7/16/12 at Dodger Stadium

There are three things you need to know before we get started . . .

1) Dodger Stadium is confusing and annoying. Four years ago, I wrote a blog entry explaining why, but basically, the parking lot doesn’t officially open until the stadium itself opens, so you need to be strategic about gaining early access to the property.

2) This was a Watch With Zack game . . . sort of. My “client” was my cousin Howie, along with his wife Susan and their two kids Juliana and Sam. Howie had offered to pay me, and when I told him how stupid he was for even suggesting it, he insisted on paying for my flight.

3) I had heard that Dodger Stadium was now opening half an hour early for season ticket holders, so Howie and his family got me there even earlier than that. They were willing to wait in the car outside the parking lot while I went in on foot and tried to talk my way into the stadium.

At around 4:20pm — two hours and 50 minutes before game time — I ran into this guy:

His name is Jose, but he’s known as “MANNYWOOD.” That’s because he attends every Dodgers home game and used to dress up like Manny Ramirez. Check out this photo of us from Game 2 of the 2009 NLDS. How awesome is that?

In the photo above, did you notice what I was pointing at? It was Jose’s season ticket holder ID card. (Ooh yeah.) Here he is leading the way past security:

I was so excited that I neglected to note the exact time, but I know that it was still close to 4:20pm, which means that Dodger Stadium opens THREE HOURS EARLY for season ticket holders! And okay, so I missed the first 10 minutes, but whatever, batting practice was just getting underway, so I really didn’t miss much. This was my view as I headed down into the seats:

I should mention that the whole stadium doesn’t open at 4:10pm. Fans with early access have to enter near the left field foul pole and then stay between the left field bullpen and the 3rd base dugout. (To elaborate because I know everyone’s going to ask: if you have a bleacher [aka "pavilion"] ticket, you can still enter the main part of the stadium at 4:10pm. You just have to show it to security, and then they wave you through, the assumption being that you’ll leave at 5:10pm and head over to the pavilion and get it scanned there. The pavilions have their own separate entrances. Right field is separate from left field, so you can’t go back and forth, and both pavilions are separate from the main part of the stadium. [See what I mean about Dodger Stadium being annoying? And wait, there's more!] The main part of the stadium — specifically the gate near the left field foul pole — opens at 5:10pm for non-season/field-level ticket holders only, but until 5:40pm, everyone has to stay on the left field side. Phew! I’m probably forgetting some rules and messing up others, so consider this a basic overview.)

If Jose hadn’t gotten me in early, I might’ve been able to tag along with this guy:

That’s my friend Devin Trone, who seems to turn up everywhere. Last year I ran into him on 6/13/11 at Safeco Field and again at the All-Star Game in Phoenix and again on 9/5/11 at Angel Stadium. According to his profile on MyGameBalls.com, he’s snagged a lifetime total of 593 baseballs — a number that would be much higher if he went for toss-ups.

As for me . . .

I settled into a spot beside the foul pole and promptly snagged this:

It was a grounder that was pulled down the line by a right-handed batter. I’m not sure who hit it, and I really don’t care. I was just happy to discover that I could reach the warning track, and of course I was glad to get on the board. This was the 300th consecutive game outside New York at which I’d snagged at least one ball; the fact that it was commemorative made it even sweeter. (Yes, Jeremy Guthrie had hooked me up with one of these balls on 5/22/12 at Marlins Park, but it was nice to snag one *at* Dodger Stadium.)

Moments later, as Jose was getting ready to take my photo with that ball, I scooped up another grounder. This was my reaction immediately after:

Meanwhile, look where my cousin Howie was:

I felt bad knowing that while I was living it up inside the stadium, he and his family were stuck at a parking lot tollbooth, but what was the alternative? For me to sit in the car with them?

I caught two more grounders near the foul pole, the second of which was hit by Matt Kemp.

Jose was hanging out in foul territory and Devin was positioned several rows back for home runs, so my main competition was a fan with an ingenious snagging device. Check it out:

Stadium security doesn’t allow fishing nets, so as you can see, this guy legally improvised by extending his cap.

My 5th ball (which I snagged just before the stadium opened for real at 5:10pm) was a ground-rule double that skipped into the seats and deflected near me. Here’s a photo of it:

Nearly every ball that the Dodgers were using was commemorative. I loved it. And then I snagged a couple more. The first was a LONG foul homer that landed in the second deck and bounced down. The second was a grounder that the security guard standing right in front of me was nice enough to sidestep when I yelled, “Let it roll!”

