6/16/15 at Citi Field

I know everyone’s waiting for my blog entry about snagging Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit (and for me to make a decision about what to do with the ball). I’m working on it, okay? Hopefully that whole situation will play out soon. In the meantime, I want to share another cool story — going to a recent Mets game with former adult film star Lisa Ann. Here’s a photo of her that I took after meeting up in Times Square:


Here’s a selfie that we grabbed before jumping on the No. 7 train and heading out to Citi Field to see the Mets and Blue Jays:


Why was she joining me for a baseball game? And how on earth did we even connect in the first place?

Four months earlier, she tweeted at me to say that she enjoyed my book Watching Baseball Smarter — a great compliment for sure, but why did she care? I really didn’t know too much about her at that point, so I checked out her Wikipedia page and learned that she hosts a fantasy sports radio show on Sirius/XM called “Lisa Ann Does Fantasy.” Nice name, huh? But in all seriousness, she was clearly interested in sports, and as we struck up a correspondence, it became clear that she *really* knew her stuff.

Fast-forward to our subway ride out to Citi Field. Among the many things we discussed, Lisa told me that several months earlier, she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to host her show through the summer because she didn’t know enough about baseball. That’s why she picked up a copy of my book and got in touch with me. She wanted to learn everything and become an expert and host her show year-round.

When Lisa and I first talked about attending a game together, I didn’t think she’d want to go early for batting practice. I figured she’d prefer show up just in time for the first pitch, but no — she insisted that she wanted the full Zack Hample experience.

After getting off the train, we spent a few minutes taking photos on the subway platform overlooking the stadium. Here’s a shot of Lisa . . .


. . . and here’s another selfie of us:


Lisa was totally cool with all the photos, and in fact she wanted me to take photos. Before I met her, I was concerned that she’d get annoyed if I pulled out my camera every two seconds, but she felt the same way I did — that certain things need to be well-documented, and this game was one of them.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that it was sunny, the forecast called for heavy rain in the late afternoon. Lisa told me to stay positive, but I peeked at the radar, and it was bleak. There was a HUGE blob of green, yellow, and orange sweeping across Pennsylvania and heading in our direction. I was certain that there wasn’t going to be batting practice, and sure enough, roughly 20 minutes before the gates opened, I got a text from a friend on the inside. The tarp was already covering the infield.

This was our reaction:


I was pretty bummed. I mean, of ALL the days for the weather to be dumb, why did it have to be this one?

Fellow ballhawk Andrew Korpacz, celebrating his 20th birthday at the stadium, was also disappointed:


Lisa told me it was no big deal — that we’d still have fun (which I knew was true) and that we’d hit up batting practice together some other time.

As you might expect for someone with more than 850,000 Twitter followers, lots of people recognized her and asked to take photos with her, starting with a longtime buddy of mine named Eric Marinbach. Here they are:


I met Eric in 1992 at Shea Stadium. And at Yankee Stadium. He was there ALL the time, and I’ve probably run into him at 500 games since. He knows lots of players and has one of the world’s largest collections of signed bobbleheads. If you ever see him, go say hi. He’s very friendly and loves to schmooze.

Here I am with Lisa:


This was our first glimpse of the field:


Bleh. What a waste. But you know what? The lack of BP gave us more time to hang out and chat, so in a way, it might have actually been a good thing.

Here’s Lisa near our seats behind the 3rd base dugout:


Moments after I took that photo, a few big raindrops started to fall, so we hurried up the steps into the concourse. That’s when my friend Julian Bryce — a professional photographer — called to say that he was about to enter the stadium. I had hired him to be there during BP and take photos. I was hoping he’d get some nice action shots of me and Lisa snagging baseballs, so now I didn’t know what he was going to photograph. While waiting for him to come find us, Lisa posed for a selfie with a young man who was VERY excited to see her:


Then we met up with Julian, and since there was no action on the field, we headed up to the club level. Here I am standing around with Lisa and Andrew (who had no idea who she was) and a couple of friendly employees that I’ve known for years:


Andrew headed off to meet some friends, and Julian kept taking photos. Here’s a nice one of Lisa:


I don’t go up to the club level too often, so whenever I’m there, it’s like a mini-reunion with all my favorite people. Here I am with a supervisor named Toni, who used to give me a hard time in the Loge Level at Shea Stadium, but turned out to be incredibly cool:


The Mets need more people like her.

There was still plenty of time to kill, so Lisa and I got some food. (Pizza, if you must know.) Here we are at the concession stand:


Here’s a photo of Lisa and Julian in the Caesar’s Club:


It was nice and quiet there. Nobody bothered us, and we just sat and ate and chatted for a while. Every so often, I stepped out of the club area with Julian to peek at the field:


There was still no action, and I was starting to get a bit antsy. That’s because I had snagged at least one baseball at every game I’d attended since 1993 — a streak nearing 1,100 consecutive games — so of course I needed to keep it going here with Lisa.

Half an hour before game time, we headed down to the 100 Level for three reasons:

1) That’s where our seats were.
2) I wanted to try to get a pre-game toss-up.
3) Several days earlier, one of my favorite ushers had asked if he could meet her.

Here I am (having changed into Blue Jays gear) with him and Lisa:


His name is Larry, and quite simply, he’s awesome. I’ve given him a bunch of baseballs over the years, mainly for him to hand to little kids in his section, and now he had something special for me:


That’s a commemorative Mickey Mantle ball (and no, I’m not counting it in my collection). The Yankees used these balls during a game at the old stadium in 1996. In case you’re interested, here’s more info about it.

Lisa took a moment to check it out . . .


. . . and then posed for a photo with Mr. Met:


After that we headed out to right-center field:


I was hoping to get a toss-up from someone in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, but Andrew had already claimed the best spot out there. Rather than staying and competing with him on his birthday, I led Lisa back toward our seats on the 3rd-base side.

When we ran into this guy in the concourse, she requested a photo:


He’s a famous Mets fan known as “Pin Man.”

Down in the seats, Julian suggested that I pose with my glove as if I were about to catch a ball:


Did you notice Lisa in the background of the previous photo? It looks like she’s thinking, “Dude, really?” I know it’s a silly photo, but I’m telling you — there was NO action, so we had to entertain ourselves somehow. Several Blue Jays eventually played catch a bit farther down the left field foul line, but I had no chance, so when the game started, I still hadn’t snagged a ball.

Here’s the final photo that Julian took before he left the stadium:


Our seats were pretty much right in the middle of Section 122 — approximately halfway up and in the center of a long row. Lisa was willing to move over with me and grab a couple of empty seats next to the stairs, but asked that we not have to move again and again. Basically she didn’t want to draw any extra attention to herself, and can you blame her?

The beginning of the game was uneventful. In the top of the first, Matt Harvey retired the Jays in order, and in the bottom of the frame, Lucas Duda hit a two-out single to center field. Travis d’Arnaud swung at the next pitch and grounded into a force out. Second baseman Ryan Goins caught the throw to end the inning, and when he jogged back toward the dugout, I got him to toss me the ball.


Here it is:


That’s rather beat up for a gamer, but whatever. I was glad to have it.

Here’s Lisa with the ball:


Here’s a better photo of our view during the game:


As you can see, it was fairly crowded, but there were still plenty of empty seats, so if we did have to move, I figured it wouldn’t be a problem to shift one row up or down.

Hanging out with Lisa was a real pleasure. She was extremely friendly, and we talked about all kinds of stuff — sports and her career and life in general. When the two of us were interacting, it didn’t feel like I was in the presence of a celebrity. The only time I thought about it was when some 20-something-year-old doofus barged down the stairs and shouted, “ARE YOU LISA ANN?!?!?!?!” for the entire section to hear. It was sooooo cringe-worthy. Throughout the day, various people recognized her, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until she showed me something creepy on her phone. Some guy sitting nearby had spotted her and taken a stealth-photo of us and tweeted about making eye contact with her, which perhaps he had, but still . . . yikes!! We spent a minute scrutinizing the image and trying to figure out the spot from which it was taken. The whole thing made me nervous, so I can only imagine how she must have felt — and how it must feel to have to deal with that kind of attention all the time.

In the 4th inning, with the Mets leading, 3-0, we were greeted by a member of the Mets’ social media team, who invited us up to the “business box” on the press level. Here’s what it looked like up there:


This is totally random, but in the previous photo, do you see the three Mets players, way in the distance, leaning on the dugout railing? See the guy with the shaved head just below them, walking to the right, just below the business box? That’s Steve Wilkos.

Lisa happily posed for photos with all the social media guys, and we stayed there for two or three innings. See the man wearing the orange shirt in the following photo?


That’s Branden Wellington, the Mets’ “in-game host,” who roams all over Citi Field and appears on the jumbotron for various features and promotions. I’d seen him dozens of times, but this was our first official meeting. Here we are:


Eventually Lisa and I headed back down to Section 122 and grabbed a couple of empty seats on the opposite staircase. Here’s a selfie of us:


After taking that photo, she texted it to me so that I could be the one to tweet it out — and then she retweeted it. That was awfully kind of her.

Obviously I was still bummed by the lack of BP and to have only snagged one baseball, but I was delighted to have made a new baseball buddy. Earlier in the night, I had offered to point out various things from my book, but she just wanted to hang out and watch the game.

In the top of the 8th, the Jays scored two runs to trim the Mets’ lead to 3-2, and in the bottom of the inning, we had a minor seating issue, which unfortunately turned into a whole big thing. Quite simply, a couple of folks showed up and politely informed us that we were in their seats, and when we got up to move, we decided to take off instead. No big deal, right? People switch seats all the time — and lots of fans leave early. Well, when you’re well-known and you do ANYthing out in public other than breathe, haters are indeed gonna hate, and whaddaya know? This situation was no different. Lisa told me later that people were accusing her of being too cheap to buy tickets behind the dugout, and they claimed that we got kicked out as a result. I felt terrible about that and offered to appear on her radio show and set the record straight. She told me I didn’t need to do that, so let me state here that she did nothing wrong. One of my best friends had gotten me those tickets directly from the Mets, so our presence in that section was legit. I haven’t gotten an update from Lisa, so I assume everything’s okay. Most importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about what it’s like to *really* be in the public eye, so the next time I take her to a game (maybe Yankee Stadium?), I’ll be much more aware of our surroundings and take everything down a notch or two.

On our way out, Lisa asked me to grab a photo of her in front of this Mets car:



Then we rode the train together all the way back to Times Square and parted ways.

Later that night, Lisa posted a collage on Instagram with some photos and kind words. Check it out:


What a great experience. No wonder she has so many fans and a blossoming career in sports radio.


• 1 baseball at this game

• 332 balls in 43 games this season = 7.72 balls per game.

• 1,176 lifetime balls in 156 games at Citi Field = 7.54 balls per game.

• 1,096 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 760 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 492 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 8,138 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 17 donors for my fundraiser

• $129.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $129.40 raised this season

• $40,084.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

A-Rod’s 3,000th hit

So . . . as you may have heard, Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit happened to be a home run, and I happened to snag it. (Un-REAL!!) I’m planning to write a long blog entry with lots of photos, but things are so crazy right now that I wanted to get this up quickly.

First, here I am on TV with the ball:


Here’s a better look at the ball itself:


The “R” is for “Rodriguez,” and the “1” indicates that it was the first specially-marked ball of the game that was put into play for his at-bats. Those markings were already there when I snagged it. The sticker up above was placed there a little while later by an MLB authenticator.

Now, why are things so crazy? Here’s a screen shot of my email inbox:


I’ve already gotten SO MANY interview requests — and I still have 62 texts that I haven’t even looked at. I plan to answer everyone, and like I said, I’ll be writing a much longer entry about this. In the meantime, I’d love to hear everyone’s suggestions for what I should do with the ball. Be specific and creative. I told the Yankees that I was planning to keep it, but now I’m considering other options.

It took nearly two weeks, but my full-length blog entry is now done! Be warned: it’s insanely long, so grab a cold beverage, find a comfy seat, and check it out.

5/26/15 at Yankee Stadium

Forgive me for the massive wall of text. Normally I post lots of photos, but at this particular game, I snagged 18 baseballs before I pulled out my camera. Here’s how it all went down . . .

