a line drive toward the blue seats. It was heading ten feet to my right, so I quickly moved down one row in order to get a good look at it when it hit the ground. I figured it would hit the bottom of a chair and rattle around, but instead it skipped off of something and, without losing much velocity, deflected right toward me and whacked my right shoulder and bounced back into left field. The guys laughed at me and cheered. I didn’t give a damn about them or the ball. I was in pain–but glad, VERY glad, that I hadn’t gotten hit in the face. By the time it hit me, the ball was probably traveling somewhere between 70 and 80mph. The guard came over and asked if I was okay. (That’s a first.) My shoulder was throbbing. I could barely lift my arm over my head. “I’m fine,” I said, “thanks for asking.” He told me I should go to the First Aid room, but I didn’t leave, and that’s a good thing because less than a minute later, someone fouled another ball into the seats. This time, it landed ten rows behind me, so I raced up the steps, cut to my right, hurdled an orange railing, and grabbed it, extending my streak with four or more balls to 25 games. It was 5:00pm. I’d been inside Shea for 20 minutes. My new goal for the day was to reach double digits.

“You have fooooouuuuur!!! Give us one!!!” whined the frat boys before one of them moved over to my section and stood two rows behind me. I noticed that Adam (a.k.a. “thegroceryman”) was out in the right field corner, struggling to get a ball out of that sloped grassy area with his glove trick. He’d done a good job of knocking the ball back toward the wall, but the grass was too thick, making it hard for the rubber band to stretch around the ball. I watched him for several minutes, rooting for him the whole time–and then I decided enough was enough, that he’d had his chance, that security was going to spot him and take the ball, that if he couldn’t get it by now, it just wasn’t going to happen. I made the two-minute sprint from left to right and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Want to give me a shot?”

“No because you’re gonna get it,” he said.

I let him try a few more times, watching as he raised the glove, adjusted the rubber band, lowered the glove, and repeated the process…nothing. Finally, I stepped into the first row and gave it a shot. Couldn’t get it. It WAS tough.

“Let’s take turns,” I said and kept watching as he lowered his glove over the ball. He jiggled it around to try to get the ball to stick, then started to lift it. Did he have it? I could see from my angle directly above…no.

I fixed my rubber band and lowered my glove again. No luck.

He tried again.
I tried again.
The other fans couldn’t take their eyes off us.
Security was nowhere to be seen. (This was truly a great day.)
And I got the ball.
Some guy, not knowing that I’d just snatched my fifth ball of the day, came over and shook my hand. (Don’t feel bad for Adam. He already had two baseballs. Hey, Adam, what’s your lifetime total up to?)

Then I asked Kaz Ishii for a ball in Japanese. He ignored me at first, then tossed one as he headed into the bullpen. That was #6.

The Phillies took the field (I was color-coordinated, wearing a bright red tee-shirt to match my Phillies cap), so I ran back to the 3rd base side. Kenny Lofton dissed me at the dugout. No ball, even though I’d asked politely and then kept my mouth shut for five minutes while he practiced throwing his very important knuckleball with Jimmy Rollins.

GrassyareaI ditched the dugout and headed to the left field corner. Jackpot! There was a ball sitting ten feet out on the sloped grassy area, and several Phillies pitchers were still throwing. I took off my glove and let out some string. This one was going to take some work–but before I started, Billy Wagner finished tossing and I asked him for the ball. He was about 100 feet away when he turned to throw it to me. I quickly stuck my hand back in the glove and reached down for his low throw. The ball skipped off the grass and bounced up, but I hadn’t reached far enough and cursed as it deflected off the tip of my glove and dropped into the grassy area. “Don’t even think about going down there,” said a voice.

I looked up.
Another security guard.
They’re all over.

“Believe me, I have no intention,” I said and started to lower my glove. There was no point in asking for his permission. He’d either stop me–or he wouldn’t.

He didn’t, and I got two more balls: #7 and #8. He seemed to enjoy the show.

