4/30/13 at Yankee Stadium

I should’ve stayed home. This whole day sucked, and my mind was elsewhere. I should’ve been packing for my upcoming trip, answering important emails, planning my writing group‘s next meeting, cleaning up all the clutter in my apartment, spending time with my loved ones, eating healthy food, and relaxing. But stupid me . . . I couldn’t resist this game because the Astros were in town, and I was hoping to snag one of their commemorative baseballs during batting practice.

On my way to the stadium, I ran into a familiar security guard who warned me that my photograph had recently been circulated during an employee roll call. Why? Because of those two home run balls that I snagged during the game on April 18th. Remember how I got the first one in right field and the second one in left? Well, evidently, I’m now on the Yankees’ Most Wanted List as a result. After I caught that second homer, one of the TV announcers joked, “I wonder where his ticket says he’s supposed to be,” but it was no laughing matter to stadium security. So yeah. The whole day sucked, and this was just the beginning.

When the stadium opened and I ran inside, this was what I saw:

1_yankees_stretching_04_30_13

All of the Yankees were stretching . . . as in, NOT taking batting practice. But there was a Yankee coach on the mound with a basket of balls, which meant they WERE going to hit, which meant the Astros weren’t — no chance that both teams would hit with BP starting so late. So yeah. My entire reason for being at this game was pretty much wiped out from the start.

One of the few bright spots was finding a ball in the front row:

2_ball6559_100th_of_the_2013_season

It was my 100th baseball of the season. Yay.

While the Yankees were wasting time along the right field foul line, two Astros were playing catch on the left side:

3_astros_playing_catch_04_30_13

Two minutes later, my friends Ben Weil (pictured below in the Astros jersey) and Greg Barasch (in the light blue t-shirt) made their way over to my section:

4_ben_and_greg_behind_me

They were hoping that the player who ended up with the ball would “go long.” Some players enjoy tossing baseballs deep into the crowd rather than hooking up fans in the front row with easy toss-ups, but in this case, I pretty much knew I was gonna get it. That’s because I’d politely asked the player closest to me if I could have the ball when he finished; he didn’t make an official promise, but I took his subtle head-nod as a good sign. Sure enough, when the warm-up session ended, he tossed it to me, and I was ready with my camera. Check out this photo of the ball in mid-air:

5_ball6560_sailing_toward_me

Does anyone know who that player is? Here’s a closer look at his face:

6_player_who_tossed_ball6561

Once the Yankee started hitting, I headed to 100 Level seats in right field:

7_sunny_in_right_field_04_30_13

I had considered going to the second deck, but thought, “Nah, the last two times I went up there, it was dead.” Then, of course, the Yankees proceeded to hit half a dozen balls up there — maybe even eight or ten. My bad luck was out of control, and when a few longballs finally landed in my section . . . let’s just say that things didn’t exactly go my way. There were two that I could’ve easily caught on the fly, but other fans caught them right in front of my glove. There was another homer that landed right behind me in a totally empty spot, but took a wild ricochet 30 feet away, and when I finally had my chance — albeit a difficult one where I was looking into the sun and jumping and trying to reach above two other fans — the ball tipped off my glove. Thankfully I managed to grab that one in the seats, but DAMN, everything was a struggle.

Toward the end of BP, in a similar jumping/reaching situation, I had another home run deflect off my glove in left field, only this time I didn’t end up getting it. WTF?! It was a tough play, one that might not have been scored an error if a major league outfielder had done the same thing on the warning track, but it felt like an error to me, and I was as stunned as I was bummed. I think it was just a lack of focus on my part, and I’m sorry to say that I cost Ben a chance to catch it, as he was cutting through the row directly behind me.

While I was in left field, a security guard told me that from now on, during games, if I ever want to move from one section to the next, I can’t walk through the seats, even if they’re empty. Instead, I have to use the tunnel, walk through the concourse, and then use the next tunnel.

