Spring Training snagging tips…?

This time of year, I always hear from random people who want advice about Spring Training. Unfortunately, I haven’t been to Spring Training since 1995, so I have no idea what to tell them, and now I’m actually wondering:
What ARE the best tips for snagging baseballs at Spring Training?
I’m thinking of writing a short piece about Spring Training in my book. It’s not a guarantee at this point, but if I end up doing it, I’ll give a shout-out in the acknowledgments section to the three people who share the most/best advice. So…if you’ve been to Spring Training within the last few years, and you have a few minutes to spare, leave a comment and tell me whatever you think I should know.

23 Comments

zack, spring training is beyond easy for getting baseballs. players are way more relaxed than the regular season and throw tons of balls into the stands. 3rd out balls are the easiest because all of the “older” fans don’t run down to the dugouts…also it is easier to get to the seats behind the dugouts…and of course, less competition

In the regular season, Tim and I get almost all of our baseballs via player toss up. We went the M’s spring training in 2008, we got zero balls at he 4 games we attended. But we also went to “practice” every morning where we got 12-13 balls exclusively via hit or over throw. In Peoria, the spring training facilities for the Mariners and Padres are mirror images of each other. See here – http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com/archives/2009/12/warming-up-for-2008.html The M’s fields are on the left, the Padres on the right, and the MLB games are played in the stadium in the top-center. The four fields on either end are primarily used for minor league practices and games. Many mornings, there will be 4 minor league games going on at the same time. You can stand in that grassy area behind all four home plates and wait for a foul ball from all four fields at once. Minor league spring training balls are probably the least impressive baseballs of all, but it is a fun time. And you have to keep alert because balls can be flying everywhere.
-Todd

In Arizona, most teams have multiple fields for practice. They often back up to parking lots or streets that are the best places to snag. The best thing to do is go to a field that has lower major leaguers and higher triple A players and snag there. There is nearly no competition because everybody is watching the big guys. You can usually get right up to chain link fences on the practice fields and drop fishnets or other devices to scoop up balls over the 10 ft or so fence. Also, most Spring Training stadiums have huge grass areas in the outfield which are great for running for home run balls both during games and during on field BP.

Zack,
I’ve been reading this site for over a year now, but have never commented. I saw you at Citizens Bank Park last year but didn’t want to take away from snagging time to say hi…..I’ve been to a few spring training games and figured I would finally take the plunge and make a comment….Hope it helps.

Getting baseballs at Spring Training in general, is much easier than at regular-season games for quite a few reasons.

The Atmosphere: For those of you who have been lucky enough to attend a spring training game you realize how relaxed the atmosphere can be. Players often spend time milling about, stretching, doing exercises and mingling with the fans. Due to the close proximity of the stands and the generally smaller foul-territories, fans can also attempt to communicate with the players much easier. Many stadiums also have various types of ?lawn seats? where fans can sit down the line or in the outfield on blankets or folding chairs. These areas can be great for snagging balls.

The number of players: Another reason why you have a greater chance to snag a ball during a spring training game is because during spring training, there are both major league and minor league players present. Often, there are also special coaches and assistants who will be participating in warm-up activities with the players. In a nutshell, more players on the field equals a greater chance of getting a ball tossed or hit to you.

Time and Access: Generally, the amount of time that the players spend warming up and milling around the field is greater during spring training than during a regular season game. During spring training, most stadiums open at least 2 hours before game time and give fans access to all parts of the stadium.

Capacity: Most stadiums in the Grapefruit league have stadiums that hold 10,000 or less. In the Cactus league, stadiums tend to be a little larger, with the biggest stadium holding 13,000. The small size of the spring-training ballparks create less competition compared to the regular season stadiums which hold anywhere from 35,000-56,000 people.

