6/9/11 at Coors Field

I’ve been accused of doing all sorts of horrible things over the years, and in my last blog entry, someone posted a comment that accused me of another: pretending to be disabled in order to get baseballs. “I just think that’s really low,” wrote the commenter, “and it was surprising to see you go that far.”

Let me set the record straight: I’m not pretending. “Disabled” is a strong word, but the fact is that I have a horrendously sprained ankle, and I’m on crutches, and it hurts every time my left foot touches the ground. I’ve been to the emergency room for X-rays. I’ve been to a foot specialist. I spent $70 on crutches and $150 for an aircast. I’ve been taking pain-killers every day and wrapping/elevating/icing my foot. I’m in bad shape, and it blows.

That said, I took small pleasure yesterday at LaGuardia when my “disability” allowed me to board the airplane before anyone else:

When I first arrived at the airport (with four and a half hours of sleep), I checked my bag curbside and was offered a wheelchair.

“How much extra will that cost?” I asked.

“Nothing,” said the baggage guy, “and they’ll take you right to the gate.”

Again, just to be clear, I’m truly injured, and I’m not happy about it, and I know that there are folks with far more severe disabilities, but I did enjoy being rolled through the airport and getting to bypass every line you could possibly imagine. I guess that makes me a horrible person.

Once I made it to Denver, my friend (and honorary mom) Nettie Wood picked me up at the airport and gave me a ride to her place. Here she is in the car.

At 2:30pm,  I headed over to the Blake Street Tavern for lunch with this guy:

That’s Robert Harmon. You might remember him from this article that I wrote about Barry Bonds’ 762nd career home run ball — and you might also recognize his name from pages 22-23 of The Baseball. Robert used to be a diehard Rockies fan, but now (as you might have noticed based on his hat in the photo above), he roots against them. Because of several incidents that have taken place in the last year, he feels that he’s been unfairly targeted and bullied by team personnel, and as a result, he has pretty much stopped going to games. In the photo above, do you see the piece of paper to the right of my plate? (That’s a buffalo burger, BTW.) That’s just one page of a long letter that Robert has written to the Rockies. He’s still editing it and will soon drop it off at Coors Field.

After lunch, Nettie gave me a ride to Coors, where I met up with her husband Danny (pictured below on the left) and another friend named Dan Sauvageau (on the right):

Danny, you may recall, is the guy with THE most incredible collection of baseballs. Dan, meanwhile, might look familiar because he’s one of the “Top Ten Ballhawks” in The Baseball. Each ballhawk got two pages in the book. Here’s the first page of Dan’s profile/interview:

For the record, Dan has now snagged 80 game home runs, including 47 on the fly.

Batting practice was slow, or rather *I* was slow. I used my crutches for about one-third of the time, hopped around on my good foot for another third, and walked VERY slowly and carefully for the remainder. No matter what I did, it sucked, and I was once again reduced to begging for balls. When an entire group of Rockies lefties started hitting, I couldn’t run over to the right field seats. When the Dodgers came out and played catch along the left field foul line…

…I was stuck in left-center. Pre-game throwing at the dugout? Not a chance. It was unbelievably frustrating not to be able to reposition myself throughout the day — not to use certain strategies when I *knew* they would’ve worked.

Here’s a photo of me that Nettie took during BP:

I managed to snag five baseballs, all of which were all thrown/handed to me by the following players:

1) Jason Hammel (as soon as I entered the left field seats)
2) Matt Guerrier (when he finished warming up)
3) Ramon Troncoso (when he saw my crutches; he handed it to me)
4) Marcus Thames (after his first throw fell short)
5) Rubby De La Rosa (because I asked him in Spanish)

I ended up giving away two of those baseballs to kids.

After BP, I caught up with a Rockies fan named Ken, who’d brought his copy of The Baseball. (Ken leaves comments on this blog as “rocktober_93.”) I signed the book for him, and then we got a photo together:

Soon after, two folks in the bleachers walked down to the front row with their copy of the book. Their names were John and Catherine. Here I am with them:

See the Rockies lineup in the photo above? Show of hands: who here has heard of Charlie Blackmon?

Another show of hands: based on the photo below, who here thinks that I’m “pretending” to be injured and that I’ve stooped to new lows by letting the players see my crutches during BP?

Yeah.

Shortly before game time, Nettie took the following photo of me with my “9” sign:

Why number nine?

Because this is the ninth major league stadium that I’ve visited this season.

Here’s a collage of all nine photos:

This was my view during the game:

Nothing special, right?

Well, here’s what it looked like to my right…

…and to my left:

I had SO much room to limp for baseballs, but never really got the chance. The closest I came was on a Carlos Gonzalez double in the bottom of the 8th. After standing up and hopping 10 feet to my right, I watched helplessly as the ball hit the top of the wall several seats over. Here’s a screen shot that shows me in the stands:

The temperature had dipped into the 40s, so I was wearing my gray hoodie — and if you look closely, you can see my aircast just over Tony Gwynn Jr.’s right shoulder.

The Rockies were losing 4-0 after five innings, and they were trailing 7-3 at the seventh inning stretch. But they won. They scored five times in the bottom of the seventh and added an insurance run in the eighth. Final score: Rockies 9, Dodgers 7.

There was only one home run in the game — a lazy, Coors-Field floater off the bat of Matt Kemp that barely carried over the wall in dead center and clanked off some guy’s glove. Someday, I’m going to catch a home run here. It might not happen on this trip, but it WILL happen.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 baseballs at this game (three pictured here because I gave two away)

• 396 balls in 47 games this season = 8.43 balls per game.

• 72 balls in 12 lifetime games at Coors Field = 6 balls per game.