Ben and I hung out after BP and made our way to the left field bleachers. Remember the Astros jersey that he was wearing? Check out the back of it:

8_ben_wearing_a_mike_scott_jersey

Mike Scott. Wow. That name brings back some bad memories. (I used to love the Mets. Now I root against them. But back in the 1980s, when I lived and died with the team, Mike Scott was an unbeatable nemesis.)

Astros catcher Jason Castro was doing a drill with pitching coach Doug Brocail — one that involved lots of baseballs:

9_many_balls_in_the_bullpen

I looked at every single ball and didn’t see any commemorative logos. Then I was told by a security guard not to lean out over the wall.

Roughly fifteen minutes before game time, I headed to the right field bleachers and got a toss-up from Yankees bullpen coach Mike Harkey. Then I rushed back to the left field bleachers and got my 5th ball of the day from Brocail. (I’d like to thank my buddy Jay for not reaching out and robbing me.) It wasn’t commemorative, but whatever. I’ll be at Minute Maid Park on May 4th, so I’ll have a good chance of getting one (or twelve) then.

Here’s where I sat for the most of game:

10_view_from_right_field_04_30_13

I had started off in the 4th row, which was gloriously empty until a rather hefty young man climbed over from the row behind me and parked himself half a dozen seats to my left. I thought about offering him a ball as a form of bribing him to move back, but (a) he was about 20 years old so I doubted that it would’ve worked, and (b) one of his friends climbed over and sat down beside him. I felt trapped, so I moved to a totally empty row near the back of the section and ended up giving one of my BP balls to someone else.

In the top of the 8th inning, Chris Carter blasted an opposite-field homer that landed in the middle of the section on my right. I got caught up on a railing and scurried over a bit too late and watched helplessly as the fans bobbled it and then couldn’t immediately find it on the ground. When I returned to my seat, the 19-year-old security guard told me that I’m not allowed to go into the next section.

“Not even to try to catch a home run during the GAME?!” I asked.

“You can’t do it, Zack,” he replied. “You’re gonna get me in trouble.”

I wanted to shout, “Wrong! The fact that you use your cell phone for half of every game is going to get you in trouble!” but instead, all I said was, “You have got to be kidding.”

“That ball landed in section 103. Your ticket is in 104. You gotta stay there.”

Half an inning later, Lyle Overbay hit one of those lazy, Yankee-Stadium homers into the seats on my right. It landed in the empty 4th row. Anyone wanna guess who snagged it? Yeah, the hefty fan, and he had raced over from section 104. Of course the guard didn’t say anything to him, so I asked the guard, “Does this rule apply to everyone or just to me?”

As it turned out, this guard hadn’t noticed that the kid had crossed over into the next section — and why should he have noticed? Who the hell cares? It’s a baseball stadium. People try to catch baseballs. Jesus Aitch. LET. IT. GO.

Thankfully my fingernails didn’t suffer because I had a whole bunch of sunflower seeds with me. I had fun spitting the shells on the ground and seeing how big of a mess I could make. As I tweeted late in the game, I dare anyone to try to eat more BIGS seeds and make a bigger mess at one baseball game than this:

11_no_can_eat_as_many_seeds_as_me

Not surprisingly, the Yankees beat the Astros, and as you might imagine, I’m glad to be hitting the road again. I’m writing this entry from Kansas City. I’ll be at Kauffman Stadium tonight, followed by games in Arlington, Houston, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. For specific dates (and to see when I’m going to be at other stadiums later in the season), visit bigsbaseballadventure.com and click the link that says “The Adventure.” Scroll down a bit, and you’ll see a calendar. Gotta run for now.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

12_the_four_balls_i_kept_04_30_13• 5 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave one away)

• 104 balls in 15 games this season = 6.93 balls per game.

• 887 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 412 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 195 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball

• 16 consecutive seasons with at least 100 balls

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

• 6,563 total balls

• 184,539,116 stupid rules at Yankee Stadium

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.)

