For the second day in a row, the Associated Press was waiting for me at the top of the stairs when Gate E opened at 5pm:
The photographer (David Zalubowski…standing on the right) took pics as I bolted up the stairs, and the writer (Pat Graham…wearing the white striped shirt) sprinted after me as I raced through the concourse and headed to the front row in left field.
Within the first few minutes of batting practice, Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa tossed me a ball, and I used my glove trick to snag another off the warning track.
As soon as there was a break in the action, I labeled the balls and scribbled down a few notes on my rosters. David kept taking photos and Pat looked on:
In the photo above, there are three important fans that need to be pointed out. The blond woman on the right is Deb Arguijo, the mother of Jameson Sutton who snagged Barry Bonds’ 762nd home run ball. The man to the left of Pat (in the dark cap and flowery shirt) is Danny Wood, the guy who caught Bonds’ 698th home run and robbed me of several BP balls two days earlier. And finally, the guy standing to the left of Danny (in the maroon cap) is Dan Sauvageau who once caught two home runs on a fly in one inning and turned down a request to be on “Good Morning America” because he was going on a golf trip the next day.
Give up? Here, let me zoom in a bit and show you:
That’s right, he took photos of me from the upper deck. It felt great (and a bit scary, too, I suppose) to know that everything I did was potentially being captured from so far away.
…and I successfully prevented him from snagging a single ball. Meanwhile, I made another attempt with my glove trick for a ball that was sitting halfway out on the warning track. I figured the ushers wouldn’t be too happy about it and might even stop me before I got it, but at the very least I wanted to give David another opportunity to take some photos. Well…sure enough, just after I flung my glove out onto the field, I heard someone shout, “Zack!!! Zack!!! Zack!!! Zack!!! Zack!!!” I thought it was another fan, warning me that an usher was coming over, but when I looked up I realized it was the head usher himself. Oy. I apologized profusely and thankfully didn’t get in trouble. He was super-nice. The fact is…there’s a rule throughout Coors Field (it’s even printed in the stadium A-to-Z guide) that ball-retrieving devices are not allowed, and he had to enforce it. The good news is that Indians pitcher Edward Mujica walked over and flipped me the ball. I looked up at David in the upper deck and gave a fist pump, and he gave one back. Success!
For some reason, there were a ton of lefties taking BP, and the balls just weren’t flying to left field. I only got one more ball during BP, and it was a line-drive homer that pretty much came right to me. Neither the evil fan on my left nor Danny on my right had a chance to interfere, and I made an easy one-handed catch at the wall.
After BP, David returned from the upper deck and took some photos of me holding up my four balls. As soon as he was done, I gave one of them away to a kid with a glove who had gotten shut out.
I took one last photo with Pat…
…and we parted ways. He felt he had everything he needed and wanted to get a head start on writing the story.
I headed to the right field foul line, immersed myself in the mob of fans, came six inches from catching a ball tossed by Garrett Atkins, and got Ryan Spilborghs’ autograph:
With two soft-tossing lefties on the mound–Jeff Francis for the Rockies and Aaron Laffey for the Indians–I figured all the right-handed batters would be pounding foul grounders down the third base line, so this is where I sat:
I didn’t snag anything, but it wasn’t because of the competition:
No…the reason I got blanked during the game is that there were only TWO foul grounders that headed in my direction. The first was scooped up by the third base coach (of course) and the second hooked a bit to my right and bounced too far away from the wall.
? 6 balls at this game
? 193 balls in 25 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.
? 521 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 124 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball
? 888 lifetime balls outside NYC
? 3,470 total balls
In case you’re wondering, the AP story should be hitting the national wire on Friday, June 27 (but you have to understand that I have no control over that). Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post is putting together a front-page article about Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th career home run, and since I was five stinkin’ feet away from catching it, they interviewed me. That piece is scheduled to run on June 22. And finally, since I have a few minutes to spare before heading back to Coors Field, I’m going to comb through all the comments on my last few entries and answer everyone’s questions. If you left a comment but didn’t actually ask a question, I won’t respond, only because I don’t have time (and I apologize for that), but know that I always read every comment.
I’ll leave you with one more photo…of a fan who loves the Rockies AND Indians: