7/30/12 at Yankee Stadium

For those of you who don’t live in New York City, here’s something you probably don’t see too often:

That’s what the No. 4 train looked like on the way to Yankee Stadium. (That’s what it always looks like—never a peaceful moment.)

My girlfriend Robin joined me for this game. Here we are outside Gate 6:

Robin brought her camera but didn’t sprint after me when the gates opened, so by the time she made her way to the right field seats, she found me here:

Now let me explain . . .

When I first ran into the 100 Level, someone on the Yankees (possibly Eric Chavez) crushed a home run that sailed 20 feet over my head and landed in the bleachers. Then, when I noticed that there weren’t any fans up there chasing after the ball, I climbed up and went after it myself.

Here’s another photo, taken moments later, that shows how high I had climbed:

I was thinking about climbing back down, but decided against it because there were too many security guards. Here’s one of them lecturing me about having climbed up in the first place:

Moments later, I got Hiroki Kuroda to toss me a ball from the bullpen, and yes, I asked him for it in Japanese.

Then I took the long route down to the 100 Level and headed to left field. Even though the Yankees were still hitting, I changed into my Orioles gear; I knew I wasn’t going to get a ball thrown to me by the Yankees regardless of what I was wearing, so I got a head start on switching my outfit. Why am I mentioning this? Because I caught a Jayson Nix homer on the fly and acted (more) hyper (than usual) when Robin pointed her camera at me . . .

. . . and now you know why I was wearing all that orange.

I really *was* psyched after catching that ball because I’d made a nice play on it. When Nix first connected, I darted 10 feet to my right, then climbed back over a row, and punctuated my effort with a leaping catch. And by the way, in the photo above, my friend Ben Weil is standing just behind me in the white T-shirt. You’ll see a couple more photos of him (wearing Orioles gear) later on.

The only ball I snagged during the Orioles’ portion of BP was thrown by Chris Davis on the 3rd base side. Check it out:

The ball pictured above is a beautifully smudged version of this.

Here’s a photo of Robin . . .

. . . and here’s a photo that she took of me and Ben:

Robin and I were in right field when BP ended. I noticed that there were several balls scattered in the Yankees’ bullpen, and . . . well, I don’t know how to sugarcoat this, so I’ll just come right out and say it: I totally used her to get one of them. I knew that the balls were going to be tossed into the crowd by a groundskeeper, and I knew that the groundskeeper would be more likely to toss one our way if *she* asked for it. So yeah. That’s what happened. For the record, I was the one who caught it, but then I handed it to her and let her keep it. Here she is with it:

Half an hour later in the very same spot, I got my 6th ball of the day from Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey. He always tosses a bunch into the crowd before every game, and this time I got lucky. Here he is (standing on the bench in the bullpen) hooking up the fans in the bleachers:

Robin and I sat in straight-away right field and had a great view of Ichiro Suzuki—the newest Yankee—acknowledging the Bleacher Creatures during “roll call“:

This was our view early in the game . . .

. . . and several innings later, this was the view behind me:

Why am I showing you the staircase? Because something big happened in the bottom of the 5th inning:

That’s a screen shot of Raul Ibanez connecting on a high, deep fly ball to right field.

Here’s a screen shot of the ball flying into the Bronx night:

Here’s a screen shot that shows (a) the ball descending into the crowd and (b) me on the staircase:

Here I am catching it . . .

. . . and celebrating:

That’s right. I caught a home run. And it felt amazing.

Now, before I describe exactly how it went down, I need to share a few more photos, starting with this one, taken by my friend Tony Bracco (who was sitting on the other side of the stadium) at the exact same moment as the screen shot above. Have a look:

See me there under the ‘M’ of the “Modell’s” advertisement with my arms raised? See Robin on the staircase, several rows below me? Well, look what happened next:

In case you can’t tell what was taking place, here’s a closer look:

Catching a home run and then immediately making out with my girlfriend while 40,000-plus people were cheering was pretty damn awesome. (You should try it sometime—with your own girlfriend, that is. Or boyfriend. No judgments here.)

Here’s one more photo from Tony. Can you tell what’s happening?

In the photo above, Ben is crouching next to me on the staircase. He was sitting in left field, saw me catch the ball, and immediately ran over to congratulate me. I love him. (But not enough to make out with him.)

How did I actually catch the ball?

As soon as Ibanez connected, I knew that it was gone, and I knew that it was heading in my exact direction, but I also knew that it was going to travel a bit too far. Remember the photo of the staircase? Well, the first thing I did was bolt up the steps, pretty much right to the spot where the guard was standing. When the ball first started flying toward me, I thought that it was going to land in the tunnel, but when I reached the last row and looked back up at it in the sky, I realized that the ball wasn’t going to make it that far. It was still going to land behind my original spot, but now that I was standing in the last row, it was going to fall a bit short, so I drifted down a couple steps. After that it was pretty easy. A bunch of people reached up, but they didn’t have gloves, and I reached even higher. Here’s the video of it on MLB.com. (The catch I’d made on Nix’s homer during BP was five times better, but not nearly as exhilarating.)

Here’s a photo of the ball itself . . .

. . . and look! There’s a faint invisible ink stamp on it:

Here I am with Robin and the ball . . .