• 25 donors for my fundraiser

• $1.61 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $8.05 raised at this game

• $167.44 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $3,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $25,073.44 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

34 Comments

I wish 5 baseballs characterized a horrific game for me haha

Rhiner Cruz is the Astros pitcher that threw you the ball.

Hey Zack,

Sorry you had such a rough time last night. Your the man and i admire what you do! Yankee Stadium is just filled with haters.. Unfortunately, this is where we live so we have to deal with it for now until the Yankees start losing and fans stop going. Which even being a yankee fan i sometimes hope for due to the unfriendly experiences or like you say “No-Fun-Zones” at the stadium. Next time will be a better experience for you! Couple questions I’ve been meaning to ask you. 1) Since your so well known at all stadiums, do you ever worry that you might encounter a more difficult time getting baseballs at certain stadiums and with particular players ? 2) How do you move around at Yankee Stadium (AKA Fort Knox) from section to section without a ticket? 3) Especially in NY, do you get a lot of people yelling at you to throw more balls at the kids? What do you say when they start heckling you or do you just ignore them? 4) Where do you usually buy your ticket at Yankee Stadium? Have a blast in Kaufmann tonight and ill see you next week in Baltimore! Maybe we can do a quick lunch by Camden next week if your not to busy…TTYS!

P.S also emailed you on the side about the Watch with Zack..

This is why you should always come to Atlanta!

Hey Zack, I was wondering what teams will have commemorative logos on their baseballs this year. And have there ever been more than 6 at the same time (like last year)? Thanks!

Cool entry!! How many nationals games are you going to go to this year besides May 10?

Absolutely NO RESPECT for the world’s GREATEST BALLHAWK! You should compile a highlight real of other people breaking the rules and show it to the guards. I can’ believe that dud snagged the homer. You should just go to Citi Field from now on.

I was wondering that as well.

Wow. It’s really too bad that the Yankees have turned so hard on their fans (even though you’re not a fan of them….you still pay $$ to buy a ticket, eat the food..etc…). Why on earth are they so concerned about who sits where and when? When I’m in someone else’s seat and they come to ‘claim it’, I just give it up and move on to the next! Most people probably do the same. The Yankees are waisting time and money having these ushers check tickets when at the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter where you sit. 90% of the people that go to games are most likely going to sit in the seat they bought. Screwing w/ the 10% w/ the amount of ushers YS has is absolutely ridiculous! I’ve been a Yankee fan my whole life, but have to say, these rules at the new stadium are pretty stupid.

You sound like such a wimp. You complain about other people moving around, but you do the same. You a a hypocrite and nothing else. I have seen you at multiple games and have seen you push multiple people. Including a young lady to get to a ball. you are a grown man.; Get a real job, you buffoon.

You have spent years getting baseballs. When will it be enough? Think of all the people who you have taken away a once in a life time chance to get a ball. You walk around stadiums like a celebrity, and even have people video tape you pathetic “job.” You are not above stadium rules even if you are THE Zack Hample; you are not entitled to anything!

Um, he HAS a “real” job. Also unless you’re going to provide proof, don’t go around accusing people of pushing others. BP balls are once in a lifetime? Go to a game and if you try you’ll probably get one. Hardly once in a lifetime.

You should get fake contacts so your eyes look a different color so the Bankees security guards don’t recognize you.

Disappointed that you’ll be at US Cell when I’m in New York. Haha. Really enjoy this blog!

I wish I’d told you sooner that the Astros’ Paul Clemens likes to “go deep”! (He did at Fenway on Sunday.)

Also, anyone on the Yankees Most Wanted list is on my Best Friended list…..

