4/23/09 at Wrigley Field

Two days ago I met a legendary ballhawk named Moe Mullins. Yesterday I met another named Rich Buhrke. Moe, as I mentioned in my previous entry, has snagged 5,274 balls including 238 game home runs. Rich has snagged 3,404 balls including 178 game homers.  Both of these guys have caught five grand slams, and as you can imagine, they dominated Wrigley Field for many years. Here we are (Moe on the left, Rich on the right) on Sheffield Avenue about an hour before the ballpark opened:

moe_zack_rich.jpg

Way back in the day, Rich was known as “Mr. Outside” because he caught everything that reached the street, and Moe was known as “Mr. Inside” because he cleaned up in the bleachers. Even though these guys are both around 60 years old, and even though Rich has been slowed by a bad back, they still give the younger ballhawks a serious run for their money.

My new friend Scott (who leaves comments on this blog as “ssweene1″) held a spot for me at the right field gate and pointed out the old fashioned crank that is still used to open it. In the following photo, you can see four employees just inside the gate. The guy on the left is holding/turning the crank with both hands:

1_gate_crank.jpg

The “MasterCard” logo taints the old world charm, but still…pretty nifty.

Although this was a day game following a night game, the field WAS set up for batting practice. Unfortunately, when I ran inside, the only action was an old usher bending over and wiping off the seats:

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(“Action” is probably not the best word in this case.)

Bronson Arroyo finished his bullpen session and then talked to pitching coach Dick Pole. See the ball in the photo below?

3_ball3888_arroyo_pole.jpg

Dick tossed it to me a few minutes later.

I didn’t have a bleacher ticket, so I was trapped in foul territory for BP. Although I didn’t catch any batted balls, I can still say pretty confidently that I discovered the best spot. Here it is:

4_good_spot_for_BP.jpg

The biggest advantage in this spot is that there’s room to run through the cross-aisle. It’s not too far from home plate. Both righties and lefties can hit balls there. And it’s right near where the visiting team’s pitchers play catch. In the photo above, the guy sitting down with the backwards white cap and striped black jacket is Scott. You’ll see what he actually looks like in a bit…

My second ball of the day was tossed up by someone on the Reds that I couldn’t identify.

My third ball was an accidental overthrow that flew into the seats, hit another fan in the nuts, and dropped right down at my feet. I would’ve given it to the guy if several Reds players daniel_ray_herrera.jpghadn’t immediately offered him a signed ball. The guy, it turned out, was fine (though a bit shaken) and in case you’re wondering who was responsible for the overthrow, that would be Nick Masset. And wouldn’t you know it, the player who failed to catch the high throw was none other than the 5-foot-6 Daniel Ray Herrera (who looks like a 14-year-old ballboy but IS in fact on the 25-man roster).

My fourth ball was thrown to me near the dugout by Brandon Phillips. I saw him walking off the field with a ball in his hand so I raced through the aisle and then, since I wasn’t allowed to go down to the seats behind the dugout, I got him to throw it to me while I was still standing in the aisle. As far as thrown balls go, that one felt good.

My fifth ball was tossed by Micah Owings near the right field corner. He was running poles. There were two balls lying on the grass, just beyond the warning track in foul territory. When he finished, he walked over and flung one in my direction.

My sixth and final ball of the day was thrown by Darnell McDonald at the dugout toward the end of BP.

Adam (aka “cubs0110″) and Scott had each snagged one ball during BP. Here we are:

5_adam_zack_scott.jpg

I managed to sneak down to the Reds’ dugout 20 minutes before the game. This was my awesome view for the first pitch…

6_first_pitch_of_the_game.jpg

…but I was kicked out two innings later when the people whose seats I was enjoying had the nerve to show up.

I sat about 15 rows behind first base for the next four innings and then wandered upstairs. Here’s the view of Waveland Avenue from the top left field corner of the upper deck:

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This is what the seats and roof look like up there:

8_back_rows_of_upper_deck.jpg

Here’s my panorama attempt from the right field corner of the upper deck:

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Back on the field level concourse, I took the obligatory photo of the foul ball sign…

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…and then walked down the tunnel that leads to the inner cross aisle:

11_tunnel_to_field_level_seats.jpg

I only averaged five balls per game at Wrigley on this trip (I snagged 13 balls here in two games in ’98) but still had a great time. Look how awesome this ballpark is…in the photo below, you can see people sitting/standing on some giant dark green concrete step-things, just inside the back fence of the center field bleachers:

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Can you imagine a) something so useless and funky even existing in a new ballpark and b) stadium employees actually allowing fans to chill out there? Only at Wrigley Field. If you’re a serious baseball fan (and hate the fact that everything in the world is becoming newer and more regulated), you simply must visit this ballpark.

Final score: Reds 7, Zack 6, Cubs 1

SNAGGING STATS:

• 6 balls at this game

• 73 balls in 10 games this season = 7.3 balls per game.

• 579 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 3,893 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

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

• $17.12 pledged per ball

• $102.72 raised at this game

• $1,249.76 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

12 Comments

Well, as usual, more great photos. Those big steps/seats are really cool! Seems like the kind of park where some of the long-time fans could have more say than the ushers/security! Awesome reports, all 3. Can’t wait for the Cell entry! Nice job with the charity also!
Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

Hi Zack,

So I’ve been reading your blog for about a year now and am really fascinated at how you’ve caught and snagged all of these balls over your entire ballhawking career. I don’t have the luxury of being close to a MLB stadium as I live in Louisiana and Houston is the closest ballpark at about 4 hours away from where I am. But I’ve been to many probably over 25 games or so. I just recently as I got older wanted to catch balls at bp and well it seems as if now I’m starting to get better at it. I only go to a couple of games a summer due to the fact I live further away from stadiums but I come out with at least one ball a game.

