8/12/12 at Citi Field

There’s only so much I can say about snagging 14 baseballs all in one section, but I’ll do my best to describe how it went down . . .

My 1st ball of the day was tossed by Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner. Here’s it is:

That’s right, I was on the left field party deck, and it was FUN.

Ball No. 2 was thrown by 1st base coach Tom Goodwin.

Ball No. 3 was a home run that I jumped for and narrowly missed; it smacked off the railings just above me and plopped down at my feet.

Ball No. 4 was a ground-rule double that I swatted down at — and caught! — over the wall. It probably didn’t look like much, but this was easily my best play of the day. I immediately gave the ball to a father and son above me in the regular seats.

Ball No. 5 was a home run (hit by Scott Hairston, I think) that I caught on the fly. I had to move about 20 feet to my left, and I tossed that ball to a different kid up above.

Ball No. 6 was thrown by Goodwin to some folks two sections over in the regular seats. They dropped it. It plopped down onto the party deck. I ran over and picked it up and gave it to them. This was my 400th ball of the season.

Ball No. 7 was nearly identical. Hefner tossed it to some fans who dropped it near me, and I gave it to them.

Then the Braves took the field:

There were a couple dozen fans on the party deck by this point — mostly grown men who were drinking beers, not wearing gloves, half-paying attention to the action on the field, and begging me relentlessly for balls.

“C’mon, just one ball for my girlfriend!”
“Your girlfriend will get a ball if she asks the players.”

“Can I get one for my four-year-old son?”
“Where is he?”
“Oh, he’s at home.”

“Ya gotta whole bagga bawlz! Can I have one fuh my bawss’s 40th birthday?”
“No, I’m sorry, I only give baseballs to kids.”
“Well lemme buy one frumya.”
“I don’t sell my baseballs.”
“Seriously?!”
“Seriously.”

Ball No. 8 was a home run that came RIGHT to me. I think it was hit by Chipper Jones. Based on everyone else’s reaction, you would’ve thought that THIS was my best play of the day. I tried to explain that it was an easy catch because I didn’t have to move, but the logic didn’t sink in. One guy shouted excitedly, “You must play softball!!” I thought he was kidding at first — perhaps even trying to insult me — but he truly meant it as a compliment. He must not have watched the Olympics because my routine catch seemed to be the most spectacular athletic achievement that he’d ever witnessed. I truly don’t get it.)

Soon after, I asked Kris Medlen for a ball, to which he replied, “Are you gonna put on your Mets hat later?”

“Wait, what?” I said, taken completely by surprise.

“You just had it on ten minutes ago,” he said.

“Okay,” I admitted, “you busted me, but how did you know?”

“I saw you from over there,” he said, pointing toward the left field foul line, “and I saw you in Philly.”

Two minutes later, Craig Kimbrel saw me reach over the wall for a deep line drive that fell a bit short and said with a grin, “You can’t catch EVERY ball.” I took that as a challenge.

Ball No. 9 was a home run that was crushed deep over my head by Dan Uggla. As soon as he hit it, I thought, “It might deflect right to me it hits the facade of the 2nd deck,” and that’s exactly what happened. Everyone around me was stunned that I was in position for it, but really, there was no other place to be.

Ball No. 10 was thrown by Michael Bourn in left-center. This marked the 200th time in my life that I’ve reached double digits at a game.

Ball No. 11 was a Freddie Freeman homer that I caught on the fly in left-center.

Ball No. 12 was a towering homer (hit by Chipper, I think) for which I drifted far to my left near the batter’s eye and ultimately caught on the fly.

Ball No. 13 was thrown by Kimbrel to a middle-aged woman directly above me who dropped it. This woman had been pestering me throughout BP for a ball, and I kept telling her, “Ask the players, don’t ask ME,” so it was funny when she finally got her chance and tanked it. I was tempted to keep the damn ball (because she was really annoying), but I flipped it up to her, and when I turned back around to face the field, Kimbrel gave me a subtle nod of approval. That was the 5th ball that I’d given away, and I handed out two more after BP to folks who hadn’t been begging me.

Ball No. 14 was thrown by Jonny Venters. And that was it.

My friend Mateo was completely annoyed with my success combined with his lack of opportunities in the regular seats above. Here he is looking down at me:

I had a great view during the game . . .

. . . and had plenty of room to run. Here’s a photo that I took of myself standing against the back wall:

David Wright had 199 career home runs. I had the perfect opportunity. But no. He didn’t go yard. Chipper Jones? Nothing. Freddie Freeman? Went deep to right-center. Martin Prado? Dan Uggla? Paul Janish? Ruben Tejada? Rob Johnson? Ben Sheets?! None of these right-handed batters hit a home run or even came close — proof that karma is a complete crock.

