9/15/09 at Camden Yards

The day got off to a GREAT start…

Camden Yards opened at 5pm. I was the first one in, of course, and when I ran out to the left field seats, I found a ball sitting in the front row in foul territory:

1_easter_egg_09_15_09.jpg

As soon as I reached the foul pole and looked to my right, I discovered another ball…

2_another_easter_egg.jpg

…and when I headed out toward left-center field, I saw this:

3_holy_crap_more_easter_eggs.jpg

Amazing. And then things got better.

During the next ten minutes (or so), I caught four home runs on the fly. I don’t know who hit any of them, but I can tell you that the last one impressed Jeremy Guthrie. He was shagging out in left field, just shy of the warning track, and had a perfect view.

Here’s how it played out (and FYI, all the photos of me were taken by my girlfriend Jona)…

As the home run was approaching, I drifted into the middle of a row to get in line with it, and then I realized that it was going to carry a few feet too far, so I stepped up onto a seat:

4_zack_about_to_catch_ball4268.jpg

At the very last second, I jumped up FROM the seat and made the catch high over my head, reaching back all the way. The following photo shows me at the peak of my jump with the ball already in my glove:

5_zack_catching_ball4268.jpg

Do you see the guy right in front of me with the dark blue shirt? He’s always out in the left field seats at Camden Yards, and Guthrie got all over him.

“Dude, you got posterized!!!” shouted Guthrie, who then reenacted the fan’s failed attempt to catch the ball:

6_jeremy_guthrie_reenacts_posterization.jpg

That other fan happens to be a nice guy and a talented ballhawk. I forget his name (because I just suck with names sometimes) but we’ve snagged together a bunch of times. He robbed me of a few homers earlier in the season, and this time I got the better of him. It happens.

Guthrie and I talked for a few minutes after that. He asked me how things were going with the charity, and I told him that this was probably the last Orioles game I’d be attending this season.

I ended up catching so many home runs during BP that I now can’t remember any of the details. It was truly insane. The following four-part photo shows me catching (or rather, ABOUT to catch) four different homers. In the bottom two photos, I’m wearing a dark blue Rays shirt:

7_zack_catching_homers_09_15_09.jpg

Everything was going my way. I happened to be in the right spot almost every time. Was it luck? Or skill? I suppose it was a combination of the two, but I really can’t explain it beyond that. I’d never experienced a batting practice like this in my life. Even the previous game (at which I finished BP with 17 balls and ended up with 22 by the end of the night) wasn’t this good.

Naturally, over the course of BP, there were some highs and lows and lulls.

There was running:

9_zack_running_09_15_09.jpg

There was pain:

10_ow_ow_ow_ow_ow.jpg

(The running needed work.)

And there was friendship:

8_adam_and_zack_09_15_09.jpg

You know how you’ll run into a person several times over the course of a few months or years, and you never really connect or get to know them, but you can tell that it’s someone you could potentially be great friends with, and then eventually it all clicks into place and you finally have a solid conversation with them? Well, last night was THAT night for me and the guy pictured above in the orange shirt. His name is Adam. He’s a regular at Camden Yards, and he reads this blog.

Back to snagging…

For those keeping score at home (including Alan Schuster, who is kind enough to update my MyGameBalls.com profile for me), here’s a rundown of all the balls I got during the first 45 minutes:

1) easter egg
2) easter egg
3) easter egg
4) easter egg
5) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
6) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
7) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
8) Orioles homer; caught on the fly (“posterized”)
9) Orioles homer; grabbed it after it bounced
10) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
11) thrown by an unknown lefty pitcher on the Rays
12) B.J. Upton homer; caught on the fly
13) Rays homer; caught on the fly
14) Pat Burrell homer; caught on the fly

It was around this time that I realized I had a chance to snag 20 balls for a second consecutive game. Could it be done?!

Matt Garza threw me a ball from about 120 feet away. The ball was falling short, so I leaned waaaaay out and down below the left field wall to try to catch it…

11_zack_leaning_over_wall_09_15_09.jpg

…but it tipped off the end of the my glove and settled on the warning track. Grant Balfour walked over and picked it up. I was afraid he’d recognize me from the previous day (when he gave me a ball during BP), and perhaps he did, but either way, I convinced him to toss it up.

Then I caught another home run on the fly in heavy traffic. One guy’s glove was RIGHT in my face, but I managed to hold on.

tom_foley_2009.jpgThen Tom Foley, the Rays’ third base coach, was walking through the outfield with a ball in one hand a fungo bat in the other.

“Coach!” I yelled, “Hit me a fungo!”

