2011 World Series — Game 3

There’s something about the World Series that brings out the best in people — and in goats:

Three and a half hours before game time, that was the scene outside the stadium, and for the sake of Rangers fans, I hope that the goat was allowed inside or else the team is gonna be cursed.

Speaking of fans, look how many people there were outside the 3rd base gate:

The game was scheduled to begin at 7:05pm (central time). The gates opened at 4pm, which probably sounds great, but consider this: batting practice hadn’t yet started, which meant that the seats were going to get increasingly crowded before I had a chance to snag any baseballs.

I passed the time by heading down to the front row in straight-away left field:

In the photo above, do you see the yellow thing on the railing? Those things were all over the place. Here’s a closer look at one of them:

As you may recall, this is the section where a fan named Shannon Stone had fallen to his death three months earlier. The reason why I went there the other day was to see if anything had changed as a result. I expected there to be a net covering the gap and thought that the railing might be higher, but no, the only difference that I recognized since my last visit in April was the abundance of the yellow stickers.

At around 4:10pm, I wandered over to the 1st base side. Look how crowded it was:

BP got underway three minutes later, so I raced back to left field. Look how crowded it was:

A funny thing happened a little while later. I was standing in left field, hoping for a home run to fly my way, when I saw a ball drop into the gap behind the left-center field wall. I decided to run over and try to snag it with my glove trick, but first I had to grab my backpack off a nearby seat. That took two seconds. Then I began to run up the steps, but before I got far, I sensed that everyone around me was jockeying for position, so I stopped and turned back toward the field and looked up and saw a home run flying right at me. With my backpack flung over my right shoulder, I jumped up and caught the ball with my left hand, then bolted up the steps and ran to the bleachers in left-center and snagged the other ball with my device. (In case you’re wondering, these balls did not have the World Series logo; they were just regular balls.)

After that, I thought about playing the berm in dead center, but look how crowded it was:

I ended up finding a spot along the railing, but never jumped over. With dozens of overeager kids and aggressive adults surrounding me, the idea of running out onto the grass seemed like an injury waiting to happen, so whenever a ball landed there, I just stood and watched the ensuing scrum. It wasn’t exactly how I’d planned to spend my time during BP, but it’s not like I had many other options. Look how crowded it was:

Then another funny thing happened. Josh Hamilton launched a home run toward my edge of the berm. Half a dozen gloveless fans jumped over the railing and reached for the ball simultaneously, causing it to deflect off their hands and bounce gently *right* to me. I didn’t even have to lunge or reach for it. I mean, if I hadn’t caught it, it would’ve hit me in the stomach.

“Thanks, guys!” I yelled sarcastically to the fans on the berm, prompting everyone else around me to laugh.

Halfway through the Rangers’ portion of BP, Darren Oliver threw a ball to a little kid in the front row, roughly 30 feet to my right. Not surprisingly, the kid dropped it and the ball ended up in the gap. As I headed over to have a look, the same thing happened again with the same kid: another dropped toss-up that landed in the gap. As I began setting up the rubber band for my glove trick, I decided to give one of the balls to the kid, but just before I had a chance to lower the glove, Oliver threw another ball. By this point, I was standing next to the kid, and as it turned out, the throw sailed a bit too high, so I reached up and caught the ball bare-handed and immediately handed it to him. The kid’s father (who was standing in the 2nd row) thanked me, and then I went to work with the glove trick. Unfortunately, one of the Rangers pitchers found his way into the gap as I was reeling in the first ball, so of the two that had been sitting there, I only snagged one. That said, my total for the day had reached five, so I wasn’t about to start complaining.