The seats were packed, even out in the left field corner, and batting practice was almost done. I assumed I’d get a ball after BP at the Phillies dugout, but I needed one more before that. Opportunities were scarce, so I was thrilled when I got Ramon Martinez’s attention and got him to throw me a ball…but he threw it too high. I took a step back, jumped, reached up…and the ball sailed half a foot over my outstretched glove. I figured I’d lost my only chance, then cursed myself again when Cormier floated a ball to Adam (who was three rows away) right when I happened to look down for a couple seconds. Cormier went to pick up another ball, and I asked him for it, figuring there was no chance that he’d give away a second ball to a second guy in the same section. But he did, and I was now one ball short of double digits.

It was so crowded at the dugout that I couldn’t get into the front row, but I got Gary Varsho’s attention as he was coming off the field, and he lobbed me a ball that sailed beautifully over everyone in front of me. Number ten.

ArmitronI got some water.
I used the bathroom.
I found Adam and said goodbye.
I left the ballpark at 6:46pm, 24 minutes before the first pitch.
I was at work by 8:00pm, and I even had time to stop and get some dinner on the way.

Total balls: 2,538
2005 stats: 107 balls in 15 games = 7.1 per game
My shoulder: bruised and very sore
I care: not really

If the weather holds up, I’ll be back at Shea later today for another round of BP.

100th ball of 2005?

The Mets are hosting the Phillies tonight.Gametime = 7:10pm.
I have to be at work 50 minutes later.
My solution: go to batting practice, catch some balls, then leave.
(Yes, I still have to pay to get in.)

My third ball of the day will be my 100th of the season. Should I make a prediction? Okay…Phillies reliever Rheal Cormier will throw it to me in left field.

In other news, I got an e-mail from a sports writer in Pittsburgh who asked if I’ve ever heard of anyone getting three foul balls in one inning. He said some fan at PNC Park did it last week within a six-out span (which is technically one complete inning). The guy got one ball in the 1st and two more (on consecutive pitches to Jack Wilson) in the 2nd.

The answer is no. I’ve never heard of this before. It’s hard to even imagine it.
(For the record, I’ve snagged three fouls in one GAME on two separate occasions at Shea: April 22, 1993 and April 16, 1999.)

Good news/bad news

I suppose I’ll share the good news first…My boss gave me permission to take four consecutive days off in August, and I JUST booked myself a trip to Cincinnati and Houston—two games at each ballpark. Unfortunately, I’ll be seeing the Giants in Cincy; if Bonds is back in action, the place is going to be packed. (That’s not the bad news.) Then I’ll head to Minute Maid Park for the Cubs one night and the Brewers the next. Yay.

Now the bad news…
While booking my trip, I got a call on the other line from the writer at Sports Illustrated who said that his editors decided to cancel my piece because I’ve already been in the magazine. Un-yay.

Look Ma, no pants!

Yesterday, I saw THE funniest highlight ever involving a fan and a foul ball. In case you missed it, a rather large gentleman (at the Red Sox game in Philly) was sitting in the first row down the 1st base line, right behind the rolled up tarp. When a foul grounder headed his way, the guy crawled over the railing and onto the tarp, reached down to the warning track, and scooped the ball with his glove. It was a nice play. Only problem was that his shorts got caught on something and stayed around his shins…and he wasn’t exactly quick to pull himself back into the seats. In fact, another fan had to help him. The phrase ‘beached whale’ comes to mind.

I’m trying to think of my most embarrassing moment at a game. Hmm…

Years ago at Shea Stadium, I fell onto the field and cut my arm–but that was during batting practice.

Just last month in the Bronx, I dove headfirst for a Jeter BP home run that was bouncing around in the aisle, and I got laughed at by security because there weren’t any other fans within 10 or 20 feet of me.

Once, I sprinted up a ramp at Shea, rounded a corner, and slipped on a patch of wet pavement, right in front of several dozen stadium employees. Total wipeout.

In 1992 at Shea, I was screaming my head off at Reds 1st baseman Hal Morris during BP. He was standing near the left field bullpen, and I was 75 feet away along the foul line. “HAAAAAL!!!!” I shouted, “I went to Bucky Dent’s Baseball School, too!!!!” He ignored me for a minute. I kept screaming. “HAAAAAL!!!! HAAAAAL!!!!” He finally gave me a funny look. I didn’t understand why. It was early. The ballpark was empty. He was the only player on the field. I was the only fan in the seats. “HAAAAAL!!!!” I kept shouting. Then I realized I’d been yelling at Paul O’Neill. (O’Neill was on the Reds, at least. And O’Neill, like Morris, is 6’4″, 215 pounds, and left-handed. But still…)

I can’t think of anything horrible that landed me on national television. Most of my ball-snagging bloopers have taken place before games.

