6/6/08 at Dolphin Stadium

Milestone Month rolls on!

zack_dolphin_stadium.jpg

Seven days ago, I saw Manny Ramirez hit his 500th career home run in
Baltimore. Two days ago, after Chipper Jones connected for his 400th in
Atlanta, I was a) bummed that I wasn’t there and b) preparing to jump on a plane and go for Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th in Miami…and, well, here I am.

Ready to hear about my hellish day?

My flight, which wasn’t scheduled to land until 2:45pm, was delayed an hour and a half, so I didn’t get to my hotel until 5:02pm. I didn’t have time to check in because the front desk staff needed “ten to fifteen minutes” to find my reservation in their computer system…so I put my bags in their office and grabbed my glove and hats and camera and all the other stuff I’d need for the game and tossed it in my backpack. I ran back outside where my taxi driver from the airport was nice enough to wait for me. He drove way too slowly, and we got to Dolphin Stadium at 5:21pm. The gates were going to open in nine minutes. I raced to the ticket window and bought a seat (15 rows back on the end of a row between sections 129 and 130) and learned that I had to get to Gate H. That was the only gate (or possibly one of two gates…I don’t know…I heard conflicting reports) that was going to open “early” at 5:30pm.

Now, look at the following seating chart and keep in mind that the ticket office was between Gates E and F:

dolphins_stadium_chart.jpg

Dolphin Stadium is huge. It’s huger than huge. It’s colossal. So I had to run quite a distance to make it over to Gate H, and by the time I got there, I was drenched with sweat, and this is what I saw:

line_already_at_gate.jpg

There was no way to sneak to the front of the skinny line, so I waited at the back and cringed as dozens of people slowly filed into the stadium ahead of me. When I finally reached the front and was about to have my ticket scanned, a security guard informed me that my backpack was too big and that I couldn’t take it inside. He said the size limit was 14″ x 14″ and since mine was a few inches too long, I was out of luck. Long story short: I had to go to Gate E (!!!) and check my bag with security and THEN go back to Gate H to actually enter the stadium. I was so pissed off–there truly aren’t words to describe it–but I had no choice. And when I finally headed inside the stadium at 5:48pm, not only did it pain me to be temporarily trapped behind home plate while several fans were already camped out in right field…

batting_practice_in_progress.jpg

…but everything I had with me–all my snagging materials–were crammed into the pockets of my cargo shorts. I was overflowing with stuff. My pants (pardon the expression) were bulging. It was tough to run fast and nearly impossible to run at all through the narrow rows of seats.

The right field seats started filling up fast, and not only were there long railings on the steps that blocked four out of every five rows, but the sun was directly in my eyes.

right_field_seats.jpg

AND…as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, there was a HUGE tunnel right in the middle of the seats that swallowed home runs and further crippled my mobility. Here it is from behind:

right_field_tunnel.jpg

At one point, a home run was hit almost right to me, and I had to move back and duck because I couldn’t see the ball. Meanwhile, the fact that the warning track was rubberized meant that balls never rolled to the wall and stopped. Instead, they bounced off the wall and rolled back all the way to the outfield grass, so there was no chance to use the glove trick, and even if there was, the place was swarming with security guards. I probably would’ve been ejected. It was a miserable batting practice. Thankfully, I got Corey Patterson to toss me a ball at around 6:10pm, so I can’t say it was the worst BP of my life. There HAVE been a few days (not since 1993) when I didn’t get any balls at all, but still, this was nightmarish. I had attended two games at this stadium in 2000 (back when it was called “Pro Player”) and somehow managed to snag seven balls at each game. I seriously have no idea how I did it.

majewski_arroyo.jpgI probably could’ve snagged at least one or two other balls during BP by asking the players. None of the Marlins fans seemed to know who any of the players were (one guy somehow mistook Gary Majewski for Bronson Arroyo) so I could’ve dominated in that sense, but I didn’t try. Why? Because I was saving my ball requests for later in the series. Can you believe that?! I’ve almost never had to use a defensive, multi-day strategy. Normally I go for whatever I can get, but because Dolphin Stadium is so bad, I was actually worried about getting shut out in subsequent days. I didn’t want all the Reds pitchers to recognize me after the first day, so I kept my mouth shut. I didn
‘t even bother going to the dugout as BP was ending. I didn’t want to be seen there either in case I needed to get a ball there the next day.

