4/21/13 at Angel Stadium

Angel Stadium is one of my least favorite ballparks, but I was still excited to be here:

1_zack_outside_angel_stadium_04_21_13

This was the first game of my first road trip with Neal Stewart from BIGS Sunflower Seeds. Neal, as you may recall from my entry about being sponsored, is the Director of Marketing for BIGS and will be spending quite a bit of time with me this season. (I’m happy to report that he’s a whole lot of fun to be around.)

Look who showed up a little while later:

2_tc_and_zack_04_21_13

In the photo above, the guy on the left (who, it should be noted, brought his own bag of BIGS seeds), is a legendary ballhawk named T.C. In fact, he’s so legendary that I featured him on pages 281-282 of The Baseball as one of the Top Ten ballhawks of all time.

Soon after that, I photographed T.C. getting Joaquin Benoit’s autograph:

3_tc_and_joaquin_benoit

Neal, meanwhile, had brought two flavors of BIGS seeds to give away as free samples — buffalo wing and dill pickle. Here he is handing them out to everyone:

4_neal_handing_out_seeds_04_21_13

Neal will usually be the only BIGS representative with me at games, but here in Los Angeles of Anaheim, we were joined by a woman named Bianca Cadloni, who does social media for the company. Here she is (in the white t-shirt and green shorts) handing out free samples of seeds as well:

5_bianca_handing_out_seeds_04_21_13

The stadium was supposed to open at 11am, but get this: at around 10:40, a security guard announced that the right field gate would open at 10:45, so everyone hurried over there:

6_angel_stadium_right_field_gate

The extra 15 minutes made a difference. When I first ran inside, Max Scherzer was playing catch along the right field foul line:

7_max_scherzer_playing_catch_04_21_13

He finished five minutes later and threw me the ball . . .

8_ball6517

. . . and for the record, he threw it hard (compared to the gentle lobs that fans typically receive) — probably about 50 miles per hour.

In the photo of Scherzer playing catch, did you notice the white chain barricade on the warning track? It was Little League Day, which meant three things:

1) no batting practice
2) a zillion kids
3) lots of stress

Day games tend to suck in general; day games on weekends are the absolute worst. Everything that I normally try to avoid at stadiums was happening here. It was my ballhawking nightmare, so I was relieved to have kept my streak alive.

I noticed that one of the Tigers was throwing a bullpen session, so I ran over. It was Justin Verlander, and he was just finishing up. He signed exactly one autograph for another fan . . .

9_justin_verlanding_signing

. . . and headed toward the dugout.

Then all the Little Leaguers came out and started walking around the field:

10_nightmare_little_league_day

An hour later, I got my 2nd ball of the day from Scott Pickens. (Getting a pre-game toss-up from a bullpen catcher isn’t terribly exciting, but I was proud of myself for this one. I was in right field when I saw him playing catch on the other side of the stadium, so I raced over and got there just in time.) Here I am with it:

11_zack_with_ball6518

Just before the national anthem, I went here . . .

12_ball6519_location

. . . and got Austin Jackson to throw me my 3rd ball. Because it was so crowded, I had to stand on a seat and wave my arms to get his attention. His throw fell several feet short, but the guy pictured above with the straw hat wasn’t paying attention. (None of the other fans seemed to notice the ball either.) If he had been, he could’ve easily reached up and caught it.

This was my view for the first pitch of the game:

13_first_pitch_04_21_13

Bianca was still handing out seeds to random people, and for a little while, Neal had my camera. Here’s a photo that he took of a nearby family with their free samples:

14_kids_with_bigs_sunflower_seeds_04_21_13

As part of the BIGS Baseball Adventure, my challenge is to snag a game-used ball at all 30 major league stadiums this year; for every venue where I succeed, BIGS will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball. Therefore, I hung out near the Tigers’ dugout in the hope of snagging a 3rd-out ball.

The 1st inning ended with an Albert Pujols strikeout; Tigers catcher Brayan Pena kept the ball. The 2nd inning ended with a Hank Conger groundout; Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder tossed it to a grown man 20 feet to my left. The third inning ended with a Howie Kendrick groundout — Doug Fister, an extreme ground-ball pitcher, was on the hill — and this time Prince Fielder hooked me up. Here he is about to toss it to me while walking toward the dugout . . .

15_zack_about_to_snag_ball6520

. . . and just like that, I’d raised another sizable chunk of change for my favorite charity.

