2008 Home Run Derby

There are rumors that I stole baseballs from kids, knocked over other fans, and got into an argument with a Chinese lady.

Allow me to set the record straight:

1) I didn’t steal a ball from anyone.
2) Other fans were crashing into ME.
3) The lady was Japanese.

The 2008 Home Run Derby was scheduled to begin at 8:00pm, batting
practice was going to start at 5:30, and Yankee Stadium was set to open at
4:30. What time did I get there? Shortly after 12pm, of course.

I had a ticket for the right-field bleachers (thanks to a friend who
hooked me up), and I’d planned my strategy days in advance. It was
pretty simple–or at least it was supposed to be: Be the first one on
line. Be the first one in. Grab the corner spot near the batter’s eye.
Use my big glove to get attention. Get lots of balls thrown to me.

Well, I *was* the first one on line–in fact I was the only person on line for nearly an hour and a half…

zack_1st_in_line.jpg

…and that’s when things went awry. But wait. Let’s slow this story
down. The day wasn’t all bad. There were some happy moments before the
stadium opened.

First of all, the big glove got lots of attention. Comments/questions
from passersby ranged from “I don’t wanna be sitting behind you” to
“Is that Shaq’s glove?” to “Aren’t you the guy who was on TV and
catches all the balls?” to “Where the **** did you find that thing?” to
“Oh my God that’s HUGE.” (Why…thank you.)

Here’s one of the dozens of random people who asked to try it on:

hottie_with_big_glove.jpg

Robert Harmon (the guy from my Bonds 762 story) stopped by and said hello on his way to Gate 6:

robert_harmon_drops_by.jpg
I got interviewed by a local news station and
hung out for a bit with a friend and fellow snagger named Clif (aka
“goislanders4” if you read the comments) whom you might remember from 9/25/07 at Shea Stadium.

clif_zack_derby.jpg
See the white pole on Clif’s right? It’s a “nuclear
radiation detector.” One of the nearby cops was poised with a portable
version:

cop_with_scary_gadget.jpg

By 4pm, there was a crazy-long line that snaked around the stadium:

line_outside_bleachers.jpg

Someone had held my spot at the front of the line. That’s how I was able to wander and take pics, but by the time I returned, there were several other fans who’d slipped in ahead of me. One of these fans was a Japanese woman I’d met two weeks earlier during BP. I figured she was a regular and that she knew someone else in line, but I didn’t appreciate the fact that she’d cut in. Still, I didn’t really care because there was NO WAY that I was going to let her cut in front of me when the gate actually went up…so I didn’t say anything.

This was when my day started falling apart. (I hope you’re sitting down.)

As soon as the gate went up, one of the security guards gave me a funny look and walked over.

“You can’t bring that inside,” he said, eying my big glove.

Are you serious?!” I demanded. Why not?!” I was about to ask to speak to his supervisor, and then I noticed that his shirt had the word “SUPERVISOR” on it.

He took a hold of my glove and said, “It’s too big.”

“Who cares?!?!”

He grabbed another fan’s glove and held it up against mine. “See?” he said. “This is a normal glove. Yours glove is too big.”

“So what?!?!”

weapons1.jpg
“So what?” he repeated, clearly trying to buy himself some time. “It could be used as a weapon.”

“WHAT?!?!?!”

“Yeah,” he said and then mimed swinging it around as if it were an ax.

Wow.

I really didn’t think the Yankees would stoop THIS low, but what could I do? The ticket-takers were activating their scanners and unlocking the turnstiles. The stadium was going to open any minute, and I **HAD** to get the corner spot. Batting practice wasn’t going to begin for another hour, by which time the bleachers would be packed. Snagging a ball wasn’t going to have anything to do with skill or luck. It was going to be all about positioning.

I stepped out of line, raced across the street with the glove, and spent six bucks to leave it at a bowling alley which in recent years has become more known for its bag-check than for the bowling. (I wouldn’t be surprised if the Yankee security guards receive kickbacks.)

I barely made it back in time, and yes, in case you’re wondering, I’d also brought my regular glove. But get this…when I was finally given the green light to approach the turnstiles, my ticket wouldn’t scan. The scanner kept giving an error message.