After BP, I was forced to spend/waste $20 (plus tax) on one of those crappy drawstring backpacks at a souvenir stand. It had a Marlins logo on one side, and I made sure I wore it with that side against my back. Oh, and let me just say that during BP, I was trapped in right field with THE most annoying fan I’ve encountered this decade. It was a guy, maybe 40 to 50 years years old, with a glove, a frighteningly perfect tan, and a voice like Joe Pesci. He was giving a running play-by-play commentary for EVERY ball that was hit, and not only was he trying to predict where each ball was going to land, but he was way off half the time. At one point, the batter hit a Texas Leaguer in our direction and this clown yelled, “Heads up!! Here it comes!! Oh, it died, it died, it died, it died.” I had to listen to this crap for more than half an hour.

During the game, the fans in right field weren’t much better at gauging the distance of batted balls. When Griffey got jammed in the fourth inning and lifted a wimpy, 50-foot-high pop-up to the second baseman, half the people around me jumped up and started jockeying for position.

“Learn the game, people!” I shouted. “Learn the game.”

The other half of the people who hadn’t jumped out of their seats found this to be rather amusing.

That was Griffey’s third plate appearance. He had walked in the first inning, and I was glad because the sun was still in my eyes. Look how bad it was:

view_for_griffey_1st_inning.jpg

I don’t know what I would’ve done if he’d hit the ball at me. I mean, I really don’t know. How embarrassing would that be? To be forever remembered in all the highlights as the fan who ducked out of the way of No. 600?

I spent the second inning along the right field foul line, hoping that a righty would slice a long foul ball my way (so much for that), but mostly I was just enjoying my rare opportunity to sit in a patch of empty seats:

empty_seats_during_game.jpg

I took a pic of the right field seats from this spot, and as you can see below, it was pretty crowded out there:

RF_crowded_during_game.jpg

The section clearly wasn’t sold out. There were even some empty seats on the ends of rows, but there definitely wasn’t much room to maneuver. If I was going to catch The Ball, it was going to have to be right to me, and even then there was no guarantee.

Griffey walked in the third, doubled to right field in the fifth, and singled softly to left in the seventh. He would’ve come up for a sixth time in the eighth, but he had already left the game. Blah. The Marlins were getting blown out by that point, and a lot of fans had left. That would’ve been a great chance to catch The Ball, but instead I was going to have to wait at least one more day.

Okay, so…given the fact that I was in Florida, I have two more weird things to report. Well, one is just gross and the other is weird:

1) While I was sitting behind home plate for a few innings, a young man in the row in front of me threw up all over the place. It got on the chairs, on his shoes, on his hands, on the railings, and all over the ground. There was more vomit than I’d ever seen in one place in my life, but that might not be saying much because I’m not a drinker and hardly ever go to bars.  (I’ve actually decided not to enter a single bar in 2008. That’s how little I drink–and how much I loathe the bar scene.) This guy, however, was clearly plastered, and he stumbled out of the section alone. Ew.

