8/14/13 at the Oakland Coliseum

The Oakland Coliseum is ugly, and the surrounding area is even worse:

1_area_outside_coliseum_08_14_13

No disrespect intended. In fact, I like it *because* it’s ugly. In this era of new/sterile stadiums where every inch is micro-managed, I enjoy the Coliseum for being just the opposite. There’s lots of wasted space, but the design is unique. The crowds are small, but the fans who show up are REALLY into the game. The team has a minuscule payroll, but the players keep finding ways to win. And so on. There’s really nothing else like it in baseball.

Anyway, I walked along this bridge toward the stadium . . .

2_bridge_to_coliseum_08_14_13

. . . and moments after I took this photo . . .

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. . . I heard someone call my name. It was a guy named Ryan who’s been following me on Twitter and recognized me from this blog. He introduced me to his friend Michael, and a little while later, their buddy Nick Badders showed up. Here I am with them:

4_ryan_michael_zack_nick

In the photo above, Ryan is on the left, and Nick is on the right. Nick and I had met two years earlier at this game — remember him from this photo?

Twenty minutes before the gates opened, my cousin Howie (who lives in California) showed up with his ten-year-old kids Juliana and Sam and their friend Rohan. Here we are:

5_howie_juliana_sam_rohan_zack

Do you remember them from 7/16/12 at Dodger Stadium? Here’s a photo of us that was taken that night after the game.

I wasn’t done running into people. Here I am with the legendary Lee Wilson . . .

6_zack_and_lee_wilson_08_14_13

. . . whom you might recognize as one of the top ten ballhawks of all time in The Baseball (see pages 285-286).

Then this young man approached me and asked me to sign a baseball:

7_john_with_signed_baseball_08_14_13

Shortly before the gates opened, Nick told me that the A’s would be gone by the time we ran inside, so I changed into my Astros gear:

8_zack_astros_gear_feeling_hyper

If you think *I* was hyper, check out Sam and Juliana:

9_sam_rohan_juliana_hyper

Finally, security was ready to let us in . . .

10_waiting_to_enter_08_14_13

. . . and after running like crazy through a maze of concourses, staircases, and tunnels, I emerged in the right-field bleachers. Within the first minute, I got a ball thrown to me by the player pictured below:

11_kevin_chapman_after_ball6944

I had no idea who it was, so I asked around in case anyone knew. Ryan said it was Kevin Chapman, and I confirmed later that he was correct.

The first group of hitters had several lefties, but none of them hit any home runs into the bleachers. The next group was mostly right-handed, so I moved to left field:

12_view_from_right_field_08_14_13

It was dead out there — only one home run and a couple of toss-ups, all of which went to other fans.

Lee Wilson was standing one staircase to my left . . .

13_lee_wilson_one_staircase_over

. . . but neither of us had any reason to run for anything. It was truly pathetic.

Back in right field, the season ticket holders were being filmed for a segment on the local news:

14_fans_in_bleachers_being_filmed

Howie, meanwhile, had gotten a toss-up from one of the Astros, which he gave to Rohan:

15b_juliana_rohan_sam_with_ball

Guess what? That was it for batting practice! The Astros finished 15 minutes early — a total disaster. I was still in the bleachers when they started jogging off the field, so it took quite an effort on my part to make it to the dugout before they were all gone. (The last time I had “only” snagged one ball was at the 2007 All-Star Game, so I *really* wanted to get at least one more.) I thought I had a good chance when bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte started walking toward me with the ball bag. He’s extremely friendly and had thrown me two baseballs in 2012, but when I put in my request this time, he responded with the following:

“You came all the way here from New York to ask me for a baseball?”

“Oh, man!” I replied, “you remember me?”

“Of course!” he said with a big smile before disappearing.

Then I changed back into my A’s gear and showed the camera how I was feeling:

16_zack_thumbs_down_after_bp

Did you notice Sam in the previous photo? He seemed to be enjoying the fact that I was miserable. How sweet.

Several minutes later, I met up with a fellow ballhawk named Spencer, who had also snagged ONE ball during batting practice. This was our reaction:

17_zack_and_spencer_sanborn_only_one_ball_each

It made no sense.

I realize that most people would be thrilled to snag one ball in their entire lives, but you have to understand that things are different for us. I’ve been averaging more than seven balls per game this season, and Spencer has also put up some good numbers. ONE ball?! Seriously?!

