6/20/11 at Fenway Park

This was my first game at Fenway Park since 2008, and I had a new trick up my sleeve: early access to the Monster Seats. I’d heard about this from a couple friends, and now I’m gonna pass this lesser-known trick onto you. If you line up outside Gate C at around 4pm, you’ll see a woman selling memberships to Red Sox Nation. She basically walks up and down the line with a clipboard and wristbands, so you can’t miss her. (She works for the Sox, so it’s all totally legit and official.) The membership, which is good for a full season, costs $15, and once you have it, you can enter the Monster Seats two and a half hours early for batting practice. The rest of the stadium opens two hours early, but for the first half-hour, fans have to stay behind home plate and the dugouts, so getting into the Monster Seats effectively provides an hourlong head start on the competition. I’d never done this before. In fact, I’d never even been in the Monster Seats, so I was excited to finally see what it was all about. Here I am in line outside the ballpark:

If you look closely at the photo above, you can see that I was still wearing that gosh-darn aircast, 17 days after spraining my ankle on 6/3/11 at Citi Field. Do you see my crutches leaning against the gate? See the guy (in the beige shorts and black shirt) standing next to them? His name is David A. Kelly, and he’s a fellow baseball author. More on him in a bit.

Because I was on crutches, I got to enter the Monster Seats a few minutes early. It didn’t help me snag any extra baseballs, but it was still cool to be there ahead of the crowd and get to soak it all in. Here I am heading to the seats via a walkway at the back of the section:

Just about every photo in this entry was taken by my friend Brandon Sloter. He’s a professional photographer/videographer, and I’ve mentioned him lots in the past. Prior to this, our last game together was on 6/10/11 at Coors Field.

I headed down to the corner spot in the front row…

…but was told that I couldn’t stand there — Acchh!! So many rules!! — so I moved toward straight-away left field:

It was amazing to finally BE in those seats, but from a ballhawking perspective, the setup was lousy. The rows were narrow, and the stairs were steep, and of course the whole section got really crowded. I did manage to snag a couple baseballs in the front row and got a little bit of help on both of them. The first was thrown over my head by rookie pitcher Tommy Hottovy. David (the author I mentioned after the first photo) could’ve snagged it, but he let me grab it. That was very kind of him, so when a home run landed in the second row and was handed to me by a stadium employee, I gave that one to him. Yes, I know, these snags were lame and uneventful, but I do have a rigid set of rules for what counts and what doesn’t, and both of these baseballs fell within the parameters.

After a while, I moved to the back of the section and played the walkway — or at least attempted to do so. I still couldn’t run because it was too painful, so whenever a ball came near me, I had to hop after it on my right foot. The closest I came was on a home run that deflected off a kid’s glove right in front of me. Here I am flinching as I reached down for it:

The ball bounced past me and promptly got snatched by another fan.

When the Padres took the field, I immediately spotted Heath Bell. Look! Here he is:

I called down to him, and we had a minute-long conversation. (Even though I was so high up, it was easy for us to hear each other.) I told him about my ankle. He thanked me for the book. It was nice to catch up briefly.

A few minutes later, I got Ernesto Frieri to throw me a ball by asking for it in Spanish. Unfortunately, he was standing near the foul line, and there was a kid standing directly on my right. I mean, it was good for the kid but bad for me because the kid was able to reach out and rob me. Here’s some photographic evidence:

I could’ve boxed the kid out or reached around/over his glove, but that’s not my style. I stayed where I was and simply extended my arm directly out. If the kid hadn’t been able to reach it, then I would’ve caught it (and I might’ve then handed the ball to him), but as it turned out, he made a nice play.

When the rest of the stadium opened, I headed to the center field seats. Heath Bell was out there (in the deepest part of the ballpark) talking to the fans and deciding who to give a ball to:

He’s awesome.

Here’s a photo of the right field seats…

…and if you look closely at the following shot, you can see me hopping after a ball:

I didn’t snag it, but I did get one tossed to me out there by Clayton Richard.

