5/1/13 at Kauffman Stadium

I’ve been to Kauffman Stadium four of the last five seasons, and it keeps on getting worse. This time, as always, I spent an extra $10 to get inside at 4:30pm for the “early bird” BP tour. On a positive note, I found a baseball as I wandered down to the seats behind the 3rd-base dugout . . .

1_zack_entering_seats_05_01_13

. . . but on a sucky note (and for the first time ever), I had to deal with this:

2_seats_blocked_off_royals_suck

The early bird tour has always been lame. Basically, you start in the Royals Hall of Fame and end up behind one of the dugouts. You’re not allowed to chase home run balls in the outfield. You’re not even allowed to hang out along the foul lines, but it used to be that if a batter sliced a ball into the empty seats, you could get permission to go get it. (Permission?! What the hell is this, kindergarten?!) Now you can’t even do that because there are “pennants” blocking the seats. (Pennants?! More like “cheapo flags that belong at a used car dealership.”)

I’m guessing you didn’t notice the baseball in the previous photo, so here, let me give you a closer look:

3_ball_in_the_seats_05_01_13

One of the Royals had hit it there, and let me tell you, it drove me crazy not to be able to walk through the seats and pick it up.

Part of the reason why I got so annoyed was that a two-man crew from CBS was there to film me. Here I am getting miked by the cameraman, who’s name is Andy:

4_zack_getting_miked_05_01_13

The host, pictured below on the left, is named Stephen Mayer:

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They were both great to work with, but unfortunately, because of all the silly rules — and ultimately the lack of BP home runs — there wasn’t a whole lot of action.

I’m glad to say, though, that I did snag two more baseballs within a 10-second span. The first was thrown to my friend “Big Glove Bob” by Salvador Perez, but it fell several rows short and ricocheted closer to me. The second ball (which was my 3rd overall on the day) was the one that had been sitting in the seats along the foul line; a friendly usher walked over there and retrieved it for me.

Andy got a shot of those two baseballs in my glove:

6_balls6565_and_6566_filmed

Several minutes later, this was the scene behind me:

7_the_scene_behind_me_05_01_13

In the photo above, that’s Big Glove Bob with the big glove. Stephen is sitting two rows behind him, and Neal Stewart from BIGS Sunflower Seeds is chillin’ on the stairs.

Meanwhile, I felt like a caged animal . . .

8_zack_feeling_trapped_05_01_13

. . . and by the way, it should be noted why those flags are now in place.

Two words: Yankee fans.

I’m not making this up. I asked the usher about it, and she said that the last time the Yankees were in town, so many fans tried to sneak off into other parts of the stadium that security decided to permanently block the seats during the early bird tour.

When the stadium “opened” for real at 5:30pm, things seemed to get even worse. Last year, you could wander off into other sections at 5:30pm, but this year, for some unfathomably moronic reason, you have to stay behind the dugout until 6pm! That’s right. While other fans who paid less money got to run around the outfield, my sorry ass was stuck in foul territory. You see, the whole stadium no longer opens at 5:30pm; only the outfield gates open at that time, so the fans who enter there get to be there, and the fans who do the tour have stay behind the dugouts. It’s so stupid and un-fan-friendly that the person (or people) who instituted this plan should be banned from baseball. Then, to add insult to emotional anguish, a different usher had the nerve to tell me that this has always been the rule. Big Glove Bob overheard this nonsense and set the record straight. He’s a season ticket holder. He does the BP tour every day. He knows what’s up, and even *he* was surprised. Shame on you, Royals. Seriously.

I was so pissed off about being stuck behind the dugout that I asked to leave the stadium. I was actually going to pay for a whole new ticket just to be able to (re)enter the normal gates like a normal person and have a chance like everyone else to enjoy batting practice. But get this: security wouldn’t let me. That’s when Neal took charge and asked to speak to a supervisor and calmly explained our situation: we’re here from out of town, we didn’t know the rule, we’re doing a thing with the local media, we’re snagging baseballs for charity, they really want to get some footage of Zack in the outfield, etc. And it worked. The supervisor, clearly a reasonable man, agreed to walk me out to the outfield, though he was hesitant at first because, you know, what if everyone else sees me taking you to the outfield? Then they’re gonna want to go to the outfield too. Yeah? And your point is . . . ?

If slow-walking were an Olympic event, this supervisor would’ve won the gold medal. I swear it took us three solid minutes to get out there (after he stopped to have a one-minute conversation with a friend). But finally, I was there. And I felt so free. And ohmygod, look how much room there was to run for home run balls:

9_right_field_empty_05_01_13

Sadly, there were no home runs — and I do mean NO home runs. Not one. The entire time. It’s like a junior varsity team was hitting, and I was going out of my mind.

