8/1/13 at Turner Field

If you saw my previous entry, then you know all about my black eye — an injury that made my face so swollen that I didn’t know if I’d be able to stay for the game or even get on a plane to fly back home to New York City. It was really bad, but I iced the hell out of it for the next 24 hours, and sure enough, the swelling subsided by the time I was ready to head back to Turner Field. Unfortunately, when I rushed outside for the taxi that was waiting for me, I slipped on some wet pavement, landed on my left hand, punctured my plastic bag of ice, and unleashed a barrage of four-letter words like you’ve never heard. Fifteen minutes later, I was standing outside the gates:

1_zack_black_eye_from_previous_day

When I ran inside at 4:30pm and headed down into the left field seats, I was greeted by Braves bullpen coach Eddie Perez, who laughed at me. I’m not kidding. I had asked him for a ball that had rolled onto the warning track, and he responded with a question of his own.

159448059_TFa_ATL_342“What happened to YOU?” he asked.

“I got hit by a home run ball here yesterday.”

“AH-HA HA HAAAAA!!!” he bellowed. “You gotta CATCH it!!!”

“Eddie, are you seriously laughing at me? That’s not cool.”

“How come you didn’t CATCH it?” he asked.

“Because it fell short and ricocheted off a concrete ledge.”

He laughed some more and shook his head as if he couldn’t believe what I’d told him, and he threw the ball back toward the bucket in shallow center field. What a jackass. And whaddaya know? This occurred exactly seven years after Gustavo Chacin had earned himself the Hample Jinx at the old Yankee Stadium. Hmm.

Anyway, moments later, a right-handed batter on the Braves hit a deep line drive to left-center field that landed on the warning track and bounced into the seats. I was still the only fan out there, so I ran two full sections to my left and grabbed it.

After that, I tried to use my glove trick to snag this ball in the gap . . .

4_ball_stuck_in_the_mud_08_01_13

. . . but couldn’t get it because it was stuck in the mud. By that point, my friend Bryce was standing nearby with his cup trick, so I let him take a shot at it, and after a few attempts, he managed to reel it in.

I snagged my next four balls with the glove trick and gave three of them to the nearest kids. The first was in straight-away left. The second (which had been tossed by Jordan Schafer) was in left-center. The third (an Andrelton Simmons homer) also landed in left-center, and the fourth had ended up in the mud in straight-away left. Here’s what that last ball looked like when I pulled it out of my glove:

5_ball6888

I wasn’t planning to give it away, simply because I didn’t think it’d be nice to hand a dirty ball to a child, but as soon as I started scraping off the mud on the back of a seat, a little kid approached me. He didn’t ask for the ball; he was just staring — practically transfixed — at what I was doing, so I said, “You want this?!” He nodded excitedly, so I handed it to him, and he ran up the steps to show his parents, who probably hate me.

My sixth ball of the day was an Evan Gattis homer that I caught on the fly here:

6_photo_taken_at_ball6889_location

Moments later, I could’ve used my glove trick to snag a ball from the left-field gap, but it was in a particularly muddy spot, so I let my buddy Eric go for it. Here he is lowering his glove:

7_eric_using_the_glove_trick

There were several fans with ball-retrieving devices, but none of them happened to be in right field. Therefore, when I saw this ball in the gap . . .

8_ball6890_in_the_gap_from_afar

. . . I ran over and snagged it with the glove trick and handed it to a little kid. At that point, I had gotten seven balls and given four away.

The Braves finished hitting 15 minutes early, so before the Rockies came out, I wandered around the center-field concourse and stumbled upon a sign-making station. I don’t know if that’s the official term, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Take a look:

9_fans_making_signs_raqis cop

Did you notice the sign on the end of the table? That’s brilliantly clever, but wow, perhaps a bit controversial, and yes, Julio Teheran was indeed going to be the Braves’ starting pitcher.

