6/4/13 at Busch Stadium

I woke up in Milwaukee at such a horrendously early hour . . .

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. . . that I’m feeling tired all over again, just thinking about it. I’d gotten less than two hours of sleep. It was BAD.

I checked out of my hotel at 5:15am and took a 20-minute taxi ride to a CBS studio. Here’s what it looked like just inside the entrance:

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Unfortunately, I was there by myself, so I don’t have many more photos. All I have is this screen shot from Facebook . . .

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. . . and a photo of the Josh Reddick foul ball that I’d caught the night before at Miller Park:

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The interview was done by 6:20am, and it was live — pretty standard stuff. I talked about the BIGS Baseball Adventure, explained the charitable connection to Pitch In For Baseball, described how I caught the foul ball, hoped that the bags under my eyes weren’t THAT noticeable, and demonstrated the glove trick. Overall, I thought it went pretty well, although I haven’t yet seen a clip of it, so who knows? It might’ve been awkward as hell.

My flight to St. Louis was scheduled to take off at 8:45am, and I was convinced that I was gonna miss it. Remember the part in my previous entry about losing my driver’s license? Yeah, well, as it turned out, it didn’t make much of a difference, and I still got on the plane. (Airport security wanted to see everything I had in my possession with my name on it. That included three credit cards, a health insurance card, a dozen or so contact cards, and my baseball glove. [They weren’t impressed with the glove. Terrible.] Then I went through the metal detector and had my bags X-rayed. After that, a TSA agent pulled me off to the side and gave me a thorough pat-down [which included using the back of his hand to touch my “buttocks”] and searched every nook and cranny of my bags. He even opened my laptop. Overall, my lack of ID delayed me by about 10 minutes, which wasn’t nearly as bad as I’d assumed.)

After landing in St. Louis, I took a train to the “Stadium” stop, posted this tweet, and walked to my hotel. Words can not describe how tired I was. All I wanted to do was lie down and sleep, but it was only 11:15am, and I couldn’t yet check into my room . . . so I sat in the lobby and used the free WiFi and got started on my blog entry about Miller Park. By the time I got into my room, I was starving, so I ordered a pizza (half pepperoni and half sausage), which was (a) slightly warm when it arrived and (b) pre-cut into annoying little pieces:

5_pizza_for_lunch_06_04_13

Oh, St. Louis . . .

By the time I finished eating, I had a choice: take a two-hour nap or keep working on the blog. I chose to finish the blog. THAT IS DEDICATION, FOLKS. (It’s also idiotic.)

I walked to Busch Stadium at around 4:30pm and photographed the construction outside the center field gate:

6_construction_outside_busch_stadium

I was glad to see that the ugly, vacant lot is finally being put to use.

Outside Gate 4, I met a guy named Brendan who’s been reading my blog for a while . . .

7_zack_and_brendan_06_04_13

. . . and I caught up with another fan named Colten, who had brought his copy of The Baseball:

8_zack_and_colten_with_the_baseball

When the gates opened at 5:15pm, the Diamondbacks were already taking batting practice. I headed to the corner spot along the left field foul line . . .

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. . . and snagged a ball within the first minute — an overthrow that bounced off the warning track and landed in the front row, roughly 30 feet to my right.

In the photo above, do you see the guy in the black shorts and gray t-shirt? Well, when he finished playing catch and started walking toward the dugout, I ran through the seats and caught up with him, just past the protective screen. I asked him for the ball, and he responded with a question of his own: “Who’s your college football team?”

“Football?!” I replied. “I’m a baseball fan through and through. I know nothing about football, and I don’t care AT ALL about college sports.”

“What are you wearing underneath your D’backs shirt?” he asked.

I lifted it up to reveal the BIGS shirt, and as I started telling him about it, he tossed me the ball.

“Just had to make sure I wasn’t giving it to a Cardinals fan,” he said.

“Oh HELL no,” I yelled. “Diamondbacks all the way!” and I meant it. I’m rooting for them this year because Heath Bell is on the team, and by the way, Heath later identified this guy for me as Nate Shaw, the team’s strength and conditioning coach.

Several minutes later, I caught up with Neal Stewart, who was ready with his camera:

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There wasn’t any action for a while. Here’s a photo that shows me standing/waiting in the bleachers . . .

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. . . but eventually something special happened: I played catch with D’backs reliever David Hernandez, and Neal captured it on video. Check it out:

That was my 3rd ball of the day.

Here’s another video that shows me using the glove trick to snag No. 4:

BP ended soon after, and I headed to the 3rd-base dugout to catch up with a few more people. Here I am with a woman named Melanie and her two kids, Emma and Reid:

12_emma_zack_reid_melanie

Melanie contacted me eight years ago, and this was the first time we ever met in person. Emma, pictured above on the left, is a talented photographer; click here to see her photos from this game (including a few of me).

In the photo above, did you notice was Reid was holding in his right hand? That was a ball that he’d snagged during batting practice, and he asked me to sign it:

13_signed_baseball_for_reid

I also met a guy named Thomas . . .

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. . . who asked me to sign two tickets and posted a kind tweet about it soon after.