I headed to right field at the start of BP, and within the first 10 seconds, I asked a ballboy in the outfield to toss me a ball. His response was something like, “You already have a million in your collection.” That took me by surprise because I had no idea he recognized me. Thankfully it didn’t stop him from hooking me up. A minute later, I realized that several righties were going to be hitting in that group, so I ran over to left field. When I entered the section, I saw a ball sitting at the bottom of the stairs, and when I ran down and grabbed it, I spotted two more “Easter eggs” in the front row. Moments later, as several other fans made their way into the seats, I spotted yet another ball several rows back. (In case you’ve already lost count, I got a toss-up in right field and found four balls in left field.) Then, only a minute or two after that, a right-handed batter on the Yankees hit a towering fly ball in my direction. I predicted that it was going to land several rows behind me, so I raced up the steps and cut to the side, and when I looked back up, the ball was *right* there. My only miscue was catching it on the palm of my glove, but it was a good enough effort to prompt Brett Gardner, who was standing 50 feet away, to shout, “Sign him up!” Toward the end of the first group, I drifted half a section to my left and caught another home run, and after that group finished, I got my eighth ball tossed from the bullpen by a police officer. That was lucky. Yankee Stadium cops don’t usually give balls away, but for some reason, this guy did. In another stroke of luck, another group of Yankee hitters were getting ready to take their cuts. Normally, after the gates open, there’s only one group (or just a fraction thereof) before the visitors start hitting, but in this case, I saw about a group and a half. I headed back to right field, and within a minute or two of arriving, I snagged a ground-rule double by Garrett Jones. It was a tricky play because the ball didn’t clear the outfield wall; I had to rush down several steps and then lunge over the wall, trapping it between my glove and the padding. After that, I battled the sun to catch a pair of Slade Heathcott homers. I looked at the clock. It was only 5:14pm. I’d been inside the stadium for 14 minutes and already had 11 balls. That’s when it occurred to me that I had a chance of snagging 20 — something I’d never done at a Yankees home game — but everything had to go my way. I figured that any lull during the Royals’ portion of BP would be a killer. While the Yankees cleared the field and the Royals finished getting loose, I heard something hit a seat right behind me. I turned around and saw a woman scampering toward me. There wasn’t anything on the ground, so I looked in the padded/folded-up part of the seat, and whaddaya know, there was a baseball! As I picked it up, the woman told me that a groundskeeper had tossed it to her from the bullpen, so I gave it to her. It was a cheap/lucky way to pad my total, but hey, it counted as my 12th ball of the day. When the Royals started hitting soon after, I was hoping for a BIG first group, led by Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer. I camped out in the last row of the 100 Level seats, nearly 400 feet from home plate — a spot that turned out to be useless. Hosmer crushed half a dozen balls into the bleachers, including several to right-center that easily cleared the Yankees’ bullpen, while Moustakas yanked everything down the line and peppered the second deck with homers. I didn’t snag *any* batted balls during that group, though I did touch one that ricocheted near me, and I came close to another. The only ball I got during that group was tossed by rookie outfielder Paulo Orlando. Obviously I was thrilled to have snagged 13 balls, but I was bummed about my chances of reaching 20. For the next group, I ran back to left field and promptly caught a ground-rule double that skimmed several inches above the outfield wall. Then I caught two homers (not sure who hit ’em) and gave both of those baseballs to the nearest kids. That raised my total to 16. For the final group, I headed back to right field and quickly had a chance at another ball that was sitting on the warning track. Greg Holland walked over to retrieve it and looked up into the stands to find a worthy recipient. At that point, security had already done “the sweep” and kicked out everyone who didn’t have a ticket for that section, so there weren’t many fans. The seats were as empty as I’d ever seen them, perhaps because the Mets were also playing at Citi Field, and the New York Rangers had an NHL playoff game at Madison Square Garden. Anyway, Holland basically had to decide between giving the ball to me or to a pair of young women on my right. All things being equal, the women would’ve gotten the ball, but they were decked out in Yankees gear, and I was wearing a Royals cap. When Holland flipped me the ball and walked away, one of the women said to her friend, “What is he — a faggot?!” That was NOT cool, and I called them out on it, telling them that that was a disgusting thing to say and that I didn’t want to hear that kind of hateful garbage. They appeared to be somewhat embarrassed but also kinda whatever-y about the whole thing. That just gave me extra motivation to catch more baseballs — only three more to reach 20! — and make sure they didn’t get any. Therefore it gives me great pleasure to report that when a left-handed batter on the Royals smoked a line-drive homer into the seats near these homophobes, I swooped in and grabbed it before they had a chance to react. They weren’t happy about the fact that I’d just snagged two baseballs, but you know what? I wasn’t happy to have share this planet with them, so let’s call it even. That’s when I thought, “Maybe I should take a few photos in case I end up snagging 20 baseballs and feel obligated to blog about this,” so here you go. Let’s start with a peek inside my backpack:


I had snagged 18 balls and given away three, so that’s why there are “only” 15 pictured above.

Here’s what it looked like from the back of the section:


Shortly after I took that photo, a friend of mine named Jeff made his way into my section. He and I were the only guys with gloves behind the front row, so if we were going to be competing with each other, I figured I’d let him know what was going on.

“I’ve snagged 18 balls today,” I told him, “and I’ve NEVER gotten 20 at Yankee Stadium, so consider this a friendly warning. I’m gonna go ALL OUT to snag two more.”

Jeff was fine with that. He knew I wasn’t talking about knocking him down. (Despite what the haters would like you to believe, that’s simply not my style.) I just wanted him to know that I planned to run and jump and catch everything within my reach, even if it was heading right for him.

A little while later, I scrambled for a home run that landed in the seats. That was my 19th ball of the day, and as a gesture of good will, I gave it to him.

Just when I thought BP was ending, I got a groundskeeper in the bullpen to toss me my 20th ball! Here it is in mid-air:



I always felt that snagging 20 at a single game at Yankee Stadium was possible, but I wasn’t sure if I’d ever actually do it. On September 11, 2014, I snagged 19 thanks to the good fortune of having an ultra-fancy ticket that gave me dugout access and constant chances to pad my total throughout the night. But under the normal circumstances of being trapped in the outfield? Let’s just say that it was extremely satisfying to reach that number.

Here’s a closer look at my 20th ball:


My good luck continued when the Royals kept hitting! Four groups of visiting team BP? That happens on occasion, but usually there are only three.

At one point during the final group, Jeremy Guthrie wandered over to say hello:


I asked him if he’d wave for a photo for my blog.

He shook his head.

“Why not?” I asked.

“I already gave four balls to the blog,” he replied, referring to the home runs he’d surrendered the day before.

“Yeah, but I wasn’t here to catch any of them, so that didn’t do me any good.”

We chatted for a bit, and then he headed back to center field.

Now that Heath Bell has retired, Guthrie is the major leaguer who knows me best — one of the few who actually knows my name. I’ve become friendly with Vic Black and David Carpenter over the past season (and Mike Trout still follows me on Twitter), but my history with Guthrie easily puts him atop the list.

When there was a lull in the action, I took a picture of the homophobes:



Unfortunately there was only one lefty in the final group, and it was Jarrod Dyson. I didn’t expect many long balls from a slap-hitter who weighs less than I do, but guess what? The man has some pop! And I ended up catching two of his homers! The first was a towering shot that barely cleared the wall. For some reason, no one else saw it coming, so when I caught it, the man who was standing right in front of me thanked me for saving his life. The second Dyson homer was a line drive heading right toward Jeff, but true to my word, I sprinted nearly a full section to my left and reached out and caught it in the row in front of him. To make it up to him, I told him I’d buy him the concession item of his choice. Instead he asked for the ball — but of course I didn’t want to give him my 22nd and potentially final ball of the day, so I gave him a different one, and he was fine with that.

It should be noted that the second Dyson homer established a new single-game record for New York City. My record for the old Yankee Stadium was 14. My record at Shea Stadium was 19. My record at Citi Field (which was set on September 17, 2010) was 21. And now, after all these years and games and stadiums, I had snagged 22. Imagine if I’d gotten a few during that first group of Royals hitters . . . AND had a Legends ticket. I might’ve gotten 30 balls! (I’m never satisfied.)

Take a look at the notes I’d scribbled during BP:


That’s how I was able to remember all the balls and write about them with much greater detail here. Also, FYI, when a ball is crossed out, it means I gave it away. By the end of the night, I gave away seven baseballs, including two to a pair of little kids in my section during the game.

Before the game started, I figured I had one more reliable shot at getting another ball. Here’s where I positioned myself:


Sure enough, after Royals starter Jason Vargas finished warming up, pitching coach Dave Eiland tossed me my 23rd ball of the day:


Hot damn!!

I was tempted to linger near the bullpen during the game in the hope of getting another toss-up, or try to work my way closer to the dugouts for a 3rd-out ball. I even considered using the StubHub app to find a cheap Legends ticket at the last second, but decided it wasn’t worth the few hundred dollars — but you know what? If I had 26 or 27 balls at that point, I probably would’ve done it in a desperate attempt to reach 30. Instead I headed out to my seat in right field and hoped for a home run to fly in my direction. This was the view:


In the top of the 6th inning, with the Yankees leading, 5-0, Paulo Orlando hit his first major league home run to right field. The ball landed just 10 seats to my left, where it was clanked by the fan circled below in red:


As you can see, I had NO ROOM to move. That’s Yankee Stadium for you.

Two innings later, I tormented myself by photographing Orlando on the jumbotron:


Final score: Yankees 5, Royals 1.

After the game, I spotted a ball in the Yankees’ bullpen . . .


. . . and when I asked the groundskeeper for it, he simply shook his head. Then security told me I had to leave. Whatever. The day had some frustrating moments, but overall it was amazing.

Of the 23 baseballs that I snagged, here are the 16 that I kept:


Lots of smudged logos, huh? What’s up with that? Anyway. Yeah. Thanks for reading.


• 23 baseballs at this game

• 267 balls in 32 games this season = 8.34 balls per game.

• 907 lifetime balls in 132 games at Yankee Stadium = 6.87 balls per game.

• 1,085 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 749 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 260 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 17 lifetime games with 20 or more balls

• 8,073 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 15 donors for my fundraiser

• $118.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $118.40 raised this season

• $40,073.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

5/24/15 at Yankee Stadium

It was Bernie Williams Night at Yankee Stadium. Fans had been encouraged to be in their seats more than an hour before the 8:05pm start, and when the stadium opened at 6pm, the Texas Rangers were already taking BP:


Normally the Yankees have one group of hitters after the gates open, but in this case, everything had been moved up to accommodate the big pre-game ceremony.

Though nice and empty at the start, left field was dead, so I raced over to right field, and within a few minutes, I snagged a home run ball that landed in the seats:


I don’t know who hit it — perhaps Mitch Moreland, if I had to guess.

After that group, I moved back to left field, and for the next half-hour, I didn’t get any baseballs. Here’s why:


As you can see, the seats were packed. There wasn’t an empty row anywhere. It wasn’t until BP was winding down that I got another ball — an Adam Rosales homer that I caught on the fly after running back four rows, drifting a bit to the side, and reaching/flinching awkwardly as a guy in front of me flailed at it.

That was it for BP. Mega-lame. But my night was just getting started. Check it out:


I had a fancy “Legends” ticket for the exclusive, all-you-can-eat area behind home plate — and best of all, it was free. A friend of mine, who wishes to remain anonymous, bought me the ticket in exchange for half the baseballs I snagged. He’s the same guy who paid my way for the 2013 Home Run Derby and All-Star Game, and you might recall that he bought me a Legends ticket on September 11, 2014, when the Yankees used commemorative Derek Jeter baseballs. See where I’m going with this? Rumor had it that there were going to be special Bernie Williams balls used during this game.

But first, let’s talk about the food, huh? Once inside the Legends area, I skipped the raw bar . . .


. . . and the sushi . . .


. . . and went for the meat:

7_pork_tenderloin_and_beef_tenderloin_wrapped_in_bacon copy

In the photo above, that’s pork tenderloin on the left and bacon-wrapped steak on the right. (There was bacon at the edges. Trust me.)

For my first of several desserts, I helped myself to some chocolate-covered strawberries, along with an Oreo cupcake, a brownie, and a black-and-white cookie:


So good!

After a while, I poked my head out into the seats to check on the field:


Excellent. There was still plenty of time to keep eating.

Here’s something that caught my attention:


Needing to save room for later, I asked for a “small portion of everything.” Here’s what I received:



After chowing down on the chicken, beans, grits, and biscuit, I gathered another plate of dessert and headed out to the seats:


In the photo above, did you notice the logo on the jumbotron? Here’s another look at it alongside the man himself — Bernie Williams:


Just because there IS a commemorative logo doesn’t mean that it’ll appear on the baseballs, and if it does appear on the balls, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be used in games. Remember when Mariano Rivera was honored with a ceremony at Yankee Stadium in 2013? Remember this logo? I had a Legends ticket for that game as well and was dismayed to discover, upon snagging a 3rd-out ball, that the teams were using regular balls. That’s just how it goes sometimes.

Finally the Bernie Williams ceremony got underway:


It was nice to see a bunch of Rangers watching from their dugout:


I’ve heard some people grumbling about Williams not being worthy of having his number retired by the Yankees — that the honor should be reserved for people like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Derek Jeter, and so on. But I disagree. During his 16-year career, in which he batted .297, hit 287 home runs, and had a streak of seven consecutive seasons in which he scored 100-plus runs, he won four World Series and was a four-time Gold Glove winner and a five-time All-Star. He also has more career postseason RBIs (80) than anyone in MLB history, and he’s second all time in postseason home runs (22) to a known cheater. In my opinion, that’s worthy of enshrinement in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.