I was in a slightly better mood by the time I met these guys:

18_nicholas_matt_zack_matt_brady

In the photo above, the man in the plain-white shirt is named Matt. He had contacted me months earlier about possibly doing a couple of Watch With Zack games — one here and another at AT&T Park — but it didn’t work out. Still, we’d kept in touch, and he was able to make it to this one with his six-year-old son, Nicholas (pictured above in the light green shirt), his friend Matt (in the darker green shirt), and Matt’s seven-year-old son, Dylan. (Yes, there are two guys named Matt in that photo. Are you with me?) The five of us hung out for a bit before the game. It would’ve been nice to chat longer, but they left to get food, and I there were some other things that needed attention.

For starters, I gave my BP ball to Sam, and then I got Rohan’s ball signed by Astros bench coach (and former major leaguer) Eduardo Perez. Rohan, surprisingly, was more interested in my autograph, and he insisted that I sign the ball too. Here are two photos of it:

19_perez_hample_autographs_for_rohan

Howie had purchased four tickets in the 3rd row behind the Astros’ dugout. I’m not sure how much he paid for them, but in order to sit here at Yankee Stadium . . .

20_howie_and_the_kids_in_their_seats

. . . he would’ve had to add a zero on the end. And then double it.

Shortly before game time, Bracamonte walked back out onto the field and asked what I was doing in Oakland. I took off my Astros shirt and showed him what I was wearing underneath. Then, after making sure that he had a minute to chat, I explained that I’m being sponsored this season by BIGS Sunflower Seeds and that I’m being sent to all 30 major league stadiums and that for each stadium where I snag a game-used baseball, the folks at BIGS are donating $500 to a children’s baseball charity called Pitch In For Baseball.

159448084_TFa_HOU_059“You need a ball from here?” he asked.

“Well, yeah, but it has to be game-used.”

“If they hit a foul ball to the bullpen,” he said, “I’ll save it for you.”

“Are you serious? That is SO nice of you! Okay . . . I’ll be hanging out here during the game and also trying to catch a foul ball in the second deck behind home plate, so if you get one, just hang onto it for a minute or two, and I’ll run right over.”

He said he would, and then he asked if I could send him one of the BIGS t-shirts.

“No problem,” I said, and that was pretty much it.

WOW!!!

Feeling especially optimistic, I headed to the second deck in the top of the 1st. This was my view in the bottom half of the inning:

21_view_for_lefties_08_14_13

Check out all the room I had on my left:

22_view_to_my_left_08_14_13

This is one of the two best spots to catch a foul ball in the major leagues. The other one is here at Miller Park.

With two outs in the bottom of the 1st, I headed back down to the dugout:

23_view_from_dugout_08_14_13

I was pretty sure that if the inning ended with a strikeout, Astros catcher Jason Castro would toss me the ball on his way in. Yoenis Cespedes ended up falling behind 0-2 and then grounding out to the shortstop. Boo!!

Back in the second deck, I had an *absurd* amount of room to run for foul balls on the 1st-base side of home plate. This was the view to my left . . .

24_view_to_my_left_08_14_13

. . . and to the right:

25_view_to_my_right_08_14_13

Of course, because my luck was absolute crap, there were no foul balls hit anywhere near there when I had all that space to myself. Unreal.

Therefore, the only “action” that took place in the second deck was getting to catch up with Nick . . .

26_nick_badders_in_the_second_deck

. . . who was also going for foul balls. By the way, Nick was recently featured in an article on MiLB.com. Click here to check it out — you’ll see that I was mentioned in it.

Every inning, I’d been moving between the second deck and the Astros’ dugout, and every inning, the result was the same: NOTHING. There hadn’t even been a foul grounder into the Astros’ bullpen. What in the world was going on — some sort of conspiracy to keep me here in Oakland forever?

With two outs in the bottom of the 6th, I returned to the dugout once again with the hope that Josh Reddick would go down on strikes. When the count went to 3-0, a strikeout seemed unlikely, but whaddaya know? He took the next pitch for a strike and yanked the one after that foul. Of course, I was so focused on the potential strikeout that Howie had to point out the fact that the foul ball had rolled into the Astros’ bullpen and that Javier Bracamonte had gotten it from the ballboy. As Reddick was digging in for the 3-2 pitch, I quickly looked toward the bullpen, and sure enough, Bracamonte was sitting on the far end, holding up the ball and waving at me. He was about 200 feet away, so I doubt he saw my “hold on” gesture, but nevertheless, I stayed where I was, and five seconds later. Reddick took a called third strike. Then, as I’d predicted, Castro tossed me the ball on his way in! Sweeeeeet!!! I immediately turned toward the bullpen and saw that Bracamonte was giving me a series of fist-pumps. I gave a few in return, and *then* I ran over to see him. Were the ushers going to check my ticket or tell me that I couldn’t approach the bullpen during the game? No and no. Everyone at the Coliseum was chill, and before the 7th inning got underway, I was able to catch up with The Man. Here he is smiling at me:

27_javier_bracamonte_smiling_at_me

How awesome is that?

