8/11/13 at Dodger Stadium

This blog entry has 56 photographs, and I didn’t take any of them. They were taken by my friend Brandon — a professional videographer who has joined me for dozens of games since 2008. I could tell you more about him and link to a bunch of old entries, but screw it. I’d rather get right to the pics. Here’s one that shows my first ball of the day in mid-air:

1_zack_catching_ball6920

Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt had thrown it. In the photo above, he’s on the warning track in foul territory, and I’m standing on right, roughly half a dozen rows back. See me there? I’m wearing a white t-shirt and a blue cap.

Brandon didn’t just take pics of me. He photographed lots of other stuff, including several Dodgers dodging the heat:

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Here’s a closeup of Hyun-Jin Ryu playing catch:

3_hyun_jin_ryu_playing_catch

Did you notice his last name on the pocket of his glove? That’s pretty cool.

A little while later, I raced into foul territory and reached over the wall for a baseball that had trickled onto the warning track. Before I could snag it in the tip of my glove, an on-field security guard hurried over and shouted, “Hey! What are you doing?! That’s HIS ball!”

I quickly realized that he was talking about the kid standing next to me, but I was totally confused. All I managed to say was, “What?!”

“Yeah,” said the guard, “he dropped it.”

“No he didn’t. That ball just rolled there.”

The guard then turned to the kid and said, “You didn’t drop it?!” and when the kid fessed up, the guard grabbed the ball and flipped it to me.

My third ball of the day was a grounder that rolled into foul territory. Here it is heading toward the side wall:

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Here’s a fan reaching for it . . .

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. . . and here I am making the snag:

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That was my spot for all of BP — just on the fair side of the foul pole.

Several Dodgers had already come over to sign autographs. Zack Greinke was not one of them. Here he is ignoring everyone:

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If it’s his right not to sign autographs, then it’s my right to say that he’s an embarrassment to people named Zack. (His first name is actually Donald, and based on his behavior, I might need to start calling him that.) There were little kids calling out and begging him to sign. One fan shouted, “We love you, Zack,” but he didn’t even look up. Perhaps his brain is wired in such a way that makes it difficult for him to relate to people, but I still think he’s a bum.

Here’s how I snagged my fourth ball of the day:

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Yes, my string was a tangled mess, but anyway, that’s what I call the half-glove trick. The wall was low enough for me to reach over, so all I had to do was knock the ball closer. I had used that maneuver at Dodger Stadium several times last year without incident, but this time, for whatever reason, the guard decided that it would be a good idea to get pissed off. Here he is walking toward me:

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He demanded that I put my string away and said that if he saw me using it again, I would be “escorted from the stadium.”

Ryu signed autographs for a few minutes . . .

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. . . and when he made his way over to me, I posed for a photo with him:

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I’m not sure what to make of the guy in the following photo . . .

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. . . but it was amusing to see someone in the stands in that uniform.

Meanwhile, Chris Capuano was throwing a bullpen session, and look who headed out there:

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It was Donald. He looked like he was pissed off and totally out of it:

14_zack_greinke_in_his_own_world

Donald!
Donald!!
Donald!!!

See the kid holding a baseball in the following photo?

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That was my fifth ball of the day — a grounder that had stopped rolling just to the right of the foul pole. I couldn’t reach it from my spot, so those kids stepped aside, and I snagged it for them.

Here I am scribbling down some notes about the balls I’d gotten:

16_zack_writing_notes_08_11_13

Reaching down from the stands and touching the warning track isn’t easy. Here’s how I do it:

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As you can see, my feet don’t exactly stay on the ground, and in the photo above, you can see that my leg is pointing straight up in the air. I happen to have big/thick legs — “Hample legs,” as they’re known in the family — and I think they help me in situations like this. While other fans might flip over the wall by reaching so far down, my heavy lower half helps to anchor me.

Here are some fans bobbling a ball:

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Check out the fan leaning over the wall in the following photo:

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See what he’s holding? It’s a baseball cap that has been transformed into a reach-extending scooping device. Look closely at that photo, and you’ll see a little kid with one between the advertisements. This is becoming a thing at Dodger Stadium. Take an even closer look at the photo above. See the string dangling off the . . . what do we call it — the hat trick? That fan used the string to knock a ball closer, so I asked the guard if THAT was allowed. It’s not that I was trying to get the other guy in trouble. I just wanted to know what the actual rule was — fans are not allowed to dangle baseball gloves, but dangling cardboard-enhanced baseball caps is okay? The guard started explaining the rule, and in the following photo, you can see me cupping my ear in order to hear him:

20_zack_trying_to_hear_guard_after_asking_if_it_is_allowed_to_dangle_the_hat_trick_with_string

As it turned out, nothing can be dangled over the wall, and the other guy got a warning too.

Here’s Kenley Jansen handing a ball to a girl:

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Here’s a guard looking for Easter eggs in the bleachers:

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Here are the Dodgers playing frisbee in the outfield:

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My sixth ball was thrown by Ronald Belisario, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the kid on my left.

Here’s a grounder that I *thought* I was gonna snag . . .

