7/21/12 at PETCO Park

This was the final game of my west coast trip, and I was gonna have to leave early. Game time was 5:35pm, and my flight back to New York was scheduled for 9pm, so I figured I’d get to see the first five innings or so.

When I first entered the stadium, I was disappointed to see that batting practice wasn’t yet underway, but I still managed to snag a ball quickly. Brad Brach (indicated below with the red arrow) was playing catch along the right field foul line . . .

. . . and when he finished, I got him to hook me up.

One of the quirks of PETCO Park is that the visiting team occupies the 3rd base dugout, but uses an on-field bullpen down the right field line. This wonky setup forces visiting relievers and coaches to walk past the home team on the right field side — and that’s what happened here. Several members of the Rockies were finishing a bullpen session, and when I saw one of them, baseball in hand, cut through the throng of Padres players, I threw on my Rockies jersey and raced over to the 3rd base side. By the time he reached the dugout, I was all the way back in the cross-aisle, but because the stadium was so empty and quiet, I was able to get his attention and convince him to throw it to me. This was my view from the aisle after I caught the ball:

One minute later, a Rockies coach approached the dugout with a ball in his back pocket. I was already standing in the front row when he arrived, and I got him to toss it to me. Unfortunately I don’t know who either of those guys were.

When the Padres finally started hitting, I moved to the left field foul line and got my 4th ball from one of the players’ kids. He jogged over with it from straight-away left field, and as he tossed it to me, he said, “I’m not really supposed to do this.” (Don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone.) Here’s a photo of him with another kid that I took soon after:

Then I moved to the seats in straight-away left. Here’s what it looked like out there:

In the photo above, the fan sitting on the right (in the blue shirt and light gray shorts) is my friend Brandon. (He hates being photographed.)

Cameron Maybin threw me my 5th ball of the day, which I promptly handed to the nearest/smallest kid.

The final group of Padres hitters had several lefties, so I headed to right field. Words can not describe how frustrating it was out there, so here’s a photo instead:

Here’s what was happening in the photo above:

1) The ONE home run that reached the seats in straight-away right field went right to my friend T.C.

2) I easily could’ve moved in front of him and caught it. (You’ll notice that he was leaning over the railing and spilling onto my side of the staircase.)

3) T.C. shouted, “I got it! I got it! I got it!” as the ball descended toward us.

4) I backed off and leaned out of the way and let him have it.

In New York City, fans catch whatever they can catch. The very best of friends will cut each other off and climb up on seats and jump and reach and talk a whole lot of trash along the way. Basically, it’s an all-out competition, but in lots of other places, fans often back off if they realize that a ball is heading toward someone else. I certainly didn’t need to let T.C. catch that home run, but it seemed like the right thing to do. He attends every Padres game, so the way I saw it, I was in his house and wanted to be respectful. In addition to that, he *only* tries to catch home runs, and I knew that I’d have more opportunities to get toss-ups, so yeah, I gave way to the elder statesman. And it was frustrating. I was in a real home run slump. For some reason, I hadn’t caught any homers during my entire trip to California — and yet I was still averaging more than 10 balls per game.

Anyway, I eventually gave up on right field and ran over to the Padres’ dugout on the 1st base side. Home runs simply weren’t happening, so I hoped to get a toss-up when the players cleared the field. Here’s a photo of me waving my glove at them as they headed in my direction:

In case you can’t spot me in the photo above, I’m on the far left side.

Edinson Volquez threw me my 6th ball of the day, and then I got the other Padres player’s kid to toss me another.

Now, do you remember the tweet I posted about forgetting my Rockies cap in New York? Well, it didn’t end up making a difference. As I mentioned before, I had a Rockies jersey, and as for my headgear . . . I wore my umpire cap backwards.

Once the Rockies took the field, I moved to the 3rd base side and got three toss-ups within a two-minute span, all in the same spot. It was incredible. There happened to be a few balls scattered on the field in foul territory, and the Rockies happened to wander out of the dugout one by one. I’m not sure who the first player was (he was Latino, and I think he had a 1st baseman’s glove), but the next two guys were Jerry Weinstein (the team’s “catching coach”) and Jordan Pacheco. Here’s what it looked like from that spot:

I was already up to 10 balls for the day, and less than a minute later, I lunged over the wall and grabbed an overthrow that trickled by. Then, two minutes after that, I snagged a popped-up slicer near the corner spot that tipped off another fan’s glove.