Neal was still stuck behind the dugout, so this was the best photo of me that he could get:

10_zack_pepsi_porch_05_01_13

In the photo above, do you see the fan on the left, wearing a blue jacket with a white stripe on the sleeve?

That was my friend Garrett Meyer, who was kind enough to put his own ballhawking on hold just so that we could hang out — and while he was at it, he grabbed my camera and took a few photos of me. Here’s the best one. It shows Ryan Roberts (deep in left field) about to throw a ball to me (on the walkway behind the seats):

11_ryan_roberts_throwing_ball6569

That was actually my 6th ball of the day. Alex Cobb had tossed me No. 4 in left-center, and Jake McGee had hooked me up with No. 5 in right-center.

When Big Glove Bob eventually wandered out to the outfield, I took a photo of him with Garrett:

12_big_glove_bob_and_garrett

There were a zillion kids in left field — some school outing or something — and Fernando Rodney tossed more baseballs to them than I cared to count. Here he is about to let one fly:

13_fernando_rodney_tossing_baseballs_to_the_school_group

Normally, I give away a ball or two (or five) to kids over the course of the day, but in this case, I’d pretty much decided to keep whatever I got. That’s because I was scheduled to appear on the FOX morning news the next day, and the producer had asked me to bring a bunch of baseballs.

Anyway, that was it for BP. Six balls. No home runs. Not terrible, but not all that exciting. I’d really been hoping to put on a better show for the TV guys, but it certainly could’ve been worse. And by the way, speaking of TV, I’ve gotten a few less-than-friendly comments lately from people accusing me of “acting like a celebrity,” so lemme just say that *I* didn’t set any of this stuff up. BIGS Sunflower Seeds approached me during the off-season. They’re the ones who conceived of this whole sponsorship. They’re the ones who are pitching me to the media and planning to donate up to $15,000 to my favorite charity. What was I supposed to do? Turn them down? What am I supposed to do when there’s a TV crew following me around? Pretend like I’m not having fun? I never started collecting baseballs to get famous. I just did it because it was (and still is) fun. When I snagged those two home runs on 4/18/13 at Yankee Stadium, I never contacted the media. I was minding my own business during the game when my phone rang. It was some random guy from the Associated Press, who somehow got my number. What was I supposed to say? “Screw you, I don’t want to talk”? C’mon.

Enough about that. I’d rather tell you about the pepperoni pizza that I ate before the game:

14_garrett_zack_pizza

It was good.

Neal had gotten us seats behind the 3rd-base dugout, and in the top of the 1st inning, this was his view:

15_the_game_is_underway_05_01_13

I was in the outfield, running back and forth behind the batter’s eye, constantly repositioning myself for right- and left-handed batters. My plan was to spend the top of each inning in the outfield . . . plus an out or two in the bottom half  . . . and then hurry back to the Rays’ dugout for a 3rd-out ball.

Well, it just so happened that the Rays hit two homers in the top of the 1st inning — back-to-back solo shots by Matt Joyce and Ben Zobrist. Unfortunately, they both landed in the right field bullpen, and the groundskeepers out there kept the balls.

When I made it back to the dugout, Garrett (who was sitting with Neal) showed me a comment card that one of his usher-friends had begun to fill out on my behalf. Here’s what it looked like several minutes later:

16_comment_card_filled_out_by_sarah_the_nicest_usher_ever

Before you start calling me a complainer (which I’ll admit that I sometimes am, occasionally for valid reasons), remember that I had very little to do with this. The usher asked me how I felt, so I told her that the groundskeepers should’ve tossed the balls into the crowd. Then she asked me if I wanted to go to guest services and get some sort of apology/consolation prize, and I said no thanks. I wanted one of those home run balls. Other than that, whatever.

It wasn’t long before Eric Hosmer flied out to Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings to end the 1st inning. I wandered down the steps to the 3rd row — there were some people down in front, and I didn’t want to crowd them — and watched as the ball got tossed around. Evan Longoria ended up with it, and when he got close, I waved my arms and shouted “Longo!!” He looked up and tossed it right to me over everyone down in front. I made the catch and hurried up the stairs and, well, click here for a YouTube video that shows how it all went down.

I felt *great* after that, not only because Pitch In For Baseball was going to receive an additional $500 from BIGS, but because it freed me to return to the outfield and try to catch a home run.