General Tips: Make sure you bring a pair of sunglasses. The sun can be brutal at many of these stadiums.
Stay alert: Often, the stands tend to be much closer to the field at most spring training stadiums. Pay attention to who what side of the plate a player is hitting from and get in the correct position for foul balls.
Be careful of the elderly: During spring training there tends to be an older crowd at most stadiums. When you are maneuvering through the isles for balls, be on the look out for some of the slower-movers.
Make sure you do your research on the stadium: Be sure to see if fans are allowed access to the practice fields early in the day. If so, this is a great place to snag some balls. Make sure you are in the park when the gates open and secure a good spot. Familiarize yourself with the layout of the stadium. See if you have access to behind the outfield walls. Many stadiums do not have seating beyond the fences, leaving a wide open space for snagging.
Do your research on the players: More often than not, players will not have their names visible during warm-ups and even games. Familiarize yourself with players and be able to recognize them.
As always, be courteous when asking for balls and NEVER FORGET YOUR GLOVE!!

-If you need anymore insight, let me know.
–Mike

Get a program with the list of names and numbers! Or go to the teams website to get the numerical list. A lot of the time, there are numbers from 1-99 on the field (throwing/hitting etc.) and you won’t have a clue who is who. Just knowing some minor league scrubs name will get you an easy ball, so a numerical list would be really helpful…

-Evan M.
gobuccos25

-Research the stadium beforehand. Most places aren’t as lenient or strict, depending on the team, as they majors. Know the backpack rule, the gate opening time, and know if there is or isn’t a berm.
-Know ticket rules. Some places only let you in the berm with a berm ticket, and some make you stay there all game.
-Get a roster. Chances are you won’t know everyone, and if you know a minor leaguers name, you’re that much closer to getting a guaranteed ball.
-As with all games, have hat and possible shirt of all teams playing.
-Know opportunities to get balls before the game. I got 11 balls in 2 games last year before entering games at the Tigers complex.
-Foul Balls that leave the stadium-especially in Kissimmee, numerous opportunities to get balls outside the stadium.
-Always be ready-less people, less gloves, smaller stadium capacity..
-Longer BP-some stadiums open up to 3 hours early and BP is going on, because there are so many players on the rosters per team.
-Many more older people, so no competition at dugouts but be careful in their view, they will complain.
-Bonus item chances-much more than after a normal game, managers don’t keep lineup cards as often, players have much equipment and try new things and dispose quickly as I have seen.
-Extremely access usually to umpires.

Peace Zack, I’ll see you soon..if you need more details you have my information.

Zack,
I went to Target Field today for my season ticket holder self guided tour. It is a stadium in the vein of the newer venues. It really has a lot more character than the dome. The concourses are open and huge and there are a lot of cool little areas. From a snagging perspective, I think it will be a semi difficult place to get balls. The bullpens and batters eye wall/bushes will swallow up a lot of balls. The bullpens will be glove-trickable if they let you, but the batters eye area will not be.
There are also planters that are between the outfield walls and the seats that serve as a natural barrier to prevent fans from interfering with balls in play. The plants are very wide and shouldn’t swallow up a lot of balls.
Left field has 3 levels. The bleachers are overhung by the second level so a ballhawk will have to pick their poision since balls will end up going to both levels. More powerful shots might even hit the 3rd deck.
The right field down the line doesn’t have many rows of seats and behind it is the Target Plaza. Balls that are pulled with power look like they will land on the plaza and roll forever.
One good thing is there is very little foul territory and the walls down the lines are short. So balls that are right against the walls will be easily trickable and possibly reachable. Also the toss ups should be pretty good down the lines since getting a players attention should be easier.
The stadium will open 1 and a half hours before first pitch for Monday through Thursday games and will open 2 hours early on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
I think you will enjoy yourself here.
Big Glove Bob

Hey Zack, I saw this old school picture of J.R. Richard today, and I was wondering how many balls you and the other people that check out this site could hold like that!

http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4040/4420147626_9b525d4e96_o.jpg

Just got back from a week in AZ, 9 games. I didn’t bother going to training sessions before the gates opened, so I have no input about that.