A few minutes later, I ran into Eric, who had brought all three copies of my books:

10_zack_and_eric_with_books

He asked me to sign the ball that he’d snagged with his glove trick, and since the ‘Raqis were now playing catch in left field, we made a plan to meet later so I could sign the books.

When BP finally resumed, I got my eighth ball of the day from this guy:

11_player_who_threw_ball6891

If I had to guess, I’d say it was Juan Nicasio, but maybe it’s Edgmer Escalona? If anyone can identity this player for me, I’d greatly appreciate it, but don’t just make a guess based on generic head shots. I want to hear from an actual Rockies fan who knows for sure.

I spent the final half-hour of BP in straight-away right field . . .

12_view_from_right_field_08_01_13

. . . and had an opportunity to snag two more balls with my glove trick. Look where they were:

13_balls6892_and_6893_in_the_gap

Yuck.

As I began lowering my glove for the ball on the right, a 60-ish-year-old man in Braves gear said, “That ball was a Todd Helton homer. Can you get it for me?”

This was especially funny, given the fact that I was decked out in Rockies gear.

“How about I get it for ME?” I responded before reeling it in.

There was a father with a little kid standing near the other ball, and since they didn’t pester me for it in advance, I gave it to them. They didn’t care that it was wet. They were just thrilled to have *a* ball.

Five minutes later, I got Tyler Chatwood to throw me a ball — my 11th of the day. As soon as I caught it, some guy several rows back started grumbling about how I needed to let the kids get some.

“I’ve given five balls to kids today, and I gave away six yesterday,” I told him. “How many have YOU given away?”

That shut him up pretty fast.

After BP, I met up with my friend Matt and headed to the new Waffle House stand in the left field concourse. On the way, we ran into Eric, who took this photo of us:

15_matt_and_zack_waffle_house

As I’ve mentioned before, I truly *love* Waffle House. Perhaps I shouldn’t, but I just do, okay? It’s one of those things — a guilty pleasure or whatever you want to call it.

Here’s what I got . . .

16_waffle_house_food_and_tarp

. . . and as you can see, the grounds crew was in the process of pulling out the tarp.

As for the food, I got hashbrowns “smothered & covered” and a waffle with peanut butter chips (and butter and syrup). SO GOOD. After I finished eating, I signed Eric’s books.

The rain delay was short — only nine minutes, to be exact. Just before the game started, I worked my way down to the seats beside the Rockies’ dugout:

17_looking_into_rockies_dugout

While I was there, I got Troy Tulowitzki to throw me his warm-up ball . . . or did I? I was the one who called out for it, and I was the only fan wearing Rockies gear, so it made sense that he would’ve been throwing it to me, but his aim was off . . . or was it? The ball sailed about four feet to my left, and I could’ve reached for it and caught it easily, but decided not to. I figured I was doing the right thing. The man on my left, however, had no desire to catch the ball — so little, in fact, that he ducked out of the way, causing it to hit another man in the shoulder. The ball then rattled around the second row, where it was picked up by yet another man. I turned back toward the field and looked at Tulowitzki, who was less than 50 feet away. He kinda shrugged and flung out his arms as if to say, “WTF?” so I made the same gesture back at him. If he wanted me to catch the damn ball, then he shouldn’t have thrown it so badly from such a short distance.

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

18_view_for_first_batter_08_01_13

I went for foul balls for the first five outs, and then I headed down to my seat behind the Rockies’ dugout. Dan Uggla ended the inning with a groundout to third baseman Nolan Arenado. First baseman Todd Helton caught the throw and tossed me the ball on his way in:

19_ball6895

Three outs later, Tulowitzki was ejected for arguing balls and strikes. (Haha.) I didn’t pull out my camera quick enough to get a shot of the ump actually tossing him, so here’s the best I got:

20_troy_tulowitzki_after_getting_ejected

Here’s a selfie from the middle innings:

21_zack_black_eye_08_01_13

My 13th ball of the day was another 3rd-out ball, this time thrown by Rockies catcher Wilin Rosario after Andrelton Simmons went down swinging to end the 7th inning. Despite the fact that I immediately gave a ball to a very little girl sitting nearby, a man in the front row got on my case about “not letting the kids get them.”

