9/22/08 at Citizens Bank Park

On September 12th, I heard from a guy named Charlie Schroeder who produces a show on NPR called “Weekend America.” He’d heard an earlier in-studio interview I did and thought it might be cool to do one at a game–to have a reporter follow me around with a microphone and capture all the sounds of snagging. We picked September 22nd. This was it…

Before I met the reporter from NPR, I had to do another interview with a reporter from the Wall Street Journal. He needed to get in touch ASAP. I’d emailed him my cell phone number before I left New York City and told him I’d have time to talk starting at around 3:45 to 4pm when I’d be waiting to enter the stadium. He ended up calling at 3pm. He couldn’t wait. I was three-quarters of the way to Philadelphia. I didn’t want to have to split my attention between the road and the interview so I found a place to pull over (NOT on a major highway) and spent the next 35 minutes answering questions about Giambi and Damon and lots of other snagging-related topics. I was then forced to drive like a maniac and still didn’t make it to the Ashburn Alley gate until 4:16pm–less than 20 minutes before the stadium was going to open.

The reporter from NPR–Tim Jimenez was his name–was nearly a decade younger than me, and as it turned out, he didn’t actually work for NPR. He worked for a local radio station and was hired for the day to do this as a freelance assignment. Unfortunately, he had to stay at his regular job until 4pm and didn’t reach the stadium until 4:45. I’d already snagged two balls by the that point and had a funny exchange with–who else?–Shane Victorino. It all started when I ran into the left field seats, had the ENTIRE section to myself, and had to watch helplessly as a home run sailed five feet over my head and landed on a staircase and bounced all the way back onto the field. Victorino started laughing at me from left-center and shouting about how I should’ve caught it.

shane_victorino.jpg
“It was too high over my head!” I yelled.

He responded by waving his glove dismissively and turning his back.

“Shane!” I shouted, prompting him to turn around. “Did you see the thing on ESPN about the guy in New York who caught home runs on back to back nights?”

“Yeah!” he shouted.

“Well that was ME, so show some RESPECT!”

“That was YOU?!”

“Yes!” I yelled, pretending to be annoyed that he didn’t recognize me, and then I did my stupid dance.

Victorino cracked up because he realized it really WAS me and then he did the “We’re not worthy” move from “Wayne’s World.” (I can’t find the actual clip from that movie, so here’s a random example from YouTube.)

As for the two balls I snagged early on, the first was a home run that I caught on a fly (which Victorino saw and applauded) and the second was thrown by Scott Eyre near the cameras in center field.

Tim showed up five minutes later. Here he is:

tim_jimenez.jpg

Of course I didn’t snag another ball for the remaining 45 minutes of the Phillies’ portion of batting practice. Still, Tim followed me everywhere and asked questions (that he’d been given), and I tried to make his life easier by talking non-stop. Every time I did ANYthing–even moving up or down a row–I explained my logic. I knew it was better for Charlie to have too much audio than too little.

The Braves took the field at around 5:30pm, and a ball immediately rolled onto the warning track in left-center field:

ball3776_on_warning_track.jpg

I had to lean forward just to take this photograph; I had to stretch all the way across the flower bed (and try to avoid the bird poop) to actually snag it with my glove trick. Tim, meanwhile, had his microphone in my face and was asking me to describe what I was doing.

“It’s kinda hard to talk and do this at the same time,” I huffed while supporting all the weight of my upper body on my elbows, which were now digging into the metal railing. (I really couldn’t talk, and I hoped that by saying that, I was providing an entertaining sound bite.)

will_ohman_2008.jpgI reeled the ball in. All the fans around me cheered. I hoped that Tim’s microphone captured them. But mainly, I was just glad to have snagged my 499th ball of the season.

Several other balls were sitting on the warning track, so I had an instant shot at No. 500, but as soon as I started lowering my glove, Will Ohman raced over and grabbed all the balls and fired them back toward the bucket in shallow center field. I wasn’t mad. Ohman has always been nice, and it just seemed like he was being playful.

Sure enough, less than five minutes later as the Braves pitchers were finishing their throwing, Ohman spotted me along the left field foul line and tossed me a ball–number five hundred:

500th_ball_of_2008.jpg

It was just a regular ball–no interesting markings as you can see–and it came from a player that isn’t exactly heading for the Hall of Fame, but it’s still one of the most special balls I’ve ever snagged.

