9/26/11 at Turner Field

One word: THIRTY.

That’s how many major league stadiums I’ve now visited this season. Of course, it didn’t become official until I set foot inside Turner Field, but I was so pumped when I first arrived that I held up my sign for a photo:

Half an hour later, there was a sizable line outside the gate in left-center field:

While I was wandering and taking photos outside the stadium, someone was holding my spot at the front of the line — a very good thing because when I first ran inside, I discovered a ball sitting in the gap behind the outfield wall:

Less than a minute later, I reeled it in with my glove trick, and less than a minute after that, I found another ball in the 4th row in left-center field. At that point, there were already a few dozen people scattered throughout the seats, including a woman who was absent-mindedly standing right next to the ball, so I didn’t attempt to take a photo of it. I just grabbed it and got the hell out of there.

Turner Field is glove trick heaven. The gap (pictured above) extends all the way around the outfield, so no matter where I was, I had a chance to snag ANY ball that barely cleared the wall. That’s what happened with my 3rd ball of the day. Someone on the Braves (not sure who) hit a home run that fell short of the seats, and I was all over it. As soon as I reeled it in, I handed it to the nearest kid.

Things slowed way down after that. I’d snagged those three balls within the first five minutes, but only got two more during the next hour. The 1st was a home run that I caught on the fly after running one full section to my left, and the 2nd was tossed by George Sherrill in right field. That raised my total for the day to five.

I was battling the sun in right field when the Phillies starting taking BP…

…and when Hunter Pence started hitting bombs, I took off for the left field side. I ended up snagging one of his home runs — a true moonshot that landed in the cross-aisle in straight-away left and took a *perfect* bounce back to me several rows below. I often complain about balls that land near me and take crazy/unlucky bounces to other people, so this was a case of the universe attempting to even things out.

My 7th ball was a homer (once again, no idea who) that landed in the partially empty front row. I snatched the ball as several other grown-ups closed in, and I handed it to the nearest kid. I also gave away my 8th ball of the day — a gentle toss-up from Kyle Kendrick that fell short of the kid that he was aiming for and landed in the gap.

Kendrick didn’t see me give it away, nor did he see me catch a home run in the front row for my 9th ball of the day, so I tried to convince him to throw me another. I noticed that he was strictly tossing balls to little kids, so when he jogged near me to retrieve a ball from the warning track, I asked, “Kyle, is there any chance to get a ball from you, or am I too old?”

“Too old,” he said after glancing at me for a split-second.

For the next five minutes, I noticed that whenever he fielded a ball, he took a quick peek at me before chucking it back toward the bucket in shallow center. The more he did it, the more animated I became in giving him a target. First I held up my glove. Then I waved my arms. Then I ran down to the front row. Then I ran down to the front row and jumped up and down. And so on. I was trying to get inside his head and make him want to throw me a ball, and eventually it paid off. Two minutes before BP ended, he fired a seed at me from about 100 feet away. Here it is:

In the cluster of players pictured above, Kendrick is standing on the right.

When BP ended, I was at the 3rd base dugout, and when the Phillies cleared the field, I got my 11th ball from Ali Modami, the team’s batting practice pitcher. Just before I caught this ball, I took a photo of it flying toward me. Check it out:

(For the record, I had my camera in my right hand and my glove on my left hand.)

Do you remember when I met a guy named Matt on 5/17/10 at Turner Field? Or when I met another fan named Evan on 5/19/10 at Turner Field? I’m guessing that the answer is no, so let me refresh your memory. Here’s the photo that I got with Matt last year, and here’s the one with Evan. Does that ring a bell? Maybe? Slightly? No? Not at all? Well, both of these guys were at this game, and I hung out with them after BP. Evan’s family has season tickets, and he pretty much knows everyone in the stadium, so he got me into the club level, just to have a look around. Matt joined us, and I took a few photos along the way.

Here’s the club level concourse:

Here’s the inside of the 755 Club restaurant:

Here’s the view of the stadium through the restaurant windows:

By the time we made it this far, Evan had taken off, so I kept wandering with Matt. When we headed from the restaurant into the seats, this was the view on my right…

…and this was the view on my left:

Nice, I guess, but whatever. If someone paid me the price of the ticket, I still wouldn’t sit there for the game. (I can be bought, but it takes more than that. Throw in some desserts, and I’m there.) That said, I thought it was a nice place to take my final “stadium number sign” photo. Matt graciously said that he was willing to spend as much time as it took to get the perfect shot, so I handed him my camera.