2) I got a second ball in the strangest way possible. The story isn’t as sexy as this one, but man, talk about random. Basically, I was still sitting behind home plate, minding my own business, waiting for a righty to foul a ball back in my direction, when I noticed…out of the random_ball_location.jpg
corner of my eye, that a ball was trickling out of the tunnel on my left and into the seats! What?! The ball came to a rest underneath a fan sitting in a wheelchair. I looked around. No kids. There were two ushers standing in the tunnel, and they were oblivious. There weren’t any fans looking around frantically under their seats. There was no way to determine who, if anyone, had lost a ball. So I waited until the batter put the next ball in play, and then when I assumed everyone’s eyes were on the field, I swooped down the few steps and grabbed the ball and bolted out of the section. I had thought about giving the ball to the guy in the wheelchair. I had thought about turning it over to the ushers. I had thought about holding it up and asking the few fans around me if they’d dropped it, but I realized that anyone could’ve said yes. Anyway, don’t feel bad for the guy in the wheelchair. He never knew the ball was there, and I ended up giving it away to kid wearing a glove and a full Marlins uniform. He was about nine years old, and he was standing in the concourse between innings with a man who must’ve been his father. I just walked up and said, “Did you catch a ball today?” and when the kid said no, I handed him the one I’d found, WHICH, by the way, was an Official Major League Baseball with the word “practice” stamped on the sweet spot, just like the ball on the lower right in this photo, except not as smudgy. It’s not like I found a scuffed Little League ball. There’s no way I would’ve counted that in my collection or even picked it up in the first place, but this was a real ball. And because I’d recently snagged a bunch of “practice” balls from the Reds in Philadelphia, I knew that this was one that the team had to have used. At first, however, I wasn’t sure if I should count it. It seemed cheap. But then I decided I *would* count it. I reasoned that if I can find balls when the stadium is empty and count those, then why shouldn’t I be able to find a ball when the stadium ISN’T empty? Same thing except harder, right? I mean, shouldn’t I be rewarded for finding one like that instead of penalized? If another fan had handed me the ball, or if I had actually seen someone drop it, I would not have counted it. (In the latter situation, I would’ve returned it.) I didn’t know what to do so I called my friend Brad (aka “my snagging guardian angel”) and asked him. He didn’t think it should count. So I decided not to count it. But then we talked again later, and we discussed it and decided that there was no way to determine if a fan ever had possession of it in the first place. It was possible, however unlikely, that the ball had been thrown into the seats during BP, possibly even during early BP before there were fans or ushers in the seats…and that it had been sitting somewhere, forgotten, undiscovered, for hours…and maybe it somehow got loose. Maybe it was under a seat and someone bumped it gently with their foot, causing it to roll to that spot where I happened to see it. I still wasn’t convinced, and I was undecided about whether to count it. I must’ve dreamed about it, although I have no recollection of that, but regardless, I sprung out of bed this morning and immediately thought about the ball and decided that it should definitely count. There’s no official scorer for snagging, of course, and even scorers make mistakes, so there’s no way to say for sure what the right decision is. But as it stands, the ball DOES count in my collection, and I’m curious to hear what you would’ve done. Would you have counted it? Do you think I made a good decision?

I snuck down (with ease) to the dugout in the ninth inning and took a pic of the seats in right field to show you how empty it got. Yeah, THAT’S what I was photographing…

hoochie_mama_behind_dugout.jpg

And that was it. No balls at the dugout. No lineup card from Dusty Baker. Final score: Reds 11, Marlins 3.

It took over 45 minutes to get a cab outside the stadium, but that’s another story…

STATS:

? 2 balls at this game

? 147 balls in 19 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.

? 515 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 118 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 842 lifetime balls outside NYC

? 3,424 total balls

No Comments

yes, im “rady”. haha, just kidding…thats actually the 1st spelling erroe ove ever seen, and im sure its because of the garbage you had to go through. sounds like you had fun. hope you get 600. ill be at shea tuesday and either friday or saturday. then im going on a 3 day mini snag trip june 19-21, starting in baltimore, then to dc, then to philly.

just as i say that i write ove…figures..

Wow. That’s the strangest day of snagging I’ve ever heard of. I guess that’s what you get when you put baseball in a football stadium.

Oh wait. A couple other things.

1) I have two Yankees tickets that I don’t want for Friday, June 20th. They’re in Section 23 of the Tier level, and the game is against the Reds. I’ll sell the pair for $40, so if anybody’s interested, just post a comment here or send me an e-mail at gbarasch.student@manhattan.edu in the next couple days.

2) I was at Nationals Park last night. That place is awesome. I snagged 11 balls (all during BP, so no commemoratives). I’m planning to go back in July. I can’t wait.