Here’s a closeup of some former Yankees who were in attendance:


In the photo above, from left to right, you’re looking at Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Joe Torre, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera, and (appearing at Yankee Stadium for the first time since retiring last year) Derek Jeter.

I watched most of the ceremony, but then got bored and realized that I was wasting an opportunity by not eating. Here’s a scoop of blackberry sorbet . . .


. . . which was so bland that I tossed it after one bite. I replaced it with an ice cream bar . . .


. . . which was much better.

(Does anyone feel like estimating the number of calories that I ate? If so, add a couple of ice cream sandwiches, which I somehow neglected to photograph.)

This was my view in the top of the 1st . . .


. . . and here’s where I stood during the bottom of the inning:


When Chris Young stepped to the plate with two outs, I pretty much knew what was going to happen. He was going to strike out, and Rangers catcher Robinson Chirinos was going to take the ball back toward the dugout. The only question was what he’d do with it — keep it because of the commemorative logo or toss it to someone younger and cuter than me? Or hell, maybe it wasn’t commemorative and I was getting all worked up for nothing?

Sure enough, Young struck out swinging on a 2-2 pitch from Yovani Gallardo, and Chirinos hooked me up. Behold this little white sphere of joy:


As thrilled as I was to have snagged that ball, I didn’t feel relaxed or satisfied because I needed to get at least one more for the guy who’d bought me the ticket. Initially, when we first talked about this game, he wanted to claim the first commemorative ball for himself and let me have the second, but I told him that I’d have to decline if that’s how it had to be. I reminded him that of the 69 different commemorative balls I had ever snagged, I still owned at least one of each; I couldn’t take a chance that I’d only get one Bernie Williams ball and then have to give it away. He understood and accepted my reasoning, but made me promise that he’d get the second AND third commemorative balls. Therefore, if I wanted to end up with an extra one for myself, I’d need to snag four.

Prince Fielder struck out to end the top of the 2nd inning, and guess what happened? Yankees catcher Brian McCann gave me the ball. He always tosses 3rd-out ball to little kids, but I was the only one asking for it, so on his way in, he reluctantly rolled it to me across the dugout roof. One inning later, Chris Young tossed me the 3rd-out ball, but unfortunately a very tall, gloveless, middle-aged man in the front row jumped up at the last second and lunged for it and swatted it away. That ball bounced back into the dugout and was never seen again.

After that, I decided to stay on the 3rd base side for a few innings. As far as I know, there’s no rule about moving around in the Legends aisle, but I wanted to avoid drawing too much attention to myself. Earlier this season, a friend of mine had gotten hassled by security for roaming there a bit too much, so it seemed wise to be extra cautious.

When the Rangers were batting in the top of each inning, I stood in the aisle near 3rd base and hoped for one of two things to happen — either a foul pop-up from a lefty or a foul dribbler to the 3rd base coach from a righty. In a typical game, these types of foul balls are fairly common, but on this night, they were pretty much non-existent. In the bottom of each inning, when the Rangers were going to be coming off the field, I moved farther and farther back in an attempt to get some love from Elvis Andrus. Every 3rd-out ball that’s *not* a strikeout gets tossed to him, and I’d noticed that he likes to throw them deep into the crowd. Two nights earlier, I’d seen him throw two of them into the second deck! So guess where I went in the 5th inning? This was my view:


It seemed crazy to leave the Legends area and head to a section that’s so lousy that the guards don’t even bother checking tickets there . . . but I had a hunch. But wouldn’t you know it — Chase Headley, the bum, struck out to end the 5th inning. So much for THAT ball.

In the top of the 6th, I ran back down to the Legends area and camped out in the aisle on the 3rd base side. In the middle of the 6th, I ran back up to the second deck. (Free exercise! Yay!) Brian McCann ended the inning with a groundout, and I drifted down to the front row, hopeful of a long-range missile from Andrus. Instead he threw the ball (quite a distance) to one of Prince Fielder’s sons, who was sitting in the Legends area! How the hell am I supposed to compete with that?! Here he is with the ball:


That young man’s name is Haven. I’d met him two days earlier when he recognized me during BP. I was in the right field seats, and he was shagging out on the field, and he basically came over and asked if I was the guy from YouTube with all the baseballs. Pretty cool, huh? And now here he was in the stands. We’d actually been running into each other throughout this game and chatting briefly here and there. He’s a really nice kid who seemed to be genuinely interested in my collection. At one point, when I was hanging out in the aisle near 3rd base, Haven wandered over to talk to me, and when a security guard noticed that he didn’t have a Legends wristband, he asked, “Are you here with your parents?” I tried to explain the situation, but the guard, who of course was just doing his job, walked off toward home plate and made Haven follow him. (Can you imagine Yankee Stadium security ejecting a member of Prince Fielder’s family? “Suuuuuure your father plays for the Rangers. Uh huh . . . okay, son . . . yeah, you look just like him. Just follow me, and I’ll take you right to him. This is the way to the visitors clubhouse . . . ” and then BAM, the kid is shoved out an exit door onto 161st Street. Totally plausible, right?)

In the top of the 7th, I decided to return to the Yankees’ dugout. Elvis Andrus ended the inning with a soft liner to second baseman Jose Pirela. Moments later, as Pirela jogged toward me, I broke out the Spanish and got him to toss me the ball. Very easy.

In the middle of the 7th, I ran back up to the second deck on the 3rd base side. With two outs, Stephen Drew gave me a scare by fouling off a perfectly good 3-1 pitch. I was sure he was going to screw me over by striking out, but as it turned out, he was kind enough to ground out on the next pitch. By the time Andrus started jogging in with the ball, I was already standing in the front row, and when he approached the dugout and looked into the crowd, I screamed and whistled and jumped up and down and waved my arms. That’s when he noticed me and hurled the ball in my direction — not with a gentle arc, but on a line. I reached forward and slightly down over the railing for a back-handed catch. Perfection!


I headed downstairs and stayed in the Legends area for the rest of the game. Here’s a photo of me, taken with my cruddy little camera by my friend Tony Bracco:


After the final out of the Rangers’ 5-2 victory, I got a ball from home plate umpire Toby Basner, but get this — it was a REGULAR ball! Have a look:


My first reaction was one of extreme disappointment, but as I thought about it more, my sorrow turned to confusion. How had this happened? I’m 100 percent certain that Basner pulled the ball out of his pouch before tossing it to me, and furthermore, there’s no way that he acquired a random ball (from the dugout, for example) on his way over. I watched him the whole way, and I can state definitively that nothing entered or exited his possession until he reached me. My theory is that the Yankees ran out of commemorative balls at some point in the 8th or 9th inning and switched over to regular balls. If that happened, that’s weird. And bad. MLB strives for consistency, so if there’s a special type of ball used at the start of the game, I would expect that same type of ball to be used throughout the game right up until the very end. The size and shape of the logo DOES affect the hitters’ ability to see the ball and recognize pitches, but who knows? Maybe Basner was informed by the ballboy (or by Joe Girardi himself?) that the supply of commemorative balls was running low, and Basner made the switch at the end of an inning in order to keep things as fair and consistent as possible?

In the photo above, did you notice Haven’s aqua-colored shirt on the upper left? He and I were standing near each other at that point because we had planned to get a photo together after the game. Here we are, along with his brother, Jaden (with the awesome hair) and a friend of theirs (in the white hat) who happens to be CC Sabathia’s son:


Haven had offered to get me his dad’s autograph, but I politely declined, simply because I didn’t have anything on me that I wanted signed. There was a brief discussion about getting his batting gloves or a bat, and at one point, it seemed as if I might get invited to tag along to the clubhouse, but I didn’t force the issue. It would’ve been amazing, but I didn’t want to intrude on the Fielders’ family time, and who knows if stadium security would have let me? The Rangers won’t be back in New York this year, so hopefully I’ll run into Haven and Jaden again at some point down the road.

In case you’ve lost count of all the balls I snagged . . . I got two regular balls during BP, four commemorative balls during the game, and one regular ball (?!) from the umpire after the game for a total of seven. Here are the four commemorative balls:


After taking that photo, I entered the indoor portion of the Legends area, simply planning to walk through the restaurant and head upstairs and then exit . . . but something unexpected happened, which held me up for a few minutes. When I approached the wall of free candy, an employee, who was in the process of packing up all the leftovers, encouraged me to help myself.

Before I tell you what happened next, let me give you some background info. Earlier in the night, I had chatted with this employee for a minute when she saw me putting on my Rangers shirt over my other shirt, and she helped me straighten it out a bit. I didn’t need any help, but she was sweet and looked like she could’ve been someone’s grandmother from the south, so I just went with it. I thanked her and said, “Since my mother couldn’t be here tonight,” prompting her to reply enthusiastically, “I’ll take care of you!” Then she asked why I needed a Rangers shirt, and I gave a simple explanation, which didn’t seem to register. Anyway, the point is, by the time she encouraged me to take the candy after the game, we were already on friendly-ish terms.

So there I was, grabbing handfuls of small packages of M&Ms and Mike & Ike’s, along with mini-Twix bars and Peanut Chews, and stuffing it all into my backpack. I had already obtained some candy earlier in the night, but I hadn’t gone crazy with it. Now that I was being TOLD to take it . . . umm, okay!

At one point, I looked over at her and joked that my mother would be upset if she knew how much sugar I was going to eat — but to this Legends employee, it was no joke. She was one of those uber-earnest types, so as soon as the idea of an upset mother entered her mind, she said, “That’s enough,” and blocked my bag with her hands so that I couldn’t place any more candy inside.

“No no,” I said, “it’s okay. I’m kidding. I don’t live with my mother, so she’ll never find out.”

“Who do you live with?” she asked.

“With my girlfriend — she’ll be thrilled to have all this candy.”

“Why do you live with her?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“You are living with a woman you’re not married to?!”

Hooooo-boy. I knew right away where this was going, but decided to play along — no point in offending an old woman and making an enemy with someone I might see again.

“Sure, why not?” I said.

“You are not a Christian?!” she asked, totally astonished.

“No, I have no religion.”

“No religion?!” she repeated with a look of what can only be described as horror. “What do you think happens to you when you leave this world?”

I shrugged and said, “I don’t know, I’m not concerned with that.”

“Do me a favor!” she pleaded. “FIND HIM!!! At your age, it’s not too late. You must FIND HIM!!! Promise me you will do that!”

“I’ll consider it,” I said, astounded that in the year 2015 in New York City of all places, this conversation was actually happening.

The woman told me that she works in a hospital and said that dying patients from all walks of life, including scientists, have told her that “there is something else out there.”

“Really? Even scientists?”

“Yes!” she insisted. “Ohhhh, please tell me you will look for him! If you think you are happy now, just wait until you find him!”

“Okay,” I said, “I’ll think about it.”

“I will pray for you,” she said.

“Thank you.”

And that was it. I could’ve helped myself to more candy, but I’d heard enough preaching for one night (if not one lifetime) and needed to get out of there.

Back at home, I dumped out all the candy for Hayley:


Imagine how distraught that poor old woman would’ve been if I told her that my girlfriend looks like a 15-year-old boy.

Here’s a closeup of the seven baseballs that I snagged:


Life is funny, huh?


• 7 baseballs at this game

• 244 balls in 31 games this season = 7.87 balls per game.

• 884 lifetime balls in 131 games at Yankee Stadium = 6.75 balls per game.

• 1,084 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 748 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 259 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 70 lifetime commemorative balls; click here to see my entire collection

• 8,050 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 15 donors for my fundraiser

• $118.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $118.40 raised this season

• $40,073.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

5/15/15 at Citi Field

Have you ever seen this photo of me as an 18-year-old? I know, my hair was ridiculous, but whatever. It was a huge moment because I had just snagged my 1,000th ball. Braves pitcher Pedro Borbon Jr. threw it to me on June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium — and I’ll never forget it. Nearly seven years later, on May 24, 2003 at Olympic Stadium, Phillies pitcher Joe Roa threw me my 2,000th ball. On May 7, 2007 at Yankee Stadium, my dad was with me when I used my glove trick to snag my 3,000th ball.

See where I’m going with this?

Ball No. 4,000 was a toss-up from Mets pitcher Livan Hernandez on May 18, 2009 at Dodger Stadium. My 5,000th ball required more athleticism than the others; it was an Alex Rios BP homer that I caught on the fly on May 28, 2011 at Rogers Centre, and look, here’s a video of it! Nationals pitcher Brad Lidge tossed me my 6,000th ball on June 8, 2012 at Fenway Park, and I hired a videographer to document the entire day. The following season, on August 27, 2013 at Nationals Park, I filmed myself catching an Anthony Rendon BP homer for my 7,000th ball.

What about No. 8,000, you ask? Well, after snagging 16 balls on 5/13/15 at Citizens Bank Park, I began this day at Citi Field with a lifetime total of 7,996. My girlfriend, Hayley, proud owner of a fancy new camera, offered to join me at batting practice and film the big moment — but I had to do it during BP because she had evening plans and had to leave before the game started.

