8/31/11 at Dodger Stadium

Let me start by saying two things:

1) Several people seem to believe that my consecutive games streak is over. That’s because I attended a single-admission doubleheader on 8/29/11 at Citi Field and didn’t snag anything during the second game. Newsflash: since I started ballhawking in 1990, I’ve always counted single-admission doubleheaders as one “game” in my stats, and I addressed this very issue on page 317 of my newest book, The Baseball, so calm down, people. The streak is very much alive. If you think this cheapens my streak, or that I should now suddenly have an asterisk in my stats, then let me ask you this: how am I supposed to handle games that get rained out? If I enter a stadium on a rainy day — 4/12/11 at Yankee Stadium, for example — and snag a few baseballs and then the game gets postponed, how should I list it in my stats? As half a game? No game at all, perhaps? Baseballs don’t materialize out of thin air, so if I snag a few, I must account for them somehow. Remember when I hung out behind the Green Monster for Game 1 and Game 2 of the 2007 World Series. I snagged a few balls each day during BP and counted them as “games” in my stats — but technically I wasn’t AT those games. Right? I’m not trying to cheat the system. My intention is to document things as best I can, and yes, at times it feels arbitrary, so I just do what makes the most sense. I hope that clears things up.

2) Yesterday, this was the view from my bedroom when I woke up:

I was at my friend Brandon’s place in San Clemente, CA. (If you’ve never fallen asleep to the sound of ocean waves crashing gently from afar, you’re missing out.) Because the Dodgers were scheduled to play at 12:10pm, and because Dodger Stadium was going to open at 10:10am, and because we had to take a 90-minute train ride (followed by a taxi) to get there, we had to wake up pretty damn early. Luckily for me, I was still on east coast time, but for Brandon, a California native who normally sleeps late, it was torture, and he bitched about it all day. (I ended up bitching about all the foul balls that I didn’t snag, so Brandon, if you’re reading this, let’s call it even.)

When we arrived at Dodger Stadium, we headed to the Top Deck. I wanted to get a sneak peek at the field to see if, by some miracle, there was batting practice. I also wanted Brandon to take a photo of me with my stadium number sign, and in addition to that, we had to buy tickets. The ticket window up there is always open early — except, evidently, on days when games start at 12:10pm. We cautiously approached the nearby employee entrance, where two security guards sat at a desk. I asked them two questions, starting with, “Where can we buy tickets right now?” The guards stared dumbly at each other and came to the conclusion that we couldn’t. (Then they misinformed us that the gates would open at 10:40am.) My second question was, “Can we come inside for a minute and take a few photos of the field?” To my surprise, they said yes.

This was the result:

No batting practice. Shocker.

As you probably know, I’ve been making faces in all my stadium photos to show how I feel about each place. (Here’s a collage of the first 15.) Dodger Stadium is beautifully ugly, thoroughly unique, and a colossal pain in the ass. Some security policies are unnecessarily strict, while others are virtually nonexistent. Overall, the good outweighs the bad, and vice versa. Every time I enter the stadium, I’m simultaneously dazzled and annoyed; the culmination of these conflicting emotions is a big whatever.

On our way out of the Top Deck, the guards suggested that we look for a ticket kiosk near Gate G (wherever THAT was). Instead, we stopped by the club level to ask someone else. There was a female guard at the entrance, standing 30 feet from a shuttered row of “will call” windows. She had no idea about tickets and went inside to ask. A minute later, one of the windows opened, so we made our purchase. We figured that the guard had helped, but no, when she came back out, she was surprised to see that we were all set.

WHY IS DODGER STADIUM SO DIFFICULT?!?!?!
GEEEEEEAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!
(As difficult as this was, it’s nothing compared to my experience here on 9/2/08.)

Anyway, we had half an hour to spare, so we hung out near the Field Level gate. Here’s a photo of Brandon (who hates having his photo taken) sitting on the curb:

Finally, at 10:10am, the moment arrived. The gates opened, and I rushed into the seating bowl:

Look what I found in the seats along the left field foul line:

In the photo above, the reason why I look so pissed off is that the usher was in the process of yelling at me to get out of that fancy row of seats.