For the record, there were no other kids standing near me when I got the ball from Rosario. I had shouted for it, and he had thrown it directly to me from about 40 feet away. I didn’t reach in front of anyone. It was as uncontroversial a catch as there could possibly be. So yeah, I wasn’t too pleased when this idiot kept carrying on about what I should and shouldn’t do.

He was like, “I could get you two cases of balls, and you could give THOSE away to all the kids around here.”

“If you can get all those balls,” I replied, “why don’t you eliminate the middle man and give them away yourself?”

“MAYBE I WILL!!” he shouted.

“Whoa, take it easy, buddy. I don’t want to get another black eye.”

“You won’t if you sit your butt back down in your seat!!” he said before turning back toward the field.

“Hey!” I shouted at him from my spot in the fourth row, “Turn around so I can get a photo of you for my blog! I want everyone to see the ONE rude person from Atlanta that I’ve met on this entire trip!”

He whirled around in his seat and yelled, “I’m not FROM Atlanta!! My brother plays for the ROCKIES!!” Of course, I already had my camera ready and took the following photo:

22_asshole_fan_in_front_row

Here’s a closer look at him:

23_asshole_fan_closeup

I didn’t bother asking who his brother is. I simply said, “Well, THAT explains it,” and that was pretty much the end of our ridiculous feud. He tried jawing at me some more, at which point I made a yapping gesture with my hand. I didn’t want to hear it, and I was done engaging with him. When he finally turned back toward the field for good, everyone around me was looking at me with “WTF” expressions. To be clear, they were all on my side and knew I’d done nothing wrong and couldn’t believe how rude the guy was. Maybe he was in a bad mood because his brother’s team wasn’t exactly playing well. The Rockies ended up losing, 11-2, and getting swept in the four-game series.

After the game, I met up with Bryce . . .

24_zack_and_bryce_08_01_13

. . . who’s in the Navy and is about to be deployed on a one-year counter-piracy operation. It’s hard to say that I’ll miss him because I only see him when I go to Atlanta, which only happens once-ish per season, but just knowing that he’ll be gone for so long is a bummer. Bryce, by the way, snagged Evan Gattis’s first major league home run (which happened to be his first hit). Huge props for that.

I caught up again with Matt for a proper goodbye and also ran into another friend named Katie, who gave me a ride back to my hotel. I love Turner Field so much. The stadium (and just about everyone in it) is awesome.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

25_the_seven_balls_i_kept_08_01_13• 13 balls at this game (seven pictured here because I gave six away)

• 437 balls in 56 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.

• 217 balls at 16 lifetime games at Turner Field = 13.6 balls per game.

• 928 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 453 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 229 lifetime games with ten or more balls

• 25 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, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Target Field, Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Tropicana Field, and Turner Field

• 6,896 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, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 34 donors for my fundraiser

• $3.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $40.30 raised at this game

• $1,337.74 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $12,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $35,203.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

16 Comments

Waffle House in a ballpark?! Sounds like heaven! We don’t have those up in MN, so as I describe in my Spring Training blog posts, I take full advantage during my travels. (I prefer my hash browns covered and peppered, and my waffles with pecans.) The eye is looking better already! Congrats on the trip, only a handful of stadiums until you go 30 for 30.

Zack, that Rockies player is Escalona.

I’m assuming you never found out who that Rockies fan was.

Congrats zack only 5 more to go right. Hope your eye gets better. I have started ball hawking in the minors because it is harder to get to the major league parks. I got a home run today from a brewers top prospect that went over the scoreboard. Good luck with gamers and hope you can snag some homers.