I jogged to the right field seats and Tim followed–that is, until I took off running for a home run that was heading one-and-a-half sections to my left. I raced through an entire 20-something-seat row and realized that the ball was going to sail a bit over my head, so I darted up a few steps and then cut across, two rows above where I’d been running seconds earlier. Several other hands reached up as the ball came down…right to me…right into the pocket of my glove while I was still on the run. It was a MUCH better play than either of the two home runs I’d caught at Yankee Stadium the week before, and yet no one (outside of this blog) will ever hear about it or care. That’s how it goes.

I used the glove trick to pluck my sixth ball of the day off the warning track, and before I’d reeled it all the way back up, a not-too-happy security guard was standing behind me. He confiscated the ball (it still counts in my collection so whatever) on the grounds that I was “stealing.” He then cut the string off my glove…

string_after_getting_cut.jpg

…and threatened to eject me if he EVER saw me do it again. (Why is it that Giants management doesn’t consider it “stealing” and welcomes fans to bring ball-retrieving devices into AT&T Park and yet this one mean dude in Philly has a problem with it? I guess I shouldn’t complain. The fact that every ballpark is different is one of the many things that makes baseball as great as it is. It’d just be nice if security in all the ballparks were a little more fan-friendly.)

BP ended earlier than I’d expected so I missed my chance to get a ball from the Braves behind their dugout as they left the field.

Every time I go to Citizens Bank Park, my goal is to snag at least ten balls. As I’ve said many times in the past, there’s just something great about breaking double digits–but it didn’t look promising on this day when I finished BP with six. Still, I had a plan. All I needed to do was snag one ball during pre-game throwing, one third-out ball at each team’s dugout during the game, and one more ball after the game. Could it be done?

Pregame throwing?

pregame_throwing_09_22_08.jpg

Check. Omar Infante hooked me up by intentionally bouncing his toss off the warning track.

Third-out balls?

gamers_09_22_08.jpg

Check, check. Like clockwork, Ryan Howard tossed me the first ball after the top of the second inning. Braves catcher Clint Sammons had popped up to him (notice the big smudge where the bat hit it) and he lobbed it to me on his way in. Then, half an inning later, on the other side of the field, Casey Kotchman threw me the second ball after Phillies pitcher J.A. Happ made the third out by hitting a wimpy grounder to Kelly Johnson. How nice. (Actually, the ball from Kotchman WAS nice. I’d always wanted one from him because his father, Tom, was the manager of the Class A Short-Season Boise Hawks when I worked for the team during the summer of 1995. Little 12-year-old Casey was often hanging around the ballpark, and whenever he took BP [on the field, after games, which I had to help set up and clean up as a part-time member of the grounds crew], everyone would rave about his beautiful swing and how he was going to be a great player someday. So yeah, it was cool to finally get to add him to my list.)

By this point, Tim had gotten all the audio he needed, so we parted ways. As for me…I still needed one more ball to reach double digits, and although I knew it would’ve been easy to get it between innings, I abandoned the dugouts. Quite simply, it was time to move on. I hadn’t felt guilty when I snagged balls there early in the game, but after a while there were lots of kids running down to the front row after every third out, and I wanted to give them a chance.

I spent the middle innings in left-center field, hoping for a home run to fly my way. This was my view:

view_from_left_center_09_22_08.jpg

It was boring. I didn’t like my chances. And I really wanted to WATCH the game (imagine that) so after the seventh-inning stretch, I moved to the seats behind the Braves’ dugout. It was “rally towel” night, or whatever the hell those obnoxious snot-rags are called:

rally_towels_09_22_08.jpg

I didn’t even bother running down to the dugout for third-out balls. I didn’t want to get yelled at. I just watched the game and rooted for the Braves and after they lost (6-2 was the final score), I tried to get a ball from the ump (and failed) but did get Buddy Carlyle to throw me my 10th ball of the day as he walked across the field from the bullpen. Woo!

Then I approached the family of the youngest kid (with a glove) I could find and asked if he’d gotten a ball. When they all said no, I handed him the second cleanest ball I’d snagged that day. The cleanest happened to be my 500th; there was no way I was giving THAT one up.