Stay away from teams with huge fanbases or nearby fanbases. In AZ, stay away from the D-Backs, Dodgers, Angels, and Cubs. Every one of their games will be packed and difficult to get any balls at all. That leaves plenty of other teams to choose from.

One thing I noticed was a huge quantity in the number of bats given out. Go during BP, watch the players, if they crack a bat, ask for it.

You can easily make your way to the dugout in just about any stadium, just play it smart.

Other than that, unless you’re a 10 year old girl, you’re likely to have to do your homework, know the players’ names, and position yourself inning by inning.

EVERYONE-
Thanks so much for the Spring Training tips. I really appreciate it. Feel free to keep ‘em coming.

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Thanks for all the info. I can’t believe the plate is only gonna open 90 minutes early during the week. That’s total crap — a real insult to the fans.

PSU532-
Awesome photo. Johnny Bench could also do that:
http://www.uc.edu/news/view.asp?infoID=1915&photo=image3
But I had no idea about Richard. (How about Shaq?)
I can only hold four in each hand. See here:
http://www.zackhample.com/photos/2009/zack_new_yankee_stadium.jpg
That photo, by the way, was taken at my first game at the new Yankee Stadium. I was trying to show how unimpressed I was by the place. And if you look closely, you’ll see something interesting in the background on the scoreboard…

Gary, is there any like master list of all the gate opening times because I’ve done a couple google searches, but I got nothing helpful.
Zack, the only thing that I remember from my previous trip was just being crushed against a fence at the Yankees spring training complex, having a much different and a much more fun setting over at the Astros stadium, who were undergoing renovations. At the Astros everyone was so nice, and you could be walking along with the players who were just sitting back and mingling with everyone.
Alex

the 20-2 score or the mets winning?

Could it be the fact that Francisco is listed as being 1-for-3 when he hadn’t collected a hit yet?

Spring Training tips:
I’m a veteran of both the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues, and I have to say, both have their upsides and downsides. I’ve been to games at five Cactus League ballparks and five Grapefruit League ballparks, and I’ve visited several others at various times. Arizona has so many advantages over Florida from a snagging perspective. Most of the ballparks there have expansive berm sections and the weather is always perfect. Florida, on the other hand, has very few outfield seating sections and it rains occasionally. These are the superficial reasons Arizona is great for Spring Training. But when you actually visit and have certain snagging goals in mind, Florida holds its own. Due to the often large distances between ballparks in Florida, the road team almost ALWAYS takes BP before the game, whereas in Arizona teams are so close to each other that the road team generally takes BP at their own place and then busses over right before gametime. Home teams in Arizona rarely take BP in the main stadium because their practice fields are so close (although this seems to be becoming a trend in Florida too). In addition, many ballparks in Arizona open just an hour and a half before gametime, whereas Grapefruit League stadiums generally open plenty early. This makes snagging a lot less fun in the Cactus League — at five games this spring there, I got to experience less than 90 total minutes of BP combined.

I’m not one of these “back field” collectors. I couldn’t care less about the minor leaguers hitting on practice fields, even if those practice fields are accessible to the public and easy to catch balls around. But there are GREAT opportunities on the back fields for those interested, especially in Arizona. Of the facilities I’ve been to, good places to live the back field experience include Glendale (Dodgers/White Sox), Tempe (Angels), Peoria (Padres/Mariners), Jupiter (Cardinals/Marlins), and Lakeland (Tigers), among others.