<sigh>

Five minutes later, Blake Hawksworth threw me his warm-up ball, and when the rest of the stadium opened at 10:40am, I headed to the right field corner to catch up with an old friend. Here we are:

When Heath Bell first saw me, he shouted, “Zack! You didn’t tell me you were coming out west.”

“Well,” I said, “sometimes I like to surprise you.”

He asked why I was in California. I told him that I’m planning to visit all 30 stadiums this season, and that I’m trying to snag 1,000 baseballs.

“What’re you at now?” he asked.

“Eight hundred and fifty-two.”

We talked for a couple minutes. I told him that I’d see him on Tuesday in San Diego. And that was that.

Ernesto Frieri was finishing playing catch, so I waved my arms and called out to him:

This was the result…

…and that’s fine. I can’t argue with little kids getting baseballs, although I do prefer to see kids with gloves get them.

Several players and coaches saw what happened and must’ve noticed that I was the only fan in the stadium wearing Padres gear; one of them waved at me to get my attention, and when I looked over, he threw me a ball. I’m not sure who it was. I think it was the bullpen catcher.

Then I headed back to left field (and changed out of my Padres gear) and got Rick Honeycutt, the Dodgers pitching coach, to throw me a ball from the bullpen. Here it is sailing toward me:

Nathan Eovaldi started signing autographs soon after. Here I am handing him my ticket…

…and here’s the ticket itself:

When the Padres came out to play catch before the game, there was absolutely NO competition for baseballs. I was truly the only fan with a glove, and the few other folks wearing Padres gear were busy getting beaten up in the parking lot. As a result, Logan Forsythe had no choice but to toss me his warm-up ball:

Nick Hundley was playing catch nearby at that point, but I figured that he’d seen me get the ball from Forsythe, so I headed over to the dugout. Heath Bell and the other relievers were standing on the warning track, and I wanted to be near them. Moments after I got there, Hundley finished throwing and looked toward the stands. Guess what happened? There wasn’t ANYone near him who asked for the ball, so I started waving and shouting. The arrow in the following photo is pointing at me:

Hundley spotted me and turned to throw me the ball. Look where he was standing at the time:

That’s quite a distance, and his throw was right on the money. This was my 6th ball of the day, and I got another one soon after. Alberto Gonzalez tossed it to me at the dugout. Here’s a photo of the ball floating toward my glove:

After I caught it, I gave two baseballs to a couple of little kids who were sitting nearby with their father.

Ready for a challenge? The following photo shows me getting a 3rd-out ball as the 2nd inning ended — but I haven’t drawn any circles or arrows:

(Notice how empty the stadium is? Yeesh.)

Your challenge is to find/identify three things:

1) me (this shouldn’t be too hard)
2) the player who tossed it (considerably harder)
3) the ball itself (very very extremely hard)

Click the photo above for a closer look, and leave a comment with your answer(s). Bragging rights are on the line. Go!

After I got the 3rd-out ball, I was recognized by a nearby fan who had seen me two years ago on TV. I had a few minutes to spare, so I stopped and chatted. He was there with his two kids, and there was another young boy directly behind them. Brandon was sitting several sections away with my backpack, so I excused myself briefly and returned with three baseballs. (I wanted to keep the game-used ball for myself.) Here I am handing them to the kids:

“This is the first time I’ve ever shaken hands with a Padres fan,” said the man, reaching out toward me. It was a pretty special moment.

In the 3rd inning, Brandon and I moved to a prime foul-ball spot in the 2nd deck. Sure enough, there was lots of action, but luck wasn’t exactly on my side. (This is what caused all the bitching that I mentioned earlier.) Here I am climbing into the front row for a foul ball flying *right* at me:

Unfortunately, that ball fell two feet short…

…and by the way, Brandon deserves a standing ovation for these photos. I think he’s the first person to ever get shots of me chasing foul balls during an actual game.

An inning later, I took off through the empty 2nd row for this ball…

…which landed 10 feet away from me.

Then there was a bullet-like foul ball that shot back over the screen:

That one landed in a TOTALLY empty area. I was the closest fan to it by far. All the ball had to do was STAY THERE.

Anyone want to guess what happened?

It deflected off a seat and bounced out of the 2nd deck:

Unbelievable.

And things kept going from there.

At one point, a foul ball flew *directly* over my head and was caught by a gloveless man several rows behind me. This was my reaction:

I seriously couldn’t catch a break.

