9/1/08 at Dodger Stadium

Did you know that you can snag baseballs at Dodger Stadium even before the
gates open? Just hang out in deep center field, and with a view like
this you might get lucky:

center_field_wide_open.jpg

Did you know that once the gates open, you’re allowed to stand *ON* the
actual warning track during batting practice? And that you can bring
your glove and run around and yell at the players and try to catch
balls? And that you don’t even need a ticket for the game?

That said, don’t be fooled. Dodger Stadium is still the most confusing and annoying stadium I’ve ever been to. By far.

Even though I had a ticket for the left field pavilion (where several
balls landed before the gates opened), I decided to check out the
warning track for the first few minutes. My friend and fellow ballhawk
T.C. (aka “tracycollinsbecky” if you read the comments on this blog)
had told me that it was the place to be early on.

We both ran in together. He headed to the right-center field portion of
the fenced off area, and I went to left-center. Cool. I was standing on
the field. I had to take some photographs, so I started pulling out my
camera, and just then I heard T.C. shout my name. I looked over at him
and he was pointing back at me.

Huh?

He pointed down, so I looked down.

What was I supposed to be looking at? Ants?

He kept pointing so I kept looking, and then I realized that a ball was
sitting against the white plastic barricade! I tried leaning over–I
couldn’t jump up on it and balance on my stomach and reach down because
it was too flimsy–but my arm wasn’t long enough, so I lifted the
barricade a couple inches and slipped the ball underneath it.

Then I took a photo…

dodger_stadium_warning_track.jpg

…and then I watched in horror as several fans stormed into the
pavilion and picked up at least a dozen balls that were scattered throughout
the rows of ugly yellow benches. One guy, I later learned, had grabbed five.

Then I looked at the one I’d just gotten and felt a little better because it was a Nationals commemorative ball.
Why hadn’t T.C. gone for it? Well, he might’ve if he’d known what type
of ball it was, but basically he’s only interested in catching home run
balls (and occasional ground-rule doubles).

The warning track quickly got crowded–the best thing about it, I
realized, is that it keeps people out of the seats–so I headed into the
pavilion.

The following four-part photo (going clockwise from the top left) shows
what it looks like under the stands and behind the left field wall.
There’s a) the concourse, b) the approach to one of the staircases, c) the view behind the outfield wall from the bottom of the stairs, and d) the view from the top of the stairs.

behind_the_left_field_wall.jpg
It’s totally weird. There’s nothing like it anywhere else in the major leagues.

I’d only been in the seats for two minutes when my friend Brandon showed up with his fancy camera.

Here’s a photo he took (with me in it) of the view from deep left-center field:

zack_during_BP_09_01_08.jpg

That was my initial spot for all right-handed batters, but after seeing several balls clear the outfield wall and fall
short of the seats, I started playing the staircases exclusively. Here I am, halfway down one of them, with Heath Bell’s cap on my head and a very crowded warning track in the background:

zack_staircase.jpg

I stayed as far down the stairs as possible while still being able to
see the batter. That way, I figured, I’d be able to make it all the way
down if another ball barely cleared the wall or all the way up if someone hit
a bomb. This was my view:

view_from_staircase.jpg

At one point when there was some action closer to the foul pole, I
moved a couple sections to my right and got Chase Headley to throw me
my second ball of the day. (It hit the padding on top of the wall and
bounced to me.) Then I received ball No. 3 from Mike Adams, and Brandon
snapped a pic as it headed toward my glove:

zack_about_to_catch_ball3688.jpg

I only snagged one more ball during BP and Brandon once again captured the action. Cla Meredith tossed it TO ME so I didn’t feel bad about using my Big Hample Butt to box out the fan on my left. I could’ve moved down a few steps and lined myself up with the ball, but that would’ve enabled him to move with me and interfere, so I held my ground with my lower body, knowing that I’d still barely be able to reach the ball and that the other guy wouldn’t. Check it out:

zack_catching_ball3689a.jpg

Here’s another shot that was taken a split-second after the ball entered my glove. I had wisely turned my head to avoid getting elbowed…

zack_catching_ball3689b.jpg

…and by the way, the man wearing the “FAN SINCE 53″
jersey was extremely rude and hostile. That’s all I’m going to say
about him. This is just a little heads-up for anyone who’s planning to visit
Dodger Stadium and snag more than one ball in the LF pavilion.

