5/27/11 at Rogers Centre

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I was scheduled to appear on the Blue Jays radio network after this game — and as a result, comp tickets, baby! Check it out:

In the photo above, that’s my ticket sitting on the window ledge in my hotel room here at Rogers Centre. My friend Andrew also got comped. He went out all afternoon and explored Toronto. I stayed in the room and did my own thing. The following four-part photo shows some of what took place in his absence:

There was overpriced pizza. There was a powwow of high-school kids in center field. There was the batting cage being dragged into place by the grounds crew. And there was an interview. Do you see the photo above with me and another guy in the hotel room? That other guy is named Arden Zwelling. He’s the Blue Jays’ associate reporter for MLB.com. He dropped by for an hour and interviewed me about — what else? — all the baseballs I’ve snagged at major league games. More specifically, he asked me a bunch of questions about my 5,000th ball; the twelve balls I’d snagged the day before had increased my lifetime total to 4,988, so the milestone was within reach.

Arden interviewed me while we stood at the window and watched several White Sox players take early BP. When balls landed in the seats, they often bounced back onto the field. The ones that stayed in the seats were ultimately retrieved by stadium employees. But there was one home run ball (hit by Adam Dunn, I think) that landed in the folded-up part of a seat. Can you spot it in the following photo?

Did you see it?

No?

Well then, here’s a closer look:

It was only 2:15pm when that ball landed there. Rogers Centre wasn’t going to open until 5:30pm, so there was lots of time for an employee to wander down into that section and find it. That said, I had a good feeling about it. Because the ball was IN a seat as opposed to lying on the ground, I figured that it would be hard for anyone else to spot. I kept glancing at it throughout the interview, and after Arden left, I continued eyeing it all afternoon. It wasn’t just any ball, after all. It was THE ball that was potentially going to extend my consecutive games streak to 700. (For those who don’t know, the last time I went to a game and didn’t snag at least one ball was September 2, 1993.)

Long story short: when the stadium finally opened, I raced out to the section in right-center field where that ball had been sitting:

It was still there! And it was pretty much brand new:

Andrew, meanwhile, had gone straight to the 200 Level. Here he is waving at me:

Here’s a photo of me that he took from above:

During BP, several kids approached me with pens in hand and copies of my newest book — The Baseball:

I wasn’t able to sign the books right away because there were baseballs flying all over the place. I didn’t want anyone to get drilled — or worse, to simply miss out on a chance to catch one — so I told them to hang tight for a few minutes.

In the photo above, the kid on the right is named Danny, the kid on the left is named Ben, and the kid in the black shirt is Ben’s younger brother Jackson. Danny didn’t know Ben and Jackson. We all just huddled together for the photo. As soon as there was a break in the action, I signed the books, as well as Jackson’s ball.

And hey, speaking of balls, I snagged three homers within a 10-minute span. The first two landed in the seats. The last two were hit by Alex Rios. I’m not sure who hit the first one, and I caught the last one on the fly. (Did you follow all of that?) Andrew also snagged a Rios homer in the 200 Level. (Rios might not be hitting much during actual games, but he sure put on a great power display during BP.)

Toward the end of BP, White Sox pitcher Tony Pena retrieved a ball on the warning track in left-center, and when I asked him for it, he demanded to know why I wanted it.

“It would make me very happy to have it!” I said. “That’s why!”

He looked up at me and shook his head.

I didn’t know what else to say, so I asked him in Spanish for the ball.

“What do you do with a baseball?” he asked. “You practice with it?!”

“I don’t know,” I said innocently. “Whenever I go to a baseball game, I just like to try to get a ball.”

Evidently, that answer was good enough. As soon as the words left my mouth, Pena shrugged and tossed it to me.

Weird.

I raced to the 1st base dugout just before BP ended…

…and got my 6th ball of the day when all the players and coaches cleared the field. I don’t know who tossed it because it came out of nowhere, from underneath the dugout roof.

