4/8/09 at Rogers Centre

My day started with a trip to the CN Tower:

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For 30 years, the tower was the tallest “free-standing structure” in the world. Now it’s merely the tallest in the Americas.

Here’s the view of downtown Toronto from the main observation deck:

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The main deck has two levels. The photo above was taken from the upper level. The following photo, which shows Lake Ontario, was taken from the lower level:

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The best part about the lower level (assuming you’re not scared of heights) is that there’s a glass floor in one area. Here I am, standing on it, looking straight down:

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Did you notice the Rogers Centre in the photo above? My right foot is pointing at it. See the red lettering on the side of that white building? That’s it.

Okay, now I have to share a random photo that I grabbed from Google, just to show where I went next:

cn_tower.jpg

That teeny area up towards the top is called the “Sky Pod” and it’s the second highest public observation deck in the world. Here I am up there:

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Here’s the view facing west…

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…and here’s what the Rogers Centre looks like from 1,465 feet above:

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I made it back to my hotel room just in time to see the Blue Jays start taking batting practice, but I couldn’t convince any of the players to toss me a ball. So I shaved. While watching BP from my window. Totally surreal.

At 5:25pm (only five minutes before the stadium was going to open), I headed outside to Gate 11, where my new friend and fellow ballhawk Nick Yohanek (aka “Happy Youngster“) was holding a spot for me at the front of the long line of passionate Jays fans. You can see him holding up his arms under the red sign:

gate_11_crowd_04_08_09.jpg

In the photo below you can see two important things:

1) Nick standing behind the bullpen netting…and…
2) An annoying railing that needlessly divides the left field seats into two main sections:

bobby_seay_number_44.jpg

Several righties started taking cuts, so I moved back to left-center. I didn’t get a chance to catch any batted balls, but I got two more thrown to me. Granderson provided the first–he flung it randomly into the crowd without looking–and Misty May-Treanor‘s husband tossed me the second. That gave me a total of six balls; all five from the Tigers were cheap International League balls. (Just to clarify something for people who might be new to this blog: The only way that I’ll count a minor league ball in my collection is if I snag it at a major league game.)

A short while later it occurred to me that I’d done something rare: I’d gotten Granderson to throw me two balls in one game, and the day before I’d gotten Carlos Guillen to throw me two as well. I don’t know how one would one phrase that in a record book, or if it’s even a record, or if anyone even cares, but I’m assuming that this little oddball feat isn’t accomplished often (not that I specifically tried to make it happen). Has anyone else ever done this? Has anyone ever gotten THREE balls from the same player in one game?

I had some time to kill between BP and the game so I took a photo of the empty seats down the right field foul line…

empty_seats_04_08_09.jpg

…and watched Zach Minor warming up:

zach_minor_warming_up.jpg

Just before the national anthems, several Tigers began playing three-way catch. There was only one other fan with a glove, and it happened to be a little kid who couldn’t have been more than seven years old. He was standing quietly in the front row, watching the players, and wearing a Blue Jays cap. I decided to stay out of his way and give him a chance to get the ball…and I also decided that if he didn’t get it, I was going to give him one of mine. Well, as fate would have it, Ramon Santiago ended up with the ball…

pregame_throwing_04_08_09.jpg

…and looked right at me and lobbed it my way, directly over the kid’s head. I immediately walked down the steps and asked the kid, “Have you gotten a ball yet today?” He said no, so I handed him the Jays home run ball that I’d snagged at the start of BP. (I didn’t give him the ball from Santiago because at that moment, it was the last ball I’d ever snagged. What if, for some reason, I never snagged another ball? It would be a shame not to own the final one, just like Barry Bonds secretly wishes he owned No. 762.) Then I knelt down next to the kid and got eye-to-eye with him and said, “Hey, let me give you a little piece of advice.” He stared back blankly and I kept talking. “You know how you’re wearing a Blue Jays cap? Well, the Jays might be your favorite team, but if you’re trying to get a ball from the other team, you should hide your hat. If the Tigers see that you’re rooting for someone else, they’re not gonna want to give you a ball. Right?” The kid didn’t say a word, but I think he got the point. “Just remember that,” I told him, “and enjoy the game.”

