5/30/06 at Camden Yards

It was an expensive day.
Let’s start at the beginning…

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I woke up at 9:40am, having gotten five hours of sleep for the third straight day. I borrowed my parents’ car and drove to the northeast corner of 29th and 8th to meet my friend Sean–and his friend Joe. They were supposed to be there at 11am. I was there at 10:55 and pulled off the right side of 29th Street to wait for them. At 11:01, a traffic cop walked over, told me I was in a no-standing zone, and asked to see my license and registration. No warning. Just a $95 ticket…but hey, at least it came with a handy, pre-addressed envelope. Sean and Joe showed up two minutes later. (You might remember Sean from my last trip to Camden.

The drive was quick and easy…just under 200 miles in three hours. Top speed: 91mph. We talked baseball. We listened to music. Sean proved his superiority by holding his breath through the Fort McHenry Tunnel. We parked half a mile from Camden, then got decent crab cakes at Phillips.

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Sean and Joe lingered for another round of beers. I made the 10-minute walk to the ballpark by myself and spent $55 for THE perfect seat for foul balls. I felt stupid spending that much money when I could’ve gotten a cheap seat for $8, but I had a streak to maintain. Sean and Joe showed up 20 minutes later and bought two seats in left field. Fine by me. They’d sit together and heckle Carl Crawford; I’d sit alone and do my thing.

There was still an hour to kill before the stadium opened. It was disgustingly hot (95 degrees at game time.) We could’ve wandered off in search of shade, but that would’ve meant NOT being first in line, so we just stood there and pretended to be cool. (Left to Right: Zack, Joe, Sean)

Zackjoeseanpregame

The one annoying thing about Camden is that I always start at a disadvantage. For the first half-hour after the gates open, season ticket holders are allowed to go to the left field seats. All other fans, meanwhile, are confined to right field. Not only was it crowded out there, but the Orioles were all batting right-handed. It was like a sick joke. Hitter after hitter after hitter continued to pepper the left field seats with balls while I was trapped in a mostly worthless gapcamden5.30.06.jpgsection. (It almost made me miss Rafael Palmeiro.) And to make matters worse, the Orioles pitchers who were shagging balls in right-center were hardly throwing anything into the crowd. Thankfully, ONE ball happened to land in the skinny gap behind the outfield wall, and I was able to snag it with my glove trick.

Left field was much better. Within a few minutes of my sweat-soaked arrival, I got a ball thrown to me by Orioles 3rd base coach Tom Trebelhorn. Then, after I’d backed up a few rows, a right-handed hitter smashed a deep drive in my direction. The instant it left the bat, I knew it was going over my head, so I took my eye off the ball and focused on dodging the other fans as I sprinted up the steps. I looked back up toward the ball, just in time to see it land two rows ahead of me. Luckily, it stayed right there and I snatched it, inches ahead of other hungry hands, as it trickled down the steps. That one felt good. But later on, I completely misjudged one, so whatever.

Devil Rays pitchers Chad Harville and Brian Meadows started throwing just in front of left field warning track. I asked Harville if there was any chance that he might be able to toss me the ball when he was done.

“Y’already got one!” he yelled.

BrianmeadowsI had no comeback. I couldn’t argue. I was busted. And puzzled. Which ball could he have possibly seen me get? Didn’t matter. When they were done throwing, Meadows ended up with the ball, and he tossed it to me, right in front of Harville. Ha! Take THAT, shorty!

I had another chance to use the glove trick, but messed up. There’s a little space at the bottom of the left field wall, and the ball was partially tucked into it. I lowered the glove slowly and lined it up perfectly with the outer edge of the ball…and then I plopped the glove down to try to get the ball to kick out from the wall, but instead, I wedged it under ever farther. Duh.

More frustration: on two separate occasions, I raced through a long row of seats as home runs were approaching. I reached out to catch them, only to have other fans (who were already standing there) reach six inches farther and catch them RIGHT in front of my glove.