The comp tickets were on the 3rd base side of home plate, but since there were more righties in the lineups, we sat on the 1st base side instead. This was my view at the start of the game…

…and this is what it looked like on my right:

It was foul ball heaven! And yet I didn’t snag any foul balls. I won’t get into the specifics. Let’s just say that I’ve had brutal luck with foul balls during this entire series.

In my previous entry, do you remember this photo of a ball sitting in my hotel room window? Well, before I left the room for this game, I placed all ten of the balls there that I’d kept. Then, during the game, I took the following photo of them:

Heh.

The Blue Jays won the game, 4-2, and after the final out, I got my 7th ball of the day from home plate umpire Paul Emmel. Two innings earlier, I’d given away one of my baseballs to a kid in my section; on my way out of the stadium, I gave away another.

I was five balls short of 5,000 — and it was time for me to go talk about it on the radio. Check out my stats below, and then keep scrolling down to see more photos…

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 7 balls at this game (five pictured here because I gave two away)

• 333 balls in 39 games this season = 8.54 balls per game.

• 700 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 224 consecutive games outside of NYC with at least one ball

• 4,995 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.)

• 47 donors

• $6.84 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $47.88 raised at this game

• $2,277.72 raised this season

Okay, so, at around 11:15pm, Andrew and I left the hotel and took a 15-minute cab ride to this building on Bloor Street:

Getting inside took much longer than it should’ve because there weren’t any security guards downstairs, and the intercom system was confusing, and when we were finally buzzed in, we didn’t know which door was temporarily unlocked. But whatever. It all worked out, and a producer named Matt met us in the lobby. There was a little bit of time to kill before I was gonna be on the air, so after we made it upstairs, I ate one of these outside the studio:

Mmmm, delicious, and sooooo healthy. Yes. I needed something to offset all the crap I’d been eating on this trip.

Just before midnight, the studio door opened, and out walked Jeff Sammut, the overnight host of “The Jeff Sammut Show.” That’s who was going to be interviewing me. We chatted for a bit and had a few laughs before heading inside the studio. Andrew wasn’t going to be on the air, but he got to come hang out with us. Here’s a photo that he took of me just before the interview:

Here’s a (better, ahem!) shot that I took of him moments later:

The interview was great. Jeff was awesome. He mentioned my books several times and (unlike Conan) gave me a chance to talk about my charity fundraiser. I told foul ball stories, talked about strategies for snagging baseballs at Rogers Centre, and took questions from callers. At one point, I announced that at the game the following day, I would give a ball to the first person who told me that they heard me on the radio.

Jeff is truly a master at what he does, and the time flew by. He kept me on for two full segments, which turned out to be close to 40 minutes. Of course, there were a few commercial breaks and sports updates mixed in there, but I still had lots of time to talk about stuff. At one point, Jeff mentioned Andrew — and Andrew later tweeted about it. Good times.

After the interview, Jeff and I got a photo together:

What you can’t see in the photo above  is that Jeff was wearing a Yankees cap.

<sigh>

Jeff thanked me for coming on the show. I thanked him for having me in the first place. And that was pretty much it. Matt walked us downstairs, and we grabbed a taxi back to the hotel.

Here’s one more photo of the stadium, which I took late at night:

The seat cleaners were busy doing their thing. In the photo above, you can see the trash that they’d gathered in the right field stands, some of which had spilled over into the bullpen.

9 Comments

Zack,

Great Blog! Do you possibly have the recording of the interview?

thanks for mentioning me

I heard the radio interview, I thought that it was really good.

5 more until 5,000. I look at your ball list every day waiting for it. GOOD LUCK! -Dylan

Do you know where I can get a copy of How To Snag Major League Baseballs? Thanks. -Dylan

@mlbblogsbiggeststrangerfan – Search on Amazon, they have his books listed.

Great entry wow 5 more that overpriced pizza you got looks amaizing I’m sure It was worth it I am now craving pizza
-Ben

Congrats on the interview and game. Last night I actually went to a game with the wife for our anniversary so I partook in no BP or asked for any game balls (I felt she deserved a night) and wouldn’t you know it that Zach Duke hits his first HR in the Majors and hits six seats to the right of my wife.

Thanks Brad. I really appreciate it. I found one and I’m about to buy it.

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