What about you? What’s YOUR most embarrassing moment?

(If you see a photo of our pants-less friend from Philadelphia, let me know. I couldn’t find one.)

All-Stars

It’s time to vote for the 2005 All-Star Game, and as far as I’m concerned, the only players who are eligible are the ones who’ve thrown me balls:

allstarballot.jpg

Therefore, I’m going with the following:

NATIONAL LEAGUE————————–AMERICAN LEAGUE
1B Derrek Lee———————————–1B Tino Martinez
2B Jeff Kent—————————————2B Ron Belliard
SS Jimmy Rollins——————————-SS Jhonny Peralta…oh no, wait, Miguel Tejada
3B Scott Rolen———————————–3B Melvin Mora
C Paul Lo Duca———————————-C Bengie Molina
LF Adam Dunn———————————–LF Gary Sheffield
CF Andruw Jones——————————-CF Scott Podsednik
RF Miguel Cabrera—————————–RF Ichiro Suzuki
——————————————————-DH David Dellucci

Here’s my ultimate All-Star team:

1B Don Mattingly
2B Craig Biggio
SS Ozzie Smith
3B Scott Rolen
C Mike Piazza
LF Rickey Henderson
CF Ichiro Suzuki
RF Tony Gwynn
DH Mark McGwire

Starter: Greg Maddux
Middle reliever: Dwight Gooden
Lefty specialist: Billy Wagner
Set-up man: Trevor Hoffman
Closer: Mariano Rivera

S.I.

Just got off the phone with Sports Illustrated. Someone there saw my blog, discovered that I’m approaching my 400th consecutive game with at least one ball caught, and decided to track me down.

I love how this stuff happens.

Even after all the interviews and articles about my collection, I’m still a bit stunned whenever someone actually wants me to talk about it. It all started innocently on June 20, 1990 when two Mets pitchers tossed me balls during batting practice at Shea Stadium. I had no idea what I was getting into. I was 12. I was psyched. That was about it. A couple months later, I convinced my parents to take me to BP again, and I caught two more balls. The following season, I raised my lifetime ball total to 18 and in 1992, I got permission to ride the subway to games by myself. That’s when my collection took off (and when I started getting ridiculed by just about everyone at school). I wasn’t trying to get famous. I didn’t have a book in mind. I just loved baseball. So yeah, it’s pretty cool when anyone–media or otherwise–wants to talk about it.

As for S.I., I’m not sure what they’re planning, but I’ve been told that it’s not going to be the cover story. Still, they asked for some photos…and various streak-related stats.

“Is there any chance that the streak could end before you reach 400?” asked the writer.

“Doubtful,” I told him, explaining that I’m working on a current 24-game streak with four or more balls, and that I’m almost twice as likely to get ten balls at a game than only one.

He wanted to know how many balls I’ve caught since the streak began.
(It began on September 10, 1993 and now stands at 396 games.)
I had to do a little math for that one.

The answer: 2,210

That means I’ve averaged 5.58 balls per game.

I sent him all kinds of crazy stats and asked him to include a link to the blog. Let’s see if it happens. I tend not to believe these things until I can talk about them in the past tense. Hopefully, I’ll get to do it soon; the next issue comes out on Wednesday.

By the way, yesterday’s radio interview was all right. Not outstanding. Certainly not a disaster. I posted a few comments about it under the previous entry.

Let’s try this again…

Okay, I have another radio interview today, and I think you’ll be able to hear it.1380espn It’ll be on ESPN Radio (1380AM) in St. Louis at 4:20pm.
(That’s 5:20pm here on the East Coast.)
If you’re not in (or near) St. Louis, here’s what you can do:

1. Go to 1380espn.com.
2. Click the red tab on the upper right that says “Listen to 1380 ESPN Live.”
3. Fill out the little registration form.
4. Turn off your pop-up blockers.

Let me know if you hear it.

