8/14/07 at Yankee Stadium

Last week (in case you missed it) I was interviewed on NPR. Since then I’ve heard from a bunch of people who want to watch baseball with me, including a woman who asked if I’d take her son to Yankee Stadium before he had to head back to college on August 17th. I told her I was free on the 14th so she gave me his phone number, and I called him the day before the game to get a little more info.

His name is Peter. He’s 21 years old. About to start his junior year at the University of Miami. Psychology major. Huge Yankees fan. Huge baseball fan. Runs a 20-team fantasy league. Has a partial season ticket plan with his dad at Yankee Stadium. Played varsity baseball in high school…

So, what exactly did he need me for?

“I’ve never been to batting practice,” he admitted, adding that he’d once gotten a ball at Spring Training, but never at a major league stadium.

“I think we can do something about that,” I said.

We ended up talking for 20 minutes–very cool guy–and by 4pm the next day, we were shaking hands and heading to the #4 train.

By the time GATE 6 opened at 5:05pm, the line behind us was insanely long so I set Peter up in the corner spot out in straight-away right field.

Peter_corner_spot

It wasn’t a good spot to snag six balls, but there was an excellent chance he’d get at least one thrown to him. He was a bit shy at first, at least in terms of using his voice, so I assured him it wasn’t rude to yell as long as he said please, and soon after, he got Phil Hughes to toss him a ball.

Peter_shouting_for_ball

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten to warn Peter that Yankees fans tend to be rather aggressive during batting practice. Therefore, when he didn’t reach all the way out for the ball, another fan reached in front of him and stole it. Not good. It was still early, but I could tell it was going to be a slow day for balls. The players weren’t hitting or throwing much into the seats, there were half a dozen kids with cup/glove tricks, and the entire section had a sinister vibe. I’d managed to snag two balls by that point–one from Mike Mussina and another with the glove trick–so at least Peter was guaranteed not to go home empty-handed, but I wanted him to enjoy the rush of getting a ball for himself. When the Orioles took the field, I told him to lose the Yankees cap and Jeter jersey, and I gave him my Orioles cap.

Zack_gives_hat_to_peter

I also gave him an Orioles roster and helped shout at the players, and within a few minutes, Nick Markakis fired a ball at him from about 100 feet away. The ball was easily traveling 50 to 60mph, but it seemed to float toward us in slow-motion, during which time I was praying that Peter would put his 6-foot-2 frame to good use and reach all the way out. PLEASE!!! Please reach out. Please make the catch. This is your chance. Your second chance. Possibly your last chance for quite some time. Reach all the way out. ALL THE WAY. And don’t just reach. Open the glove. Open the glove and hold it in the right spot and squeeze it at just the right moment. Did you really play high school baseball? Prove it. Make the catch. Make it. Do it. Come on…

Peter_first_ball_ever

He made the one-handed catch with ease. Hell yeah. But the rest of BP was a nightmare. First I tore my (overpriced) cargo shorts on the back of a seat as I tried to squeeze down a narrow staircase (and nearly lost my keys and wallet as a result), and later on, I got knocked down while going for a ball. It was the second time this happened in my last two Yankees games, and I was NOT happy. Basically, there was a ball that got flipped up from the warning track, and it was coming down directly to me, so I reached up and jumped a few inches and got body-checked from all sides. The worst part wasn’t getting elbowed on the right cheek. It’s that the other fans were so reckless that they sent me flying toward a group of little kids. I avoided slamming into them by grabbing onto someone’s shirt on the way down, and when I picked myself up…let’s just say I offered a few choice words to the people around me.

After BP, if I’d been there by myself, I would’ve wandered to the left field foul line and tried to get a few Orioles autographs. Maybe even a third ball. But Peter just wanted to go to the seats and order some View_during_gamefood and wait for the game to start, and that was fine. Seriously. It was nice to relax and sit in one place and have some company in the process. When A-Rod came up in the bottom of the first inning, I was hoping he wouldn’t hit a home run to left field. Again…if I were alone, that’s where I would’ve been, so I was glad when he walked.

A-Rod grounded out in the fourth, and Hideki Matsui followed with a line drive single to left to break up Daniel Cabrera’s no-hitter. The Yankees were already losing, 6-0, at that point, and by the time A-Rod came up again in the sixth, the score was 11-0 and Peter and I were in left field. (Even HE got a bit restless with the score so lopsided.) I couldn’t believe how empty the aisle was. If A-Rod had Aisle_for_arodhit a line drive anywhere near us, we would’ve been all over it, but the best he could do was cream a foul homer into the upper deck and then dribble a slow roller toward shortstop Miguel Tejada for an infield hit–the Yankees’ second and final hit of the night.

