6/17/08 at Coors Field

zack_outside_coors_field.jpgThis was it…the big day…my first of two games with an Associated Press writer named Pat Graham.

Pat picked me up at my hotel at 2pm, took me out to lunch, and interviewed me extensively about my baseball collection. We had talked for an hour before I’d left for Denver, and by the end of the meal, he had more than 5,000 words of notes and quotes on his laptop.

We headed over to Gate E at 4:45pm. Pat had a press pass that gets him into just about any game in any sport in any stadium–but he didn’t have a ticket for this game at Coors, so he had to trek halfway around the stadium to the media entrance and then ball_number_3458_smudged_logo.jpg
rush back. He barely made it in time, and it’s a good thing because I snagged three home run balls within the first minute or two of batting practice. The first landed in the front row aisle all the way out in left-center field and rolled to an usher who was kind enough to step aside and let me grab it. The second (pictured here on the left) landed several rows deep in the bleachers near the foul line, and since the stands were still mostly empty, I had time to race up the steps from the aisle and cut through the section of metal benches. The third landed 15 rows deep and conveniently bounced right back to me.

elarton_dellucci_mujica.jpg
As soon as I stopped running all over the place for balls, the Associated Press photographer showed up, but before long, he got a cool action shot of me lunging for (and catching) a ball tossed by Indians pitcher Scott Elarton. Over the next 20 minutes or so, I got two more balls thrown to me (one of which I gave to a kid with a glove) by David Dellucci and Edward Mujica, and that was IT for batting practice. It was incredibly frustrating. I came within five feet of at least half a dozen balls, both home runs and ground-rule doubles. I don’t know what was going on. I just seemed to be consistently out of position or a step too slow. Was it just bad luck? Was I losing my edge? I really can’t explain it. Then, on several occasions, when I left my spot briefly to try to get a ball thrown to me somewhere else, the batter ended up hitting a home run RIGHT to where I’d been standing. It was just one of those days, and the worst moment of all occurred late in BP. First check out the following photo (taken by my friend Robert Harmon…the guy from my Bonds 762 article), and then I’ll explain what happened:

zack_&_others_standing_around.jpg

Let me start by identifying everyone:

1) the AP photographer
2) an usher (note the tunnel that he’s standing in)
3) a guy named Dan who reads this blog and brought his copy of my book for me to sign
4) Zachary Ben Hample
5) Pat Graham
6) pure evil

If you ever find yourself in the front row at Coors Field, I want you to stand right next to this guy and make it your personal mission to prevent him from snagging any baseballs. If, on  the other hand, you’re there with kids, keep them far away from him. His name is Doug, and I think he’s a season ticket holder, but most importantly he’s a jerk and a maniac. Forget the fact that he had ignored me earlier when I complimented him for catching a ground-rule double, and listen to this…

There was a home run ball hit right at us that barely sailed over our heads. We jumped for it, or at least *I* jumped for it. I don’t even know if he’s athletic enough to get both feet off the ground at the same time, but anyway, after we missed the ball, there was a brief lull when drawing_of_tunnel.jpgwe were both trying to figure out where it went. Suddenly we realized that it had landed in the tunnel directly behind us, and we started running. I didn’t take a pic of this tunnel, so you’ll have to settle for this cheap drawing. Basically, where the tunnel goes underneath the stands, the left half is blocked by a concrete wall, and the right half has an open door. The ball had rolled through the door, and I was running straight for the opening, about to zoom past this guy Doug when he realized he was about to get beat so he elbowed me from the right side and shoved me into the wall on the left as he kept running…and he ended up getting the ball. I couldn’t retaliate with a shove of my own because my every move was being witnessed and captured by the Associated Press (and anyway, using physical force against other fans is not my style), so I had to settle for giving him a piece of my mind. I pretty much told him that what he did was uncalled for and that that kind of behavior belongs at Yankee Stadium.

His response: “Oh grow up!!”

But enough of that. I have better things to talk about, like the fact that Pat was so nice that it was almost unbelievable. I got the sense that he would’ve been interested in me even if he weren’t writing about it for his job. I’m not saying he still would’ve hung out and taken notes for eight and a half hours, but he was just a GOOD guy. Some people in the media have gone out of their way to make me look bad and poke fun at what I do, but I knew that wasn’t the case with Pat. And then there were the little things he did for me…like, for casey_blake.jpg
example…when he ran up to the press box after BP to drop something off, he returned with a cup of peanut M&M’s.

