9/24/07 at Shea Stadium

Kelly and Jen are from Chicago. They have season tickets at Wrigley Field and travel quite a bit to other zack_kelly_jen_outside_shea.jpgstadiums–but they’d never been to Shea so they flew to New York City to Watch With Zack. Jen (wearing the white shirt) is not a collector. Kelly (wearing the blue “Zambrano is Money” shirt) most certainly is, and my job was to help her snag baseballs and get autographs.
When Shea opened for batting practice at 4:40pm, we headed up to my usual spot in the right field Loge. Within the first few minutes, we shouted at Paul Lo Duca for a ball, and when he turned to throw it, I backed off and let Kelly go for it. “Please don’t miss it,” I thought, and when Lo Duca put some velocity on it, the only thing that went through my mind was, “Please don’t get hurt.”

Kelly didn’t get hurt. She didn’t miss it either. Instead, she reached out and caught it effortlessly with one hand. I was impressed, and no, I’m not being sexist; I never assume ANYone can catch.

Soon after, we saw the not-too-friendly Aaron Heilman down below, and Kelly told me that she went to college with his wife.

“Do you know her name?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she said. “Think he’d throw me a ball?”

“Maybe. You should say something like, ‘Hey, Aaron, I know [wife's name] from [college's name], and she said you’d give me a ball.’”

The wife hadn’t promised a ball, but so what. I knew Heilman wouldn’t know the difference, and sure enough, when Kelly shouted at him and dropped the appropriate names, he turned around and smiled. It didn’t hurt that Kelly also mentioned the name of his wife’s dorm.

kelly_gets_first_two_balls.jpg

Heilman then went out of his way to get a ball, and just before he was about to toss it up, Kelly shouted, “Hey! Can you autograph it for me first!?”

I thought she might’ve just ruined her chances at getting the ball by making such a brazen request, but Heilman wasn’t phased. He walked into the bullpen and got a pen from a security guard and signed the ball. And then he tossed it. And Kelly caught it, making a nice over-the-railing snag.

Lo Duca started signing autographs in foul territory. Kelly ran downstairs and got there just in time to have him sign the ball that he’d thrown to her. I got Mets catching instructor Tom Nieto to throw me a ball, and since it was brand new and Kelly wanted more autographs, I gave it to her.

When the Nationals took the field, we headed to the left side, and I immediately saw a ball drop into the “triangle.” That’s the small area of dead space just beyond the end of the fancy blue seats down the line. I ran down the steps, slipped into the front row, swung my backpack out to knock the ball closer, and began my careful balancing act over the railing to try to reach the ball. I didn’t have time to set up my glove trick because a fellow baseball collector named Greg (aka trevor_zack_gary.jpg“gregorybarasch” to those who read the comments) was hurrying over with his cup trick. Before I had a chance to reach the ball, the on-field security guard climbed over the outer wall and grabbed it. I was sure he was going to hand it to the kid on my right, but he ended up flipping it to me. Then I learned two things: 1) the ball was originally tossed to the kid, and 2) the kid was the younger brother of a guy named Gary (aka “gjk2212″) who’s been regularly reading this blog and leaving lots of comments–and whom I’d just met in person for the first time. It was a no-brainer. I gave the ball to the kid. His name is Trevor, and he’s nine years old. (FYI, I didn’t used to count balls in my collection when I gave them away, but now I do, so this was my second ball of the day.)

kelly_jen_corner_spot.jpg

I headed up to the left field Loge after positioning Kelly and Jen in the corner spot on the Field Level. I didn’t get a single ball for the rest of BP, but Kelly got one from Winston Abreu, and then of course she convinced him to sign it. Three balls for her…all autographed by the players who tossed them…not bad.

Kelly and I went to the Nationals’ dugout at the end of BP, and I got three training balls tossed to me within a one-minute span. The first one came from first base coach Jerry Morales, the second from manager Manny Acta, and the third from pitcher Saul Rivera. (Rivera is not Jewish; his first name is pronounced “sah-OOL,” which is to say that it rhymes with “Raul,” as in Raul Mondesi.)

Kelly had never snagged a training ball, so I gave her the one from Morales, and she asked me to sign it, along with a copy of my book.

kelly_in_autograph_mob.jpg

Before the game, we headed to the right field foul line to try to get an autograph from Jose Reyes and/or David Wright. No luck. Kelly had to settle for Carlos Gomez’s sloppy autograph–in Sharpie–on the brand new ball. She tried to hand him a ball-point pen, but he didn’t take it and instead used the marker that another fan had given him. What a putz.

