9/12/07 at Citizens Bank Park

Jona and I left New York City at 1:30pm, arrived at Citizens Bank Park two hours later, and bought two tickets in right field so I could make an attempt at catching Todd Helton’s 300th career home run.

On the way to the Ashburn Alley gate, the ONE other fan we passed recognized me and said, “I was hoping I wasn’t gonna see you here today.”

“Don’t worry,” I told him. “There’ll be plenty of balls to go around.”

Jona and I were first in line…

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…and it paid off yet again. As soon as the gates opened, I sprinted inside and cut through the concourse into the left field seats.

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An usher was poking around, clearly looking for a ball. I checked the front row, but couldn’t find it until I overheard J.D. Durbin tell the usher, “It’s about five rows back.”

I bolted up a few steps, scanned all the seats, and spotted the ball sitting on the ground two sections over. The usher started walking up the steps toward it as I raced across, barely reaching the ball before he was about to see it.

I ran all over the place when the righties were up at bat…

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…but didn’t get a thing. I misplayed the only home run that I could’ve caught on a fly and got unlucky bounces on all the others that landed near me. Since the rest of the ballpark wasn’t going to open until 5:35pm, I had nothing to do but sit and wait while the lefties took their cuts.

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Jona stayed in one spot and guarded my backpack.

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When the Rockies started taking BP at 5:25pm, a couple of balls rolled onto the warning track, and since the pitchers were busy playing catch, no one walked over to retrieve them. It was a perfect opportunity for the glove trick. The first thing I did was climb out onto the flower bed, carefully balancing on the railings so I could actually see where the balls were.

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The ball in the distance was wedged in a small space under the padding of the outfield wall. The ball right in front of me was too far out for me to simply lower the glove on top of it, so I let out about 15 feet of string, then flung the glove at the ball and tried to knock it closer.

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After several failed attempts, I finally moved the ball to within three feet of the wall. That’s when Ryan Speier walked over and picked it up. Was he going to chuck it back toward the infield? Was he going to toss it to me? Ever since he’d given me his glove on 9/29/05 at Shea Stadium, I’d been hoping to get a ball from him so I could add him to my thrown balls list, and this was as good a chance as I was gonna get.

I asked him politely for the ball, and he under-handed it gently to me. Then he said, “Hey, you’re the glove guy!”

I couldn’t believe that he remembered me nearly two years after the fact.

“Yeah!” I said. “That’s me! How did you know?”

“I’ve been on your web site,” he said.

“How did you happen to find it?” I asked.

“One of my friends was doing a Google search and sent me the link.”

I wanted to ask him what his friend actually searched for, but I knew he needed to keep throwing, so I thanked him for the ball and the glove and headed to the right field seats.

I had a great opportunity to use the glove trick and was about to let it fly…

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…when Josh Newman hurried over and snatched the ball and fired it back to the infield.

Soon after, I spotted a ball sitting in the Phillies’ bullpen, right near the steps where the Rockies players had to walk down to get from their bullpen to the field. I was thinking of using the glove trick for that one as well when one of the Rockies catchers–I think it was Edwin Bellorin–started walking toward it. In the picture below, you can see me reaching over the wall and pointing at the ball.

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Five seconds (and a polite request in Spanish) later, it was mine.

Helton hit a few homers during BP, and I made a nice backhand/running catch for one of them. It was my fourth ball of the day, and Jona took a pic right after I snagged it…like, literally less than a second after. If you look closely, you can see a little bit of white showing through the pocket of my glove.

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Jeff Francis threw me my fifth ball of the day, and I got my sixth from 3rd base coach Mike Gallego at the Rockies’ dugout after BP.

Five of the six balls had “practice” stamped on the sweet spot.

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Balls with defects, however small, are designated for batting practice and sold to the teams at a discount. (Ten years ago, defective balls were stamped with “BLEM.”) In this case, two of the five defects were easy to spot: mis-stamped logos.

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The logo on the left was stamped so low that the word “commissioner” overlaps the stitches. The logo on the right (which, by the way, graces the Helton homer) was skewed and printed off-center.

Cory Sullivan threw me my seventh ball along the left field foul line before the national anthem, and then I got Garrett Atkins’ horrendously ugly autograph on my ticket stub.

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I spent the whole game running halfway across the stadium and back, playing Helton in straight-away right field and then going for third-out balls behind the Rockies’ dugout during the innings that he wasn’t likely to bat.

1ST INNING: Matt Holliday lined into a triple play, and I barely saw it because I was jockeying for position for Helton who was on deck.

2ND INNING: Helton led off with a double to left.

3RD INNING: Helton got thrown out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double. In the bottom of the frame, Ryan Howard lined out to Holliday for the third out. Holliday jogged in with the ball, and I got him to toss it to me at the dugout.

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4TH INNING: Helton hit a three-run double to put the Rockies on top, 9-0.

5TH INNING: Six up, six down.

