7/1/08 at Yankee Stadium

I’ve been to Yankee Stadium nearly 200 times. Yesterday, for the very first time, I went to the upper deck for batting practice. Risky move? Perhaps. But look what I saw when I made it down to the front row:

upper_deck_easter_egg.jpg

As you can see, there was a ball sitting in a puddle, and let me tell you, it was NASTY. This wasn’t your typical fresh-water puddle from a nice spring shower. This was like…I don’t know…West Nile Virus-inducing garbage water.

ball_rescued_from_puddle.jpgCheck out the pic on the right. Not only can you see the new Yankee Stadium in the background, but you can see two different areas of discoloration on this ball. In addition to the browned area on the left (which had been completely submerged), there’s a grayish strip in the middle where the water had started spreading and seeping in. Now, as I write this entry 18 hours later, the gray ring has vanished, but the ball still smells awful (no ball-sniffing jokes, please) and weighs about half a pound.

The upper deck provided some interesting views, although I couldn’t see where half the balls were landing unless I was standing in the front row. In any case, I got a good look at the fans down below…

fans_from_above.jpg

…and of the bleachers…

bleachers_from_above.jpg

…and I got my friend Dania (rhymes with “mania”) to take a photo of the back of my head:

zack_hair_hand.jpg

I had mentioned The Head in my last entry and said I’d try to get a pic of it at the stadium, so here you go.

As for Dania, this was the second game of her life and her first at Yankee Stadium. She guarded my drawstring backpack (which I smuggled back inside–oh the horror) while I tried to catch the few home runs that were hit into the upper deck. The previous day, the Yankees and Rangers must’ve combined to hit 20 balls up there, but yesterday, there were only five. Yes, I counted, and I’m proud to say that I batted .400.

Before the Yankees finished hitting, I snagged a brand new commemorative ball that flew 10 feet over my head and conveniently bounced down into my empty row. Then, toward the end upper_deck_during_batting_practice.jpg
of BP, I made a leaping catch for a homer that might’ve been hit by Chris Davis. I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. My next ball, however, HAD to come from a source that I could identify because it was going to be No. 3,500. Unfortunately (though not surprisingly) the upper deck was pretty crowded by this point, and I didn’t snag another ball.

Dania sat with me while I ate a chicken sandwich, and just as I was finishing, I was approached by a guy around my age who spotted my ridiculous haircut and knew it was me. His name is Chris (aka “dilbert195” if you read the comments), and he asked me to sign a brand new ball that he pulled out of a small Rawlings box. We chatted for a few minutes and then went our separate ways.

During the game, I experienced another Yankee Stadium first: Monument Park. I’d never  been there because it’s only open to the (ticket-buying) public until 45 minutes before game time, and I was never willing to sacrifice a sizable chunk of BP in order to check it out. Anyway, did you know that there are actually a few dozen seats out there? Nothing fancy. Just folding chairs. The whole area is reserved for handicapped seating, but I was able to get a couple tickets out there from a friend, and of course I went nuts with my camera. This was my view of the field:

monument_park1_view_front.jpg

This was the view to my left:

monument_park2_view_left.jpg

Yeah, netting. Not exactly ideal for catching an A-Rod homer, which is why I only stayed there for an inning, but let’s continue with the photo tour…

This was the view to my right…

monument_park3_view_right.jpg

…and let’s not forget the scenery directly behind me. This is one of my favorite pics:

monument_park4_view_back.jpg

The Yankee relievers walked right past me on their way to the bullpen. The player on the right is Dan Giese, and I think the guy on the left is David Robertson. See the pink bag he’s carrying? It’s one of the oldest pranks…not even a prank…just something silly that rookies are forced to do. At least Robertson (assuming that’s who it is) was given a pink Yankee bag. I once saw a rookie who’d been forced to walk across the field (in a fairly crowded stadium) with a Rainbow Brite backpack. Yikes.

This was the view from the center-field end of Monument Park:

monument_park5_gate_open.jpg

Too bad I wasn’t there eight innings later when Mariano Rivera entered the game.

Here’s a general view of the area behind the left field wall…

monument_park6_retired_numbers.jpg

…and here’s a little Gehrig/Ruth action for ya:

monument_park7_gehrig_ruth.jpg

Dania and I spent most of the game on the third-base side of home plate. I was dying to view_during_game_7_1_08.jpg
catch a foul ball, or better yet a home run, but A-Rod went 0-for-4 and nothing else came close.

The Rangers managed to score a run off Rivera  and take a 3-2 lead in the top of the ninth inning. After the third out, I snuck down to their dugout and actually hoped that the Yankees would tie it up. Not only do I love Rivera and feel pain in my heart whenever he struggles, but I was hoping for extra innings so there’d be more chances for my milestone ball to be a gamer.

Rangers reliever C.J. Wilson walked Wilson Betemit on four pitches to start the bottom of the ninth, and just when there was hope, Melky Cabrera bounced into a 6-4-3 double play. Johnny Damon followed with a ground out to first base, and that was it.

