7/13/12 at Yankee Stadium

I was the first fan to enter the stadium.
I made a beeline for the left field seats.
Mark Teixeira, batting right-handed, was taking BP.
Three swings later, the entire team jogged off the field.

That was it for the Yankees’ portion of batting practice. I don’t know what the hell happened. All I can say is that I was NOT happy when I took this photo:

I did several things at that point:

1) Unleashed a string of profanities.
2) Changed into my Angels gear.
3) Wished I lived in Baltimore.
4) Headed to the 3rd-base dugout.

This was the scene:

Several minutes later, I waved my arms to get the attention of a coach that I didn’t recognize. Then I made a few gestures to indicate that I wanted to play catch — you know, pretending to catch and throw and then rotating my arm/shoulder as if I were trying to get loose.

The coach responded by throwing me a ball, and as soon as I caught it, he gave me a target by holding up his glove. Even though I’d asked to play catch, I was surprised. As you can see above, there were lots of people standing on the warning track; I didn’t expect the coach to risk their safety by having some random fan chuck a baseball over their heads, but whatever, he was willing to do it, so it was ON.

We played catch for about a minute, and then he let me keep the ball . . . but who was he?! I took a couple photos of him . . .

. . . to show my west coast friends later on. I simply *had* to find out his name.

Five minutes later, I got his attention again and got him to play catch with me AGAIN with another ball. It occurred to me, though, that he probably wasn’t going to let me keep it, and you know what? Normally I would’ve been fine with that — simply getting to play catch was enough of a thrill — but this ball was special. There were two Twitter handles stamped onto the sweet spot! One said “@YANKEES” and the other said “@YankeesPR.” It pained me to throw that ball back to him, but what else was I supposed to do? I thought about switching balls, or maybe asking him to trade balls with me when we finished, but for the time being, I was playing catch again, so that’s what I focused on.

Moments later, something GREAT happened: my friends Mateo Fischer and Ben Weil appeared out of nowhere, and Mateo pulled out his photo/camera. I thought he was just taking pictures, but he was actually filming me. Here’s a screen shot from the video that shows the coach (in foul territory between 3rd base and home plate) throwing the ball:

Here’s a screen shot that shows the grip I was using:

That’s right: knuckleballs. Here I am throwing one:

To my surprise and sheer delight, the mystery coach let me keep the ball when we finished! Here’s a photo of it . . .

. . . and here’s the actual video:

Thank you, Mateo, for filming it!

Once I finished playing catch, there wasn’t exactly a whole lot of action . . .

. . . so Mateo and Ben and I clowned around for a bit. Here’s a photo of them in which (a) Ben is standing on a ledge to appear taller and (b) Mateo wants to be somewhere else:

We still had more time to kill, and apparently, so did Steve Phillips and Cecil Fielder. Here they are talking to each other:

As the Angels started hitting, I noticed these folks (in the red shirts) trying to get Mike Trout’s attention:

Given the fact that their shirts said “Trout” on the back and that they were pleading with security to let them move closer to the field, I assumed they were family. I cautiously approached them and asked if they were related, and when the woman identified herself as Mike Trout’s aunt Maureen, I told her that I had caught his first major league home run last year and that I gave it back to him and met his parents and brother and blah blah. I wasn’t trying to get anything from her. I just wanted to be friendly and say hello.

Look where it got me:

Mike Trout had made several half-hearted attempts, spread out over 20 minutes, to wave Maureen down toward the field. She, meanwhile, had been pleading/arguing with security, trying to prove that she WAS related to him and that he WAS, in fact, trying to wave her down. During this time, she’d been insisting that I stay with her. (She told me she recognized me from Mike’s Facebook page. I’m not on Facebook, so I’ll take her word for it.) She said she’d get me down to the front row, but I was torn. I was insisting that I didn’t want to intrude on her family, and I also told her that I wanted to run out to left field and catch some home run balls. At one point, Maureen grabbed the Angels cap right off my head and said she’d get it signed for me, but I politely refused. I needed my cap, and I didn’t really care about getting Mike Trout’s autograph. If anything, I just wanted to say hello to him, but DAMN, I was missing BP, and I was concerned that I was overstaying my welcome. The whole situation was bizarre and awesome, and when she made it clear (by jokingly raising her voice and cursing) that I had to stay with her, I obeyed her orders. Hell, the left field seats were packed beyond belief, so it’s not like I was was missing much anyway. At best, I might’ve caught a couple home runs out there, but that was a small sacrifice for hanging with Mike Trout’s family and seeing where the adventure would lead me.

Here I am with Maureen and her son Dan:

They were both extremely friendly.

While were hanging out in the front row, Gary Sheffield walked by and waved to us:

Then Maureen called some guy over who was standing on the warning track.

Why?