At least I was able to get a ball from home plate umpire Dan Iassogna after the game. (Final score: Dodgers 4, Padres 2.) Here he is walking toward me:

He gave baseballs to the two little kids standing below me and then, since there were no other kids in sight, tossed one my way.

Goodbye, Dodger Stadium.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 9 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave five away)

• 859 balls in 103 games this season = 8.34 balls per game.

• 764 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 289 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 5,521 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)

• $64.08 raised at this game

• $6,116.08 raised this season

33 Comments

Okay, I see you. Brown glove. Padres gear. Now the ball. Look at the Player Profile’s sign to that railing right below it. Go to the left a little. And I’m guessing either the guy running towards the dugout or the guy in front of the mound threw it.

Cool! At this point, there is a 90% chance i will be in Oakland and SF this weekend. If I go, I would love to meet you. Where would be the best place?

Getting let in to Dodger Stadium isn’t nearly as exciting as sneaking in and getting accosted by security, is it? ;)
Cool entry; look forward to reading the rest of your trip’s adventures.
- Malcolm
http://theballparkguide.mlblogs.com/

Okey Dokey. You are to the far left of the photo, guy in red shirt and cap directly to your right. The ball was thrown by the lefty Dodger approaching the mound to the far right of the photo, and the ball, if we say the bat at home plate is pointing at 9:00, is at about 9:50, sailing over a background of dirt, just a smidge to the left of the two light blue wall panels. Oorah.

I suppose opposing team fans getting balls tossed to them by Dodgers isn’t such an oddity these days. I read that on the Giants second trip to LA this season, Dodgers were thanking G fans in the stands for attending the game. Sign of the apocalypse?

You are in Padres gear near the fan in Red. The ball is down and to the left of the sign that says player profile. And the player that threw it, thats Kyle Blanks one of the biggest players in MLB. I guess you can’t miss him

Seemed like a good day Zack. Decent haul for a stadium you don’t attend often. Side note, I was not a fan of the Padres parking lot comment. Might be just me I just don’t think I was a joking mater. Just a thought, still can’t wait to hear about the rest of this trip though.

You are the one in the Padres gear in front of the dugout with the mitt. The man that threw it was the Padres player to the right of the dugout in front of the camera area and the ball is under the player profiles sign and to the left. I hope I’m right!

This is “Dave from Petco” and Kyle beat me to it. If you got a Kyle Blanks ball major kudos to you — his personality is as small as his body is large. He could start at LB for the Chargers but he NEVER interacts with fans, and actually never smiles. Brandon’s home looks amazing, but for the east coast folks San Clemente is FAR from Chavez Ravine. When you factor in train and taxi (with all the stops and LA traffic) — wow. You guys are troopers. Hope to see you Tuesday, Zack. P.s. Justin Hatcher, Pads bullpen catcher, is one of the most generous players in the game!

Hey Zack, wouldnt it be cool if they made a Ballhawking video game! Like you create yourself and you go through a season at every stadium and try to complete certain goals. I would so buy it!!! Zack Hample=Best Ballhawk ever!

I’ll say you’re right to the left of the guy in red, Kyle Blanks tossed it to you, and the ball’s right over the “o” in Player Profiles to the left of the vendor.

Hello good sir,

I was just wondering if you had planned on coming to Cincinnati on your september tour? Let me know id really like to meet you.

I actually thought the parking lot comment was funny.

Big Glove Bob

Hey zack,
Is Tuesday the only game you will be attending in sd Or will you be going to multiple?
Shu

Under the S in player profiles in front of the two people sitting down and above the guy in black. The other two are obvious.

…and the guy with upraised arms behind the kid in the blue #9 shirt is saying “What the…?!? another game ball for Zack Hample???”.

Zack, we must have ended up sitting about two sections from one another because I can see myself in about three of the foul ball pictures you posted. You can see me best on the photo of the ball bouncing out of the stands. I’m in the blue shirt and hat looking at the ball just to the left of the guy running down the steps. I was kicking myself for most of the game because I missed a ball that was hit almost directly to me. Its the foul pictured with you running through the second row. A family of four sat right in front of me the inning earlier and the guy directly in front of me reached up and tipped it as I was about to make a basket catch right over his head. I mean I barely had to move. It was hit right at me. Had I moved in front of the people who had just sat in front of me (which I was about to do) I would have caught it no problem. I was bummed the rest of the game. It would have been my first game ball.

ps, the Ballhawk vid is a great idea. Someone call Namco!