I was hoping that No. 3,500 would get tossed by Mister Wilson–THAT would’ve been cool to get a game-used/game-ending ball with a commemorative logo–but he tucked the ball deep in his glove and marched into the dugout with his head down. As the last few players were disappearing from sight, a random hand appeared from below the dugout roof and rolled a ball at me. I grabbed it without thinking and then it occurred to me: I just got my 3,500th ball and had no idea who provided it. The man on my left immediately started protesting and claiming that the ball was meant for him.

“Sorry,” I said as I stuck it in my pocket.

“No…REALLY,” he insisted. “That ball was from Josh Hamilton. He said he was going to hook me up.”

“I don’t know that,” I said and shrugged him off.

josh_hamilton.jpg“The ball is SIGNED!” the guy yelled. “Look at the ball! If it’s signed by Josh Hamilton, then it’s MINE!”

I pulled the ball out of my bag, noticed the commemorative logo, and then turned it around to see the sweet spot…and sure enough, it was signed.

I handed it back to the guy and apologized, not that I’d really done anything wrong. Hamilton should’ve poked his head out and pointed to him, and then there wouldn’t have been any confusion, but whatever. He got his ball, and in a way I was glad it played out like that. Normally, when I catch a ball and give it away, I still count it as part of my collection, but in this case, it turned out that the ball had already belonged to this other fan, so I couldn’t count it. It was just a situation in which I was returning someone’s property, so as far as my stats are concerned, it’s like it never happened and the NEXT ball I get will be No. 3,500.

STATS:

? 3 balls at this game

? 222 balls in 30 games this season = 7.4 balls per game.

? 526 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 115 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball

? 3,499 total balls

————————————–
Sorry for not answering comments on my last entry. I read them all (someone should post a “Leave Omar Alone!!!” video on YouTube) and I’ll answer them at some point, possibly this weekend, but right now I just don’t have time. I also have a LOT of emails pouring into my inbox (which is a good thing except when people ask me for commemorative balls), so if you’re waiting for a response, please be patient. Things are just crazy right now…

34 comments

  1. "D" The Rockpile Ranter

    You did the honorable thing Zack. If he had wound up losing that ball it would have been Hamiltons fault. You don’t just roll a ball on top of the dugout and “hope” the intended person gets it. Not everyone is a nice guy. Good Luck on #3500..Make it a memorable snag…D
    http://baseballsnatcher.mlblogs.com/

  2. zumajay

    Zack, my son and I were at that game. Upper deck behind home plate. We watched Texas batting practice, and saw (who I believed to be) Milton Bradley launch a couple into the upper deck. I love the picture of Robertson with the pink bag, I wasn’t aware of that tradition.
    — Zuma Jay

  3. Kylie

    Good for you, you did the right thing. But yeah, Josh should have said something to make it clear for whom the ball was intended.
    Awesome shave-art.
    Good luck with 3,500. I hope you get it in some super-memorable way.
    Kylie — http://kylie.mlblogs.com

  4. karent

    First of all, crazy due man and second I like Rainbow Brite. The Monument Park seats look safe and peaceful, no wonder you left thats not your style. Good thing you did check that ball, your name would have been dragged through the mud by that guy. Smart move man. See you at the next game.
    karen t

  5. gregb123

    Next time you’re up there, try asking LaTroy Hawkins to toss you a ball. He seems to like throwing ’em up there.

  6. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    Zack,
    This is my first time commenting here but I have a copy of your first book and have been checking out your blog for a while. I’m hoping to start my own soon. I catch balls here in Atlanta. All I want to say about this post is that I am glad your 3,500th ball wasn’t the one you found in the puddle. Hope you get it soon though. I’ll be in New York in a couple of weeks, hope to see you at the stadium.

    Jonathan

  7. PSU532@yahoo.com

    Zack, great picture of Robertson and the pink Yankees bag. I love that tradition. I first heard about it on the Uni Watch website a year or two ago. Tonight during the Mets game, they showed Carlos Muniz walking out to the bullpen before the game with what looked like a Hello Kitty pink backpack. haha

    The Red Sox relievers are sneaky. I’ve seen them 3 times in the past 30 days, and every time, the rookie on the squad carries some sort of pink backpack, but they put it in a white grocery store bag, so you can’t see it! haha Here’s 2 funny pink backpack pics:

    http://marinerds.com/pictures/042907/146-Backpack.JPG

    http://www.sittingstill.net/photos/Sept25/P1050610a.JPG

    I also read that at the end of the season, the rookies burn the pink backpack in a ritual!

    In hockey, they make a guy who played the worst the game before wear a pink helmet:

    http://i214.photobucket.com/albums/cc78/sportsbog/IMG_1650.jpg?t=1200522407

    So are you going to Yanks/Red Sox or Mets/Phillies (in Philly) this weekend?? My guess is no…..

  8. 15222xc

    Hey Zack (or anyone else who might know),
    Where exactly is the players parking lot at Chase Field?
    I looked at it on google maps and it looks like its at the northeast corner but I’m not sure.
    Thanks,
    Jonathan

  9. puckcollector@optonline.net

    psu: where did u hear about the hockey thing. ive never seen or heard of it. and BTW i never knew why the rookies wore pink backpacks, so thanks for the info

  10. puckcollector@optonline.net

    well who did say the blacks vs hispanics thing? and whose da pitcher i think that got hurt that a bunch of people were complaining about on 1050

  11. dhbball

    Puck Collector- You are the one that brought up the blacks vs. hispanics thing, because you said the reason you didn’t want to be a Mets fan because they had a rascist GM.

