8/18/11 at Nationals Park

I need to start this entry by posting a photo of the very healthy lunch that I ate before the game. Why? Because in a few minutes, you’re going to see a photo of my very unhealthy dinner, and I want you to know that there’s balance in my life. Okay? Here goes:

Mmmm, yes! I was at a Korean restaurant with James, the guy who’s been filming me lately for a documentary. I wanted to order a generic chicken dish, but he insisted on ordering for me and picked the meal that you see above. It was essentially a bowl of vegetables (carrots, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, cucumber, bean spouts, mushrooms, and other stuff that neither of us could identify) with a fried egg on top. (I picked out the mushrooms. I don’t do mushrooms. But I ate everything else.) James told me to dump the little bowl of rice on top and mix it all up. So I did. And it was surprisingly good.

Anyway, let’s talk about Nationals Park…

When the stadium opened at 4:30pm, I headed out to the Red Porch seats in left-center. Remember the security guard from the previous game who’d bashed me in the face while racing me for a ball? Well, he was back there, and as soon as he saw me, he shook his head as if to say, “YOU again.” He was 100 feet away from me when he did that — all the way down in the front row — and as I started making my way toward him, he tried to avoid me by heading up the steps on the far side of the section.

“Hey!” I shouted. “Come here! I want you to see what you did to my nose.”

“No!” he shouted and turned his back. “I’m not interested!”

That was the end of it, at least with him. I later got scolded by a middle-aged/fake-blonde waitress at the back of the section. For some reason, she felt it was her job to regulate how many baseballs I could snag, so after I got a few, she started yelling at me from 50 feet away — and I do mean YELLING.

“You’re here everyday!!!” she hollered. “Give the kids a chance!!!”

Ready to see how many kids there were in the section? Here’s a photo that I took at 5:10pm — exactly *forty* minutes after the stadium had opened:

In the photo above, the kid in the red-and-black jersey snagged five balls — and those were just the ones that I saw. The other two kids down in front also got several balls apiece. In fact, by the time the waitress started nagging me, they’d already gotten a bunch of balls. Why was she so upset? The kids were in front. I was in back. They were getting toss-ups. I was chasing home runs. Everyone was happy.

Well, almost everyone.

Some guy who was about 8-foot-30 eventually marched down the steps and stood right in front of me. He was there to catch baseballs and, I gathered, to prevent me from catching any more. Well, after two home runs sailed directly over his glove and into mine, he decided to complain. He gave me a speech about how I was taking the joy out of it for everyone, and how I should give other people a chance, and blah blah blah, so I offered him a baseball. And he accepted it with a scowl on his face. And then he left.

Within the next few minutes, I gave two more baseballs away — not because some lunatic waitress was demanding it, but because it seemed appropriate at the time. I handed one to a very little kid who had just wandered down to the front row, and I tossed the other to a grown man who’d had it knocked out of his glove by another fan. Of course the waitress didn’t notice.

As for the balls that I snagged, the first nine were all home runs by the Nationals, and I only know who hit the first one:

1) Rick Ankiel; I picked it up in the seats
2) caught on the fly
3) caught on the fly
4) caught on the fly
5) landed on the staircase next to the batter’s eye
6) caught on the fly after it sailed right over the tall guy’s glove
7) caught on the fly near the bullpen
8) deflected off another fan’s glove; I picked it up in the seats
9) caught on the fly by reaching far over the plexiglass wall alongside the batter’s eye

Just before the Nationals finished hitting, I used my glove trick to snag my 10th ball of the day from the gap behind the outfield wall. And then things went dead.

I went to right field when Joey Votto and Jay Bruce were in the cage. I had endless room to run…

…but there wasn’t a single home run that landed there.

Then, when a bunch of righties started hitting in the next group, I moved to the empty seats behind the left field bullpen:

The day before, the Reds must’ve hit a dozen balls there, but when I decided to give it a shot…

Nothing.

I didn’t snag a single baseball during the entire Reds’ portion of batting practice. I seriously have no idea what was going on, but I made up for it at the 3rd base dugout when BP concluded. Billy Hatcher tossed me a ball. Then a ballboy (who hadn’t seen me get one from Hatcher) tossed one to me. And then some random Reds employee (who was dressed nicely and had some type of media credential dangling from his belt) tossed me another. The ballboy saw me get that one, so I shrugged.

“Give it to kid,” he suggested politely.

“I absolutely will,” I said. And I did. At the end of the night, when I was heading out of the stadium, I stood and waited in the concourse for several minutes until I saw a little kid with an empty glove. That’s who got the ball. I would’ve given it away immediately, but when BP ended, it was starting to rain, so the seats were nearly empty. There were only two other kids behind the dugout, one of whom was the kid who’d gotten (at least) five balls in left-center field, and the other had just gotten a ball. Sometimes there are 1,000 kids and only a few dozen baseballs to go around. Yesterday it felt like those numbers were reversed.