Before the game started, I snuck down to the Indians’ dugout and heard an usher tell another fan (who wasn’t as skilled in the art of sneaking) that the players don’t give out balls. Thirty seconds later, after the fan had walked back up the steps, Casey Blake tossed me my seventh ball of the day.

Generally speaking, a seven-ball day is great in the Bronx and lousy in Philadelphia. Overall, it’s about average for me–not enough to celebrate, but not bad enough that I can complain. That said, I was sooooooo frustrated to have snagged just seven balls by that point. If things had been a little better during BP, I could’ve easily had a dozen. I explained all of this to Pat during the game, and he never stopped taking notes. At one point, he pulled out a voice recorder and had me give a 90-second monologue about what I do and how I got into it. While I was halfway through, an Indians batter lost the grip on his bat and sent it flying in our direction. (It fell about 30 feet short.) I didn’t miss a beat and kept talking, but I must’ve been distracted because when I mentioned my ball total, I accidentally said “3473” instead of “3463.” Pat told me not to worry about it. The way he saw it…I would have that many balls by the time the piece ran. He told me that the audio clip would soon be on the AP web site along with a slide show from BP. (The photographer had to leave before BP ended, but he’ll be back again today with Pat. It was so much fun just to BE photographed. He was crouching in the aisle during BP, telling me to pose this way and that, getting pics of my glove…and of course all the fans were staring at me and probably wondering, “Who the hell is THAT guy?”)

I never went to my assigned seat during the game. Instead I worked the dugouts and tried to get a third-out ball tossed up. Once again, things just weren’t going my way, and in case you want to hear me complain a bit more, let me just say that Brad Hawpe hit a home run view_from_29th_row.jpgEXACTLY to the spot where my seat had been the night before.

Despite the fact that the attendance was only 28,146, the lower level was nearly full. There weren’t many aisle seats behind the dugout, so I ended up having to sit in Row 34. That’s not exactly the best place to be if you want a third-out ball, but I got lucky as the sixth inning came to a close. Hawpe hit a towering pop up to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, so I had time to bolt down the steps while the ball was in mid-air. I ended up getting it tossed to me, and when I turned around, there was a little kid (with a glove!) standing right behind me. It just so happened that I already had another ball in my pocket because I’d been planning to give it away, so I asked the kid if he’d snagged a ball yet, and when he said “no,” I pulled out the practice ball and handed it over. He thanked me and raced up the steps to show his family. The usher patted me on the back and several fans gave me high-fives, and meanwhile I got to keep the game-used ball so it was a win-win situation. By the way, this was the furthest back I’d ever been sitting before a successful attempt for a third-out ball. I challenge you–I dare you–to sit in the 30th row (in the ballpark of your choice) and try to snag one.

More frustration? Late in the game, I tried to move to a great spot for foul balls behind home plate and was stopped by an usher. Less than an inning later, a batter hit a high foul pop-up that landed on the staircase ***RIGHT*** where I wanted to sit (there were even a couple empty seats there), and no one even bothered to stand up and try to catch it. AARRGHH!!! Pat could’ve used his press pass to get me into any section in the stadium, but he wanted to see how I maneuvered on my own.

I tried going for an umpire ball after the game and ran into some bad luck there as well. Tim Tschida, it turned out, only had two extra balls and gave them both to kids in the first few rows. He actually stopped and told me he only had two…and get this…he apologized and then thanked me for asking.

Yeah, great, you’re welcome. Anytime.

Final score: Rockies 10, Indians 2.

STATS:

scott_elarton_autograph.jpg? 1 autograph at this game (Scott Elarton)

? 8 balls at this game

? 187 balls in 24 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.

? 520 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 123 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 882 lifetime balls outside NYC

? 3,464 total balls

24 Comments

You may have already said this but where is the article going to run?

everywhere but NY is good

That’s unreal that someone would push someone into a concrete wall for a ball. Small shoves in the heat of the moment can sometimes be excused, but damn. Makes me want to visit Coors even more lol. Anyway, he wasn’t the one with two AP guys following him around and I bet you still out-snagged him. Good luck tonight…

wow, frusturating. i know that its easy to say this typing from a computer, but you should have retailiated. even if you got kicked out, just buy another ticket and go in a different gate. oh, and you should try to sit in the last row of the Rockpile for at least an inning, it was kinda cool, and you can buy a ticket there for only 4 bucks.