I was at Nationals Park last night as well. I wasn’t too concerned with getting anything though. I had gotten there a little after the Giants started BP so I figured I would just head to my corner spot down the right field line. You know, where the wall is about 3 feet high and the wall hits an angle and then goes parallel with the foul line. Earlier this year I got 4 balls in BP from that spot. Three rolled up against the wall and one was tossed to me. So I just decided to always go there and then just sit in those first few rows until I get kicked out. Good job on 11 balls though… my top is 7 so far this year (11 total). Does anyone else on here go to Nationals Park on a regular basis?

Oh, cool. Too bad we didn’t know we would both be there. Well, about half way through Giants BP, did you notice anyone reeling up a ball from the LF bullpen? That was me. It was fairly obvious that I was doing it, because it took me about five minutes to work it to a spot I could get it from.

wow. the amount of empty seats is AMAZING. its not hard to believe they had a game with only 200 fans

o yea and did this guy that was annoying you in bp, did he have a ponytail? cause if he did, i think i know him. if not, did he kinda look like he had a mullet or something like that from the eighties? cause i know tow people who are florida regulars and love baseball and both have rediculous tans

BRING SUNGLASSES!

a ball is a ball,
At yankee stadium on 6-7 i got 2 balls, one because i was wearing my royals hat and one because i got lucky. I also got darrell rasner’s auto,
2 balls gives me 6 lifetime and ahead of billy wagner and mariano rivera for 33,333th on the all time hits list.

AC

What is the story with left field? Looking at the seating chart on the team website, it shows a black hole where no tickets are sold. Are you allowed over there?

I think left field is where all the football seats are pushed back, and theres like a 20 foot wall, so thats why there is a black hole.

Was that more frustrating than BP at YS?
And in your last picture on this entry, does the girl standing up to take a picture have a shirt on, or is it a bikini top?

BTW, i’ll be at YS sunday.

I would count the ball because no one else saw it at the time. Now if someone immediately said they dropped it, then I would’ve tossed it back without even thinking of counting it. At that point, they should’ve already been chasing after it, anyway.
Got 2 on Friday in Atlanta. McCann and Francoeur were having a personal home run derby admiring each other’s shots. McCann launched one right over my head 4 rows back and it was an easy climb to get it. The second ball bounced around before rolling on the steps. Three hands reached for it, but I was the only one wearing a glove.
Good luck at game 2 in Florida.

You said the fans where bad, what do you expect you are in Florida a huge red neck state, and i have relitives there : /

where = were

relitives = relatives

People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

Hey Zack, long time no comment.
Quick question, how do you use the glove trick without the string tangling? I have used the glove trick for awhile and I still often have an issue of the string getting into terrible knots so I am not even able to lower it anymore. What kind of string do you use?

Also, I was in Philly on Thursday. What an awful place. I ended up with 3 balls (2 hit, 1 thrown) but could have had more if I had the balls to lean over the flower bed and use the glove trick. I did, however, get screamed at and almost thrown out for trying to use the glove trick in the bullpen by one of the seemingly million ushers at Citizens Bank. I didn’t even get it down 5 feet before this guy ran down the steps with a security guard screaming. Oh well.

I also think you should count the ball. I determine if a ball should be counted using this question; Would I have been able to physically take the baseball home if I wanted to? In this situation, the answer is yes.

kvrpmmh-

Here is what I do. It’s called a daisy chain. It works well because it NEVER knots itself, and immediately comes loose if you pull on one end of it…so quickly in fact that I can literally throw my glove and watch it unravel immediately.

http://www.bottrell.ca/Docs/Boaters%20Tip-Chain%20Sinnet%20Knot.pdf

Zack….

You brought back many fond memories of my days of driving from Orlando to Miami to see games. BP in right is BRUTAL. It is a tough sun field. I think I know the crazy “fan” you’re talking about. He’s been out there forever if it’s the guy I’m thinking of. What I used to do is throw the usher in the LF Club section a couple of bucks to let me hang out in LF for BP. You’re supposed to have a Club ticket to be there at any time, even BP. Usually there’s NO ONE out there for BP. It’s a great place to snag big hitting righties. Sorry to hear about the stupid security treatment you got too. I could see your face as I read your entry. I bet you were so PO’d.