Because of the ridiculousness of (a) the parking lots and (b) the gate opening times, my family didn’t find their way into the stadium until 5:35pm. Here they are:

In the photo above, that’s nine-year-old Juliana crouching down in front and her twin brother Sam in the green sweatshirt. Howie (my father‘s sister’s son) is on the right, and his wife Susan is standing behind the kids.

When the entire stadium opened at 5:40pm, we all headed to right field. Here I am with Sam and Juliana:

It was completely dead out there for the first 20 minutes. Not only weren’t Phillies tossing many balls into the crowd, but they were scooping up all the grounders. Eventually I convinced Antonio Bastardo to throw me a ball, and Howie got a video of it with his Flip Cam. Here’s a screen shot of Bastardo just before throwing it . . .

. . . and here I am reaching up for a two-handed catch:

As you can see, it was VERY sunny.

I handed the ball to Juliana . . .

. . . who then showed it to Sam:

Then they handed it back to me. I had told them that I was going to give them lots of baseballs, so we decided that it’d be easier for me to hang onto them until the end of the night. I had a drawstring backpack. They didn’t. It was that simple.

Two minutes after I got the ball from Bastardo, Howie snagged a ground-rule double and beat out several other fans in the process. Sam and Juliana were so psyched that they literally jumped into his arms:

Here they are with the ball:

That was it for the Phillies’ portion of BP, but when it ended, we were in the perfect position behind the dugout. Here’s first base coach Sam Perlazzo flipping a ball in our direction . . .

. . . and here I am reaching out for the catch:

I wanted Sam and Juliana to catch some baseballs on their own, but they weren’t too concerned about it. They mainly wanted to hang out with me and watch me in action, knowing they they’d end up getting to keep lots of the balls anyway, so I served as their Designated Snagger.

The ball from Perlazzo was my 9th of the day. As soon as I caught it, I handed it to Juliana . . .

. . . who had it snatched away by Sam . . .

. . . but as you can see, she didn’t seem to care:

She and Sam were exceptionally well-behaved, and they got along great with each other.

After Perlazzo disappeared into the dugout, a ballboy started transferring baseballs from the basket to the equipment bags. I got his attention by shouting. Then I got him to throw a ball in our direction by pointing at the kids:

The ball sailed high and to the right . . .

. . . and landed just beyond my reach in a sea of hands. Look closely at the following photo, and you’ll see the ball being bobbled in the upper right corner:

Here’s another shot of the ball . . .

. . . as it plopped down into the gap that separates the normal seats from the fancy dugout section.

Here I am leaning all the way down and grabbing it with my glove:

(In the photo above, did you notice that the ballboy was about to throw another ball into the crowd?)

Several things happened at that point:

1) A security guard scolded me for leaning over the wall.
2) I asked Howie if he’d gotten footage of my ass up in the air.
3) A different security guard scolded me for “using inappropriate language.”

“What did I say that was inappropriate?” I asked sarcastically. “Air?!”

“You said A-S-S,” she hissed. “This is your only warning. If I hear you use any additional inappropriate language, you will be escorted from the stadium.”

“Are you kidding me?! That word is used all the time on network television.”

“This is your only warning,” she repeated. “There are children right next to you, and we strive to maintain an environment that’s suitable for all our fans.”

The lecture was absurd, but whatever, I wasn’t gonna stand there and argue with her any longer. There was pizza to be eaten, and there were more baseballs to be snagged.

Roughly 20 minutes before game time, I took Sam and Juliana to the right field bullpen. Here we are watching Joe Blanton warm up:

Several minutes later, he bounced one of his pitches. The ball was then tossed aside to bullpen coach Mick Billmeyer, who flipped it right to me.

Howie stayed near the bullpen with Juliana while I took off with Sam for the seats in foul territory. I gave Howie some pointers on how/who/when to ask for a ball, and it paid off. Just after I left, he got a ball from Billmeyer.

Here’s where I ended up with Sam:

We couldn’t get any closer than that, but it didn’t stop me from getting Hunter Pence to lob a ball right to me. It was beautiful. The photo above was taken just after Pence hooked us up; you can see him signing autographs on the left.

