9/17/13 at Coors Field

The highlight of my day was getting to visit the BIGS Sunflower Seeds headquarters in Boulder, Colorado. The 45-minute drive from Denver, which I made with Neal Stewart, was scenic at times . . .

1_highway_and_mountains

. . . and alarming at others:

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Given the devastating flooding that had occurred in Boulder several days earlier, I was expecting to see the worst, but the area we drove through didn’t seem to have been hit THAT hard. We passed a sign that warned of a rock slide . . .

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. . . but we didn’t actually see it because the road was blocked by police cars and other official vehicles:

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The worst damage I saw was on this street in downtown Boulder . . .

5_different_road_damaged_by_flood

. . . which appeared to have caved in near the curb and/or eroded. Several minutes later, when my camera was unfortunately tucked away in my backpack, I saw a line of 20 or so cars on the side of the road that were completely covered with mud — scary stuff.

Thankfully the BIGS headquarters didn’t suffer any damage, though the office had been closed for several days. This was Neal’s first time there since Wednesday of the previous week, and I took a photo of him as he headed inside:

6_thanasi_foods_front_door

Did you notice what he was cradling with his left arm? It’s hard to see in the photo above, but that’s a plastic shopping bag with all 30 game-used baseballs — one from each major league stadium that I have personally snagged this season. (In case you missed it, here’s a photo of those balls from my previous entry.)

Here’s what it looked like just inside the front door:

7_just_inside_the_front_door

In the photo above, the guy sitting with the laptop is named Josh Pearson. He’s the Vice President of Operations for Thanasi Foods — the company that owns BIGS — and at that moment, he was reconfiguring something on the TV. Here’s a closer look at it when he finished:

8_big_screen_with_twitter_feed

As you can see, the screen was displaying the BIGS Twitter feed along with other social media stuff.

In general, one of my all-time favorite activities is watching other people work while I sit around doing nothing. Come to think of it, that’s not much of an “activity,” and I suppose I sound like somewhat of a jerk in saying that, but whatever. It’s true. And I got to do it for several hours here in Boulder. When Neal and a half-dozen of his colleagues were in a marketing meeting, I poked my head in and took a photo of them . . .

9_meeting_in_conference_room

. . . and kept wandering around the office. Ha-HAAAAA!!! Awesome.

After reading the previous day’s boxscores (and after the meeting was done), I passed through this area of cubicles . . .

10_thanasi_foods_cubicles

. . . on my way to the adjacent warehouse. Justin Havlick, the company’s founder and president, told me I could take all the photos and videos I wanted, but requested that I only share this one of the interior:

11_boxes_in_thanasi_warehouse

That’s because of the recent flooding. Like I said before, there was no damage — but lots of stuff had been moved around, so the warehouse was somewhat cluttered.

Despite the fact that the weather had been perfect for a couple of days, there was still quite a bit of water behind the warehouse:

12_flood_water_behind_warehouse

For lunch, Neal drove us to Whole Foods where we picked up a few to-go items. Here he is back at the BIGS headquarters, eating in his office:

13_neal_eating_lunch_in_his_office

Do you remember the guy from BIGS named Logan Soraci who attended the helicopter stunt two months ago in Lowell, Massachusetts? Well, he was here at the office in Boulder, and I took a photo of him opening a very important package:

14_logan_and_jenny_opening_package

(The woman pictured above is named Jenny. She’s the one who picked me up at the airport the day before.)

Wanna see what was in that long, flat box? Check it out:

15_erik_josh_zack_justin_with_big_check

That’s right — an oversized check for $15,000 from the generous folks at BIGS to the non-profit charity Pitch In For Baseball. (As you probably know by now, BIGS sent me to all 30 major league stadiums this season and promised to donate $500 for each one at which I snagged a game-used ball. I was 29-for-29 when I arrived in Denver, so when I got my hands on that Todd Helton foul ball on 9/16/13 at Coors Field, it guaranteed the largest possible donation.) In the photo above, from left to right, you’re looking at Erik Havlick (Thanasi’s Vice President of Sales), Josh Pearson, me, and Justin Havlick. We posed for lots of photos, and eventually I decided to change things up:

16_erik_josh_zack_justin_with_big_check

Here’s one final shot of me before Neal drove us back to Denver:

17_zack_standing_around

Our destination was Coors Field, and look what he brought:

18_neal_with_big_check_outside_coors_field

We wanted to get a few more photos with the big check, but this time, Neal had arranged for someone from Pitch In For Baseball to be there . . . sort of. Take a look at the following photo, and then I’ll explain:

19_zack_brett_cade_ansley_with_big_check

Pitch In For Baseball is located in Harleysville, Pennsylvania, so Citizens Bank Park was supposed to be my final stadium. If things had worked out that way, several folks from the charity would’ve been there, but because I screwed it all up by catching a John Mayberry homer in Philly on August 3rd, Coors Field became the final destination. Therefore, rather than spending a whole lot of money on flights and hotels to travel to Denver, Pitch In For Baseball sent a local “representative.” The man in the photo above is named Brett — and those are his kids Cade (age 4) and Ansley (age 1). Brett’s sister Meredith works for Pitch In For Baseball. That’s the connection — kinda random, but hey, we did what we could while being financially responsible.

Here’s another photo that we took outside the stadium:

20_zack_brett_cade_ansley_with_big_check

By that point, it was a little after 4pm so I headed over to Gate E. Unfortunately there were two guys already on line, and I ended up missing out on a ball as a result. Basically, it took about ten seconds for them to scan their tickets and pass through the turnstiles, and by the time I ran inside, a fan who had entered from another spot barely beat me out for a home run ball that had *just* landed in the bleachers. Ugh.

The Rockies were only on the field for a few minutes, and I didn’t get any baseballs from them. When the Cardinals came out started throwing, I talked John Axford into tossing me a ball in left field. Then, when the batters started taking their cuts, I headed to left-center . . .

21_cardinals_taking_bp_09_17_13

. . . and eventually caught a home run on the fly. I’m not sure who hit, but I can tell you that I had to jump for it, and I robbed my buddy Jameson Sutton in the process. That said, don’t feel bad for him. He’s there every day, he’s robbed me in the past, and he snagged Barry Bonds’ final home run ball, which he sold at auction for $376,612.

When the rest of the stadium opened at 5pm, I headed to right field . . .

22_view_from_right_field_09_17_13

. . . and met up with this guy:

23_pat_graham_hanging_out_with_me

That’s an Associated Press writer named Pat Graham, who’s based in Denver but sometimes covers sports all over the world. He and I met in 2008 at the press conference when Jameson announced that he was going to sell the ball; Pat wrote this feature story about me later that summer.

Anyway, I snagged two baseballs during the final 40 minutes of BP, and I got them both along the right field foul line. The first was sitting on the warning track, five feet out from the low wall, so I used my “half-glove trick” to knock it closer and handed it to a little kid. (That’s what I call it when I use the string but not the rubber band or Sharpie.) The second ball was tossed by Dennis Schutzenhofer, the team’s batting practice pitcher, but there was more to it. Several minutes earlier, a right-handed batter had sliced a one-hopper into the seats. I should’ve had it — there was hardly anyone else near me — but the ball took THE unluckiest series of ricochets ever known to humankind. Schutzenhofer must’ve seen it play out from afar (along with my less-than-pleased reaction) because he walked over and made a comment about my unbelievably bad luck and hooked me up as a result.

Halfway through the Cardinals’ portion of BP, I was approached by a man named Eric who’d brought his copies of my last two books — Watching Baseball Smarter and The Baseball. He asked me to sign them, and I kept meaning to, but there was never a break in the (potential) action, so he told me where he was gonna be, and I promised I’d find him. Forty-five minutes later, we got a photo together . . .

24_zack_and_eric_with_books

. . . and I signed the books.

I headed back out to right field when Wilin Rosario began doing some catching drills in the bullpen with coach Jerry Weinstein. This was my view:

25_wilin_rosario_practicing_blocking_balls_in_the_dirt

Twenty-four hours earlier, Weinstein had tossed me a ball under identical circumstances, so I was concerned that he’d remember me. But he didn’t. And I ended up getting another one from him. That was my fifth of the day and No. 7,099 lifetime.

Just before the national anthem, I moved behind the Cardinals’ bullpen:

26_view_behind_cardinals_bullpen_before_national_anthem

In the previous photo, did you notice the ball on the ground behind the benches? Well, *I* noticed that it was commemorative, so I timed my request just right in order to get bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue to throw it to me. (Bullpen coach Blaise Ilsley was also getting ready to toss a ball into the crowd, but I didn’t want it.) Here it is:

27_ball7100_from_bullpen_catcher_jamie_pogue

Nice!

This was my view for most of the game . . .

