4/24/13 at AT&T Park

I woke up at 5:30am with four hours of sleep and jumped in a cab to a nearby radio station:

1_taxi_to_radio_studio_04_24_13

Neal Stewart from BIGS Sunflower Seeds was with me. When we reached our destination, he signed us in at the front desk . . .

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. . . and we headed upstairs:

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In the photo above, did you notice the glass door on the left? Well, when I peeked through it, I saw AT&T Park way off in the distance:

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Neal and I had arrived 15 minutes early, so we hung out next to the studio. Here I am waiting to go on the air:

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I was interviewed live on a show called “The Rise Guys” on 95.7 FM The Game. Here’s a photo that Neal took during the interview:

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It lasted for about 10 minutes, and the three hosts — Whitey Gleason, Mark Kreidler, and Dan Dibley — were great. I expected them to diss me relentlessly (because that’s the nature of morning radio), but they treated me with respect and still managed to keep things light and funny. Click here to listen to it.

From there, Neal and I grabbed a quick bite to eat at a nearby coffee shop, and whaddaya know? There happened to be newspaper box right outside with free copies of The San Francisco Examiner. Remember this article about me that was published online the day before? Well, I grabbed a copy of the print version . . .

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. . . and was pleased to find the article:

8_zack_in_the_san_francisco_examiner

Our next stop was AT&T Park . . .

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. . . and as I tweeted at the time, it was the earliest (7:45am) that I’d ever been at a major league stadium. We were there because I had two live TV interviews scheduled in the eight and nine o’clock hours on Good Day Sacramento.

Before I went on the air, this guy was interviewed, and I was concerned that his act would be tough to follow. Check it out:

10_piano_bike_guy_being_interviewed

In the photo above, that’s not just any old bike you’re looking at. It’s a “pianobike,” and yes, the guy in the white hat was riding and playing at the same time. His name is Gary, and he let me take a photo of his pianobike up close:

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There was plenty of time to spare before my first segment, so I goofed around with the host:

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His name is Cody Stark, and in case you’re wondering, that was *his* (yucky) baseball. He and I had corresponded several years ago, but this was the first time that we met in person.

We still had more time to kill, so I sat on a gigantic concrete baseball and read some box scores:

13_zack_checking_email_on_big_baseball

Finally, at around 8:45am, it was time for my first interview. It was still cold — probably in the 50s — but I took off my hoodie and jacket and ski cap so that the world (or at least Sacramento) could see my BIGS gear. And then, suddenly, I was on live TV:

14_zack_being_interviewed_for_good_day_sacramentoy

Neal did a solid job of documenting everything. Here’s another shot he took during the interview:

15_zack_being_interviewed_for_good_day_sacramento

In addition to the two segments, Cody and I filmed a bunch of teasers, and by 9:15am we were done. I was absolutely exhausted, but I held it together for one final photo with him and some seeds:

16_cody_and_zack_with_bigs_seeds

Cody actually loves sunflower seeds and had requested that I bring some for him; in one of our teasers, we both had a mouthful, and we were eating them and spitting the shells. Fun stuff.

Here’s a screen shot from one of the segments:

16b_good_day_sacramento_screen_shot

If you want to watch it, click here.

Neal and I took a cab back to the hotel. All I wanted to do was take a nap (for about a week and a half), but instead I fired off a few urgent emails and gathered my stuff and took another cab back to the stadium:

17_taxi_arriving_at_at&t_park

Before the gates opened, I caught up with this guy on the portwalk:

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His name is Joe Dirt, and he’s there EVERY day. He’s famous for fishing home run balls out of McCovey Cove. He’s gotten more than two dozen gamers over the years, including Brandon Belt’s 9th-inning homer the day before.

Eight minutes before the “Marina” gate opened, this was the scene:

19_small_crowd_at_the_marina_gate

As you can see, there wasn’t much of a crowd — but it didn’t make a difference because there was no batting practice. When I first ran inside, the only action consisted of several Giants pitchers playing catch along the left field foul line:

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Two minutes later, Javier Lopez threw me a ball, and get a load of this — I took a photo as it was flying toward me:

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Once the Giants were gone, I headed to the right field corner where two Diamondbacks players were running:

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It turned out to be Matt Reynolds and Heath Bell . . .

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. . . and when they finished, Heath came over to say hello:

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The previous photo was taken by one of those annoying fan-photographer people, but in this case, hell, it turned out to be a good thing. That photo is actually a screen shot of a thumbnail on the Giants’ website, which I expanded in Photoshop — a bit pixelated, but whatever.

Heath and I talked about all kinds of stuff for ten minutes — chewing tobacco, drinking (or lack thereof) in the clubhouse, charging the mound, Zack Greinke vs. Carlos Quentin, Heath’s contract, the Mets’ payroll, Omar Minaya, PETCO Park, Jose Reyes’s injury, and more. It was fascinating. I *love* that guy.

At the end of our chat, I took a photo of our gloves . . .

