4/30/12 at Yankee Stadium

I ran into a couple of friends outside the stadium yesterday:

In the photo above, that’s Ben Weil on the left and Mateo Fischer on the right. Note that Ben is wearing a hat with his beloved Garfield on it — and that Mateo and I have our Orioles shirts peeking out.

During the first group of batting practice, the three of us converged on the same staircase in straight-away right field. This was the view directly behind me:

By the time I took that photo, I’d already snagged two baseballs. The first was an A-Rod homer that took a lucky bounce off a seat, and the second was a Mark Teixeira homer that I caught on the fly — but there was more to it than that. Here’s a detailed account of how I ended up getting both of those balls . . .

Just after I ran into the stadium and reached the seats in right field, A-Rod sliced a deep drive in my direction. The ball was heading 10 feet to my left, and as I cut through the seats to get in line with it, I could tell that it was going to sail over my head, so I turned around to see where it was going to land. It ended up ricocheting back in my direction, roughly three feet over my head, so I jumped as high as possible (causing my MLB cap to fly off) and barely reached it with my bare/right hand. At that very moment, someone (possibly Mateo) was cutting through the seats two rows below me, so if I hadn’t been able to grab the ball on that first ricochet, I surely wouldn’t have gotten it. Two minutes later, Teixeira launched a deep fly ball more than 30 feet to my right. I knew immediately that it had the perfect distance, but thought that it might land in the Yankees’ bullpen — just on the other side of the netting along the far edge of the section. After hustling to get there and reaching out at the last second, I *thought* I felt the ball hit my glove at the exact instant that my glove smashed into the netting. For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I’d caught it, so I looked around frantically at the ground. When I didn’t see the ball anywhere, I opened my glove, and there it was.

My next ball was going to be extra special. Not only was it going to me my 5,900th lifetime ball, but it was going to be the 200th that I’d ever snagged at the new Yankee Stadium. I was on high-alert, paying close attention to every batter who stepped in and out of the cage, and somehow I managed to blow it. Take another look at the photo above. See how it shows Ben and Mateo standing behind me? Well, *just* as I took that photo, Ben started shouting my name repeatedly in a way that I interpreted to mean, “Turn around, idiot, there’s a ball flying at you,” so I turned around just in time to see a ball coming out of nowhere. It smacked the seat in front of me and luckily bounced back into my row, where I was able to lunge and glove it. Here I am reenacting the snag:

I had no idea who hit it, and neither did anyone else. Curtis Granderson was in the cage, so when I shouted, “Was that Granderson who hit it?!” everyone was like, “Uh, no, he just started hitting. Uh, I think it was the guy hitting in front of him. Uh, umm, duh.” I’m paraphrasing, but you get the point. The fact is, I was the biggest dummy of all for not paying attention when it mattered most, but still, it would’ve been nice to get a little help.

Check out the following four-part photo of The Ball, and I’ll explain everything underneath:

In photo No. 1, you can see the mis-shapen seam, just beyond the upper right corner of the MLB logo. See how it’s not a perfectly round/symmetrical horseshoe? That’s why the ball was designated for batting practice; check out the stamp on the sweet spot in photo No. 2.  In that photo, you can see the “5900” that I wrote after snagging it. Photos No. 3 and No. 4 go together. They show the ball in regular light and black light. That’s quite a nice invisible ink stamp, no?

When the Orioles took the field, I got as close as I could to the 3rd base foul line — in other words, not very:

No one tossed me a ball or even acknowledged my existence, so I headed to the outfield. My brilliant plan was to camp out in the left field bleachers for Mark Reynolds. I was going to clean up! There was no one there! Look!

There’s a reason why no one was there: the section sucks. The main reason why I went up there is that it was crowded in the seats below, and by “crowded,” I mean that Ben and Mateo were there. (Mateo, it should be noted, put on a clinic during BP and caught four home runs on the fly, several of which required him to jump and reach in traffic. I’m proud to claim him as a former Watch With Zack client.) I didn’t want to compete directly with them or force them to compete with me, but guess what? Next time . . . it’s ON. I’m not going to retreat to the bleachers anymore or deviate from my typical plan. And yeah, okay, fine, I got two baseballs tossed to me in the bleachers, but it was anticlimactic, and I would’ve snagged twice as many if I’d stayed in my normal spot below. For the record, the first of the two toss-ups came from a left-handed pitcher that I couldn’t identify. The second came from the only guy in the outfield in the following photo:

Who the hell was that? The strength and conditioning coordinator? And have you ever seen such a pathetically empty outfield during BP? It’s kind of tough to get balls from the players when there are no players.

Am I complaining too much? Boo-hoo? Poor me? Only snagged five baseballs? Look, we all have different standards, and I set mine pretty high. I know how great it can be at a major league stadium — how much fun I can potentially have — and this one fell short. It happens. I’ll get over it. Hell, I’m already over it and looking forward to going back tomorrow.

I only took one photo during the actual game, and here it is:

Why did I photograph that? Because I had snagged one of the two walk-off home runs that were mentioned on the jumbotron. See the second of the two dates? I was at Camden Yards that day. Check out my blog entry about it.

