6/3/13 at Miller Park

I had a terrible day of travel from New York City. Not only was my flight delayed to the point where I nearly missed part of batting practice, but after going through airport security, I somehow managed to lose my driver’s license.

Thankfully, things got much better once I actually made it to Miller Park. I arrived in a taxi at around 4:30pm . . .

1_approaching_miller_park_06_03_13

. . . and headed straight into Friday’s. That’s where I met this guy:

2_evan_enjoying_a_beer

His name is Evan, and he was there to get video footage of me snagging baseballs during BP. Let me explain . . .

You know who Neal Stewart from BIGS Sunflower Seeds is, right? Well, Neal couldn’t make it to Milwaukee, and I was scheduled to appear on CBS the following morning; the people at CBS said they wanted B-roll footage of me, but (for whatever reason) weren’t able to send a TV crew to the stadium to film me themselves. That’s where Evan came in. He lives in Milwaukee. He and Neal have been friends for years. Neal called him and asked if he could meet me at the stadium, and voila! Here we were.

Soon after the Brewers started hitting, I got my first chance to snag a ball — a home run that barely cleared the outfield wall and landed in the gap 15 feet below me. Here’s a screen shot from a video that Evan filmed, which shows me setting up the glove trick:

3_zack_setting_up_glove_trick

Here’s the video itself, which shows me lowering the glove and snagging the ball:

Everything slowed down after that. There were a few more potential glove trick opportunities, but each time, the balls got caught on/under something that made it too hard for me to snag. Take another look at the video, and you’ll see one of these balls stuck on a metal ridge just behind the outfield wall.

During the next 45 minutes, the highlight (other than the free food I was eating) was seeing a few familiar faces: Nick Yohanek (aka “The Happy Youngster”), Shawn Bosman (aka “Ballhawk Shawn”) and Kenny Kosta (aka “Kenny Kosta”). All three of these guys are local ballhawks, and you’ll see a photo of them later on (along with Shawn’s mother, Sue, who’s awesome and attends games regularly).

At around 5pm, I noticed a little kid with a glove at the table behind me. I chatted briefly with him and his father, and I told the kid that if he didn’t get a ball by 5:30pm, I’d give him one. Several minutes before the cutoff, I got my 2nd ball of the day tossed by Donovan Hand, and since the kid was still empty-handed, I hooked him up. Here’s a photo of him looking at the ball while his father was thanking me:

4_kid_loving_the_ball_while_father_is_thanking_me

When the stadium opened for real, I hurried to the seats along the left field foul line and did this:

5_zack_flinging_glove_at_ball6721

That’s what I call the “half-glove trick” because I don’t actually rig the inside with the rubber band and Sharpie. Because the wall in that spot was so low, I only had to use the string to lower my glove and fling it out. Then, after knocking the ball closer, I crawled/reached out over the tarp and grabbed it:

6_zack_reaching_over_tarp_for_ball6721

In the photo above, did you notice that my feet were hooked around the inner edge of the railing? Technically, I was still “in” the stands and therefore not breaking any rule, but Shawn told me that if he did that, he’d get arrested. Like so many ballhawks who frequent particular stadiums, he’s a marked man. The ushers and security guards are truly out to get him and have a special set of rules that he’s forced to obey. He’s not even allowed to use his ball-retrieving device. Believe me, I felt his pain, but at the same time, I enjoyed going for baseballs that may have pushed the limits.

Several minutes later, I met a ballhawk from Minneapolis named Brandon. Here we are shaking hands:

7_zack_meeting_brandon_from_minneapolis

We only got to talk for a few seconds, and unfortunately we didn’t see each other for the rest of the night. That’s the bad thing about meeting people during BP: there’s no time to talk, but at least when I meet a fellow ballhawk, there’s an understanding.

As the A’s pitchers finished their warm-ups, I got Hideki Okajima to throw me a ball by asking him for it in Japanese. Here’s a screen shot that shows me reaching out for the catch:

8_zack_catching_ball6722

Evan did a great job of filming it, and while I *did* later send this clip to CBS, I decided it wasn’t special enough to post on my YouTube channel. I do have another video later in this entry, and it’s truly a must-watch — more on that in a bit, but first, this was the scene shortly before I snagged my 5th ball:

9_zack_and_ball6723_in_bullpen

In the screen shot above, I’ve circled two ushers who kept looking at me . . . and then not looking. Did you see the ball sitting in the bullpen? It’s the little white speck in front of the mound. I had to wait for just the right moment, and then I worked fast. Here’s my glove hovering inches above the ball:

10_glove dangling_above_ball6723

After that, I headed up to the 2nd deck in right field. This was my view:

11_view_from_2nd_deck_in_right_field_06_03_13

Here’s what it looked like on my right:

12_view_to_my_right_06_03_13

In the photo above, that’s Shawn in the green shirt. He’s a very talented ballhawk, but other than him (and Kenny, who was also there for a bit), there was very little competition.

