4/6/11 at Camden Yards

The good news is that I had a personal photographer with me. The bad news is that I got massively held up at the turnstiles:

It might appear that I was about to be the first fan to enter the stadium, but that was not the case. Several dozen people had already raced in ahead of me, and that’s when the ticket scanner decided to stop working. Once I got in, the only way to make up for my lost time was to SPRINT through Eutaw Street and head for the left field seats:

(I’m flying! I’m flyyyyyyy-ing!!)

Once I made it to left field, I asked Orioles pitcher Chris Tillman if we could play catch. He ignored me at first, but a minute later he turned around and chucked a ball to me.

“Thanks!” I yelled, thinking that he was simply giving it to me, but then he flapped his glove to indicate that he wanted me to throw it back. Here’s a photo of us from afar. You can see him reaching down to catch the ball:

Here he is about to throw it back:

Our throwing session didn’t last long. We each made three tosses, and then he let me keep the ball.

Five minutes later, I stumbled upon this. Hmm…

If you don’t see what I’m talking about, look closely at the folded up portion of the seat on the lower right. Ooh yeah, baby, an Easter egg.

That’s when I hit a streak of bad luck. There were several home runs hit near me, and they ALL seemed to sail two feet over my glove. Here I am jumping unsuccessfully for one of them:

I would’ve preferred to play deeper in the stands, but there were several other ballhawks in attendance — Matt Hersl, Tim Anderson, Ben Huff, and Avi Miller. They were all playing deep, and they’re regulars at Camden Yards, so rather than competing directly with them (which would’ve been fun to do), I decided to move up and give them some space.

Detroit took the field. I changed into my Tigers gear. I continued getting bad breaks. I was NOT happy:

The left field seats got packed when the whole stadium opened at 5:30pm, so I moved into foul territory and got a couple balls thrown to me. Here’s the first. It came from Ramon Santiago, who’s wearing No. 39 in the photo below. The other arrow is pointing from the ball to my glove:

The second thrown ball (which was my fourth overall on the day) came from Brennan Boesch. He made me crouch down as if I were a catcher, and he pretended to shake off my imaginary signs.

Once the Tigers were done playing catch, I ran over to left-center field and got Max Scherzer to toss me a ball that had rolled onto the warning track. Moments later, while lingering in the front row for Boesch’s turn in the cage, I caught a ground-rule double that bounced right to me. I nearly got handcuffed by it because the warning track is made of rubber, and the ball landed pretty close to the wall, so it came up fast.

Now, do you remember the marked balls that the Tigers were using last year when I saw them at Target Field? The Tigers are still marking their balls, and it’s not pretty. Here’s the one that Boesch hit:

Here’s another Tigers ball that I snagged earlier in BP. As you can see, it’s not marked on the logo, but there are two magic marker streaks on the sweet spot:

Here’s an action shot that shows me going for a loose ball:

Matt Hersl (pictured below in the blue and white jacket) swooped in at the last second (as usual) and snatched it. Good for him. Bad for me.

During the final two minutes of BP, I headed to the Tigers’ dugout, and when all the players cleared the field, Brandon Inge flung a ball to me directly from his glove. That was my 7th ball of the day. Here it is in mid-air.

In the photo above, I’m on the left. The guy on the right wasn’t even trying to catch the ball. He already had a ball in his hand, and he was leaning forward to try to get it signed.

Look who signed autographs 20 minutes later:

Yup, Miguel Cabrera.

I handed him two ticket stubs, figuring he’d sign the top one and hand them both back, but to my surprise…

…he signed them both! I haven’t really been THAT into getting autographs in recent years, but I was psyched to get Miggy because (DUIs aside) he’s awesome.

Shortly before game time, I got Austin Jackson to throw me my 8th ball of the day. He’d been playing catch in shallow left field, and when he finished, I shouted like hell and got his attention. There was nothing fancy about it, but I really like him, so I was glad to get that ball. You may recall that he gave me his bat on 10/3/10 at Camden Yards.

On my way to the standing-room-only section (aka “The Flag Court”), I stopped to have this photo taken of me:

Yankee Stadium was the first ballpark I visited this year; Camden Yards is the second. How high will that number go?

I stayed in the Flag Court for all left-handed batters. This was my normal position, all the way at the back:

In the top of the 4th inning, I decided to move up toward the front when Alex Avila stepped to the plate. I couldn’t see the field from the back, and I figured he wasn’t going to crush the ball because he’s only 5-foot-11, and…I’m an idiot. He did crush it, and it sailed over my head, and I raced back on it and watched helplessly as it clapped off the pavement and bounded up against the tall metal gate. There was no telling which way the ball was going to ricochet, and there was a stampede of drunken fans right behind me. Here are a couple of TV screen shots to show what happened next…

The ball bounced high in the air, and I jumped for it:

The camera cut away at that moment, so the people who saw my tweet and watched the highlight on TV assumed that I made a clean snag at that point.

Wrong.

The guy in the orange Orioles jersey slammed into me just before I was about to grab the ball, and it ended up dropping to the ground. There was a SERIOUS scramble for it, and I came out victorious:

I also came out wearing half a beer…

…but whatever. That’s what my washing machine is for.