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. . . but as you can see below, it hooked at bit too much and bounced just past my reach:

25_ball_deflecting_off_wall_08_11_13

Aarrghh!!

Here I am with my feet up in the air again, this time scooping up a grounder that deflected perfectly off the side wall:

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My eighth ball was a slicer that rolled right to me. It couldn’t have been easier, and I handed it to the nearest kid.

The bleachers were already open by the time the Rays started hitting . . .

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. . . but I stayed near the foul pole.

Of course, I had changed into my Rays gear by that point:

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Here’s one of my favorite photos. It shows me reaching way over the wall for my ninth ball:

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I don’t know who hit it. All I know is that it was a right-handed batter.

Here I am barely missing the next grounder:

30_ball6929_rattling_around

That ball ended up directly below the base of the foul pole. I couldn’t reach it from where I was, and the fans standing directly above it (including two grown men) couldn’t reach it either. Therefore, they stepped aside, and let me go for it. In the following photo, you can see that (a) I’m on the other side of the pole and (b) the ball is in the tip of my glove:

31_zack_with_ball6929_in_glove

After regaining my balance, I handed the ball to the girl on my right:

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That was my 10th ball of the day, of which I’d given away four.

Here’s a fan trying to catch a home run with his cap:

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Here are different fans reaching for another ball:

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Toward the end of BP, my Rays gear finally paid off. Chris Archer spotted me and threw me a ball from about 100 feet away. Here it is in mid-air . . .

35_chris_archer_throwing_ball6930

. . . and here’s my glove reaching past all the others:

36_zack_reaching_for_ball6930

Even though there were kids on either side of me, no one was upset when I caught it because I’d given a bunch of balls to kids, and this one was clearly thrown to me. I should also mention that dozens of other balls ended up in the crowd, so there were plenty to go around.

It’s a good thing I wasn’t in the bleachers because it was packed out there:

37_bleacher_crowd_closeup

Here’s the final photo from BP:

38_rays_clowing_around_08_11_13

Maybe if the Rays practiced fundamentals instead of circus catches, they wouldn’t have gotten swept this past weekend.

The moment that BP ended, I ran like hell through the seats and made it to the 1st base dugout in time to get two toss-ups. The first came from Rays bullpen catcher Scott Cursi, and the second came from some random equipment guy. My total for the day had reached 13.

Before the game, there were approximately 18,387,214 cheerleaders on the field:

39_cheerleaders_on_the_field

It was fun to watch (for like 10 seconds), but I was more interested in Ben Zobrist. When he came over to sign autographs, I talked my way down to the front row and took his picture:

40_zack_photographing_ben_zobrist

Somehow, I became the designated picture taker for all the other fans:

41_zack_photographing_ben_zobrist_with_other_fans

Zobrist was VERY nice. He was talkative and had a caring, gentle demeanor, and I’ll be rooting for him now as a result. It’s nice that there are guys like that to balance out the negative energy of the Donald Greinkes of the world.

Just before the game, I moved behind the dugout . . .

42_zack_pregame_throwing_08_11_13

. . . but didn’t get anything there. Here I am exaggerating my emotions as I walked back up the stairs:

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Brandon took one final photo . . .

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. . . before we headed to the left field bleachers. Here I am out there behind the outfield wall:

45_zack_behind_left_field_wall_08_11_13

To clarify, fans are normally prohibited from moving between the grandstand and bleachers, but Brandon and I were able to do it just this one time because we’d gotten into the stadium early with the season ticket holders. More specifically, there’s only one gate that opens early for season ticket holders — the one near the left field foul pole. When we entered early with our bleacher tickets, the guards didn’t scan them. They just looked at them (and searched our bags) and waved us through, knowing that we would ultimately exit that gate and reenter the bleachers, at which point we’d have our tickets scanned. Does that make sense?

Anyway, here I am on one of the staircases, peeking over the outfield wall:

46_zack_peeking_over_wall_08_11_13

There wasn’t any security for the first half of the game, so I was able to stand there. Of course, I made sure to stay down low (so I wouldn’t block anyone’s view) and not to get in the way of anyone going up or down.

Sometimes I moved to different staircases by heading through the dingy area below the seats:

47_zack_moving_to_different_staircase

This was the Sunday night game on ESPN, so the Goodyear Blimp was there to get aerial shots:

48_goodyear_blimp_08_11_13

Speaking of getting shots, I finally met a legendary fan who’s known as “dodgerfilms.” Here I am with him:

49_dodgerfilms_and_zack_08_11_13

His real name is Bobby, he films lots of stuff at games, and his YouTube videos have gotten more than 14 million views. Check out his channel, and while you’re at it, watch this hilarious video he recently filmed of a foul ball at Chase Field. Trust me. Do it. You will laugh and think “WTF” at the same time. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I also ran into my new friend Benny . . .

50_benny_amequista_and_zack

. . . and caught up with two older friends named Jose and Devin:

51_jose_zack_devin_08_11_13

Devin works for the Los Angeles Fire Department and gave me the VERY cool shirt pictured above. Jose had lent me his season ticket holder ID card to help get me in the stadium early, and Benny had helped too. You know how there are some stadiums where the local guys just rub you the wrong way? Well, it’s the opposite at Dodger Stadium. All these dudes are great, and my visits here are always more fun as a result.

