8/8/12 at Citi Field

My girlfriend Robin had been to Citi Field once before. But not with me. So we decided to do something about that:

D’awww!!

When the stadium opened at 5:10pm, we headed out to right field and saw these two players standing near us:

In the photo above, that’s Ramon Ramirez on the left and Frank Francisco on the right.

Wanna guess what happened when Robin (who’s bilingual) asked Ramirez for a ball in Spanish? Yes, of course he tossed it to her, but here’s how it all went down . . .

Robin, knowing that I’d be able to count the ball in my stats if I attained possession of it first, kindly stepped back and allowed me to catch it. Then, with the players still watching us, I quickly handed it to her. Here she is with it:

(For the record, I *did* actually give it to her to keep. I’m so nice. And by the way, in the photo above, the fan in the red cap is named Griffin. He and I have gotten to know each other this season, and we crossed paths throughout the day.)

Less than a minute later, Ramirez unexpectedly tossed me another ball, which I counted as my 2nd of the day. I hadn’t even asked him for it. The reason why he gave it to me was that Francisco told him to. Francisco knows about my collection and (perhaps because he also knows about the charitable component) thinks it’s cool. After I got the 2nd ball from Ramirez, Francisco asked me how many balls I was up to.

“Six thousand, two hundred and four,” I said. He and Ramirez and Manny Acosta (who was now standing with them) all stared at me blankly.

Robin and I then hurried to the left field seats, and as soon as we got there, I caught a home run on the fly. I’m not sure who hit it, but I think it was Scott Hairston. In order to make that grab, I had to drift down to the front row and reach over the railing above the party deck. Two minutes later, I snagged another home run ball that landed half a dozen rows back, and less than a minute after that, I caught this:

That was my 5th ball of the day — the first four were not commemorative — and it was thrown by Garrett Olson. Once again, I hadn’t even asked for it. In fact, no one had. With his back facing the stands, Olson randomly (and totally unexpectedly) flipped it up over his shoulder, kind of like a backwards hook shot.

In the photo above, do you see the “hospitality attendant” in the green shirt on the staircase? He’d been there the day before, but prior to that, I hadn’t ever seen him. Why am I pointing him out? Because after I got the ball from Olson, he said in a rude tone, “Okay, you’ve gotten three! Why don’t you take a walk!”

“Excuse me?!” I replied.

“You heard me!” he barked with a dismissive wave of his hand. “Take a walk and give someone else a chance!”

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said. “I paid to be here and catch baseballs, so why don’t you mind your own business and do your job?”

I was **SO** pissed off, and the guy kept yapping. I considered pushing him down the stairs, but instead decided to inform him about what I actually do with the baseballs — you know, giving balls to kids, raising money for charity, and so on. Surely, that would help defuse the situation and get him to understand what I’m all about, right?

Wrong.

When I started telling him about it, he interrupted and said, “Yeah right.”

“Dude, you have NO idea who I am or what I do!” I shouted, “so just be quiet!” As soon as I said that, I cringed because it sounded like I was talking like a wannabe big shot, but that’s not how I meant it. I literally meant that I was a stranger to him and that he shouldn’t make judgments or assumptions. After that, he *still* wouldn’t shut up about giving balls to kids, so I pulled a ball out of my backpack and shoved it in his face and said, “Okay, tough guy, here’s a ball for you! Give it to the kid of your choice so that YOU can be the hero.”

“Why don’t you give it to that kid over there?” he said, pointing at a little boy with no glove who wasn’t even facing the field. I was embarrassed for the kid and his mom who were suddenly thrust into the middle of this idiotic spectacle — two innocent bystanders who’d been turned into pawns by this dim-witted employee.

“I’d be delighted to,” I said, and then I walked over and handed the ball to the kid. The whole situation was revolting, and I wanted nothing more than for the Mets to lose BIG.

Thankfully, there were two things that helped put me in a better mood. The first was my view when the Marlins took the field . . .

. . . and the second was getting to catch up with Heath Bell. Here I am with him in foul territory:

Do you remember the ball that I had him sign for my friend Mike? Well, I brought the ball back with me and got Heath to write more on it. You see, Mike is a ballhawk with roughly 80 baseballs to his name. He’s trying hard to reach triple digits this season, so here’s what I got Heath to write:

Am I a great friend or what? Actually, Mike is truly the great friend. With his help, I’m going to make another attempt to break the world record for catching a baseball dropped from the greatest height — more than 1,000 feet. Mike works for the FAA and set up the entire helicopter stunt last month; we’re now in the process of picking new dates to try again.

As for the rest of batting practice (which I spent in left field) . . .

