November 2009

FINAL STATS — 2009

In keeping with tradition, here are my final ball-snagging stats from the 2009 season…

2009 TOTALS:
? 60 games attended (including nine without batting practice)
? 13 stadiums
? 538 balls
? 8.97 balls per game
? Most balls at one game: 32
? Fewest balls at one game: 2
? 24 games with at least 10 balls
? 11 game balls (not counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd)
? 1 game ball every 5.45 games

BALLS BY MONTH:
? April — 112
? May — 78
? June — 89
? July — 53
? August — 68
? September — 123
? October — 9
? November — 6

BALLS BY SOURCE:
? Thrown — 280
? Hit — 165
? Glove trick — 84
? Found (aka “Easter eggs”) — 9

BALLS BY PORTION OF THE DAY:
? Batting practice — 403
? Pregame (not during BP) — 66
? During games (including thrown balls) — 28
? After games — 41

BALLS CAUGHT ON A FLY:
? During batting practice — 72
? During games — 2
? 13.8 percent of all my balls were caught on the fly

BALLS BY STADIUM:
? Camden — 126
? Citi — 116
? Kauffman — 59
? Nationals — 39
? Yankee — 38
? Rogers — 31
? Citizens Bank — 28
? Miller — 24
? Coors — 20
? Rangers — 16
? U.S. Cellular — 15
? Wrigley — 15
? Dodger — 11

CAMDEN YARDS:
? 10 games attended
? 126 balls
? 12.6 balls per game

CITI FIELD:
? 13 games attended
? 116 balls
? 8.9 balls per game

KAUFFMAN STADIUM:
? 3 games attended
? 59 balls
? 19.7 balls per game

NATIONALS PARK:
? 3 games attended
? 39 balls
? 13 balls per game

YANKEE STADIUM:
? 7 games attended
? 38 balls
? 5.4 balls per game

ROGERS CENTRE:
? 4 games attended
? 31 balls
? 7.8 balls per game

CITIZENS BANK PARK:
? 4 game attended
? 28 balls
? 7 balls per game

MILLER PARK:
? 2 games attended
? 24 balls
? 12 balls per game

COORS FIELD:
? 4 games attended
? 20 balls
? 5 balls per game

RANGERS BALLPARK IN ARLINGTON:
? 3 games attended
? 16 balls
? 5.3 balls per game

U.S. CELLULAR FIELD:
? 2 games attended
? 15 balls
? 7.5 balls per game

WRIGLEY FIELD:
? 3 game attended
? 15 balls
? 5 balls per game

DODGER STADIUM:
? 2 games attended
? 11 balls
? 5.5 balls per game

NYC STADIUMS:
? 20 games attended
? 154 balls
? 7.7 balls per game

STADIUMS OUTSIDE OF NYC:
? 40 games attended
? 384 balls
? 9.6 balls per game

WATCH WITH ZACK GAMES:
? 7 games
? 42 balls snagged by me
? 33 balls snagged by clients
? 75 balls combined
? 10.7 balls per game combined

RECORDS:
? Most balls in two consecutive seasons: 1,081
? Most balls in one season outside of New York City: 384
? Most balls at one game: 32
? Most balls at two consecutive games: 47
? Most balls at a three-game series: 59
? Most balls at one World Series game: 6
? Most games in one season with 10 or more balls: 24