In other news, I will not be going to the Yankee game tonight. I thought I was gonna make it, but I got called into work for an extra shift. That’s fine. Yankee Stadium stresses me out, and I’m glad whenever I have an excuse to avoid it. I have a great excuse this weekend: all three games against the Mets are sold out AND I’ll be working during two of them. On Monday, the Mets are off and the Yanks are out of town, so I have to wait until Tuesday to catch my next ball.

Tuesday feels really far away right now.

6/21/05 at Citizens Bank Park

My dad and I tried to deny that we were lost. If we weren’t sure where we were, but it turned out that we weren’t lost, were we actually lost? MapQuest let us down. The roads were poorly marked. One wasn’t marked at all. We were confused enough that we had to stop and ask for directions, then turn around and drive back the other way–but only for a minute! So is that really being “lost”?

Linesatgate_1Luckily, I made him leave NYC so early that we still got to Citizens Bank Park at 3pm, four hours before gametime. He thought that was nuts, but I had it all figured out. We parked. We walked around the ballpark and bought tickets. He got a bland grilled chicken wrap at McFadden’s; I had a killer cheesesteak. We were the first fans at the left field gate at 3:50pm. He probably thought THAT was nuts, but by the time the park opened 45 minutes later, there was a huge line behind us. Not only were the Mets in town (along with many of their fans), but it was “Toyota Jimmy Rollins Collectible Figurine” night. Joy.

One minute after I got inside, Phillies 3rd base coach Bill Dancy, who was shagging out in left field, walked toward the warning track to get a ball that had sailed over his head. I yelled. And yelled. And yelled. He finally got the ball and looked up at me.

“Please,” I said, “any chance you toss me that ball? I promise I’ll shut up.”

“I don’t want you to shut up,” he answered.

“Okay, then I’ll be LOUD!” I shouted, and he flipped it to me.

The left field seats were filling up fast. Lucky me. I picked the game that happened to have the largest walk-up sale (6,300) in the history of the ballpark, and the game itself ended up being sold out. Home runs were flying all over the place, but I could hardly move. I came within a few feet of at least a dozen balls–no luck, much frustration–but I was glad that my dad got to see me in action.

This was a day for the glove trick. I’d already made it 396 consecutive games with at least one ball, but I wanted to get three more to extend my other streak. The tough thing about using the trick in left field at this ballpark is the three-foot wide flower bed that separates the seats and outfield wall. I had to balance myself on the railing by supporting all my weight with my stomach and lean way out just to see the ball directly below. Then I had to reach out in order to lower my glove. In addition, it was windy, so my glove was swirling around and bumping against the outfield wall. The trick had temporarily lost its magic, and I suffered through several failed attempts, fearing that stadium security was going to apprehend me. Amazingly, no one approached and after a few minutes, I got the ball.

Another ball trickled to the wall right below me. The fans were getting into it and wanted to see the trick again. I had more trouble with this one and probably would’ve gotten it eventually, but Cory Lidle came over and tossed it to me. That was #3. Just one more.

Even thought it was 83 degrees, I wore my Mets jacket when the Mets took the field. Ugh. I was already sweating without it. Anything for an edge…

I hurried to the left field corner, confident that Royce Ring or Heath Bell would throw me their ball when they were done throwing. They didn’t. Kaz Ishii was no help either. Dae-Sung Koo ignored me even though I asked him in Korean. Victor Zambrano and Roberto Hernandez were too far away. Same with Braden Looper and Aaron Heilman. The whole Mets staff let me down. Still, I loved seeing them. I loved that THEY were the visiting team. It was so easy to recognize everyone. I never had to pull out my roster.

Another ball rolled to the wall in straight-away left field, and no one on the field went for it, so I darted through fans and staircases and rows, climbing over and stepping on empty seats when necessary, to get there as quickly as possible. The ball was still on the warning track, but it was a few feet out from the wall, so it took a minute to swing the glove out and knock it back in. Some kid standing a few seats away shouted, “Oh, man! It’s that guy from New York! I’ve seen him on TV! He’s got like four million balls!”