We had great seats for the game, just behind the main aisle on the first base side of the Field Level. It kelly_jen_during_game.jpgwas the perfect spot to run for foul balls hit by righties, and in the bottom of the second inning, I got my chance. Mets pitcher Mike Pelfrey was at bat and swung late on a 1-0 fastball from Matt Chico and sliced it in my direction. I jumped out of my seat, darted 10 feet to my right through the aisle, turned left and raced down a few steps, and when I looked back up, the ball was coming toward me. Not right to me, but several feet over my head and a few rows in front. At the last second, I lunged down the staircase and made the backhand pelfrey_foul_ball.jpgcatch high over my head while simultaneously banging the crap out of my right calf on the corner of an empty seat. (I now have a nice big bruise, and it was worth it. The pain will go away. The ball will last a lifetime.)

Kelly and Jen had been sitting in the row directly behind me and had a great view of my “web-gem”-worthy catch. They didn’t ask for the ball. They were just happy to have seen me in action, and they rewarded me with a slice of pizza and an ice-cold bottle of water as we made our way up to the Loge.

We watched the next few innings from a good foul ball section on the third-base side of home plate, but there wasn’t much action. After the seventh inning, with the Mets trailing, 8-3, we headed back down to the Field Level and watched the rest of the game from a spot just behind the Nationals’ dugout.

Jose Reyes grounded out to end the eighth, and I got first baseman Robert Fick to toss me the ball–my seventh of the day–as he jogged toward the dugout. That was nice, but the Mets’ performance wasn’t. Pelfrey took the loss, giving up seven runs–six earned–in 5 2/3 innings. Guillermo Mota allowed three runs in the eighth, and Dave Williams surrendered three more in the ninth as his ERA ballooned to 22.85. Final score: Nationals 13, Mets 4.

After the game, I got my eighth and final ball tossed to me by Justin Maxwell, but the best news of all is that I got the lineup cards from Manny Acta–my first lineup cards EVER at Shea Stadium!

lineup_cards_from_manny_acta.jpg

See the circles with the numbers inside? Those are scribbled throughout the game to keep track of who made the third out of each inning. Moises Alou (who extended his hitting streak kelly_zack_jen_after_game.jpgto 28 games with a leadoff double in the sixth) has a “1″ and “3″ written just above his name because he made the final out of both the first and third innings. The ball I got from Fick was the ball that caused the “8″ to be written next to “REYES.” Cool, huh?

Once again, Kelly and Jen generously let me keep my prized possession. I offered Kelly the ball I got from Maxwell. She refused. I insisted. It was the least I could do.

nationals_autographs.jpg

After the game, Kelly and Jen and I hung around outside the stadium and went for Nationals autographs. I got Dmitri Young and Wily Mo Pena to sign my “SEPT 24″ ticket stub, and I got several other guys to sign some older Nationals-Phillies stubs that I’d brought from home: Brian Schneider and Tim Redding, Christian Guzman, Winston Abreu, and Ronnie Belliard who signed it upside down. Kelly got all those guys to sign her brand new ball, and Jen collected a second set of autographs for her on her ticket.

As I parted ways with the ladies, they asked if I’d be interested in coming out to Chicago for the NLDS. Hmm, yeah, I guess I could do that, I mean, if I really had to. Fingers crossed that the Cubs win the NL Central. They’re two games ahead of the Brewers with five games remaining…

STATS:

• 290 balls in 36 games this season = 8.06 balls per game.

• 491 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 319 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball

• 110 lifetime game balls (not counting game-used balls that were tossed to me, like the one from Fick)

• 16 balls from Manny Acta since 2003

• 3,251 total balls

29 Comments

wow, what a great game. great to meet you. trevor is reading this with me and wanted me to thank you for that ball. im pissed that i missed wily mo but my mom wanted us to leave. hopefully ill see you again before the end of the season. you think youll be at shea again?

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/7236846?MSNHPHMA

Yes!!!

And I’ll bring the hologram ball to Baltimore.

Greta Game Zack! Supposedly BP was empyy at Yankee earlier in the day.

i cant wait for our blog!!!!!!

I’ve got 53 balls this year, so I’m shooting for 60. 2 more games!

ZACK?????? YOU’RE GOING TO THE NLDS IN CHICAGO?????

If you’re going to game 1, I HAVE to meet you in a non-stalkerish way. It would be AWESOME to learn from the best!

A couple more things.

where are their seats? As I’ve said before, you can ONLY get into the bleachers with a bleacher seat. and that seems the place where MOST people get double digits, but I bet with the hat switching scheme, you’ll at least get a couple. And I’m sure THEY know this (since they have season tickets) but there is one really good spot for autographs at the players parking lot. And I think I’m going to get to the park about 2 hours before the gates open, just to enjoy the atmosphere.