Peter and I went back to our seats for the next two innings, then snuck down behind the Orioles’ dugout in the ninth, but the players and coaches didn’t toss a single ball into the crowd.

Final score: Orioles 12, Yankees 0.

It’s amazing that the Yankees got blanked, considering that the Orioles walked nine batters: six by Cabrera in 6 2/3 innings, two by Paul Shuey over the next inning and a third, and one by Rob Bell in the ninth. Props to Aubrey Huff for hitting a grand slam and knocking in five runs…and to Kevin Millar who reached base in all five plate appearances, going 3-for-3 with a solo homer, two walks, and four runs. Of course his homer landed right where we’d been sitting half an inning earlier, but whatever. It wasn’t ALL about the balls last night, and I lived to tell the tale.

STATS:

• 184 balls in 27 games this season = 6.8 balls per game.

• 482 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 107 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball

• 3,145 total balls

22 comments

  1. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Man im a great photographer!!

    Choice words! Well when you ripped your pants it was “AAgh i hate this place,” the a couple of pucks (if you know what I mean), then when you got elbowed it was “Cant you just jump straight up!!! I’ve been to 650 games and I’m only hurt here!! You peop,e are physco!!” And the people really are crazy cuz a guy in my section “got pushed” (but he really fell cuz he was drunk,) on 2 ladies, one of the was holding the other ladies baby, and she was shouting “My baby, MY baby!!,” for a minute.

    I saw you after the game from the upperdeck, and it looked like the O’s manager said something to you.

  2. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    I don’t know how much it costs; it was one of those tacky gifts your great grandparents send you from Kansas. I saw it the other day and thought, “Wow, a baseball would fit perfectly in there”, and inspiration struck. It’s surprisingly durable. I’ve been banging it on things all day to make sure it doesn’t break, and it hasn’t yet.

    Puckcollector, do you have any specific tips for PNC Park? (I was there last year, but it was when I didn’t have a clue about collecting baseballs yet, so I only got two balls.)

  3. puckcollector@optonline.net

    My tips are :
    A) If you bought tix from a season ticket holder, then you can enter the stadium an 1/2 before other fans, if you go through the center field gate. But get there early, because the line forms way before the gates open.So on thursday and friday you can enter the stadium at 5, instead of 5:30.

    Bring atleast 30 feet of string incase you go for a ball in right field where the wall is 21 feet high.

    Before or during the game, you can look down into the pirates pen near the center field gate, so you might be able to get balls after pitchers are warming up. I even asked the pirates bullpen catcher at about 6:30, when he entered the pen, and I got a ball.

    After the game I found it easier to get a ball from the umps. Their enterance is located on the 3rd base side. The pirates bullpen also exits the field through that tunnel.

    If you want auto’s, then hide near the bullpens after the game because players sometimes walk through the field into the bullpen, and into a tunnel that leades to the parking lot, if they dont see people waiting.

    And pirates coach John Shelby is nicknamed T-Bone.

    Look back to the comment I posted the other day, and my comments on how i got balls in Pittsburg. I was there on June 30, July 1, and July 2.

    Have fun!

  4. surfnusa@ij.net

    I read over your FAQs about watching baseball with you. I can afford your fee and your airfare here but are you sure I wouldn’t have to feed you? I’ve seen you eat and I don’t think I can afford THAT!

  5. gjk2212@yahoo.com

    padreleigh if/when you read this who are good throwers/signers on the padres it would be apprectiated thanks…

  6. Mark

    I went to Phils-Nats at RFK tonight. Unfortunately Phils bats were quiet for the large contingent of phans. However, I got Jose Mesa to throw me a ball by asking en espanol. The bummer of the night was being next in line when Pat Burrell stopped signing autos. The laugh of the night was watching reliever JC Romero trying to get a group of fans a ball during BP. At RFK the outfield seats are WAY above the field so this is quite a high, arching throw. His first attempt sailed over their heads. Then he babied it short into the bullpen before finally getting the fan a souvenir.

  7. padreleigh@hotmail.com

    gjk2212…

    The best signers on the Padres would be Trevor Hoffman, Jake Peavy, Khalil Greene, Kevin Kouzmanoff and Termel Sledge. Greg Maddux, Heath Bell, Adrian Gonzalez and the Giles brothers are kind of hard to get. Best place to get autographs from them is the “PETCO porch” at the right field foul pole, all along the right field wall and of cours at the dugout. Sometimes they sign at the “Beach” in straighaway center. When are you coming?

    Leigh

  8. padreleigh@hotmail.com

    gjk2212…

    Oh yeah, the best throwers would be Trevor Hoffman, Brian Giles, Mike Cameron and Termel Sledge. Just use their first names and don’t forget to say please. You should be good to go.