“Not quite that many,” I said and got back to what I was doing, but I struggled once again. This time, however, it was my fault. The rubber band wasn’t tight enough, so the ball wasn’t staying in the glove. I lifted the glove and tightened the band, then lowered it for another try. Just as I was about to get it, the Mets’ strength & conditioning coach walked over, picked up my glove (I was already shouting at him at this point), took the ball, peeled off the rubber band, took my Sharpie, and walked away. I didn’t panic. RubberbandedballI had other pens, and I always carry a spare rubber band, but damn! Why did he do that? What was he doing? I leaned way out and barely saw him. He was standing 40 feet to the right, leaning against the outfield wall, futzing with my stuff. Was he going to return it? I had no idea what was going on. The seats were absolutely packed. Home runs were still flying all over the place, but I knew I had no chance. Every time a ball landed, there were half a dozen gloves reaching up for it, so I stayed at the wall and waited. After a minute, the strength coach walked over, looked up, and tossed me the ball. He’d wrapped the band around it with the Sharpie. Oh, how cute.

“You got one!” yelled an excited fan on my left.

“I got four,” I said and took off for the foul line.

I’d done it again. Four balls for the 24th straight game.

Mike Piazza hooked a line drive into the corner. The ball hit the padded wall and came to a rest several feet out from the foul pole. There was no flower bed to deal with, but I was much higher–about 15 feet above the warning track–so I had to make sure that the rubber band was stretched around my glove just right. My dad had seen me get the last one, but I was much closer to him now. This was the first game at which he’d ever seen me use the trick. He’d seen it at home when I invented it as a 15-year-old, and he’d seen it on TV six years later, but he’d never seen it in person when it really mattered.

The wind died down. The fans were cheering me on. Pedro Martinez stopped playing catch momentarily to have a look…and I nailed it. I was thrilled. My dad was proud. The fans were in awe. It was ball #5 on the day.

Left field was so crowded at this point–it was like some sick joke. I left my jacket with my dad and sprinted around the ballpark to the right field side. Two minutes later, when Mike Cameron flipped a ball straight up into the crowd, I jumped and made a bare-handed catch. That was my 6th ball of the day, breaking my previous record at Citizens Bank Park.

Three minutes after that, Brian Daubach yanked a deep drive in my direction. I immediately turned my back to home plate, raced up the steps, cut to my right, looked up, saw the ball coming, reached up through a thick cluster of fans, got bumped from every side…and the ball smacked the palm of my glove and bounced away.

A young usher came over. “Are you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’m okay, but I’m [expletive deleted] [expletive deleted].” (Don’t worry. There weren’t any kids around.)

BP was winding down, so I headed to the Mets’ dugout on the 3rd base side and squeezed into the front row. Third base coach Manny Acta tossed me a ball as he came off the field, and less than a minute later, bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello gave me another. I wasn’t wearing my jacket, but I was the only person within 100 miles who knew his first name. That’s why I got the ball. I now had eight and really wanted two more to reach double digits, but neither team did much of anything until the game started. Three Mets–Cliff Floyd, Jose Reyes, and David Wright–signed autographs at different times, and I missed each of them by no more than 15 seconds.

StuzackMy dad and I sat about 20 rows back along the left field foul line. After one inning, Floyd tossed the ball he’d caught into the crowd one section over. Later, I raced up the steps for a foul slicer, but it landed ten feet away and didn’t get bobbled in my direction. Not much action beyond that.

The game itself was good. The Mets had a 6-5 lead after four innings and tacked on two insurance runs in the 8th. I was rooting for them because it’s easier to get a ball after the game at the visiting team’s dugout–and that’s where I headed in the bottom of the 9th. Looper beaned Mike Lieberthal to start the frame, and Mr. Figurine hit a one-out single to center to bring the tying run to the plate. I was wearing my Mets hat and Mets jacket. I had my glove. I was in the perfect spot. I knew I was going to get a ball if the Mets could hold on. Kenny Lofton grounded into a fielder’s choice for the second out, and Bobby Abreu grounded out to 3rd to end the game. Wright fielded that ball and fired it to Doug Mientkiewicz at 1st. Mientkiewicz handed it to Looper. The Mets came out, shook hands, slapped five, bumped fists, patted butts, and headed back toward the dugout. I had my eye on Looper the whole time. When he got close, I shouted his name–but he was distracted. He was being pulled aside for an interview, but I kept shouting. And shouting. Finally, after about ten seconds (that’s a lot of shouting), he looked up and under-handed the ball to me. There were fans all around, so I dove forward (so that none of them could reach in front of me) and made the catch, belly-flopping on the dugout roof. My 9th ball of the day was the ball that Looper used to earn his 14th save of the season and the 89th of his career. Cool. (All this with only 2 hours and 45 minutes of sleep.)