  12. nelsonvarona@msn.com

    Zack what happend to the pictures I took? They were a work of art , brutha!!!

  13. padreleigh

    Sammy Wu….

    Wait a minute. Let me get this straight. I just read your old comment. IF I get us free rooms at one of the Hilton’s in NYC, you’ll pay for my plane ticket to see the Padres? If that’s true, then let me get to work on this!!!

    Leigh

  14. zackhample

    C’mon, people, enough with the racism stuff. There’ve gotta be better things to talk about, no? Anyway, I went to Yankee Stadium tonight and did NOT get shut out, which is to say that I snagged my 3,500th ball. I’ll blog about it within the next 12 to 36 hours…

  15. thebigticket0021@aim.com

    That would be sweet if your 3,500 ball was the Giambi grand slam or the A Rod home run, but they were both hit to Right and im guessing you were somewhere in left

  16. sammywu17@hotmail.com

    Leigh,
    are you serious? I was joking. A night at any NYC Hilton costs at least 320? 6 nights cost 2000. Plane tickets round trip to NYC only 900. Tickets are like only about 50 per game. Says you go to 5 games. only cost 250. Unless you got really cheap deals from Hilton. I don’t mind taking a 2000:1150 deal. Haha. Email me if you are serious. I am about to book my trip in 2 days.

  17. padreleigh

    Sammy,

    I’ll email you. I can do Magic sometimes. We’ll see how it goes. I might be able to make a deal that works for both of us. Talk to you later.

    Leigh

  18. sammywu17@hotmail.com

    Leigh,
    I appreciate your panda magic. However, I don’t really feel well taking advantage, especially there is large sum of money involved. It will be very awkward when I check in hotel. By the way, I am not going to the Marlin series. But I will go to 2 games for Braves

  19. puckcollector@optonline.net

    no like a month ago i heard a sports radio guy talking about it cuz someone in baseball said it

  20. kvrpmmh@aol.com

    Check out this video of that Chris Los kid trying to copy Zack. It’s hilarious. He got his mom to follow him around a minor league game and video tape him. He tries to be like Zack so much it’s disgusting and the video is downright hilarious.


  21. Pigpen147@comcast.net

    The youtube video is almost sad in how the kid tries to be so much like Zack… Some kid asked for his autograph?? please.. It was probably his brother or friend.. I also would not surprised if the first 3-4 balls were planted just to make the video… He also stole Zack’s name “The baseball Collector”. We did not see any logo on the balls meaning what league they were from ect. I did get a good laugh out of it though.

  22. thet206kid

    hopefully number 3500 will be from a walk off home run from A-Rod to pass Mickey Mantle on the all-time list, that would be cool, good luck.

  23. gjk2212

    yeah that video was dumb. wow. i thing it was mostly staged.

    metsfan2001-no way that could happen. that would mean he would be shutout since hes at 3499, and hed probably be finding some way to get a ball at the dugouts or something to keep his streak.

  24. .

    hahahaha. “Sometimes in order to snag a baseball, you have to sacrifice your body, like what I just did. I slid on my knee. And that is how I got my very first foul ball of the day.” Best quote from the video, especially the way he says it. It starts at 5:02.

    He also got this thing he calls the “Chris Hex” which is identical to the Hample Jinx. This Chris Los is really disappointing me…
    http://donnieanks.mlblogs.com/

  25. thet206kid

    njmetfan, i guess your right, i think Zack would be worried if he did not get a ball before then,

  26. canonmelky

    ever go to Patneshek.com ? man have they been ripping you on the message board

  27. buschstadiumballcollector

    Hey zack i got another shea final season ball today from Dave Racaniello the same one who gave me a ball a couple days ago i wasnt even supposed to go to this game i got a call at about 6:00 and was told get ready to go to the cardinals game so i did i went talked to bullpen coach Guy Conti and was told they dont give balls away during the game the cardinals do so i went back in the bottom of the 8th and asked for the outfeild warmup ball an i got it i think i did good no bp i left early and the cards got destroyed 11-1

  28. zackhample

    EVERYONE-
    I’m just going to answer people’s questions. If I had more time (and I apologize that I don’t), I’d answer everything…

    YANKEES42294-
    You don’t need to sneak at Yankee Stadium. The entire field level is open to everyone at anytime. (One of the few nice things about the place.)

    PSU532-
    Nope, no games for me this (past) weekend.

    JONATHAN-
    I’m not sure how to describe it other than saying that it’s near some train tracks. You can kind of see pics of the lot in my old entries from Chase Field.

    NELSON VARONA-
    I loved the pics you took, but I really wanted to just start with the shot of the ball lying in the empty seats. It was more dramatic…no offense.

    SOXSUXYANKS-
    Yeah, I’ve been to that site, and I actually like it. (I like Neshek’s content, that is.)

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