Now, on to the actual ballparks themselves.
Here’s a breakdown of the ten current Spring venues I’ve snagged at:
-Tradition Field in Port St. Lucie, FL (Mets): Featuring a luscious berm in right field and good gate times (two hours early), Tradition Field is one of the best snagging destinations in the Grapefruit League. The visiting team generally hits in the normal time slot, while the Mets generally hit on the back fields. The berm is the place to be for BP, however make sure to have a berm ticket or you’ll be stuck in foul territory. And have a ball-retrieving device of some sort — there’s a beautiful gap behind the outfield wall in front of the berm.
-Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, FL (Cardinals/Marlins): If you like catching hit balls, stay away from Roger Dean. Not one seat is in fair territory, so you’re stuck asking players for toss-ups. Of course, being Spring Training, you can still rack ‘em up in that regard. Gates open two hours early.
-McKechnie Field in Bradenton, FL (Pirates): The inside of the stadium is not especially fun, but before the gates open, take advantage of the skinny street that runs behind the left field wall. Both teams should take BP, and this area gets PEPPERED with balls. Plus, you can watch the batter from outside through an opening in the outfield wall. It’s a fun time out there. Gates open two hours early, if I remember correctly, but I suggest staying outside until gametime.
-Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL (Tigers): Similar to Tradition Field from a snagging perspective. Good berm in left makes BP fun. Toss-ups can also be attained from outside the park before the gates open, down the left field line.
-Hammond Stadium in Fort Meyers, FL (Twins): Another complete Grapefruit League disaster. All the seats are basically squeezed between the bases. But the gates do open THREE hours early, so there’s that. Usual toss-up strategies apply.
-Camelback Ranch in Glendale, AZ (Dodgers/White Sox): Absolutely heavenly. For games with BP (which may be few and far between in coming years, with all 15 Cactus League teams being located within 45 minutes of each other starting in 2011), hit up the right field berm and wait for lefties to hit and enjoy the shooting gallery that ensues. There’s also a good berm in left, but the ball doesn’t seem to carry as much to that side of the park. Gates only open 90 minutes early, but it’s awesome once they finally do. Try to see a White Sox game rather than a Dodger game here; much emptier for the pale hose than for the rabid fans from LA. Camelback Ranch is also the single most beautiful Spring Training ballpark that exists in this country, in my opinion. Take a look: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_DGKr-9Cf3G0/Sb6142BDtfI/AAAAAAAACnI/eW-TGwM6sCU/s400/Camelback+Ranch+Stadium.jpg
-Tempe Diablo Stadium in Tempe, AZ (Angels): You’d think that a ballpark with a good-looking berm stretching the entire length of left- and left-center field would be awesome, right? Not so much. The berm is deceptively crappy — it’s too steep, too crowded/cramped, and too far from home plate. And the gates only open 90 minutes early. Skip Tempe if you have the opportunity to go elsewhere in Arizona.
Goodyear Ballpark in Goodyear, AZ (Reds/Indians): I’d probably have a better idea about this place if I’d experienced BP there, but I can’t imagine it being bad for snagging. Two of the crappiest teams in the Cactus League play there so it’s generally empty, there’s berms everywhere, and the foul ball scene is epic. The place is built on way more land than it actually needs, so there’s WIDE open grassy areas behind the first and third base seats. Spend every single moment of the game back there (you can still see the pitcher and batter) and wait for the fouls to start flying. I caught three of them over the course of three innings at a game last week. This picture says it all: http://redsintern.mlblogs.com/Barton%20Malow%202-25-09019.JPG
All that lawnage in foul territory — yeah, that’s all inside the gates! The stadium only opens 90 minutes early and BP seems rare here, but it’s absolutely worth it just for the in-game opportunities.
-Surprise Stadium in Suprise, AZ (Royals/Rangers): Expansive berms, mellow crowds, nice place, but I can’t shed any light on the BP situation since there was none the only time I was there. Gates only open 90 minutes early.
-Peoria Sports Complex in Peoria, AZ (Padres/Mariners): See Surprise Stadium tips. Basically the same stadium, and BP doesn’t seem likely here — both the home and road teams take BP on the back fields, from what I gather. Try to see the Padres rather than the Mariners. Gates open 90 minutes early.