Because he was wearing this:

(In the photo above, that’s Maureen’s hand holding his hand. Thanks. Just wanted to make that clear.)

The guy said he was a scout, prompting Maureen to tease him about not picking her nephew, but the guy can’t be blamed; Trout was selected 25th overall in the 2009 draft, four slots before the Yankees got their first pick.

Maureen gave me her email address and asked me to send her some photos. I didn’t send her the shot I took of the dugout . . .

. . . but I did send her this one . . .

. . . and this one . . .

. . . and this one:

I could’ve easily gotten him to sign something, but I truly didn’t care. I didn’t want to ask Trout for anything. I was just there to take it all in as an innocent bystander. (Several collectors, upon seeing me heading down to the Legends area with his family, had asked me to get stuff signed for them, but I refused. Then they begged me, and I refused again. And again. They also begged Maureen repeatedly, and when they didn’t take “no” for an answer, they got yelled at by one of her friends. Twice. It was an ugly situation.)

Maureen was kind enough to re-introduce me to Trout.

“This is the guy who caught your first home run,” she told him.

“Hey, what’s up?” he said to me.

“Nice to see you again,” I said, extending my right hand for a firm handshake.

“Same here,” he said, and that was the end of it.

It would’ve been great to talk longer (and without a zillion people trying to get a piece of him), but whatever. I’m just glad I got to say hello, and I’m sure I’ll see him again before long.

On my way out of the Legends area, I grabbed a free bottle of water and raced to the left field seats. This was my view:

There was only one group of hitters remaining, and nothing came anywhere near me.

The only other ball I got for the rest of the day was thrown before the game by T. J. Harrington, the Angels’ strength and conditioning coach. Here’s a photo of him (in the black shorts and pink shirt) that I took shortly before he hooked me up:

Ben and I sat in straight-away left field during the game, and we both pulled out our cameras when we saw this:

Who keeps track of the number of homers that outfielders rob, and how do they do it? The Elias Sports Bureau? Do they sit there and review video footage from various angles to determine whether or not all these balls would’ve cleared the walls? Is that why the number is an approximation? I’ve seen a LOT of baseball stats in my life, but that was a first.

This was our view late in the game:

The attendance was 47,873.
There were very few empty seats.
There was no cross-aisle or standing room.
I wanted to scream.

Having NO ROOM to run for baseballs — essentially no chance of catching a game home run — is beyond frustrating.

You know what else was frustrating? Seeing Scott Downs (who’s very nice and funny) enter the game with an 0.30 ERA and leaving with a 1.47 ERA. With the Angels leading, 5-2, in the bottom of the 8th, Downs allowed four runs, including a three-run homer by Mark Teixeira that sailed just inside the left field foul pole and landed nowhere near me.

Final score: Yankees 6, Angels 5.

After the game, I figured out the mystery behind the “Twitter ball” that I’d snagged. Mateo informed me that it was “Social Media Night” at Yankee Stadium (whatever THAT means), and I  noticed that the groundskeepers were all wearing these shirts:

I figured out something else when I got home. Remember the two-part photo of the mystery Angels coach? Well, I posted it in the following tweet . . .

. . . and got a response two minutes later:

Mike Who?!

I poked around on Google for a minute, and sure enough, there he was. Social Media Night, indeed. I bow down to the power of the internet.

This was my response on Twitter . . .

. . . and that’s all I got for now.

My next game will be Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Anyone else gonna be there?

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 3 balls at this game (pictured on the right)

• 263 balls in 35 games this season = 7.51 balls per game.

• 827 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 352 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 6,082 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.)

• 38 donors

• $2.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $6.30 raised at this game

• $552.30 raised this season

• $19,709.30 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

30 Comments

First: you didn’t miss anything by going down to the Legends Seats. Secon:, a draft fun fact about Trout: he was selected in the same draft that Stephen Strasburg headlined. This was also the first ever televised draft, being held in the MLB Network studios. I know I told Ben this when you caught the home run, but Trout was the *only* player that year to actually show up in person to the studio. Sure, I don’t know how many other draftees were from New Jersey, but it still takes some guts to show up when you’re 17 years old and probably the only one under the age of 30 in the room, not to mention it will be on National television. Third: I actually took the same exact picture of Torii Hunter’s stats, wondering what “approximately” meant.
-Mateo
http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

I know Dodgerfilms will be there :)

Hi, Zack. Ashman used to coach at Cal Poly Pomona–about a half hour from Angel Stadium. He retired in 2010… before that he was an assistant coach in my hometown (Riverside, CA). Apparently his was also a minor leaguer with the A’s and Pirates. Now he’s a “batting consultant” for the Angels.
~Matt

Sounds like another good game! Today, I went to a Minor League game, in San Jose (They are one of the only Minor League Stadiums where gates open more than 1 hour before the game starts) , and somehow managed 6 balls. The first one was very interesting. I ran into the stadium and head toward the LF line, where I could see players throwing a ball around. Right as I was entering the section, I noticed there was BP and a ball was hit right at me. It landed under the metal grandstand bleachers and I used the giveaway reusable bag to push it out. It was a Babe Ruth league baseball. Hmmm.. A Babe Ruth league ball used in Minor League batting practice. Very interesting. I assume this would count in my minor league stats, right? Oh, and I snagged a foul ball in the 2nd inning.