I found T.C. after BP. He’d only snagged one ball…

TC.jpg

…but it was a home run that he’d caught on a fly, so he was happy. I had witnessed the catch, and I have to say it was pretty sweet. I was standing halfway down a staircase in left-center when a righty launched a ball that was clearly going to sail way over my head. I raced up the steps and started cutting through one of the narrow rows of benches and realized I had no chance of reaching the ball. That’s when I saw T.C. casually jogging to his left ON one of the benches, and at the last second, he flipped his glove down and made an effortless one-handed basket catch at his hip. You want cool? THAT’S cool.

Meanwhile, I was stressing about the fact that I’d only snagged four balls–and that the pain in my ribs (from my accident on 8/30/08 at Angel Stadium) and the blisters on my toes were getting worse. I wanted to wander all around Dodger Stadium and take pics and try to snag more balls, but I just wasn’t feeling up to it.

And then there was the fact that I would’ve had to exit the pavilion and buy a new ticket in order to enter the main part of the stadium.

Screw it. That was my attitude. Brandon had purchased a pavilion ticket (so he could hang out with me during BP) and also had four seats in the Loge for himself and three friends. I decided to stay in the pavilion all night and try to catch a Manny Ramirez home run–and to recover.

Before the game started, I forced myself to explore the pavilion. In the four-part pic below, you can see a) Steve Lyons and Kevin Kennedy and some other guy doing the pre-game show on FSN, b) just how narrow the rows between the benches are, c) the Dodgers’ bullpen, and d) the dingy area outside the bathrooms.

exploring_the_pavilion.jpg

Dodger Stadium opened in 1962, which means it’s now the fourth oldest ballpark in the majors behind Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, and Yankee Stadium. It always looks spacious and pristine on TV, but again…don’t be fooled. Many areas in the stadium are actually cramped and downright gloomy. The same is true for Fenway and Wrigley. Everyone thinks those places are awesome, and in many ways (for those who enjoy living in the past) they are, but they’re not exactly comfortable. Yankee Stadium? Same thing. It holds 55,000 people, but the cross-aisle that cuts through the seats in the upper deck is wide enough for one. Shea Stadium, which opened in 1964, resembles Dodger Stadium in that it’s cavernous and yet still somehow manages to induce claustrophobia.

Anyway, Brandon got a good shot of Greg Maddux warming up…

greg_maddux_warming_up.jpg

…and another shot of me (no longer wearing my Padres shirt) after I failed to get Russell Martin to throw me his warm-up ball. You could say I wasn’t too happy about the way things were going:

zack_not_happy.jpg

At least I had a great view during the game:

manny_being_awesome.jpg

Here’s a photo that Brandon took of me from his seat across the stadium:

zack_from_afar_09_01_08.jpg

I actually did have a decent view, but mainly I liked my spot because I truly had a chance to catch a Manny mash. Alas, he only went 1-for-2 with a single, a walk, and a sac fly, but it was still fun to dream. As for Maddux, he limited the Padres to two runs in 5 2/3 innings for his 354th career win, tying him with Roger Clemens for eighth place all time.

Final score: Dodgers 5, Padres 2.

After the game, I ran into two kids who’d brought copies of my books for me to sign and informed me that it was the one-year anniversary of the day when they first stumbled upon this blog. Here we are:

zack_postgame_autographs.jpg

William, holding How To Snag Major League Baseballs, has left a
few comments as “dealwatcher.” Anthony, holding Watching Baseball Smarter, has commented as “AutographHound.” We all hung out for a few minutes, during which my friend Matt (who you might remember from 7/28/08 at Yankee Stadium) caught up with me and offered some key pointers about how to maximize my snagging the next day in the main part of the stadium.

STATS:

? 4 balls at this game

? 3 beach ball hits at this game

? 412 balls in 55 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.

