9/22/06 at Camden Yards

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Camden Yards is one of those stadiums that opens in stages. If you have a season ticket, you can go to left field as soon as the gates open. If you don’t, you’re stuck in right field with all the other suckers for the first 30 minutes of batting practice. Normally that’s my situation, but this time I was among the chosen ones.

My first ball was a simple slicer that landed in the seats along the left field foul line, but it was a special snag for two reasons. Not only was it my 200th ball of the season, but I had started running for it before it was hit. I’m not sure if I’d ever done that before. An Orioles lefty had just stepped into the cage for his first round of swings, and I knew he’d start by going to the opposite field–so I took off from my spot in straight-away left field and sprinted for at least three full seconds before the pitch was even thrown.

Jack Renaud from CBS was there with a camera–he’d also attended my previous game in Philadelphia–and when I returned to left field, he told me that he’d gotten footage of the whole thing. He did a great job all day of chasing me around and filming my every move.

My second ball was a home run by Miguel Tejada. It was pretty much hit right to me. I just had to scoot down a few steps, and as I made the one-handed catch, some guy twice my age came flying out of nowhere and slammed into me.

I got my third and fourth balls within 10 seconds of each other. They were both homers that landed in the seats. I don’t know who hit them. It was still early. There wasn’t much competition.

At around 5:30pm, when the Orioles’ portion of BP was winding down, I headed to the first base dugout to try to get a ball. Instead, I ended up getting a Ramon Hernandez bat.

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Hernandez wasn’t the one who gave it to me. I’m not sure who did. It might’ve been Jeff Fiorentino. Whoever it was happened to walk toward the dugout with two bats in his hand. I didn’t notice that one was broken, and I wasn’t even going to say anything, but then he looked up.

“Any chance you can spare a bat?” I joked.

He took me seriously and slid one across the dugout roof. Just like that. Totally random. You can’t plan these things. The only bad thing about getting a bat is having to schlep it around all day. I didn’t want to hold it because of its jagged edge, and it was too big to fit in my backpack, so when the Twins took the field, I carried it back to left field and wedged it between two seats and hoped that no one would steal it.

I used my glove trick for ball No. 5 and got yelled at by an usher who charged down the steps and demanded that I hand it over. (Meanwhile, Jack was filming.)

“Really?” I asked innocently. “I can’t keep it? Did I do something wrong?”

“GIMME THE BALL RIGHT NOW AND IF YOU DO THAT AGAIN YOU’LL BE OUT OF HERE!!!”

There are times to argue, but when you’re dealing with someone whose veins are bulging out of his neck and head, it’s usually not a good idea. Thus, I reluctantly held out the ball. The usher promptly snatched it and flung it back onto the field in one motion. (Did I mention that Jack was filming?)

Another fan felt sorry for me and tossed me one of his baseballs.

“Thanks,” I said, “but you really don’t have to do that.”

“Take it,” he insisted.

Willie_eyreMoments later, I heard an abrupt whistling noise come from the field, so I turned around and realized that Twins pitcher Willie Eyre was trying to get my attention. Evidently, he’d been watching as the whole situation played out and had walked over to get the ball, and as soon as I looked at him, he smiled and tossed it back to me. I then tossed the other ball back to the fan. Craziness.

My sixth ball was a homer that took a lucky bounce off some seats, and my seventh was thrown by Juan Rincon. The section was filling up, and the Twins weren’t hitting much my way, so I headed to the dugout 10 minutes early. Soon after, when I spotted Twins manager Ron Gardenhire walking toward me with a ball, I shouted, “Gardy!!!” and he tossed it to me. I was about to give a ball to the little kid on my right when I heard him tell his mommy that he didn’t want one; he’d spotted my broken bat and wanted twins.jpgthat instead. (Sorry, kid.) An usher also spotted the bat and told me that it was dangerous and had to be checked at the Fan Assistance Center. Fortunately, he let me stay at the dugout until the end of BP, and I got two more balls in the next five minutes. One was thrown by Luis Castillo. The other came from hitting coach Joe Vavra, whom I never would’ve recognized if not for my cheat-sheet of faces. And just like that, I had 10 balls.