25_heath_bell_and_zack_hample_gloves

. . . and he told me to text him next time I’m gonna see the D’backs.

The D’backs ended up taking infield practice, which was fun to watch. What wasn’t fun was when the coaches walked in with a bag of balls . . .

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. . . and completely ignored me. Not only was I the only fan in the fancy/restricted seats behind the dugout, but I was decked out in red Diamondbacks gear and had asked them politely. I was shocked that they didn’t hook me up. Alan Trammell? Not a friendly man.

While I was down there, the friendly usher told me that my ticket entitled me to go anywhere in the stadium except the luxury suites.

“You mean I can go check out the club level?” I asked.

“You sure can,” he told me.

Therefore, after grabbing some food and photographing a skinny Brandon McCarthy signing autographs . . .

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. . . I headed up to the “Virgin America Club Level” via this escalator:

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At the top of the escalator, I headed through these doors . . .

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. . . and found myself in a nice-but-generic concourse:

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The floor was shiny, but so what? Airports and shopping malls also have shiny floors.

There were airplane logos all over the place . . .

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. . . which was annoying, but okay, fine, I’ll stop complaining. Here’s something that I thought was pretty cool. While standing in this spot . . .

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. . . I could look directly into the press level on my left:

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Another nice thing (from a ballhawking perspective) is that there’s a cross-aisle between the seats and press box:

34_cross_aisle_in_club_level

That said, it’s not a great spot for foul balls because it’s narrow, and of course fans aren’t allowed to stand there.

Shortly before game time, I headed back down to the regular seats along the right field foul line:

35_heading_down_into_the_seats_for_ball6540

Several D’backs were playing catch, and I ended up getting a ball from bullpen catcher Mark Reed. I handed that ball to a little girl with a glove (and gave her entire family some BIGS Sunflower Seeds), and then I headed out to the left field bleachers. This was my view:

36_view_from_left_field_04_24_13

I was in heaven. (I even made friends with the folks sitting near me by handing out more packs of seeds — the Vlasic Pickle and Buffalo Wing flavors, to be specific.) Look how much room I had to run:

37_view_to_my_right_04_24_13

Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the rightful owners came for their seats, and I had to move.

One good thing about AT&T Park is that the Giants are really good, and the stadium is packed, and the atmosphere is lively; this was a weekday game in April, and I felt more energy in the building than I did last year at Yankee Stadium during Game 5 of the ALDS. The bad part about all of this is that there were *NO* empty seats in the outfield. I tried floating from spot to spot, but the people either returned to their seats or the ushers kicked me out. It was frustrating as hell, but hey, that’s just how it goes sometimes. I stood here for a little while . . .

38_view_from_tunnel_in_left_field_04_24_13

. . . until the usher told me to move.

AARRGHH!!!

I headed out to the Arcade in right field, but the view was crappy:

39_view_from_the_arcade_04_24_13

In addition to that, the walkway was too crowded to run for home run balls . . .

40_view_to_my_left_04_24_13

. . . and most of the batters in the game were right-handed, so I gave up out there. Before I left, I took a photo of the scene behind me:

41_joe_dirt_and_kayakers

I know I’ve already posted a photo of the Marina Gate, but I have to share another because it’s so damn beautiful:

42_marina_gate_from_above

Lots of fans headed for the exits as the game dragged on, but it seemed that the bleacher crowd didn’t thin out at all. Meanwhile, I was so tired that my eyes hurt, and I just couldn’t deal with the hustle of eluding the ushers . . . so I headed back up to the club level. I spent a few minutes looking at the cases of memorabilia in the carpeted (Ooh! Wow!) concourse behind home plate including signed baseballs . . .

43_memorabilia_in_the_club_level

. . . and commemorative bases . . .

44_memorabilia_in_the_club_level

. . . and Bobblehead dolls and baseball cards . . .

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. . . and bats:

46_memorabilia_in_the_club_level

As I’ve said before, I’m not the museum type, but I did enjoy *briefly* looking at all that stuff. Then I grabbed a seat here in the shade . . .

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. . . in the hope that a right-handed batter would hit me a foul ball. Nothing came close, and I ended up moving back down to the dugout . . .

48_view_from_dugout_04_24_13

. . . for the final three outs. Final score in 10 innings: Diamondbacks 3, Giants 2. And let me point out the fact that my man Heath Bell pitched a scoreless inning to lower his ERA to a respectable 4.50. (Remember, he’s still recovering from a dreadful first outing in which he surrendered two homers and three runs in a third of an inning.) Also, his 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio isn’t so bad.

Despite all the fans who’d left early, the exit ramps were still packed:

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When I finally made it outside, I took a photo of the one ball that I’d kept . . .

50_ball6539_the_one_i_kept

. . . and took a cab back to my hotel and collapsed in bed.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 2 balls at this game (one pictured above because I gave the other away)

• 81 balls in 12 games this season = 6.75 balls per game.

