4/20/11 at Camden Yards

I didn’t put up great numbers at this game, but as I mentioned last night on Twitter, all my baseballs were batting practice home runs that I caught on the fly.

Jona was with me once again and got some great photos. Here’s one that shows me maneuvering into position for my first ball of the day…

…and here’s another photo, taken moments later, that shows me reaching up for the catch:

The left field seats were crowded from the start, and as a result, this was the only ball I got during the Orioles’ portion of BP.

Before I caught it, I’d been talking to Jeremy Guthrie, who was (jokingly?) complaining yet again about not being written into my new book. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was something along the lines of, “I gave you a ball on the final day of [the old] Yankee Stadium. I can’t believe that’s not good enough for more than a mention with everyone else in the acknowledgments.”

“Oh, Jeremy,” I said. “I mentioned you the other day on my blog, and I get about two thousand hits a day, so at least there’s that.”

“Did you link to me on Twitter?” he asked.

“No, but I will in my next entry.”

“Thank you,” he said, “and if I see you make a nice catch today, I’ll tweet about it.”

Well, Jeremy, I’m waiting…

In all fairness, my first catch of the day probably didn’t look all that impressive. The best part about it was that I judged the ball perfectly from the moment it left the bat and zig-zagged around a few fans and railings to get into position. The catch itself was easy. I was right there. I didn’t have to lunge or jump or do anything except reach up. And that’s probably the only thing that Guthrie saw. As soon as I caught it, I looked at him and held my arms out as if to say, “Was that good enough for you?” (It’s a shame he wasn’t with me when the Twins were hitting.) He just shrugged and held his glove up. It took me a moment to realize that he wanted me to throw the ball to him. So I did. We ended up playing catch for a few minutes, and Jona filmed the tail end of it. Here’s a screen shot of the video that shows me throwing the ball…

…and here’s another screen shot that shows Guthrie throwing it back:

In the screen shot above, the player standing 15 feet behind Guthrie (in the black shirt) is Chris Tillman. At one point when I was about to throw the ball, I noticed him waving and realized that he wanted me to throw it to him over Guthrie’s head. So I did. Then he tossed it to Guthrie, and Guthrie threw it back to me. Fun!

When the throwing session ended, I moved over to foul territory and talked to Tillman for a minute. Here we are shaking hands:

He asked me how many baseballs I’d snagged, and when I told him the grand total, he asked how many I’d caught during games.

“A hundred and twenty-seven foul balls, fourteen homers, and a ground-rule double,” I said.

I asked him if he’d ever tried to catch baseballs in the stands, even as a kid. The answer was “not really.” He said he’d once tried to get one during Spring Training.

“That’s a shame,” I said, “because you’re, like, 8-foot-19. You’d be really good at it.” (For the record, Tillman is 6-foot-5. So unfair. And yes, I’m obsessed with height.)

Ten minutes later, a man called out from the stands and asked Guthrie for two baseballs for his kids. “Can you hook them up?” he asked.

“No,” said Guthrie, “but I know someone who will.” Guthrie then pointed at me and and said, “That guy has thousands of balls and would love to give one to your kids.”

Here’s a photo that was taken during this whole exchange:

“Jeremy,” I said, “I was going to keep this ball because you and I played catch with it, so it’s special, but I’ll tell you what: I’ll give it to one of the kids if you give a ball to the other.”

As I handed the ball over, the Orioles finished hitting, and all the players (including Guthrie) jogged off the field. Bad timing.

Two things happened when the Twins came out:

1) I changed into my Twins gear.
2) The left field seats got really crowded.

Look how many gloves (including mine) ended up in the same spot for a home run in the front row:

I didn’t snag that ball, but did catch one less than a minute later in the same spot. And by the way, I have no idea who hit any of these balls. I think Mark Reynolds connected on the first one that I caught, but I’m not sure.

When several lefties started hitting, I moved to the standing-room-only section (aka “the Flag Court”) in right field. Here I am getting ready to jump for a long home run…

…and here I am in mid-air. The red arrow is pointing from the ball to my glove:

Here I am (STILL in mid-air!) coming down with the ball — my 100th of the season — in my glove:

I don’t think either mid-air photo captured me at the top of my leap. (I love that in the first jumping pic, my glove is blocking the sign that says, “Watch out for batted balls.” How perfect is that?)

Moments later, I caught another home run behind the Flag Court on Eutaw Street. When I saw the ball get up in the air, I backed up through an open gate and felt my back pressed up against a recycling bin. I couldn’t have moved back any farther. Luckily the ball came right to me and narrowly missed hitting the top bar of the gate. It was quite a blast.

