10/3/10 at Camden Yards

The last day of the regular season always starts slowly, and this was no exception. When I ran inside the stadium, this was my first look at the field:

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No batting practice.

Yawn.

But that was to be expected.

Five minutes later, there was at least a sign of life…

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…and 15 minutes after that, several Tigers began playing catch in left field:

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In the photo above, there’s an arrow pointing to Robbie Weinhardt because he ended up throwing me his ball when he finished.

Then I got his autograph. Here he is signing for another fan…

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…and here he is posing for a photo:

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It was THAT kind of a day — very slow and laid-back.

Lots of Tigers signed autographs. I got six on my ticket:

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Since their handwriting is even worse than their won-lost record, I’ll tell you their names: Alfredo Figaro, Brad Thomas, Ryan Perry, Daniel Schlereth, Max St. Pierre, and of course Mister Weinhardt.

Not only did I collect a bunch of autographs, but I also signed one for a young fan named Xavier. Here he is holding it up for the camera:

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The Orioles eventually came out and played catch:

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I didn’t snag any baseballs from them, but I did get a couple of autographs. Here’s a photo of Matt Albers signing:

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I got him on the back of my ticket, along with Mike Gonzalez’s signature:

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Just before the singing of the national anthem, I got my second ball of the day (and 299th of the season) from Tigers infielder Scott Sizemore.

Here’s the ball:

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As I mentioned in my last entry, the Tigers mark their balls on the sweet spot.

My friends Roger and Bassey and my girlfriend Jona showed up at game time. Here they are, chillin’ on the first base side:

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(That’s Roger on the left and Bassey on the right.)

I really wanted to snag my 300th ball of the season, but rather than go for a 3rd-out ball (which would’ve been fairly easy), I stayed in the outfield and tried to catch a home run instead.

No luck.

Given the fact that this was the final game of the season, and given the fact that the players were likely going to give away some of their equipment after the final out, I made my way to the Tigers’ dugout at the start of the 9th inning.

This was my view:

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As soon as the Tigers put the finishing touches on their 4-2 victory, I moved down into the front row:

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Here’s what happened next:

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It was only the fifth bat I’d ever gotten, and it belonged to Austin Jackson! Are you aware of how awesome Jackson is? This was his first season in the Major Leagues, and he finished with a .293 batting average, 181 hits, 34 doubles, 10 triples, 27 stolen bases, and 103 runs scored. Okay, so he struck out 170 times. Whatever. Austin Jackson is The Man — and the potential rookie of the year. The way I got his bat was simple and unexpected. As the players were filing into the dugout, some guys flung their caps into the crowd, and a few others tossed their batting gloves. During all the chaos, I happened to see a bat get lifted up from below the dugout roof, and I lunged for it. That was it. I grabbed it a split-second before anyone else realized what was going on. As for those batting gloves, I got one of those, too:

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This one belonged to Will Rhymes — not exactly a household name, but give the guy some credit. This was his rookie season, and he batted .304 in 54 games.

After all the Tigers were gone, there was still some action on the Orioles’ side, so I hurried over to their dugout:

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It was painfully crowded. I couldn’t get any closer than the 3rd row.

In the photo above, those are fans standing on the field. They were picked through some sort of random drawing to receive “game-worn” jerseys from the players. Why is “game-worn” in quotes? Let’s just say that the jerseys were definitely NOT worn during the game that had just been played on the field. Right after the final out, the players disappeared into the clubhouse, where they obviously changed into alternate uniforms before returning 10 minutes later. How do I know this? Because…during the game, several Orioles dove for balls and slid into bases. Their uniforms were D-I-R-T-Y when the game ended and perfectly clean when they returned for the give-away. (Maybe, after changing, the players spent a few minutes in the clubhouse playing backgammon, in which case their clean uniforms would have actually been “game-worn.”) I’m just bitter because I’ve never gotten a jersey. That’s probably what I’ll ask for when I finally catch an important home run that a player wants back. But anyway…

Here’s a closer look at the bat:

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Adam Jones started signing autographs along the foul line…

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…so I ran over and got him on an extra ticket I had from the previous day:

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I thought about getting him on the back of my October 3rd ticket — I liked the idea of getting all my autographs for the day on one ticket — but because he’s so good and has the potential to become a superstar, I had him sign a separate item.

Just as I was getting set to leave the stadium, the groundskeepers appeared in the right field corner and started playing catch:

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I was still stuck at 299 balls for the season, and the playoffs were (and still are) a big question mark, so I thought, “This is my chance.”

(In the photo above, that’s me in the white shirt.)

I asked one of the groundskeepers if I could have a ball when he was finished throwing. He said, “Probably not because this is all we have to play with.”

Ahh. So they were going to play a game on the field. Lucky them…

Well, it just so happened that one of the groundskeepers airmailed his throwing partner. The ball landed in the seats. I ran over and grabbed it. And when the guy started flapping his glove at me, I tossed it back to him, figuring he’d give it to me when he was done. I mean, now he had a reason to give it to me. I had just done him a favor. He owed it to me, in fact. But guess what? He never gave it back. And it gets worse. After he jogged off, one of his buddies taunted me by pretending to throw one to me. Nice. Really nice. (I’m considering placing the Hample Jinx on the entire Orioles grounds crew, but I’m not sure how that would work. I can tell you, though, that I *will* find some way to get revenge.)

I had a long internal debate over whether or not to count that final ball. I mean, I *did* snag it. But then I gave it away. But I normally count balls that I give away. But I give those away voluntarily. GAH!!! Ultimately I decided not to count it. It just seemed cheap. And for what it’s worth, my friend Bassey said, “It’s more poetic to end the season with 299 balls than 300.” But then again, who knows? I might just end up making my way to a playoff game or two.