    Leigh

  9. padreleigh@hotmail.com

    Zack,

    Very glad to see your “business game” went well. If your client goes home happy and the good word gets out, this could become a full time job. It’s a great idea for a business. If you go to work doing something you love, is it really work? If you think about it, you could expand this enterprise to Spring Training and with the post season it could stretch to 8 months a year. Not a bad idea. Have a geat day in New York.

    Leigh

  10. gjk2212@yahoo.com

    leigh,

    thanks so much, i really appreciate it. next summer im comin to california for a big trip and goin to every park out there, but for now, im stuck in nj. i was just asking because ill be seeing the padres 2 times, possibly 3 at shea in a week or so and they are 1 of a few teams i havent seen this season yet. so thanks alot, hopefully i can get a ball from hoffman, thats what im aiming for.

  11. ceetar@gmail.com

    27 games. nice. I’m at 23, so you’ve gone ahead,***** me and finding employment.

    I’m at about .043 balls a game. (as in, 1) because i’m too shy and non-aggressive to beg players for balls and as you know, Shea ***** for batted balls. Of course, Plenty of those have been regular ‘go to the game, sit in my season-plan UR seats, and never come with 200 feet of a ball) Maybe if I haev a couple of beers before my next game I’ll get the courage to shout at players.

  12. nyaudioguy@aol.com

    Zack, Read an article on the front page of the “Life” section of USA today on a plane from NYC to Chicago yesterday, it detailed the new book,Congrats. I’m a huge baseball fan and we’ve actually Met at Sarah M’s place in Bk, I was dating Kelly at the time. Keep up the good work.
    Bill

  13. Zack

    PUCK COLLECTOR-
    Well, yeah, I must admit that I *might* have cussed a bit after tearing my pants, and as for my rant…I can’t even remember everything I said, but I’m sure the recipients deserved every bit of it. Those are some mightily impressive tips about Pittsburgh.

    GREG-

    Looks like you’re all set for PNC.

    RAMONES-

    …and Yankees fans wonder why the rest of baseball hates their team.

    SURFNUSA-

    I don’t always eat *quite* that much. That was a special occasion, you know, and I’d already been pigging out all weekend so I figured a little more (okay, a LOT more) wouldn’t make much of a difference.

    MARK-

    Great story about Romero. Bummer about Burrell. I’m surprised he was even signing in the first place.

    LEIGH-

    Thanks so much. I would looooove to do this full-time, and I think there really IS a market for it. The challenge seems to be just getting the word out.

    CEETAR-

    Yeah, watch out for those silly things known as jobs. They can really put a damper on being a baseball fan. I love your per-game average. Funny stuff. If you have a couple of beers, you might end up lacking the coordination to actually catch the ball.

    BILL!

    Ohmygod, what’s up?! It took me a minute to remember who you are because I knew you as William…and then I was like, wait a sec…Bill is short for William. Ahh. It’s been a long day at work. Anyway, I’ve been trying like mad to get a hard copy of that USA Today article. You don’t still happen to have it, do you? Supposedly, I’m getting one sent to me, but until I’m holding it in my hand, I won’t believe it. I didn’t even know that the paper was running it, so when the link was emailed to me (a day late), it came as a great surprise. Cool that you saw it. And great to hear from you.

  14. padreleigh@hotmail.com

    Hi Zack….

    Same old story from last night’s game. I got my usual two balls in BP. Caught one on the fly from Troy Tuloitsky (spelling?) and Termel Sledge threw me one after warming up with it in the outfield just before the game started. TC of course caught his FIFTH game home run of the year. He caught Pete Laforest’s first home run of the year which was also his second career HR and first NL HR. TC is the master of the game HR. I listened to your NPR spot tonight at work. Very nice piece. Sammy Wu is supposed to be at tonight’s game. Looking forward to seeing him again. We might team up today for some snagging and autographs. When is your next game and/or client?

    Leigh

  15. gjk2212@yahoo.com

    hey zack,
    i was just looking through some past posts here and saw on the one called “so much for that…” that some lady left a comment pretty negatively on your book. anyway, shea 23rd and 25th and citizens bank the 29th. whoo! when do you think your next game will be?

  16. Zack

    LEIGH-
    Five game homers is thoroughly impressive. Too bad I have no chance to compete with that here in New York City. Thanks for listening to the NPR piece. I might go to Philly on August 22nd (that’s 50-50) and I’ll probably be at Shea on the 23rd. My next clients are booked for early September.

    PSU532-

    Thanks for the link. If/when I get a hard copy, I’ll scan it for my web site and share it here on the blog.

    GJK2212-

    Yikes. Thanks for the heads-up. I just left her a brief response. As for my next game, look at my comment above to Leigh.

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