Our seats for the game weren’t too far from that area. Here’s a photo of Sam and Juliana with their parents and, perhaps more importantly, their pre-game baseballs:

I had picked those seats because I wanted to be (relatively) close to the Phillies’ dugout. Even with the partition that separates the fancy seats from the regular seats, Dodger Stadium is one of the easiest places to get a 3rd-out ball.

With one out in the bottom of the 1st inning, I headed here with Juliana:

Here she is on my left:

Matt Kemp ended the inning by lining out to 3rd baseman Placido Polanco, and whaddaya know, when the Phillies jogged off the field, Polanco tossed the ball to me over everyone down in front. Here’s a photo of it that I took when we returned to our ticketed seats:

Of the 13 balls that I’d snagged at that point, SEVEN were commemorative! Check ‘em out:

(Sorry for the crotch shot, but there was no other way to simultaneously hide/photograph them.)

In the bottom of the 2nd, I headed back to the dugout, this time with Sam. James Loney ended the frame with a weak jam-job/pop-out to shortstop Jimmy Rollins, and HEY, I got that ball too. (Stadiums not named “Citi” and “Yankee” are so easy.)

I didn’t notice it right away, but when we got back to our seats, something about the ball jumped out at me. Here’s a photo of it that I took later that night:

In case you can’t tell, that’s a deep gash in the cowhide. How could that have gotten there? My only guess is that Loney broke his bat on the swing, and a jagged piece of the wood cut the ball. There’s no way that the ball would’ve had that gash before before being put into play, so that has to be the explanation. Right?

I didn’t go back to the dugout for the rest of the night. (I can sense when enough is enough.) Sam and Juliana didn’t mind staying in our seats because they had other things to keep themselves entertained:

As for the game . . .

One of the highlights (for me, anyway) was seeing the umpires huddle after Dodgers manager Don Mattingly came out to argue about a blatantly bad call:

Ryan Howard had flat-out dropped a throw, but 1st base umpire Wally Bell had initially called it a catch. He mistakenly thought Howard had dropped it while pulling the ball out of his glove to make a throw. Bell was wrong. I can’t even begin to describe how obvious it was, so I was glad when the umps reversed Bell’s initial call and ruled the batter safe. That never used to happen back in the day. Whatever the call was . . . that’s how it stood. Hooray for accuracy finally starting to trump ego.

The Phillies were winning, 3-0, at that point, but by the time Jonathan Papelbon entered the game in the bottom of the 9th, it was a 3-2 game. Howie took the kids back to the bullpen. I headed behind home plate . . .

. . . and continued walking through the concourse toward the 3rd base dugout. On the way, I saw a bunch of game-used balls for sale (for $50 each!) at a souvenir stand:

I thought it was cool how they were labeled and displayed.

But anyway.

This was my view at the end of the game:

I was in the perfect spot for an umpire ball, but didn’t get one. Why? Because there were lots of kids down in front (in the fancy dugout area), and you know what? I was okay with that. With the 14 balls that I’d snagged, I’d set a new Dodger Stadium record.

Howie’s night of snagging, however, wasn’t done. Just as the final few Phillies were walking out of the bullpen, he convinced bullpen catcher Jesus Tiamo to toss him a ball.

Final score: Zack 14, Howie 3, Phillies 3, Dodgers, 2.

Let me clarify that it wasn’t a competition between me and Howie. We were all on the same team, ballhawking together for the fun of it and for the kids.

Here we all are after the game with the 14 balls that I’d snagged . . .

. . . and here’s a closer look at the balls themselves:

Maybe Dodger Stadium isn’t so bad after all.

On the way out, we ran into Pat Sajak. The kids were very excited. And to top it all off, they ended up with 10 baseballs in their possession.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 14 balls at this game (plus three more snagged by Howie that I’m not counting in my personal stats)

• 277 balls in 36 games this season = 7.69 balls per game.

• 828 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 353 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 194 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

• 37 consecutive Watch With Zack game with at least one ball; click here to see an extensive list of Watch With Zack stats and records.