Here I am with Roger, Jona, and Bassey after the game on Eutaw Street:

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If you look at the pavement in the photo above, you can see that it had just started to rain. Ha-haaa!!! It actually rained pretty hard after that. Take THAT, grounds crew!!! And get ready for more misery in 2011…

SNAGGING STATS:

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• 2 balls at this game (pictured on the right)

• 299 balls in 31 games this season = 9.65 balls per game.

• 660 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 203 consecutive games outside New York with at least one ball

• 4,657 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 48 donors (click here to learn more)

• $7.53 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $15.06 raised at this game

• $2,251.47 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

Hold on! This entry isn’t done. I want to show you a few more photos of the bat. First, here it is in its entirety:

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Austin Jackson wears uniform No. 14, so check out the end and knob of the bat:

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Here’s the trademark…

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…and here are some marks/smudges on the barrel that were caused by balls:

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If you want to see all my “bonus items,” click here. You’ll see that I have them organized into three categories: lineup cards, batting gloves, and other equipment.

The End.

(For now…)

15 Comments

First. Ha ha. Haven’t seen that in a while. Dude, I would have counted the ball. Forget poetic. 300 is way better than 299. You should revise your total just like an official scorer changes his rulings sometimes. Nice bat snag too. Take it easy.

Leigh

That bat is awesome. If Jackson can ever get it out of Detroit, he will be a superstar. Congrats on the nice snag!
And what’s this I hear about you “might just end up making my way to a playoff game or two”? Does that suggest there’s more games on the way?

excellent book-shortened season, Zack. the bat is outstandings. so, what do you do with all of your signed tickets? and how many of them do you have?
-Todd
http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com

Placing a curse on the Orioles… real mature!

Nice wrap to the regular season Zack! I hope you can make some post-season games. Hey! what happens if you end up with 301 balls? ;-)

Zack, glad to see that you got an autograph from Matt Albers. Albers did pitch for our Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks in 2006, his record was 10-2. He would become the first Hook to go directly from Double-A to the show when he was called up in July 2006.

Hey Zack, hope to see you at a few post-season games this year. Sounds like you had a great year. Nice snag on the bat. I am a rookie ballhawk. I was hopeing you could give me some tips on how to get some baseballs. I just started a blog at http://baseballtalkinandsnaggin.mlblogs.com/ and wanted your thoughts on it. Thank You for your help

Hey Zack! Congrats on the great season, and more importantly, congrats on the bat!! Thats insane.. I’d kill for austins bat. I’ve been followin him since he got drafted by the Yanks.

Anyway, I didn’t do bad for my last game.. got Alberto Gonzalez’ right batting glove (other one flew two rows over me haha) and a ball signed by a ton of guys.. Storen Bautista.. pretty cool. Plus I got to talk to Drew for like 10 minutes.. real nice guy, told him goolduck in college.

Only thing that sucked was we hadda sneak down to the dugout area… lmao we hadda go around some woman for the bottom of the 9th even tho it was empty.. damn mets. Really dumb they wouldnt let us down at the end of the game when it’s empty.. Too bad we weren’t there earlier…. the only other guy in nats gear got a hat two bats and TWENTY-NINE Balls!!! Insane haha

Zack,

Sent you some pictures from the NLDS. Check those out. Good talking to you.

Ryan

P.S. I can’t believe you got a bat at this Orioles game. Especially one with my lucky number, 14, on it. If I had known that when I saw you tonight I would have punched you in the face. Just kidding. Congrats.

You actually had me smiling early friday morning minute before my surgery when i read this on my iphone. It had me remembering the bat and batting gloves I got down there and just how awesome baltimore really is. Congrats man, cant wait to here bout the nlds game. and congrats on the book as well. Joe

LEIGH-
No need to do any revising. I just blogged about Game 2 of the NLDS in Philly. I was there and snagged my 300th ball of the season. Ta-daaa!!

REDSOX82696-
Thanks, and yeah, I did end up making it to another game. As I just mentioned to Leigh, I was at Game 2 of the NLDS.

TODD-
I have 1,044 autographs on 878 tickets. I have a long catalog-type list of the signatures on my computer, and as for the tickets themselves, I have them carefully rubber-banded into several stacks, and they’re tucked away in a special hiding place.

GU3_-
You like that? :-)

COMETTE-
Thanks, but what’s so special about 301?

HOOKSFAN-
Cool, I didn’t know that about him.

BASEBALLTALKINANDSNAGGIN-
I just checked out your blog and left you a comment. As for snagging tips, my best advice is to read this blog and buy my new book next year. Those two sources will tell you *everything* you could possibly want to know about snagging baseballs.

KYLED5757-
Damn, that’s insane about the guy in Nats gear. Congrats on the batting glove, though. At least you got something.

RYAN-
I got the pics. Thanks so much. (As you’ll soon see, I used one in my new entry). But please, no punching. What’s so special about the number 14, anyway? I’m not saying it isn’t special. I’m just curious to know what it means to you.

JOE-
Thank you thank you. When you’re all healed up next season, we’ll have to take a trip down to Baltimore.

Awesome Jackson bat! That was cool he let it go and you got it.

Thanks! And yes, very cool.

I was at a Phillies game and during batting practice for the Cardinals Albert Pujols fouled a ball ever and split my brother’s head open…so Albert came over…felt really bad..and gave us the ball, his own batting gloves, and he even signed his bat..so I have a signed Albert Pujols official bat and his gloves.

That’s insane! I hope your brother is okay.

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