MILESTONES:
? 45th major league stadium with at least one ball — 4/15/09 at Citi Field
? 3,900th ball — retrieved with the glove trick on 4/24/09 at U.S. Cellular Field
? 100th ball of the season — foul ball hit by Brian Bixler on 4/27/09 at Miller Park
? 100th lifetime game with 10 or more balls — 4/28/09 at Miller Park
? 4,000th ball — thrown by Livan Hernandez on 5/18/09 at Dodger Stadium
? 200th ball of the season — BP homer hit by an Oriole on 6/10/09 at Camden Yards
? 200th lifetime ball at Camden Yards — foul ball hit by Ty Wigginton on 6/11/09
? 10th game of the season with 10 or more balls: 6/17/09 at Kauffman Stadium
? 600th consecutive game with at least one ball — 6/18/09 at Kauffman Stadium
? 4,100th ball — thrown by Jason Vargas on 7/1/09 at Yankee Stadium
? 300th ball of the season — thrown by Kevin Long on 7/17/09 at Yankee Stadium
? 200th lifetime ball at Citizens Bank Park — tossed by Heath Bell on 7/23/09
? 130th lifetime game ball — foul ball hit by Mark Ellis on 8/11/09 at Camden Yards
? 4,200th ball — thrown by Giants PR guy Jim Moorehead on 8/17/09 at Citi Field
? 400th ball of the season — thrown by Rafael Furcal on 8/27/09 at Coors Field
? 2,500th lifetime “Selig ball” — hit during BP on 9/14/09 at Camden Yards
? 20th game of the season with 10 or more balls: 9/14/09 at Camden Yards
? 10th game ball of the season — HR by Luke Scott on 9/15/09 at Camden Yards
? 10th consecutive Watch With Zack game with at least two balls — 9/20/09 at Citi Field
? 100th lifetime ball at Citi Field — thrown by Marquis Grisson on 9/20/09
? 4,300th ball — hit by Yunel Escobar on 9/23/09 at Citi Field
? 350th consecutive Mets game with at least one ball — 9/23/09 at Citi Field
? 10th lifetime game HR — grand slam by Robinson Cano on 9/28/09 at Yankee Stadium
? 500th ball of the season — tossed by a groundskeeper in BP on 9/29/09 at Nationals Park
? 4,000th ball during by consecutive games streak — tossed by Mets coach
Razor Shines on 9/29/09 at Nationals Park

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OTHER ITEMS COLLECTED:
? White Sox/Rangers lineup card on 5/3/09 at Rangers Ballpark
? Marlins/Mets lineup card on 9/8/09 at Citi Field
? Angel Pagan’s cap on 10/4/09 at Citi Field

ULTIMATE HIGHLIGHT:
? Snagging my first lifetime grand slam ball on 9/28/09 at Yankee Stadium. CLICK HERE for the video.

16_zack_with_grand_slam_ball.jpg

LIFETIME TOTALS:
? 4,358 balls
? 135 game balls
? 1,471 balls outside of NYC
? 34 game balls outside of NYC
? 46 major league stadiums with at least one ball
? 1,107 players and coaches who’ve thrown balls to me (including 101 new ones this year)
? 810 games attended (approximation)

CURRENT STREAKS:
? 629 total consecutive games with at least one ball
? 487 total consecutive games in NYC with at least one ball
? 351 consecutive Mets home games games with at least one ball
? 182 consecutive games outside of NYC with at least one ball
? 136 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
? 68 consecutive Yankees home games with at least two balls
? 21 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls
? 12 consecutive seasons with at least 100 balls
? 12 consecutive post-season games with at least one ball
? 11 consecutive seasons with at least one game ball
? 6 consecutive seasons with at least 200 balls
? 5 consecutive World Series games with at least one ball
? 2 consecutive Home Run Derbies with at least three balls
? 2 consecutive seasons with at least two game home run balls
? 2 consecutive seasons with at least 500 balls

TYPES OF BALLS:
? 2,588 major league
? 1,060 National League
? 523 American League
? 53 blue training balls
? 40 no-logo balls
? 27 from the 2005 All-Star Game
? 13 from the 2000 World Series
? 11 International League balls (snagged this season at Rogers Centre)
? 9 from the 2008 All-Star Game
? 8 green training balls
? 5 from the 2000 All-Star Game
? 4 from “Serie de los Expos de Montreal”
? 4 from the Pacific Coast League (snagged on 4/8/08 at Fenway Park)
? 3 from the 2001 World Series
? 3 from the 2002 All-Star Game
? 2 from the 2006 All-Star Game
? 1 from the Arizona Fall League (snagged on 5/14/07 at Shea Stadium)
? 1 from the 2009 World Baseball Classic (snagged on 7/23/09 at Citizens Bank Park)
? 1 from the 2009 All-Star Game
? 1 from the 2009 World Series