Of the other ballparks I’m familiar with but have never been to, the good ones seem to be:
-Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix (Brewers)
-HoHoKam Park in Mesa (Cubs)
-Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale (Giants)
-Champion Stadium in Orlando (Braves)
-Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte (Rays)
And the other bad ones seem to be:
-Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee (Astros)
-Phoenix Municipal Stadium in Phoenix (A’s)

All the usual snagging tips are generally still applicable in Spring. If you know what you’re doing at the ballpark, you can pretty much adjust to each Spring Training venue as soon as you run in.

Other tips include
-Keep an eye out for foul balls that leave the stadium. At most Spring facilities, parking lots back up the grandstands, and almost all of the ballparks allow re-entry.
-Always buy the cheapest tickets for each game and go wherever the hell you want. There’s no such thing as strict ushers in spring, in my experience. But make sure you know whether your ticket allows you access to the berm (really only an issue in Florida).
-Avoid the big-ticket teams. Stay away from all games that involve the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Cubs, Dodgers, and Giants. Even road games.
-In Arizona, it’s easy to go to multiple games in one day. Again, all the parks are within 45 minutes of each other. You can pretty much make it from any one ballpark to another before the gates open without leaving early. Take advantage of night games.
-Familiarize yourself with these two maps:
http://www.cactusleague.com/c_map.php
http://mlb.mlb.com/images/spring_training/y2010/grapefruit_index_map.gif
-Split squad games are fun. If you go to a game where both teams are using split squads, it’ll be emptier than if both teams bring their big players. And it’s more like a minor league atmosphere despite some major leaguers (and all major league baseballs).
-You WILL need rosters. Random guys that you’ve never heard of WILL throw you balls if you’re the only person who knows their name.

That’s all I got.

Yeah, I’m with NICK, you can’t have 3 ABs if one is a walk, and besides a fielder’s choice isn’t a hit. 0-2 with a walk is more accurate. Nice look by the way!
Brian
http://txbaseballfan.mlblogs.com

zack, i know this is completely random to this post, but what size pixels do you set your pictures in entrys to? I keep uploading some to mine, and they come out all messed up and long so i have to change the pixel size. How do you make yours so nice?
-Pete

JOSHSCARDS-
Ha. I was talking about the 20-run score.

NICK & BRIAN-
Francisco had actually already been up earlier in that huge second inning, and he had hit a double. The Yankee Stadium scoreboard is so pathetic that it only shows the previous three plate appearances, so it *looks* like an error. Check out the play-by-play from that inning, and you’ll see what I mean:
http://imgur.com/6Zs6v.jpg

GREG-
That was epic. Thank you soooo much.

CHI CUBS-
If your photo is wider than 550 pixels, you have to create a thumbnail image when you upload it…and then choose a width of 550 or less for the thumbnail. If you make the thumbnail 550, it’ll fill the screen. But if you want it smaller (like my Puerto Rican flag in the previous entry), then choose a number like 200 pixels and the text will wrap around it. Or make it 50 if you want it reeeeeally small. Or 400 if you want it to fill most of the screen. Cool?

Hall of Famer Ernie Lombardi may have been the first to hold 7 baseballs in one hand.
http://www.corbisimages.com/images/67/8B626B72-BBA0-454C-A704-AAFFD20F7CB3/U385098ACME.jpg

thanks a ton zack, blogging will be a lot easier this year. you da man!!
-Pete

DOGGLE3-
Whoa, Lombardi, too?

CHI CUBS-
You’re welcome.

Zack,

i’m going to a couple of games this coming sunday and monday, and i’ll tell you how i got i got balls.

Ok, at George Steinbrenner stadium they don’t letb you near the field! i stood behind the bullpen and got a couple of balls by waiting there. for mkcehnie stadium (Pirates) i got another 2 balls by standing along the left field line an when foul balls come down the line, the players are really nice and just always toss them to you. — Greg M.

Ok, at George Steinbrenner stadium they don’t letb you near the field! i stood behind the bullpen and got a couple of balls by waiting there. for mkcehnie stadium (Pirates) i got another 2 balls by standing along the left field line an when foul balls come down the line, the players are really nice and just always toss them to you. — Greg

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