There was another fan in the Flag Court who’d also caught two home runs. His name is Eddie, and he told me that he’s caught more than 300 balls overall. In the following photo, he’s the guy wearing orange. The usher pictured below, meanwhile, told us that if we caught another ball, we “had to” give it away to a kid:

That really pissed me off. The usher actually said, “For every three balls you catch, ya gotta give one away. That’s how it is.”

“Yeah, well, I already gave one away in left field,” I told him.

“Well, that’s not here,” he replied.

I’ve given away at least one ball at every game I’ve been to this year. Sometimes I’ve given away two or three, but not because I’m forced to. It bothered me when Guthrie put me on the spot and essentially made me give away my only ball. I forgive him because he’s always been really cool to me, but this usher had absolutely no right to make demands. As a general rule, I never EVER give baseballs to people who ask for them, and I don’t ever give baseballs to kids who aren’t wearing gloves. Sorry, but those are my personal rules.

Well, sure enough, there was another deep home run hit in my direction. Here I am staring up at it…

…and here it is about to fly into my glove:

Years ago, I would’ve kept that ball and told the usher to go you-know-what himself. But things are different now. Even though he should’ve been minding his own business and had no right to demand anything of me, I decided to give away the ball. He’s always in that section. I didn’t want to make an enemy that I’d have to see over and over. Keeping the peace, I realized, was more important than keeping the ball. And when he picked out a kid for me to give the ball to, I handed it to the usher so that he could get the satisfaction of giving it to the kid himself.

BP ended 65 minutes before game time (lame), so I found myself with extra time to kill. The same was true of the other regular ballhawks in attendance, and we all happened to end up in left field. Totally unplanned. Totally cool. THERE we all were.

We decided to gather close together for a few group photos. Here’s one of the lighter moments in between shots:

Yes, I’m wearing a “Shea Stadium” shirt at Camden Yards because…why not?

Let me identify everyone in the photo below…

SITTING (left to right): Rick Gold, Dave, Avi Miller, me, and Tim Anderson.
STANDING (left to right): Alex K, Ben Weil, Zevi, Sean, and Matt Hersl.

Here’s another shot of us sitting in one row:

I can’t even count the number of “balls” jokes that were made. We had lots of laughs and also joked about sitting together during the game and chasing home runs as if we were a mob. Man, it was hilarious. You had to be there, and guess what? You CAN be there. On Saturday, July 23rd, there’s going to be a huge “BallhawkFest” at Camden Yards. Alan Schuster, the founder of the (awesome) website MyGameBalls.com, is working out the details, so stay tuned and drop him a line if you’re interested

During the game, I hung out here for most left-handed batters:

Nothing came my way, but look who caught Vladimir Guerrero’s third-inning homer:

It was Tim!

Here’s a screen shot that shows him celebrating after making the impressive jumping catch:

Meanwhile, this was the only action I saw in the Flag Court:

The Orioles won, 5-4. The game lasted just 2 hours and 18 minutes. After the final out, I didn’t bother going to the ump tunnel or dugouts. I stayed in the outfield (because the final two batters were lefties) and made a beeline for the exit.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 balls at this game (3 pictured on the right because I gave 2 away)

• 102 balls in 14 games this season = 7.29 balls per game.

• 675 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 201 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 4,764 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.)

• 36 donors

• $5.74 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $28.70 raised at this game

• $585.48 raised this season

Finally, here’s another photo of the three balls, this time in black light. Check out the invisible ink stamps:

BTW, the reason why I didn’t include a black light photo in my previous entry is that my black light died. Turns out it just needed three new AA batteries, and now I’m back in business.

18 Comments

That usher telling you that you had to give a ball up was maddening! The fact that you give away so many as it is makes it ridiculous! There are plenty of other places in the park where kids can more easily get baseballs. I didn’t see anything in the A-Z guide about giving away 1 for every 3 that you catch. Maybe you should take this up with the O’s:

https://secure.mlb.com/help/email.jsp?c_id=bal&primarySubject=Other&secondarySubject=None&dest=birdmail@orioles.com

Matt Hersi… that’s who i got really annoyed with when I went to Camden. I think he really is a great guy, but he’s so freakin tall. And me- I’m 5’4”. not helpful.

Have you run into a guy at the Eutaw H gate who is short (so much height in this comment) and has an old glove? (Sorry it’s hard to describe him). We chatted with him when we went, and last year he went to almost all of the Orioles home games.

I’m going to be making the trip from Kansas City to the Ballhawk fest game at Camden Yards. That will be so much fun!

Wow. That’s crazy, some of these ushers at the ball parks just let their power go to their head. That was probably a smart move though, can’t say I would have done the same.

Maybe Guthrie didn’t have a reason to tweet then…..but he sure does now!! Although it didn’t happen at Camden, the first career home run catch is epic! Nice catch man.
-Matt

I think it is ironic that you don’t EVER give away balls to those who ask for them when such a large number of your baseballs come from you asking players for them (including multilingual and non-verbal).