I like the Yankees Twitter handle ball. Its pretty cool. That must have been very cool to meet Mike Trout again. 3 balls isn’t tat bad for Yankee Stadium.
-Quinn

I can’t believe you took a water from the Legends seats. Have you no shame or ethics? Welcome to southern California.

where do u find most of your easter eggs, where is the best spot to find them at Miller Park and Wrigely Field?

Your game averages would skyrocket if you lived in Baltimore, I’d like to see that.
I’ll be at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday and then at Petco on Friday, and I might catch another weekend game in San Diego, we’ll see. What are your other plans for SoCal?
Steve

Loved the pictures! Never seen Yankee Stadium so empty as you showed at batting practice!

I know he was a scout, but do you know who’s world series ring it was?
Paul
http://apieceofthegame.mlblogs.com/

I’ll be at the Dodgers game on Tuesday, are you going to be out in left field? Hopefully I can track you down before the gates open to get my book signed.

Did you see that Halladay is pitching?

i will be there on monday where will you be seated?

EVERYONE-
My stay in California has been extended. In addition to being at Dodger Stadium tomorrow and Tuesday, I’ll be at PETCO on Wednesday and Thursday, then in Anaheim on Friday, and finally back at PETCO on Saturday, but only for half the game. Then I’ll have to rush to the airport and fly back to New York. Tomorrow at Dodger Stadium I have seats in the lower level of the main part of the stadium. I’ll probably enter near the LF foul pole at 5pm, or perhaps earlier if I can talk my way in with one of the season ticket holders. (I’ll be with four family members, including two cousins who are each nine years old, so at the very least, I’ll need to snag a couple of baseballs for them.) I don’t have tickets yet for Tuesday, but I think I’m just gonna be in the LF bleachers the whole time. I’ll probably enter there and stay in that section throughout the night, so come find me and say hi. As for PETCO and Angel Stadium, that’s much more straight forward. I won’t be hard to find.

MATEO-
Cool stuff all around. I didn’t know that Trout actually showed up for the draft.

HAMMER-
No doubt.

MATT-
Thanks for the bonus info. See you Friday?

NICK BADDERS-
Weird, but yeah, I’d count it. If the players were using it at an actual game, then it’s legit. I’ve gotten a bunch of minor league balls that way during BP at major league games. Hell, I even got a Mexican League ball that way . . . sort of.

QUINN-
Thanks, and yeah, the Twitter ball combined with The Trout Experience made for quite a memorable day.

LEIGH B-
I neglected to mention in the entry that I did ask a nearby security guard if it was okay to take the water, and he said yes. Anyway, see you at PETCO at some point this coming week?

LIZ MERRY-
You know it.

BEN ZITOUNI-
I’ve found the most Easter eggs (per game) in Ohio. Not sure about where to find ‘em at MIller or Wrigley.

STEVE-
So, am I gonna run into you at all while I’m out here?

ALICIA BARNHART-
It’s always that empty at around 5pm. You just have to be one of the first fans to enter.

PAUL-
It was HIS ring. He earned it through his job with the team.

DAVE-
Yeah, looks like I’ll be in LF that day. Halladay? Well, damn. So much for catching a home run out there.

RENEMNTY-
My actual seat is along the RF foul line, but I don’t know if I’ll actually end up sitting there.

Have fun on your trip!
-Quinn

who would you rather have Mike Trout or Bryce Harper, and why?

Zack, what kind of job are you trying to get? My friend’s dad is a recruiter in NYC, I can see if there are any openings. What kind of hours would you want to work since you would want to leave for BP. Also, what skills do you have? Just filing books and basic researching and stuff?

It’s a family vacation for us, so I really don’t get to dictate when I go to a game. But I will try to get to Petco either Thursday or Saturday, but there are no guarantees.
Steve

Zack, take a look at how this guy snagged a foul ball in Toronto… Top that! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXeJH4L2N5g&feature=player_embedded

If only you were in SoCal next week! Then you would be in town for ballhawkfest! But I wish I could make it down this week, but I just don’t see it happening. My dad can’t take time off work. Oh well. If you want to come up to Oakland for some crazy reason, I’m only a 6 hour drive away! *Wink Wink* But in all serieousness, I actually wouldn’t reccomend comming to Oakland this week at all. Today in an off day, then Tuesday and Wednesday they play te Rangers, and one of those is a Day game. Then they have a 4-game series with the yankees, one of those games being a day game, another being Dog Day, which means no BP. And when you are at PETCO, Thurday is Sunglasses Day, and Tuesday at Dodger stadium is Beach chair day. Good luck!