“This is no good,” said the ticket-taker.

“EXCUSE ME?!?!”

“The code hasn’t been entered into the system. You need to go to Window 74 and have them take care of this.”

“WHAT?!?!”

Window 74?! The guy started giving me directions as he reached for the next fan’s ticket. That one wouldn’t scan either. Meanwhile, at least a dozen other fans–including the Japanese woman–filed past me at the next turnstile and hurried into the bleachers. I climbed over a railing, handed my ticket to the other ticket-taker, and successfully got scanned.

By the time I reached the bleachers, the other fans who’d gotten in first had spread out randomly along the railing, except for the Japanese woman. She was standing in the corner spot.

To make a long story short, we argued over who had the right to be there, and she finally moved when another fan (who’d seen that I’d been first in line) took my side. We quickly made peace and even shared a few laughs after she heard me ask for a ball in Japanese. AND…just so you don’t feel bad for her…she and her boyfriend ended up snagging two of their own.

As for me…
There was a lot of time to kill before BP so naturally I played with my camera. This was the view to my left:

view_from_corner_spot1.jpg

This was the view straight ahead:

view_from_corner_spot2.jpg

And this was the view to my right:

view_from_corner_spot3.jpg

Robert took a pic of me from the corner spot in the grandstand:

zack_corner_spot1.jpg

Finally, after waiting through one of the longest hours of my life, BP got started and bad luck took over. The outfield was crawling with the players’ kids who tossed at least half a dozen balls directly over my head. After 20 minutes, a kid with “RIVERA 42” on his back fired a ball right to me, but I didn’t get it because some cameraman from ESPN who was standing near me on the batter’s eye stuck his hand out at the last second and deflected it elsewhere. (He claimed he did it in self defense, but I’m not so sure.) I seriously couldn’t catch a break, and I was getting a bit nervous because I had no chance to use the glove trick. Every time a ball landed in the gap between the outfield wall and the base of the bleachers, another cameraman went and got it and tossed it up to a cop who handed it to a kid. Good for the kids. Bad for me. I just wanted one ball. ONE BALL so my streak wouldn’t end. Even though this wasn’t an official game, it was still a major league event in a major league stadium so it counted for me.

Finally, just when I was starting to believe that a Higher Power was out to get me, I convinced one of the players’ kids to throw me a ball. As soon as I caught it and looked at it, my heart sank because it was a Futures Game ball. I’d snagged six of them the day before and this_one_counts.jpgreally didn’t need another. At least that’s how I felt at first, but then it occurred to me that it was actually kinda cool because I’d be able to count this ball in my collection. The Futures Game is a minor league event, so I hadn’t counted any of the balls I snagged that day. But hey, it wasn’t MY fault that one of these balls found its way into the BP bucket (and then into my glove) on the day of the Derby.

Would you believe that the fans behind me (who were trapped in the crowded aisle because they weren’t smart enough to arrive early) started whining after I caught this ONE lousy ball? One guy had the nerve to tell me to get out of the corner spot and give someone else a chance. Was this the first time he’d ever set foot inside a major league stadium? Or was he from Canada? I don’t know what his deal was, but there was no ch
ance I was moving. I simply HAD to snag at least one ball with the Home Run Derby logo on it. If that meant I had to snag 20 more balls before I got one, so be it.

Toward the end of the American League’s batting practice, I shouted at Mariano Rivera (in Spanish) and asked for a ball. He looked up at me and shrugged as if to say he didn’t have one. Then I noticed that he was drinking an ice-cold bottle of water (I could see the condensation) so I asked for that instead by making a drinking motion and shouting “Agua!” He laughed and held up the bottle as if to say, “You want THIS?” I nodded excitedly and made an exaggerated gesture with my shirt to show how hot it was. He kept looking at me and smiling so I kept going with it. I grabbed my throat with my right hand and made a choking gesture, then drooped my eyelids as if I were passing out. To my surprise, he started walking toward me, and when he got within 30 feet, he underhanded the bottle in my direction. It was falling short, so I reached over the railing and extended my glove…and the damn thing tipped off my fingers and dropped into the gap. I flung up my arms in disgust, and he did the same.

