5/20/11 at Citizens Bank Park

This was the story of my day:

No wait, it was the story of my week — rain, more rain, even more rain, and no batting practice.

Yesterday in Philly, things were dead for the first 30 minutes. There wasn’t a single player on the field, and I was wishing that I’d stayed home in New York City. It’s not that I was worried about getting shut out; it’s that I simply wasn’t having fun. (No offense to Jona, who was with me.)

Several Rangers players finally came out and took a slow lap around the field. I was trapped in the left field seats — that’s the rule for the first hour at Citizens Bank Park — so I couldn’t get near them at first. Now, it just so happened that they had a couple of baseballs, so when they headed back toward their dugout on the 3rd base side, I called out and got Chris Davis to throw one:

The ball landed in the seats and took a perfect bounce right to me, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the nearest kid.

Fifteen minutes later, the Phillies’ pitchers began playing catch in right field:

Of course I couldn’t get near them, so I waited and watched the clock and hoped that they’d still be there when the rest of the stadium opened. Well, by the time I was allowed to run over, there were three players remaining — and three baseballs sitting near them on the field. There was a little kid with his father in foul territory. They got the first ball. There was another little kid on my right. He got the second ball. And since there weren’t any other kids, I got the final ball. Antonio Bastardo (yes, that’s actually his name) tossed it to me, and you can see it inside the red circle in the following photo:

The Rangers had already started playing catch across the field, so I hurried over and promptly snagged a ball that was thrown wildly into the seats. Then, five minutes later, I got bullpen coach Andy Hawkins to toss me my 4th ball of the day. Here’s a photo of that ball flying toward me; note where Neftali Feliz was looking:

Quite simply, he wasn’t looking at me. In other words, he hadn’t seen me get that ball, so when he started jogging toward the dugout with an extra ball in his glove, I realized that I might be able to get it. I cut through the seats (in an attempt to keep up with him) and shouted his name. He ignored me and kept jogging. I shouted again and asked for the ball in Spanish. He immediately looked up and tossed it in my direction. Unfortunately, it sailed 10 feet over my head, but because the seats were so empty, I still managed to chase it down. Here I am about to grab it with my glove:

Moments later, Matt Harrison started walking toward me. Rather than asking for an autograph, I thought it’d be cool just to shake his hand. This was the result:

Ouch! I got completely dissed!

I suspected that Harrison hadn’t seen or heard me, so when he stopped soon after to sign for a couple kids, I tried again:

Now THAT’S more like it.

I enjoy getting autographs, but in some cases, I actually find it more rewarding to simply shake hands. By not asking for anything (except the handshake itself), I feel like I’m equal to the player. You know what I mean? I spend so much time begging for baseballs that it’s nice to break free from the collecting mindset every now and then. That’s what I did on 5/16/11 at Citi Field when I got close to Mike Stanton, and it really felt nice. Of course, it’d also be nice to have his autograph, but the handshake was a solid alternative.

Anyway, back in begging mode, I got David Murphy to toss me his warm-up ball right before the game. Can you spot it sailing toward me in the following photo?

(Don’t forget, you can click all these photos for a closer look.)

That ball was actually hard to catch. For a split-secont, I completely lost it in the lights and nearly had it clank off my glove.

Jona and I wandered a bit during the game, but spent most of our time behind the Rangers’ dugout. This was our view in the bottom of the 1st inning:

I wasn’t just hoping for a 3rd-out ball. I was expecting to snag one, but I came up empty. Rangers starter C.J. Wilson struck out so many batters (ten in seven innings) that catcher Yorvit Torrealba ended up tossing a bunch of balls over the home-plate end of the dugout. First baseman Michael Young, meanwhile, kept lobbing balls deep into the crowd, and the one time that Elvis Andrus ended up with a ball, he looked right at me before tossing it to a grown man wearing Phillies gear.

At least the game was exciting. Roy Halladay pitched for the Phillies and was pretty close to dominant, as usual. In eight innings of work, he allowed two runs on six hits, while walking one and striking out seven. Wilson only surrendered four hits, but one was a two-run homer by Ben Francisco and another was a solo shot by Raul Ibanez. That was your offense. Final score: Phillies 3, Rangers 2.

Jona took a great photo of the crowd’s reaction when David Murphy was caught stealing to end the game. Check it out:

After the final out, three things happened:

1) Arthur Rhodes threw me a ball when he walked in from the bullpen.
2) Some random ballboy-type-guy tossed me another.
3) I gave a ball to a little girl in the concourse.

The following three-part photo shows these things happening:

Keep reading past the stats to see more photos…

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 8 balls at this game (six pictured here because I gave two away)

• 295 balls in 34 games this season = 8.68 balls per game.

• 695 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 221 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 4,957 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 get involved.)

• 46 donors

• $6.74 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $53.92 raised at this game

• $1,988.30 raised this season

Okay, so, more photos…

First, here’s a side-by-side look at the six balls I kept. The image on the left shows them in regular light, and the image on the right shows them in black light:

Next up, since a bunch of people have said it’d be cool to see non-baseball/”behind-the-scenes” photos, here are a few that were taken at the start of the day…

This is what it looked like while driving on the New Jersey Turnpike from New York to Philadelphia:

Yuck.