Even more frustration: A deep fly ball was clearly falling short of the wall, so I didn’t bother moving to my left to get in line with it. The player on the warning track made a lame attempt to catch the ball behind his back, and he missed it, allowing it to bounce into my row.

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Some embarrassment: I had both rosters plus a custom-made cheat sheet with 20 mug shots of the harder-to-recognize players and coaches. Someone on the Devil Rays jogged over to pick up a ball that’d rolled to the wall. Who was it?! I looked at my sheet and figured it was Chad Orvella.

“Chad!! Chad!! Can you toss the ball over here, please?! Chad!! Right here!!”

The player handed the ball to a kid, then looked at me and said, “My name’s not Chad.”

Whoopsie, heh heh.

I got lucky on another homer. A bunch of fans reached for it. The ball hit off their hands and squirted 10 feet straight up. They managed to miss it again as it dropped back down, and by the time I ran over, the ball had just gotten wedged into a folded up seat. That was my fifth ball of the day, and BP was almost over.

Sean and Joe were nearby with their gloves, but they weren’t trying very hard. At one point, Joe was standing in the middle of a long row in the most crowded section, and later, he was eating nachos and drinking a beer. Sean was more into it, but he made the mistake of staying in one spot. I’d been positioning myself differently for almost every hitter, and then making further adjustments based on which rows and staircases were least crowded.

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I told Sean that I was gonna head to the Devil Rays dugout, then started making my way toward the foul pole. Moments later, as I was walking briskly through the rows of seats, someone on the Devil Rays hit a homer right to me. I mean RIGHT to me…so yeah, in addition to the frustration, I had some luck. (Eight hours later, when I was home in NYC, I discovered that this ball was the 2,500th since my main streak–at least one ball per game, including BP–began on September 10, 1993.)

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No balls at the dugout, but I did get four autographs back on the Orioles’ side: Nick Markakis, Kurt Birkins, Ramon Hernandez…and Melvin Mora on a Fenway stub from June 1, 2005.

Right before the game, I was standing behind the Orioles’ dugout. I don’t know why. I suppose I was just killing time and getting a close-up look…when Rodrigo Lopez walked in from the bullpen and flipped me his warmup ball. Boom. Just like that. Totally unexpected. I didn’t even have to open my mouth.

After the tone-deaf middle schoolers sang the national anthem, I found my seat. Want to know what it looks like when you get to heaven?

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Unfortunately, the Devil Rays pitcher–Doug Freakin’ Waechter–was topping out at 88mph, and Lopez wasn’t doing much better. Low velocity means fewer foul balls. Why couldn’t Scott Kazmir and Daniel Cabrera have been pitching? Man oh man.

So yeah, it was pretty slow. A few balls went 50 feet over my head. One foul tip landed 20 feet to my left. Oh, and get this…another one was coming right at me. Keep in mind that the word “right” does not convey the rightness of which I speak, but take my word for it…there was never an easier catch in the history of foul ball chasing…except the catch never happened. Why? Because the **** ball hit that **** cable that holds the **** protective screen in place, and the **** ball deflected off the **** cable and landed four **** feet to my **** left, where some other clueless **** ended up getting it.

(Anger management…)

The game was flying by. Not good. Inning after inning: gone. I was excited when Waechter left the game after just five innings, hoping the Rays would bring in someone who could bring IT. Eh, no. Travis Harper came in and wasted two more precious innings with his high-80s cream puffs.

I’d spend the first inning running to the 3rd base side for lefties, and I would’ve kept doing it all night if not for the usher over there telling me to get lost. Two innings later, a foul ball landed EXACTLY where I’d been standing.

After the seventh inning stretch, I went back to the 3rd base side to plead with the man. I told him about my foul ball streak. I showed him my $55 ticket. I even showed him my book to prove that I wasn’t some random bozo who was trying to sneak around.

“Please,” I begged, “is there ANY chance that I could hang out here for the occasional left-handed hitter?”

His response: “I’m the kinda person that don’t like repeating himself.”