I ended up giving away my Austin Jackson ball to the nearest kid. (I would’ve preferred to part with the Pickens ball, but it had a black marker streak on the sweet spot, so I decided it was too ugly to give away. The Tigers do that to some of their baseballs. It’s annoying.) Then I changed out of my Tigers gear and into my official BIGS attire for a photo:

16_zack_with_ball6520

Do I mind wearing that clothing with the BIGS logos? Hell no! I actually think it’s pretty cool. Did you notice my shirt in the photo with T.C.? Take another look. Underneath the BIGS logo, it says:

1 SEASON . . . 30 STADIUMS
SNAGGING BASEBALLS FOR CHARITY IN 2013

What’s not to like about that? And wait’ll you see the back of the shirt. It’s mostly visible in the photo of Bianca handing out seeds, but I’ll post a better shot in just a bit. Even if I hated the shirts, I would still wear them because BIGS is paying for *all* my expenses as I travel to all 30 major league stadiums this year. My taxi to the airport two days ago in New York City? The $25 fee to check my bag? All the tickets to games and all my food? Yes, yes, and yes. This is a dream come true, so I want to help them as much as possible.

Speaking of food, look what I ate in the later innings:

17_orange_chicken_and_honey_shrimp_with_walnuts

That’s orange chicken (on the upper right) and honey shrimp with walnuts (on the left). I have a weakness for crappy Chinese food. And hey, did you notice where I was sitting? I was in the “front row” in left-center — 50 feet behind the outfield wall with an obstructed view of the field. (Why, exactly, does anyone claim to like Angel Stadium? I like the weather and the easy-to-circumvent ushers, but that’s about it.)

Neil and Bianca were sitting on my right:

18_bianca_and_neal_in_left_field

The most annoying kids of all time were climbing all over the place on my left:

19_the_parents_of_these_kids_really_suck

I think kids are great and would love to have my own someday (if I ever happen to meet a woman who, shall we say, embraces my oddities), but these little guys were hard work. Really, I blame their parents, who were sitting 15 rows back and letting them run wild.

Little League Day. Awful.

Check out the back of my shirt:

20_back_of_my_shirt

Neal told me that he had 72 of these shirts made! I’m not sure what he’s planning to do with them all, but don’t be surprised if you see me wearing them for years to come.

Speaking of shirts:

21_bellies

Yeah, so anyway . . .

Bianca was scheduled to fly out of San Diego at 8pm, which wouldn’t have been a problem under normal circumstances, but when the game dragged into the 12th inning, she and Neal started scrambling for other options. Here they are changing her flight to a closer airport:

22_neal_helping_bianca_change_her_flight

Bianca had already checked out of her hotel room, and she had all of her stuff in the car, so Neal left the game with her and took her to the airport. All of our phones were about to die — not only did the game last more than four hours, but we were out in the sun for most of it, so we had to crank up the brightness, which drained the batteries — so Neal and I made a plan: I was going to stay at the game until it ended and then meet him at the big A in the parking lot.

Soon after they left, Mark Trumbo led off the bottom of the 13th inning with a 425-foot blast to straight-away left field. Game over. Final score, Angels 4, Tigers 3.

Here’s where the walk-off home run ball ended up:

23_mark_trumbo_walkoff_home_run_ball_in_bullpen

It had short-hopped the back wall of the Tigers’ bullpen (less than 40 feet to the right of where I’d been sitting) and then rolled back toward the field. Jeff Kunkel, the Tigers’ other bullpen catcher, was the last member of the team in the bullpen. I asked him for the ball, but he ignored me and walked off. (It really WAS a walk-off homer.) Everyone was screaming and begging the nearest usher to go get it, but he said he wasn’t allowed.

Take another look at the photo above. See the kid hanging on the fence and leaning over the railing? Well, it occurred to me that if I waited long enough (for some fans and ushers and guards to take off), I might be able to glove-trick the ball from that corner spot — you know, fling my glove way out at it and get the glove to land beyond it and then tug my string in order to knock the ball closer. Just as I was starting to set up my glove and head over there, a teenaged kid in Yankees gear jumped out of the stands and ran into the bullpen and grabbed the ball and tried to make a quick exit . . . but didn’t get very far.

Here he is standing on a nearby staircase, surrounded by stadium security:

24_kid_who_grabbed_it_from_the_bullpen_in_the_yankees_shirt_in_deep_shit_with_security

I was glad he got busted because he’d ruined my chance to snag a game home run ball, and also, ball or no ball, YOU DON’T JUMP INTO A MAJOR LEAGUE BULLPEN. Seriously, what a jackass.

I was also glad that one of the ushers confiscated the ball, and if you look closely at the photo above, you can see it. Check it out:

25_home_run_ball_in_ushers_pocket

After the kid was hauled off, I politely asked the usher for the ball.

“Sorry, can’t do it,” he said, “It’s going to a challenger.”

“A what?”

“A child in a wheelchair,” he explained.