Not all hope was lost, however.

I shouted at the cameraman, and when he came over, I pointed out the bottle and asked him to hand it to me.

He looked at the cop for guidance.

“It’s okay,” said the cop. “Mariano Rivera tried to give it to him.”

The cameraman looked totally confused, but once he heard that, he fetched the bottle and tossed it to me. Woo-hoo!!! I truly WAS thirsty and didn’t care that the bottle was two-thirds empty; if Mariano Rivera had cooties, I wanted them.

agua_from_mariano_rivera.jpg

I chugged the water as the American Leaguers jogged off the field and snagged my second ball of the day 10 minutes later. Some random kid wearing a Rockies cap tossed it to me from the warning track, and I took an elbow to the kidney as I reached straight out to make the catch.

At this point, the people around me seriously started going crazy. There was a skinny little kid with glasses, standing directly behind me, who couldn’t have been more than eight years old. He was so intent on pushing his way up to the front that every time I leaned forward (to see where a ball was landing elsewhere in the bleachers) and settled back down from my tip toes, I ended up stepping on HIS toes. He was literally wedging his feet in the space underneath MY feet whenever he had a chance. I don’t know what he was thinking, but when it became clear that he wasn’t going to stop, I turned around and looked him in the eye and told him gently but firmly that it was impolite and dangerous for him to crowd me like that. He said he was sorry, ended up getting a ball from the cop two minutes later, and quickly disappeared. The cop, meanwhile, wasn’t too happy about the fact that I now had two baseballs.

“Ya gotta let the kids get some,” he growled.

“The kids are getting plenty thanks to you,” I said. “They don’t need MY help.”

Now don’t get me wrong…I love it when kids get balls, especially kids who are wearing gloves and making a sincere effort to snag on their own. I often go out of my way to help kids get balls, and I now give away at least one of mine at just about every game I attend. But this 2008_home_run_derby_ball.jpg
was a different story. I wasn’t about to give away my Futures Game ball, and there wasn’t a chance in hell that I was going to part with my second ball. Why? Because it had a Home Run Derby logo on it. That’s why.

Of course the cop didn’t get it. First he asked me to give away a ball, and when I refused, he asked me to move from the corner spot.

“It’s the right thing to do,” he insisted.

I resisted the urge to tell him that the right thing for HIM to do was to mind his own business and consider Weight Watchers. Instead, I calmly explained that I’d gotten to Yankee Stadium an hour and a half earlier than everyone else for the sole purpose of standing in this spot.

“Where are you supposed to be?!” he demanded. “Where’s your ticket?!”

“It doesn’t matter where my seat is,” I said. “This is batting practice. Everyone’s standing wherever they want.”

This prompted the man who’d elbowed me to turn around and shout (in a derisive, sing-songy manner) to everyone behind us: “WHO THINKS HE SHOULD GO?!?!?!” The whole section cheered. “WHO THINKS HE SHOULD STAY?!?!?!” he continued, and the whole section booed.

“That’s it,” said the cop, “you have to go back to your seat.”

“That’s ********,” I said. “You can’t make me move. You can’t make a special rule just for me. I’m not moving unless you make everyone else go back to THEIR seats.”

So he did!

I couldn’t believe it. He actually got on his walkie-talkie and issued a directive to all the other cops, and in less than a minute, EVERYONE was forced to step away from the railing and vacate the aisle and tunnels. People were NOT happy about it, and I don’t blame them. The whole thing was arbitrary and dumb. The cops tried enforcing a rule that simply shouldn’t have been enforced. Some fans (including me) kept lingering in the aisle while pretending to head somewhere else. A few people simply defied orders and stood there anyway, and as you might expect there were some pretty nasty confrontations.

I wandered toward the foul-pole end of the bleachers and took a peek at the grandstand:

robert_corner_spot.jpg

Sure enough, the cops over there hadn’t forced anyone back to their seats–a good thing for Robert who technically belonged in the upper deck. Robert told me later that he snagged three balls (all with the Derby logo) and when other people started complaining, he shouted, “I have four grandkids so I’m still one ball short! Do YOU want to give me one?!” People left him alone after that.