I saw you go into the tunnel with that guy and I saw you come out and you looked a little flustered..Thx for explaining all that ..7 is a good day here Zack..try it from where I stand…2 is a good day up there..I’ll be there thurs with my kids and Friday down there with you ..seats 6 and 7..Don

Zack –

For some reason, right after I read where you gave the kid a row behind you a ball, I imagined it happening as if I was at the game and witnessed it. Weird? Creepy? You choose man.

Hopefully tonight you can show the AP guy Pat some “nifty(?)” moves. And also, give that so-called season ticket holder Doug some glove-love when your coming down from the air, catching a baseball and get him right in the nose. haha. Good luck.

Leigh-
i was back at the hotel today:
trevor hoffman x1
greg maddux x1
adrian gonzalez x2
Jerry coleman x1 (photo)
tony clark x1 (photo)
justin hampson x9…x25 for the series…hes so incredibly nice
chase headley x2
bud black x1
wally joyner x1
cha seung baek x2
bryan corey x2
randy wolf x2

send me and email to joneli24@yahoo.com and ill let you know where theyre staying

also, i get everything on cards unless otherwise noted…i think you asked that…

Hey, Zack I know where your coming from with wanting knock that guys lights out but want to stay at the game, I had the same problem in Philly, hey good luck tonight and give Doug a little bump when you beat him to a ball.

Joneli24- what do the players do when you show up at the hotel every day asking for autographs

some are cool guys like justin hampson, tony clark, they really dont care…i dont think it annoys them per-say that were there but i think for some the signing thing is just misrable…but if you want greg maddux you cant get get him at a game so you have to go to the hotel

what a jerk..but at least you still had a decent night.

for anyone that may know-
i havent been to citizens bank all year so i am forgetting some things…basically just are normal sized backpacks allowed? and what time do the parking lots open, enough time for me to be first in line after i park?

thats basically it, im going friday and its the 1st time driving myself there..

njmetfan- the lots in Philly are open very early parking is $11, you will have plenty of time to be the first one although there are usually people already waiting when I get there which is pretty early.
-Ashburn Alley opens at 4:35 allowing you to get in for the beginning of BP
– Regular sized bags are allowed in if you have any other questions just ask

Hey Joneli….

Did Trevor only sign if he could make it out to someone, like…”To Jon” etc? How was Headley about signing?

Leigh

Hey Zack,

When do you plan on commin out to Safeco Field? The M’s aren’t gettin any fans because of their terrible record, so this year would be a great year to do it. If you do decide to, leave a comment because I would love to see you in action!

Thanks!
Max V

I just got back for the Angels-Mets game in CA. Man, what a rough BP. First off, my family is friends with some friends of Howie Kendrick and I was trying to get tix from him …. didn’t work out, but I didn’t figure that out until I went to the willcall window and had no luck as the gates were opening. So I was late to the BP party. Now let me explain a little about this trip. I have my first child (9 months) and we are taking him to his first (MLB) baseball games ever. His name is Kendrick (after Howie) and my goal for tonight’s game was to get Howie’s autograph and break my game record of 4 balls.

since we got there late, I thought that there would be no chance to achieve either goal. Well I headed to left field and caught a screaming liner from one of the Angels’ right handers and then the Angels left. My wife and son were at the dugout looking for Howie to get his auto, but had no luck. I did however get Jose Arredondo’s auto down the 3rd base line.

I quickly switched hats (and got booed for it hahaha) and took off to right where the Mets’ pitchers were throwing. I wanted a commemerative (sp … it’s late and I’m lazy)ball sooooo bad and most the Mets were throwing with them, but NONE of them were tossing them to fans. BP ended and I thought that would be it for the game … I wanted to spend the game with my son and even though he probablly wouldn’t remember or understand I wanted to teach him during the game.

That’s when I remembered that the players come back out and warmup before the game! I helped my wife find some seats and raced to the front row to try to get Howie’s auto. I waited patiently for him to finish his stretching and running and in the meantime got Rob Qunilan to throw me a ball. After Howie was finished, I yelled at him and mentioned the mutual friends and he came over. However, he wasn’t looking at me and got mobbed for autographs. I felt helpless but right before he quit signing he got to me. I mentioned the mutual friends again and my little brother, who Howie got to know when he was playing in AAA. He knew them all and as he signed the ball I asked him if he would make it “To Kendrick”. He did in fact, he wrote, “To Kendrick, from your pal, Howie Kendrick”

WHAT A NICE GUY!