BALLS BY YEAR (GAME BALLS IN PARENTHESES):
? 1990 —- 4
? 1991 —- 14
? 1992 —- 128 (9)
? 1993 —- 218 (14)
? 1994 —- 201 (6)
? 1995 —- 273 (8)
? 1996 —- 177 (5)
? 1997 —- 59
? 1998 —- 192
? 1999 —- 251 (7)
? 2001 —- 134 (5)
? 2002 —- 149 (5)
? 2003 —- 168 (4)
? 2004 —- 300 (10)
? 2005 —- 321 (10)
? 2006 —- 209 (9)
? 2007 —- 316 (13)
? 2008 —- 543 (13)
? 2009 —- 538 (11)

? Average season: 218 balls including 6.8 gamers

AVERAGE ATTENDANCE FOR GAMES I ATTENDED:
? 1990 —- n/a
? 1991 —- n/a
? 1992 —- n/a
? 1993 —- 25,061
? 1994 —- 25,044
? 1995 —- 21,111
? 1996 —- 19,675
? 1997 —- 21,409
? 1998 —- 26,949
? 1999 —- 30,116
? 2000 —- 29,524
? 2001 —- 26,678
? 2002 —- 34,421
? 2003 —- 28,407
? 2004 —- 28,094
? 2005 —- 34,075
? 2006 —- 36,885
? 2007 —- 42,154
? 2008 —- 40,934
? 2009 —- 31,633

? Average attendance of every game I’ve ever attended: 29,539

Phew!

Big thanks to Joe Faraguna for helping me compile these stats.

Thanksgiving(s) 2009

I’m recovering from having eaten two Thanksgiving dinners in two days. Which was better? Let’s take a vote. Here they are, side by side:

thanksgiving_dinners_2009.jpg

Both plates have turkey with gravy in the middle and cranberry sauce on top. Going clockwise from the sauce, the plate on the left contains: sweet potato squares (made with cream and cinnamon), stuffing with sausage, more stuffing without sausage, brussel sprouts with hazelnuts and blue cheese, and roasted vegetables. YUM! The plate on the right contains: stuffing, sweet potatoes with a maple-pecan topping, organic yukon gold mashed potatoes, a slice of “lentil loaf,” and one lone brussel sprout. ALSO YUM!

A note on brussel sprouts: I’m not a fan of brussel sprouts. The reason why I took three of them on Day 1 is because I was sitting next to the woman who made them and didn’t want to offend her. The reason why I even bothered to take one of them on Day 2 is because I wanted to have them represented in the photo.

As for why I attended two Thanksgiving feasts, let’s just say it was an extra festive holiday with lots of friends and family. (Unfortunately, at one of the events, I actually had a woman ASK me to stop talking about baseball. Can you believe that?! Time for some new friends. Well, it was the cousin of a friend, but still…)

Holiday gift guide

I just found out that the Watch With Zack experience is featured in the Wall Street Journal’s holiday gift guide.

Here’s a screen shot with a red arrow pointing to the image that links to me:

wsj_holiday_gift_guide_2009.jpg

If you check out the gift guide and then click the little image that the arrow is pointing to, you’ll see a blurb about me (that I didn’t write) along with an exceedingly dopey photograph (that I didn’t choose).

Very cool…I think.

Charity update

Heath Bell just became the latest person to send in a donation (on my behalf) to Pitch In For Baseball.

That brings the total amount of money raised so far to $7,759.74.

If you want to see the list of people who have donated (along with the amounts of their donations), check out my fundraising page.

I’m still counting on dozens of other folks to send in their donations, so hopefully we’ll pass the $10,000 mark soon.

(BTW…in case you missed it…click the Heath Bell link at the top and note the sponsor.)

Book update No. 5 — ballhawk glossary

I’m compiling a ballhawk glossary of jargon and slang. Can you help me
come up with ideas? Feel free to invent a word. If everyone thinks it’s
good enough (and relevant enough), it might end up in my new book. Here are some examples (the first of which I invented):

balligraphy28.jpgBalligraphy — the use of baseballs to write a number or word

Berm — a sloped, grassy area inside a stadium

Caddy
— a person who performs snagging-related tasks (such as carrying a
backpack or labeling baseballs) so the ballhawk doesn’t have to

Cross-aisle — an aisle that runs parallel to the rows of seats and provides lateral movement

Easter egg — a ball that’s found in the seats

Jaked
— to be knocked down or crashed into by another fan while attempting
to catch a ball; named after an aggressive Bay Area ballhawk named Jake Frazier

mccovey_cove_glossary.jpgMcCovey Cove — the body of water beyond the right field edge of San Francisco’s AT&T Park