Here’s a photo she took of me at the start of BP:


I had the place to myself for a minute, but of course there was no action. That’s to be expected when Ruben Tejada is hitting, but what about the 6-foot-6 John Mayberry Jr. or the muscular Anthony Recker? You’d expect some bombs from those guys, right? They always hit in the last group (which is the only group after the gates open), and guess what? It’s always dead.

It’s just as well there weren’t many homers because if I had to run to my right, I might have died. Look at this nonsense:


That was some sort of mesh netting. Why the hell was it on the staircase during BP? Why did it take five minutes for someone to finally come and remove it?


The Mets are weird. That’s all I can say.

On average, when Mets BP ends every day, I have one ball. On this particular day, I had none, so as soon as the Brewers came out, I had to take advantage of every opportunity. Here I am (circled in red, but now wearing dark Brewers gear) heading into foul territory:


As the Brewers finished playing catch, I moved closer to the field . . .


. . . and eventually got Khris Davis to throw me a ball from more than 100 feet away. To catch it, I had to lunge over a railing and reach down as far as possible into the “handicapped” section. Not only did the ball have a blue Sharpie streak on the sweet spot (that’s how the Brewers mark them), but it had the stamped signature of former commissioner Bud Selig. Yuck! I wanted my 8,000th ball to feature new commissioner Rob Manfred, and I wanted the sweet spot to be clean so I could try to get it signed.

Back in left field, it didn’t take long for me to get my second ball of the day — a home run by Ryan Braun. Here I am reaching up for the catch:


In the photo above, do you see the other guy reaching up with his glove? He was in the perfect spot when the ball was hit, but he misjudged it slightly and maneuvered himself out of position by drifting down the steps.

Moments later, I scrambled for another home run ball that landed in the seats . . .


. . . but didn’t get there in time.

A few minutes later, I photographed the home run ball:


I didn’t know what would be worse — having No. 8,000 be a Selig ball or having it be hit by someone as disgusting as Ryan Braun.

Here I am looking up at another homer that barely reached the second deck:


As various home run balls eluded me, the best I could do was get Juan Centeno to toss one up:


That was my third ball of the day and No. 7,999 lifetime.

I updated my notes . . .


. . . and took a photo of Hayley, who was bundled up in my gray hoodie:


It barely helped. She was still freezing.

Here’s a screen shot (from a video) of what was ALMOST my 8,000th ball:


In the image above, the ball is streaking down inside the red circle. See me holding onto the railing? I had gotten there with a second or two to spare, so I could’ve shifted over and jumped for the ball and robbed the guy in the light blue jersey, but I didn’t for two reasons. First of all, that’s a friend of mine named Jeff, and the ball was hit RIGHT to him, and second, I didn’t want my milestone ball to be tainted by an in-your-face maneuver. (And third, it was hit by Braun. Ew.)

The second group of Brewers BP was dead. Hayley used a lot of battery power and wasted several gigs’ worth of space on her memory card by filming a whole lotta nuthin’.

The same thing happened in the third group. The seats were crowded, and the Brewers just weren’t hitting anything.

To my surprise, there was a fourth group of BP, and because there were a couple of lefties, I moved to the seats in right-center field. The following screen shot sums up how it went:


Long story short: when BP ended, I was still stuck at 7,999 and Hayley — shivering yet apologetic — left the stadium.

I felt bad. Really REALLY bad. I had wasted her time and lost an opportunity to have my special moment captured on video. But then something clicked inside my brain. It occurred to me that I had a rare opportunity for No. 8,000 to be a game-used ball. I had snagged all my other milestones during BP or other pre-game warm-ups, and now here I was . . . one ball away with the game set to begin.

Under normal circumstances, I would’ve tried to get a pre-game ball from the Brewers after they finished playing catch in front of the dugout, but instead, I resisted that urge and watched passively from farther down the foul line:


As it turned out, I wouldn’t have gotten that ball anyway. Hector Gomez ended up with it and tossed it to a group of boisterous Latino men who’d been shouting at him in Spanish — no way to compete with that.

When the Mets took their positions, I began making my way toward the dugout. I figured I’d inch a little closer . . . and a little closer . . . and by the time the Brewers jogged off the field after the first inning, I’d be in a good spot to get a 3rd-out ball. Then I’d have more chances throughout the game, and hell, if I still hadn’t snagged my 8,000th ball by the very end of the night, I could try getting it from the home plate umpire. THAT would be an interesting way to notch my milestone.

The first batter of the game was Carlos Gomez, and in true undisciplined/overzealous Carlos Gomez fashion, he swung at Bartolo Colon’s first pitch. Ground ball. One out. Whatever.

The next batter was Gerardo Parra. As he stepped to the plate, I moved a few seats closer. I was pretty much even with the outfield grass and probably 20 rows back, where it was nice and empty. I wasn’t trying to catch a foul ball — just using the space as a path to a particular staircase behind the dugout.

Parra took a called strike, and on the second pitch of the at-bat, THIS happened:


In case you can’t tell, the white streak to the right of the catcher’s head is the ball. Colon had thrown a 90-mile-per-hour heater, and Parra slashed it foul.

Usually I expect every ball to be hit to me, and when it isn’t, I’m disappointed. In this case, however, I was stunned to see it flying my way — not just toward my section but pretty much toward my row! I jumped out of my seat and ran to my right. If I’d started half a dozen seats closer, I would’ve made a sweet running catch, but I was a bit too far away, so I had to watch helplessly as it zipped past me.

The ball smacked against the empty seats in the row just behind me and ricocheted back in the direction that I’d just come from. I was so excited and panicked all at once! I thought I had a great chance to snag it until it bounced right to one of the only guys sitting nearby. Why did that have to happen?! Why is my luck sooooooo bad?! How awesome would it have been for THAT to be my 8,000th ball? All these thoughts were rattling around my head, and then something incredible happened. The ball bounced off the guy’s chest and plopped to the ground at his feet. He had gray hair. He wasn’t wearing a glove. When the ball was hit, he hadn’t even bothered to stand up, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty when I ran over and lunged for it. And then I felt it in my hand! Grabbing the world’s biggest diamond wouldn’t have made me nearly as happy.

When the inning ended, I got a different fan to take my picture with it:


Here’s a closer look at my 8,000th ball:


I’m still amazed at how the whole thing turned out. Rob Manfred. No Sharpie streak. And perhaps best of all, Ryan Braun had nothing to do with it (although the ball *was* pitched by a different steroid guy).

Here’s where I sat for the rest of the game:


I would’ve loved to move to the outfield and try to catch a home run, but the seats out there were packed, and eh, I just wanted to relax and have a nice view of the game.

An inning later, I took a photo of the fans behind me. The guy circled in red is the person who fumbled ball No. 8,000:


Thank you, sir! If you ever see this blog entry and identify yourself in person, I will buy you two concession items of your choice. Live large! Steak sandwich and a 25oz beer? You got it.

Late in the game, I took a photo of Gerardo Parra on the jumbotron:


I had no chance of getting a 3rd-out ball:


But that was fine. I wasn’t feeling any pressure at that point.

When the Brewers spilled out onto the field after their 7-0 victory, I tried to get a ball at the dugout:


(Jesus Aitch! Who’s that big mean lookin’ guy with the gray goatee? I’m glad I didn’t have to compete with HIM for that Gerardo Parra foul ball.)

I didn’t get any more balls, but again . . . whatever. I was perfectly happy to take my time walking out of the stadium, stopping in the concourse behind home plate to give one of my BP balls to a little kid with an empty glove.

Several minutes later, before entering the subway, I took this photo:


I love the smudged logo. I love how everything turned out.

I would appreciate some advice on getting Parra’s autograph. Just don’t ask me about ball No. 9,000 — I’m not ready to think about that yet.


• 4 baseballs at this game

• 194 balls in 25 games this season = 7.76 balls per game.

• 1,106 lifetime balls in 146 games at Citi Field = 7.58 balls per game.

• 1,078 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 742 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 482 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 159 lifetime foul balls during games (not counting ones that got tossed into the crowd)

• 8,000 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 15 donors for my fundraiser

• $118.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $118.40 raised this season

• $40,073.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

5/13/15 at Citizens Bank Park

The Mets and Yankees were both on the road, so I drove down to Philadelphia with a lofty goal: snag at least 13 or 14 baseballs at this game. Quite simply, I was 20 balls away from No. 8,000, and I wanted to reach the milestone during BP at my following game, when my girlfriend would be free to come and film me.

When I arrived at the left field gate, I was surprised (but not THAT surprised) to see a whole new row of permanent metal detectors:


Even though I knew at the start of the season that metal detectors would be used throughout Major League Baseball, it was still jarring when I saw them for the first time at Yankee Stadium and later at Citi Field. Citizens Bank Park is supposed to be laid-back in comparison, and I suppose it still is; at Yankee Stadium, the security personnel set up the detectors from scratch every day (because if they were left out overnight in the Bronx, they’d presumably get stolen or destroyed), but here in peaceful Philadelphia, where everyone is sooooooo respectful, the detectors are bolted into the pavement and, when not in use, covered with tarps.

Half an hour before the stadium opened, I was recognized by a young ballhawk named Montanna. Here we are:


She said she’d gotten lots of baseballs the day before — and I could see why. She was the perfect age, and she looked athletic, and she knew a lot about the sport. If you were a major league player, and Montanna asked you for a ball, you would basically HAVE to throw one to her. Right?

Check out the line of fans waiting to get inside:


For a weeknight in May at the home of a last-place team, this seemed like a lot of people, but compared to New York, it was nothing.

When I finally ran inside, I was miffed to see half a dozen ushers spread out in the left field seats. Phillies employees are allowed to snag baseballs before the gates open, which is great for them but bad for fans. It means you’ll never find a ball in the seats. But you know what really pissed me off? As I rushed down the steps toward the field, one of the ushers glanced over at me and then turned to his buddy and said, “Well, the party’s over.” Gosh, I’m so sorry that paying customers are ruining your fun.

This was my view at the start of BP:


I figured there’d be four groups of hitters — one final group of Phillies and then three groups of Pirates. I’d been doing the math in my head and was hoping to snag at least two baseballs per group. Finishing BP with fewer than eight balls, I decided, would leave me in a tough spot. Eight would be acceptable, though not great. Nine would be very good, and ten would be excellent. Then I could hopefully get one or two pre-game balls followed by one or two 3rd-out balls and one or two post-game balls.

The first 10 minutes of BP were dead. The closest I came to snagging one was when I climbed down over a row of seats and reached out for a home run. Unfortunately another guy was reaching for it too, our gloves bumped, and we both missed it. (These are the moments that make me wish I were 6-foot-10.)

As the Phillies portion of BP was winding down, I still didn’t have a ball, and I was getting antsy! I knew that if I had a big fat ZERO when the Pirates took the field, I’d be digging myself out of a hole all day. Thankfully, just before panic-mode kicked in, someone hit a deep fly ball that rolled onto the warning track, slightly to the left of the batter’s eye. I raced through the seats and got over there just as Odubel Herrera retrieved it. I asked him for the ball in Spanish, and when he flipped it up to me, a nearby fan said, “I shouldn’t have studied German in high school.”

Here’s a photo of the ball:


Two minutes later, a right-handed batter crushed a deep drive to left-center. I was shaded more toward straight-away left, but the seats were still fairly empty, so I took off. Rather than looking up at the ball, which would have slowed me down, I focused on rushing to the spot where it was probably going to land. At the last second, I saw the ball heading toward a totally empty row and assumed it would take a wild ricochet and plop into someone’s lap who wasn’t even paying attention. That’s the kind of luck I’ve been having so far this season, but whaddaya know . . . the ball smacked the seats and stayed where it landed, allowing me to run over and grab it.

The Phillies finished hitting soon after that, and while I certainly wasn’t thrilled with how things had gone, I was relieved.

Take a look at the following photo — it shows the Pirates playing catch in left field:


Did you notice the three balls on the warning track? See the one near the foul pole? As soon as I noticed that, I ran over there to determine if I’d be able to snag it with my glove trick. Unfortunately, by the time I got there, it was gone, but something good ended up happening. In the photo above, do you see the usher in the red jacket just to the left of the foul pole? That’s where I was standing when a coach on the Pirates (not sure who) tossed me my third ball of the day.

Montanna was standing beside me when I got that ball. She had already snagged a few, including a well-worn 2014 postseason ball. I’d heard that the Pirates had been using some random commemorative balls during BP, but wow! Seeing the one that Montanna got gave me some extra motivation.

Several minutes later, as I began setting up my glove trick in left-center field, a 10-ish-year-old kid on my left asked, “Are you the guy with six thousand balls?!”

“Yeah,” I said, “that’s me, but I’m almost up to eight thousand now.”

His jaw actually dropped. It was pretty cute. Then I lowered my glove onto the warning track and secured my fourth ball of the day. As I was carefully lifting it back up, Arquimedes Caminero walked over and pretended to interfere, but thought better of it.