Look who I ran into at the dugout:

In the photo above, that’s me on the right (in case you can’t tell) and Avi Miller on the left. Avi is a regular at Camden Yards, and he’s awesome. ‘Nuff said.

Look who else I ran into there:

Do you remember when I was filmed by a local news station on 5/11/11 at Camden Yards? Well, in the photo above, the guy on the right is the one who put it all together. His name is Gregg Mace, and the young man on the left is his son Kyle. Despite not wearing a glove, Kyle ended up snagging a Brandon Phillips foul ball during the game. Very impressive.

I had some time to kill after BP, so I wandered up to the upper deck. This was the view from the last row in the outermost section in right field:

In the photo above, that’s Avi taking a photo of me. He decided to come along, just because.

This was the view to my right:

Here’s what the concourse looks like in the upper deck:

I was planning to head downstairs to meet a childhood friend, but he hadn’t yet arrived at the stadium, and I was hungry, and I noticed that there was a Shake Shack (with a not-terribly-long line), and look what happened:

I got a double-cheeseburger, an order of fries, and a vanilla milkshake. (And a bottle of water.) Not all that healthy. But hey, I shared my fries and shake with Avi, and of course I ate that insanely healthy Korean lunch, so it’s all good.

This was the scene when I made it back down to the 100 Level:

By that point, I had said goodbye to Avi and met up with my childhood friend. You’ll see a photo of us in a bit, but first, here’s a shot of Todd Frazier signing autographs:

I got Frazier to sign a ticket that I’d found the day before:

The game was delayed 32 minutes at the start. I didn’t mind because it gave me more time to catch up with my friend. His name is David Sterrett. Here we are:

David and I went to school together from 1st through 5th grade. Here’s some proof in the form of our 1st-grade class photo:

We’ve seen each other plenty of times since then, but it’s still special whenever we get together. David grew up in New York City, but now lives in Virginia. According to his Twitter page, he’s “an attorney with an interest in real estate investing as a hobby,” so basically, if you want to snag baseballs, follow me, and if you want to get rich, follow him. (If you want to see all my other class photos, click here and scroll down through the years.)

I’d started the day with a season total of 785 baseballs, so the 13 that I’d snagged before the game raised that number to 798. I’d been hoping to snag a couple more during the game itself, but there weren’t any foul balls near me, and I didn’t even bother going for 3rd-out balls — but no big deal. I figured I’d reach the milestone soon enough. That said, I still wandered down behind the Reds’ dugout in the bottom of the 9th. This was my view:

If nothing else, I was hoping to get a ball from Ed Rapuano, the home plate umpire, when he walked off the field. As it turned out, I got a whole lot more. Check it out:

I snagged two baseballs at the dugout AND a Joey Votto wristband. How effin’ awesome is that?! (Votto wears number 19.) The second ball, pictured above on the right, was randomly tossed onto the dugout roof from below. I didn’t see who tossed it, and I didn’t even see it coming. Another fan standing on my right (who already had a ball) said, “Hey, there’s a baseball,” and when I turned around and looked to my left, I saw it roll off the dugout roof and plop down into the empty front row. THAT was my 800th ball of the season.

As for the wristband, I really didn’t do anything special to get it. For some reason, Votto was lingering near the top step of the dugout. I couldn’t see his hands, but it appeared that he was struggling to take something off. I assumed it was his batting gloves, so I asked for them. Moments later, something red came flying up from below, and I darted to my left to catch it. (There wasn’t anyone standing on my left, so it’s not like I robbed anyone. I just wanted to catch it before it hit the wet/dirty ground.) After I snagged it, it took me a moment to realize what it was, and as you can imagine, I was pretty excited.

I’ve only gotten one other wristband in my life, and it’s not nearly as nice. It was given to me by Jermaine Allensworth at Comiskey Park in 1998, and as you can see in this photo of it, his uniform number (46) was merely scribbled onto the Nike logo. (Click here to see other “bonus items” that I’ve snagged over the years.)

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 15 baseballs at this game (11 pictured here because I gave 4 away)

• 6 home runs caught on the fly during BP

• 800 balls in 93 games this season = 8.6 balls per game.

• 754 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 279 consecutive games with two or more balls

• 3 consecutive games with 15 or more balls

• 5,462 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.)

• 56 donors

• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $106.80 raised at this game

• $5,696.00 raised this season

Want to see a few more photos?