I assumed there wasn’t going to be batting practice, but I knew I’d find happiness elsewhere:

After getting off the Turnpike at exit 3, Jona and I stopped at an amazing custard place called Rita’s. Even though I’m allergic to dairy (life is cruel) and sugar (really really cruel), stopping at Rita’s has become a ritual on my trips to Philly. And for the record, the vanilla cone with rainbow sprinkles was just one of three things I got. In case you haven’t noticed, I have issues with moderation.

When we reached the stadium, the sugar made me hyper…

…but then again, so did the air. (Can you imagine how hard it was for me to sit still in school, especially after ingesting juice and cookies at snack time? I can’t even sit still at baseball games, and I *like* baseball.)

Finally, here’s a photo of Jona grabbing my face:

See what kind of stuff takes place behind the scenes? It’s not always pretty, but there you have it.

Next week, I might attend seven Blue Jays games and snag my 5,000th ball. We’ll see how that goes, but at the very least, I’ll definitely be at the Rogers Centre from May 26-29, so if you’re there, come say hi.

18 Comments

Nice work Zack. You are battling the elements and still pulling in good numbers for your charity. Are you staying in the Renassance again in Toronto? If so, did Jenny hook you up with a good room?

Zack, if Bautista hits a homer in any of the games you attend and it’s not too much trouble, could you possibly see if you could pick a tix stub up (usually some in the seats at the end of a game etc). I am trying to pick together a run of his home run games. No biggie if you can’t. I appreciate it either way. Chris

Hey Zack it’s Dylan and I’m curious to know when you’re coming back to Arlington. If you know please tell me. Thanks.

I have known for a little while that you will snag 5,000 in Toronto. Sadly, I can’t attend any of those games. Maybe I will see you around in another city in the future.

Great website! Keep up the good work.

You still haven’t snagged a GAME home run on a Saturday. And since Jose Bautista is a home run hitting machine, you should spend May 28th in left field. Just saying. Also, I sent you an email letting you know that I changed my email address. So if you could take a look at that and make the change to my pledge info.
Thanks,
-Matt

I’m totally excited about meeting you in Toronto. So don’t snag your 5,000th till then :)

I might be going for a Jose Bautista homer

I’m just excited that you name-checked Rita’s.

Hey zack! I was wondering when you might come to busch stadium because I might be able to come to one of the games (if they are on weekends) that you go to. thanks!

Nice…..good luck…….also when are you going to continue the ” Hample jinx” watch on Gustavo Chacin? just wondering..

-angel

CHRIS-
Yeah, same hotel. Not sure which room I’ll end up with, though. As for Bautista and tickets, sure, I’ll try to do that for you.

DYLAN-
I’m not sure when I’ll be back in Arlington, but it probably won’t be until 2012 at the earliest. I wish I could attend 40 games there every season.

CANADIAN BALLHAWK-
I’m actually not sure if I’ll be able to snag No. 5,000 in Toronto. The weather really slowed me down this week.

THE ANGRY FAN-
Thanks.

MATT-
Yeah yeah, I know all about my lack of Saturday homers. I’ll see what I can do in Toronto. As for your email address, the change has been noted.

JON MADDEN-
I’m looking forward to meeting you too. I definitely won’t snag No. 5,000 before Toronto. The only issue is whether or not I’ll be able to snag it while I’m there. The Rogers Center is a tough stadium, so I don’t expect to put up big numbers.

BRANCO-
Name-checked…what? Not sure what you mean. I know it’s technically an “ice” place, but I called it a “custard” place because that’s what I always get there.

NICK GANTZ-
I’m not sure about Busch Stadium. All my stadium dates might actually be changing. Trying to figure it out now.

ANGEL-
Yes, the Hample Jinx is most certainly still in effect for Gustavo Chacin.

“Name-checked”, meaning you took the time to refer to Rita’s by name… Rather than just saying that you stopped at an ice place.

I’m a big fan of Rita’s too, and try to stop in whenever I’m driving to Philly.

Zack, nice recap. Was that rainbow sprinkle ice cream as good tasting as it looks? haha Get the CNN DVD I mailed to you? Email me about the postage if you want, but it’s not really a big deal….

ok. thanks!

Here’s an idea I’ve been thinking about Zack.

You probably don’t get to watch much TV, but if you turn on just about any channel such as A&E, you see shows about reality jobs/hobbies. There is, of course, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Pawn Stars (about a pawn shop on the Vegas strip), Storage Wars (about buying abandoned storage lockers), and a bunch of other crap.

So, what about a ballhawking TV show? It has to be entertaining; we are some characters.

You have to know someone/someway to get this to someone in the TV industry. You know everyone else.

Hey Zack,
I tried out the glove trick and I got it to work! Now I just gotta go to a game.
-Dylan

BRANCO-
Ahh, gotcha. Thanks for clarifying, and cheers to Rita’s awesomeness.

PSU532-
The cone tasted better than it looked. No joke. It was other-worldly. And yes, I got the DVD, but haven’t even had a chance to look at it yet. Hopefully in the next couple days. Thank you soooooo much. As for John King…whoa! He could’ve gotten much more, but he’s clearly not a baseball memorabilia collector, so it seems that everyone was happy.

TIM ANDERSON-
There’ve been some ideas/proposals that’ve floated my way, but nothing concrete yet. We certainly ARE a bunch of characters. That’s for sure. I think it’d be awesome to get a show going, but it’s so hard. I have a feeling, though, that someday it’ll happen.

DYLAN-
Nice! Now…yes…get yourself to a game and try it out.

Holy cow, that is one magnificent cone. How do they get all those sprinkles on there, especially on the sides?
I second the Busch proposal.

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