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After I dropped off the bat, Jack treated me to a bottled water and pork sandwich at Boog’s Barbecue–and THERE was Boog, sitting on a stool and signing autographs at one end of the stand. Jack grabbed the camera before I got the autograph. There were two sexy women in line ahead of me, and Boog asked Jack if he was filming them.

“No,” admitted Jack while tilting his head toward me, “I’m actually here to film THIS guy.”

(Sorry, Boog.)

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In Philly, there was a three-man crew, but it was just me and Jack at this game. We both got sandwiches and ate fast before rushing toward Foul Ball Central just in time for the first pitch. Jack filmed me bargaining with one of the ushers, then kept the camera rolling as I ran back and forth, inning after inning, from one side of home plate to the other, as righties and lefties kept swapping in and out of the batters boxes. Jack wanted to get some shots of me scrambling for balls during the game, and I’d promised that there was going to be plenty of action. The flame-throwing Daniel Cabrera was on the hill for the O’s, so I knew that the batters would be swinging late. And they were. And there WAS lots of action. And I kept missing balls by inches–literally. It may have been my most frustrating game of the season. One ball came right at me and fell one row short. Another skipped off a seat and bounced high mohawk.jpgin the air in my direction, but I was blocked by some people in the aisle. Another landed in the level of seats above me, and rather than bouncing back out to where I’d positioned myself to play the carom, it plopped straight down into the hands of an usher where I’d been standing three seconds earlier. Crap like that. All night. The highlight of the game was getting to see an old guy with a mohawk…and finally getting to kevin_zack.jpgmeet a kid named Kevin (aka “kvrpmmh” in the comments section) who’s been reading this blog. He brought his copy of my first book, and I signed it for him. Oh…another highlight, if you want to call it that…I gave a ball to an usher–one that I’d brought for the purpose of giving away–and told him to give it to the kid of his choice.

Jack had to catch a train back to NYC, so he left after the fourth inning. Although I kept running back and forth all night, I was relieved that nothing else came my way. How sad would it’ve been if I’d caught a foul ball in the top of the fifth? Something like that actually happened in 1999 when CNN filmed me at Veterans Stadium. The camera crew only stuck around for a few innings, and as soon as they left, I caught TWO foul balls during the game. Sigh.

As for this game, the Orioles won, 7-3. The first five hitters in their lineup combined for 12 hits! Nick Markakis hit two doubles! Cabrera struck out eight batters in 6 2/3 innings! The Twins stole four bases! It was a very exciting night–so exciting that I nearly forgot to pick up my bat on the way out.

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STATS:

Competition Factor = 210,510.

• 209 balls in 28 games this season = 7.46 balls per game.

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• 455 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 63 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

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

• 582 lifetime balls outside of New York

• 68 lifetime balls at Camden Yards = the most at any ballpark outside of New York.

• 7 lifetime seasons with at least 200 balls

• 3 consecutive seasons with 200 balls ties previous record from 1993 to 1995.

• 3 lifetime bats

• 2,961 total balls…ties me with Sam Crawford (2,961) for 28th place on the all-time hits list.

31 Comments

10 balls good job
im happy when i get 1

10 balls, great night. That was one heck of a fireworks show! And I’m reading this in my school, if you can believe it. Btw, I’m in Grade 8 and I finished my work early, so I get free time! Pretty ironic.

Great total hopefully you’ll get to 3,000 within 4 games next year.

Just wanted to let you know i got tickets for NLDS Game 1 at Shea in the Orange Seats for a good deal $35 for one ticket.

Now the question is waiting to see who they play.

congrats on the game and the ten balls. that looks pretty cool with the fireworks. congrats again.

Hey Zack!
It was a great weekend and great to meet you. I got 100 autographs exactly(everyone except Morneau – he only signs for 8 year olds). Ball wise was frusturating.

I let you have your space Friday night, but it was cool; I walked around and took pictures. I got that Jerry White ball early and got a bunch of autographs. Hotel security afterwards was nonexistant. Good night.

Saturday was frusturating ball wise. I got quite a few autographs so that was good. I had season tickets again, and was pumped to go out to left. I run in and I about cried when I saw the tarp was on the field. No BP. Oh well. I’d go and get autographs.

And I did. I did well.

Pat Neshek tossed me the ball him and Willie Eyre were playing catch with.