Several minutes later, I saw something that I’d never seen before: someone on the Rangers tossed a ball into the crowd which *appeared* to have the cowhide cover partially torn off. From where I was standing, it was hard to tell. As the ball sailed through the air, all I saw was an extra white blob attached to it, so I assumed that that’s what it was — and when the ball fell short of the stands and landed in the gap, I got VERY excited. I hurried over to have a look, and sure enough, part of the cover was indeed separated from the ball. Check out the following photo of me (taken by my friend Frank). It shows my glove dangling above the ball:

For two solid minutes, I failed to get the ball to stick inside my glove. I knew why I was struggling — the partially detached cover made the ball too wide — but I didn’t know what to do about it. Finally, a solution popped into my head, but right at that moment, a college-aged kid approached me from behind and asked if he could “take a crack at it.” I noticed that he had a ball-retrieving device of his own, and while I greatly appreciated that he checked in with me first, I simply needed to test my new strategy. I asked him if he’d let me try once more — and he very kindly held back while I gave it a final shot. My solution was easy: move the rubber band over so that it created a bigger space at the tip of the glove. DUH!!! I should’ve thought of it sooner, but anyway, my slightly modified device worked perfectly, and I managed to snag the ball. (The other kid snagged a ball two minutes later, so everyone was happy.) Here I am taking a photo of it…

…and here I am posing with it:

Is that crazy or what?

For a split-second, I debated whether or not to count the ball in my collection, but my main thought was that it should absolutely count. This ball was no less of a ball than, say, a person with a missing leg is no less of a person. Furthermore, it was an official major league ball, and it had come from a player who was on the field at a World Series game, so why NOT count it, right?

(One of the main things that I love about ballhawking is that it never gets old. After 22 years of going to games, and after snagging more than 5,800 baseballs, I’m still experiencing new things and solving wacky challenges.)

The ball with the partially missing cover was my 6th of the day. Of the five that were still in my possession, four had the word “practice” stamped on the sweet spot. Check it out:

When the Cardinals took the field, I got Jaime Garcia to throw me my 7th ball of the day in foul territory. You can see him in the following photo (wearing No. 54) walking away from me:

I was hoping to snag three more balls and reach double digits, but that didn’t happen.

Why?

Look how crowded it was:

It wasn’t quite as crowded as the 2011 All-Star Game, but it had that feel, and as a result, I didn’t know where to go or what to do with myself. I wandered for the next 45 minutes, didn’t come close to snagging anything, and eventually headed toward the 3rd base dugout. Look how crowded it was:

I didn’t snag anything there. The only thing I got was a photo of this adorable sign…

…and a photo with my friend Ben Weil:

As I’ve mentioned many times, Ben owns more jerseys than you can even imagine. Someday, perhaps this coming off-season, I’m going to visit his home and photograph his collection and blog about it — so get ready. What you see will be shocking (and will hopefully make me look normal in comparison).

Ben had a standing room ticket and found a place to hang out near the left field foul pole. I had a ticket near the berm in right-center and had to do some serious bargaining in order to get the perfect spot. As I mentioned in my previous entry, I had the 3rd seat in, and I was prepared to do whatever it took to get the two people sitting next to me — whoever they turned out to be — to trade seats. As it turned out, those people were 20-something-year-old guys who didn’t want to move. Given the fact that they each had a beer in their hand when they first showed up, I offered to buy them all the beers they could possibly drink for the entire game. No deal. Then I offered them $100 cash. No deal. It was obviously their right to stay where they were, but as you can imagine, I was pretty frustrated and stressed; I had NOT flown all the way to Texas to be trapped in the middle of a row, so I was determined to find another way to get an end seat.

Before the game, this was the view to my right…

…and this was the view to my left:

The player introductions probably lasted 10 or 20 minutes, but I don’t remember any of it. I was so nervous about my seating location that the whole thing was a blur. (I don’t like the introductions anyway. Never have. Never will. It’s just a lot of useless hype. I know who everyone is. Play the damn game.) (Wow, I sound really cranky.) (You know what? I just realized why I don’t like the intros. Twenty-five years ago, it was impossible to find out the exact time when the first pitch would be thrown. The networks would say 8pm, but then when I tuned in, there’d be half an hour of B.S. and commercials. That always pissed me off, and THAT is why the introductions still annoy me. It brings back bad memories of my precious childhood being wasted. PLAY. THE. GAME.) (Does anyone else agree?) (Yay, parentheses!) (Okay, I’m going to move on now.) (For real.)

When the game started, there happened to be an empty seat at the end of Row 9, so I grabbed it, knowing that my time there was *very* limited. This was my view of the field…

…and this was my INCREDIBLE view to the right:

I had so much room to run that I was practically drooling at the possibilities. An inning later, as I was devising various ways to celebrate if I caught a home run, the people showed up for their seats. I had to think fast, so I asked the lady sitting at the end of Row 8 if she’d be willing to slide over and give me six inches of bench space for 80 bucks. My heart sank as she said no, but just then, the guy sitting at the end of Row 7 said, “HOW much?!”

“Eighty bucks,” I said, reaching for my wallet and pulling our four crisp twenties.

“You got yourself a deal!” he said, and just like that, I had the absolute best seat that anyone has ever had in the history of major league baseball.

Of course, of the six home runs that were hit during the game, none went to center field, but that almost didn’t matter. I was having so much fun just BEING there that the 80 bucks seemed like a bargain. Albert Pujols hit three of the homers, joining Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only players to hit three in a World Series game. Pujols ended up going 5-for-6 with six RBIs, four runs scored, and 14 total bases. There are no words to describe him.

Late in the game, I was visited by two fans who’d brought their copies of The Baseball. The first was a 14-year-old girl named Meggie, who’d recently won an essay contest sponsored by Major League Baseball. Meggie (aka “writerkid”) posted the essay in the comments section of my previous entry, and let me just say that if you haven’t read it, you really ought to check it out. Click here to see the comments and scroll down a bit. It’s truly inspirational and very well written, not just for a teenager but for anyone. Here we are together:

The other fan was a 20-something-year-old guy named Casey, and like Meggie, he waited patiently for me to sign the book. You see, when someone asks me to sign it, I don’t simply write “Zack Hample.” That would be lame, so I try to come up with an original inscription that captures something about the person and/or the situation. As a general rule, I always need a little bit of time to think, and in this case, since the game was in progress, I could only write a few words at a time during quick breaks in the action. Here’s a photo of me and Casey:

The Cardinals won the game, 16-7, to take a 2-1 series lead — kinda nuts to have such a lopsided game in the World Series.

After the final out, I was recognized by a Korean couple who asked if they could take photos with me. Here’s a photo (taken by Ben) of me being photographed:

When I asked the couple how they knew who I was, they said that they’d just seen the documentary about me. I didn’t even know that it was out yet, so that was a pretty cool surprise. (If you don’t know about the documentary, click here and here and here and here.)

On my way out of the stadium, I saw the cutest kid of all time (dressed as an actual Cardinal) and got permission from his parents to take a photo. Have a look:

That was it. My final game of the season was only 20 hours away…

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 7 balls at this game (six pictured here because I gave one away)

• 1,150 balls in 130 games this season = 8.85 balls per game.

• 791 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 316 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 18 consecutive post-season games with at least one ball

• 6 consecutive World Series games with at least one ball

• 5,812 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.)

• 61 donors

• $7.47 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $52.29 raised at this game

• $8,590.50 raised this season

24 Comments

Whoopeeee first comment about nothing again! I will leave real comment after reading this.

Nice job! Did you end up with a World Series ball in Game 4? I thought I saw Jon Jay throw it to you.

For next season….Do i really have to pay 500 dollars to take u? What if i get you amazing seats that you can’t resist to Yankee Stadium? No transportation costs, or anything….Thoughts, Zack.

Nice game, Zack. Actually, incredible game. Pujols is a beast. How awesome would that have been sweet if you could have gotten the visitors’ bullpen line-up card. But the real question is how do we see that Korean documentary? And how much Ballhawkfest homerun derby footage did they use? Hopefully all of it! ;-)
-Todd

Haha Zack I was at homecoming with a girl and had to ask permission to take out my phone at dinner and check if any homers were hit to center. I checked like 5 times all night and when I saw that Albert hit one to center I freaked out. She told me to turn around and a tv behind me showed Albert hit one to center but not on the berm and not on your side:(

(Yay, parentheses!)
I love it.

Practice? Did those balls have practice stamped on them? Why are we talking about practice balls? I mean practice balls, really?

There is an outside chance the Garrett and I will be attending game 6 in STL. I am trying to work some scheduling magic at my work. Garrett may be attending either way from what I know. After Texas won last night the prices have steadily dropped…literally in half.

Big Glove Bob

Great to finally meet you! Sorry you didn’t get an HR

I wrote a poem about a baseball game in Language Arts today. I will post it tomorrow.

SKIM-
No, unfortunately he chucked it 10 feet over my head. Looking forward to seeing the poem.

DAVID-
If you get me into the Legends area (and I get to eat unlimited lobster and desserts), then yeah, I’d strongly consider it.

TODD-
Thanks, but I have nooooo idea about the documentary. I emailed James (the filmmaker) today, so now I’m waiting to hear back.

BRENDAN ADAMS-
That’s hilarious. I nearly freaked out, too, when Pujols first connected on that shot to center.

BEN WEIL-
(…and I love you.)

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Cute. Wish I could join you guys in St. Louie, but nah, my season is officially done. The next game I attend will be in Japan in late March.

WRITERKID-
Same here. Keep in touch.

EVERYONE-
I’m working on my Game 4 blog entry. I might have it up late tonight, but most likely won’t finish until tomorrow afternoon.

Nice pic of you on the berm in the print edition of today’s USA Today sports section!

Big Glove- Great comment. I can’t believe I didn’t think along those lines when reading the word “practice.” I think every time some says the word practice, in my head I just start saying “Not a game, not a game, not a game. We talkin’ ’bout practice.” I also noticed those cheap tickets. If there is a game 7, I think I’ll go. Sadly, I can’t go tomorrow, it’d mean missing 4 days of work, but i can deal with 3.

The ball about the cowhide is pretty sweet. Did you catch any W.S. balls in Game 4? One more question… Were you rooting for the Rangers or Cards? Can’t wait to read about Game 4. It has been a great season for you.

Wow, that really is the cutest kid of all time. And writerkid, you are truly talented–best of luck to you! Finally, Zackman, hope to see you for Game 7!

I find it hilarious that the boom mic operator in the goat picture is wearing a black dress and leather boots. (that is all).

Did you get a World Series ball in Game 4? If not, don’t worry, as you will probably get one during batting practice next season. I forgot to bring the poem home with me. I’ll post it on this or on the Game 4 page.

USA Today tuesday sports sect has a cool story bout Greenes hill.Zack nationwide.i have 4 copies if you want a couple.Ive caught Texas homers in surprise AZ.its alot harder to get up from a grass seat than a bleacher seat.Hope to see WS balls in March. Do you do spring training tours ,all ballparks .[Advertise in Korea]

Zack-

I saw you both games on tv, Running down the stairs every time there was a deep fly ball to center. In game 4 I saw you run out on to the grassy area in center when a deep fly ball hit by a rangers hitter only to see the CF catch it on the warning track, then front and center on the tv it showed you throwing your arms in the air . I am reading your new book, Its really good!

Holy Smokes! You caught way toooooo many balls man! I’m going to need to work out some form of payment plan.

TOM-
Whoa! I hadn’t even heard about it until you posted that comment. Thank you!

BEN #1-
I’ve thought about it, and I believe I even joked about it once in a very old entry.

TEEN REDS FAN-
No commemorative balls for me at Game 4. My new blog entry about it is now up. I’m not really rooting for either team. I just want to see the Series last as long as possible, so whoever wins one game…I root for the other team to win the next.

LIA-
Well, now we have two potential game-viewing opportunities…

BEN #2-
Agreed.

SKIM-
No, as I mentioned just above to “teen reds fan,” I came up short at Game 4. Looking forward to seeing the poem.

TC-
Thanks for the offer, but I’m all set with USA Today. My friend Garrett sent me a scan, and that’s really all I need. To hell with Spring Training. I can’t deal with it. Wake me up when it’s Opening Day.

LARRY-
Very cool that you spotted me so many times, and thanks for checking out the book.

DODGERKINGS323-
I’ve already discussed this with the director of the charity. He said that if people don’t feel comfortable paying the full amount, then they can just give whatever they initially thought they’d end up donating. I hope that works for you (and for everyone else who pledged). Seems reasonable to me.

Sorry if this has already been asked- but where/when can we see the documentary?

I wish I could tell you, but I don’t know. I’m still waiting to hear back from James, the filmmaker.

… I’ll take it the Rangers did not let this goat in the stadium then????????????

Ha! Clearly not.

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