I couldn’t argue with that. Of course, I never did see the usher give the ball away (and believe me, I kept my eyes on him for a while), but who knows what happened? Chances are he kept it, but maybe it did end up in the hands of a kid who will always treasure it. I’d like to think so, anyway.

I headed toward the big A and photographed the three balls that I’d kept:

26_the_three_balls_i_kept_04_21_13

With my last remaining shred of iPhone power, I read the previous day’s box scores until Neal showed up.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 4 balls at this game (three pictured above because I gave one to a kid)

• 61 balls in 9 games this season = 6.8 balls per game.

• 881 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 406 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 4 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, and Angel Stadium.

• 6,520 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(For every stadium this season at which I snag a game-used ball, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball.)

• 23 donors for my fundraiser

• $1.26 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $5.04 raised at this game

• $76.86 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $2,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $23,482.86 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

26 Comments

that’s awesome that the whole thing is paid for.. wish i could go on that adventure

I would totally wear one of those shirts. P.S. There was a Barnes and Noble deal online on baseball books for Opening Day (buy one, get one half off) and of course I got Watching Baseball Smarter. (Already have an autographed copy of The Baseball.) Will you autograph it when you come to Cincy (when is that, BTW?)

What a crazed Yankees fan jumping into the bullpen!

I saw a guy last year jump into the Padres bullpen at PETCO during bp to snag a ball. He was actually ARRESTED by SDPD and taken to jail. Quite a sight to see.

Would like to see what would happen if someone jumped into the bullpen at Bankee Stadium. Maybe a new ticket in the electrified-seat section for rule breakers.

Hey Zack, I went to the Giants game on Sunday and it was so annoying having all the little leaguers walk around and no batting practice. I was still able to get two balls, luckily. I have just learned recently about your blog and been reading it like crazy. I was going to try the glove trick for the first time, but because there wasn’t bp I didn’t have a chance. My first ball i got by speaking to Santiago Casilla in Spanish like you have said in many of your videos. My second I got by a Padres player because I took my Giants hat off and was wearing a blue and black jacket. I have always collected baseballs, autographs and cards but am going to try to become a very good ballhawker. I was wondering when you are going to AT&T Park (the Giants Stadium)?

I would be more than willing to take one of those shirts off your hands if you have a few extras lying around ;). Here’s a story. Yesterday, I saw the Modesto Nuts and Stockton Ports play. MiLB ball is great. Anyway, in the 7th inning, a ball was popped foul 10 or so rows behind me. It bounced back and started tricking down the rows towards me. I jumped over my seat and picked it up. As soon as I picked it up, I heard a little girl quietly mutter “dangit.” Immediately, I handed over the ball to her without thinking about it. Of course, I would have loved to have the foul ball, but it was pretty cool to see her clutching it to her chest all game and getting it signed afterwards. Giving that ball away did end up helping me… After the game, I went over to the Nuts bullpen to ask for a ball. A player walked over and said “You were the one that gave away a foul ball?” and tossed me a ball. Then, I saw a dugout attendant walk by, he said the same thing. I then asked for the lineup card, after four 40-year old eBayers had, and he peeled it off the wall and handed it to me. Yes, I would love to have that foul ball, but I did get my first ever Lineup card!
-Nick

http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/

Thanks for replying on my last comment. I do notice that you reply to everyone, so thanks! If you want to see something crazy/ disappointing for us, watch this! http://youtu.be/10OBtGOnKKw
Ball came right at us our first game of the summer at Nationals Park last year and it ended up going to the guy in front of us. And oh yeah, I was somehow recording when he hit it!

A few years ago, I watched a guy climb down into the RF gap at Nationals Park (between the out of town scoreboard and the Nats bullpen) to get a baseball that he claimed his kid had dropped. Security came and pulled him out of there. They let him keep the ball (i believe) and kicked him out of the right field seats — which I think we can all agree is a pretty weird penalty for the infraction.

And about those kids…on behalf of all little league parents, deal with it, buddy. You’ll survive.

I love that you got the best (worst) photos of me, but it was a pleasure to meet you. The day was a lot of fun, but we SERIOUSLY need to invest in some battery boosters (all three of us)! Good luck tomorrow.

Hey Zack, I enjoy your blog and look forward to meeting you in Seattle on Thurs. Try to get Neil to bring the bacon flavored seeds to Safeco. Good luck this year with your challenge.