Then I got some food and headed to my actual seat in the second deck:

food_and_view_04_08_09.jpg

(Yes, that’s a lot of onions. They were free at the condiment stand. I ate them with the fries. Good combination of te
mperature and flavor.)

With the exception of a few gloveless fans scattered throughout the front row, the 200 Level was empty. I’d decided to give up foul balls for one night and make an attempt at catching home runs.

Of course nothing came my way, but Nick managed to get HIS glove on a home run ball. First, check out where he was sitting. This was the view to the left from my seat. He’s on the lower level, just behind the red “Rogers” sign, wearing the yellow version of his signature shirt:

happy_youngster_during_game.jpg

In the top of the 5th inning, Miguel Cabrera’s second homer of the game hit the windows directly above Nick. The ball bounced back on the field and rolled to Vernon Wells, who scooped it up and tossed it to him. Very cool.

In the 8th inning, I abandoned my home run quest and moved to the seats behind the Tigers’ dugout. This was my view:

ninth_inning_04_08_09.jpg

Nick turned up just before the game ended and sat down right behind me. We discussed our post-game strategy. Both of us were hoping to get a ball from home plate umpire Tony Randazzo, but since I’d gotten there first, Nick let me go for it.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” he said. “That’s just proper ballhawk etiquette.”

Fernando Rodney got Lyle Overbay to fly out to end the game. (Final score: Tigers 5, Blue Jays 1.) Curtis Granderson made a leaping catch at the wall. I scooted down to the front row. Randazzo approached, I shouted like hell, and got him to toss me my eighth ball of the day. Then, moments later, I saw Granderson jog in and hand the game-ending ball to Rodney. When Rodney walked toward the dugout, I shouted at him in Spanish and got him to toss it to me. Not bad. I’d gone from seven balls (average) to nine balls (good) in less than 60 seconds.

SNAGGING STATS:

• 9 balls at this game (eight pictured here because I gave one away)

the_eight_i_kept_04_08_09.jpg
• 22 balls in 3 games this season = 7.3 balls per game.

• 572 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 145 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 3,842 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 72 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)

• $14.52 pledged per ball

• $130.68 raised at this game

• $319.44 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

Back in my hotel room, this was the scene as I started working on this entry:

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Stay tuned for one more tale from Toronto…

27 Comments

Hi Zack…..sorry my jays ‘hookups’ didn’t work out. Nice work snagging thus far. chris

Hi Zack…

Nice entry once again. Way to double up at the end of the game. I’m really sad about the whole death of that Angels pitcher. I just detest drunk drivers. Everyone out there please don’t drink and drive. Make a call and get a ride. There is a police video of the DUI arrest of that Chamberlain guy on the Yankees last October. It’s on http://www.liveleak.com. You’ll have to do a search once you get there. Not just beer with him, but an open bottle of Crown Royal. Terrible mistake he made. Hope he learned his lesson. It makes you kind of think how serious his arrest really was and what could have happened. Like, what happened to Dante Stallworth in Florida.

Well, on a happier note, the Giants are in town starting tonight and the gates open at 5pm instead of 5:30pm. It might rain though. Wish me luck. Looking forward to the final entry on Toronto!!