The Mets took a 6-1 lead into the 9th inning and . . . things got interesting. Three relievers later (along with four walks, a hit-by-pitch, a two-run double, and intense booing), the Mets held on for a 6-5 victory.

Here are the seven balls that I kept:

Did you notice that the ball in the middle is commemorative? I didn’t notice until I got home. During BP, there was a stretch when I was catching so many many balls so quickly that I neglected to look at them. I was giving them away to fans, tossing the rest in my backpack, and struggling to keep up with my notes.

By the way (and as you’ll see below in the stats), with your help I’ve now raised more than $20,000 for Pitch In For Baseball. My friend Ben Weil made the donation that pushed the total above that plateau, so I wanna say thanks to him — and thanks to everyone else who has pledged and donated.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 14 balls at this game (seven pictured above because I gave seven away)

• 408 balls in 50 games this season = 8.16 balls per game.

• 842 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 200 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

• 6,227 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.)

• 39 donors

• $2.15 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $30.10 raised at this game

• $877.20 raised this season

• $20,034.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

11 Comments

How’d you get on the party deck? Isn’t that usually a group thing?

Good question. I’m constantly searching on StubHub, eBay, and Craigslist for party deck tickets. I’m also in touch with someone with the Mets about this. Usually there aren’t any seats available, but every now and then there are. This game in particular was originally scheduled as a one o’clock game, but when ESPN changed it to eight o’clock, a bunch of people who were supposed to be on party deck had to bail. The Mets offered me a ticket, but I didn’t buy it because I didn’t think I was gonna be free. Then, when it turned out that I *was* free, the tickets from the Mets were gone (which is strange because the deck was about 20 below capacity) but I managed to find one elsewhere. I really wish it weren’t so hard to sit there. It’s THE best spot in the stadium, but at most, I’ll probably only make it there a few times per season.

One day, when you’re super rich and super famous, you should buy the entire party deck and invite everyone who reads your blog.

Puttin’ me to shame. You going to Yankee Stadium tonight?
– Chris

http://ballhawker.mlblogs.com

Zack- I discovered someone who I think is pretty cool on YouTube. His username is matt3756. He goes to arcades and tries to win at the claw machine. He also really likes some arcade games, and I’m sure he’s heard of you because of some game’s records you hold. Also, I just discovered something really cool called geocaching. It’s basically a treasure hunt around the world but harder like fake bolts! ( That’s one of my local ones.) The website is http://www.geocaching.com

Also, Zack you should save your wristbands from the party deck so you can get in at another game:).

Austin- How di you find out about Matt? I’ve watched his videos for about a year now.

And Zack… I found a cheap Indians hat and shirt combo on eBay for $4 brand new, so I got it. The A’s are playing the Indians on Saturday (The Bobblehead and movie night) and considering how many A’s fans there will be, I feel as if this will help me to a great extent. And one last thing, I think I might have told you this already, but I found a 2011 Milwaukee Brewers NL champs shirt, the lock room one that they would have received had they beaten the cardinals. It was $5 so I went ahead and bought it. Pretty cool!

Hey Zack, maybe you are so good at catching baseballs because you play softball. Personally, I think you are so good at it because you catch baseballs dropped from helicopters, but that’s just me. I mean, what do I know?

Zack, last night I replied to your tweet with a screen shot of you on the party deck tracking a Janish fly ball that Valdespin caught & you are just above him with your glove raised up. Check your Mentions tab on the Connect page for the picture.

Zack, one day when you have time, you should post a blog about all the commemorative balls you have, I’d be curious to see all the different ones you have.
-Jared
theautobox.wordpress.com

NOTJUANMAYZ-
That does sound like fun.

CHRIS-
I was there. Will you be there for any of the Rangers games?

AUSTIN-
I wish you hadn’t told me about that guy Matt on YouTube because I just spent about half an hour watching some of his videos. He’s really good on camera, and what he does is fascinating on many levels.

NICK BADDERS-
Good luck with the Indians gear. The Brewers shirt sounds pretty rad.

MIKE-
Interesting point. I think I actually *have* gotten better at judging balls since the helicopter stunt. It seems so easy now. I pretty much always know where home runs are going to land as soon as they’re hit.

JAMES LEE-
I’m not seeing it. Can you send it again?

JARED-
I already have all my commemorative balls on a page on my website. Here’s the link: http://www.zackhample.com/baseball_collection/photos/commemorative.htm

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