Back on the first-base side, there was some decency. My usher let me stand in the middle of the aisle for all the righties.

“Are you sure?” I asked incredulously. “I don’t want to get you or me in trouble.”

“Oh yeah, it’s fine,” he said. “My supervisor knows who you are and he’s got no problem with it.”

“What?! How would he know me? I only come here like once a year.”

“I don’t know, he said he saw you on ESPN or something.”

So I stood in the aisle and crouched down in a ready position for every pitch, just like all the infielders. I was SO ready to pounce…but…nothing…came…my…way. My last chance was the possibility of the game going into extra innings, but Corey “No Balls For You!” Patterson killed me. Not only did he hit his second solo homer of the night to give the Orioles a valuable insurance run and a 7-5 lead with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, but then, in the top of the ninth, with two outs and a runner on first, he robbed Greg Norton of a homer that would’ve tied the game. POOF! The game was over. My foul ball streak was dead.

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STATS

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• 67 balls in 8 games this season = 8.4 balls per game.

• 435 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 61 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 514 lifetime balls outside of New York

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

• 2,819 total balls…moves me ahead of George Sisler (2,812) and into 43rd place on the all-time hits list. Next up is Charlie Gehringer (2,839).

33 Comments

Only one of us was pretending to be cool…

Thanks for another amazing game. Sorry you didn’t get your foul ball, happy the O’s won.

noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo the streak is over!!!!!!!!!!!

Sounds like a mixed emotion of a trip.
Great blog….

Ouch I’ve the injury bug!!!!

http://psycho.mlblogs.com/

Oh Zack. In reference to the Deadspin comment.. That’s actually really funny.. sorry it’s sorta directed at you, but it’s funny that your comment evoked such hatred by them. Sounds like they have nothing better to write about. Keep it up, maybe you should on a weekly basis write some actual insulting comments about their website and see how they take that..

SHEFFRO-
Yeah, tell Joe he’s not a good actor. But really, thank YOU. Next time, we need to go to a Cabrera game. Seriously.

RAMONES-

Well said.

DAVE-

Thanks. Very mixed. Good call. But I’d do it all over again because I really DO love that place. That’s a biiiiig bandage you got there. Be careful, Yankee fan! :-)

THOMAS-

Some people have nothing better to do with their time than to judge me based on how I use mine. THAT’S what’s funny. Anyway, I just removed the deadspin link. I’m not here to make war.

Zacky, baby – any chance you’ll be at Shea on Saturday? Kip and I will be there and we’d love to say hi.

Hey just a question for all the people that visit this site. Who is the greatest player that has tossed you a ball. For me I’d say Jim Thome.

Joe is probably cooler than you and me put together. Come to think of it, that’s pretty gross. Nevermind.

Anyhoo, about the deadspin thing, you’re right to rise above and be the change you wish to see in the world by not starting a flame war. Any article that refers to you as someone who “claims to have” over 2800 balls is just showing that they aren’t out to report anything or do any actual research. It’s just opinions, and we all know about opinions…

JESSBABY-
No chance. I avoid day games. And I avoid weekend games. You’re talking about a day game on a weekend! I predict there will be 52,793 people in attendance. I want no part of it…though it woulda been swell to see the two of you. Where are your seats? Give me a level, section, and row. I’ll be able to picture the exact spot, and I’ll look for you on TV, if it’s within camera range.

JIMMY-

Good question. My All-Star team of players who’ve thrown me balls is as follows:

1st Base: Don Mattingly

2nd Base: Craig Biggio

3rd Base: Scott Rolen

Shortstop: Ozzie Smith

Catcher: Mike Piazza

Outfielders: Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Ichiro Suzuki

Designated Hitter: Mark McGwire*

Starter: Pedro Martinez

Longman: Greg Maddux

Lefty Specialist: Billy Wagner

Set-up man: Trevor Hoffman

Closer: Mariano Rivera

And to think, I have all that DNA in my old bedroom…

SHEFFRO-

You’re my hero. Opinions…yes.