My fifth ball was a towering home run hit by Corey Hart. I judged it perfectly, and at the last second, I climbed up on a seat to give myself some extra reach. (As a non-6-foot-10 person who was feeling boxed in by several other fans, that’s what I had to do in that situation.)

A little while later, Andrew McCutchen hit a homer 20 feet to my left. If not for a group of middle-aged men who happened to be standing right where the ball landed, I would’ve caught it on the fly. Somehow they managed to bobble it back into my row, and I grabbed it. That was my sixth ball, and there were two groups of BP remaining. I should mention that all these balls had regular logos along with Rob Manfred’s stamped signature.

Things continued going my way when Starling Marte cranked a DEEP home run to left-center field. There was one little kid chasing the ball up a staircase. I was several steps behind him and figured it was all his, especially when it ricocheted back in his direction. Unfortunately for him, he ended up overrunning it, and it bounced right to me — but before he had a chance to feel bad, I handed the ball to him.

After getting the Pirates’ bullpen catcher, Heberto Andrade, to throw me my eighth ball of the day, I ran over to right field for the final group. Here’s what it looked like out there:


I had all kinds of room to run for homers, but it was dead! There was NO action, and I couldn’t get anyone to throw me a ball, so when BP ended, I still had eight.

At that point, my first thought was, “Damn! I should’ve been behind the Pirates’ dugout to catch all the guys coming off the field.” My next thought was, “Maybe I should still hurry over in case they take a while to transfer the BP balls from the basket to the equipment bags,” and so I sprung into action. Starting in right-center field, I ran through the empty seats toward the foul pole and then through foul territory toward 1st base. When I reached the Diamond Club area, I had to go up the stairs into the concourse and then keep running around home plate toward the 3rd base side. Just as I was about to cut back down into the seats, I heard someone shouting, “Hey! HEY!!!” I got the sense that the person was shouting at me, but why? Had I done something wrong? Did the person recognize me and want to say hello? The Pirates’ equipment guy WAS indeed still dealing with the baseballs on the warning track in front of the dugout, so when I realized that a cameraman was trying to get my attention, I held up my index finger as if to say, “Hang on,” and I kept running down the steps and toward the dugout. This was the scene:


The guy reaching into the basket is named Scott Bonnett. He’s the Pirates’ clubhouse attendant. How do I know that? Because of someone else in the photo who told me. See the guy on the right, touching the green padded railing? That’s a friend of mine from Pittsburgh named Zac Weiss. He was once a ballhawk — check out his profile on MyGameBalls.com. Now he’s a writer covering the Pirates for the Pittsburgh Sporting News — check out some of his recent articles here, here, here, and here. How cool is that?!

Anyway, lots of stuff happened within the next few minutes. First, Scott Bonnett tossed me my ninth ball of the day. Then the Pirates’ TV guy (pictured above in the suit and tie) got my attention and asked what I’d been doing during BP, and I was like . . . “Uhhhh, what?” He explained that one of the cameramen had seen me running all over the place and had been filming me. He asked a few more questions, so I told him about my collection and mentioned that I’d been interviewed live during a Pirates broadcast at Wrigley Field in 2013, and that’s when something clicked, I guess. This TV guy (whose name, by the way, is Robby Incmikoski) seemed to know who I was, and he asked if he could interview me live during this game.

“Where are you going to be sitting?” he asked.

“My ticket is right here in section 130,” I said, pointing at the seats behind me, “but I might be running all over the place.”

“Can you make sure to be here around the 3rd or 4th inning?”

“Sure,” I said and then asked if we should try to meet at a certain place and time, or if he wanted my phone number.

“Nah, I’ll find you.”

Scott Bonnett had overheard this conversation and ended up chatting with me for a few minutes. Here’s a photo of us, taken by Zac, who had made his way up into the seats:


I mostly talked to Scott about commemorative baseballs. I told him that one of my friends had snagged a 2014 postseason ball and asked what the deal was. He said he has loads of commemorative balls in a storage room, which have been accumulating, and he decided recently to start using them in BP. I asked how he got them all. He said that whenever the Pirates are on the road, the home team provides two cases of balls per day. (This is standard practice throughout the major leagues, and by the way, one case has six dozen balls.) When those balls are commemorative, the Pirates often end up taking a bunch back to Pittsburgh. He also told me that when the Pirates got a bunch of pink balls for Mother’s Day, there were enough extras that he placed one in each player’s locker. Another interesting thing he said was that MLB instructed him not to use any Selig balls during the regular season — not even during BP — so he tried to use them up during Spring Training. He’s a really nice guy, and I greatly appreciated the opportunity to talk to him.

When I headed back up to the concourse, the cameraman waved me down and asked what my story was. He told me he couldn’t believe that I had “big-leagued” him by blowing him off earlier. I apologized but it was all good. He wasn’t pissed. If anything, he was amused, and we had a good laugh. In the course of telling him about myself and what I do at games, I asked why he happened to be filming me. I can’t remember his exact response, but it was something like, “I just noticed you running all over the place. You were easy to spot in that yellow shirt, and I don’t know — I’d never seen anything like that in my life.”

We chatted for a few minutes, and then we both had to get back to work. He had other more important things to film, and I needed to hurry out to the bullpens in right-center field. Zac was still with me, and when we reached the outfield concourse, we got someone to take our picture:


Look at that son-of-a-gun with his media credential. Outstanding!

As for me, I’m fully aware that the stripy Pirates hat looks ridiculous, but when it comes to getting the players’ and coaches’ attention, it works wonders.

After a minute or two, Zac took off, leaving me here at the bullpen to do my thing:


In the photo above, that’s Francisco Liriano warming up and bullpen coach Euclides Rojas not paying attention. I stayed there for 10 minutes and eventually got a toss-up from Rojas — my 10th ball of the day.

In the top of the 1st inning, I headed to the Phillies’ dugout. I figured I’d try to get a 3rd-out ball from Ryan Howard, who always tosses the first one to the same spot — right to the bottom of the staircase in front of him. Guess who was already in position at the bottom of the stairs? That’s right . . . Montanna . . . which meant I had no chance. Therefore I started rooting for the inning to end with a strikeout, and when Starling Marte was at bat with two outs and two strikes, I moved to the home-plate end of the dugout. This was my view:


Moments later, Montanna, also anticipating a strikeout, scooted through an empty row — MY empty row — and when she saw me sitting in the end seat, she was like, “Aww, you’re stealing all my tricks!”

“YOUR tricks, huh?” I said with a smile.

As it turned out, Marte put the ball in play, Howard ended up with it, and neither of us got it.

I moved to the 3rd base side after that . . .


. . . and got the inning-ending ball from Pirates 1st baseman Sean Rodriguez. No kids. No competition. It was beautiful. Ryan Howard had grounded out to shortstop Jordy Mercer, and as the play was completed, I drifted down to the front row for the easy snag. That was my 11th ball of the day. I was in pretty good shape, but still wanted two or three more.

When the 2nd inning got underway, I headed back to the Phillies’ dugout and nearly caught a foul ball. It was one of those towering pop-ups that are impossible to judge. Somehow I picked the right spot, first by moving back up a few steps and then by drifting to my left through an empty row, but I got screwed at the last second by the railing that separates the regular seats from the Diamond Club. That railing is not quite waist-high, so with slightly quicker thinking/maneuvering, I could’ve stepped over it, but instead I got blocked and tried to make a fully-extended catch — and you know what? If not for a guy in the Diamond Club who stuck his hands out at the last second and bumped my glove (or, you know, if I were 6-foot-10), I’m pretty sure I would’ve had it. I don’t blame him, of course. Even though there was no way in hell that he was going to catch it, he had every right to make an attempt. It was just extremely frustrating when the ball deflected off my glove, plopped to the ground, and trickled under a seat. I lunged over the railing and tried to grab it, but it was just beyond my reach.

A few minutes later, when Phillies left fielder Darin Ruf caught the final out of the top of the 2nd inning, I drifted down the stairs to the front row. I thought I had a great shot at getting the ball until I noticed a teeny kid on my right. He was so little that he could barely see over the roof of the dugout. Not surprisingly, Ruf tried to hook him up with the ball by rolling it to him. The kid tried to glove it, but swatted at it clumsily, causing it to roll away from him toward the far edge of the roof. I stood there for a moment and watched, expecting the grown-up on the other side of the kid to corral the ball for him, but no one moved, so I reached out and picked up the ball with my glove and then handed it to the kid directly from my glove. This is a cheap way to have padded my total, but the fact is . . . I was the first fan to secure possession of that ball, so it counts.

That was my 12th ball of the day, and two minutes later, I got No. 13 at the Pirates’ dugout. It was pretty simple. I raced back over and got the infield warm-up ball from 3rd base coach Rick Sofield.

In the top of the 3rd inning, Robby (the Pirates’ TV guy) came and found me and led me down toward the field:


We entered a special handicapped seating area . . .


. . . which provided a nice peek into the end of the dugout:


Robby told me that the interview was going to begin during the next inning break. Here’s a photo of him that I took while we waited:


Ninety seconds before the bottom of the 3rd inning got underway, he told me we were going live in a moment, pointed out the camera on the 1st base side that was going to be filming us, and then started introducing me. Here’s the beginning of what he said on the air: “Well, every day at batting practice, you see a lot of fans running around trying to shag home run balls — maybe get a few thrown to them behind the dugout, but this is Zack Hample right here, and he takes it to a level that I promise no one else in the history of baseball has taken it.”

Thanks to a friend who was able to get me the footage, I can share a bunch of screen shots. While Robby was introducing me, I was shown running all over the place during BP. Here I am running to the right:


And to the left:


Here I am going up the stairs . . .


. . . and heading back down:


On the air, Robby said I snagged this ball . . .


. . . but I actually didn’t. Oh well.

I couldn’t believe how long the intro was. He kept talking about me, and the broadcast kept showing me. Here I am heading down to the Pirates’ dugout (after big-leaguing the camera man) . . .


. . . and here I am getting the ball from Scott Bonnett:


Look what else the broadcast showed:


That’s me taking off my Pirates shirt. I changed from a yellow shirt and black hat . . . to a black shirt and yellow hat. Can you spot me in the following screen shot?


I was hoping to change my appearance enough to trick Scott into tossing me another ball. On the air, Robby said it worked . . . but it didn’t. Whoops.

Did you notice Zac Weiss in the previous screen shot? He’s on the warning track up above, and in the next two images, you can see him near me in the stands. Here I am putting my Pirates gear away:


At this point, having been told by Robby that I was being filmed, I decided to play it up, so here I am showing my Phillies hat and making a shushing gesture:


After a 40-second intro, Robby said, “And here’s Zack Hample. We’ve been able to track him down for a second . . . and this was earlier. Hey, Zack, ya fumbled it, man. What happened on that foul ball?”

Meanwhile, here’s what the broadcast was showing:


FYI, they didn’t draw that red circle around my glove. They just played regular footage of the foul ball; I took a screen shot and photoshopped the circle. As you can see, the other guy reaching for it affected my ability to make a clean catch.

Here I am lunging for the ball on the ground . . .


. . . and here I am with my feet up in the air:


Other fans tried to help me up. The ushers were concerned that I had gotten hurt. What a pain in the ass. I was totally fine — just pissed off that I hadn’t caught the ball.

Finally, I was shown on camera replying to his question:


I said, “The railing got in my way, and I think that as I reached out for it, a guy was reaching from the opposite direction, and his hand bumped my glove, and AAAHHH, so close!”

After that, Robby asked how many baseballs I had caught in my life. (At that moment, the answer was 7,993.) Then he asked about the various hats and shirts that I wear. His next question was about the balls I’d snagged at this particular game, so I showed him the contents of my backpack:


Here we are holding up some baseballs:


He was kind enough to ask about my charity fundraiser, so I got to talk about Pitch In For Baseball. (Very briefly, for those who don’t know, I’ve been working with this charity since 2009. They provide baseball and softball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world; I’ve been getting people to pledge money for the balls that I snag, and with everyone’s help, I’ve raised more than $40,000. Click here for more info.)

Toward the end of the interview, Robby showed my hats . . .


. . . and said, “He has the vintage ’79 World Series Pirates hat and a Phillies hat and this one right here, and he’s got another shirt on under this and I don’t — it’s a lot to take in, believe me, and he burns a lot of calories during a game.”

“Yes, I do!” I said. “I can eat whatever I want during the season, and I still lose weight.”

Then the announcers talked about me for a bit. On my way out of the handicapped area, I talked to another fan, completely unaware that the camera was still on me:


The camera followed me as I headed up the stairs . . .