Leigh

Oh, I almost forgot. I would be terrified up in that tower. I hate heights like that. It bothered me to even look at your pics!! Scary…

Leigh

Sweet photos! Being from Cleveland I sometimes miss the Great Lakes, but at least in Tx I have the ocean! Awesome job as usual. I like how you gave that little kid some good advice. Maybe someday he’ll realize who he was talking to! P.S. – Good luck with onion digestion! Brian

Damn! This season is going to be very interesting, coming from the infamous Zack Hample. What I’m really excited about is the $320 you have raised already for Pitch In For Baseball. Charity is a good thing, to help out kids in need, especially ones that play baseball. But, $320 in just three games?! That’s bananas! I think I would enjoy hitting up the Sky Pod at the CN Tower, but looking at the floor below me and seeing the outside, that would be a better rush. You ever think about visiting the Grand Canyon SkyWalk? So badass. Check it out – http://www.destinationgrandcanyon.com/skywalk.html

– Donnie
http://donnieanks.mlblogs.com/

That’s great personally I’m not afraid of heights….for the game good job for raising more money for charity….well good luck ok your final day in toronto

in September of 07, on the night i snagged my record 13 baseballs, Jays third base coach Marty Pevey rolled me two warmup balls in the same game.

the first which came in the fifth, was normal. the first baseman tossed it in just before the inning began, i asked for it, and he flipped it to me.

the second one came in the 8th, when the first baseman tossed the ball in, and Pevey randomly rolled it across the dugout roof, and i reached across and got it.

i was at the observation deck too a few weeks ago!!

I was also standing on the glass floor. very cool.

Awesome post, hope you had fun in toronto

Z
Very fine entry. You shoulda sought the kid’s name – so when he becomes the world’s champion ballhawk in, say, 15 to 20 years – you could send him the photo, remind him that you gave him the first tip that catapulted him to the pinnacle of BH fame – and demand 10 percernt of the balls he’s snagged as a result of your gift-giving.

Speaking oF which, that’s a swell thing you’re doing – raising funds fior Pitch In For Baseball. Will you also be giving them some balls at the end of the season to distribute to needy kids?

On more thing – the photo looking down at the Rogers Center actually gave me vertigo. Scarey! Didn’t you feel queazy-woozy at all up there in that cloud-scraping pod?

I am amazed how empty that place was on the third day of the season. Growing up in the Kingdome pre-Griffey, attendence was terrible. However, there were 10-20 times more people at BP trying to snag a ball then in these BP pictures. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen such an empty BP session. Its amazing.

Based on poor attendance, I hereby propose moving the Blue Jays to Las Vegas, NV, putting them in the AL West (so we have five teams), moving the Brewers back to the AL (so the NL central has five teams), and putting them in the AL East (so the AL east has five teams). Do I hear a second?
-Todd

Zack, Dan Wheeler says “Good Luck” from Baltimore. Also, I got two balls from Mick Kelleher, although I was wearing completely different outfits.
http://riveravenue.mlblogs.com
Alex

TODD —
I second that for sure! I’m a Rangers fan (in the AL West) & that makes perfect sense to me. Plus I’m all about keeping the game “America’s” pastime! Brian

Zack,

Great pics! So much fun seeing the players’ on the field for BP

http://baseballintheattic.mlblogs.com/

Unfortunately, it is impossible to second “cookandsonbats” because as explained in Zack’s book (at least i think thats where i read it) the AL and NL cant have the same number of teams as each other because of the scheduling problems that it would create.
right now the NL has 16 teams and the AL has 14 teams.

the problem occurs because of inter-league play.If there were 15 teams in each league, then one team would have to either play an inter-league game or take a day off, every day.

Great entry

I am from Toronto – I love the pictures but i can’t beleive how empty the Rogers Centre is. Best of luck for the season.

I have your book by the way – i love it.

Greg
http://baseballfix.mlblogs.com/

how about this — do away with interleague play. i’m sick of interleague play. it makes competition for the wildcard unfair (or more unfair) because some teams play week teams in the other league while others play strong teams. (think about an NL team who has to play the Red Sox, Yankees and Rays while an NL East team gets to play the Royals…and name some other traditionally weak teams). I say, keep the leagues separate and make the playoffs the first time the two leagues have faced off.

the leagues were even from ’94-’97 and we all survived very well. 14 AL, 14 NL. 5 teams in the Easts and Centrals, 4 teams in the Wests.
-Todd
http://www.cookandsonbats.com