Garrett, having snagged a ball earlier (and therefore extending his consecutive games streak to 169), was content to put his glove away and hang out with me for the rest of the game. Here he is on the left-field walkway:

17_garrett_hanging_out_with_me_in_left_field

Here I am with the ball that Longoria had tossed to me:

18_zack_with_ball6570

I ran back and forth all game, positioning myself in right field for every left-handed batter and in left field for every righty. I was dying to catch a home run, and if one had been hit anywhere near me, I would’ve been all over it. There was NO competition. It was insane. And of course it was frustrating as hell that nothing came close.

Here’s a photo of the most unusual thing that happened all night:

19_fountain_overflowing_05_01_13

Quite simply, the fountains began overflowing, and the water spilled into the stands. Look how bad it got:

20_seats_flooded

There was about an inch and a half of water in the front row, and there were mini-waterfalls in other areas. Crazy, huh?

Just so you know, the water level of the fountains can be controlled, and in fact, the Royals regularly overflow them after games in order to clean the stands. But during a game? Garrett had never seen this happen before.

Stadium personnel handled it reasonably well, I guess. They put up a “CAUTION” sign . . .

21_caution_wet_floor

. . . and invited everyone in the left field seats to move into foul territory, but it took them a long time to lower the water level — more that half an hour, I think.

Garrett and Neal hung out in right field:

22_neal_garrett_during_game

The stadium was so empty during the final few innings . . .

23_view_from_left_center_05_01_13

. . . that I considered moving to the upper deck. There were TWO fans on the first base side, and they were sitting 10 rows back. But no. I couldn’t do it. The outfield at Kauffman Stadium is too glorious, so stayed there and hoped for a longball. Here’s a photo that shows me camped out on the walkway behind the left field seats:

24_zack_behind_left_field_seats

Meanwhile, look how empty it was in right field:

25_zack_in_right_field_05_01_13

In the photo above, the two people in blue jackets are ushers. The one person wearing the black jacket is me. Why why why why WHY could there not have been a home run? I would’ve been able to run 100 feet and still make it look easy.

After the final out of the Royals’ 9-8 victory, I got a ball from Fernando Rodney near the right-field bullpen. (Garrett gets the assist on that one for helping me call out for it.) That was my 8th and final ball of the day.

Here’s a photo that I took less than a minute later as Rodney and a few teammates walked across the field toward the dugout:

26_view_after_ball6571

Before we left the stadium, Neal took a few photos of me with all the baseballs for the media:

27_zack_with_eight_baseballs_05_01_13

I had a feeling that I wouldn’t be back at Kauffman the next day because the weather forecast was brutal, and I had four interviews scheduled in the early morning/afternoon . . . and the first pitch was scheduled for 1:10pm . . . and I knew I was going to be exhausted.

Sigh.

It’s such a shame to be at such a great stadium for only one game, but that’s the nature of the BIGS Baseball Adventure. I still have 22 more ballparks to check off my list this season.

Oh! Two more things:

1) Click here to watch the CBS segment on me.
2) Click here to read Neal’s blog entry about this game.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

28_eight_balls_05_01_13• 8 balls at this game (pictured on the right)

• 112 balls in 16 games this season = 7 balls per game.

• 116 balls in 11 lifetime games at Kauffman Stadium = 10.5 balls per game.

• 888 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 6,571 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.)

• 25 donors for my fundraiser

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

• $12.88 raised at this game

• $180.32 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $4,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $25,586.32 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

15 Comments

Pretty clever cleaning up the stands with the fountains.

I just think it’s funny that people have nothing better to do with their time than accuse and criticize people for doing things that make them happy. I was with some people the other day and they mentioned how you were on a website I won’t mention, and they were making a point of how they were making fun of you in the comments and thought it was funny. But when I mentioned your charity cause, the room got quiet pretty quick. I just think it’s stupid…. ignorant is the word, really – to give opinions when you know nothing about the situation or a person. Pisses me the f*ck off. I don’t make fun of peoples’ stamp collections, or how they catch 12 fish in a single outing. Soapbox rant over.
- Chris

http://ballhawker.wordpress.com/

Nice! It should be noted that on Friday and Saturday, all the gates open 1.5 hours early. On Sun-Thu, only the outfield gates open 1.5 hours while the rest of the gates open 1 hour early. So since you were here on a weekend last year, you were free to leave the early bird tour 1.5 hours early because the entire stadium was open. Yeah, it’s still a crappy policy but at least there is *some* logic behind it. Clearly the Early Bird Tour was created mostly for autograph seekers — not ballhawks.