That was my 3rd ball of the day, and I got No. 4 at the Padres’ dugout right after BP ended. As all the players started walking off the field, I noticed the ball sitting on the grass and pointed it out to Mike Adams:

He actually stopped and walked out of his way to pick it up and then threw it to me. If you look closely at the following photo, you can see the ball in mid-air:

Fenway Park is the 11th stadium I’ve been to this season, so once all the players were gone, I posed for a photo with my “11” sign:

Can you interpret my facial expression up above? (In case you’re new to this blog, I’ve been making different faces in most these photos to show how I feel about each stadium. Here’s a collage of the first nine.)

Moments later, a longtime reader of this blog found me with his copy of The Baseball. Here we are with it:

His name is Jere (pronounced “Jerry”), and he has posted lots of long/insightful comments over the years as “jere80.” It was great to finally meet him. (UPDATE: Here’s Jere’s blog entry about the day. I’m mentioned several times in it, and there’s also a video of the kid robbing me atop the Monster.)

David had also brought The Baseball, along with his copy of Watching Baseball Smarter. And hey, do you remember when I mentioned that he’s a baseball author as well? Here we are holding each other’s books:

David (who stumbled upon my blog in February while doing research) has written two books and has several more on the way. They’re part of a Random House children’s book series called Ballpark Mysteries. In the photo above, the one on the left is called The Fenway Foul-Up, and the one on the right is called The Pinstripe Ghost. I’ve gotten to read these books, and they’re really fun, so check ‘em out if you have kids who like baseball.

Before the game, I caught up again with Heath Bell at the dugout…

…and asked for his medical advice. I was hoping he’d tell me about some secret major-league/sprained-ankle remedy, but all he said was, “I don’t know, elevate?”

Thanks, Heath. Thanks a lot. Don’t mind me. I’ll just keep limping around.

Brandon took a great photo of the umpires discussing the ground rules with Bud Black…

…and then he got an even better photo of Black walking back to the dugout:

(Brandon, a die-hard Padres fan and San Diego native says, “Having lost eight of his last nine games, he looked miserable, and he should be. Reverse the curse, dude.”)

Here are a bunch of other photos that he took…

Anthony Rizzo:

Our very brief view in the top of the 1st inning (before the people came for their seats):

Dustin Pedroia throwing the ball across the diamond:

Pedroia getting out in front of a pitch and connecting on a fly ball…

…that barely stayed fair for a double. Here’s the ball making its descent:

This was our actual view from our actual seats, which cost $73 apiece (including the fees) on StubHub:

(We were packed in the middle of a row. I didn’t bother wearing my glove.)

This is me, exhausted:

I’d taken a redeye flight from Portland, Oregon the night before and slept one or two (or maybe three hours). Then, before heading to Fenway, I managed to take a nap on a horrendously uncomfortable couch in Brandon’s friend’s place in Allston. (I’m at this place now. It’s a total bachelor bad, and I know I shouldn’t complain because I’m staying here for free and saving about $200 on a hotel room, but I’m going to complain anyway. There’s no toilet paper, okay? And when I woke up this morning and took a shower, I had to dry myself with one of my T-shirts. The guys who live here are great, though, and I *do* appreciate getting to crash.)

As for the game…

…all I can say is that the Red Sox are really good, and the Padres are really bad. The final score was 14-5.

After the final out, I headed down to the dugout…

…and got a final ball from home plate umpire Ed Rapuano. Here I am holding it up as I headed back toward Brandon through the cross-aisle:

In the photo above, do you see the kid (wearing the backwards gray cap) looking up at me? When I noticed that, I asked her if she’d gotten a ball…

…and when she said no, I handed it to her:

She was SO happy — a nice end to an overall difficult day. As I mentioned last night on Twitter, Fenway is gorgeous but stressful.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

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

• 443 balls in 54 games this season = 8.2 balls per game.