I managed to snag one more Derby ball toward the end of BP. I should’ve had two more, but the second one (which was thrown by a teenage kid from about 100 feet away) fell short and tipped off my glove and landed in the gap. Even though he had clearly intended to throw it to me, the cameraman who retrieved it handed it to someone else.

That was it. Three balls. Not great. Not terrible. But if I’d been allowed to bring my big glove inside and stay in the corner spot, I would’ve snagged at least a dozen. I really believe that.

The Derby itself ended up being extremely frustrating. I had a second-row seat and found myself trapped behind a group of fans who jumped up at all the wrong times. Whenever a left-handed batter lifted a routine fly ball in our direction, they were on their feet in no time. But the few times that a right-handed batter hit a home run to right-center, they didn’t move because they weren’t expecting it. When they didn’t move, I couldn’t move. I felt like a caged animal. It sucked.

zack_caged_in_during_derby.jpg

The highlight of the day (other than not being shut out during BP) was getting to witness the  first-round, record-breaking performance by Josh Hamilton. The man hit twenty-eight home runs, including two that traveled more than 500 feet.

josh_hamilton_domination.jpg

During the second half of the Derby, security wasn’t quite as strict about keeping people in their seats, so I escaped from the second row and moved around a bit. I had three very close calls, including a chance to catch one of the coveted gold balls, but I came up short for various reasons. I misjudged one, failed to be blessed with a 36-inch vertical leap on another, and got boxed out on the third. That was the gold ball. Ouch. It was a lazy fly ball (relatively speaking) that barely cleared the railing five feet to my left. The aisle was packed and I couldn’t move. Not even one foot. It’s like I was battling a brick wall.

It pained me to see other fans snag these gold balls, but I took a picture anyway of a guy holding one up:

fan_with_gold_ball.jpg

It also pains me to see this screen shot from ESPN (which someone was kind enough to send my way). It shows a fan directly behind me zack_espn.jpginspecting a ball that he caught on a fly. This is the one I misjudged, but you have to understand what “misjudged” means in this case. I bolted two steps to my left as the ball exploded off the bat–that’s the direction that it was initially heading–and then when it drifted five feet back to my right, the aisle was too crowded for me to be able t
o drift back with it. If I’d just stayed put, it would’ve been an easy catch, but what can you do? These types of mistakes happen. I know a guy (a legendary Bay Area ballhawk, in fact) who would’ve caught Barry Bonds’ 714th career home run if he hadn’t outsmarted himself by reacting too soon and moving away from the spot where it ultimately landed.

Even though Hamilton put on a home run clinic in the first two rounds, he ended up losing to Justin Morneau in the finals. Everyone was criticizing the rules of the Home Run Derby, saying it wasn’t fair that one guy could hit so many longballs and still lose. But hey, that’s how it goes. If Hamilton had paced himself better, maybe he would’ve had more energy at the end. Or maybe he had plenty of energy and just happened to swing the bat poorly. Let’s not assume that his power outage in the finals was a direct result of his goose-bump-inducing performance in the opening round.

After the Derby was done, I went back to bowling alley and claimed my big glove, and while I was there I took a pic of the three balls I’d snagged:

three_derby_balls.jpg
Robert and I finally made it into the subway at midnight, and we were immediately approached by several fans wearing Minnesota Twins gear. One of them recognized me from TV and asked if I knew how to ask for a ball in Arabic. I told him I didn’t, so he taught me. Ready? It’s short-n-sweet. Here it is, spelled phonetically with the emphasis in CAPS:

OTT-nee KOO-rah

For the last syllable, you need to roll the ar. (Did you know that the letter ‘R’ is spelled ‘ar’?) Of course there aren’t any Arabic-speaking major leaguers yet, but boy, when one finally comes around, I’ll be ready.

tris_speaker.jpg
STATS:

? 3 balls at this game (or “event” or whatever you want to call it)

? 238 balls in 34 games this season = 7 balls per game.