I was hyped on trying for some gamers. There was a relatively low attendance for a Saturday game. I tell Bryan (who you met) that I’m gonna go for some balls and that I’d be back to sit with him for a little bit later. “But I want to catch a ball! I’ve never ever gotten a ball before.” Sigh…

This is why you never bring friends to the game. Normally I don’t invite my friends, but his parents are stiffy and never take him to games so I invite him to one or two games a year usually because I’m nice like that. He’s never competed with me for balls before. I told him it wouldn’t work if there were 2 people, so I’d let him have the first 4 inning and I’d have the last 5.

It about killed me.

You know what I’m talking about. We have a disease. If we can’t go all out, it kills us. It’s not selfishness, we just have a disease for baseballs.

Anways…

I sat in my seat (perfect, right behing the dugout, no one tossed me anything though and I went all out for those. Too many little kids) and watched Bryan get TWO games (hit by Brian Roberts and Justin Morneau no less). A little pissed off I went up and sent him down in the 5th. Here’s how it went.

Missed Ball #1: crowded isle with FOUR vendors and a fat family. 10 feet to my right. too clogged to even move

Missed Ball #2: Ball 10 feet to my left. A real screamer. I move and am about 2 feet to the ball when it hits off one of the handicapped seats and goes behind me. my momentum carries me the opposite direction and the ball goes into the tunnell into the concourse.

Missed Ball #3: Popped back into the ONLY row that was full next to the top. I reach over and time it perfectly, but the guy stands on top of his chair, jumps up, hits off the top of his hand and goes 10 feet over my outstretched glove. Had he not jumped it would have been mine.

Missed Ball #4 (frusturating): Miguel Tejada fouls one of RIGHT to me. RIGHT at me. A group of big college athletic looking friends happen to be walking up the aisle. Its coming right to my glove when one of them sees it coming and leans over the middle railing to make the barehanded snag. I had to go into the bathroom and yell a few choice words after that one.

Overall a good autograph trip, but it’s hard to get balls when you’re with a friend.

zack are you crazy? I didn tquite get this part but you left your bat around the dugout without anyone watching it for you? If i saw a bat around id take it so fast

good game though

zack-

Thats pretty amazing. 24 balls in your last two games and linups cards and a bat. Good luck on getting Mets playoff tickets

I knew the bat was hernandez’s! Congratulations!, zach

li7039-
Thanks. I’m also happy when I get one…I just keep going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and g

DANNY-

I’m glad I can help you get through the excruciatingly dull school day. My GOD I hated school. One of the reasons why I wake up happy every day is that I never have to do homework again.

SKYKID-

How in the world did you manage to get a playoff ticket at Shea for such a cheap price? Grrr. Getting 39 balls in four games might be a stretch, but you’re right that #3,000 is not too far away.

JONELI-

Thanks. The fireworks were pretty cool. I wasn’t planning to stay for them because I wanted to hit the road as quickly as possible and get back to NYC, but then I ran into Kevin again and took some pics, and then I combed through some sections of empty seats to look for ticket stubs.

KVRPMMH-

Wow. That is such a frustrating day that I just lost my appetite for dinner. So all these close calls came DURING the game? In that section where I’d been hanging out? The ushers didn’t give you a hard time? Getting 100 autographs is incredible. That’s more than twice as many as I’ve gotten all season! I like the idea of having a “disease for baseballs.” Good one.

TRUE PLAYA-

Haven’t we already established the fact that I’m crazy? At the dugout, the bat was on the ground at my feet. But in left field, I just put it down and took my eyes off it and ran around and did my thing and completely forgot about it for a while. I guess I’m lucky that it was still there, but you know, I’m a New Yorker so I trust people.

PMOWL-

Thanks. At the start of the week, I was afraid that the great CameraCurse would strike me down again. But I beat it and managed to do pretty well under pressure. Not sure about the tickets situation. I may just wait ’til the World Series and then call a ticket broker.

ZACH-

You totally called it. How’d you know?

Yes, all during the game. I do what you do during the game. I have more balls doing that than during BP because I go for autographs in BP.