STATS:

? 10 balls at this game

? 506 balls in 67 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

? 563 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 141 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 94 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

? 38 lifetime games outside NYC with at least 10 balls

? 21 double-digit games this year (extends my personal record)

? 3,783 total balls

(FYI, the “Weekend America” segment won’t air until the World Series.)

No Comments

Yessss! A very fine snagging season. Over 500 balls, the two back-to-back hiomers caught at YS, and great interfacings with players and Watch With Zack clients. Plus a torrent of favorable media. You da snagging man!

Contgrats Zack. 500 baseballs and the season isn’t over yet. Awesome bro, keep riding that train…Don
http://baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com/

Ohman is an awesome guy, he is so good with the fans. I can’t believe I forgot to mention him when I was giving you a little list of players who might hook you up.

I actually got a picture of you getting this interview during BP when I was randomly taking pictures. Let me know youre interested in having it for your blog or anything.

Awesome Zack. I am going for # 200 tonight at the COPA. You go Boy……

Fun Stuff,

Mike in Detroit

Sincere congratulations, Zack! I never doubted you for a second. What now, 3800? Go for it! By the way, quick note from my 9/23 game @ Tex/Oak. An Oakland player hit a homerun into the visiting bullpen (left/ left-centerish) and I forgot about it for awhile until I walked by, looked down & saw it between the 2 bullpen home plates. 18-20 ft. down, I thought it would be an easy one for a glove trick, although it was about 6-8 ft. from the wall. Being a glove trick rookie, I couldn’t get it, but a near by security guard witnessed the whole thing & climbed down there & got it for me! Kind of a wussy way to get a ball, but I really don’t care. Awesome job on 500, thanks for the inspiration! Brian

Good to hear that #500 was from a Brave. That’s interesting that you saw Casey Kotchman so many years ago and now got a ball from him in the big leagues.

You are getting up on the home run list for one season, compared to a-rod’s career

Hey Zack,
Congrats on ten balls, by the way, about that security guard in right field. When I went for a ball on the warning track and reeled it in, He cut up my cup trick and threatened to eject me if he ever saw me use it again back when I seen the Phillies Play the Dodgers in august, I think someone should eventually report him to management because he seems to be the only usher that has a problem with ball retrieving devices.
P.S. Good luck on adding to your record setting season.

if he kicks you out, cant you just buy another ticket and walk back in? duh!

oh, and the guy who got thw molina ball is a legislater from wyoming and he says he wants it to go to the hall. and how much could it possibly be worth that the guy is suing over it?

Congrats Zack! You’re finally in the 500 club! Keep up the good work!

Congrats on reaching 500 zack. Check out my new blog entry!

mlbwhiz
mlbwhiz.mlblogs.com

Congratulations on getting 500, Zack!
I now have a fantastic picture of Shane’s impression of “We’re Not Worthy!” in my head. Thanks a lot.
Kylie — http://kylie.mlblogs.com

Zack
Hey I know you’ve probably seen enough of it, but you mad our local news down here in AZ with your two catches. I have the segment recorded and if you want I can email it to you.
Congrats on the 500 this year and the two HR’s.

500 is just radiculous.
i went to a marlin, philly game last week and got chris coste on a card.
AND A GREG GOHLSON TOSSED BALL. :)

went to shea tonight..little held up in traffic but didnt really miss anything snag wise. mob scene. couldnt get near anything for the first hour. so i did what i always do, i snuck in the bleachers. bobby howry threw me one, i used the cup for 2, and pulled 2 from that netting.

Hi Zack…

Congratulations on ball #500. Truly an accomplishment. I remember Shane Victorino when he was a lowly Rule 5 guy we HAD TO KEEP on the roster. Boy, did he suck then. I liked his walk up song of Hawaii 5-0 though. Good luck the rest of the year.

Leigh

Hey! I found the picture of you and your interview from Monday that I told you I took.
http://i246.photobucket.com/albums/gg97/missjuliek/braves92208010.jpg

Enjoy!

Julie

Congratulations on #500. Quite an accomplishment. See you next year at the ball park.

http://runshouse.mlblogs.com/

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