I have stayed at that hotel a few times myself. It used to be a Holiday Inn back in the day. It’s pretty old, but the sports bar is ok on the top of the building. Nice view. Glad to see you made it to FL twice this year. Did you see the Padres established an MLB record for winning four consecutive 2-1 games? Crazy stuff. It’s never happened before in MLB history. I love walk off HR’s. Sorry it was against the Mets. I’ll give the Mets fans credit though. They have been way more classy than the Cubs fans were. Chicago should be ashamed for the way their fans acted here.

Well, good luck in your next game in the Griffey HR chase.

Leigh

With the amount of “fans” the Marlins have (clearly 1000) you would think you’d come back to NY with a bag full of snagged baseballs but, I guess not. I was thinking about going on a trip to Dolphin Stadium sometime this summer to check it out actually. I was going to order my tickets online and hopefully get the same seat for each game but it looks like that would be unnecessary now, considering Marlins fans don’t know how to represent and getting tickets before the game would be no problem whatsoever. August 9 – 11: US Cellular Field , Wrigley Field, Progressive Field. Care to join me on this trip Zack? ha.

Zacker!!

Looks like you did okay and had fun.

Did u go to any more games there??

Also, why did u not tell us about you going there before you went????

Zack-

What would you say the coolest game-used item you’ve ever received at a game is? Ever?

At Spring Training this year, I got Vernon Wells’ game-used wristband.

Hey Zach, why didnt you come to Atlanta to try to catch Chipper’s 400th HR ? I was just wondering if you will be coming to Turner Field anytime soon.

Sorry, i misspelled your name, i meant to say Zack.

Puckcollector here:

i had a terrible BP today. When i got in i was suprised to see the Yanks taking BP. i got a spot one person away from the corner spot, but the yanks were being stingy, and i was told i COULD NOT use the glove trick on the warning track. Ugh!! When the Royals were taking BP, they were also being stingy until Joakim Soria pointed at me and tossed the ball, but like a 50 year-old guy reached in front of me and got it (my arms are short.) Joakim was dissapointed. Then a player, i think it was Estaban German was flipping balls like crazy into the stands, and was about to throw me a ball, but then noticed the little girl next to me. i would have given her the ball, but he said it was for her, so i didn’t interfere. At about 11:45 i was really uspest that i still didnt have a ball, but i was hoping karma would be on my side (good karma for not interfering with the girl) and it was. Finally at like 12:00 i got Joakim to trow me a ball. i caught it, but i had never been more nervous about catching a ball cuz i knew this was my last chance, and he would not give me another ball if i missed this one. with the hot weather, the balls were FLYING out.

BTW a guy had a glove trick in the bleachers, and was plucking up balls from the gap where the put up the netting for HR balls.

Zack –
I went to the Nationals @ DBacks game last Sturday and got 3 balls – so far a personal best for this season. I saw only a couple commemorative balls floating around, they looked like they were gamers and were easy to spot in the air. All three of mine were training balls. I got one from Saul Rivera, caught one on the fly from Willy Mo Pena – it was pretty cool, an easy snag but I caught it above five other gloves. The last was from #86 Reyes (couldn’t find him on the Nats website after the game so if anyone knows please help) from the infield dirt to LF. It was a strike, I mean absolutly perfect – I didn’t have to move my glove at all! I saw Jason Bergemen overthrow a kid twice from 20 ft away. The DBacks are on the road and I am going to the CWS so probablly won’t comment for a while. Anyway good luck with the milestones and go Sun Devils!

NJMETFAN-
Yeah, yeah, so I committed the horrible crime of having a typo in my entry. That’s what’s gonna happen when I go to a game every day and write a blog entry every day. There’s just not time to proofread as thoroughly as I’d like. Have fun on your mini-trip.