Before I’d entered the stadium, I met a man named Scott and his two sons, Jake and Nathan. We talked for quite a while then, and we caught up at the dugout before the game. Here I am with them:

15_jake_nathan_zack_scott

In the photo above, that’s Jake in the orange shirt and Nathan chillin’ between us. Scott, pictured on the far right, had recently mailed his copies of all three of my books to me in New York. It was really nice to meet all these people who’d been supporting me from afar and keeping up with my adventures on this blog.

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

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Not bad . . . but I had an even better view for the t-shirt launch in the middle of the 4th:

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With two outs in the bottom of the 4th, David Freese swung a bit too soon at an 0-2 pitch from Tyler Skaggs and pulled a weak grounder that barely rolled foul. Diamondbacks 3rd baseman Martin Prado fielded the ball and threw it into the dugout, several feet to my right. I was already standing in the front row by that point, so I was in a great spot when one of the guys down there (not sure who because I only saw his hands) tossed it up onto the roof. I snatched it before any of the middle-aged fans sitting nearby could even blink, and just like that, I’d raised another $500 for charity. Here’s a photo of the ball:

18_ball6734

As I’ve mentioned a bunch of times, BIGS Sunflower Seeds is sponsoring me this season and sending me to all 30 major league stadiums. For each venue where I snag a game-used ball, they’re donating $500 to Pitch In For Baseball. I’m now 19-for-19, which is great, but I still have a long way to go.

Remember the guy named Brendan that I met outside the stadium? He was sitting two sections to my right and, knowing about the charity challenge, gave me a fist-pump when he saw me snag the ball. He was really cool about the whole thing, actually. When we talked before the game to discuss our plans, he offered to stay out of my way so I could get a gamer. Thankfully, though, he didn’t need to do that. Like I said, we were sitting far enough apart that we didn’t have to compete with each other, and I’m glad to report that he snagged a gamer of his own in the 12th inning.

Here’s a photo of another fan who recognized me and came over to say hello:

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His name is Jacob, and as you might’ve noticed, that photo was taken in left-center field. He and I had raced out there together from the 3rd-base side when Shane Robinson hit a homer in the bottom of the 5th that landed in the bullpen. I was hoping to get the ball tossed up, but not surprisingly, by the time we got there, it was already gone.

This was my view late in the game:

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When Josh Collmenter came in to pitch the 10th inning, Heath Bell became the last reliever in the bullpen. Here he is all alone on the bench:

21_heath_bell_last_pitcher_in_bullpen

As the innings ticked by, I became so tired that I was getting loopy, but it wasn’t just the lack of sleep that was getting to me. I was also *so* hungry . . . and I was out of sunflower seeds, and all the concession stands were closed. At some point in the 12th inning, I asked bullpen catcher Mark Reed to toss me a pack of seeds, and he obliged! Unfortunately, they weren’t BIGS seeds. It was a rival company, and in all seriousness, they weren’t nearly as good. It was the “original” flavor, and there was a weird after-taste. I was so hungry, though, that I ate them anyway, but it wasn’t pleasant.

By the time the 14th inning rolled around . . .

22_top_of_the_14th_inning

. . . I didn’t know how much more I could take. One thing was certain, though: I was GOING to stay for the entire game, even if it went 114 innings.

In the photo above, did you notice that the count was 3-2 on my man Didi Gregorius? At the time, there was already a runner on first, so when Didi got on base with a walk, I was optimistic. The next batter, Paul Goldschmidt, fell behind on the count 0-2, but quickly worked it to 2-2 and then ripped an RBI grounder up the middle. I was thrilled. Not only was was the game likely to end, but the Diamondbacks were in a position to win it, and Heath Bell was gonna get a chance to nail down the save. I was hoping that the D’backs would score again to give him a bit of a cushion, but Miguel Montero went down swinging, and Martin Prado grounded out to end the frame.

I decided to stay in left field for the first two outs of the bottom of the 14th, but the way things started, I wasn’t sure if the game would even last that long. Yadier Molina led off and tattooed the first pitch into the right-field corner for a double. I truly thought that Heath was screwed — that he’d be lucky to merely blow the save and not lose the game. It’s not that I doubted his talent or ability; it’s that the percentages were stacked against him. How often does a runner score when he’s on second base with no outs? I don’t know, but it’s gotta be well above 50 percent of the time — maybe even 75 percent? Anyway, Heath came up big by striking out David Freese and then getting Jon Jay to ground out to first base. That’s when I made a beeline for the dugout, and while Pete Kozma was standing in the batter’s box, I took the following photo:

23_heath_bell_on_the_mound_06_04_13

Heath ended up striking him out. Ha-HAAAA!!! My dude came through, and the Diamondbacks won the game, 7-6. Despite the fact that I didn’t get any more baseballs, I was still glad to have stayed and witnessed it.

I should mention that Heath and I had made plans to meet for lunch the next day at noon; with each additional inning that had to be played, I became more and more concerned that it’d get too late and that he’d have to cancel. Thankfully, though, he didn’t text me after the game, so I figured we were still on.