Pearl — a brand new baseball

Rubbed up — describes a ball that’s been rubbed with mud and was therefore probably used during a game

Splash Hit — a home run ball that lands in McCovey Cove

Spotter
— a fan on the inside of a stadium who helps a fan on the outside snag
baseballs by indicating when to get ready and which direction the balls
are heading

Waveland Avenue — the street beyond the left field edge of Wrigley Field

This glossary won’t end up being anywhere near as long as the 41-page glossary I compiled for Watching Baseball Smarter. That book covered ALL of baseball; this new book (as you can see) is going to have a narrower ball-related focus.

Book update No. 4 — famous fans

In case you haven’t heard, I’m working on a new book about baseballs.

It’s scheduled to be published in March 2011.
The first draft is due in March 2010.
(I still don’t know what to call it.)
It’s supposed to be about 60,000 words.
My current word count is a little over 37,000.
(That’s 132 pages double-spaced.)
I’ve made progress since my last update, but I still have a long way to go.

Right now I’m trying to come up with a list of fans who’ve been featured in the news for making one great/memorable catch, or perhaps several catches (of foul balls or homers) in one game. I’m not quite sure how this will fit into the book. It’ll all depend on how many examples I can come up with, so I’m hoping you can help me think of some. Here’s are a few examples…

doug_rohrkaste.jpg1) C.J. Ramsey, the 12-year-old kid who caught two foul balls hit by Josh Hamilton during one at bat this year in Arlington.

2) Doug Rohrkaste, the Pirates fan who caught three foul balls in a 15-minute span in 2005.

3) Nick Yohanek, my friend and fellow ballhawk from Milwaukee, who made a diving catch on a home run ball during Spring Training and saved a sexy sunbather in the process.

4) Steve Monforto, the father from Philadelphia whose three-year-old daughter took his foul ball and chucked it over the railing.

5) Larry Quesenberry, the fan in Cleveland who caught two home runs in one inning.

6) Danny Vinik, the teenager at Fenway Park who became a hometown hero after robbing Angels catcher Jeff Mathis of a pop-foul during the playoffs in 2007.

Get the idea? If you can come up with more examples, please let me know. It would be a big help. (I just found this “article” about another guy who supposedly caught three foul balls in one game, although there’s hardly any info, so I’m wondering if the story is even legit.)

***UPDATE***
Yes, I’m updating my update. Thank you all for the suggestions, and please keep them coming. I’m going to include stuff in the book about milestone home run balls, but that’s not what I’m looking for here. Right now, I’m specifically looking for fans who received media attention when it wasn’t planned or expected. In other words, with Barry Bonds’ 756th home run, everyone knew beforehand that the fan who snagged it would become an instant celebrity (and potentially an instant millionaire, too). To some extent, the same was true for Bonds’ 660th and 661st home runs, but since they were retrieved by the same kayaker in McCovey Cove, it became a much bigger story, so I think that’ll qualify. See what I mean? I’m trying to come up with more examples of fans who created their own story by doing something unusual or spectacular. FYI, I didn’t include guys like Steve Bartman and Jeffrey Maier on this list because a) neither of them caught the ball and b) it was fan interference. Danny Vinik made the list because he didn’t “interfere.” Mathis had tried to reach into the stands to make the catch; Vinik simply reached above Mathis’s glove and caught the ball.

Best. Bat. Ever.

An unexpected gift was recently sent to me by way of my family’s book store here in New York City. This is what it looked like in the packaging…

cook_and_son_bats1.jpg

…and this is what I saw when I unwrapped it:

cook_and_son_bats2.jpg

Here’s a closer look:

cook_and_son_bats3.jpg

Um, wow?

(That ball, by the way, which I placed in the photo in order to give you a size perspective, is Robinson Cano’s grand slam from 9/28/09 at Yankee Stadium.)

Here’s an even closer look:

cook_and_son_bats4.jpg

As you can see, the bat was “branded” with my name — along with the word “ballhawk” — in Scrabble tiles. For those who don’t know, I used to play competitive Scrabble (check out my old tournament results) and still visit the NYC Scrabble club on occasion. So yeah…very cool.