? 530 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

? 2 consecutive Home Run Derbies with at least three balls

? 33 languages in which I can ask for a ball

? 3,515 total balls…moves me past Tris Speaker (3,514) and into fifth place on the all-time hits list. Next up is Stan Musial (3,630). (If you’re wondering why I’m comparing balls to hits, click here.)

? 1 fancy-schmancy ticket stub that actually contains dirt from Yankee Stadium. Check it out and I’ll explain below:

2008_home_run_derby_ticket.jpg

Okay, so I’ve shown the front and back of the ticket. See the brown strip on the front, about an inch from the bottom? See how it’s kind of…speckled…as opposed to being one neat/solid color? Well, those speckled marks are actually little particles that are embedded into the glossy strip. On the back of the ticket, I’ve drawn a red arrow to a little blurb that says the following: “To commemorate the final season of the historic ballpark, this ticket contains dirt collected from the field at Yankee Stadium which has been authenticated under the auspices of the MLB Authentication Program.

Cool, huh? (Too bad that program failed miserably on No. 762.)

So yeah, the ticket is a true collector’s item, but I question the photography that was selected for it. First of all, what’s so special about a hot dog and why does the mustard stop short on the north end? Secondly, why does the view of the field show the area behind home plate instead of the unique facade in the outfield? Third, why was the photo of the seat taken while the rest of stadium was empty? (See the little patch of blue near the upper right in that photo? Those are empty seats.) And fourth…taxis? Seriously?! That’s the best design MLB could come up with? I’ll bet the people who designed this ticket haven’t ever BEEN to New York. And while I’m already dissing this, I might as well share my thoughts on the logos for the Futures Game and Home Run Derby. In a word: LAME!!! The 2007 Futures Game ball at least had some artwork, albeit generic, while the 2007 Home Run Derby ball had artwork that was unique to AT&T Park. Why didn’t this year’s Derby ball have a facade or some pinstripes or an image of Monument Park? When will MLB and ESPN finally learn that they need to hire me? I have so many great ideas. If only someone would listen…

0 comments

  1. waldo012@aol.com

    Hey Zack, great Derby story. I was out in the bleachers too, trying to beat back the crowd for a chance to snag a ball. I was cool running into you out there (the shirt made it all to easy to know who you were). Good luck at your next game…i’ll be at the stadium myself again tomorrow looking for a few more balls.

    Dan

  2. johnmcrae1@hotmail.com

    Brutal! Good job standing your ground with your friendly neighbors in the stands.

    Oh, and BTW – I figure if you HAD to get shutout and end the streak, what better way to do it than at a once-in-a-lifetime event like that? Better than a day game in Cincinnati in August, right? Congrats on keeping the streak alive though.

  3. gregb123

    Wow. That’s rough. But I love the water bottle story. Did you throw out the bottle afterwards? Also, how come you used a pic of the dirtier Derby ball for your website instead of the virtually flawless one?

    Anyway, I was in Baltimore last night for the Tigers-Orioles game and I snagged nine balls. I think I’ll post my stats:
    – 198 balls this season in 27 games (7.33 balls-per-game average)
    – 5 consecutive games with at least 7 balls
    – 42 balls in 5 games this July
    – 477 lifetime balls
    – 92 consecutive games with at least one ball

    My next game could be one of the Phillies games at Shea next week, or maybe Monday or Tuesday or Wednesday in Baltimore, or maybe Friday in Philly. I don’t know.

  4. dannyz

    Amazing entry, tumultuous day fitting for a tumultuous event!! You think you have a chance to break your single season snagging record this year?

  5. braves04

    Zack, did you witness the guys getting chased by security on the black? Everytime I watched a ball head in your direction, I was cheering for you lol. Hamilton’s shot off the Bank of America sign was great.

    Heading to the Ted later, hoping for a Nationals commemorative.

  6. "D" The Rockpile Ranter

    Zack,
    Cool entry. That rent a cop making the whole group move..thats just crazy. Congrats on the trio of balls. Have you ever consider moving away from New York? You have said that you are not team loyal and are just a fan of baseball…and, If you did where would you consider moving to?? Just curious…laters…D

  7. jberg08@gmail.com

    That futures game baseball is perfect. Do you think any baseballs used that day were regular?