Hey Zack,
I just wanted to tell you a tragic story about those print at home tickets. I went to the tiebreaker game for the Rockies in 2007. I had to buy a print at home ticket because I was ignorant of the fact that I probably could have just have bought tickets at the stadium. So anyways I got tickets and after the game I saved and cherished the ticket until one day my mom came into my room and spilled soda all over the ticket. I was devastated. It was all because of those stupid print at home tickets. Anyways… you probably didn’t want to hear that but I had to tell someone because you mentioning print at home tickets brought it back to me.
Well thats all, and I’m going to the Rockies game tomarrow.
-Noah

Zack, real nice seeing you at this game. I’ve never been up to the SkyPod of the CN Tower, cool view from your pictures though. Man, I really hope to snag a ball this season, even just one. How did you manage to get down into the dugout seats in the eighth inning?

Hey Zack….

TC got “Jake’d” today. Ha ha ha.

Leigh

Yo Zack,
This is pretty awesome, I thought you would get one of Cabrera’s, but that’s ok. Wow, over $300 to charity in 3 games. How many games are you going to go to. Its gonna be really awesome. Can’t wait for the last Canada post.

I didn’t mention, I’m a chicken when it comes to heights.
Nice entry and thanks for the props. It was a joy to see the glove-trick live and in living color. Nice work, Z.
“Happy”

http://thehappyyoungster.mlblogs.com/

Rockiesfan, I don’t love print at home tickets and like the real thing–especially when the tickets are season tix that get you into the stadium ahead of everyone else for BP. However, you can always save print-at-home to your computer, so if they do get soda spilled on them–you simply print out another copy.

CHRIS-
No need to apologize. One of the hookups DID work because I ended up in a room overlooking the field.

LEIGH-
Thanks. Not only have I never driven drunk, but I’ve never even *been* drunk. What happened, though, with this latest accident is so unbelievably sad. What exactly happened with Jake and T.C.?

BRIAN-
Digestion is complete!

DONNIE-
I have indeed considered that Sky Walk at the Grand Canyon. I’d totally do that if I were there, but I haven’t been out that way since I was like 15.

LADOD4EVER-
If I had no balance and I were standing at the edge of a cliff, then I’d be afraid of heights. But otherwise…?

PUCK COLLECTOR-
Cool.

JACOBY1993-
Ahh, we just missed each other…sort of.

BOODLEHEIMER1-
In order for that kid to become the champion ball snagger of the world, I (and several others) would have to STOP snagging baseballs to let him catch up, and that’s not gonna happen. I didn’t feel woozy at all at the top of the CN Tower.

TODD-
Interesting proposal, but Puck Collector (via my book) explained why it wouldn’t work. Of course, maybe the thing to do IS do away with interleague play.

ALEX-
Wait, what? You actually talked to him and mentioned me?

BASEBALL IN THE ATTIC-
Glad you enjoyed them.

GREG-
Yeah, it was crazy empty. I feel bad for the Jays, but as far as *I* was concerned, it was heaven. Thanks for letting me know about the book. Cool!

NOAH-
Man, that’s rough, but like “father puck” said, you can just print out a new ticket.

DANNY-
Nice seeing you too! I know you can snag a ball this year. Just get there early for BP and stay near the batter’s eye. There aren’t too many people in those sections. As for getting down to the seats behind the dugouts, I just asked people for their ticket stubs when they were leaving the game early. Oldest/easiest trick in the book.

STLFAN-
I’m not sure how many games I’ll make it to this year. Probably at least 40. Maybe even 50 or 60. Who knows?

HAPPY-
You’re welcome. Thanks for NOT having a glove trick so I could dominate with mine. :-)

FATHER PUCK-
Yup.

are you familiar with the fourth-out rule? i’m not sure if it was in your book. dodgers scored a ‘gift’ run apparently today in the final game of their series at arizona.

are you familiar with the fourth-out rule? i’m not sure if it was in your book. dodgers scored a ‘gift’ run apparently today in the final game of their series at arizona.

What?! No, I didn’t hear about that. What happened?

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