28_view_during_game_09_17_13

. . . and in the top of the 3rd inning, I came VERY close to catching a ball. Yadier Molina smoked a deep line drive that appeared to be heading right at me. At the last second, though, it sank a few feet and hooked slightly to the side and ended up slamming off the top of the wall for a double. Because I was so close to the wall, I threw my arms up in the air so that stadium security wouldn’t falsely accuse me of interfering (which once happened to me at the old Yankee Stadium). Take a look at the following screen shot:

29_zack_arms_up_on_yadier_molina_double

Gah!! So close!!

Earlier in the day, with permission from everyone at the BIGS headquarters, I grabbed a bunch of seeds to hand out to my friends at the game — and I’m not talking about the small sample packs. I took the 5.35-ounce bags. Here’s my friend Dan Sauvageau and his daughter Emily with some “original” seeds:

30_emily_and_dan_sauvageau_with_bigs_seeds

Dan has snagged 87 game home runs, and as I mentioned in my last entry, he’s featured in The Baseball (see pages 287-288) as one of the Top Ten Ballhawks of All Time.

Here’s my friend Robert Harmon with a bag of Old Bay seeds:

31_robert_harmon_with_bigs_seeds

Here’s Jameson (the guy who snagged Bonds’ final home run) with some original seeds . . .

32_jameson_sutton_with_bigs_seeds

. . . and here’s my friend “the Rockpile Ranter” with a bag of bacon seeds:

33_don_chilcote_with_bigs_seeds

He had requested pickle, and I failed to deliver, but hey, free seeds are free seeds.

Late in the game, I met a fan named Chris who had brought two copies of my books for me to sign:

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He also brought one of the coolest baseballs ever, just so I could experience it. I guarantee you’ve never seen anything like this before:

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I forget exactly what Chris called it — something like “a seamless reverse-stitched ball.” I should’ve taken notes or filmed a video of him describing it, but I think he said it’s from 1899. It’s so rare that (a) I never knew that such a thing existed and (b) none of the baseball memorabilia experts who run auctions featuring items from the 19th century have any idea how much it could/should sell for.

Late in the game, I got a photo with ten-year-old Emily and her five-year-old brother Ryan:

36_zack_with_ryan_and_emily_sauvageau

In the 9th inning, I headed here . . .

37_view_behind_home_plate_09_17_13

. . . to try to get an umpire ball, but after the final out, Lance Barksdale put his head down and marched quickly through the tunnel and didn’t give anything away. Lame.

Final score: Cardinals 11, Rockies 4.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

38_the_five_balls_i_kept_09_17_13• 6 baseballs at this game (five pictured here because I gave one away)

• 641 balls in 84 games this season = 7.63 balls per game.

• 96 balls in 17 lifetime games at Coors Field = 5.65 balls per game.

• 956 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 30 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, the Oakland Coliseum, and Coors Field.

• 7,100 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(For every stadium this season at which I’ve snagged 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.)

• 39 donors for my fundraiser

• $3.48 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $20.88 raised at this game

• $2,230.68 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $15,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $38,736.68 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

9 Comments

Nice to see my tweet made the BIGS HQ social media TV…but it seems as if you forgot to fill your backpack with pickle seeds for me. :-(

$376,612….. (*drools*)
– Chris

http://ballhawker.mlblogs.com

And so the adventure is coming to an end. What can you do to top this year ? As you said , how about the first home run in the Southern Hemisphere.

Bacon is good. Oversize checks are cool :)…Good to see you Z…Ranter

Glad you got a commerative ball.

7100!!!!!!!!!!!!!

COOK & SON-
I was hoping you’d notice yourself on the screen (and forget about the pickle seeds).

CHRIS-
Pretty much.

RAY BURTON-
Not sure if I’ll ever top this season, but Australia will obviously be one of the ultimate baseball highlights of my life.

BRANDON-
Thanks.

RANTER-
Glad you enjoyed the seeds. Good seeing you too. Hopefully we can catch up more next time.

MIKE-
Thanks.

DEMETRIUS-
Ooh yeah, baby.

You didnt say how many hr s robert has,i saw him in spring training again in his vw bus,looks like he upgraded. not much to smile about in denver i guess.it cant be that bad rox fans you could live in NY..Did you guys give that guy the pit meneuver in that toyota truck and then knock him out, did he cut you off ?NICE .DID YOU HAVE THE ROCKY MTN HIGH? i see the plants growing on the porch. at least a COORS? TC

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