As for the Cubs chances… we’re currently 2 games up, with 3 more against cinci, and 2 more against Florida (counting todays game, where the Cubs trail 7-4) while the Brewers have to face the Padres for 4 (and thankfully the Padres haven’t pulled away, so they’re going to play the Brewers hard).

So good luck at Wrigley ,They WILL make it :), and good luck in the rest of your regular season games.

Ugh, Cubs lost, but the Brewers are losing 7-2 in the 9th, so the magic number SHOULD be 3. Not bad.

http://youtube.com/profile?user=zackhampleforpreside
this is me getting a ball from willie callazo. hey zack, you’re in the back doing the glove trick haha i love it. once again. best night ever

brewers LOSE.

magic number is now 3

zack did you buy the picnic area seats i told you about or did you just go in there before the ushers checked tickets for it? and did you use the glove trick to get all those balls in that gap in the picnic area?

Who’s that good looking guy with the blue hat and black jersey trying to snag autos in the 4th pic from the top? Oh,*****! That’s me!!!! Btw, umm…can someone please stop the bleeding??? Let’s go Mets!!!

Hey Zack…

That’s a really cool that you got the line up cards!! That’s my goal for next year. To finally get the lineup cards. I’ve got bats, balls and some batting gloves at games before, but never any lineup cards.

Robert Fick is the best by the way. He was always good for balls when he was in SD. He once threw me his batting gloves after a game at Dodger Stadium in 05 and I didn’t even ask for them. He just said, “Hey, here you go!” I thought it was cool anyway.

I’ve been to the NLDS the last two years thanks to the Padres winning the NL West two years in a row. It was pretty crowded in BP both years and I’ve only snagged one ball. It was a Chris Duncan BP homer. The ball was cool though. It was a commemerative ball for the New Busch Stadium and it was brand new. I highly recommend that you try and get to the NLDS this year. It is going to be a good one.

Hey everyone…I also won the Padres NLDS ticket lottery!! Woo Hoo!! I already have my season tix for the playoffs, but I was able to buy 4 more field level tix today. If anyone on here is interested in going to NLDS in San Diego (Home game 1), assuming we make it, shoot me an email. I do have the four to sell and I believe I have the opportunity to buy more tomorrow as a season ticket holder.

That was a real nice post Zack. It looks like your “client” had a real nice day. I hope your Mets make it. I hate the Phillies. Peace out…

Leigh

Zack, you have amazing luck with Manny Acta! It seems like every time you see the Nationals play, you get a ball (or two) from him, and then you also scored the lineup cards from him. Very nice.

When he was the Mets 3rd base coach last year, I met his wife and daughter at a bar near Fenway when the Mets played up there. Very nice people.

Congrats Zack, your buisness seems to be getting… busier!

–Ethan

Padre- I think I may be interested, if the Mets are involved… so we will see.

Padre Leigh-Robert Fick cursed out a security guard at the team hotel in NYC back in July who threatened to call the cops on some younger autograph collectors.

GARY-
Great meeting you guys as well. Tell Trevor he’s very welcome. As for the “Mom Situation,” remember that in just a few years, you’ll probably be able to go on your own and stay as late as you want. When I was finally old enough to take the subway to games by myself, it was a dream come true. I got the bleacher ticket from my clients. I’m not sure how they got ‘em. As for the glove trick…you’ll have to wait-n-see. Oh, and I’m considering making an appearance at Shea on Sunday. I’d say it’s 50/50.

PUCK COLLECTOR-

Thanks! Looking forward to seeing you (and the ball) again in a couple days. You were a big fan of that auction, huh? Seven more balls in two games for you? I think you can do it.

GO ISLANDERS-

I can’t wait either. It’s taking a long time, but I’m having fun with it. I was hoping to have it done by the time I went to bed tonight, but it’s looking like I’ll have to wake up tomorrow and keep writing. That video is awesome. I’ll probably link to it in the entry.

CUBS0110-

It’s possible. I’m still trying to work out the details. Right now, it looks like October 7 would be the day. It’d be cool to meet you, too. Do you think you’d be there that day? I’m not sure where their seats are. They have a few in the bleachers for October 6, I think, and the following day their seats are somewhere in the main part of the stadium. Thanks for the heads-up about bleacher access and autographs.

KANDIMAN20-

Cute.