. . . and here’s another fan taking his own photo of it:

It was a perfect night . . . until this happened:

It’s nearly impossible to catch a game home run ball and leave the stadium feeling disappointed, but that’s how it went down for me. I’d been thinking about catching Ichiro’s 100th career home run for months, so to see that ball land in the front row of the 2nd deck . . . and bounce back onto the field . . . and get tossed back into the crowd (two sections away) by a clueless Nick Markakis really hurt.

I’ll get over it.
There’ll be other special baseballs.
And I *am* glad about the ones I’ve caught.

The Orioles ended up winning the game, 5-4, and after the final out, I gave one of my BP balls to a little kid.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 7 balls at this game (five pictured here because I gave two away)

• 354 balls in 44 games this season = 8.05 balls per game.

• 836 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 361 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 175 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball

• 18 lifetime game home run balls (not counting the five that’ve been tossed to me); click here for the complete list.

• 6,173 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)

• $14.70 raised at this game

• $743.40 raised this season

• $19,900.40 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

11 Comments

I win! First comment! Now time to read…

Nice catch Zack!! I saw the highlight on SportsCenter and knew it was you right away.
Congrats on the nice catch!
-Quinn

Ibanez home run? Nice! I was at the A’s game today (Wednesday), and had tickets right behind the Rays dugout, actually, 30 rows back, but since there were 18,000 people there, I snuck down and sat in the 3rd row most of the game. One of those 18,00 people was Greg Barasch, who I guess was in the Bay Area for 5 games. I feel kind of stalker-ish, because I never got the chance to introduce myself, but I have a feeling that he saw me at some point. I kind of ran into him everywhere. He Sat within a few rows of me, and was seemingly everywhere I was before the game. I saw him catch a foul ball during the game that I probably should have gotten, but I was using the restroom, and as soon as I saw it hit, took off down the steps, and got there just late. I guess there was 1 other foul ball hit, right in front of where my sister had been sitting, while I had been gone, and I know FOR SURE I would have had it. Really tough luck. After I had gotten my first ball on the day, which I gave to a little girl who I guess had been standing right behind me, when I caught it, a ball trickled towards James Shields. I headed over there, calling out to James, asking for the ball. He said no. I asked if there was an possible way on the face of the planet that he would be able to toss me one baseball. He chuckled and said that he wasn’t allowed to. I said OK, and no problem and headed to where Fernando Rodney was throwing. He called me back, saying that he had been joking with me. I laughed and said ok, as he tossed me the ball. He then came over and I told him how teams like the Dodgers rarely throw balls up during BP, and how their pitchers specifically are not allowed to give balls away, which sucks, because the Dodgers use commemorative balls. He seemed really surprised at that, at which point he started to get yelled at by some coaches. He then asked me if I would be in Tampa this year, and he seemed somewhat disappointed when I said no. I knew this was the Rays’ only trip to Oakland this year, so I half-jokingly suggested that he collect some commemorative balls for me and give them to me, when the Rays are in Oakland in 2013. He actually liked the idea, and said next time the Rays were in Oakland, or if I was in Tampa, he would hook me up with a few balls. Pretty cool!

I am now looking back at how long my last comment was. Then again, half of it is a small word for word part of my blog entry about this game that I hope to get up on Thursday the 2nd.

Hmmm, my thoughts:
I actually thought for sure you’d get kicked out when you climbed up into the bleachers within 2 minutes after the stadium opened. Luckily, you didn’t. The catch on the Jayson Nix homer was definitely awesome and well described. You caught it really high up reaching back. It was a great catch. I was angry I couldn’t get around people to get to the spot where I thought the ball would have landed, or rather, have you rob me of it, so I’m glad I didn’t get there!

And most importantly, the Ibanez homer. I literally leapt up and screamed “Yeah Zack!” and immediately told Joe to watch my bookbag as I started running towards you. I really think I may get more excited for you when you catch a homer than you, yourself do! By the way, running to you was not easy! I was out of breath, and I don’t know how you did it like 8 times during the game.

Also, I know how close you were a couple of times on Tuesday when Jonesy lifted it to left, and then again Wednesday on Chris Davis. You were practically guarding Ichiro haha. Great game :-)

Nice catch Zack. Congratulations.

I generally avoid all non-NYC subway systems, but I have gotten on the T in Boston after a Celts game and since North Station is inside the Garden, it’s pretty much a cattle call of 18,000 people all entering the same train. Just imagine that same train you were on, but going really slow and having a poorly designed track system where you can’t go anywhere without first being forced to go somewhere else you don’t want to…oh and having the whole system shut down for the night before the game you’re at is even over if it’s a long game. But overcrowding, yeah they can do that.

Wow, that’s actually pretty reserved for the security there. I was expecting them to kick you out, make three announcements, call in the NYPD all while making a huge spectacle about it.
-Chris

http://ballhawker.mlblogs.com

Great catch Zack, I’m happy for you! I can only imagine the excitement you felt!

NICK BADDERS-
Very cool about Shields. You have to let me know how it plays out. As for Greg . . . also cool that you got to meet him.

QUINN-
Thanks!

BEN WEIL-
I need you to attend more games with me. Good things seem to happen when you’re around.

LEIGH B.-
Thank you, Mister.

JERE80-
Sounds wonderful. (I know I owe you an email, BTW. Just really swamped at the moment, but it’ll happen soon.)

CHRIS-
Ha, well, I don’t think I’ll ever climb up there again. It attracts way too much attention. (Not the good kind.)

RYAN S.-
Thanks.

Congrats on the homerun ball! What is your streek for most consecutive games with over 7 baseballs?
Paul

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