Okay, here’s the video that you have to watch. It’s only 49 seconds — and then I’ll explain a few things:

When the video started, I was hanging out near the foul pole, having just tried unsuccessfully to get a toss-up. Then I jogged back to my spot (one section over toward straight-away right field), and as I reached the stairs, the batter (not sure who) crushed a deep fly ball in my direction. I determined quickly that it was going to sail over my head, so I ran up the stairs, and at the last second, I got tangled up by the railing and leaned waaay over it for a back-handed catch — all of this with my backpack annoyingly draped over my right shoulder. Initially, I caught the ball in the very tip of my glove, but when the momentum (combined with losing my balance) caused my arm to hit the back of that bench, the ball squirted out and rattled around at my feet. That’s when I tapped it with my foot (to stop it from rolling away), and then I bent down and grabbed it. As soon as I looked up, I saw another home run heading toward the seats, this time back in the spot near the foul pole where I’d been. None of the other fans really went for it or even had gloves, but nevertheless, I still handed it to the nearest kid.

For the record, I give lots of baseballs to kids on a regular basis, even when there aren’t cameras (or authority figures) present. Yes, I run fast for balls at times, but I only do it when my path is clear. I don’t knock people down or shove them out of the way. I don’t steal balls from kids. I give balls to kids. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying and/or hasn’t actually seen me in person. It’s that simple.

Here I am running for another ball — a Josh Reddick homer that clanged off the benches near the foul pole:

13_zack_running_for_ball6726

Here I am reaching down and grabbing it:

14_zack_grabbing_ball6726

That was my 8th ball of the day.

Evan had other plans in the evening, so he took off after BP. Meanwhile, he’d completely filled my memory card and nearly drained my battery, so I wandered and took a few photos with my phone. Here’s one that shows the Harley Davidson Deck from above:

15_harley_davidson_deck

I love stadiums that have interesting angles and features — beams and railings that jut out from nowhere, interesting uses of space. PNC Park probably has the most architectural quirks. Yankee Stadium has the fewest.

At around 6:35pm, A’s bullpen catcher Casey Chavez walked out to the right field bullpen and tossed four balls into the crowd. I got the third ball (which was my 9th of the day), and then I accidentally got the fourth one too. Take a look at the following photo, and then I’ll explain how it happened:

16_ball6728_location

See the fan in the red sweatshirt? He’s sitting on the right side of the photo in the 6th row. Chavez (who’s standing at the back of the bullpen in the photo above) threw it to him, but the ball fell short and plopped onto the ground and began rolling down the steps toward me. I walked over and picked it up and then tossed it to the fan — and just like that, I’d stumbled into double digits.

I spent the entire game going for foul balls in the 2nd deck behind home plate. To the extent that the ushers allowed it, I hung out in the walkway (just in front of the press box) and kept moving back and forth. This was my view for left-handed batters:

17_view_during_game_06_03_13

Not bad, huh? Well, this was the view to my right . . .

18_view_to_my_right_06_03_13

. . . and to my left:

19_view_to_my_left_06_03_13

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is THE best spot for foul balls in the major leagues — the absolute prime area in any section in any stadium. Prior to this, I’d attended four games at Miller Park and snagged a total of four foul balls. I truly believe that if I had a full season ticket plan and attended 81 games there, I’d get at least 100. It’s THAT good. The distance from home plate is ideal. The protective screen is a non-issue. The height of the second deck could not be better. And of course there’s that cross-aisle, which provides endless room to run.

As it turned out, I didn’t need any room. Josh Reddick led off the top of the 2nd inning, worked the count to 2-0, and fouled the next pitch *right* to me. I was standing against the back wall at the time. If there hadn’t been any fans in front of me, I would’ve kept standing there and made a chest-high catch, but because I sensed a teeny bit of competition/interference, I took two steps forward and caught the ball above the bare hands of a tall guy who half-heartedly reached for it.

Ta-daaa!!!

20_ball6729_josh_reddick_foul_ball

That was $500 more for Pitch In For Baseball.

In the middle of the 2nd inning, a 70-something-year-old man approached me and said, “You must be Zack.”

“Yeah, I am!” I said excitedly. “How did you know?”

“I heard you on the radio on the way over here and figured it had to be you.”

An inning later, I came so close to another foul ball that I actually reached out for it and squeezed my glove. Unfortunately, it fell two rows short of the walkway and was deflected by some fans, inches from my outstretched hand. I was actually disappointed that I didn’t snag any more foul balls, but that’s what happens when the starting pitchers — Marco Estrada for the Brewers and Tommy Millone for the A’s — can’t even hit 90mph on the radar gun. There just weren’t many opportunities, but I still had a helluva time moving back and forth all night.

Oh, I should mention that in the 7th inning, I gave away another ball to a little kid — and I gave handfuls of bacon-flavored BIGS seeds to his entire family.