LEIGH-

How are you ever gonna get lineup cards if you don’t go to the dugouts? I didn’t realize that Fick is such a cool guy. The clients (no quotation marks needed) did indeed have a great time. Thanks for reading.

PSU532-

Manny Acta is The Man. That’s all there is to it.

ETHAN-

Yeah, for some reason, everyone waited to book their games until the final week of the season. I suspect (and hope) business will pick up a bit next season.

CHUCKSTER-

My level of respect for Fick keeps climbing.

Well, I’m glad I didn’t wait until the last week of the season to book. Judging from people’s comments, it seems like you would’ve already been booked for this weekend.

I can’t wait for Baltimore on Saturday! I’m glad that tomorrow is the fall sports pep rally at school so we have a half day.

Sounds like you’ve had a good time lately at the games, especially the 21 balls in Arizona. That was awesome.

fick is great! he gave me a ball in detroit when he played there, 2 balls and an auto at shea monday. the man robert fick.

my mets are currently blowing the division. im so depressed its beyond words

I’m going to the oct. 6 game (and maybe 7th, the cubs site says they might release more seats)

If you have bleacher seats, I KNOW you’ll get a couple at the very least.

The lineup cards are so cool. We had no luck with Manny Acta at PNC Park earlier this year–and for that matter, never seem to get anyone to even acknowledge us for lineup cards.

Looking at your Watch with Zack business grow, it made me wonder if Bud Pinhead Selig’s legal wolves have come after you for making money off of “their” game. I’d imagine a league that tried to sue Fantasy Baseball teams on the basis that they owned the stats would be callous and greedy enough to seek a cut of your revenues. Any thoughts?

FATHERPUCK-

I don’t know about that. He’s just going to games with people, basically. He’s not using stats that they “own.” He’s helping people get memorabilia.

Zack,

Next season I will be working the dugouts for sure. I only did it a few games this season and each time was prosperous. I’ve already booked my New York hotel for the Padres vs Yankees series next year. Maybe it will work out we finally meet. We’ll see.

Ethan…

We’ll see about the tickets if the Mets make it. I’ll email you later when things clear up. Padres are still hanging on!!

Leigh

BALTIMORE TOMMOROW!!!!!

Oh, and THEEE METS LOSE!

THEEEEEEEEEEEEE METS LOSE!

I have 2 words for Yankees fans…………GO INDIANS!!!!

YANKS FAN-
I’m totally psyched about tomorrow, and yeah, good thing you booked well in advance. Right now, the business is still a bit slow, but I guess that’s just the nature of starting these things. There may come a day when I’m booked for just about every game…or maybe not. Either way, I’m having lots of fun with it and of course helping other people have fun too.

GJK2212-

Yeah, seriously, what’s up with the Mets? This is scary. If the Phillies end up winning the division, we’re never gonna hear the end of it. (Just look at that obnoxious comment from “Puck Collector,” for example.)

CUBS0110-

Now you’re makin’ me nervous. Is it really THAT hard to snag baseballs in the rest of the stadium? I’d imagine that security will be extra strict for the playoffs, so I’m not counting on getting down to the dugouts at any point in the day, but at the very least, I assume I could get a couple balls thrown to me down the foul lines during BP.

FATHER PUCK-

Usually, when I yell for lineup cards, I get ignored. Sometimes I get a shrug. Sometimes the manager or coach even tells me that he keeps them. But occasionally I get lucky, and so will you if you keep trying. Believe me, I’ve considered the legal aspect of my business. Hopefully it won’t come down to that. I do know that there are many other people who run baseball tours. (None as cool as mine, however.) I wonder if they have to pay a percentage to MLB. Yuck. That wouldn’t be fun.

LEIGH-

I’d love to meet. Even if I don’t end up making it to Yankee Stadium for that series, maybe you can swing by my neighborhood for a few minutes and say hey. Anyway, it’s a long way off, so no need to plan it now.

PUCK COLLECTOR-

I don’t know if we can be friends if you continue making fun of the Mets like that. :-p

PSU532-

Bravo.

Well there are a couple… but usually they’re given to little kids. But not always. But I’m almost certain if you had your d-backs (or whatever team it turns out to be) hat on, and you call them by their name, instead of MR SMITH, or NUMBER 47, you should get some.

But yeah, Wrigley seems tough IMO, but I think someone with your expertise should at least not get shut out.

Watch With Zack – not just for kids! ;)

CUBS0110-
Well, after all that, it now looks doubtful that I’ll be able to make it out to Wrigley. There just aren’t enough flights, and I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night to get out to the airport for a flight at the crack of dawn.

GREEN EYED LADY-

True that.

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