Here’s a photo of the bat’s trademark…

cook_and_son_bats5.jpg

…and here’s one more shot that I took of the bat in its entirety:

cook_and_son_bats6.jpg

You know who made this bat?

A friend, father, Mariners fan, and fellow MLBlogger named Todd Cook.

(I ran into Todd and his son Tim several times this past season. You can find a photo of us in this entry from the day that Randy Johnson SHOULD HAVE won his 300th game in Washington, D.C.)

Todd sent me some photos of the bat being made.

Here’s the wood…held in place on the machine…in its original cylindrical form:

cook_and_son_bats7.jpg

Here’s the bat starting to take shape:

cook_and_son_bats8.jpg

Here’s Todd working on it:

cook_and_son_bats9.jpg

Here’s his son Tim holding the near-finished product:

cook_and_son_bats10.jpg

Here’s how Todd initially thought of arranging the lettering:

cook_and_son_bats11.jpg

Here’s how his final design took shape:

cook_and_son_bats12.jpg

As for my signature, Todd grabbed it from a photo of a ball that I’d signed for my Watch With Zack clients on 7/26/09 at Yankee Stadium. Check it out:

cook_and_son_bats13.jpg

My handwriting is much neater on paper. You should see how nicely I write “Zachary B. Hample” when I sign my checks. Baseballs, however, are another story. I think I’ve mentioned it a few times in the past here on the blog: if you’ve never tried to write anything on a ball, you’d be amazed at how tough it is. Not only is it round, but there’s nothing to lean on. But I digress. The fact is, the bat looks in-CRED-ible. Here’s a little of what Todd later said about it in an email:

Let me give you a little background. As you might notice, I make wood baseball bats. I’m also sort of an “idea” guy. I get an idea and I dwell on it until I make it happen. When I noticed all of your Scrabble comments/occurrences on your blog, I just got this vision of a Scrabble-themed bat. I kept thinking about it for a month or two. I had no clue if you’d want such a bat or think it was just weird, or what. But I decided I had to make it just to see how it would turn out. Once I made it, I liked it. Still, I felt a little strange sending it up your way because I didn’t know what you would think about it...I’m glad I got the [Scrabble tile] values right. Truthfully, I don’t know if I’ve ever played Scrabble. I went online and downloaded pictures of Scrabble tiles. Then I realized there were different values for different languages. But I felt pretty sure that I had the right values.

And that’s pretty much it — the story of one of the coolest gifts I’ve ever received. Again, here’s the link to Todd’s blog. (He recently posted some entries about older games.) If you have a few minutes, check it out…and if you’re lucky, you might run into him and his son at a game next season.

Ballhawk of the Year award(s)

You know the web site called MyGameBalls.com, right? If not, think of it as Facebook for ballhawks. Anyway, the web site recently held a vote for two awards:

1) Ballhawk of the Year
2) Junior Ballhawk of the Year

My fellow New Yorker, Alex K., took the “junior” award, so congrats to him. If you have a few minutes to spare, check out his profile and read the article about his achievement. Props to Aaron King and Joe Faraguna for finishing in second and third place, respectively.

As for the “adult” Ballhawk Of The Year…it turns out that it was me. Here’s a screenshot of the beginning of the article:

ballhawk_of_the_year_2009.jpg

Thanks to everyone who voted, and thanks to Alan Schuster who runs the site. It’s an awesome place to share photos and stats and blog URLs and email addresses. BTW, here’s the article about my award, and here’s my profile (which Alan kindly helped me set up earlier in the year). Congrats to Erik Jabs who finished in second place with a monster season performance of over 400 balls, and to Greg Barasch who put up some mighty fine stats of his own and finished in third place.

2009 World Series — Game 5

On a personal level, the best thing about Game 5 of the 2009 World Series was getting a free ticket. The worst thing was that I had to watch the Phillies and Yankees. To put it lightly, I don’t care for either team. I thought about wearing all Mets gear (as a way of staging my own mini-protest), but ultimately I decided to dress like this:

2_zack_not_sure_who_to_root_for.jpg

It was my way of messing with fans of both teams without getting laughed at. As I made my way around the stadium, I noticed people staring and pointing. One guy asked if he could get a photo with me. His friend asked if I was bipolar.