• 715 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 241 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 5,105 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)

• $27.76 raised at this game

• $3,074.42 raised this season

26 Comments

Wow! Looks like you had a pretty good time a Fenway. I have been to a few games at Fenway, one was sitting in the first row of the Green Monster. You are right, Fenway is very Gorgeous, but also very stresful.
Right now I am on a plane heading to New York for a few games at Citi Field against the A’s. Do you have any tips for a teenage ballhawk like me for Citi Field?
-nick

http://nickbadderstheteenbaseballexpert.mlblogs.com/

http://twitter.com/#!/nickbatters

How early would I have to get to Fenway to be at the front of the Monster line? RedSox.com says the line starts at 4:10, but do people start lining up before then?

Zach, It was a thrill to finally meet you, and I’m glad you got some more baseballs. I got three from my spot on the centerfield wall, one of which I gave away. Personally, I think that is a better spot than the Monster.
When you got some time, I have some thoughts on breaking the record by catching a ball from a helicopter, if you care to hear them.

even though you were ‘nice’ enough to allow that cute young child to get the thrown ball atop the green moster, that picture says it all. you’re basically competing with 5 year olds begging for baseballs. i hope youre happy …

hey zach do you think your going to come to pittsburg this year please let me kno maybe we could set some thing up nice snags at fenway

Hey zack, Jacob here

Just wanted to let you know I will be doing my broadcasting on august 2 so be sure to watch sny on that date

To brandon- great pics man

don i would try an go against lil kids to because most likely they will drop it its fair game zachs can do whatever he wants yer another bully its fair game when you go to the stadiums there is no special rules if you dont get a ball yer shit out of luck cry about it good job zach dont worry about the bullys hes probly never got a ball before

I was wondering if you would ever go on top of the Monster. Do you know how your favorite player Gustavo Chacin doing?

TC here.did you see Padreleigh? what ballpark food did you eat?clam chowder?…..IVE BEEN WRAPPING MY LEFT ANKLE EVERY DAY FOR YEARS..ITS THE LEFT SIDE YOU HURT TOO?YOUR PUSHOFF FOOT AND PIVOT FOOT…HEATH BELL IS GOING SOON TO BO TRADED….ILL GUESS TEXAS……..JONAH IS A HOTTIE

I LOVE the picture of Anthony Rizzo. I can see the detail of his jersey. That makes me tick!

P.S. thanks for the Fenway tip!

You know you look like Russell Martin?

whats the deal with jonah? are you two dating? and if so, she’s okay with following you around as your personal photographer for many of the NY games that you attend?

i actually saw you at this game, although i didnt introduce myself! you seem pretty cocky actually going after balls and giving other people advice, as if you’re the know it all. but i guess that’s what 5000 baseballs does for you. just remember to say please and thank you :)

PS: Sorry about your late father again, hope you enjoyed your fathers day. We’re here if you need support – either for that or for your broken leg!

keep up the good work.i was the uber-excited Red Sox fan that saw you at the end of the game..you are on top of your game as you did a good job sneaking into those seats behind the padres dugout

NICK-
Yes. Read my blog entries about Citi Field. Everything you could possibly want to know is there. But basically, security is very strict, you can’t use ball-retrieving devices, and it’s almost impossible to catch home runs in right field. Maybe I’ll see you there later today, or on Thursday. Not sure if I’m gonna make it. I’m still stuck in Boston.

ALEX-
The line starts forming much earlier than that. Aim for like 3:30pm to be safe.

MIKE-
Great meeting you too. Sorry I didn’t use that photo of us on the blog. Do you have my email address? Drop me a line if you get a chance. I’d love to talk about breaking that record.

DON-
You’re completely missing the point.

TYLER-
Yes, but I don’t yet know when. I’ll announce it on the blog when I pick a date. Also, thanks for your response to Don. I appreciate your support.