• 884 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 409 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 320 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 6 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, and AT&T Park

• 6,540 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)

• $2.52 raised at this game

• $102.06 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $3,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $24,508.06 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

18 Comments

Hey Zack,

I was wondering when you will be coming to Chicago ( AL or NL ) and Milwaukee. Looks like you’ve had a good trip. Keep up the good work!

Zack, did u notice in the article it said shagging not snagging???
By the way, take some rest man, u look tired as hell!

I noticed in the picture that you brought two baseballs to the radio studio. What for?

Zack you sounded wiped. Just reading this blog entry made me tired.

Agree with Luke and Navi. Take a break or the next statistic will be you. It”s been a hell of a fortnight so take a few days off. Only 2 balls this game says it all. Makes you more in awe of guys like Cal Ripken Jr doesn’t it ? Good luck .

Hey Zack,

I think that relationship you and Heath Bell have is awesome! I was just down in AZ couple months back fro spring training and it was incredible! I was lucky enough to get a Sandy Koufax autograph on a jersey down in Dodgers camp. Im surprised Trammel wasnt friendly. In spring training he messed up the autograph (signed silver sharpie over white uniform , couldnt see it) on the cover on my 1984 SI so I went back the next day called him over and after he apolgized he fixed it by going over the autograph in blue sharpie. I wanted to tell you that I will be in Baltimore on May 9th, and will be staying in S. Jersey for the evening. I look forward in meeting you and possibly snagging a baseball or two. Your only in Baltimore one night, right? Get some rest and enjoy the rest of your west coast swing! Talk to ya soon Zack!

Great post!! When will you be at nationals park? I would like to meet you if possible.

Love AT&T. Normally there is a photo of what you ate at the game. I don’t see one here. Did you have the garlic fries? To die for. Also, what did Heath have to say about Omar Minaya? If it’s a secret email me. I PROMISE not to breathe a word.

LARRY-
Check out bigsbaseballadventure.com and click the link called “The Adventure.” You can find my schedule there if you scroll down a bit. Nothing is booked past mid-May, but all the trips there are at least likely. Just one night in Baltimore . . . yeah. I wish I could spend a month there.

NAVI-
Ha, yeah, I noticed. Outfielders shag; ballhawks snag (at stadiums, that is).

GARRETT MEYER-
Good question. I did it just to have a visual for the hosts. Even though the listeners obviously wouldn’t see it, I thought it might help get everyone in the studio revved up a bit more to actually see some game-used baseballs.

LUKE-
You have no idea what I’ve been through lately. I’m not complaining — just saying that it’s been a whirlwind of epic proportions.

RAY BURTON-
My low total wasn’t due to my exhaustion. It happened because (a) there wasn’t batting practice, (b) the Diamondbacks coaches were stingy, and (c) I was going for home runs and foul balls during the game, not 3rd-out toss-ups. But you’re right: I *do* need to rest.

CONNOR HOOPMAN-
Thanks.

WES-
Check out my response here to Larry. I think I’m gonna be there on May 10th.

LIZ MERRY-
I had pepperoni pizza (decent) and a turkey burger (the worst of my life). I got garlic fries the day before and shared ‘em with Neal. As for Omar, let’s just say that Heath isn’t exactly a fan.

I just checked your schedule… we’re gonna miss each other in Chicago by one day! Bummer.
- Chris
http://ballhawker.wordpress.com/

Well, that’s pretty crappy timing. I guess we’ll just have to hang out again at our favorite place in the world: Yankee Stadium.

Zack I was there 2 yrs ago and took a tour. Great stadium! So I’m happy to report that I found BIGS in NJ at a Sunoco gas station. Luckily they had one flavor and it was the dill pickle that I wanted. I went to two Duane Reade’s in NYC near Penn Station and neither one had any BIGS, even though the website said that DR carries it. I tweeted you a pic of them today along with a 2013 ASG ball that I just got on eBay.

Thanks for the link! I will try to meet you one of those games.

I’m sure I’ve asked/mentioned this to you before, but there will be a MyGameBalls.com BallhawkFest on May 18th in Oakland. I know it would be awful for snagging a game-used ball considering that it is a fireworks night, with other ballhawks in attendance, but all of us would love it if you could make it out! I’m sure it would be a lot of fun! I wish I had been able to catch you in San Francisco, but things happen. I definitely am looking forward to meeting you again in Oakland, whenever it might be! (As long as it isn’t in the last two weeks of June or First 2 Weeks of July).
-Nick
http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/2013-ballhawkfest-west-coast-edition

Hey Zack, someone else is named Larry also. From here on I’ll write myself as LarryNY. I am the Larry from Westchester NY that wrote about heading down to Baltimore on May 9th and the “Watch with Zack” in the near future.

did you see any ice cream helmets

PSU532-
Very cool about the seeds, but not cool about the ball. I always try to avoid seeing commemorative balls until I actually snag them.

LARRY-
You’re welcome.

NICK BADDERS-
Sorry I couldn’t be there. How’d it go?

LARRY NY-
Thanks for the clarification.

ANDY POPPENS-
I didn’t notice and/or don’t remember.

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