• 6,096 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)

• $29.40 raised at this game

• $581.70 raised this season

• $19,738.70 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

23 Comments

Wow, a new record and 8/14 are commemorative. Nicely done, sounds like you had a great game. If you park somewhere besides the Dodgers parking lot can you still walk up to get stadium and get in at the normal time?
Paul
http://apieceofthegame.mlblogs.com/

Zack, I was at the game Tuesday, but stuck in rightfield all night. I brought my copy of “The Baseball” for you to sign just in case I bumped into you. I saw you in leftfield wearing that bright red Phillies shirt during BP. Last time I saw you at Dodger Stadium it was 2008 my son Tommy was five. Since then he has snagged 42 baseballs of his own. I’d love to take him to the Angel game Friday, but I don’t think we are going to be able to make it.
Thanks for writing this post. I love hearing about how you work in my home stadium. Can’t wait to read the next one.

Rules, rules, rules, rules! Sounds like Yankee Stadium ;)
-Chris
http://www.ballhawker.wordpress.com

With all the beatings and violence that take place at Dodger Stadium, it’s nice to know security was making sure you didn’t say “ass.”

In response to your last post. You said you’d rather have Trout over Harper and I couldn’t agree with you more. I say that for many reasons. Trout has a chip on his shoulder being picked 25th(I think) he comes from New Jersey were you cant play baseball year round he didnt have as much exsposure as Harper did and he seems like a nicer guy. I hate to say but Harper reminds me of Daryll Strawberry he was on the cover of SI at 16/17 didn’t go to college was a very hyped/talked about prospect and in my opinion both were rushed to the big leagues. Harper is cocky and seems self centered.

Zack – Sam and Juliana are still bubbling over with excitement about the game on Monday. They’ve been busy telling all the great stories about being part of the snagging team – cute kids definitely help the effort. You have our 5-star rating for “Watch with Zack”. It is a priceless experience. Baseball has never been so much fun!!!!!!!!! – Howie

Oh dude! I had no idea you were in LA! Damn. I’ve been following your blog for over a year now, and I was actually at the Dodgers game the next night. Would have loved to meet you. Do you know when you’ll be back out here?

Hey any tips on Citizen Bank Park???

Good job homie. Is there anything better than a commemorative that is also a pearl? Don’t answer that. But, it is cool. The All Star Game was an experience, although I would have to say that since the game was an 8-0 dud, the Home Run Derby was probably the “funnest” of the events. I can only imagine how expensive it will be next year in NYC. Word is it will be here in Minnesota in 2014.

I don’t know if you hear, but the A’s attempted to set a guiness world record for the most dogs at a sproting event Thursday night and I think they may have suceeded. I heard ballhawking was just horrible for this. They opened the Coliseum an extra half hour early, because I guess they were having the dogs parade around the warning track or whatever. So I guess they started at 5:15, which meant no BP. well, it turns out that they had over 700 DOGS at the game, so the parade lasted longer than it should have, and while the parade was going on, players were told that they were not allowed to throw balls into the stands. (And I guess they were during the little league day parade in April.) To add on to the ballhawking frustrations, they were playing the Yankees, so the Coliseum was pretty full. There are a few things that made me wonder about this. 1) If they did set the world record, will ESPN finally take note of the A’s 11-2 record in July? 2) I bet the Coliseum is even worse with 700 dogs. 3) I am more than glad that I wasn’t there. 4) So Guiness is willing to havw someone to veryify this, but not your baseball collection or the ball drops you did at the beginning of the month?

Nice job. I’m really wondering though, how can you, as a native New Yorker, manage to stomach our far inferior California pizza?!

What adorable kids!

Got into Fenway an hour early earlier this week thanks to a tip I read from you about joining Red Sox Nation (I think it was in the Boston Globe article) and snagged a Fenway commemorative ball during that time, so thanks, Zack.

Looks like fun, Zack. Tim and I really enjoyed out one game at Dodger Stadium a couple years back. Will have to get back there in the next couple years so Kellan can see it too. Make sure you hit up In & Out on your trip!

Wow, the people sitting in front of you guys are giving you some serious stink eye. They must have heard you say a bad word.

Ugh I couldnt go to SoCal. I have hockey tryouts for the local Stockton Colts. (www.stocktoncolts.com) Darn I wish

Did your hear about Jeremy Guthrie going to the Royals?

PAUL-
When you approach the tollbooth (whether by foot or car), you have to say that you’re there to buy advanced tickets. Then they’ll let you enter the property, but you’re supposed to come back out before 5:10pm and then re-enter at 5:10 when it actually opens. So dumb.