. . . and at the end of the inning, it showed me getting into position for a 3rd-out ball:


I didn’t snag that one, but hey, whatever. As I mentioned earlier, I already had 13 balls, so even if I didn’t get any more here in Philly, I figured I’d kinda maybe probably be okay. Would I be able to catch seven balls during BP at Citi Field on Friday and reach my milestone of 8,000? Eh . . . actually, I wasn’t sure. The Brewers were gonna be there, and while they *are* a good BP team with lots of right-handed hitters, who knows? Ever since Citi Field started opening two hours early (it opened 2.5 hours early every day in 2009 and 2010), I’ve been averaging about seven balls per game there — but that includes balls from pre-game throwing, 3rd-out balls during the game, foul balls, home runs, umpire balls, and other post-game snags. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that getting seven balls during BP would be a challenge. That’s what I would have to do in order to have it filmed; my girlfriend had other plans in the evening, so she was going to have to leave the stadium right after BP.

In the 4th inning, I noticed that every time a foul ball hit the protective screen behind home plate, the ballboy on the Pirates’ side retrieved it and tossed it into the crowd near the on-deck circle — and let me tell you, with Francisco Liriano and Cole Hamels pitching, there were LOTS of foul balls. Therefore, I moved down to the 2nd row in the 5th inning:


At many stadiums, I would never have gotten away with that. Guards and ushers often protect the first few rows, but here at Philly, it was wide open.

Not surprisingly, there were a bunch of foul balls during the 5th inning, but the stupid ballboy kept them all! Every time he retrieved one, he hurried back into the dugout without looking up. Even though all (and I do mean ALL) the kids in the front row already had one or two baseball apiece, they still nagged him for more.

In the top of the 6th inning the ballboy continued to ignore everyone, and I assumed I’d missed my chance, but after the 3rd out, something amazing happened. He poked his head out of the dugout and started tossing baseballs to everyone behind the front row. (Sorry, ballboy, you’re not so stupid after all.) He must’ve thrown six or eight into the crowd. The first one went to me (my 14th of the day), and a few moments later, he tried to zip one right past my ear. He threw it underhand, but with some real oomph — no arc at all. Out of instinct, I reached out and caught it (my 15th ball of the day), but it’s not like I blatantly robbed anyone. It was seriously only a foot or two to the right of my head. Of course, as soon as I caught that one, I turned around to see whom he might have been throwing it to. There was a woman directly behind me with a little girl, so I handed them the ball and said I was sorry for having snared it in front of them. It turned out that my apology wasn’t necessary. The way the woman saw it, I had saved them from getting hit, and I think that might have been true. The ballboy should have been more careful.

Just before the bottom of the 7th inning got underway, Rick Sofield tossed me another infield warm-up ball, perhaps because I had changed my appearance since the last one. I immediately handed it to a little kid with a glove who had wandered down the steps. That was my 16th ball of the day!

Look who ended up sitting directly across the stairs from me in the 8th inning:


That’s Montanna, and as you can see, she had asked me to sign one of her baseballs.

This was my view late in the game:


That kid in the red hat kept looking back at me and talking, and if you think he looks like a little wise guy, you’re absolutely right. He told me that he was going to play in the major leagues someday, so I asked him if he’d throw a baseball to me. He said no, and when I asked why not, he said, “Because you’ll be dead!”

I’ve concluded that everyone in Philadelphia is obnoxious — even newborn babies and fetuses.

Let me take a moment to talk about the game itself. First, it’s a good thing I didn’t waste my time in the outfield, because the only extra-base hit was a 5th-inning double by Carlos Ruiz. Second, the 9th inning had some major drama. The Pirates were trailing, 3-2, with one out and a runner on 3rd base, so when Jordy Mercer lifted a shallow-ish fly ball down the right field line, I wondered what they were gonna do. Play it safe and hold the runner? Or send him and test the cannon-like arm of Jeff Francoeur? Click this link to see what happened. (Seriously, click it. You’ll be glad you did. It’s a high-quality video with no advertisement at the start.)

Wow, right? Don’t mess with Frenchy! His incredible throw not only won the game, but gave Jonathan Papelbon his 113th save as a member of the Phillies — the most in franchise history. (Jose Mesa had 112.)

After the final out, the stadium was so loud and crazy that I couldn’t get the umpire’s attention, and not surprisingly, all the Pirates walking in from the bullpen were in a lousy mood:


Therefore my night ended with 16 baseballs. Here are the 12 that I kept:


As I always do when I come home from a game, I inspect my baseballs in black light. Check out the image below — four of the 12 have invisible ink stamps:


Finally, here’s a screen shot from the MLB app, sent by my friend Garrett Meyer in Kansas City:


Thanks, Garrett! But hey, do me a favor and charge your phone, okay? That red battery icon is distressing.

And that’s basically it. I had a GREAT day skipping work in favor of attending a game in a stadium that doesn’t suck. Best of all, I snagged so many baseballs that I set myself up to have No. 8,000 filmed during BP at my next game. Stay tuned. That blog entry will be coming soon.

I just found my TV interview on MLB.com. I wish I’d seen it sooner because I could’ve avoided posting all those screen shots, but anyway, here it is:


• 16 baseballs at this game

• 190 balls in 24 games this season = 7.92 balls per game.

• 351 lifetime balls in 37 games at Citizens Bank Park = 9.49 balls per game.

• 1,077 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 376 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 7,996 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 15 donors for my fundraiser

• $118.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $118.40 raised this season

• $40,073.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

5/8/15 at Yankee Stadium

My friend Brandon Sloter joined me at this game and started taking photos as soon as we entered the subway. Here I am just before boarding a No. 4 train to the Bronx:


Here I am outside Yankee Stadium . . .


. . . and here I am catching a home run during batting practice:


I think it was hit by Chase Headley, but I’m not sure.

That was actually my fourth ball of the day, but it was the first that Brandon saw. Before he made it inside, I had found a ball in the left field seats, gotten a toss-up from David Carpenter (who’s very very nice), and retrieved a home run that landed near me.

When the Orioles started hitting, I didn’t have to wait long to see more action. Here I am tracking a deep line drive:


It ended up carrying a bit farther than I expected, so I had to jump to make the catch:


Here I am with the ball:


I don’t know who hit that one or any of the other homers I’m about to tell you about — just mentioning it now so I don’t have to keep repeating myself.

Here’s a funny photo that makes it look like I’m afraid of the ball:


Why was I flinching instead of running over to catch it on the fly?

Two reasons . . .

First, when that ball was hit, I wasn’t standing there. I had to dart down the steps and then move to my right, so that was as close as I got before it landed. Second, deflections are the worst. Remember when this happened to me on 7/31/13 at Turner Field? I was trying to avoid a similar situation here at Yankee Stadium, so once I realized that I wasn’t going to catch the ball, I didn’t want to get too close. I ended up snagging it, though, so whatever.

After that, I headed over to right field for a bit and caught two home runs. The first one was fairly routine, and I gave it to the nearest fan. The second one, however, required a bit of an effort including fighting the sun and jumping. Check out this amazing photo that Brandon took as the ball was entering my glove:


See the guy behind me in the dark blue shirt? He and I are friendly acquaintances. He’s often in that spot, and whenever we see each other, we say hello. After I caught the ball, I apologized for jumping in front of him, and he was super-cool about it. He was like, “Don’t even worry. I just did the same thing to someone else, and anyway, we got eleven balls today, so it’s all good.” Then he told me that he’s not able to run and jump anymore like he used to, and he encouraged me to do it while I can.

THAT is the true spirit of ballhawking. You go for what you can (while making sure not to crash into anyone). Sometimes you rob people. Sometimes you get robbed. And you just accept that that’s how it goes.

I finished BP with eight balls. Then I headed to the upper deck with Brandon:


In the photo above, that’s him on the staircase. He’s a professional videographer/photographer, and he wanted to get some pics up there. (FYI, he’s the guy who has filmed me at PETCO Park, Wrigley Field, Citizens Bank Park, and Dodger Stadium.) Of course, before we headed back downstairs, he offered to take one of me:


Just before the game started, I got my ninth ball of the day . . .


. . . from Orioles bullpen catcher Jett Ruiz.

This was my view during the game:


As I mentioned on Twitter, Delmon Young was playing right field for the Orioles, and this fan in the bleachers . . .


. . . was yelling, “MARKAKIS!!! I HATE YOU!!!”

Just about everyone on Twitter thought the guy was a complete idiot for not realizing that Nick Markakis no longer plays for the Orioles. At the time, I didn’t feel like tweeting back and forth with dozens of people, so let me set the record straight now: the guy was joking. Trust me. He knew what he was doing. And he was LOUD. He was yelling in a comical, raspy/nasal-y way that somehow made his voice carry like you wouldn’t believe. I’m sure there were at least 1,000 people who heard every word he was saying, including Delmon Young (who deserves heckling). Later on, the guy spent a few innings yelling, “MARKAKIS!!! YOU’RE TERRIBLE!!!” and eventually he screamed, “MARKAKIS!!! YOU’RE LUCKY SECURITY IS HERE!!!” which might seem threatening or menacing, but the guy was so over-the-top goofy that it just made everyone laugh.

You know what else was funny? All the mustache photos of the Yankees on the jumbotron. Look at this nonsense:


This was my dinner — garlic fries with cheese sauce:


As for the game, the Yankees jumped out to a 5-0 lead. Then the Orioles scored four runs to make it interesting, but that was it. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller each pitched a scoreless inning (YET AGAIN) to shut things down. Neither one of those guys has given up an earned run all season! That’s great if you’re a Yankee fan, but if you’re like me, and you just wanna watch baseball and see compelling games which might feature a comeback once in a while, it kinda sucks.

Check out the following photo, which I took after the game:


Did you spot the baseball in the bullpen? See the groundskeeper working on the mound? I asked him for it (in the most polite way imaginable), and he just shook his head. Thanks.

Here are the eight balls I took home:


Not bad overall, though Yankee Stadium always stresses me out and makes me considerably poorer.


• 9 baseballs at this game

• 169 balls in 22 games this season = 7.68 balls per game.

• 859 lifetime balls in 128 games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.71 balls per game.

• 1,075 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 740 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 256 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 7,975 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 15 donors for my fundraiser

• $118.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $118.40 raised this season

• $40,073.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

4/29/15 at Yankee Stadium

I usually avoid day games, but I made an exception for this one. Not only was Alex Rodriguez one homer away from tying Willie Mays on the all-time list, but more importantly, my girlfriend, Hayley, wanted to go.

Here’s what we saw upon entering the stadium:


The good news was that the cage and screens were set up for batting practice. The bad news was that no one was hitting.

After a few minutes, several Rays began throwing in deep left-center field, so I ran out to the bleachers to get as close to them as possible:


In the photo above, that’s me in the front row.

That turned out to be a waste of time, but thankfully I had another opportunity before long. Several Yankees began throwing along the right-field foul line, so I raced over there and got Justin Wilson to chuck me a ball. Take a close look at the following photo — see the ball in mid-air?


The ball sailed way over my head . . .


. . . but the seats behind me were empty, so I was able to chase it down.

Here I am taking a photo of the ball . . .


. . . and here’s the ball itself:


Nice! I love ’em when they’re worn and beat up.

The Rays started hitting 10 minutes later:


This was the extent of the action — me maneuvering into position on a ball that fell short:


But hey, it’s still a cool photo.

Batting practice was dead. The Yankees didn’t hit at all, and the Rays only had one group — that’s right, just ONE group of BP — consisting of two righties and a lefty, who combined to hit one home run into the left-field seats. It was so lame that I had time to catch up with my friend Eddie and inform him that he had a tiny of blob of sun block on his earlobe:


Yup, that’s the spot. You got it.

After BP I headed over to the Rays’ dugout and got a ball thrown to me by Charlie Montoyo, the team’s 3rd base coach. Then, moments later, after he had disappeared inside the dugout, I got another toss-up from the equipment guy. Here’s the ball in mid-air . . .


. . . and here’s the guy (with the shaved head) who tossed it:


A little while later, I moved to the left-field foul line:


Here I am getting my fourth ball of the day from Ernesto Frieri:


(Nice job, Hayley, with the photos!)

I think it’s funny that no one else made an attempt to snatch it. They’re all just . . . standing there.

Here’s the $16 meal that Hayley and I shared before the game:


It was a significant portion of food — probably two to three pounds of french fries, steak, onions, and cheese sauce. Last season I tried to eat that by myself and failed (I could’ve done it in high school, but I was a fat-ass back then), so I was glad to make this a team effort.

Here’s Hayley watching Michael Pineda warm up before the game:


This was our view during the game:


There were a whole lot of empty seats around me, so of course the only two home runs were hit to left field.

Here’s something that amused me at first and left me shaking my head:


As you can see, the kid in the front row was focusing on the video game on his phone, but whatever — no big deal, right? Kids have short attention spans and are prone to being distracted . . . right?

Well, this was a special child. He was *so* disinterested in baseball, and the sun was shining *so* brightly on his mobile device that he ended up doing this:


But who am I to judge? When I was 11 years old, my mom took me to Disney World, and I spent the entire week playing Arkanoid in the hotel game room.