He looked up and threw me the ball instead. I was about five rows back, and the ball was falling short, so I climbed over a row while the ball was in mid-air and then reached way down over the next row to make a lunging catch.

Then a young kid behind me bobbled a home run ball, which I was able to snatch on one bounce. I immediately turned around and handed it to him. It was my 18th ball of the day.

Without warning, a ball smacked down into the seats one section to my right. I couldn’t tell where it had come from. I’d been watching the batter the whole time, and he hadn’t hit anything that reached the seats. Then I realized that Foley was standing on the foul line just behind 3rd base. He was hitting deep fungos toward left field so that the pitchers (who had nothing better to do) could try to rob home runs. The next fungo fell several feet short of the wall, and I lunged way out for it…

12_zack_getting_robbed_by_player.jpg

…but I got robbed by Brian Shouse. In the photo above, you can see the ball streaking into his black glove. You can also see Lance Cormier’s glove flying 30 feet in the air. He had thrown it up to try to hit the ball. (If I were a manager, I wouldn’t let my players goof around like that unless we had already clinched a playoff berth.)

Then I got my revenge. I think it was Balfour who tried to catch the next fungo, but the ball cleared the wall by three feet, and I was all over it:

13_zack_catching_ball4279.jpg

That was my 19th ball of the day!

And then I had my chance to snag No. 20. There was a home run hit half a section to my left, so I drifted over and made a leaping catch at the last second, right next to a man who’d been whining about all the balls I was catching (even though he’d already snagged quite a few balls himself). He also accused me of never giving balls to kids (even though I’d just given one to a kid two minutes earlier). In the following photo, you can see this clown standing behind me in the light blue shirt. As for me, this was my reaction after catching the ball and reaching TWENTY for the second straight day:

14_zack_20th_ball_of_day.jpg

Foley was still hitting fungos. One more of them reached the seats, and I caught it.

(?!?!?!?!?!)

There was one final home run ball hit to me during BP. Here I am tracking it:

15_zack_tracking_ball4282.jpg

Here I am reaching up to make the catch:

16_zack_about_to_catch_ball4282.jpg

See the guy with the long hair and goatee? He must’ve weighed about 250 pounds, and then…

BAM!!!

17_zack_catching_ball4282.jpg

He slammed into me and nearly sent me tumbling headfirst over the railing, but guess what? I held onto the ball.

“AND ONE!!!” I yelled with a smile, indicating that he had fouled me.

Everyone else in the section laughed.

I had snagged 22 balls, including 11 home runs on the fly. Both of those totals were BP records for me.

Six of the 22 balls had interesting markings, smudges, scuffs, and grass stains:

18_six_cool_balls.jpg

In the six-part photo above, the ball on the top left has a small bat imprint on it. I’m pretty sure the imprinted word (which appears here in reverse) is “SELECT.” This is the ball that Balfour tossed to me after Garza’s throw fell short. The ball on the lower right was my 20th of the day.

After batting practice, I raced to the 3rd base dugout and got my 23rd ball of the day tossed by Rays bullpen coach Bobby Ramos. (This ball broke my single-game Camden Yards record of 22, which I had set the day before.) Then, right before the game started, I got No. 24 from Evan Longoria. He was using the ball to play catch with Willy Aybar, and when they finished, he threw it to me as a knuckleball. It was such a great day that even Jona got a ball after BP. I was in the front row behind the Rays’ dugout, and she was half a dozen rows back with my camera. I asked George Hendrick, the Rays’ first base coach, for the ball, but he scanned the seats and spotted her and tossed it her way instead. D’oh! (I need an uglier girlfriend.)

I spent the game in the standing-room-only section in right field. Here’s a photo of me walking toward Jona during an inning break:

19_zack_flag_court_09_15_09.jpg

I stayed out there for all the left-handed batters.

This is where I positioned myself for the righties:

20_zack_righty_foul_ball_spot.jpg

I did lots of running all night, even with my battered right ankle which by this point was stinging and badly bruised. But it was worth it. This was a good foul ball spot. I had empty rows on both sides. But, unfortunately, nothing came close.

Back in right field, there was some action in the bottom of the 7th inning. Luke Scott led off and smoked a 2-0 pitch deep and to my right. The ball was clearly going to land in the seats and NOT in the standing-room-only section, but I took off and ran for it anyway. There were so many empty seats that anything seemed possible.