RICK EFTING-
Oh, man, sorry I missed you. I hope you can make it tonight to the Angels game, but if not, you can mail the book to me (with a SASE!) and I’ll sign it and send it back. Or just wait ’til my next trip to California?

CHRIH-
Ha, yeah.

ANDY K-
Excellent point. :-)

BEN ZITOUNI-
Yeah, well, I wouldn’t want to be permanently judged according to how I behaved when I was 19.

HOWIE-
Awesome. Can’t wait to see all you guys again.

GREG-
Duuuuuuuuuuuude! I’d been talking about this trip for a while. Sorry we missed each other. If Howie and the fam wants to have me back next year, it could happen then.

KYLE O-
Lots. They’re all on my blog, so read my old entries. Sorry . . . I don’t have time to retype everything here in the comments.

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Target in 2014? Sounds reasonable. Keep me posted. Citi Field is going to be a zoo next year. I don’t even really want to go, but that’s pretty much always the case with that stadium. Did you snag any baseballs during the whole All-Star experience?

NICK B-
That sounds horrendous, and as for Guinness . . . they baffle me.

CONNOR-
I was actually impressed with the pizza I had at this game, but yeah, non-NYC pizza is pretty rough. It’s especially bad at Citizens Bank Park, but I still eat it because . . . hot dogs ew.

LIZ MERRY-
Yes and yes.

TOM-
Nicely done. Glad to help from afar.

COOK & SON BATS-
In-n-Out Burger is going to happen tonight after the Angels game.

BEN-
Ha! I was waiting for someone to notice them. They’re so . . . unpleasant looking that I was tempted to take another photo.

AUSTIN-
What the hell are you doing letting hockey get in the way of baseball?!

DYLAN-
Yeah. One day before I was going to see him in San Diego. That’s crappy timing.

Hey Zach, nice meeting and hanging out with you for the day. Me and Jose were planning on making a trip out to New York hopefully before season ends. Otherwise we will see you again next season.

I hope to do ok on Saturday, hopefully it won’t be too bad. I guess it is hard to get worse than Dog Day in Oakland. And In-n-Out is the best burger palce that I am aware of that exists on the face of the earth.

Z-man, My All Star Game ballhawking experience went like this. I had no interest in getting balls from the Futures game, but was really hoping to get a HRD ball and a ASG ball. I arrived about a half hour before the gates opened for the HRD and even though I was probably the thousandth person in the stadium I was still able to claim a nice spot next to the left field foul pole. I was next to the pole on the foul side and Garrett was on the fair side.
The players were just busy shooting the breeze while their snot nosed privledged spawn were chasing down the balls. I set my sights on Sabathia’s brats and yelled “Puedo tener la pelota por favor” and one of the brats looked at me and gave me the “I’ll hook you up homie nod” and finger point. Well, after a couple of minutes, this punk fields a ball and runs over to about 15 feet in front of me, looking at me the whole way. The scene is that I have the foul pole and then Garrett on my left and my brother on my right. Sabathia’s kid throws a strike right towards the big mitt. Out of nowhere, this douchebag that was next to my brother that had been spitting tobacco juice all over the warning track like it was going out of style leapt across and batted the ball down with his bare hand right on to the warning track. the guy didn’t even have a glove. My brother got a little steamed and told the guy that it was a meathead move. The guy said that he was trying to get a ball for his kids and took no responsibility and showed no shame. The dumb kid just picked up the ball and tossed it to some other people.

After about 5 more minutes of people begging and pleading with these entitled little pricks for baseballs, the absurdity of it all hit me. I am a 39 year old man that has a college education and has enjoyed some success in my career and I am not going to lower myself to begging a multi-millionaire’s children for baseballs. It just ain’t going to happen. I will plot and scheme and beg and plead for oral favors….but not a lousy pelota. As it turned out, I did buy a 24kt gold HRD ball at the FanFest.

Big Glove Bob

Big Glove, wow you sound really kind of bitter towards the MLB players kids. Why so harsh? Sounds like CC’s kids was (initially) nice enough to try and hook you up.

Brendan, it is not only the MLB players kids that I tend not to like. I also throw a tad of schtick in my prose for good measure.

Big Glove Bob

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