My 6th ball was thrown by Justin Ruggiano, and my 7th was thrown by Chris Hatcher. My 8th was a home run that I caught on the fly thanks to Griffin; I didn’t see it coming until he shouted my name at the last second. At the very end of BP, when all the players were just starting to jog off the field, Heath chucked a ball in my direction from more than 150 feet away. I determined quickly that it was going to sail a bit too high, so I climbed up on a seat and then stepped onto the arm rest and reached all the way up and caught it above a sea of hands. There was so much jostling that I briefly lost my balance and thought it was all over. I really would’ve gone down HARD, but thankfully I managed to stay upright, and I got some help getting back down.

After BP, I headed to the 3rd-base dugout and saw Marlins hitting coach Eduardo Perez with three balls in his right hand. When I asked for one, he looked at me and said, “You’re too big. I give them to little kids.” He then extended his left hand at his waist to indicate just how little the kids have to be. I responded by getting down on my knees so that my head was barely poking up above the dugout roof.

“How about this?” I asked.

“That’s better,” he said with a smile and tossed me one of the balls. (That was my 10th of the day.) Then he gave the other two to the only kids in the section.

Do you remember the commemorative ball that I got from Garrett Olson? Well, I gave that one away to someone before the game, and as a result, Robin and I got to sit in the 2nd row behind the Marlins’ dugout. (She had never sat so close to the action at ANY stadium; at her only other game at Citi Field, she was in the second deck in right field.)

Bryan Petersen was the leadoff batter, and on the 3rd pitch of the game, this happened:

Petersen had sliced a wimpy foul pop-up 10 feet behind me and maybe five feet to my right. Quite simply, I bolted up the steps as soon as it was hit and caught it on the fly above several glove-less hands. This was the 150th foul ball (not counting toss-ups) that I’d ever snagged during an actual game.

There’s something special about Robin. The last time she joined me for a game, I caught a Raul Ibanez homer on the fly . . . and now this. Hmm.

Robin took a bunch of photos during the game. Here’s one of Jose Reyes (who had already extended his hitting streak to 26 games):

Here’s a conference on the mound, centered around 6-foot-10 pitcher Chris Young . . .

. . . and here’s Ozzie Guillen:

The previous photo isn’t zoomed in. That’s actually how close we were.

During the 7th-inning stretch, I snagged this during the T-shirt launch . . .

. . . and in the 8th inning, I noticed that Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria was hanging out in the adjacent section:

In the photo above, did you notice all the empty seats? Most of the “fans” had taken off because the Mets were in the process of losing, 13-0. Mwahaha!!!

Here’s a photo (taken by Griffin) that shows Robin and me in our seats . . .

. . . and here we are after the game, posing with my milestone foul ball:

I had tried to get a ball from home plate umpire Paul Emmel — but he recognized me! As he headed toward the tunnel, he shouted, “You’re here every game! How many balls do you have?!”

“I’ve gotten a few!” I shouted back.

“Yeah, a FEW!” he said sarcastically before handing out balls to several other fans and disappearing into the night.

Damn. I’ve never been recognized by an ump before. Now that I’m dead to him, perhaps I should’ve gotten my money’s worth and told him that he’s personally provided three of my 6,213.  Anyway, here are the eight balls that I took home:

Of the eight, only one has an invisible ink stamp. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light:

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 11 balls at this game

• 394 balls in 49 games this season = 8.04 balls per game.

• 841 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 199 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

• 169 game balls (not counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd; 150 foul balls, 18 home runs, and 1 ground-rule double)

• 6,213 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)

• $23.10 raised at this game

• $827.40 raised this season

• $19,984.40 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

24 Comments

Nice, 11 balls is great! I’m
Surprised you didn’t get a 3rd out ball by the dugout during the game. The security guard has no right to tell you to take a hike. You definitely have the right to be there.
-Quinn

Hey Zack I was recently at a game at Progressive field and got 7 balls this past wendsday. Without bp but thanks to you for being a inspiration to me! And hope to meet you one day!! Ps- tell me if you ever have any plans to go to progressive field!! Thanks, Kyle o

Take a walk! He’s full of himself. You should’ve given him your card or blog address to show him who’s boss
Paul
http://apieceofthegame.mlblogs.com/

Great to see former-Mariner Garrett Olson back in the Majors. Way to go, Garrett! I’m assuming Garrett will read this and see my comments ;-)

That security jerk seems like a very important cog in the Evil Wilpon Machine.