JACOB-
I’ll definitely watch if I’m in New York, but it looks like I might be at a game in Florida on that date. That’s cool, though. I’m totally envious.

MLBLOGSBIGGESTRANGERFAN-
Nah, haven’t heard anything about him this season.

T.C.-
Great to hear from you. I did see Padre Leigh, and we talked about you. (I basically asked him if he’d seen you much this season.) You really think that Heath is gonna be traded? Hmm. That’d be interesting. Jona (no aitch) *is* a hottie.. Thanks for noticing.

BEN-
Get a Rizzo jersey for your collection. You know you want one.

RMONEY-
I hear that quite a bit, but c’mon, I’m waaay better looking.

JONATHAN-
The deal with Jona is that she spells her name without an aitch on the end. Beyond that, all I’m gonna say is that we’ve been spending lots of time together. She has always enjoyed going to games with me, but ever since she got hit by that ball at Citi Field (a few weeks ago), she’s been nervous about being out in the open during BP, so she might actually take a break from games. Dunno. We’ll see.

MARK E-
What the hell are you talking about? I *always* say please and thank you, and for the record, I give people advice not to be cocky, but to be generous with my knowledge so that they, too, can enjoy that thrill of going home with a ball. No need to talk about my father. That was nine months ago. I could do without all the reminders. And finally, I didn’t break my leg. I sprained my ankle. Jeez.

GAMMONSISGOD-
Thanks, but it’s really not that hard to get into those seats.

EVERYONE-
I’m way behind on my emails. If you’re waiting for a response for me, please be patient. I’ll try to get to it soon.

Heh….Russell Martin huh? Zack, I’ve always thought you look more like Neil Walker to me.

I think you might break my bank account this year with your hawking, even gimpy ballhawking.

I’m perfectly okay with that…

Do you know if Pitch In For Baseball has looked at helping out in Joplin, MO after the tornado? I’ve read so many things, being from MO of donations and drive… but I kept thinking I saw something from PIFB.

Zack,
I dropped you an email titled “dropping a baseball from a helicopter” . I know you are behind on the emails, so respond when you can.

Zack, thanks for the tips! If you see me, I will be wearing my gold A’s Jersey & A’s Stars and Stripes hat. My 9-year old sister will be wearing her mets hat and Jose Reyes T-Shirt…

Only 1 game in Fenway? I forgot you were in for this series, would have liked to have met ya. Maybe in 3 year.

TXRANGERSFAN-
Oh yeah? I’ve never gotten a Neil Walker comparison before. Hmm..

BRENDA-
Well, thanks, and yeah, PIFB is absolutely helping out in Joplin. Check out this article:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110602&content_id=19939198&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

MIKE-
I got the email, and I’ll answer you soon — hopefully this weekend.

NICK-
You’re welcome!

COPEGJC15-
Oh, man. I was also at Fenway on June 21st. I’ll make it back before 2014. Don’t worry.

Sprained ankle can be remedied through the use of natural pain killers and linements. There are so many natural herbs out there for that purpose. ^

Our web page
http://www.healthmedicinelab.com/constipation-remedies/

Zach,
I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, and love every minute of it. Just stumbled upon your blog about the fenway game where you met david kelly. My kids absolutely LOVE his books! Just thought I would mention that. Keep up the great job! Love reading about all your baseball adventures. I’m “living” through you as I’m a HUGE baseball fan!

CARLTON PRIESS-
Thanks.

MATT-
Glad to hear that. Much appreciated! I’ll let David know.

Zack,
I appreciate you passing along, to David, what I wrote. That was very kind of you to do that even with your busy schedule! I’m sure you get alot of offers but I would love to tag along on a ball hawking adventure sometime if you are in Philly or Baltimore.

Thanks again!
Matt

MATT-
You’re welcome. There are indeed tons of people who want to go to games with me . . . until I tell them that I do it as a business and charge money. I really prefer going alone otherwise, but it’d be cool to meet up at some point.

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