The following photo is a screen shot that I took from MLB.com. The red arrow is pointing to me:

21a_zack_running_for_luke_scott_homer.jpg

Miraculously, the ball bounced all the way into the narrow walkway at the back of the section. As it began rattling around, there were two other guys closing in on it from the opposite direction, and I was sure, for an instant, that they were going to get there first…but then the ball hit the edge of one of those brick pillars and ricocheted in MY direction. The ball was heading right for my knee, and it nearly got past me. I barely had time to react as I bent down to simply try to stop it from getting away:

21b_zack_snagging_luke_scott_homer.jpg

And then, suddenly, I felt the ball in my right hand. Just like that! It bounced RIGHT into my hand. I kind of trapped it up against the wall and against my leg. I couldn’t believe it, but I *did* in fact have sole possession of the ball.

This was my reaction:

21c_zack_celebrating_like_a_madman.jpg

It was my 9th career game home run ball (toss-ups excluded). I feel like that’s an embarrassingly low number, but in my own defense, I *have* snagged 124 foul balls and one ground-rule double.

It’s tough to catch balls in the standing-room-only section. The view from the back looks like this…

22_view_during_game_09_15_09.jpg

…so you can’t even see the ball until it’s a third of the way to you.

The following photo shows where I ran to grab the Luke Scott home run ball:

23_ball4285_cross_aisle.jpg

See what I mean? There’s not that much space back there.

Here’s the home run ball itself…

24_ball4285_luke_scott_homer.jpg

…and here’s the video highlight on MLB.com. I hope it works. I always have trouble with streaming video on my laptop. If there’s anyone reading this who either taped the game or can somehow pull this clip off the internet and convert it into an .AVI or .MOV format, please let me know. I’d love to upload the clip to this page on my web site, which lists all of my game home runs.

Okay, so this seems like the best day ever, right? Well, unfortunately, I pissed it all away with one inexcusable error. In the bottom of the 8th, Matt Wieters hit a deep home run that was heading toward the center-field side of the standing-room-only section. I bolted about 40 feet to my right and, to put it simply (because it’s too painful to relive the details), I should’ve caught the ball and didn’t. Epic fail. No excuses. I was (and still am) stunned and humiliated, and I just hope that I get the chance to redeem myself someday. The few people who witnessed (or heard about) my meltdown tried to comfort me with words of wisdom. The worst thing that anyone said was, “Think how boring life would be if you were perfect.” (That asinine gem came from a female usher who then hugged me.) The best thing anyone said was, “Hey, it happened to Luis Castillo.” (That came from my friend Leon Feingold.) Ultimately, nothing will cheer me up. I’ll just have to get over it, in my own way, at my own pace, and focus better from this moment on…

SNAGGING STATS:

25_the_24_i_kept.jpg• 25 balls at this game (24 pictured here because I gave one away)

• 465 balls in 52 games this season = 8.94 balls per game.

• 621 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 117 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 6 lifetime games with at least 20 balls

• 9 lifetime game home runs

• 4 different stadiums with at least one game home run (Old Yankee, Shea, PETCO, and Camden)

• 4,285 total balls

• 1 gut-wrenching mistake

CHARITY STATS:

• 126 donors (it’s not too late to make a pledge)

• $25.26 pledged per ball

• $631.50 raised at this game

• $11,745.90 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

21 Comments

Nice job bro! You truly are amazing! And I am intentionally not saying ANYTHING about that thing that makes you so mad that you want to cry/puke/swear/hit something just to get the memory out of your head forever. See, I didn’t mention it!
Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

Zack,

Great Job. I saw the video of the wieters homer, that is unlucky. If you had that, that would have beat the feat you did last year at yankee stadium. It happens to all of us.

HOWIE
http://howie.mlblogs.com/

Zack, this is just simply one word. AWESOME!

-Ross

Hey Zack, I’m leaving this comment at a rainy Turner Field waiting for the Mets/Braves to start. I knew there wouldn’t be BP today with all the rain, but I still arrived early and it paid off. Before right field opened, Roger McDowell hit a fungo into that area on purpose. I hurried to the gate to be the first one in. No one else went for the Easter egg, so it was too easy. Later, Elmer Dessens was long tossing and his partner airmailed a throw to my left. I tossed it back and he promised to give it back, but instead he immediately tossed it back since it was soaked from the puddle. I had focused on them because I knew it was a Citi Field ball. I was ecstatic to have 2 snags without BP, so the commemorative has made my day. Looks like another light crowd; maybe a foul ball will come my way.
I can’t wait to see the final charity total. I know it will be worth all the hard work you’ve put into it.

At least you weren’t the dad that gave a foul ball to his daughter, only to see her throw it back onto the field.

Oh, and you “churn butter” way better than the guy who did end up with the Wieters HR, and dancing picks up chicks way better than snagging baseballs (although you dont seem to have problem doing either)

Zack, I so totally loved the description of you stepping on the chair and then “posturizing” your fellow ball hawk! What a great post .. smiles all around.