Of course, I was still kicking myself over the Daubach home run that had hit off my glove during BP, even though the official scorer of ball-snagging, if there were such a thing, would not have ruled it an error.

Stats time:
2,528 total balls.
97 balls in 14 games this season = 6.9 balls per game.
442 total balls outside NYC.
72 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball.

At my next game, whenever that might be, I should get my 100th ball of the season.

It was a great day in that special father-son way. The only bad thing was getting lost–officially lost–on the way to the Walt Whitman Bridge and getting stuck in horrendous traffic on the Jersey Turnpike…not really much of a surprise, I suppose.

Sporting News Radio: the interview

First of all, click here to see Elliott Kalb’s new article about ball-snagging.

Secondly, gosh darnit. My Sporting News Radio interview apparently wasn’t anywhere to be found or heard in NYC. Sorry about that. I could’ve sworn it was going to be on, but my dad just told me that 620AM was broadcasting in Bulgarian or something. (I do know how to ask for a ball in Bulgarian, by the way. It sounds like this: “BEE-lee-me po-dal TOPE ka-ta.”) My radio is old and crusty. I can’t always tell what station is what. Yesterday, I went online and found a list of NYC radio stations, which seemed accurate, so I figured it was right about Sporting News Radio.

Well, anyway, the weirdest thing happened this morning. I was scheduled to be interviewed at 8:45am, but my phone rang two and a half hours earlier (after I’d been asleep for 75 minutes). My caller ID said “Galaxy Communications.” It was a couple of radio guys. I was completely confused and disoriented, you know, in that special way when the phone rings and you think it’s your alarm. They asked me something about Sporting News Radio. I forget what. Something about hearing that I’d been on it.

“I thought THIS was Sporting News Radio,” I said.

“Nope,” said a peppy voice, “This is Bill and Keith (or whatever their names were) from the morning show on WXQR (or whatever the call letters were) in Ottawa (or whatever the city was).”

Sportingnewsradio“Oh.”

(I’m paraphrasing.)

“Did we catch you at a good time? Were you already up and about?”

“No, but whatever.”

“Well we’d like to talk to you on the air for a few minutes if that’s okay with you.”

“Okay.”

“Hold on. We’re going on in just a minute. (LONG PAUSE) We have a very special guest with us this morning, a fellow by the name of Zack Hample who’s collected over 2,500 baseballs…”

And so on. It was a great interview. Nice guys. Good questions. They made fun of the fact that I’m single. That’s original. (I tried to tell them that I actually do okay in that department, but they didn’t want to hear it.) We talked more baseball. I told them some stories and strategies. I taught them how to ask for a ball in Japanese. They thanked me (in English), then hung up.

My mouth was a bit dry. I had a gulp of water. Used the bathroom. Checked my e-mail. Nothing from Sporting News Radio. Checked my voice-mail. Nothing at all. Very strange. I called the 800 number that the producer e-mailed me the day before. I had to identify myself before they’d put me through.

“Hey, Zack, what’s up?”

“Hey, Dustin…was that the interview?”

“Was what the interview?” he replied.

Hmm.

I told him I’d just gotten a call from some radio station in Canada.

“Not us,” he said. “You’re just exploding all over the Internet.”

“Did you give anyone my phone number?”

“No, I’d never share your information with anybody.”

“So we’re still on for–”

“8:45am. We’ll give you a call a couple minutes beforehand.”

“Okay, sorry to bother you,” I said and went back to sleep for an hour and a half. Then the phone rang. Then I was on. I timed it. Seven and a half minutes. Didn’t bother asking for a tape. I have dozens of tapes. I never listen to them.

I’m not sure if this was a national interview, but I know that it aired in Chicago. That’s where Sporting News Radio is based, and I heard some Derrek Lee home run highlight before the interview began.

And that’s, like, it.
I’m still befuddled by the earlier call, one of my life’s many unsolved mysteries.
(How I ended up like this is another.)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to sleep. In two hours, my dad and I are driving to Philadelphia to see the Mets at Citizens Bank Park. He and I haven’t been to a game together in almost two years. I’m excited.

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