For Hayley, this game at Yankee Stadium probably felt like it lasted a week. Take a look at the scoreboard:


It wasn’t the 3rd inning — oh no no no. It was the 13th inning. Hayley wanted to leave after 9 innings, and she was THIS close to bailing after 10. To get her to stay, I had to bribe her with fries and a chocolate shake from the Johnny Rockets concession stand halfway across the stadium — but *she* had to go get it.

There was no 14th inning, and that was fine by me. Nineteen days earlier, I’d sat through the entirety of a 19-inning game, which was incredible, but I didn’t feel the need for an encore.

Here I am with Hayley after the final out:


Moments after that photo was taken, I found a crinkled-up $20 bill in the seats.



21_the_four_balls_i_snagged_04_29_15• 4 baseballs at this game

• 108 balls in 15 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.

• 842 lifetime balls in 126 games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.7 balls per game.

• 1,068 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 733 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 254 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 7,914 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 14 donors for my fundraiser

• $115.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $115.40 raised this season

• $40,070.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

4/14/15 at Citi Field

This was my first Mets game of the season, and I was expecting a big crowd. No, it wasn’t the home Opener. Mets ace Matt Harvey, who had missed all of last season while rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery, was going to be pitching at Citi Field for the first time in 19 months.

The stadium looked calm from afar . . .


. . . and because I’d arrived so early, there wasn’t much action yet outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.:


Do you remember all the metal detectors outside Yankee Stadium that I saw last week? Major League Baseball and the Department of Homeland Security had worked together this past offseason and decided that every stadium would have metal detectors in 2015 — so how come there weren’t any at Citi Field?

I figured the guards and supervisors were going to bring them out any minute and set them up. It was only 4pm, so there was still plenty of time — more than an hour until the stadium would open.

Well then. Let’s fast-forward an hour, shall we? First take a look at the loooooong lines of fans waiting to get in:


Now check out the area between the barricades and the stadium gates:


Do you see any metal detectors? I didn’t see any, but as it turned out, there were a bunch. Sort of. Rather than using the big, airport-style rectangular things that fans would have to walk through, the Mets’ security guards all had hand-held metal-detecting wands. Here’s how it worked: the guard at my table inspected my backpack as he had always done. Then, after being told that I could go, I headed toward the gate and was stopped by a guard, who had me spread my legs and arms, at which point he wanded me front and back for about 20 seconds. Despite the fact that I was first on line, several fans at other lines got in ahead of me, presumably because they weren’t wanded as thoroughly. Overall I’d say the level of security was pretty good, though not foolproof or consistent. I heard later from a guard I know that the Mets only got SIX of the walk-though metal detectors and placed them at the club/suite entrances — two each at the Stengel, Seaver, and Hodges gates. Not that I’m complaining or anything (because this whole metal-detecting thing is awful), but how can they get away with that?

Anyway, last season the Mets often finished taking BP before the stadium opened. Here’s what I saw at my first Mets game of 2015 when I made it out to left field:



David Wright was in the cage, and before anyone else made it out to the left field seats, he launched a home run in my direction. Just my luck . . . it sailed 40 feet over my head, landed in the second deck, and bounced back onto the field. That might have prompted me to curse the universe. Wright proceeded to hit two more homers into the empty seats surrounding me. Even though there still wasn’t anyone else nearby, I scrambled after the balls. Here they are:


During the final group of Mets BP, I got a toss-up from rookie pitcher Erik Goeddel, and then I got THE luckiest bounce on a John Mayberry Jr. home run. I was standing in the fourth row, not too thrilled about another guy who had decided to stand directly in front of me in the third row. Mayberry hit a deep line drive right at us, and we both knew it was going to fall short. The other guy drifted down the steps to the front row, but I stayed in my spot — not for any particular reason. It just seemed pointless to move because I could tell that the ball might not even reach the Party Deck down below.

Guess what happened? The ball struck the railing at the very front of the Party Deck . . .


. . . and ricocheted up into the stands, looping directly over the other guy and landing *right* where I was standing. I didn’t have to move. I simply reached up and gloved it. Ha!

When the Phillies took the field, I headed into foul territory. As usual, I would’ve liked to be behind the 3rd base dugout, but wasn’t allowed to go any farther than this:


In the photo above, do you see the guard on the right in the green jacket? There’s always a guard there during BP, whose *only* job is to prevent people from walking through the seats toward the dugout. No other stadium does that during BP. Even at the prison-like Yankee Stadium, which has more rules than the other 29 stadiums combined, all fans are allowed to go behind the dugouts early on — not all the way down to the “Legends” area, where people need wristbands, but whatever. Just being able to hang out in the vicinity of the dugouts is a nice thing. It enables fans to interact with the players and see them up close, but the Mets have not allowed it since Citi Field opened in 2009.

When the Phillies started hitting, I headed to the seats in right-center field:


I chose this section for two reasons. First, a bunch of lefties were taking turns in the cage, and second, I wanted to see the new outfield configuration. In case you haven’t heard, the Mets moved in the fences during the offseason . . . AGAIN. Here’s what it looks like up close:



If the Mets want to maximize revenue (and happiness), they should consider building a little staircase down to that area, replacing the outfield wall with a chain-link fence, and converting that dead zone into a group/party area. Hell, they don’t even need to sell it separately. They could just open it up to anyone . . . ya know, to be nice. Put a beer cart down in there. Sell some pretzels and sausages. Turn the dead zone into a fun zone.

Back in left field, I found myself standing behind four Mets fans wearing jerseys of the all-time greats:


Wait a minute . . . Klemm and Lenefsky? I think not.

I snagged two home runs hit by Jeff Francoeur — my fifth and sixth balls of the day. The first landed in the seats one section to my left, and as I lunged for it, I bashed my right tit on the metal corner of a seat. The second one, thankfully, was uneventful by comparison; it came right to me, and I caught it on the fly.

Look how crowded it was after BP:


All this for Matt Harvey?!

Shortly before the season started, I read an article about various concession items debuting at stadiums around the major leagues. When I learned that Citi Field was going to offer thick-cut bacon covered in s’mores, I *had* to try it.

After BP, I met up with my friend Mark McConville, and we headed to the “Pig Guy NYC” stand together. As you can see below, there was quite a line:


No problem, right? How long does it take to dip a piece of bacon in a vat of gooey chocolatey stuff? The answer is that it takes a LONG-ASS TIME when you run out of bacon. And it takes even longer when you have to wait five minutes for a new container of bacon to arrive. And it takes *even* longer when that new container of bacon is uncooked. If we’d known at the start how long it was going to take, we wouldn’t have waited, but by the time everything got held up, Mark and I had already invested 10 minutes and were in the middle of the line.

So we waited.

And waited.

To pass the time (and also because it was kinda cool), I took a photo of the $100 million roof being built over Arthur Ashe Stadium:


And then we waited some more.

No exaggeration — we were on that effin’ line for nearly 40 minutes, and when we finally made it up to the front, the bacon wasn’t even close to being adequately cooked:


I prefer my bacon crispy, but what could I do? Leave after waiting such a long time?! Wait another 10 minutes for one piece of it to be cooked more just for me? Mark and I were in danger of missing the start of the game.

I was tempted to bail, but then I saw this sign up close:


I couldn’t resist. I’d waited too long, and I was starving, so I handed over my money and received this in exchange:


It was meh.

Perhaps I’ve been spoiled. Just a few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of eating thick-cut bacon (followed by a full steak dinner) at Peter Luger. Take a look at this photo. THIS is how it’s supposed to be done — it was like the Mike Trout of bacon. What I got at Citi Field was the Ruben Tejada of bacon. It was soft and lacked oomph. The chocolatey s’mores coating wasn’t flavorful enough and therefore didn’t add much, and there wasn’t nearly enough marshmallow. Remember when I tried some chocolate-covered bacon on 6/12/11 at Coors Field? That certainly looked gross, and at the time I didn’t think much of it, but at least the flavors were powerful.

It should be noted that Mark got the s’mores-covered bacon *and* the caramel-coated bacon. He agreed with me about the s’mores, but said the other one was much better.

I barely made it here for the first pitch:


Matt Harvey struck out Odubel Herrera (not to be confused with Asdrubel Cabrera) to start the game, and everyone in the stadium was PUMPED:


There was palpable energy and enthusiasm everywhere; this game felt like a hybrid of Opening Day and the playoffs.

When Harvey struck out Freddy Galvis with a 98mph fastball, the stadium erupted. Here’s the pitch speed on the jumbotron:


Here’s Harvey delivering a pitch to Chase Utley:


When the count went to 1-2, it felt as if the stadium were about to explode:


But then something funny happened: Chase Utley hit a home run. Everyone was like, “WTF did we just see?” But it was only one run, and Harvey struck out the next batter, Ryan Howard (which probably wasn’t all that difficult), to get everyone re-energized.

The Mets tied the game in the bottom of the 1st inning, and then I headed to left field for a bit. Look how crowded it was out there:


The paid attendance for this game was 39,489. And let me remind you that this was NOT the Mets’ home opener. That had taken place the day before, drawing a crowd of 43,947 — the biggest in Citi Field history.

Here’s where I sat for the next few innings:


I absolutely hate sitting in the middle of a row, but I had no choice because it was so damn crowded. Thankfully I had a bit of room on my right . . .


. . . but I was antsy. I felt like a caged animal, and to make matters worse, I had a lousy view of the scoreboard because of the overhang of the second deck:


I had to get out there. I just couldn’t sit still.

I headed up to the second deck in right field, stopping along the way to take this photo:


Then I went to the outermost staircase in the second deck. I wanted to get a view from above of the new/shorter outfield wall and all that dead space behind it. Check it out:


That is THE weirdest outfield/bullpen setup in the major leagues.

Look who was at the bottom of my staircase:


SIN GUY!! He commits all sorts of horrible acts and . . . oh wait, his ponytail was blockin’ the gee.

SIGNGUY. My bad. I’d never seen him up close.

I could write 10,000 words about all the oddities in this game, but instead I’ll summarize them quickly. Two Mets players were injured — Michael Cuddyer on a hit-by-pitch followed by David Wright, who messed up his hamstring on a stolen base and is now on the disabled list. Chase Utley was beaned (probably intentionally) by Harvey and hit a second homer later on. Both teams were warned by the home plate umpire. There were instant replay reviews that dragged on. Mets manager Terry Collins got ejected for arguing a catcher’s interference call (which turned out to be a bad call). Mets backup catcher Anthony Recker played 3rd base in the 9th inning — the first time in his professional career that he’d done that. And so on. I’m probably forgetting a few things, but you get the idea. This game was weird, and the Mets held on for a 6-5 win.

After the final out . . .


. . . I got my seventh and final ball of the day from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez. (Can you spot him in the photo above?) Here I am with the balls:


On my way out, I lingered in the concourse for a few minutes until I saw a cute kid walking by slowly with an empty glove. I drifted over to the kids’ father and asked, “Did you guys catch a ball today?” When the kid predictably shook his head, I reached into my pocket, pulled out a clean BP ball, placed it in his glove, and said, “Well, you got one now.”

They were thrilled, of course, and I felt good too. I had survived my first of many Mets games this season.


32_the_six_balls_i_kept_04_14_15• 7 baseballs at this game (six pictured here because I gave one away)

• 30 balls in 5 games this season = 6 balls per game.

• 1,008 lifetime balls in 134 games at Citi Field = 7.52 balls per game.

• 1,058 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 723 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 470 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 7,836 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 11 donors for my fundraiser

• $108.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $108.40 raised this season

• $40,063.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

4/10/15 at Yankee Stadium

There was nothing special about this day early on. The weather was dreary, and I headed out to right field at the start of batting practice:


I managed to catch one baseball out there — a home run that was hit by a left-handed batter on the Yankees. I’m not sure who it was, but if I had to guess, I’d say Stephen Drew. It was heading between me and another guy. We both reached for it, and I happened to reach a little farther. It felt good to catch it and get on the board, but things went downhill from there.

When the Red Sox started hitting, I headed over to left field and misplayed TWO home run balls! On the first one, I darted down the steps and reached over the outfield wall, at which point the ball hit the palm of my glove and squirted right out. I felt *so* dumb, and then five minutes later, I had one clang off my wrist. If there’s an excuse for that one, it’s that I was half-reaching for it and half-flinching because a tall guy in front of me was going for it too, and it seemed to be well within his reach. But no. He whiffed. And I tanked it. And then I started doubting myself in all sorts of ways.

Thankfully I regained my edge during the next group of hitters. First I grabbed a Hanley Ramirez homer during a mad scramble in the middle of a row. Then, moments later, I jumped and back-handed another Hanley homer, and a little while after that, I got Joe Kelly to toss me a ball.

All three of the balls I got from the Red Sox had red check marks on the sweet spot. Here’s a photo of one of them:


I’ve snagged lots of marked balls over the years, but this was new to me, so I have to ask: if there are any Red Sox fans reading this, do you know the story? Is this simply the team’s way of keeping track of their baseballs, or is it some kind of social media thing?