Wow that’s quiet a list

Here’s my list (just to let you know I only started going for balls this year which is 3 games)

Lefty Pitcher: Scott Downs

Righty Pitcher: Travis Harper

DH: Jim Thome

BAM! now thats a list

Sorry about the streak. Who is the person in the middle of the picture taken in front of Camden? Weren’t shorts like that banned in the 80’s? I’m going to the Mets Giants on Friday. Will I see you there, or do you count that as a weekend? Hopefully, I’ll be the only person with a Giants hat.

JIMMY-
Three players in three games is a great start. By the end of the season, you might be able to fill out a whole roster. And then next year, you can start replacing players with better ones.

CHUCKSTER-

You crack me up. Those WERE quite a pair of shorts. The guy wearing them is Joe. He and Sean have been friends for a while. This was the second time I’d hung out with him. Great guy. (Of course, I have to say that, but it happens to be true.) I won’t be at Shea on Friday. That does fall into the weekend category, and anyway, I have to be at work. I probably won’t be back at Shea until the Reds come to town in a few weeks. I probably won’t go to Yankee Stadium during that time, so I might be looking at another dry spell…

Hey, going to the Tigers- Jays game June 11, (Kids Glove Day). Might be a brutal day for ball snagging since they’ll be 5000 kids with gloves, but hey a free glove for me and I usually go on promo days and my streak is alive 3 games! So I don’t know how I’m gonna do that day. Any tips on players/coaches. Thanks a lot

I’m a Yanks fan, but I used to live in Md. and work in Towson (North Side of Balitmore). Your pics and your story made me laugh. I love Camden, it’s just such a great venue, and Phillips cakes well….that’s good stuff. Incidentally, I’ll be in NY next monday night for my first Yankees/Red Sox game. I’ve never got a foul ball.

I’m probably going to two of the four Mets/Reds games, as that’s my last week of school and all I have is finals monday morning and wednesday afternoon.

Hey do you have any idea if the Mets bring their all-star game balls on the road? I’m thinking of going to a Mets- Jays game in the future and I was just wondering about that.

JIMMY-
You’re putting your streak in danger by going to that game, but hey, if you want to go, then go. One of the nicest guys in ALL of baseball is Vance Wilson, the Tigers backup catcher. Make sure you can identify him, and he WILL give you a ball. Teams do travel with their own balls, so you have a pretty good shot at getting an All-Star ball. At least half of the Mets’ BP balls are All-Star balls, so if you can find a way to get a few balls from them, the odds will be in your favor. Cool, huh?

JOE-

I’m glad I was able to provide a little entertainment. I wish I could go to Camden every day. Man, what an awesome stadium. I’d have to say that a Red Sox-Yankees game in the Bronx is one of the toughest situations in which to get a foul ball. Unless you happen to be sitting on an aisle/staircase within range of the plate, you’ll be screwed because there simply won’t be any empty seats to move to. Good luck though. At the very least, you’ll be seeing a great game. Thanks for checking in.

CHUCKSTER-

If that’s the case, then we’ll probably be seeing each other. In the meantime, don’t study too hard.

You’re also coming up on Craig Biggio. It’ll be interesting to see who is ahead at seasons end. Ya know I think you should start calculating your avg. For every ball you get at a game how many do you miss (that you had a realistic chance at)?

Also here’s a quick Charlie Gehringer fact for you- did you know that he is a second cousin of John Smoltz? Well he was when he was alive anyway.

Yeah, I have Biggio in my sights. It’s weird to chase an active player after passing and pursuing guys like Sisler and Gehringer.

I did once keep a tally of the balls I coulda/shoulda had, but I quit because it was just too depressing.

Nice piece of trivia. How the heII do you know these things?