What this brings me to is that I’ll be making an East Coast vacation trip this year and I’ll be visiting the following parks (Camden Yards, Citizens Bank, Fenway, Rogers Centre, Yankee Stadium, possibly Citi Field, PNC Park, and maybe Nationals Park depending on our timing.) But anyways I’ve read pretty much most of your entries on all these parks and have a good idea of where to go, etc. to try and get a ball. But really I think the one thing that you’ve been able to get and I’d really love to try to get myself would be the batting lineup cards that you’ve received from the coaces. Now most of my seats are going to be in the outfield so I’ll have to try and get my dad to let me go to the dugout to try and get these cards. I’d like to get at least one while I’m up on the East Coast so I ask you, is it easier to get it from the visiting or the home team? Also I’ll drop some dates for you soon whenever I look at our tickets again to see when I’ll be at these parks (it’ll be mid to late June) and who knows? I might run into you while you’re there.

now seeing the ballpark i think the thing the most that i like about the park is the large steps in the center field bleachers. also i love how they have seats on top of the houses across the street. you will never see that again in baseball. for your panoramic photos do you have windows live photo gallery, if you do they have a feature if you take a few photos over laping then you can select them and it will stich together and create a cool panoramic
ps its free
- alex

Hey Zack,
I’d love to get to Wrigley some day. Seems like a cool, old park. Are you coming to Fenway this season? If so, let me know. I sent you an email with some info.

Greg
Red Sox Ramblings: http://thevendahhh.mlblogs.com

Well Zack kicked butt at the Cell tonight and accomplished one of his goals on this trip. No it wasn’t meeting me, I will leave it up to Zack to tell/show you.

Yo Zack,
I bet you had a great day at the Cell, especially cause they ended up losing 14-0. Haha, can’t wait for post.
Tanner

had a fairly productive evening last night at citi..

5 balls..

first thrown by gary sheffield right when i got into the seats
second thrown by jeremy reed about 8 rows back in left field
third was a ball way out in the apple area i was flinging my glove out to try to bring closer, but security guy was really nice and told me to stop, and went and got me it, training ball
fourth at the nats dugout postgame, a ball was stuck in the fence in the dugout so i asked the only person in the dugout, a ballboy for it, and he flipped it up. citi ball rubbed up.
fifth i moved down the dugout for the pitchers from the bullpen, and im pretty sure it was garrett mock who flipped one up.

also, in bp, perfect chance for a cup trick in the bullpen, i woulda had it in three seconds, and my tape wouldnt pick up the effing training ball. hate those things..

ill be back tomorrow, let me know anyone if youre going..

EVERYONE-
I had a great night at U.S. Cellular Field last night, and I’m about to start writing about it. The entry should be up by 4pm ET. And then I’ll be leaving for another game there.

BRIAN-
Thanks. Nice to know you’re looking forward to it.

NALL_G-
Thanks for reading, and I hope your east coast trip turns out great. With lineup cards, it’s always easier with the visiting team, but if the visiting team loses, all the players and coaches just disappear into the dugout, so you can’t ask any of them. It’s very hard to get them. I’ve been to about 750 games in my life, and I’ve only gotten 10 or 20 or whatever. I haven’t counted, but they’re all on my web site here:
http://www.zackhample.com/baseball_collection/photos/bonus_items/lineup_cards.htm

ALEX-
Windows live? Nope…I’m on a Mac.

GREG-
I got the email but just haven’t had a chance to respond. (I owe a LOT of people emails right now. Sorry everyone. My priority this week is simply keeping up with the blog.) I have no Fenway plans. Most likely, the only way I’ll go is if my friend Jules comes back from Australia and wants to head up there for a game. He loves the Sox more than you can imagine. Or…if I get a Watch With Zack client in Boston, then obviously I’ll go. But it’s too stressful a place just to go for a day without any greater purpose than simply catch half a dozen balls (which is about the maximum for that place).

SALTY99-
Ooh yeah, baby.

TANNER-
Hang tight. It’s coming…

GJK2212-
Nicely done, but please be cautious about the cup/glove trick. We all need to be careful and NOT make a scene when we use it at the NYC ballparks or else security will shut us ALL down.

Daniel Herrera needs a box to stand on or something. A similar thing happened during the 4/23 Reds vs. Astros game. Johnny Cueto sailed one that was about an inch over Herrera’s glove, one that most other players would have caught. It missed my son’s nose by about two inches.

Donny in Houston
http://lonestar.mlblogs.com

Hey, Zac, Big fan, and Fellow Ballhawk. (I tried sending you an e-mail, for tips on starting my own REAL baseball collection. You kind of inspired me to start one.) Anyway, those big box step things in the bleachers are where the Cubs put the trees in the renovation of 1937(The renovation that created the modern bleachers, upper deck, and where they planted the ivy.) Unfortunately, the trees didn’t stand up too well to the harsh Chicago wind, and they came out after only 2 seasons. I have no clue why they haven’t removed them. (And they just put the new Bud Light Bleachers in 2 years ago.)

Anyway, can you give me your e-mail I just had a few questions about starting a real ball collection. (Even though I have been snagging balls for year, I haven’t been doing it seriously or at MLB parks.)

Fellow Ballhwak,
Philip Joens, Age 16 Sioux City, IA

Hey,Zac, my e-mail is pjoens@hotmail.com. I don’t know why the one on your website didn’t work.

I know Moe, his basement is filled with wire baskets full of balls. He gave me a “pearl”- when I asked what that was, he explained that was a ball that never touched the ground- it was pitched, hit out of the park and caught on the fly.

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