Stadium employees can ruin a day for me. That’s why I loved PETCO so much, everyone was nice. Anyway, I think Randy St. Claire is so anti-fan that players are afraid to toss balls up to fans in his presence. The Marlins have really disappointed me this year, but it’s good to see that you had some luck.
Steve
http://fishfry55.mlblogs.com

do u no all the security guards there? did u go to the 12:10 game? I got a total of 2 t-shirts and 3 baseballs in 2 games and gave one to a little girl. i was sitting next to the ball pin and they do gig out the marlins logo baseballs i tried so hard but they gave me a pepsi t-shirt launch instead i was happy either way. The marlins only gave out two balls out and only to the met fans to. there was a kid in a stanton shirt and had no luck what so ever. still happy with the marlins ball i have do the rockies have the dodgers baseballs?

Reason #3,147 Citi Field sucks.
-Chris
http://ballhawker.mlblogs.com

Looks like Francisco has warmed up to you. I seem to remember there being some conflict in the past. What you need is a custom t-shirt that says something like “Hello, my name is Zack, and I’ve raised over $20,000 for Baseball charities” or something like that.

As I decided months ago, I specifically wanted to make the pledge that put you over $20,000 total. So there. :-)

QUINN-
Thanks for backing me up. As for the 3rd-out balls, I think there was only one inning that ended with a strikeout, and John Buck tossed the ball to someone else. There were a couple other opportunities, but I kinda hung back and let the kids storm to the front. Meanwhile, Carlos Lee kept every single 3rd-out ball, and the rest got tossed to the other section near the outfield end of the dugout.

KYLE O-
Awesome. Congrats. I really like Progressive Field, so hopefully I’ll be back soon-ish.

PAUL-
I don’t think that giving him a card would’ve made a difference.

COOK & SON BATS-
I wonder if any players have read this blog.

LIZ MERRY-
Pretty much.

STEVE-
You’re totally right. PETCO is the best and St. Claire is the worst.

ZACHV-
I know a bunch of the guards, but no, I didn’t attend the 12:10pm game. Not sure about the Rockies.

CHRIS-
More like reason No. 6,213.

KSLO69-
Not a bad idea, but it seems to be a bit too ME-ME-ME!!!

BEN WEIL-
Oh-em-gee! Thanks!!

Great view indeed!!! #GreatBuns

Zack, you are Awesome! Thank you again for the baseball. Heath Bell is so cool.
Thanks for mailing me the ball, although you could have just handed it to me when we see each other on 10 September!

Zack _ I want to personally ( well, as personal as a blog comment can be) for the info about getting a toss up from the umps at the end of the game. Recently I attended a Lakeshore Chinooks minor league baseball game ( Northwoods League) and had the hardest time getting a ball from any of the players or coaches. They rarely toss a ball into the stands, and when they do, it s to the youngsters 8 and under….Anywho- I had to wait 14 innings, but I indeed did get a ball from the ump- with the official NorthWoods League logo- thanks again! Lori

Saw your buddy in Texas catching Hamilton’s homerun on the fly. How many homeruns has he snagged? I recall several this year hes gotten his hands on

Another good day for Mr. Hample …… by the way thanks for sharing that picture of the “View” …. very nice …… I am guessing the song playing in the stadium was by Sisqó?

I too have wondered if any players have read, or do read this blog. You should call out to players in your next entry asking them to identify themselves if they do, ya know, since that’ll happen.

TIGHT RED SKIRT-
Amen.

MIKE-
You didn’t receive the ball in the mail already, did you?

LORI-
Awesome. You’re very welcome.

AL-
Jeez, another one for him? I don’t know how many he’s gotten. Lots.

MLBALLHAWK-
Ha, nice.

BEN WEIL-
That would just prompt a bunch of phony claims. If any players read this blog, they should tell me in person. Otherwise, I won’t believe it.

Zack, I got the ball yesterday

Heath Bell probably does. Do you think?

I was actually at that game too! The third picture taken on this post shows me with the backpack and glasses to the right of the kid with the blue hat. I got a David Wright foul ball in the 5th and my brother got a t shirt, too! What a coincidence.

ive been out of the country for a bit and havent read your blog in some time…but whatever happened to Jona!?

hey zack ive seen every video, article and possibility to learn how to snag but wen u say that u “hide the string for ur glove trick in the palm of the glove” is it because the bag checkers dont allow it?

MIKE-
Sweet!

AUSTIN-
Heath Bell does what?

BAYLOR-
Nicely done.

ANTWAN-
Nice to hear from you again. She and I broke up about a year ago. I miss her a lot, but things just weren’t working.

NAVI-
Nah, it’s not about stadium security. It’s simply about convenience. The string has to be SOMEwhere, so I keep it tucked away.

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