Hey Collecta,

Ya know, I wouldn’t spend much energy if I were you responding to any bottom feeders. Any response from you just makes their comments feel more important than they are. The feeling I got from reading the comments on Deadspin was adolescent negativity. The Ball Hawkers’ jealousy

was pretty transparent. The negative meisters know your blog has weight

and depth and they probably and falsely think they can raise themselves up by trying to drag you down. It’s the same response Barry Bonds and A-Rod get or anyone once they receieve a certain amount of notoriety.

Personally, I think your blog is fascinating on many levels. I never really cared much about getting balls at games, but there I was at Shea last week lungng over a rail

just to grab one. Unfortunately, all I came away with was a bruised right knee- I think I need a little more practice. But, the only reason I felt emboldened to try to get one was because of your blog. Last month I was able to get one for my 7 year old nephew by employing a liitle inspiration I got from your blog—I complemented Tony Pena into tossing me one. Boy, was my nephew impressed.

Passion is infectious, whatever the subject matter, and you exude passion through your ball collecting tales. You’re also a very

provocative storyteller and that’s what I enjoy most.

So, let the lobsters lie, your blog speaks for itself. You think Tommy Lasorda, one of the greatest managers ever is spending an ounce of energy caring what his blog-a-critics think? Probably not. Keep on collecting Collecta, 3000 is on the way.

Cabbie

http://bestblog.mlblogs.com

Hey Zack,

I just saw the featured banner on the MLBlogs page and the headline ‘Hample’s streak ends in Baltimore’.

And you know what? I actually thought for a second that you hadn’t caught a single ball!! But then I realised you just wouldn’t let that happen – couldn’t disappoint all your readers!

Keep up the great snagging and blogging, and bad luck losing the foul ball streak.

John

http://englandrays.mlblogs.com/

Don’t mean to be rude or anything but that would be sad if he didn’t catch a ball at his favorite ballpark.

Zack,
Great recap … I laughed … I cried (OK I didn’t cry but …).

I think DEADSPIN needs to take a chill pill and be still, ya’ know?

BTW, after viewing the photo of you three in front of the park, I think you definitely have “rap group” possibilities. :-)

Hugs!

CARL-
I love you.

JOHN-

When I first saw that headline on the MLBlogs homepage, I thought the same thing for a split-second. But you know that? Any confusion is my own fault for having several different streaks going at once. Anyway, thanks for reading…

CHAD-

Not rude. You’re right. It would be pathetic and embarrassing.

DIANE-

I’m torn about Deadspin. It’s nice to be mentioned by a popular web site, but is it worth being mentioned if it’s negative? Not sure about the rap group. A doo-wop trio would be more along my lines, but I suppose we don’t have the right look (or sound) for that. Hugs back atcha!

DIANE-
I’m torn about Deadspin. It’s nice to be mentioned by a popular web site, but is it worth being mentioned if it’s negative?

(snip)

===============

You mean like someone referenced in “Word Freak”? :-)

I wouldn’t worry too much about the “Spinsters” … I hear they are just overcompensating for shortcomings in anatomy … :-)

I’m afraid to agree with you about Deadspin because I might end up with broken kneecaps.

“Word Freak” was a great read, but yes, some parts made me cringe. If you could have the final (re)edit, would you take yourself out of it completely?

In the name of all that’s good and Holy, what else can go wrong….. Let me ponder…. Hmmmmm,
http://psycho.mlblogs.com/

It’s upsetting. Mariano is one of my favorites. I’m actually a Yankees fan whenever he’s on the mound.

Didn’t you go to Shea on the 31st?

Yeah. I’ve been busy. I’m working on the entry right now. I might have it up in an hour. If not, it’ll be ready LATE tonight…like at 4am.

Zack in reference to your ticket that was issued by the traffic cop; one question was your engine running because if it was they cannot give you a ticket because that is considered a moving violation( while the engine running). Fight it!

****. You know something? I can’t remember. I might’ve left it running because I was expecting my friends to show up at any second…but I might’ve turned it off because I *always* expect people to be late. Anyway, I already mailed my check to those pieces of ****. But that’s a good point. Glad you’re on MY side.

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