Zack is a real gentleman when chasing baseballs both during BP and the main course. He goes out of his way to be polite to others and not spoil their enjoyment or experience of the game. He is very competitive and actively chases fly balls , something that the more sedentary fans don’t understand. So instead of being lazy and a expecting the ball to land at your feet , how about Yu [ get it , like Yu Darvish ] go and expend some energy yourself – you may even get a ball too. PS fork Yu

Classic comment Ray, well done!

Is it just me, Zack, or are you getting fewer balls than you did last year? At least you’re going to be going to some friendlier parks in the future. Oh, you know how you said you’re going to try save me some seeds? May 26th, vs. Atlanta. Sunday night baseball on ESPN. Good for you? I’ll be doing the power pack thing in one of the corner outfield spots. Look for a guy wearing a Kris Benson jersey and another one wearing a Pete Rose jersey.

I agree with Darvish. and what do you have against fat people!? Go Padres!

Yankee Stadium seems to get less friendly for you as you become more famous Zack. Was the “fat kid” wearing a glove?

Yea that pitcher that threw you the ball is Rhiner Cruz. I was at the Yankee Astros game monday night and It was terrible to start, no batting practice and only like 3 guys came out to throw. Only got one ball the whole night. It was the ball Lucas Harrell of the Astros used to warm up, the bullpen catcher threw it to me. The one bright spot was at the end of the game when i got the bullpen lineup card from the Astros Bullpen coach Dennis “el presidente” Martinez. I’m almost 100% positive the Astros aren’t using commemoratives on the road. They had none in the bullpen and the pitchers that did throw didn’t use one. Probably only using them as game balls in Houston.

Zack was planning on finally meeting you on your Pittsburgh visit but for some reason your coming on a 12:35 gameday. BIGS seems to be in a real hurry to knock off these visits. You should have plenty of room, weekday crowds tend to be real small at PNC. Hope you have a good visit to the Burgh and happy travels.

I’m surprised you didn’t get in trouble for spitting the seends on the ground. Careful, that may be the next rule…
– Chris

EVERYONE-
I’m going to answer your comments soon, but I can’t do it now. I’m in Kansas City, and I have to wake up at 7am to begin a long day with four interviews. I might not even make it to the game. More soon (including a new blog entry) . . .

So help me god if you didn’t get Overbay’s homer because you were listening to the schmuck security guard behind you. I will make sure he gets hit by a BP homer next chance I have, although, he claims to have played baseball, so I’m sure he’ll catch it. Or, he’ll probably just show us why his claims are false. Don’t listen to these idiots. Get that ball. I watched it, and was stunned you didn’t move for it. Ignore them, NOTHING WILL HAPPEN.

And you attempted to rob me as I was camped under that ball, so you shouldn’t have gotten it. Ha.

@Brian- This is what I’ve been mentioning to Zack. Its really disgusting how bad Yankee Stadium has turned into. Its become a new generation of fans because many from the old stadium will not go there anymore. I mean the place continues to be half empty at all times. In the summer MAYBE you get a few nights with a packed crowd. The atmosphere is definately not the same. Crowd noise is down, you can hear a pin drop at some of those games. Being a die hard yankee fan it hurts to say that at some points id rather see them lose so that this palace of a stadium can become freindly again like it once was at the old stadium. I miss that place like you can’t imagine. My wife went into the new stadium some time last year and paid $18 for a drink in the Jim Beam suites. They wouldnt even let her take the halh shot $18 drink back to her seats, it was in a plastic cup. Yankee Stadium is a complete joke and I cant stand that place.

@Yu- Keep your nasty comments and your absurd opinion to yourself. Nobody wants to hear your negative BS.

You hooked me and my friends up with seeds in 203 at this game. Thanks, Zack!

EVERYONE-
I’ve read all the comments (as always), but I don’t have time to answer them all right now, so here are a few replies . . .

BLAKE VON HAGEN-
:-)

BRIAN-
Thanks.