It was only 2:30pm — more than five hours before the first pitch — so I had time to get food (don’t order pasta or the turkey burger at McFadden’s) and take a bunch of photos…

Here’s a look at the street that runs from the 3rd base gate to the Ashburn Alley gate in left field:

1_street_blocked.jpg

One word: HOOPLA.

The whole place had a carnival-like atmosphere…

3_world_series_hoopla.jpg

…and yet as I walked around, I noticed that I wasn’t really feeling it. It didn’t feel like the World Series. It just felt like any other game, except colder. I was hoping to snag at least eight balls in order to maintain an average of nine balls per game for the entire season, and of course I wanted to get my hands on a commemorative game-used ball with the 2009 World Series logo, but I felt no sense of urgency. I don’t know why — maybe because it’d been so long since my last game that I’d fallen out of SnagMode — but I felt rather Zen about the whole thing. Ultimately, I just wanted to snag one ball and see a good game.

The TV crews were out in full force…

4_tv_trucks_11_02_09.jpg

…and there were other media as well. A classic rock radio station was broadcasting from a tent, and as I walked by, the female DJ waved me over.

“I gotta talk to you for a minute,” she said, reaching for a microphone.

Sure enough, she asked me about the clothes I was wearing.

I explained that I didn’t like either team.

“You hate everybody!” she joked, and then she asked me why I was even AT the game.

“Because I got a free ticket,” I said.

“How’d you manage that?” she asked.

I told her about my books and my baseball collection and mentioned that there’s a ticket company called First Hand Tickets that recently “sponsored” me…and that I got the ticket from them. She was pretty intrigued by the whole story and kept asking me questions. I couldn’t believe how long the interview was lasting, but once it was over, she told me that it was being taped and that her editor was going to trim it down and air part of it later. Oh well. Still cool.

Before I headed off, she got one of her assistants to take the following photo of us:

5_zack_radio_tent.jpg

As for First Hand Tickets…basically, what it all comes down to is that StubHub isn’t the only option. StubHub is so big that it’s tough (in my experience) to get personal attention, but with
first_hand_tickets_logo.jpg

First Hand Tickets, you can actually call up and speak to real human beings who can help you get what you need. They even help put together flight and hotel packages, so check out their site and give them a call. The head of the company — a really nice guy named Warren — said he’ll offer discounts to people who ask for him and mention my name. So yeah. Keep these guys in mind.

Anyway, by the time the gates were getting ready to open, the sun was setting…

6_line_outside_gate_11_02_09.jpg

…and by the time I ran inside and snagged the first November ball of my life, it was already dark:

7_first_november_ball.jpg

It was thrown by Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick, and as you can see, it was a regular MLB ball. It’d be really cool if teams used World Series balls during BP before World Series games. I don’t see what the big deal is. I suppose MLB figures they’ll end up selling more World Series balls (at thirty bucks a pop) if they’re harder to get a hold of, but if that’s their logic, then I must respectfully disagree. If there were even a few World Series balls floating around during BP, fans would go nuts to try to catch every single ball. More people would show up early (which would lead to extra concession sales for the home team), and for every fan who managed to catch a World Series ball, there’d be 20 other fans standing right nearby, asking to have a look at it. Those people would be more inclined to buy the balls if they actually saw them being used — and if they felt like they were THIS close to actually catching one. Plus…Home Run Derby balls are used during BP prior to the Derby itself, so obviously it can be done.

At one point, during the first few minutes of BP, Phillies fans were ganging up on the few Yankee fans. One guy who was decked out in Yankee gear got (intentionally) slammed from behind while reaching up to catch a home run. This caused him to drop the ball, and when he tried to scramble for it in between two rows of seats, the Phillies fan (who was absolutely huge) dove on top of him with crushing force. It was perhaps the most blatant case of aggression and violence that I’d *ever* seen at a game. But you know what? Any non-Yankee fan in the Bronx is likely to be treated just as badly, if not worse. I’ve seen Yankee fans rip opposing teams’ caps off fans’ heads and light them on fire. In conclusion: “Yankee and Philly fans, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Now…did you notice how empty the stands were in the photo above? It didn’t stay that way for long. By the time the Yankees took the field, I still only had one ball, and the seats were packed:

8_left_field_seats_crowded_11_02_09.jpg

I just wasn’t on my game. In addition to the TWO tossed balls that had tipped off my glove (longer arms would’ve helped), I wasn’t judging home runs well, and I think it was partly due to the fact that the balls weren’t carrying. Everything was falling short — no surprise there — and I was slow to make the adjustment. Once I turned my attention to the glove trick, however, things started picking up. There was a ball that rolled onto the warning track near the left field
alfredo_aceves_2009.jpgfoul pole, and as I was trying to reel it in, Alfredo Aceves walked over and stuffed it in my glove. Then, in straight-away left field, I had a chance to use the trick to reel in another — and get this: even though I was wearing my Yankee gear at that point, there was a female Yankee fan in the front row who was incredibly rude to me. Basically, she was taking up two spots against the railing, and she refused to let me in because she wanted the ball for herself. (She was about 25 years old, looked like she was 45, needed a meal more than she needed a ball, and wasn’t wearing a glove.) She made such a big fuss about not letting me into the front row that the two Phillies fans to her right moved over to make some space for me. (Thank you, Philadelphia. You’re not so bad after all.) Once I climbed into the front row, the woman told me that if I got the ball, I had to give it to her since she’d let me in. (I ignored her at that point.) Moments later, as I was starting to lower my glove over the wall, she said, “Ohmygod, you are so embarrassing. Can you go away?” My response went as follows: “Lady, there are 45,000 other seats in this stadium. If you have a problem with me, you can move to any one of them.” While everyone else was cheering for me, the woman was talking trash and cursing. I just tuned it out, went about my business, snagged the ball, and headed back up the steps.

Five minutes later, while still wearing my Yankee gear, a Phillies fan was kind enough to hold my legs while I reached way out and across the flower bed to reel in another ball with the glove trick — my fourth ball overall. Granted, this fan recognized me from YouTube and then proceeded to ask for the ball (I gave him my rally towel instead — estimated eBay value: $20), but it was still a nice gesture on his part.

Batting practice ended two minutes later, and on my way out of the section, I found a ticket lying on the ground. Half an hour later, while walking through the field level concourse, I found another. Check this out:

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See the ticket for Section 130? Do you know where that is?! Take a look at the Citizens Bank Park seating chart below:

9a_citizens_bank_park_seating_chart.jpg

That’s right…the game hadn’t even started, and for the rest of the night, I was guaranteed to have full access to the seats behind the Yankee dugout. This was a big deal because my actual seat was up here:

11_my_actual_seat_was_way_up_there.jpg

I was officially supposed to be in the “right field bleacher deck,” or some kind of nonsense like that, but there was no way that I was going up there. I didn’t know where I’d end up — I was expecting to have a standing-room-only ticket — but I knew I wasn’t going to any section where it was physically impossible to catch a ball. If I had to, I’d stand in the concourse all night and wait until a foul ball or home run started flying in my direction and then bolt down the steps. The problem with sneaking anywhere was that there simply weren’t empty seats.

But wait…hang on…I’m getting ahead of myself. Just after Alanis Morissette sang the national anthem, Derek Jeter came out and started playing catch in front of the dugout (probably to derek_jeter_2009.jpgshow off for her and/or to ask for her phone number). I used my “Section 130″ ticket to get past the ushers, and then I waltzed right down to the front row. Almost every seat was full at that point, but there was one opening in the middle of the section right behind the dugout. It just so happened that this open space was at the outfield end of the dugout, where Jeter was likely to return with the ball. Another happy coincidence: my Yankee shirt said “JETER 2″ on the back, so I slipped my arms out through the sleeves and turned the shirt around so that I was wearing his name on my chest. I poked my arms back out, grabbed my camera, positioned my backpack in just the right spot so that it wouldn’t get trampled…and before I knew it, Jeter was finishing up. I didn’t have time to take a photo. All I could do was wave my glove and shout his name and try to make sure that he could see my shirt. He was walking right to me with the ball in his hand. Could it be?! I’d never gotten a ball from him and always wanted one. Even though he played for the Yankees, he was one of my all-time favorite players — one of only two guys (Mariano Rivera being the other) who can actually make me root FOR the Yankees. He kept walking closer. I shouted my head off. He looked to the left, then to the right. Was there a more worthy recipient? A pretty young woman or a cute little kid? No! Jeter took another step and then flipped the ball right to me. The fans on either side reached for it, but they had no chance. I dove forward and caught the ball (pictured on the left) in my glove with full extension, and I belly flopped on the dugout roof. Oh. My. God. DEREK JETER!!! And as a bonus, this ball broke my own personal single-game World Series record of four balls, which I achieved last year at Game 4.