That guy has a resemblance to Charlie Blackmon… Charlie went to high school in the area, so his brother may still live nearby.

http://espn.go.com/mlb/player/_/id/31084/charlie-blackmon

Is the Hample Jinx going to be cast on Eddie Perez or have you forgiven him for his impertinence ? I think I saw Gustavo the other day selling hot dogs down the local soccer field.

Eddie Perez is screwed

I love Turner, too. The nicest fans and ushers who WANT you to have fun and help make that happen. Russell at the Chop House is my favorite. He always remembers my sisters, late Mom, and me. Turner also has (or had) a cool Dollar Ticket deal, where you show up 10 minutes before the game and get a nose bleed seat for a buck. Good for business and fandom. They also have a great sense of humor. When Mets slowpoke Lucas Duda came to bat, they played Camptown Races and everyone yelled out “Duda, Duda!” I wish he would use it as his walk out song at Citi – alas, no sense of humor there. So many ballparks are staffed with people who act like you are trespassing on their personal property. Turner ROCKS!

Random thoughts here.

I’m tired of seeing padded stats on mygameballs.com. Erik Jabs doesn’t update his profile, yet now is at nearly 500 baseballs. Doesn’t make much sense here. I know you’re friends with him, but the man needs to stop creating fake stats.

Also- I find it weak that he doesn’t show up to BHF. If you think you’re one of the best, why not compete with them?

Hey Zack, my name is Devin and we met at your work a few months ago when I bought those old ticket stubs. Just got to say man, I’ve been reading every blog since that day and have become a huge fan to the point that I have gone to more games now then I ever have inspired to have fun and catch some balls. I used to never go to the batting practices but I make an effort as much as I can. Looking forward in running into you one of these games.

…Escalona!!!

…by the way, Eddie Perez is the coach that got me started in ballhawking!!! I asked him for a ball in ’07 or ’08 (can’t remember), and he laughed at me and told me that I wasn’t in any baseball gear, and for me to ask my wife for the ball for me, and he would throw it to her! I asked he of couse, and my wife being the “Church-Mouse” that she is wouldn’t ask him for me, so I was REALLY PISSED!!! At her and him! That’s when I looked up; how to snag a baseball on youtube, because everything’s on youtube…right? …and YOU popped up a million times!!! I implimented your strategies, and I snagged my first ball! I am still trying to snag a ball from Eddie, and he still won’t toss me a baseball!!!!!!!!!!!! The guy’s a jerk, but now it’s a personal challange to get him to toss me a ball…

…my bad…I was in normal street clothes, but had on my Reds cap…he pointed at his Braves cap, and said I was in the WRONG gear…

…I ment to say…*HER* …I’m tired right now and can’t spell!!! LOL!

Your perception of Eddie is completely wrong. He gives balls out right and left, mostly to kids though. Last night I was standing next to the bullpen before the game as he tried to sneak a ball into a backpack if a kid who had their back turned.

Two months earlier I was watching a pitcher throw a side-session. When it was over, Eddie gestured he was going to throw me a ball, which I assumed he intended me to give to a kid that was standing next to me. Eddie tossed the ball up and I gave it to the kid. When I turned back, he pointed as to thank me for not being a douche and taking the ball from the kid.

Eddie likes to have fun with people, but is probably the most generous member of the team when it comes to interacting with fans…Actual fans, not just people who want something from him.

EVERYONE-
Thanks for the comments and sorry . . . I thought I’d already responded. I’m swamped with lots of stuff, so I can only answer a few.

JAMES LEE-
Ha! Wow, I think you’re right.

RAY BURTON-
Nah, no Jinx for Eddie, but he came close to getting it.

MIKE-
Just because he doesn’t update his stats doesn’t mean they’re fake. I’ve seen him at many games, and he always puts up good numbers.

DEVIN-
Thanks! Hope to see you again soon.

ROCCO-
You’re hilarious. I like the story about Eddie and how you got started doing this.

DAVID-
Interesting. Thanks for letting me know.

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