The A’s won the game, 10-2, and outhit the Brewers, 19-6. It was a total blowout.

Shawn might not have snagged as many baseballs as me, but he certainly got the best one of the night — Brandon Moss’s homer in the 2nd inning. That ball barely cleared the outfield wall in right-center, landed in a gap near the A’s bullpen, and got tossed up by one of the relievers. Nick also snagged a gamer — the 3rd-out ball that ended the top of the 9th. John Jaso hit that one to Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez, who threw it quite a distance to Nick (who made a nice jumping catch). Kenny didn’t snag any baseballs, but he’s gotten more than 1,000 lifetime, so we’ll give him a pass. Here I am with the gang after the final out:

21_shawn_kenny_zack_sue_nick

In the photo above, from left to right, you’re looking at Shawn, Kenny (who kindly gave me a ride back to my hotel), me, Sue, and Nick. It sucks that I was only here for one day and barely got to hang out with them, but hey, that just gives me a good excuse to come back next year, or whenever . . .

BALLHAWKING STATS:

22_the_seven_balls_i_kept_06_03_13• 11 balls at this game (seven pictured here because I gave four away)

• 270 balls in 35 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.

• 63 balls in 5 lifetime games at Miller Park = 12.6 balls per game.

• 907 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 432 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 155 lifetime foul balls during games (not counting toss-ups)

• 18 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, PNC Park, Camden Yards, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, Rogers Centre, and Miller Park

• 6,729 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.)

• 28 donors for my fundraiser

• $1.83 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $20.13 raised at this game

• $494.10 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $9,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $30,900.10 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

15 Comments

Nice foul ball snag. What , no kids pummelled , and you being such a monster too !! Where are those game homers ?

It’s funny, I have yet to see one video of you that you don’t say ‘yea baby’ or at the very least ‘baby’, after you’ve caught a ball. Too funny! Btw, I’m pretty much addicted to the bacon flavored BIGS Seeds. Good god are they good!!!

Didn`t you snag a gamer @ the Trop too ?

Nice work at Miller Park. That still shot of you looking like your hiding from the two ushers looks pretty funny too. Good job making that kids day after giving him that ball. His reaction was great!

Is Brandon a Minneapolis ballhawk? I thought he was from Milwaukee. Or would I then be considered a St. Paul ballhawk?
-Mateo
http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

Nice job with the foul ball! What happened to dc?

Love Miller park!

Well played Mateo- It’s hard to give myself a specific city to ballhawk in that’s for sure… Id say Milwaukapolis would be fitting. Nice to meet you though Zack, wish we could have chatted longer but us guys are always in a rush. Enjoy the rest of your trip man!

I really like that picture of you leaning out on the tarp, it kind of encapsulates all of ballhawking to me in a way haha. And it looks like someone on the field, in a brown shirt is also taking a picture of you leaning out. Also, is it maybe the way you’re holding it, but in the picture of the foul ball you caught, the ball seems a bit misshapen. Am I correct or is it just the picture?

So I was watching the Sox-Mariners game in the 14th inning today and I watched Kyle Seager smack a grand slam to tie the game… except all I could focus on was the rather sad way a little kid got run over by a guy (dad?) trying to retrieve the ball. Hence, I was inspired to create this: How NOT to snag a ball at a game (http://ajmeeusen.weebly.com/1/post/2013/06/how-not-to-get-a-baseball-at-a-game.html). Also inspired by the trolls I’ve seen from time to time on here.

To Brandon: If you’re Milwaukapolis, then what does that make me after the 2013 season? I think it would be something like St. New Baltingtonapolis
-Mateo
http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

Mateo- Maybe St. Baltishyorkeapolis? HAHA good luck this summer and see yah again at TF in August/September (unless you’re back in Milwaukee anytime this summer)

RAY BURTON-
Game homers? I have terrible luck. With the exception of that one game in New York, this entire season has been a home run disaster. No gamer at the Trop for me ever — not even a foul ball.

BRIAN-
Ha, yeah, I do tend to say that phrase quite a bit. I should try to cut down.

TOMMY M.-
Thanks.

MATEO-
You amuse me. And I have no idea, but I love the word play.

WES-
What about D.C.? I was supposed to be there on May 10th, but my return flight to NYC was accidentally booked for early that day. I’ll be there this month, most likely.

THE CUB DEN-
It’s a good place.

BRANDON NEDOMA-
Thanks. Now that I see your name here, I’m remembering more about you. I’ve been hearing your name for a while, but when we met during BP, you were just a random Brandon to me. :-)

SF CONNOR-
Nah, the ball wasn’t messed up at all, but I kinda see what you’re seeing, now that you’ve mentioned it.

AJM229-
Nice job with the blog post. That’s good coverage of an ugly incident. I wonder, though, if the kid was indeed that man’s son.

…Thx Zack for letting the the ball hawking world know about us “MARKED-MEN” …

…STAY STRONG SHAWN, and all the “Miller Park Hawks”!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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