The best thing about this game was that it only lasted two hours and 22 minutes. (Normally I like being at baseball stadiums for as long as possible, but having to wake up early for work six days a week has a way of changing things.) The Yankees won, 2-1, so of course the other best thing about the game was getting to see Mariano Rivera. (I normally root against the Yankees, but whenever he’s in the game, I want nothing but the best for him and the team.) And you know what? Watching David Robertson pitch is also pretty special. I hear about him all the time because I live in New York, but how many non-New Yorkers know about this guy? He’s the set-up man for M0 — the 8th-inning specialist — and his numbers are absolutely sick. This year he has 18 strikeouts in 11 scoreless innings. Last year he went 4-0 with a 1.08 ERA in 70 games, striking out 100 batters in 66 2/3 innings. He’s truly incredible.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 balls at this game (three pictured here because I gave two away to a pair of little kids in my section before the 7th-inning stretch)

• 83 balls in 12 games this season = 6.92 balls per game.

• 804 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 551 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 162 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 33 consecutive games at the new Yankee Stadium with at least two balls

• 5,902 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 24 donors

• $1.44 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $7.20 raised at this game

• $119.52 raised this season

• $19,276.52 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

16 Comments

I know I said this, but remember Gustavo your friend Zack? Look how pathetic he is now in single A ball.

There are quite a few of us out here in CA that know of David Robertson too. On opening day, we were watching the Yankees play and he came into the game, worked himself into a 1st and 3rd with no outs. I turned to my friends and said ‘Now he’ll strike out the side’…. and he did. Yankees lost, but he was awesome. Plus he seems like a nice guy. Tough not to root for him too (along with Mo, he’s just a no brainer.)

Zack- I was in section 103 with my kids who hadn’t come close to a ball until you handed them one. You gave them great big smiles. Thank you!

Hey Zack im going to Nationals park friday and i have a couple questions for you, 1. what gate or gates open the earliest? and how early do they open? 2. Are glove tricks allowed to be used at Nationals Park? if so, how many feet of string would you recommend having for the glove trick? and 3. Do you have any suggestions on how to play the park?

I’ll be at the Mets game on Saturday, will you be there?

Cool stuff, as always. Thanks for sharing.
– Malcolm

http://theballparkguide.mlblogs.com/

AUSTIN-
Heh.

TODD A-
Cool. Glad to know he’s getting some recognition elsewhere.

BILL-
You’re welcome . . . but how did you know where/how to find my blog?

MARK MCCONVILLE-
Assuming that things this year are the same as last, enter the CF gate. It opens 2.5 hours early for everyone. The glove trick isn’t really allowed there, but sometimes you can get away with it. Try not to let anyone see you. Use it early and be careful. Have at least 15 feet of string. Maybe 20. That’s just a good number in general. As for how to play the park, read my entries from last season. It’s all there.

BEN-
Nope.

MALCOLM-
You’re welcome, kind sir.

I remember you saying your going to Marlins Park on May 21-22…ill be there on the 21st, and went to the stadium for BP 4 times so far…if you want, I have some tips you may want as it is a tough place to get balls. Hope to see you there!

BY THE WAY

the marlins website says gates open 1 1/2 hours before the game, but the ushers told me they usually open up 2 hours before hand

hey zack i was just wondering if u had any plans to come to the new marlins park

never mind i saw a comment saying may 21 to 22 good luck trying to get a commerative baseball and wait till u see the home run scl
upture

I’ve gotten 8 baseballs from BP, and still no commemorative logo, i don’t know if they are using them as much in BP as people think.

That was indeed me behind you on the first ball, and I look forward to your competition from now on. As fun as it was just tracking the balls this games, had you been down I probably would have been forced to really try for toss-ups and I might have actually gotten more baseballs this game. I’m guessing you decided against going to the game you referenced like Greg did because of the rain. I think you would have actually fun time. *I* snagged eight baseballs, so you might have had at least a dodeca total.
-Mateo

http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

I’ll take your competition Hample! It’s on like Saigon!

ANDREW-
Yup, I’ll be there for those two games. I appreciate the offer to give me some tips, but I’ve already heard a few things, and at this point, I’m kinda looking forward to figuring the rest out on my own. That’s pretty weird about the ushers, but anyway, see you soon for sure.

JUSTIN-
I’d rather *not* see the home run sculpture. When it comes to decor, I firmly believe that less is more and can’t even comprehend what Loria and his team of designers were thinking. That said, I suppose I wait to pass judgment until I’m actually there to see it with my own eyes.

MATEO and BEN-
I’m not trying to be a dick when I say that I want to compete — just that I’d rather be near you guys where there are more opportunities than 430 feet away where there are hardly none. But hey, if there’s some trash-talking that comes of it, I’m down. The most important thing is that even if we rob each other of a few balls, we’re all still friends at the end of the day.

You know I’m messing around. At least you didn’t flat out rob me of one….unlike Mateo!

Well, I was hoping, and I figured.

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