Yeah, the early bird tour was not what I expected either. I was there the day before you. It was fun to do once, but kind of a bummer they won’t let fans move to the outfield. I did however, end up snagging 10 balls (first time ever in double digits- I was excited). I had seats behind the middle staircase of the rays dugout and all of the third out balls got thrown to a group of kids a section over. I wasn’t going to compete with them for one. At the end of the game I was the only one who knew the homeplate umpire’s name, but he threw all four of his game balls to the 4 50-something year old guys to my left. A gamer would’ve been nice, but I still enjoyed my night.

Well said Chris!!!

Super happy that you got yet another game ball for PIFB, Zack!! Keep em coming!!

z Did u see royals super fan?ive missed 5 gm hrs by a foot in april alone. ThatsBB frustrating gm 4 all I could get5 in may. Get er done padrelee is 0 for since2O11

Would I be correct to assume you’ve tried all of the BIGS sunflower seed flavors by now? Which ones are your favorites?

More than anything, I think it is ridiculous that Royals fans have to pay $10 per person to watch their home team take batting practice. With a family of five, it would cost me an extra $50 to take my wife and three boys. Gone are the good old days when kids could come out early and watch their favorite Royals players warm up for free.

I think you should contact someone in the royal’s front office. That is a tad ridiculous, the Royals could at least have an usher get the ball if there is a problem.

This is awesome!!! I don’t like the $10 either for BP I believe it’s a right to watch the players warm up for free.

Zack- Great meeting you finally in person at the K. Glad you snagged that 3rd out from Longo in the 1st. My son and I snagged 12 total on Wed with three of them as game used balls. I wish I brought my book for you to sign, hopefully I will run into you later on down the road. Did you get to talk with Jeremy Guthrie while you were in Kansas City? Have a safe trip in TX.

With attendances like that , no wonder they charge $10 for BP. Ridiculous any way you consider it. That was a great opportunity for a game HR but at least Longoria came up with a game ball. Shame they lost. Go Rays !

damn Kauffman stadium. thats a load of sh*t blocking that ballhawking breeze. by the way, im going to citi field on the 21st, and the mets are gonna be playing the Reds. any tips and players who are willing to toss up baseballs?

Zack, first off, great adventure. I’m a little envious as I’ve only been to two games thus far, and one of them turned into the second game of a double header after some unfortunate events in Boston.
On another note, could you discuss with Neal the possibility of doing some TV interviews before and after the helicopter stunt? I think it would be cool for you, and let’s face it, it is not everyday you get a baseball dropped on you from a 1000′.
I’ll send an email soon to discuss some additional details.

JOHN LISANKIE-
Shh! Don’t tell anyone. :-)

CHRIS-
Rant appreciated. Thanks for lookin’ out for me.

GARRETT MEYER-
Oh. Well, it should be noted that the stupid usher should’ve told me.

TMUDDLY17-
Ten balls?! Damn. That’s practically unheard of nowadays at Kauffman. Nicely done.

BRIAN-
Word.

TC218-
You need a longer glove and/or arm. Maybe see if the Padres will let you bring a lacrosse stick inside?

BEN-
You would be incorrect. It’s a long season. I’m pacing myself. (But actually, I haven’t yet received all the flavors.) I think I’ve had most, though. Old Bay is probably No. 1, followed by the Sea Salt & Pepper. Of course, I’m always a fan of Original.

TOM-
“Ridiculous is an understatement.”

AUSTIN-
If I lived in KC and had to deal with this crap on a regular basis, I would definitely say something and take action.

THE CUB DEN-
I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a “right,” but it sure sucks when teams don’t make it easy or possible.

RYAN-
It was great meeting you guys too. What’s your son’s name? Is it Tyler? I’m really bad with names sometimes, so I hope I got it right (or that you can correct me). Congrats on all the snags. I knew you guys would do well. I wish you’d brought the book too, but you can mail it to me in NYC if you want — or just find me again on the road? I never did get to talk with Jeremy Guthrie BECAUSE of the dumb rules at Kauffman Stadium that prevented me from going to the outfield when he waved me over at 4:45pm. GAH!!

RAY BURTON-
Well said. I always forget that you love the Rays. (What’s with David Price this season? Yeesh.)

NAVI-
Tips for Citi Field? Yeah: try not to lose your mind. It’s no coincidence that I’ve only been there once this season. Billy Hatcher tosses lots of balls into the crowd at the dugout during the game, so try to be near him.

MIKE-
It has already been discussed a little bit. I have someone else working on all of this who will almost certainly be able to get some media stuff going. Thanks for reminding me.

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