6TH INNING: Ryan Howard, on the verge of breaking Adam Dunn’s single-season strikeout record, whiffed for the 179th time (in only 127 games).

7TH INNING: Helton flied out to center, and with the Rockies leading 10-0, he was replaced in the field by Joe Koshansky.

8TH INNING: Ninety percent of the fans had left. The remaining ten percent booed Jose Mesa.

9TH INNING: Instead of catching Helton’s 300th homer, I got to watch Koshansky strike out.

Final score: Rockies 12, Phillies 0.

After the game, I got my ninth and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Bill Welke as he walked off the field. Before he tossed it to me, he smiled and asked, “Did you yell at me tonight?”

“Not at all!” I said. “I thought you called a beautiful game.”

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Thanks to Jona for taking so many pics and running around with me all night and being such a good sport. Apologies for rushing through this entry. If it weren’t my 30th birthday, and if I didn’t have big plans that were about to start, I would’ve written a lot more.

STATS:

• 235 balls in 32 games this season = 7.34375 balls per game.

• 487 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 686 lifetime balls outside of New York

• 3,196 total balls

21 Comments

Sounds good. Glad to see some shots of you working instead of the usual.

sounds awesome. maybe you caught heltons 1000th bp homer. i always wondered stuff like what if a ball you get at shea is the ball the phillies used when they turned 3? and left it at shea this weekend and you got it. like what if it actually was a game ball that did something historic haha idk just a thought. great game for you.

You and Jona are an adorable couple.

I about laughed up a lung when I hovered over to see the search terms, good stuff.

Congrats on another productive game, and have an awesome birthday!

Nice snaggage and great Speier story. Hey to Jona, who kind of stole the show.

Mark/MLB.com

http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com

Happy 3 decades!

That truly is a horrible autograph. It almost likes like it says Lole.

zack-
good game, and thats so amazing that speier remembered you. brian roberts remembered me in baltimore when i went from the subway/hotel last year and i was incredably impressed

anyway, garrett is one of the best big named signers in the league. his auto was alot nicer two years ago, but personally for me i like it. but in general ive had great great success with him…including 10 total (3 in 05, 7 last year inclduing 4 in the rain maybe 1 minute before the game started when the mets were on the field.)

so i know its not pretty but hes a great guy, so i personally give him props for being that good of a guy

and also tell jona to keep up the photography…she does a great job and its great to see you in action at the games

Big (baseball) plans?

Hi Zack and everyone….

Nice game Zack. Great entry and nice pics by Jona. Don’t know about the hat though Jona. That is outstanding that Speier remembered you and had checked out your website. Maybe he’ll tell some of his teammates about it. Wait, you probably don’t want that!! Ha ha.

I had a great day at BP today myself. I didn’t get nine balls, but I got three. All three were pretty cool though. The first one I got off a CRAZY riccochet. It amazes me how crazy a baseball will bounce sometimes. NEVER give up on a ball that you think is out of reach. Sometimes it will take a crazy bounce and come right to you. Even if you’re two sections away. I got to BP late and didn’t get anything from the Padres. I went to RF for the Giants. Ray Durham hit a bomb to deep right center. This ball hit the railing at the end of the right field seats. It shot sideways, bounced off another railing and right to me. It never touched the ground. The total distance from the initial railing to me was about 100 feet. CRAZY. It will never happen to me again.

The second ball was sort of historic for me. In 8 seasons now at Qualcomm and PETCO I have NEVER got a BP homer of any kind from Barry Bonds. He always draws big crowds in the stands. Today was finally my day. The crowd was surprisingly sparse. I had a whole empty row and aisle to myself. Barry hit a line drive a little to my left. I just took a few steps to the left down my empty row and caught it on the fly. So simple. I couldn’t believe it. I know alot of you probably don’t like Bonds and I’m right there with you, but it was cool to finally get one from him for my collection.

The third ball was a pretty nice snag of a Ryan Klesko rainmaker. It was a section over to my right and I had a little race with some other snaggers to get it. My fat 40 year old butt won the race. Yeah!! Those were my three for the day.

If you guys want to, you can see my big self on ESPN and/or MLB.com. I was close to Scott Hairston’s homer from tonight’s game. I kind of gave up on it thinking it would be caught on the track, but it carried. Randy Winn jumped up and got a piece if it, but it got out by less than a foot. I should have been more agressive and caught it, but I didn’t want to interfere with a ball in play. Turns out I wouldn’t have. Anyway, I’m all in the TV shot. I have a blue, Padres t shirt on.

Zack, before long you’ll have over a thousand balls outside of New York. Awesome!! I know it’s early, but what parks on the road are you thinking about going to next year other than NY, BAL, PHI?

Leigh

Zack,

What is the length of the string you have tied to your glove? Also, have you ever had the string come off and had your glove wind up in the field?