After BP, I caught up with a few friends, ate a sandwich I’d brought from home, fiddled around on my phone for a while, and eventually headed to my seat in straight-away right field.

The Red Sox jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the 1st inning and scored twice more in the top of the 6th. Then the Yankees rallied for two runs in the bottom of the 6th to trim the lead to 3-2 — pretty standard stuff, right? Not exactly. If you use the number of fights breaking out in various sections as a barometer, it was anything but “standard.” The Yankees and Red Sox, of course, are huge rivals; this was the first of 19 games that they’d play in 2015, and lots of fans were GOING AT IT. There was a major fight in the left field upper deck, and I saw other skirmishes in the bleachers. There was so much drunken hostility that it kinda felt like the old Yankee Stadium.

During the 7th-inning stretch, while standing at a urinal in the men’s room, I heard something hit the floor on my left. It had made somewhat of a clapping noise, so in the instant before I looked over, I assumed someone had dropped a book or a plastic cup, so I was surprised when I saw that a young man had fallen over backwards, not much more than five feet away from me. Did he slip on something? Was he drunk? I didn’t know what to make of it, and then BAM!!! Out of nowhere, another guy jumped on top of him and started punching him as hard as you can possibly imagine . . . on the head and in the face . . . over and over and OVER and OVER. It was relentless and absolutely terrifying! I had never seen a fight that close to me, nor had I ever witnessed anything so brutal. I truly thought the guy on the bottom was going to be killed or blinded or suffer permanent brain damage. It wasn’t at all like a movie. There were no fake sound effects for the punches. Instead there were eerie thumps each time the guy’s skull was struck by the other man’s fist. Within five or ten seconds, I head someone shout, “NYPD!! GET THE F*CK OFF OF HIM AND DON’T F*CKING MOVE!!!” The guy shouting wasn’t in uniform. I don’t know if he was working undercover or if he was off-duty, but thankfully he broke it up. The guy who’d been getting pummeled managed to stand up with a bit of help, and almost instantly, I saw a whole lot of blood starting to trickle down his face in various spots. That’s about the time that I finished my business at the urinal, and I got THE HELL out of there. I’ll admit it — normally I like to gawk, but this was way too real and horrific. I couldn’t handle it. I was practically shaking as I ran out of the bathroom and made my way back to my seat.

I don’t know what happened to the guy who’d gotten beat up, but I heard that the other guy got arrested and that the bathroom was shut down for several innings because it was a crime scene.

I’m still in shock as I sit here writing this. It was one of those “Did that really happen?” moments. I don’t know what caused the fight, but I can tell you that neither of the guys was wearing Red Sox gear — not that that alone would justify violence, but it could serve as a preliminary explanation.

Wow. Okay. Let’s move on . . .

The Red Sox took a 3-2 lead into the bottom of the 9th, and when they brought Edward Mujica into the game, I thought, “Hoo-boy, here we go.” And sure enough, with two outs, Chase Headley crushed a 401-foot bomb into the 2nd deck.

Extra innings. NOT GOOD. I was sooooooo not feeling it. I just wanted to go home and cuddle with my girlfriend and go to bed, but on the other hand, I couldn’t bear the thought of a home run landing near my seat and not being there to catch it.

No one scored in the 10th inning. Or in the 11th inning. And guess what happened in the 12th? Some of the stadium lights flickered and went out. From where I was sitting, it seemed bright enough for the game to continue, but obviously it was too dark for the players, so there was a delay.

OH MY GOD. I wanted to go home. I was cold and hungry and tired, and my cell phone was nearly dead, and I was still upset about the BP balls I’d dropped, and worst of all, I was having constant flashbacks of the fight in the bathroom. If ever there were a time NOT to be at a baseball game, this was it. But I stayed.

As the delay dragged on, several fans behind me in the bleachers turned on their cell phones and held them up to (jokingly) provide extra light for the field:


That put a brief smile on my face.

Within a few minutes, hundreds of fans all over the stadium were holding up their phones:


After a 16-minute delay, the game resumed.

No one scored in the 12th inning.

Or in the 13th.

Remember when I was sponsored two years ago by BIGS Sunflower Seeds? Well, I still have a bunch of seeds left over, and I still bring them to games. On this particular occasion, I decided to break out a few sample packs as the game headed to the 14th inning:


This was the point at which the length of the game suddenly switched over from annoying to cool. The longest game I’d ever been to was 17 innings back in 1993 at Shea Stadium. I remember staying until the very end and then getting a ball tossed to me at the dugout, so maybe something good would come of this long game too? Balls or no balls, I suddenly found myself rooting for the game NOT to end. If the game lasted 14 innings, why not make it 18? Or hell, how about 20?

No one scored in the 14th inning.

Or in the 15th inning.

By now most of the fans had left, so the seats (as you can see in the photo above) were quite empty. If, by some great stoke of luck, a home run happened to fly in my direction, I knew I’d have a good chance of catching it, so I was genuinely excited. That said, I was still rooting for for good pitching and defense — just one more scoreless frame and it would tie my longest game ever.

Before the 16th inning got underway, Yankees right fielder Carlos Beltran tossed his warm-up ball toward a family sitting directly in front of me in the second row. One of the kids ended up getting it, which was great except for the fact that her brother was now empty-handed . . . so I reached into my backpack and gave him my cleanest ball.

Esmil Rogers struck out Dustin Pedroia to start the top of the 16th. The next batter, David Ortiz, fell behind in the count 0-2, but then connected on a hanging slider:


From the moment his bat hit the ball, I knew it was going to be a home run and that I had a good chance of catching it. I jumped out of my seat, drifted about 10 feet to my right, and climbed back over a row of seats. By that point, I knew the ball was going to land right near me. My section was fairly empty, and no one else was wearing a glove, so basically it was all mine as long as I didn’t screw it up. Therefore, I climbed back over another row of seats to be safe. It’s easier, of course, to move forward than backward, so given the fact that I had the room to maneuver, I decided to get behind the spot where I predicted it would land.

If you zoom way in on the following screenshot, you can see me lifting my leg to climb back over that second row of seats:


The ball had been hit VERY high, so I had plenty of time to judge it and get into position, and as it descended, I simply *knew* I was going to catch it. I just had to make one final quick-ish movement to my right to get in line with it, and then I reached up and out for a fairly easy back-handed catch.

Here’s another screenshot for you to zoom in on; take a close look and you’ll see me reaching up for the ball:


My momentum took me farther down the row . . .


. . . and then it was time to celebrate:


Everyone in right field, especially in the bleachers, was yelling at me to “THROW IT BACK!!!” which was fine. They had every right to yell, and I had every right to keep the ball, but they persisted, so I decided to mess with everyone a little bit. I faced the field and cocked my arm back as if I were going to chuck it . . .


. . . but then I stopped mid-motion and held onto the ball:


Then I turned around and faced the fine folks in the bleachers and shook my index finger at them as if to say, “No no no.” Check it out:


Despite the negative things being said about me on the internet, I wasn’t trying to antagonize anyone. I wasn’t doing it for attention. I had no idea that my fake throw-back would be shown on TV. I didn’t intend for it to be cocky. The stadium was so empty at that point, and everyone remaining was so stunned by the circumstances, that it really didn’t cause much of a fuss. A few people questioned what team I was rooting for, and one guy (wearing a Red Sox jersey) offered me $50 for the ball, but that was it. In the immediate aftermath, the best thing that happened was being recognized by a guy sitting 20 feet to my right, who turned out to be a teammate from my summer baseball team in 1994. WOW!! We hadn’t seen each other since then, so it was quite a nice surprise. Here I am with him and a few of his friends; he’s the guy holding the ball:


As amazing as it would’ve been to leave the stadium after 16 innings with a game-winning home run ball in my possession, I didn’t want the night to end — and lucky me! In the bottom of the 16th, Mark Teixeira hit a leadoff homer (on his birthday, no less) to tie the game! Here’s a photo of the small celebration in the seats as he rounded the bases:


In the photo above, the girl wearing pink is the one who had gotten the warm-up ball from Beltran. Here’s a better shot of her with her brother (holding the ball I gave him) and their father:


Very nice people.

Here’s a photo of the scoreboard in the 17th inning:


It might look like it was only the 7th inning, but that’s because the scoreboard operators took everything down after the 10th and started from scratch. On the jumbotron, however, the inning numbers were accurate. I didn’t have a clear view of it from my seat (because of that awful Mohegan Sun Sports Bar), but you can still kinda see it here:


Normally I don’t root for the Yankees, but this insanely long game was messing with my head. When the Red Sox scored in the top of the 18th inning, I was disappointed, and when the Yankees tied it up in the bottom of the 18th, I was ecstatic. And by the way, the mere fact that it even reached the 18th inning meant it was THE longest game I had EVER attended. Hot damn!

The inning numbers were refreshed AGAIN at the start of the 19th:


Innings 19 through 27 . . . can you even imagine a game lasting THAT long?!

Here’s a photo I took in the top of the 19th inning when the clock struck 2:00am:


Look how empty the seats were:


I was fantasizing about catching another home run, but of course I was rooting for more scoreless baseball. I wanted the game to last 20 innings, but UGH, the damn Red Sox scored in the top of the 19th.

During the inning break, I took a photo of my home run ball . . .


. . . which, by the way, raised more than $100 for the charity Pitch In For Baseball. For the last six years, I’ve been encouraging people to pledge money for every ball I snag, but now as a new experiment this season, I’m asking for bigger pledges and only counting game home runs. In previous years, people sometimes pledged as little as one penny per ball, but that was fine because I’d snag about 500 or 600 balls (including BP) and they’d end up donating $5 or $6. This year I’m telling people to multiply their pledges by 100, so in other words, if you used to donate 10 cents per ball and you want to contribute again in 2015, you should consider donating $10 per home run. If the David Ortiz homer is the only one I snag this season, that would be incredibly lame, and if I somehow get really lucky and catch 10, that would be insane. Mostly likely I’ll end up somewhere in the middle, so the multiply-by-100 math should work pretty well.

Here’s what the scoreboard looked like in the middle of the 19th inning:


As you can see, the Red Sox had a 6-5 lead.

Unfortunately that’s the last scoreboard photo I got because the Yankees never posted the final score anywhere. Therefore I can only share an image of the Red Sox spilling out onto the field after the final out:


Did you notice Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia near 2nd base walking away from their teammates? They’d just turned a double play to end THE longest game in Red Sox history (6 hours and 49 minutes) and must’ve needed a moment to clear their heads.

As for me . . . I was bummed that the game didn’t last 20 innings, but overall I was thrilled with how it went down. One of the highlights of the night was the overwhelmingly positive reaction on Twitter from so many people. Here’s a gigantic screenshot to show you what I mean; many thanks to everyone who gave me a shout-out, especially my friend Chris Hernandez for being first on the list . . .



Please accept my apology if you Tweeted at me and I didn’t respond. As you can see, it got kinda crazy there for a while, and of course I was still trying to watch a baseball game, and my phone was on the verge of dying. But I promise I read everything, and as I mentioned up above, it really meant a lot to me.

Naturally I was curious to know exactly what Bob Costas had said about me. He was announcing the game with John Smoltz on the MLB Network, and as several people mentioned on Twitter, he called me a “disgrace.” What’s up with that?!

The next day, with some help from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous, I managed to get my hands on the footage. Here’s how Costas called it: “A high drive, deep right field, Beltran retreats to the track, and Ortiz has given the Red Sox the lead in the sixteenth . . . a Yankee fan retrieved it and then hurled it back in disgust, but it’s Ortiz rounding the bases and touching the dish to make it four to three.” Nearly a minute later, Costas said, “And you know, I may have been wrong. I think the guy may have pantomimed throwing it back and then held onto it. Either he’s a Red Sox fan traveling incognito without any identifying garments or else he’s just a civic disgrace from the standpoint of Yankee fans who remain. Either way he’s got the ball and the Red Sox have the lead.” Moments later, there was a replay showing what I did with the ball, prompting Costas to cut himself off mid-sentence and say, “Here’s the guy — here look, he fakes the throw. There it is. That’s why I thought he’d thrown it back. He fakes it to taunt the fans surrounding him, and then he keeps it.”

Damn right I kept it. I’ve always had mixed emotions about the practice of throwing visiting teams’ home run balls back onto the field. Personally, that’s not my style, but it can be entertaining when other people do it. If you have an opinion one way or the other, you need to see this Reddit comment. Seriously, click that link. It will make you think and put a smile on your face.

The end.


26_the_four_balls_i_kept_04_10_15• 5 baseballs at this game (four pictured here because I gave one away)

• 16 balls in 3 games this season = 5.33 balls per game.

• 807 lifetime balls in 121 games at the new Yankee Stadium = 6.67 balls per game.

• 1,055 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 721 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 249 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball

• 31 lifetime game home run balls (including 23 that I caught on the fly); click here for the complete list.

• 7,822 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 11 donors for my fundraiser

• $107.17 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $107.17 raised this season

• $40,062.67 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009


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