As you probably know, I’ve been making different faces (and sometimes poses) in all these photos to show how I feel about each stadium, mostly from a ballhawking perspective. Given the fact that this was my FINAL stadium, I wanted to get it right. I won’t tell you how many photos I forced Matt to take. Instead, I’ll just show you the two that I like best. At first, I was sure that I was gonna go with this…

…but then I started to like this one more and more:

It’s more dignified and triumphant. (Me? Dignified? HA!!!) Ultimately, that’s the one that I decided to use for my final collage:

The entire collage is more than 4,000 pixels wide. Each individual photo measures 800 x 600, so click it and make it bigger and have a closer look.

Here’s a list of the stadiums in the order that I visited them, along with their locations and the dates that I knocked each one off the list:

1) Yankee Stadium — Bronx, NY — April 4, 2011
2) Camden Yards — Baltimore, MD — April 6, 2011
3) Citi Field — Flushing, NY — April 9, 2011
4) Citizens Bank Park — Philadelphia, PA — April 15, 2011
5) Rangers Ballpark — Arlington, TX — April 25, 2011
6) Minute Maid Park — Houston, TX — April 29, 2011
7) Nationals Park — Washington, D.C. — May 2, 2011
8) Rogers Centre — Toronto, ON — May 26, 2011
9) Coors Field — Denver, CO — June 9, 2011
10) Safeco Field — Seattle, WA — June 13, 2011
11) Fenway Park — Boston, MA — June 20, 2011
12) Chase Field — Phoenix, AZ — Home Run Derby
13) Tropicana Field — St. Petersburg, FL — August 2, 2011
14) Sun Life Stadium — Miami Gardens, FL — August 4, 2011
15) Progressive Field — Cleveland, OH — August 22, 2011
16) PNC Park — Pittsburgh, PA — August 23, 2011
17) Dodger Stadium — Dodgertown, CA — August 31, 2011
18) Oakland Coliseum — Oakland, CA — September 2, 2011
19) AT&T Park — San Francisco, CA – September 3, 2011
20) Angel Stadium — Anaheim, CA – September 5, 2011
21) PETCO Park — San Diego, CA – September 6, 2011
22) Miller Park — Milwaukee, WI – September 8, 2011
23) U.S. Cellular Field — Chicago, IL – September 9, 2011
24) Comerica Park — Detroit, MI – September 10, 2011
25) Great American Ball Park — Cincinnati, OH – September 12, 2011
26) Target Field — Minneapolis, MN  – September 16, 2011
27) Kauffman Stadium — Kansas City, MO – September 17, 2011
28) Wrigley Field — Chicago, IL – September 19, 2011
29) Busch Stadium — St. Louis, MO – September 20, 2011
30) Turner Field — Atlanta, GA – September 26, 2011

Phew!

I never thought I’d hit up all 30 stadiums in one season, and at this point I don’t think I’ll ever do it again, but who knows? All I can say is that it’s been outstanding and exhausting all at once. This season feels like it’s lasted about three years, which isn’t a bad thing; the older I’m getting, the quicker time seems to be flying by, so it’s nice to have found a way to slow things down.

Anyway, let’s get on with this game at Turner Field, shall we? This was my view before the first pitch…

…and this was my view during the 7th inning stretch:

Notice a trend?

I normally post photos during the actual game, but in this case, why even bother?

I did snag a ball “during” the game. Before the bottom of the 2nd inning got underway, Phillies 1st base coach Sam Perlozzo tossed me the infield warm-up ball. Several innings later, I gave that ball to a kid who was so young that he couldn’t squeeze his tiny glove around it, so his dad had to hold it for him.

After the game, which the Phillies won, 4-2, I got my 13th ball of the day from home plate umpire C.B. Bucknor. Then I photographed Raul Ibanez being interviewed:

I didn’t know it at the time, but I was being shown on TV at the exact moment that I took the previous photo. Check out this low-quality screen shot from the Phillies’ broadcast:

In case you can’t tell, that’s me on the left. I’d been wearing Phillies gear during the game, and I took it off before getting this photo with Matt:

Turner Field is full of win (with the exception of the Braves’ performance).

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 13 balls at this game (nine pictured here because I gave four away)

• 1,068 balls in 123 games this season = 8.68 balls per game.

• 784 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 309 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 178 lifetime games with ten or more balls

• 5,730 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.)