One of the balls I snagged during BP has a faint bat imprint on it. I think it’s the TPX logo. What do you think? Here it is:

Another ball that I snagged has three funky things happening. Check it out below and then I’ll explain:

First, the “practice” logo is off-center. Second, the stitch holes are being tugged to shreds. And third, there are two little crooked reddish brown lines on the ball (near the top of the photo). Those were there when I snagged it. Could they have been drawn on the ball by someone? I can’t imagine what might’ve caused such a bizarre marking.

Now here’s the coolest thing of all…

You know how I’ve been taking photos of baseballs in black light and looking at the invisible ink stamps? Well, yesterday, two of the balls had identical stamps! See for yourself:

As I’ve mentioned on my blog before (and in The Baseball), each employee at the Rawlings factory who stitches baseballs has his/her own serial number that gets stamped onto the balls with invisible ink. (It’s a quality control method.) The fact that these two balls have the same stamp means that the same employee stitched them. You might not realize it, but that’s very unusual. In fact, I challenge you to snag two balls in one day that were stitched by the same person in Costa Rica. Bet you can’t do it…

19 Comments

You’ve snagged a lot of inked baseballs over the years, do you have an opinion on which Rawlings stitcher is the best?
Also, tough luck recently with running into a bunch of haters giving you grief for minding your own snagging business and “not giving the kids a chance.” You really should do something about that guard though.
Steve

http://fishfry55.mlblogs.com

Those security guards/waitresses/tall a-holes should think about minding their own business.

I always get a Concrete at Shake Shack. The bonus is if that’s all you’re getting, you go right up to the cold food line which usually has 2 people on it while the hot food line has 100. I see the Shack has branched off to the south, I’m hoping for north/east next.

So, lets get this straight. 800 baseballs this year, 15 at this game, 3 games in a row with at least 15 balls, a Joey Votto wristband, and you saw some guy that you went to school with. That is insane.

I admit, it is amazing to see Zack in action live. Its an experience that you MUST experience.

BTW, I’m the kid who you said had “snagged at least 5 balls”. I ended up getting 12 and a Todd Frazier batting glove and an Ian Desmond signature.

Oh and FYI, the “waitress/fake blonde” was actually the Red Porch restaurant supervisor.

Zack, next year we are going either to Nationals park or camden yards! I got to see what it’s like!

:-)

Love the wristband! Definitely one of the coolest items you’ve gotten. From an MVP!!!

And Nationals Park isn’t in the top 33 percentile for stadiums because…

Out of all the things that I could possibly comment on in this blog entry, I will say this: they spelled your name wrong in that old class picture.
-Avi

Zack, as a diehard Reds fan, I gotta say……you gotta get some new Reds gear, man! :)

Also, Nationals Park seems like a near replica of Great American Ballpark.

In the stands, how do you judge distance on a homerun Zack? It seems like 60% of the time I am camped out under the ball, it goes flying over my head and I look like a fool.

Hey Zack
thanx for the reply on my Guthrie post earlier, was just shocked at someone who i was expecting to be very fan friendly was so snarky to little kids only asking for autographs ( it goes up one side and down the next on me since I am a adult ) just surprising after reading about your interactions with him — I noticed lately there has been alot of ” anti adult ball hawking ” and I have to admit I notice it every once and awhile myself at AT&T and Oakland, if everyone just used the same ” hawking etiquette” it would be fun for all – I personally just make sure that if im going for ” toss ups ” just to move around and let others get into ” my position ” once i get one .. There is no reason we all cant have fun …. are you still planning on being in the Bay Area Sep 2 and 3 ? — I was planning on going to the Oakland vs Mariner game Sept 2 in Oakland, would be great to meet ” the Yoda of ball hawking ” … LOL

Nice pick up. I saw Votto throw his hat into the crowd after a game in Baltimore this year. There were a ton of Reds fans over the dugout, but he threw it to the people with a big Canadian flag. Might be something he commonly does ?!?!

That’s cool that you got the same employee for two ball, and I didn’t know MLB baseballs were still made in Costa Rica. O and you should follow me on twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TheRaysRanter

http://yossif.mlblogs.com/

do u go 2 playoff games

EVERYONE-
To answer your questions…

STEVE-
Haha, I think they’re all great.

MATEO-
See my 8/19/11 entry. That’s why. It’s only great when no one shows up. But I suppose it should still be in the Top Ten.

AVI-
Actually, they didn’t. My first name IS Zachary, but I shorten it to Zack.

JUSTIN O.-
A lifetime of practice, and I still make mistakes.

SPENCER-
I saw this comment of yours on a newer entry, so I answered you there.

BENNY-
Occasionally.

lol to that Oren Sibony kid in the back row of the 1st grade photo.

Ha! Seriously. I don’t know what that was all about, but who understands six-year-olds anyway?

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