? 551 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 137 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 3,689 total balls

No Comments

Zack- I think that guys nickname is “deep left” heres the link. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FTqfT0IK3c&feature=related

Zack!
Great post, it was so cool reading one of your entertaining blog posts in a stadium that I know and love(well kinda).
Anyways, amazing job on the snagging and good luck in the future.
Evan

Zack, thanks for the photos. I love that I?m on the blog.
dealwatcher

Hey Zack,
It was great meeting you Friday at Shea, my streak although of at least one ball or auto at every game I have been to since June 2006 has ended, i had almost 3 balls in left, i know you would have had them, and after the game the phillie players ran out of the building without even signing one auto

http://thet206kid.mlblogs.com/

I had no idea you could take BP on the warning track there. That’s crazy! Are there any other parks in the majors that let you do that?

The warning track idea is one of the most awesome things I’ve ever seen. It still can’t make up for all the stupid security rules at Dodger Stadium, but it’s a definite start. I can’t believe that I never thought of that idea.

I stumbled upon this sort of cool website about “dream ballparks”. A cool thing to check out for ballpark enthusiasts. I always wish I could create ballparks, because I have so many ideas in my head. Unfortunately, I’m too lazy and unskilled in craft to actually create models like this guy.

http://www.dreamstadiums.com/Gallery.html
http://www.jpldesigngroup.com/tycobb_01.jpg

Aaron
http://districtboy.mlblogs.com/

Good assessment of the older stadiums. They’re good for historical value, but cramped and uncomfortable. Give me a spacious concourse and easy-to-find game info any day. I hate how Dodger makes you stay on the same level.
I have to say they have a cool 4th of July experience. Fans seated in the lower level get to sit ON the outfield grass for fireworks. I wandered around forever, not wanting to leave.
http://i70.photobucket.com/albums/i101/LSThrasher04/DodgerStadiumField.jpg

Yankee- Naw, that’s not deep left. If you watch this video, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I5u3xoCIUCA&feature=related and pause it at :15 seconds you can see the guy wearing the “fan since 53″ shirt while deep left is talking behind the camera man.

My bad, ive never been to dodger and they looked alike from the back.

that’s so cool how you’re allowed on the warning track during b.p. good luck in the main part!

Great blog. I love it. Do you know where all your baseballs came from and who hit them? At Fenway they never let us on the warning track during BP. I have 2 baseballs- one is autographed by Johnny Pesky and the other one by Dustin pedroia. I’m a Red Sox Kid Nation Captain and Dustin gave all the captains an autographed ball.
Check out my blog.
Victoria
http://redsoxkid.mlblogs.com/

Hey Zack. Longtime reader first time commenter. It sounds like Dodger stadium could be great place. You were right about security at PNC park it is TERRIBLE. I found it worse than shea. I did manage to get my first ball there however from Kevin Burkhart. Check out my blog.

Mlbwhiz
mlbwhiz.mlblogs.com

P.S. I might try to do a WWZ sometime

Dodger Stadium sucks

Zack, what’s the trick to getting inside the parking lot before 5pm? My buddy and I were stuck outside the parking lot fence until they opened at 5:05pm… so I didn’t get inside until 5:10.
~Matt

Hey Zack! It sucked that I didn’t make it out to a game while you were here. The old guy in your pictures is just a jacka**. He pushes people around and complains when you get in his “AREA”. The great thing is that if he is lucky he gets 1 ball every 2 or 3 games. There is another guy like him out there that boots more balls then he catches.

Anyway, check out my MLBlog and take a look at the entry I wrote about STAND UP 2 CANCER!

Later

John
Major League Ballhawk
http://mlballhawk.com
http://ballhawk.mlblogs.com

thats pretty unique that you’re actually allowed on the warning track WITHOUT a ticket to the game!…did any players go over there to sign autographs?

Hey Zack,
Thats pretty cool how they let people on the warning track during BP. Do you know if they do this every game at Dodger Stadium?

how can they know if you have a ticket once the batting practice ends if you are on the warning track without a ticket? pretty strange and cool

on another note, im sad tom brady is out for the season with an ACL tear

Thanks for cool pix,How did dodgers get nationals ball?The berm zone is for autographs,,its called aotograph alley,open every game bp or not..To get in the parking lot early,Get there about 245,and say you want to buy tix,follow the little blue road to the top deck and park there .or taxi there,watch early bp at 3 with binoculars.Why does Manny play LF,isnt your weakest OF to be in RF?, why was ichiro in rf so long?Padreleigh will catch a Manny blast soon,new glove yet?