And yes 100 autographs is pretty good (well 101, I forgot to count your book). I do a lot of multiples and stuff and go all out for those. My record is 215 for the Devil Rays in a 3 game series. (9 game balls that series too)

DUDE NICE, you are lucky no one took the bat

DANIEL CABRERA 8 2/3 INNIGS NO-HIT!!!

kvrpmmh@aol.com – Wait, you snagged nine foul balls in three games? Or do you mean balls that were used in game action?

Yo kvrpmmh-
Where do teams stay in Baltimore? I may be going there next year.

9 foul balls DURING the game in 3 days. Its the devil rays. There was no one.

And it depends on the team Chuckster.

Most stay at the Renaissance tohugh.

You mean, like, balls that were hit off the bat, went into the stands, and you snagged? That’s awesome!

That is correct…
I get most of my Major League balls like this since I get autographs at most BPs.

Wow, that’s crazy! Good for you!

So how many foul balls have you snagged in your life? (And how many non-game balls in your life for that matter?)

Zack, nice work! You’ve got an entourage!

Wondering if you happened to get any photos at Camden Yards or Citizens Bank Park? If you have any from around the flag court and Eutaw St. at CY, or any from Ashburn’s Alley at CBP, I’d appreciate if you could share…

Approx 100 each. Let’s keep this blog to Zack!

Ya, school’s not that fun! It was science class and we were suppose to do some research on cells. I already did, so I got some well earned and exciting surfing time

KVRPMMH-
That’s really incredible. If you ever figure out the exact numbers, I’d love to see them.

SENOR-

Yeah, I’m lucky. I’ve been lucky since before I was born. Cabrera actually went 8 1/3 hitless innings, but whatev.

GREGORY-

You asked all the questions I was wondering.

GREG-

Thanks. I don’t have too many pics of the spots you’re looking for, but I’ll send you what I got.

DANNY-

If it was biology class, I’m TOTALLY with you.

Unfortunately, I didnt start keeping records until recently. I know my record for a major league day (BP+game) is 8, record for game balls in a day is 3 and minor league record (BP+game) is 33

33 balls in 1 game???? thats crazy even if it is minor leagues

I was looking on orioles.com and i saw hernandez using that same kindof bat so then i looked at the name and i could tell.

Yes, well, I had BP all to myself behind the left field wall, and I got 21 there. Then I went out into the parking lot for the game and got 12 foul tips out of the stadium. The balls were going out like crazy.

KVRPMMH-
I’ve only had two games in my LIFE in which I got three game balls. You mean to tell me that you AVERAGED three per game for an entire three-game series?! I know Camden Yards is pretty good for foul balls, but still…

33 balls even at a Little League game would be amazing. Props to that.

ZNEUFELD-

Clever.

Zack-

(in response to yyour comment on the last post)

Ushers. Supposedly they get tickets early. You should make like closer friends with the ushers. Now that you are giving away balls (which i hate = o ), Maybe give a few to ushers who you think could hook you up!!!

Zack-
Congrats. After your 3,000th ball there’s nothing more for you to prove. Consider going to Japan and you’ll be our Hideki or Ichiro and see how many balls you can snag there. You’re still young, you can still get to 3,000!

jeremy f.

Hahahaha well I have snagged at the Little League World Series before but my record is only 5.

Willie Eyre’s a great guy.

I was at the Twins/Sox game yesterday. Willie was warming up before the 11am game…ugh, too early…with Joe Nathan.

I called out Willie’s name and asked if he could toss my nephew the ball when they were done warming up when he looked our direction. Unfortunately, when they finished, Nathan ended up with the ball and tossed it to another fan.

Willie turned to us and sort of shrugged saying sorry and waved before heading back to the dugout. Oh well.

Whoops. Sorry for not replying sooner. Didn’t realize there were more comments on this entry…

DODGER DUDE-

I see what you’re saying, but realistically, do you think an usher would trade a World Series ticket for a ball, let alone FIFTY balls?

JEREMY-

Nice to see you on here. I’d love to try snagging in Japan. I wonder what the scene is like over there. I bet I could get balls from ALL the American players. And aren’t the fields smaller? More home runs?

KVRPMMH-

Nice.

RICHARD-

Bummer about that ball. That’s just the worst…when you’re counting on one player to end up with it and he doesn’t. It’s always tough to predict at the dugouts right before the game. You basically have to pick one end and start praying. I usually position myself closer to the player who’s been in the Major Leagues longer.

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