GREG-
Baseball in football = bad. Yes indeed. I can’t use your Yankee tickets because I’ll be at a Mets game in Denver. Just think…if you’d snagged an additional 18 balls in Washington, you would’ve broken my record. :-p

TWINS LOVE-
Not a bad strategy…picking a good spot and staying put. It’s not a good way to get 10 balls, but it’s a pretty good way to get a couple.

GOISLANDERS4-
No ponytail. No mullet.

FATHER PUCK-
I found a pair of sunglasses today in the seats after the game. I’ll bring them tomorrow, just in case, and then, after BP, I’ll turn them in to the stadium’s lost-n-found department.

AC-
I guess that’s one way to look at it.

MUNKITTR-
“Puck Collector” got it right.

PUCK COLLECTOR-
This BP was pretty darn frustrating. It’s hard to compare, so let’s just say that with the exception the security hassle, I’d still rather relive this day than have to go to Yankee Stadium ANY day. Today’s BP at Yankee Stadium sounded AWFUL, but congrats on managing to avoid a shutout with an attendance of 54,000. Oh, and the woman in my pic was wearing a bikini top.

LSTHRASHER04-
Thanks for weighing in on whether or not to count the ball. The McCann/Francoeur thing sounds cool.

SOXSUXYANKS-
No comment.

KVRPMMH-
What’s up! I’m not sure exactly what kind of string I have, but it’s about an eighth of an inch thick. The thicker the string, the less likely it’ll be that it gets tangled. Mainly, I try to prevent tangles by letting it all out (in the seats) after each usage and recoiling it. Sorry you had a rough time in Philly. Interesting theory about physically taking the ball home.

LEIGH-
I’m glad I brought back some fond memories for you. I’m also glad to hear that the Mets fans in San Diego were well-behaved. Man, what an awful series for the Mets…and a good one for you. I haven’t been upstairs yet in the hotel. Do you remember if you can see the stadium from there? Maybe I’ll check it out tomorrow before I head out.

DONNIEANKS-
My bag is starting to fill up with balls. I guess this first game was just uncharacteristically crappy, but how was I supposed to know this at the time? Sounds like a nice trip you’ve got coming up. I’d love to go, but I’m afraid that time/money issues will prevent me from joining you.

MIKE.LOS-
I’m here for four games. I didn’t mention it on the blog beforehand because a) I didn’t know I was going until a day or two beforehand and b) I like to surprise people every now and then.

PFUNK234-
The wristband sounds cool. Personally, I have to go with the glove I got from Ryan Speier:

http://www.zackhample.com/baseball_collection/photos/bonus_items/other_equipment/ryan_speier_glove2.jpg

ANDY1004800-
Thanks for getting my name right. :-)
I was THIS close to flying to Atlanta, but I was also on GriffeyWatch, and Chipper basically hit the homer too soon…before I had a chance to make a firm decision to go. I’d love to make it back to Turner Field this year or next, but there’s no guarantee (yet) that it’ll happen.

DNESBITT14-
I have no idea who Reyes is. Sorry you didn’t get any commemorative balls, but congrats on getting three of the cheapies. Funny about Bergmann. (Well, funny for me…not for the kid he was overthrowing.)

Zack,
Those orange smudges are pretty cool. Dolphin stadium will live in infamy in your collection. I finally broke into the double digit in one game club. Snagged (13) on Fri night at the COPA vs. Clev.
I was not able to go for any foul balls during the game as I was sitting in my season seats in the upper deck w/ my dad.
Count for the season is up to (94). Oh yeah, made my best BP homerun catch off of Grady Sizemore in Right Center. Had to jump up as high as I could for the ball, as I did that a fan next to me about 6’5” plowed me into the row of seats behind us. My backpack broke my fall and I held on to the ball. …And the crowd cheered……Pays to pack the backpack with extra shirts for padding…Having a blast implementing the “Hample Snag Process”

Mike in Detroit (SnagFan)

Thirteen?! Wow, excellent work. Now you have to work on moving your season tickets to a place where you can also catch baseballs…or else work on getting your dad to run around the stadium with you. Good luck reaching the century mark. Looking forward to hearing about your 100th ball of the season.

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