I thanked him for having saved me the ball, but told him that since I got one on my own, I didn’t need it. He was super-cool about the whole thing and said he was glad to help.

From my temporary spot down the right field foul line, I photographed the ball:

28_ball6945

Then I headed back to the dugout and showed it to a friendly usher who’d been rooting for me to get one:

29_zack_showing_ball6945_to_friendly_usher

During the next inning break, Howie took a few photos of me with the ball. Here’s the one that I posted on Twitter, and here’s another . . . just because:

30_zack_with_ball6945

Several fans sitting behind me had overheard bits and pieces of my conversation. One guy Googled my name (which he saw on the back of my shirt) and pulled up this photo and was like, “Hey, that’s really you!” Here I am talking to him:

31_zack_talking_to_fans_08_14_13

(Don’t worry, I made sure to look at the field whenever a pitch was about to be thrown. Getting hit in the eye once per season is enough.)

An inning later, I was back in the second deck with Nick. Check out my wonderful view:

32_fabulous_view_from_second_deck

I should admit that I’d made a conscious effort to take that photo so that the railing was in the worst possible spot. I actually like those railings; they make the view so lousy that no one ever wants to sit in the front row, which of course makes it much easier for me to catch foul balls. When I visited the Coliseum two years ago, I snagged four foul balls in 22 innings, but this time? Meh. There just weren’t any foul balls to be snagged.

In the 9th inning, I got some chicken and fries . . .

33_shitty_chicken_and_fries

. . . which turned out to be HORRIBLE. It was probably the second-worst stadium food I’d ever eaten. The worst has to be this “burger” that I got on 6/7/13 at Wrigley Field. Yuck!

As you might expect, this guy got heckled pretty badly:

34_hoes

As the game went into extra innings, I was torn between staying with my family near the dugout or going for foul balls in the second deck. I picked the dugout because it seemed like the right thing to do, and MAN-OH-MAN did I regret it! In the top of the 11th, just after I once again forced myself not to go upstairs, Jake Elmore led off against Sean Doolittle and hit FOUR foul balls into the mostly-empty section where I would’ve been sitting. I have no doubt that had I been there, I would’ve snagged at least two of them. Howie saw how upset I was and told me to go up there, by which point it was too late. Not only was Pablo Sandoval blocking the cross-aisle on the 3rd base side . . .

35_pablo_sandoval_going_for_foul_balls

. . . but there weren’t any more foul balls up there. It was terrible — and that was the final inning. Final score: Astros 2, Athletics 1.

After the final out, I hurried back down to the dugout and got a glimpse of Bracamonte heading in:

36_javier_bracamonte_postgame

I’m glad to report that Juliana had gotten a toss-up between innings late in the game, so each of the kids ended up with a ball. As for me . . . even though my numbers were down and I’d lost an ideal opportunity in the 11th inning, the day still turned out reasonably well. I’d gotten to meet some people, catch up with friends, and hang out with my family, and of course, thanks to BIGS Sunflower Seeds, I’d raised another sizable chunk of change for Pitch In For Baseball — can’t argue with that.

Nick and his father headed out with us . . .

37_parking_lot_postgame

. . . and Howie gave me a ride back to my cruddy hotel. Here I am in his SUV with the kids:

38_zack_and_kids_in_car_08_14_13

For some reason, Sam was calling me “shorty-pants” even though I’m more than a foot taller than him. Somehow, that turned into “poopy-pants,” which I then combined to “shorty-poopy-pants.” They were all cracking up, and that made ME crack up. Kids have a way of making everything feel right. Good times in Oakland!

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 2 baseballs at this game

• 486 balls in 65 games this season = 7.48 balls per game.

• 51 balls at 7 lifetime games at the Oakland Coliseum = 7.29 balls per game.

• 937 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 462 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 29 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, Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, and the Oakland Coliseum

• 6,945 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)

• $6.86 raised at this game

• $1,666.98 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $37,572.98 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

15 Comments

Wow Zack it was a good-bad type day for ya. as for the fries and fried chicken, WTF! i believe you when you say that oakland coliseum is ugly cause it sure looks like it. Going to Citi Field in a couple days. any tips on which mets players to get toss ups from?