I also saw Rex Hudler doing the live pre-game show and got his autograph.

All in all a good day at the ballpark. Now it’s on to Dodgers Stadium for the Dodgers-Indians on Friday.

My stats (since I found Zack’s blog April 10, 2006):

6 balls in 2 games — 3 ball average.

4 autographs.

Phill in Utah

Leigh,
I am going to 2 tiger games fri, sat at petco.

Sammy…

Maybe I’ll see you there. Try not to get into my way and fight me for balls. I’m going for a personal record on Friday so I’m warning you!! Ha ha. Also, don’t get hit by another home run. That’s embarressing. It sucks that Chase Headley hit his first home run in New York. I was hoping to go for it in SD. The only position player left on our team without a Major League HR is Luke Carlin I think. I need to add Headley to my personal autograph collection too. Let me know if you get him. Talk to you later.

Leigh

Because it’s summer, I have nothing to do during the day (evenings are full of Astros games and bad reality TV). I saw your blog on the MLBlogs home page and guess what? I flipped back to 2005 and have read every entry. Before this time, I was only an autograph hound (a successful one) but your blog, I believe, has prepared me to try to catch something at BP. I have my softball glove, and I’m going next week to a few Rangers games, so maybe I’ll catch something!If you’re ever coming to Houston, let me know, because I’d love an opportunity to watch you “do your thing.”Kylie — http://kylie.mlblogs.com

Zach,

What a great an interesting entry. Can’t wait for the next one!

The only thing I disagree with is that comment about “that kind of behavior belongs at Yankee Stadium”. I have had very many frustrating moments with rude people at the Stadium, but that does not mean it is ok. I have also met a lot of nice people at Yankee Stadium during BP. I agree, there are people their that will trample you for a ball, but because it is common at YS, that kind of behavior does not belong there, or anywhere for that matter.

Anyway, do understand your frustration with YS. Good luck tonight and I can’t wait for the story!!

-B

Leigh- just emailed you back

anyway trevor would only personalize 8×10 photos or sports illustrated covers…cards he didnt

headley was really nice…no problems about signing with him…signed up to 3 for everyone…i had 5 so he did 3 the first day and the other 2 the second day

maddux was really nice…i have never seen him really just go off with the signing like that…he didnt personalize anything and i even got a picture with him…

im about to go to the cardinals royals game i have a royals hat and got 2 balls from them last year so thats good but the phillies ended my 6 game streak i had going so i guess i have to start it again

Yeah, Tschida seems like a really good guy. Last week at Shea, he was one of the base umpires while Jim Joyce called the balls and strikes. After the game ended, the umpires gathered behind home plate before exiting the field. Tschida came off first, with Joyce behind him. By this point I was already yelling “Mr. Joyce” to try to get a ball from him. Tschida heard me, looked up, then turned around and instructed Joyce to give me one of the balls in his pouch, telling him “That kid called you ‘Mr. Joyce’, you gotta give him one!” That was pretty cool.

Anyway, I had a rough night at Camden Yards last night. I only managed seven balls. It sucked.

njmetfan — I might be in Philly tomorrow as well. If so, see you there.

TWINS LOVE-
I just mentioned it in my new entry, and I’ll say it again here. It should be hitting the national wire in eight days and (hopefully) appearing in millions (okay, perhaps dozens or hundreds) of newspapers soon after.

NJMETFAN-
I think the lots open at 3pm. Not sure about that. When I went to Philly with Greg, he told me that there’s a Holiday Inn (I think it’s a Holiday) right near the ballpark where you can park for $10. Normal backpacks are allowed. Yes indeed. When you run it at 4:35pm, there’s a chance that BP won’t have started yet. It’s annoying, but that’s often how it goes in Philly.

MAX V-
I have no Safeco plans for the near future, but I definitely want to go back at some point. I was only there for one game in 2002, and the attendance was nearly 45,000, so I want to go back and stay longer and see what the place is like when it’s half-empty.

Hey Zack,

Cannot believe that guy in the tunnel, and yes Yankee Stadium is a playground when it comes to snagging balls I have now given up on trying to snag my first Major League Baseball there, if you have read my blog you will see it has been 16 games at Yankee Stadium with no luck! Yesterday was a bad day for me at Yankee Stadium, after all the wait it came to nothing!!

I may try Shea Stadium, but for now I am sticking to the Minors.

Stuart Jon

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