That made my night, week, month, and…I don’t want to say year, because there were quite a few highlights, but man, I was so excited after that. I almost couldn’t tell if it had really happened. I’d been having a lot of snagging dreams lately, and they all felt so real at the time.

As for the game, fun fun fun. Cliff Lee gave up a run in the top of the first, but the Phillies answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame and three more in the third. Chase Utley hit two homers, tying Reggie Jackson’s record for the most home runs hit by one player in a World Series. Unfortunately, I was halfway across the stadium for both of those homers, just chillin’ in foul territory. If I felt like I had a chance to catch a homer, then I would’ve been in the outfield seats, but there’s no cross-aisle at Citizens Bank Park. There’s no way to run left or right. There were no empty seats out there. I wouldn’t have been allowed to stand on any of the staircases, and even if I were, and even if a ball came right to me, there’s no guarantee that I would’ve caught it because the crowd was in a snagging frenzy, even with foul balls. People were pushing and shoving like mad.

In the top of the ninth inning, with the Phillies clinging to an 8-5 lead, this was my view from the back of Section 130:

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Then, after Jeter bounced into a run-scoring double play, this was my new spot:

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There was a pocket of empty seats down at the front.

Perfect!

I couldn’t sneak all the way down while the game was in progress, but I had my post-game route planned out: down the steps, through the second row, into front row, all the way to the right. That was as close as I could get to the spot where the umpires would be walking off the field. Home plate ump Dana DeMuth had tossed me two post-game balls in the past — both at PETCO Park, incidentally — but those came during the regular season. Would his generosity possibly extend into the World Series?!

The answer had to wait as Johnny Damon smoked a single to center. Mark Teixiera came up next and promptly fell behind in the count, 0-2. I was ready to pounce. I wasn’t sure if any other fans were thinking what I was thinking, so I need to move fast. Teixiera took a ball to bring the count to 1-2. My heart was pounding. I was afraid he’d hit a two-run homer and tie the game. I didn’t want extra innings. I wanted the Phillies to win, and I wanted them to win NOW. Next pitch? Strike three! Ballgame over. Final score: Phillies 8, Yankees 6. I raced down the steps, did some fancy footwork, and reached the corner spot JUST in front of another guy who’d been rushing there too. The rest was up to Mister DeMuth. As he began walking toward me, it was so noisy that I could barely hear myself screaming his name. Somehow, though, he must have heard me because this was the result:

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Hell yeah.

It’s hard to tell in the photo above, but the ball was actually quite rubbed up with mud. The photo below (which shows all six balls that I snagged) will give you a better idea of what the ball really looks like. And here’s the best look of all.

SNAGGING STATS:

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• 6 balls at this game (the Jeter ball is in the middle of the bottom row)

• 538 balls in 60 games this season = 8.97 balls per game.

• 629 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 12 consecutive post-season games with at least one ball

• 5 consecutive World Series games with at least one ball

• 4,358 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

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

• $25.45 pledged per ball

• $152.70 raised at this game

• $13,692.10 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

The charity has already received thousands of dollars’ worth of donations. (Click here and look at the scrolling box on the upper right to see who has officially contributed.) If you’ve made a pledge but haven’t yet sent in the funds, now’s a great time to do it. I’m not free to attend Game 6, and I’m not even going to try to attend Game 7, so this effectively concludes my season. For instructions on how to pay, click here.

World Series, here I come…

I’m always hesitant to talk about things before they actually happen, but as of this moment, it appears that I’m gonna get hooked up with a ticket for Game 5 of the World Series. I’ll know more tomorrow morning — that’s when the ticket will supposedly find its way into my possession — so check back for an update. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with links to two articles that were written about me the other day at Yankee Stadium:

ARTICLE #1

ARTICLE #2

More later…

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UPDATE!

It’s 11am on Monday. I just received my ticket, courtesy of these guys. I’ll try to have the blog entry up tomorrow…

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