• 708 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 234 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 5,058 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.)

• 52 donors

• $6.94 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $34.70 raised at this game

• $2,748.24 raised this season

One last thing…

Two of the three balls I kept have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light:

17 Comments

Great Blog entry, as usual. About the Robert Harmon story, did you happen to find out why Coors Field staff was harassing him? I thought Colorado was friendly. Unlike Dodger Stadium from my own personal experiences.

Zack, don’t concern yourself and worry about what those fools are saying. I’m not trying to build you up here, but we all know what kind of person you are and that you wouldn’t intentionally do anything to hurt another person or take away from someone who needed help more than you. So keep doing your thing and ignore the negativity.

Drew

Good job. It is good to know you don’t give a crap what haters think. Good game as usual. -Biggest Ranger Fan or The Ranger Fan

It would be interesting to know the story behind Robert Harmon.

I really would like to know what’s going on with Robert myself. I first heard he was unhappy with the Rockies organization from the Rockpile Ranter’s blog but he didn’t say much either. Hope it gets resolved because I chatted with Robert a couple of times and he seems like a pretty cool dude. Haven’t been to a game this year though, hopefully I run into him at Coors or on the street and find out what’s up.

Zach,
I cant believe that somebody would ever consider that you would be faking your injury, although it would probably be a descent idea for about one game. I was sure that it was you who snagged Matt Kemp’s homer when I saw it happen, but I guess I was wrong. With the crowd in the outfield who knows if you could have run over and retrieved that ball as it rolled down the tunnel in center. Well, good luck trying to snag a homer at Coors, this series would be idea if you were not injured, as Matt Kemp is the hottest hitter in baseball. Hope you feel better, and remeber to wear a Dodgers hat to one of the games this weekend. Good luck.

-Sam

Zack, just wanted to let you know that I met your honorary mom and husband at Whataburger Field if I remember correctly at the end of April 2011. Nettie took a picture of me using the glove trick on a ball by the left field berm. Nettie and Danny were extremely nice and I enjoyed their company during their brief stay. If you ever want to use the photo which Nettie took of me using the Glove Trick feel free to do so. My step-son is still amazed on how it works.

I also want to hear the story of this Robert dude.

are you going to try to visit all 30 MLB stadiums this year? if so let me know when ur gonna go to the trop

“…I was once again reduced to begging for balls”

Zack-
I have actually heard of Charlie Blackmon. Only because I got one of his autographed baseball cards a few years ago. I have only checked in on him every few months to see what he is up to and see if the card is going up in value. So I have very little knowledge of him.
Anyways.
Working on reading the book and it is great so far. I read the first section twice because I wanted to remember as much as possible so I can tell people completely off topic foul ball stories. But they are all very fascinating and some almost seem too funny to be true.
Good luck with the rest of the season and especially with that ankle.
Jonathan

I can’t believe that someone would think that you would fake an injury! You would never do something like that, only a selfish person would. By the way, just out of curiosity, what airline did you fly to Denver? I tried to figure out by the picture, but I couldn’t.

Zack, is the expression on your face in the No. 9 picture a reflection of your feelings about Coors Field itself or about your own inability to fully maximize your time at Coors Field due to the injury?

Fake, they say? I assume they think you’re enough of a Photoshop genius that you can add extensive bruising to your ankle to fool people. Really, I just don’t understand some folks.
Did you get to ride the wheelchair through security? When I had to fly shortly after wrecking my ankle, I had to take off the aircast, send it through the X-ray machine, and stump through the metal detector like Long John Silver without a crutch. Extremely unpleasant. If you were spared that, God bless you. And if you weren’t, I feel for you. No fun. At all.
Don’t feel too guilty about flashing the crutches to get some spherical love from the players. You need to take your little compensations where you can get them.
Be tough, keep ‘hawking through the pain, and oh yeah, don’t forget to enjoy Coors Field. Has to be really nice up there.

BRAD-
Yeah, I’ve heard various sides to the story, but it’s too complicated to get into here.

DREW-
Thanks. I really appreciate that.

DYLAN-
Well, I *do* care what people think. That’s why I acknowledged it and blogged about it. But still…thanks. I don’t expect everyone to love me, and I can certainly handle being criticized and insulted, but I don’t like it when I’m accused of lying.

WAYNE-
I’ll tell you in Seattle. I just don’t have the energy to type up a long explanation right now.

CHRIS26-
He’s definitely a cool dude, but he’s kinda stuck in his ways, and he’s really opinionated, and that rubs some people the wrong way.

SAM-
Thanks. I’ve been wearing my Dodgers cap during BP. Is that good enough?

MLBLOGSTHEHOOKS-
Oh, that was you?! They told me about you. Very cool.

TIM ANDERSON-
I’ll tell you when I see you in Baltimore…if I ever make it back there.

SUJAN PATEL-
Yeah, I’m hoping to hit up all 30, but I still haven’t finalized my big end-of-the-season roadtrip. Gotta first make sure I can walk.

JONATHAN-
Well, you win the “Charlie Blackmon Award.” (Not sure what the award actually is, but that sounds good, doesn’t it?) Glad you’re enjoying the book.

NICHOLAS-
Some people will believe anything. My “fake” injury is the least of it. As for the airline, it was United.

TODD-
I’m not even sure. All of the above.

SHANE T.-
Ha, yeah, I got to wear my shoes through the metal detector, but then they sat me down and made me take them off and gave me a *thorough* inspection…which was fine. I got nuthin’ to hide. Anyway, thanks for the comment. Much appreciated.

Take your time making it back here ….. :)

Zack, I got a chance to see Blackmon last season when he was with the Tulsa Drillers, the Double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.

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