• 59 donors

• $7.36 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $95.68 raised at this game

• $7,860.48 raised this season

18 Comments

May I be the first to congratulate you on hitting all thirty ballparks this year. it is quite the accomplishment to add to your many you achived on this roadtrip. I look forward to helping you in your next adventure (when you check your email)

Damn!! I was checking back in to your blog all day because I knew you were going to post # 30 at some point, and I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on achieving such a ginormous milestone! :-) Oh well….anyway, congrats to you Zack! My son and I can’t get enough of your life adventures. What to do after the season, what to do…?

Congrats, Zack. I definitely think you went with the right choice for the “30″ photo.

Each one of the dugout girls should have been holding a 30 sign for you!

Congratulations,
Tom

Congratulations! That is amazing, visiting all 30 stadiums in one season. My dad has a friend who did the same thing this year, but he is not a ballhawk, he just likes going to games. By the way, I noticed for your final collage you changed your Citi Field picture. I liked the old one better (Citi Field truly sucks!).

Congrats on 30! Also, about on what you said about Ricky Bones, in Buffalo he gives me baseballs all the time and always asks how many I got.

Congratulations my man! It was all the way back on May 28, 2011 that you caught your 5,000 ball. I was there. A couple days ago you snagged your 1,000 seasonal ball. And Monday, September 26, 2011, you hit all 30 major league stadiums.
Congratulations.

Jon Madden

Congratulations Zack! The Detroit photo is my favorite.

Congrats on the milestone!

Congratulations! What a season! I hope you are planning on attending some playoff games. Real nice photos too. Listen, can you do me a solid, and hook a brother up with the digits for #11?

Zack -
Awesome that you were able to visit all 30 stadiums in one year. I will have to wait unitl I am an old fart (when I have fewer responsibilities) to do a trip like that. I like reading your blog to check out all of the stadiums. It was nice to meet you back in June at Coors Field.
– Ken

hey zack are you going to attend any playoff games?

Congrats Zack. 30 in a season is amazing. And I like the second number picture better as well. It shows that you did it in a dignified, finalized, and “yeah, that’s right, I’m Zack Hample. Bow down to me” kind of way.

Oh, I just noticed looking through your collage that you’re wearing the cap of every home team in every stadium except: your first one at Yankee. I think it’d be pretty cool if you went back there, took a picture with a Yankee cap (and an even worse face) and give yourself one last challenge at the end of the season and snag a couple balls there during a playoff game, if for nothing else than just to make the collage even more awesome.

This year was the stuff that memories are made of Z-Man. After awhile, I hope you get the chance to pop open an ice cold Fresca and reflect on what a whirlwind this all was. Glad I got the chance to catch up with you at the K. Hopefully I will see you there at the ASG next year.
Get some rest homie.

Big Glove Bob

MIKE-
You may! Thanks so much.

BRIANDRUM-
Bummer. But hey, thanks for being second and for checking out my blog with your son. I’ll think of some ways to fill my time during the colder months.

COOK & SON-
Thanks.

TOM-
That would’ve been sweeeeet.

SKIM-
I was wondering if anyone would notice that photo-swap. I like the new one because it’s not quite as mean and you can see my face better.

DANNY-
Well, Bones is a mystery, and now I hear that he’ll be with the Big Club next season.

JON MADDEN-
Lots of milestones this season, huh? Glad you were there for one of the biggest.

DENNIS-
Thank you.

BEN WIDEMAN-
Thank you, too.

KSLO69-
What do you mean about No. 11? You want to own my actual sign? I was planning to keep them all for myself.

KEN-
Same here. Luckily, despite being 33 this season (and now 34), I don’t yet have a whole lot of big responsibilities.

JARED J.-
Definitely. I’ve already been to one, and I’ll be at Yankee Stadium tomorrow.

DAVID-
Ha, well, I wasn’t trying to say all of that, but it *does* have a nice ring to it.

DAVID-
There’s a reason why I wasn’t wearing a Yankee cap in that photo; that reason isn’t going to change.

BIG GLOVE BOB-
A Fresca? Really?

Wow!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I see that you have had an great time in life. I have these collector baseball sticker in ment condition of about 18 different baseball teams. Each team have all of thieir player in it. I was wondering if you would be interested in them of maybe someone you know the year is 1998. My email address is dianekeely23@hotmail.com looking forward to hearing from you.

Hey, Diane-
I don’t collect stuff like this, but it sounds cool. I don’t know anyone who would be interested, but who knows, maybe someone will see your comment here and get in touch. Best of luck…

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