Unreal.

My 13th ball was thrown by Adam Ottavino along the left field foul line, and my 14th ball was tossed by bullpen coach Jim Wright in left-center field. Here’s a photo of Wright that I took soon after. He’s the guy on the left:

Where was Brandon at that point? Spying on me from above. Here’s a photo that he took from the upper deck. It’s easy to spot me because I’m the only fan wearing Rockies gear:

For the final group of BP, I headed to the 2nd deck in straight-away left field. This was the view:

I don’t know who was hitting, but I can tell you that there were a couple of righties launching bombs. After several close calls, I finally got my chance. I ran to my left through this cross-aisle . . .

. . . and made a leaping/lunging catch. That one felt good. I hadn’t lost my touch after all. Unfortunately, though, that was it for BP.

Before the game, I moved back to the 3rd base side and gave away three balls, including two to these guys:

Their names are Ryan and Cory — future major leaguers, who will hopefully return the favor someday. I chatted briefly with their father Jack and was glad to help send them home with a couple of souvenirs.

In the 1st inning, I sat here and talked to my friend Kurt:

(Kurt is the 6-foot-5 guy that I mentioned in my previous PETCO entry.)

In the 2nd and 3rd innings, I hung out here and ate garlic fries:

Then I moved to right field . . .

. . . and chatted with Franklin and Ismael and Luigi for a couple innings. Of course I was mainly there to catch a home run, but nothing came anywhere near me.

When Brandon made an appearance at 7:15pm, I knew that it was time to go. Look closely at the following photo and you’ll see him (in the blue shirt) walking toward me on the right:

Before getting into his car, I needed to take a moment to say goodbye to the large baseballs outside the garage:

The Rockies had a 6-5 lead when we started driving to the airport, and when I arrived home in New York eight hours later, I found out that they’d won, 8-6, in 12 innings. It would’ve been nice to catch a game home run on this trip, but overall I have no complaints. I hung out with friends and family . . . and snagged 68 balls in 6 games. Not bad.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 15 balls at this game (eleven pictured here because I gave four away)

• 331 balls in 41 games this season = 8.07 balls per game.

• 833 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 358 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 197 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

• 6,150 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)

• $31.50 raised at this game

• $695.10 raised this season

• $19,852.10 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

9 Comments

Seems you get a lot of balls from umpires… What’s your secret in doing that?

Would love to get out to PETCO someday soon. As well as get down to Miami….think I’d have a pretty good time hanging out at the Clevelander watching the game…and the girls. :-)

Parked at the same lot with the big baseballs last summer. Petco is a nice park! I caught a BP HR in the sandbox last year off Brad Hawpe. There were only three people and it was earlier in the season with no sand sculptures.

Just wondering Zack. If you had no balls when it was time to leave, would you have ditched the flight and try to preserve your streak or ditch your streak and catch the flight?

“. . and snagged 68 balls in 6 games. Not bad..”

not bad? That’s 17 more than my entire collection! That’s a hell of a week! I’ll snag 14 someday.
-Chris
http://ballhawker.mlblogs.com

Zack,
Wow, I completely misinterpreted your email. I thought you got only ONE ball at this game not one home run on the fly. I blame the fact that it was early Friday morning and I was at work. Yea, that’s my excuse…..

I’ve never tried it before so maybe its wonderful, but that ketchup all over those otherwise beautiful garlic fries just looks WRONG!!!

JAKOBY SHAW-
After the game, just hang out where they walk off the field and ask ‘em.

BRIAN-
Definitely visit the Clevelander. It’d be annoying every day, but it’s great once or twice.

KEN-
I don’t think I’ve ever seen PETCO without those sculptures.

CLIFF-
Good question. I actually thought about that, and I decided that I would definitely have to miss my flight. The bad thing is that Bob Davidson was the home plate ump at this game, and he’s one of the least friendly people I’ve ever encountered in the baseball world, so I would’ve had to find another way to keep the streak alive.

CHRIS-
Yes you will . . . especially if you get the hell out of New York.

MIKE-
I’m offended to hear that you thought I only snagged ONE ball at a game at PETCO with batting practice. Hmph!

COOK & SON BATS-
Try it. Then get back to me.

The picture of you and the giant baseball is perfect. It would make a great Xmas card or book jacket photo.

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