Congrats on keeping the streak alive AND enjoying a cool experience with Trout’s family. Enjoy Cali, it’d be a dream to make that trip (some day soon).
I tweeted this to you already, but with my snags yesterday I think I made a new reason for you to come out to Target Field again… as long as you want to reclaim the top of the mygameballs list for the stadium. I may do it slow, both game-wise and ball-wise, but persistence really does pay off. Thanks for all of your info over the years, I probably wouldn’t have done it without someone like you championing “ballhawking”.
If anyone is watching the Royals/Twins on July 20th, be on the look out for Bigfoot sitting behind home. If you’re at the game, take pictures (I won’t bite, take them with me if you want) and let me know where you’re hosting them.
*To all the ballhawks out there, have a great week!*

Oh, and in case you didn’t know, Friday and Saturday are also fireworks days.

And about beach chair day on Tuesday at Dodger stadium, you get a voucher at the gate that you bring to some place between an hour after the first pitch and an hour after the final pitch. I think that helps a little.

Hide the free water! Zack is coming to PETCO. I should be there Thursday night. See you around the ballpark.

I got the pleasure of watching Mike Trout rob JJ Hardy three weeks ago at Camden Yards. I was standing on the railing at the flag court for the perfect angel on this beauty. I immediately shouted down to Torii Hunter and asked if he taught Trout that move.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/27/mike-trout-catch-angels-orioles-jj-hardy_n_1632779.html

QUINN-
Thanks! So far, so good.

BEN ZITOUNI-
Trout because he seems to have a better attitude and is more well-rounded.

TONY A-
I don’t know, man . . . something that connects me with people and doesn’t involve sitting in a cubicle. I have so many skills that I don’t even know where to begin. I’m a logician and an efficiency expert and I can get just about anyone to become interested in just about anything, if I present it right. Try putting THAT on a resume. But seriously, if you have any ideas or questions, shoot me an email and we’ll discuss. Thanks so much. Filing and researching is a joke. Any nitwit with a 5th-grade education can do that. I MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.

STEVE-
Understood.

CHRIS H-
I don’t want to top it. I’ll just use my glove. :-)

NICHOLAS BADDERS-
All these give-aways are killing me. Baseball is baseball, and sunglasses are sunglasses. Why do people need to be bribed with the latter to go see the former? I really don’t get it. Anyway, I would loooooooove to come to Oakland, but it’s not gonna happen on this trip, unfortunately.

TONYV433-
Congrats on the record, and you’re welcome for all the info. You’ll probably have the record for a while because I do *not* want to go back to Target Field anytime soon. It’s one of the worst stadiums for ballhawking. I should make a list and rank the parks for real, but just off the top of my head, I’d say that Citi is the worst, Yankee is 2nd worst, and the Target. Busch is also tough, and Wrigley is a pain in the ass. So yeah, good luck (in my absence) in Minnesota.

LEIGH BARRATT-
No no no, get the water ready. I’ll need a lot of it. I probably ran five miles inside PETCO today with all the back-n-forthing. Anyway, see you tomorrow. I’ll be in the “beach” area from about 4:30 to 4:50pm, and then I guess I’ll cruise inside the main part of the stadium with Ismael and Luigi and T.C. and you?

DONNY IN HOUSTON-
Sweet.

As someone who snagged one of those Teixeira homers, I’m gonna take the leap and say that *I* was the first fan to enter the stadium :-)

I decided that I will be going to the Coliseum on Saturday for the A’s/Yankees game, and I am looking forward to seeing the Yankees play in person. Which Yankees hit it out most in BP? I feel like I have a good chance of getting something in BP, and I will probably spend most of BP in right field because I have heard everyone goes to LF to try to catch an A-Rod homer before the game. And giveaways are killing me too! The A’s have so many, it is getting “Reddikulous” A’s fans will do anything for their pomotions. I bought tickets in advance for an A’s/Red Sox game in September, hoping to snag a Fenway Park ball, and it turns out that it is now Breast Cancer awareness day, which I think you were at last year in Oaklnad. But the giveaway is a PINK A’S UMBRELLA! I mean, Come On! I am tempted to not go.

Did you enter at gate 2 or 6 for this game?
-Chris
http://ballhawker.mlblogs.com

BEN WEIL-
Well then. I suppose you beat me. Just watch your back next time. :-)

NICHOLAS BADDERS-
Whoops, sorry I didn’t respond in time, but I hope it turned out well.

CHRIS-
I went in the left field gate.

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