I’ll have to get The Baseball signed tomorrow at AT&T park, since the Hample/Bonds ball from 2011 was stolen last summer. When/where would be a good time to meet up considering I can’t get there until around game time? After the game is over I would assume

Speaking of climbing onto the field… I once saw someone jump down from the LF bleachers onto the out-of-town scoreboard in Oakland to get a couple of baseballs. Her friends then pulled her back up. This was all after the game. Some people!
-Nick

http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/

Enjoyed the read on Angels Stadium. I want to get back there (haven’t been since 2005) but anyways I’ve got a few questions for you and wanted to see if you’d be able to help. I’m taking a trip to Washington and Baltimore in July and will be attending one game in DC and possibly two (most likely one in Baltimore) and then one in Philly. I’ve read a lot of your entries about Camden and know that they allow season plan holders to get in early 30 minutes in left field. Do they do the same in DC and Philly as well? I haven’t been to Nationals Park other than for a tour and only been to Citizens Bank once so I’m unsure if gates open early for season plan holders. I’m hoping somehow I can find a spare season ticket from a holder since it’ll probably be one of the last few times I go to these parks. Figured I’d ask you since you frequent this parks each year. Thanks in advance.

Zack,

As a pretty experienced Angel Stadium goer, I can assure you that that ball DID go to a kid with special needs. That usher’s name is Chris. He’s worked for the Angels for years and I’ve had the pleasure of talking to him and even getting autographs outside of the stadium with him on several occasions. He gives tons of balls to handicapped kids. When I want to give balls away I usually give them to him so he can do that for me. Congrats on another stadium game ball

-Warren

Another great entry man!

Check out my blog!

farminbravesstyle.mlblogs.com

I want one of those Big Adventure shirts!!!

Hey Zack,

First off congrats on your sponsorship and your amazing opportunity to visit all major league stadiums! That is awesome! I live here in the NY/CT area and have been going to all different stadiums myself since I was a kid. Im around your age and love going to different cities and visiting their stadiums. I have been following your blogs for the past week or so. Your write-ups and photos are simply incredible! I know your busy so to make it quick, I would be interested in setting up a “Watch with Zack” game in the near future. I have the same feelings as you do with Yankee Stadium and Citi Field and would love to hit up a game with you to get some tips on making my experiences more fan friendly in the future. I am somewhat of a picture junkie myself but would love to get more into ballhawking. Let me know the best way to get in touch with you about the dates you have available. Enjoy your trip out west! I have been to all the stadiums out there except seattle numerous times and I can clearly say I have always had a great time. Petco being my favorite! TTYS!

Zack, congrats on everything going so well for you lately. Hope all is well!

EVERYONE-
If you knew how busy I am, you’d either laugh or cry. Or both. I’ve read all the comments (as always), but for now, I’m just gonna answer the folks who asked me questions . . .

MEGGIE-
Of course I’ll autograph it. I think I’m supposed to be in Cincy for one game only on May 6th. Check out bigsbaseballadventure.com and click the “Adventure” link. Then scroll down to see my schedule. The trip with Cincy, though, it’s official yet, but it’s very likely.

JOHN-
I’m gonna be at AT&T Park today and tomorrow. Also, FYI, the word is “ballhawk,” not “ballhawker.” :-)

CONNOR-
Oish, I have no idea where I’m gonna be. Do you have a smart phone? Email me late in the game to see where I am. I might stay in the outfield or I might try to get down to one of the dugout. Damn. Wish you could get there sooner, but I think we’ll be able to connect.

TXRANGERSFAN-
Philly and D.C. don’t have early access. Assuming they haven’t changed it since last year, everyone gets in 2.5 hours early.

LARRY-
Go to my website (zackhample.com) and click the contact link. You can email me from there, but please give me at least a week (or three) to reply. I’m totally swamped right now. We’ll make it happen, though. Thanks so much for the really nice comment.

@ Joe –
Bankee Stadium. I like that. A lot. I’m gonna use that one.
- Chris

http://ballhawker.wordpress.com/

Zack:
Shouldn’t one of those t-shirts go to one of your loyal daily blog-post readers? I’d be happy to compile a short list for you.

Hey Zack, any chance you’ll be at the May 26 Mets Braves tilt? I’m going with my friend that night and I think that day would be a good chance to meet.

JAY RICE-
There might be some extras after the season. Stay tuned.

ALEX GIOBBI-
The Sunday night game? Yeah, probably, if I’m in NYC and the weather’s nice, but I can’t predict my life a month from now.

Interestingly, I own a BIGS shirt that Neil sent me through Twitter, wear it constantly, and get heckled for wearing a sunflower seeds shirt to school. Do I care? NO! I love baseball and sunflower seeds are a part of baseball, so sucks to the stupid kids at my school that don’t understand the beauty of the game of baseball!

Joe Webster
ballhawkindownsouth.wordpress.com

Most kids are idiots and should not be taken seriously. Anyone who teases someone else is insecure — good for you for ignoring the haters. I think the shirts are really cool. Glad you were able to get your hands on one of ‘em.

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