Here’s a photo of me on one of the staircases, taken from afar:

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Eventually, while I did my thing behind the outfield wall, Brandon sat with Devin in the bleachers. Here’s a photo he took of The Wave passing by . . .

53_the_wave_08_11_13

. . . and here are some rowdy fans that he insisted I show:

54_rowdy_fans_in_front_of_brandon

Brandon told me they were swaying back and forth so hard that two of them fell over.

Toward the end of the game, I ran into a “home run collector” named Steve, whom I’d met the previous day:

55_steve_and_zack_08_11_13

Steve doesn’t often catch home runs. He mainly buys them, and he’s particularly interested in historic/milestone balls. When I told him about some of the more important homers that I caught and still own, he got excited and asked if I wanted to sell them — but the answer was no. Really nice guy. We hung out for a little while, and I think we learned quite a bit from each other.

Here’s one final photo of the non-view directly behind the outfield wall:

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Nice bunch of pics, huh? Many thanks to Brandon for taking/editing/sharing them. Sometimes he drives me crazy, but somehow we always end up having fun together.

Oh, and I suppose I should mention that the Dodgers won, 8-2. News flash: they’re good.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 13 balls at this game

• 473 balls in 62 games this season = 7.63 balls per game.

• 90 balls at 11 lifetime games at Dodger Stadium = 8.18 balls per game.

• 934 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 459 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 230 lifetime games with ten or more balls

• 27 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, Turner Field, Citizens Bank Park, and Dodger Stadium

• 6,932 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.)

• 38 donors for my fundraiser

• $3.43 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $44.59 raised at this game

• $1,622.39 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $13,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $36,528.39 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

10 Comments

I generally agree that more athletes could be fan friendlier like Heath Bell or Jeremy Guthrie, but Zack Greinke has social anxiety, which he has spoken publicly about, so I wouldn’t be too harsh on him for not interacting with fans. He still could have looked at the fans & waved.

Thirteen balls without being in the OF during BP is impressive!

“Maybe if the Rays practiced fundamentals instead of circus catches, they wouldn’t have gotten swept this past weekend.” YES! Having watched ‘em for years (and their AA team while it was in Orlando) I heartily concur. They get guys with great natural talent in the system but never get them to learn the basics. I remember a spring game in ’08 in Winter Haven when BJ Upton sailed a throw from center past the cutoff man – and the catcher – all the way to the backstop. An Indians fan yelled at him, “Hey BJ! Ever heard of a cutoff man?” to which he replied with an obscenity.

You’re right about “Zorilla”, though. Class act.

Is the field at Dodger Stadium pitched at all towards the lines? It just seems like out of this stadium more than any other, many people snag balls from rolling down the line than in the air. Or is it due to the lack of running room in fair territory/lack of access to the bleachers? Do discuss.
– Chris

http://ballhawker.wordpress.com/

…Zack “Donald” Greinke, is a NUT!!! He’s just like Votto…a nut! My wife and I started calling Votto…”Nutto”! He doesn’t want to sign autographs, or be around the average fans, or throw 3rd out balls to the fans after every inning…pathetic!!!

All those photos and no food pics ? Is this an imposter pretending to be Zack ?

Greinke has pretty well documented social anxiety. I’d lay off of him as a result because it’s not like he can help it. Mental illnesses are still an illness.

That security guard always lets those same guys use the cardboard hat devices for balls and its never a problem. Not sure why he said anything at all. Hey Zack my 5 year old niece blew my mind yesterday. I caught a ball on the fly and I turn to give it to her and she says “no Benny! I want to catch my own ball”. Lol. Take care.

That video of the woman tackling the guy with the ball is hilarious. @Benny – what a great kid your niece is!

Greinke signed a hat for my when I went to Kaufmann a few years back. I agree with others on here; his anxiety is a documented issue. This is a kid who almost quit baseball to ‘mow lawns’ because he had a hard time dealing with all the accolades and people wanting his attention as a younger pitcher. As with many mental illnesses, there are good and bad days. Maybe he was having a bad day.

DONALD GREINKE APOLOGISTS-
Take another look at what I wrote in this entry: “Perhaps his brain is wired in such a way that makes it difficult for him to relate to people.” I’m fully aware of his mental issues, and in my non-professional opinion, that’s not an excuse NOT to look or wave or smile at a bunch of kids who are saying they love you.

DAVE MITCHELL-
That’s hilarious about Upton.

CHRIS-
I have no idea. I just think the bleachers suck during BP, so I stay near the foul pole.

ROCCO SINISI-
I’ve noticed Votto’s terrible attitude/demeanor — makes it hard to root for the guy. You know how you never see certain people smile? Greinke is one. Votto is another. Matt Harvey falls into that category. I don’t like people like that.

RAY BURTON-
Like I said, Brandon took all the pics. Blame him.

BENNY-
Your niece knows what’s up!

LIZ MERRY-
Ha, glad you watched it.

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