Buz – http://buzblog.mlblogs.com/

Even at the price of one ball for charity, the Lord teaches some humility…with a dance no less!

http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/team/player.jsp?player_id=446308

Great job on the night!

That is why I must go to Camden Yards more often. Congrats on the 25 balls, not many people can raise over $1,000 dollars by attending two baseball games. I bet that if you were to live right in between Baltimore and Washington D.C., you’ll end up with 1000 baseballs in a year.
Alex

Even the pros make mistakes. case and point. this is like hitting for the cycle, and striking out once. your insane. Joe

wow – nice pair of games in Baltimore. rethinking the possibility of 500 in ’09?
-Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

Hey Zack,
I’m a person that tends to beat up on myself about the mistakes as well, and never really revel in the positives. I myself made 2 crucial, unexcusable errors at games recently, a day apart (one which included leaving my glove behind), and despite them not being as big as a home run, the only thing I can say, the only things I’ve told myself to try and be alright, is consider the balls you have gotten that you did not deserve. The first homer, like you said, “miraculously…” You probably shouldn’t have gotten that one. I know, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to let go of the mistakes. Probably till you die, That’s competitiveness. It’s a disease. BUT, the only way I can see dealing with it, is by remembering the ones that you get lucky on. I was also 2 rows behind a Ryan Howard homer 3 days ago, but I was stupid, sitting in the middle of the row, blocked by people, cause there were no aisle seats. Point is, mistakes haunt us, but we also have to find ways to redeem ourselves. “Posterizing, is a start.” Next time, do it for a game homer!

Ben

You sure have been mentioning the word “girlfriend” a lot lately Is it official? Haha, two great games in a row.

Zack…this is more like it! Not the #’s you have pulled in the past two games but the game home run ball. I look forward to reading your blog and enjoy the BP stuff etc. but there is noting to compare to the in-game action snags, am I right? Thinking back to the end of last season at Shea and Yankee Stadium it was those home run snags that notched it up a level for me as a reader. Keep up the nice work and my 2 cents…try for more dingers. chris

nice work Zack. 2 games in a row with at least 22 balls. NIce work with the home run. Maybe one day, you’ll catch a milestone home run. I’m going to citi on sunday so maybe ill run into you. -k75rod

PEOPLE-
Thanks for all the comments. I truly appreciate it. I’ve read them all (as I always do) but because I’m so pressed for time right now, I’m only going to answer the ones with questions…

TODD-
Well, yeah, now it looks like it’ll actually happen. Next year (or maybe in 2011), I’m gonna have to try for 600.

ALLSTAR_FIGGI-
Yep, it’s official once again after a several-month break.

CHRIS-
You’re absolutely right. I tried really hard for homers all year and had horrible luck except for this one hit by Luke Scott. I’ll never waste my time trying for homers in a packed stadium with no cross-aisle (in other words, both NYC stadiums), but whenever I’m traveling to a place with good potential, I’ll be going for homers, guaranteed.

K75ROD-
I hope I see you on Sunday. Wave me down or give a yell if you see me.

Zack….

I can only think of one word for the back to back 20+ balls in a game. INSANITY. I’m very impressed. Congratulations on the Scott homer. Way to get on the board. I saw the video on the other almost homer. Not much to say there. You just tanked it. You’ll get it next time. Two homers in one game would be insanity again. I can only think of two people that have done it. TC and Dan in Denver. Good luck in the last couple of weeks.

Leigh

In the CWS and Sea game, a mariner hit a little blooper foul, and the White Sox 1st baseman ran over to try to make the play, and a guy in the stands caught it, and the 1st baseman convinced the guy that he needed the ball back! So they fan hands it over, and the 1st baseman pretends to throw it back to the pitcher, then he hands it back to the guy!

ZACK!
Welcome to the Luke Scott home run snagging fraternity.

Yo Padre Leigh…
I’ve snagged two game home runs in one game 4 times: 5/29/99-both on fly, 9/29/99 (Game 2)-both on live bounce, 5/16/00-both on fly and 4/12/01-one on fly/1 player tossup.
Just sayin’…

“Happy”

Wow Zack, 20 balls in consecutive days. Congrats. And to think I’m happy when I get one per game.

Wow! Fantastic! That has to be your record (or anyone else’s for that matter) for snagging balls with any help from a device or any post game acrobatics! I am going to be in K.C. next week for two night games. One of the games will be a George Brett figurine night so the snagging might be kind of rough. Hopefully I can say hi to the kid the helped you out during your trip to K.C. (Garrett?). Congrats!

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