Leigh

Zack,

Thanks for giving me a little space during BP, and I hope I did the same for you. I’m suprised that anyone else knew that Helton was sitting on 299. My sign was intended to get a 3rd out ball from Todd. Funny thing about the Holliday ball…he was looking at me the entire way in from left, began motioning to me, and then the field crew came onto the field to rake the infield, cut him off, and he had no choice but to throw it to you. That was my last batter of the night. As I told you, I rarely stay past the 3rd or 4th inning. I did okay..same as you. Since I knew you were after Helton’s HR, I was trying for Holliday. I even went up to the left field upper deck when he did hit that 3 run blast. One of those “feelings” things. It didn’t make it to the upper deck, barely falling short, but after his BP session, I knew I had a chance. If you plan another trip to Philly, let me know.

Philly Guy Joe

3200 is coming fast, prediction on who will throw/hit it?

Oy. Another tough night at Shea for me yesterday. Six balls. And it was like I was 6-for-6 in terms of opportunities. There just weren’t many balls to be had, but at least I capitalzed on the ones that were.

I’m going to Yankee Stadium on Wednesday (with the hope of snagging more than two balls there for the first time in my life).

i have a few practice balls stamped but i dont see any defects…hmmm…kinda odd

http://www.freewebs.com/garysports/sportsblog.htm

anyone goin to the mets last regular season game at shea? im goin its against the marlins and the mets most likely will have clinched so im lookin for marlins bonus items…

Man, the day you got the glove way an amazing day!! A glove, Heath Bell, the ball with the funny markings, and your 300th ball of the year! 2 weeks ’til Baltimore!!!

Yup man, happy 30th!!!! Going to Jays game tomorrow, wish me luck. Hey anybody in particular on the Orioles that I should ask a ball from?

It’s really cool that everyone is getting to these final games all over the country. I’m surprised there are any balls left out there. Zack, 3200 balls is just amazing when you think about it. You should create some kind of modern art piece or mural in NYC made entirely of baseballs. Maybe a GIANT Argosy sign. Ha ha.
Believe it or not, I only got one ball today in BP, but it was ANOTHER Barry Bonds homer. Line drive. I didn’t have to move. Pop, right into the glove. I LOVE September games with no one at BP!! Zero Bonds balls in 8 seasons, then two games in a row. Zack, I caught both just to the left of your Bonds homer spot at PETCO as you face the field. It’s a good spot obviously. Thank you hit tracker.

Leigh

YANKS FAN-
Instead of the usual? Gee, thanks a lot. :-p

GJK2212-

I’ve had similar thoughts, but I don’t think there’d be any way to figure it out. No specific prediction about #3,200. Do YOU have a prediction? Most of the defects on baseballs are negligible and undetectable to the naked eye. I probably won’t attend the final game of the regular season. I’ll be too tired from the previous day at Camden, and that’s a good thing.

DORFMUNDER-

Thanks for the couple comment, and thanks for appreciating The Search.

MARK-

Yeah, she tends to do that no matter where we are. I prefer it that way. (I like “snaggage.”)

CEETAR-

Thanx. I don’t understand how anyone (who’s not legally bind) can write that messily.

JONELI-******, you’ve gotten Atkins that many times? I gave him a major “thank you” after he signed for me. Jona appreciates the photo-related praise, and believe me, I’m planning to take her to as many games as possible.

EVAN.BIZZZ-

No baseball involved. Sometimes, that’s just how it’s gotta be.

LEIGH-

You’re right…it would be BAD if Speier spread the word. Amazing ricochet. Insane, really. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a bounce that lucky. Congrats on the Bonds homers (plural!!) and for beating out the other snaggers, big butt and all. Next year, in addition to the few ballparks you mentioned, I plan to visit the new Nationals’ stadium. There’s also a better than 50/50 chance I’ll make it to Fenway, Tropicana Field, and PETCO. Yes, it’s true. I have about 30 feet of string on my glove. Used to be longer, but I’ve toned down my act, if you can believe it. I never had the string break, but I once had it get caught in a crack between the padded sections on an outfield wall, and I needed a player to come over and help me out. It was embarrassing.

PHILLY GUY JOE-

What’s up?! Thank YOU for giving me space. It thought it was incredibly generous of you to leave the section along the LF foul line before the game and let me take a shot at getting the ball from Sullivan. You did okay…same as me…meaning you got NINE balls as well?! You went for Holliday because I was going for Helton? Jeez. You don’t have to completely avoid me, you know. A little competition can be fun. But really, thanks, and I look forward to seeing you again.

GREG-

Are you going to Yankee Stadium with your dad? If so (and if he’s willing), have him hold the corner spot for you in right field while you roam and do your thing. Sorry Shea wasn’t better, but no surprise there.

PUCK COLLECTOR-

You never saw the “glove” entry ’til now?

DANNYZHANG-

Whoops. Sorry I didn’t get back to you before you went to the game, but if you’ve seen my few Orioles entries this year, then you already would’ve known everything I was gonna say anyway.

3200 my prediction is erik bedard if you go to yankee stadium this week if not…ruben gotay at shea against the nationals next week…

awesome!

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