Nice entry Zack. Anyone who says you enjoy squashing children chasing balls should read this article. You would make a great Dad. I’ve got a spare child- want to swap for a signed bat ? Hope I’m not out of line with the father comment. The Coliseum looks hideous and the fans attend games like Rays fans — that is , infrequently. Don’t they know their teams are contenders ? What do teams like the As and Rays have to do to attract fans ? We are making a book on our Baseball Tour of the States last year and you have a starring role. I’ll show you when you come to Oz next year. Did you get any good photos at the games we attended at Citizens Bank Park ? I would love to get a copy if you did. Keep up the good work. The season is on the run home and you can sleep from November to March and then do it all again next year.

NAVI-
What day are you going to be at Citi? I might be there on the 20th and 21st. Tom Goodwin is good about tossing balls up during BP, but the Mets overall are horrible about hitting/throwing balls into the crowd. I dread going to see them play.

RAY BURTON-
Which bat are you talking about? And which child? Let me think about it. You’re not out of line at all. I think I’d be a great dad. The challenge is finding someone that I actually want to have kids with. It’s sad to say this, but in order to get more fans, those two teams have to move into better stadiums in better areas. What kind of photos are you looking for — images of yourselves or of the stadium itself? I know I owe you an email. Today has been a big catch-up day after returning yesterday from my trip, so stay tuned . . .

Hey Zack, DId you here that Miller Park no longer allows you to stand in the aisle unless you have a ticket to that section. Even if you do have a ticket it is shaky if they will let you stand there.

Any or all random photos of the game , BP , crowds , people. Even the pics of us holding your book back at the hotel. A bat signed by you of course. Plus , you might meet a nice Australian girl over here. The most beautiful in the world ( ducks head for inevitable torrent of abuse from American readers ).

Just in case there’s any doubt Bracamonte is the coolest guy I visited Seattle and he couldn’t have been nicer. Check out this pichttp://m.flickr.com/lightbox?id=9531522709

Hmmm…we’ll have to meet Bracamonte some day. There definitely some cool bullpen catchers out there. Having never met Bracamonte (so maybe we’d be on my list too), my favorites are Jason Phillips, Jesus Tiamo and Scott Cursi. Three incredibly cool dudes. On another note, I always find it odd when a player signs a ball (like Perez) and decides to sign just “above” the Rawlings sign, but he flips the ball over so the signature is just “below” an upside down Rawlings sign. If I ever make the majors (hey, I still have time to develop a knuckler!), I pledge to never sign any autographs like that.

First reaction from your first view to the right was “Holy crap, that’s disgusting”. As in the fact there’s a real place that open absolutely boggles my mind…and makes me sad I’ll probably never be there at the right time :(

I can only hope never to experience another BP session like that again … add the multiple Houston players saying ” we were told not to toss balls into the stands ” I felt lucky to come out of BP with even one …. reasons to like Oakland 1. reasonable ticket prices 2.lots of open space and 3.great ushers !

Zack, you should try some of the culinary fare at Kauffman Stadium. I had a burger there on Wednesday that made your Wrigley burger look like Fuddruckers. Their hot dogs are $5 and also suck. Even on dollar dog night I feel they are about 90 cents a dog overpriced. I read the Trip Advisor ratings on your hotel and they are dreadful. Crashing with buddies and staying in fleabags?? Maybe you need to start a Pitch in for Zack charity before I open an entry only to read that your lodging consisted of two blankets and a bus station stairwell.

Big Glove Bob AKA The Dinner Portion

Bracamonte is the man.
– Chris

http://ballhawker.wordpress.com

I think the shorty-pants had something to do with how we were talking about the fact that I might be taller than you next time we see each other. BP was certainly… unimpressive, I was amazed to have come out with 1 ball, much less 2. Now about that foul ball shortage… I have no clue. I’m glad to have been able to catch up with you again, hopefully you’ll be able to make it out to the Coliseum again soon, preferably a day that is better for ballhawking!
-Nick

http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/

Really cool entry Zack. The Oakland Coliseum seems like a really good place to go and watch a game both as a general baseball fan, and from a ballhawking perspective when going for foul balls.

I hope your eye is better!

i dont know when exactly. my mom is the supervisor at a McDonald’s here in Queens, and the manager office usually has tickets for Citi Field and other events like Broadway plays. So my mom has to attend a meeting there on Thursday, and she’ll get tickets to a game next next week. Unfortunately, we wont be able to meet :-(

Not trying to be rude, but did anyone notice how big the lady was wearing the green shirt in left field? How can someone that size fit into a tiny seat like that? Sometimes physics puzzles me….

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