Pizza during Passover. I’m disappointed. LOL. Good seeing you this week.
 
-Avi
 
2131 and Beyond: The games. The news. The experiences. The Orioles.
 

When I think back on my childhood when I went to baseball games I never got any baseballs given to me by ushers or security guards. I dont think its any of their business to dictate who gets a baseball and who doesnt. Im really sick of people thinking children should get all the baseballs at stadiums. The sport is for all ages. Not just kids. And if Zack, or whoever wants to stand in the flag court and shag home run balls for six days straight then thats what they get to do. We buy tickets just like the rest of the fans and we attend batting practice for the soul purpose of shagging baseballs. So what if Zack has 1 million baseballs? He gives a lot away just like a lot of people do. I have accumulated over 100 baseballs and I think Ive given away like one or two. Im the one making the effort to catch them. Im not entitled to give it away to anyone. When these kids get older and they want to persue Ballhawking at stadiums then they are free to do so.
Besides, how many events are kid oriented at the stadiums? Steal the base, run the bases, autographs days for 14 and under, lots of giveaways to kids 14 and under, honorary kid day ( kids get to sit in the broadcast booth, camera wells, dugouts, announce the lineups, meet the players etc ) the list goes on and on. So if adults want to come to the stadium and shag 100 baseballs…so be it. Its not like any one of us are hindering children from doing what they do…lots of kids get baseballs from players, fouls, home runs etc.

Not only that but Zack is catching baseballs for charity. Every baseball he catches ends up donating money to kids so they can have equipment to play the game.

Relax. If every one of Zack’s balls was a caught batted ball, I would not have commented. It’s just that he asks for balls from players every bit as much as he is out catching BP, foulballs and homeruns. If players had the same attitude “I don’t EVER give away balls” then you’d more than likely be crying about them and calling them selfish and greedy, just like the odd usher does toward you.

Zack, you had a great game regardless of the usher. One thing I love about the minors is you can make some great friends with the ushers at our ball park which has come in handy on more than one occasion. This year I started using your glove trick..I’m having problems dealing with the wind (20-25 mph). During our last game of the home stand this week I walked away with three HR’s in one game. Two on the bounce and one on the fly/bounce (off of me). The second ball shouldn’t have been mine…guy gave up on the ball after it hit a pole.

http://thehooks.mlblogs.com/

Nice game Zack. Do you know if ball-retrieving devices are allowed in Wrigley Field, Great American Ballpark, or Comerica Park?

Danny, at Great American you can use them, but there are some ushers and guards that take exception to it. The guys in left field don’t care, but that’s a pretty tall fence. In right field the guards next to the visiting bullpen usually cut your string.

Thanks Michael!

Not a problem! Glad to help.

TREVOR-
Yeah, I really hate it when employees make their own policies. If it’s not in writing, then seriously, S.T.F.U. and let me enjoy the game.

JON MADDEN-
What? Come on, Matt Hersl isn’t THAT tall. No way he’s more than six feet. He’s good at judging and catching home runs balls, so you just have to watch out for him, but he’s a good guy. I’m not sure who you’re talking about with the old glove. Is the fan also old too? If so, the only person I can think of is a man named Bob. Left-handed?

GARRETT MEYER-
You’re coming all the way from KC? Damn, man. Awesome.

MICHAEL-
It really IS a power trip with some people. But hey, I gave the guy what he wanted, and now he adores me. So that will only help me down the road. The Orioles in general treat their fans great, so I can’t really complain too much about one fool who works there.

MATT-
Thanks! But I doubt Guthrie even knows that I caught the Nickeas home run.

PIONEER-
Yeah, I see the irony…but I also see lots of differences between being a fan and being a player.

AVI-
What can I say? Religion just doesn’t DO it for me.

WAYNE-
Thanks so much. Brilliant arguments all around. Couldn’t have said it better myself. And hey…yeah…when the hell am I gonna get to run the bases? I guess I have to wait about 30 years to take part in the “senior stroll” around the bases, as I’ve heard some teams do.

HOOKSFAN-
Whoa, you got THREE home runs balls during a single GAME?! I don’t care if it happened in the minor leagues. That’s still incredible. Congrats.

DANNY-
Since you’ve already gotten your answer about Great American, and since it’s been so long that I’ve been to Detroit that I don’t remember, I can only tell you that retrieving devices are *strongly* frowned upon at Wrigley. They will come after you if you try to use them there.

Nice job!!! I’ve been reading your blog a lot lately. I snagged a ball during Orioles BP on 4/26 :)

Btw, I’m 18 and go to mostly AAA games and I hate when people ask for baseballs. But I actually like giving baseballs to kids who are patient, not being obnnoxious, and were trying

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