LARRY NY-
1) I do worry about it, but hey, it is what it is.
2) I have friends in some sections, and I’m cool with a few guards in other spots.
3) There are haters everywhere. I give lots of baseballs to kids, and I raise money for charity. If that’s not good enough for some people, then there’s nothing I can do about it. I don’t do it for them anyway, so it really doesn’t matter what they think.
4) I buy the tickets on StubHub, eBay, and craigslist — whatever’s cheapest on a given day — but never directly from the team.
Looking forward to seeing you. Really not sure about lunch, though. I’m probably gonna have interviews during the afternoon, and whatever free time I have, I should really work on the blog. BIGS has asked me to try extra hard not to fall behind, and I owe it to them to give it my best effort.

BAYLOR-
Just the Astros and Rockies, I think. Last year was probably a record.

WES-
Hopefully none.

CONNOR HOOPMAN-
Citi Field isn’t much better.

SCREW YU-
Obvious troll is obvious. You’re a liar, and you know it, but I need to say it for everyone else here. You haven’t seen me push people because I don’t do that. It’s that simple.

CHASICLE-
Thanks, dude.

JERE80-
You’re the best.

RAY BURTON-
You’re the best too.

ALEX GIOBBI-
I’ve been snagging fewer because I’ve been going to a bunch of games with less-than-ideal conditions. Let’s leave it at that.

LUKE VAN HOLLEBEKE-
Yeah, he had a glove.

MARK MCCONVILLE-
Sounds horrible, but congrats on the lineup card. That almost makes it worth it.

TIM-
Bummer. Woulda been cool to meet up with you.

BEN WEIL-
Yeah, well, I kinda stopped running for it because I realized it was going to fall well short of my row, but still, I was all jittery because of security. They really got inside my head.

SEAN-
You’re welcome!

Zack,

Thanks for the usual quick reply. I cant believe it was that cold there today. Sounds like NY weather lol. I totally hear ya with what your doing for BIGS. Your doing a great deed and you def need to put in maximum effort. Keep up the great work that you do. I look forward in reading your next blog. Enjoy your evening buddy!

Looks like a snow day Zack. Is that a no- decision ?

HEY ZACK, NOW YOU KNOW HOW I FEEL AT G.A.B.P. …I’M “BILLY-THE- (FRIGGIN) KID” IN MY OWN BALL PARK!!! STAY STONG BROTHER! ROCCO

…I JUST FINISHED READING THE REST OF YOUR BLOG FOR YANKEE STADIUM…IF THEY HASSELED ME THAT BADLY… I’D JUST SUE THEM FOR *MENTAL ANGUISH* & RESTICTING MY FREEDOM AS AN AMERICAN!!! I’M SERIOUS, HIRE AN ATTORNEY, AND SEE WHAT YOUR LEGAL RIGHTS ARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I WOULDN’T TAKE THAT CRAP FOR THEM IDIOTS! I’D OWN YANKEE STADIUM BY THE END OF THE WEEK! AND YOUR JEWISH TOO…I’D MAKE IT A HATE CRIME! I’D SAY; YOU’RE GOING TO STOP ME, BUT NOT STOP ANOTHER FAN FROM DOING THE SAME THING???!!! I’D CONTACT NBC/CBS/ABC/FOX NEWS/MSMBC/CNN…ID HAVE THIS THING PLASTERED ALL OVER THE NEWS!!!!!! THEY’RE PLAYING NASTY…I’D PLAY NASTY! THE MINUTE YOU SAY “LAW SUIT”…THEY’LL CHILL OUT…TRUST ME! I WAS A COP!

LARRY NY-
Thanks so much. I’ve really been appreciating all of your comments lately.

RAY BURTON-
Ha, exactly.

ROCCO SINISI-
Hmm. I would love to DO something to get them to leave me alone, nut I’m not sure that threatening to sue is a good idea. It seems that that would just make them all hate me even more. But you’re right, I *am* suffering mentally because of it. All of this crap is constantly weighing me down. Anyway, see you today at Great American Ball Park?!

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