EVERYONE-
I don’t have time to answer every comment. Apologies. So let me say this: the player who tossed me the 3rd-out ball is Kyle Blanks, and the ball is below the “S” in “player profiles.” It’s just above the guy in black who’s standing on the staircase. See it? Just below where the shade ends. “Chasicle” is the first person to pinpoint the location of the ball.

NICK BADDERS-
I’m planning to enter the stadium today on the 1st base side. Basically, the gate that’s closest to the right field foul line (or foul pole), that’s where I’ll be. Come say hey.

BRENDAN ADAMS-
The video game is a cool idea, and it’s actually something that was discussed in the comments on this blog years ago. Some kid was heading off to computer camp for the summer and was determined to make a (basic) game, so we all gave him suggestions. I don’t think it ever happened. It just proved too difficult, and there were too many variables. I’m not saying it can’t be done, but it would be quite a challenge.

JASON-
I’m planning to be there on September 12th. Even if I switch some dates around (as I mentioned on Twitter yesterday), the game in Cincy will remain the same.

SHU-
Yup, just Tuesday. Anaheim Monday. Flight to St. Louis on Wednesday (although I won’t actually be at a game in St. Louis until a couple weeks later).

KSLO69-
You don’t even want to know how many balls those kids got over the course of the game.

AARON-
Damn, are you serious? Did you see me running all over the place? I wish we’d gotten to hang out some more. Hmph. Sorry about the close call not going your way. Rough day all around in the second deck.

Yay for bragging rights! I’m definitely going to brag to everybody at the Angels game on Monday. See you then.

Zack, Does Dodger Stadium still have that stupid rule with the parking lot and gates opening at the same time? If so, how did you get in?
Mike

Zack, I’m gonna go ahead and question where the ball in the photo is. I think it’s in a different spot- hear me out: Look at where it says “goods retailer of your dodgers” on the left end of the photo. Look under the “s” in dodgers. Below are yellow seats, and below that, are tan seats. If you look right where the yellow and tan seats meet, there is a very tiny area where you see a brick wall. This is just to right of the word “dodgers” I previously referred to. Now, right where you see that brick wall, there are two fans sitting together, next to the aisle, about 3 rows in front of the wall. I think the ball is right in between those fans. And I think this, because look at your eyes, they are directed exactly at the spot I’m referring to. Another way to help you determine the spot I’m talking about, is if you look at the dugout, look above the “S” in stadium. I’m telling you, THAT is the ball.

I believe Ben is right on this one. I think this is the ball (the circled area): http://twitpic.com/6f3qd2

Sorry Andrew, that is NOT where I’m referring to. Can you tell me how to do the circle thing though, and I’ll be able to show you where I am referring to.

photo/1

Sorry guys, the ball is where it was described in mine and Zack’s posts. If that isn’t the ball, then explain the spherical blurb in front of the fan sitting down on the right directly above the guy in black standing in the aisle. It’s also directly in line with Zack’s line of sight (and the player’s sight).

Hey Zach, another great post…
Dodger stadium is awesome, but when I went back in april, I felt like I was locked in a cage. I couldn’t go to the lower decks, use the elevators, exit and re-enter the stadium (even though the team store is OUTSIDE the stadium), and I couldn’t even wander around in my own seating level during BATTING PRACTICE!

@Ben: I just used Microsoft Paint lol…

I’ll make the video game. :)

Zack,
Are you still planning on being in KC on 9-20 and then STL the next night? Even though I will be in KC the week before, I am mulling over going back to Missouri to see those two games. I have never been to Busch before and it might be a good time.

Big Glove Bob

Sorry if i poked a nerve there, I was just playing.

saw your tweet about AT&T Park… it’s tough to get balls during BP and games given the number of fans who show up early and the Giants haven’t been giving out many balls this season. I went to Friday’s game and managed to only get one ball from JJ Putz during BP, although the Dbacks were hitting bombs into left field.

MIKE-
It sure does. (Sorry for answering you a month late.)

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Glad we were able to connect in KC.

KSLO69-
It’s all good.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 303 other followers