Hi Zack….

What a sad San Diego sports day. Chargers lose on the last play of the game (I was there). Ugghh. Then, I go home to the Padres game on Tivo and Chris Young loses a PERFECT GAME with two outs in the 8th. Double uggh. I’ll take the win though. Can’t wait to snag vs the Dodgers tomorrow. I’m hoping to have a big day….for me.

Tracy….

No new glove. Maybe for next summer. So, Arizona Fall League next month? Why not? I’ll take a Manny HR tomorrow. Thanks for the good wishes.

Leigh

Zack
2 balls on Wednesday, Troy Glaus and Josh Phelps. It was a dy game so I was surprised to see BP. Only a couple more home games, hopefully they will make the playoffs.
Leigh
Are you thinking about coming to the AFL this year? You should there is like only 300 people per game. It is amazing!

Leigh, Fox had bonus coverage of your game. I’d just got home from the Lions/Falcons and was hoping for some divisional help from San Diego. My cousin lives in Granada Hills, CA and is a big Chargers/Padres fan. He’s disappointed, too lol.

DNesbitt14…

I’ve done the Arizona Fall League before. It is great. I just haven’t done it in about 3 years or so. It’s a fun trip to Phoenix and a quick one from SD. Maybe I’ll see you there if I make it. I’ll let you know.

LSThrasher…

Sorry we weren’t any divisional help to you. What a disappointment.

Leigh

YANKEES5221-
Nope, different guy, but I *did* see the man in this video.

EVAN.BIZZZ-
Thanks!

DEALWATCHER-
You’re welcome.

METSFAN2001-
Great meeting you too. Thanks for being so respectful to me and Jeremy while we were trying to snag in that corner spot. I really appreciate that.

TXFILMMKR-
I don’t think any other places allow that.

VICTORIA-
I started labeling my balls after I snagged my 2,000th, so I know the source of most of them since that time. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to tell who actually hit a ball during BP when you’re 400 feet away and the batter is wearing a warm-up jacket over his jersey that covers his name and number.

MLBWHIZ-
Thanks for finally commenting. I just checked out your blog, but unfortunately I’m not able to comment. My stupid computer (and browsers) won’t allow it, apparently. I can’t comment on anyone’s MLBlog right now. It sucks.

MATT-
Just tell security you’re there to buy advanced tickets.

JOSHSCARDS-
Heath Bell was signing briefly while talking at length to some fans. Not sure about anyone else.

47CARDSFAN-
I’m pretty sure the warning track is open like that before every Dodgers game.

RAMONES18-
The warning track area isn’t connected to the seating area, so after BP ends and the warning track is cleared out, everyone has to completely exit the stadium…and then re-enter with their tickets…ot just go home, I guess, if they don’t have tickets. It’s actually a good system.

TRACYCOLLINSBECKY-
C’mon now, everyone knows that left field is the lamest position in the majors. You need a strong arm to play right field. Not sure how the Dodgers got that Nationals ball. I guess some teams’ balls end up in strange places. :-)

DNESBITT14-
Nah, I doubt I’ll make it out to the AFL (unless someone pays my way). I got too much other stuff to deal with during the off-season.

Zack, I saw you on FSN on either Sep 1 or 2. I was watching the Dodger game, the inning was over, maybe the 5th or 6th inning, they cut away from the pitcher and zoomed in on you coming down an isle with your arms up in the air with your glove on (I’m guessing you were on the 3rd base side somewhere). I had the DVR on. I called my 14 year old son downstairs. I showed him the clip, and I said I’m 100% sure that’s Zack Hample. I got on your blog site and saw that you were in San Diego a couple of days earlier. That was pretty cool. I have never recognized someone on the TV during a Dodger game, except for seeing myself at the game, later that night on the news. I hope you enjoyed Los Angeles. And I hope you went to Philippe’s French Dip Restaurant while you were in town. Big Dodger hangout before and after games. Take care.
Roger Dodger.

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