Before leaving the stadium, I took a photo of Josh Collmenter being interviewed by Jody Jackson:

24_jody_jackson_interviewing_josh_collmenter

Jody, you may recall, is the Diamondbacks TV reporter who interviewed me on 4/18/13 at Yankee Stadium after I snagged Didi Gregorius’s 1st career home run. Collmenter, it should be noted, pitched four scoreless innings to earn the win.

After the interview, I caught up briefly with Jody and then took this photo on my way out:

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It was a great day, but all I could think about was Heath Bell and our plan for the following afternoon . . .

BALLHAWKING STATS:

26_the_four_balls_i_kept_06_04_13• 5 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave one away)

• 275 balls in 36 games this season = 7.64 balls per game.

• 37 balls in 5 lifetime games at Busch Stadium = 7.4 balls per game.

• 908 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 433 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 19 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, Miller Park, and Busch Stadium

• 6,734 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)

• $9.15 raised at this game

• $503.25 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $9,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $31,409.25 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

17 Comments

*cough* man crush in full effect *cough*. :-)

Quick question. What did you do when you got a wet baseball from Kauffman stadium? I got a couple wet baseballs from behind a minor league stadium…

19-19… Lookin good so far. Keep it up Zack! I dont understand why stadiums dont keep selling at least something to eat, anything, when games go extra innings. For one, there’s fans that will eat being that hungry. Second, the stadium will keep making a profit off our hungry selves. Makes sense to me.

BRIAN-
Yeah, and . . . ? Hell, I admitted my man-crush on TV back in April.

BLAKE VON HAGEN-
I let it sit out in the sun and air-dry. Don’t keep it sealed (in a ziploc bag or anything) or it’ll stay wet and start to smell and soon begin growing mold.

TOMMY M.-
I don’t know, man. I’m not a business major. The teams must have a reason, but it doesn’t make much sense to me.

Zack- Are you going to be in Tampa on Tuesday? I am planning on going that day. Hope to see you there!

http://joshuamcneil.mlblogs.com/

When you got the seeds from Reed you should’ve been like, “*rival seed company name here* seeds? *zack lifts up shirt revealing BIGS shirt* I keep it real!”

Z sign your name likeZorro with a line thru the Z. How bout dodgers puig? I was close tohr#1.then the slam was hit to the allucan eat pig sty. U needed that sect in StL

Amazed at what a good throwing arm you have Zack. Did you play ball at college ? Hope we can play catch on our next baseball tour to the States ( or if you come to Oz) How good are Neal’s shorts .

Typical Zack to give the ball that he snagged with the glove trick to a kid. Nice touch. You’ve definitely made that young fans day.

…in reference to the food…they want to clean up and get the heck out of there!!!

…Zack, I thought that you were eating HEALTHY? PIZZA???!

…NOW, YOU’RE FINALLY EATTING LIKE ME! (LOL!) BAD!

…Zack, I’m just joking around here…don’t take me seriouly…I know what
LATE NIGHTS are like… trust me; 20 years in the INFANTRY, and I did 3 year straight on ***3rd shift*** as a Cop!!! (10 pm to 6 am every night will wear your ass out!!!) Eat all the pizza you want…it’s the food for people on the go!!!

JOSHUAMCNEIL-
Are you talking about June 11th? I’ll be at Target Field that day.

JARED-
Ha, I thought about saying something about BIGS, but the timing wasn’t right.

TC 219 HR-
How do you sign *your* name?

RAY BURTON-
Thanks! I did play baseball briefly in college, although it was Division III, so it’s nothing to brag about. In my own defense, though, I need to state that I was trying to throw knuckleballs to Hernandez, so that took away some velocity. I’d love to play catch sometime — maybe next year when I come to Australia for MLB’s Opening Series? Do you have any plans to return to the USA?

ROCCO SINISI-
Man, twenty years? That’s a long damn time. Thank you for understanding my need to eat so much pizza.

Seems like that DBacks guy is hip to the tshirt trick..

Hey Zack,

I’m a huge baseball fan (specifically Yankees) and have been reading your blog for the last 3 years. Most importantly, I think what you are doing for charity is an awesome cause and it means a lot to many. I’m currently a senior Broadcast Journalism major at Quinnipiac University and hope to become a play-by-play sportscaster for baseball. I absolutely love going to games and usually go to over a dozen games a year (I’ve been to over 200 games in my life). Although I don’t have much luck snagging baseballs (5 gamers in 4 different parks), I have a passion for going to all the stadiums and just soaking everything in. I have currently been to 32 ballparks (not including Spring Training) and have 5 more active ballparks to go. I know you are pretty busy at games and know you’re time is limited but I would love to meet up at a game in the near future.

-Tim

CH1088-
For real.

TIM-
Thanks so much! I haven’t met many people who’ve been to all 30 stadiums, let alone *more* than 30. Very cool. Which five are still on your list? Let me guess: Yankee Stadium, Citi Field, Marlins Park, Safeco, and Target? Let me know if you’re going to be unlucky enough to attend games at either NYC stadium. Maybe we can meet up here.

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