Check out the huge scuff mark on the ball:

It hit the pavement so hard that the stitches were nearly torn.

Several innings later, I ran into a young ballhawk named Mike, who had left a comment the previous day to tell me that he’d be there. I had actually seen him on and off throughout the game, but this time was extra special because he was holding a copy of my new book:

(Mike is not actually a Tigers fan, FYI.)

I signed it for him as his father looked on (nice matching shoes, fellas)…

…and congratulated him on the six balls he had snagged that day. Very impressive. The two of them were really cool.

After I snagged the Avila home run, I was really hoping to snag a foul ball. I had never snagged a homer and a foul ball in one game, so I made an extra effort to run into foul territory whenever righties came to bat.

Ready for it?

Look what I snagged in the top of the 9th inning:

I got so caught up in the moment that I completely spaced out and forgot who was even batting. It was either Casper Wells or Miguel Cabrera. I’m hoping to figure it out by somehow watching those two at-bats, but anyway, it was a high foul pop-up that sailed about 30 rows back and landed in the cross-aisle behind 1st base. I sprinted TWO full sections to my right, and when the ball deflected off some fans and ended up in a staircase, I was all over it. That really felt great.

I celebrated by calling a few friends…

…and the game ended soon after.

Final score: Tigers 7, Orioles 3.

I tried to get a ball at the umpires’ tunnel…

…but came up empty. That was fine. Despite a rough BP (during which I didn’t snag a single home run ball or get to use my glove trick), I still managed to put up double digits and snagged two game balls in the process. Here I am with those two precious baseballs…

…and here I am talking to Mike’s whole family on the way out:

The kid in the Mets jacket is Mike’s younger brother Tommy (who will hopefully soon create a profile on MyGameBalls.com).

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 10 balls at this game  (9 pictured here because I gave one away)

• 23 balls in 3 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.

 

• 664 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 134 lifetime games with at least ten balls

• 64 lifetime games outside of New York with at least ten balls

• 141 lifetime games balls (not counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd)

• 14 lifetime game home runs (click here for the complete list)

• 17th time snagging two or more game balls in one game

• 4,685 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)

• 32 donors

• $4.91 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $41.90 raised at this game

• $112.93 raised this season

And now here’s a look at the baseballs in black light:

The end.

11 Comments

Were you still in the SRO section when Derek Lee hit a home run in the bottom of the fourth? If so, how close did you come? I watched the footage again, and couldn’t tell. Also, when I looked at the screenshot of your home run snag, I thought it was just the shadow from your glove on your pants. And what do you know…..it was beer. :) You hanging out in the same spot for tonight’s game?
-Matt

I saw your tweet about the ALEX (not Mike) Avila HR and I watched the highlights trying to catch a glimpse, but the camera cut away too fast. Still, nice job.

MATT-
Yeah, but I was actually heading OUT of the section when Lee hit it. I never expected a righty to go deep there, so I wasn’t even close to it. Stupid. I’ll be back there tonight for all the lefties.

BRIAN-
D’oh! Thanks for catching that. I just fixed it.

Hey zack I love your blog I’m driving home from seeing a couple games in cleveland and watching our beloved sox keep losing today was an awful day for snagging awful I was wondering 2 things 1 where it says and how I can know what games and stadiums you are attending in the near future and 2 if you were planning on going to commerica where I live anytime soon? Thanks,
Mitchell

Congratulations. I hope to one day go to Camden Yards. You make it seem like a great ballpark. Then again, you got eleven balls at Yankee Stadium. Just two questions, though.
1. How can you get season tickets to get into the left field section.
2. Did you know your blog is now a fan blog? Was that the solution to the conversion process that took place?

Whoa, impressive. Two gamers. That ties my lifetime total. Way to go.
-Todd

MITCHELL-
I don’t have an official list of games that I’ll be attending, but whenever I book a trip to games in another city (other than NYC), I almost always mention it ahead of time on my blog. No concrete Comerica plans yet. Possibly August 30th, but it’s way too soon to know for sure.

MATEO-
Perhaps we’ll end up at Camden sometime together…? Anyway, to answer your questions, I know someone who’s a season ticket holder in Baltimore (who wishes not to be identified), and he hooks me up with season tickets. As for my fan blog status, I’ll discuss that with you in person, but no, that was not part of the automatic conversion process.

TODD-
Thanks!

Zack, Great to finally get to meet you. My family loved this entry and the autograph on the book. Also for the foul ball, I remember; it was definetly Cabrera. Also, how exactly do you get the season tickets when you come here?

Dang …. I get myself out to a half empty ballpark soon and chase some HR’s ;-)

Just messin with ya Zack! I should be able to get out there in July for BallhawkFest!

John
http://ballhawk.mlblogs.com

MIKE-
Cool, glad to hear that everyone enjoyed the entry and autograph, and thanks for the Cabrera info. As for season tickets, I have a friend in Baltimore who sometimes hooks me up with them. The rest of the time, I just go online and try to find someone who has them — craigslist or a ticket broker or whatever.

JOHN-
It would be pretty awesome if you can make it in July.

why cant i play catch with tillman? you were wearing a tigers shirt!

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