  8. thet206kid

    that is one crazy home run derby,, i cant believe they told you you couldnt bring your glove in ( i saw the glove says akadema on it, they made gloves in my town for a while and just moved, i tried out for a job there but couldnt give them 40 hrs a week with school and all) Those cops sound like a bunch of %!*@^*&@!!*.
    http://thet206kid.mlblogs.com/

  9. puckcollector@optonline.net

    wow that sucks. but the day by day rules are what makes YS special. they didnt even make people go through the detector at the ASG. That sucks about the cop, and i knew that the guy i spoke who told me about the JAPENESE lady to only had half the story, cuz it just didnt sound like you

  10. mlballhawk

    Zack –

    You definitely did not look like you were having any fun at any point that I saw you on TV. Give a guy a badge in front of a crowd and they act just as stupid as the people they are “Protecting”

    Today I got the ALL STAR GAME MVP J.D. Drew to autograph a card for me outside of the mall across the street from where the Red Sox stay when they play the Angels. I also got Kevin Youkilis to sign a ball.
    Pics are posted
    JW
    http://majorleagueballhawk.mlblogs.com
    http://mlballhawk.com

  11. thebigticket0021@aim.com

    Zack, what book were you reading outside the gates in the first picture?

  12. thebigticket0021@aim.com

    Zack, what book were you reading outside the gates in the first picture?

  13. Jake

    Zack, sounds like you had a tough time. Why do “security” gaurds have to be so power-hungry? At the CWS, there were people on every single aisle in the bleachers. They totally ruined the fun atmosphere there by yelling at people and acting all tough. My next game is on Tuesday when the Cubbies come into town. Good luck in the second half.

  14. .

    Zack –

    From the past entries and all of the latest comments from you and the rest of the people that comment on this blog, I thought you were shutout at the HRB but am now relieved(?) that you’re not. Like LSTHRASHER said, “I was cheering for you” and not THE Josh Hamilton every time a baseball was hit. I’m not sure if day games are your bag…baby (austin powers), but I’m thinking about going to Shea either Tuesday night or ThursDAY. 12:10 PM start. Holler atcha boi.

    – Donnie
    http://donnieanks.mlblogs.com/

  15. zackhample

    DAN-
    Thanks so much. Nice running into you as well…and good luck tomorrow.

    JOHNMCRAE1-
    Yes, good point about keeping the streak alive. I definitely feel like I dodged a bullet.

    GREG-
    I was strongly considering going to Baltimore last night. I had no idea you’d be there. Or maybe you told me and I forgot. Did you have a season ticket? I gave the bottle to a kid who wanted it. I just thought the slightly dirtier Derby ball looked cooler. I’m planning to be at Yankee Stadium on Monday and Tuesday. Maybe Shea on Wednesday. Not sure. I definitely won’t be at Shea on Friday because it’s “Merengue Night.” Your per-game average is impressive, but how high would it be if you’d been to Yankee Stadium 10 times?

    DANNYZHANG312-
    Thanks. I have an excellent chance. It’s just a matter of how motivated/free I am to attend games.

    LSTHRASHER04-
    I saw the tail end of the guys getting chased. I actually wasn’t in my seat at the time and didn’t have a great view. Good luck at the Ted.

    ROCK PILE RANTER-
    I was talking with a friend about moving to Baltimore if the Orioles were to sign Barry Bonds, but I don’t think I was serious. it’d be interesting…going to 30 games there. I’m not sure where I’d move. Maybe the Bay Area. San Francisco is an awesome city, and the stadium in Oakland is close by and always pretty empty.

    JBERG08-
    I got a look at dozens of balls. Most had the Derby logo. Some had the Futures logo. But I didn’t see any that were regular/standard.

    YANKEES42294-
    I doubt it, only because it’s clear that the entire Yankee organization hates people who collect balls, but that’s an excellent question. I guess I’ll let you know next week.

    THET206KID-
    Crazy indeed. Thanks for reading.

    PUCK COLLECTOR-
    Who was it that told you about the Japanese lady? Someone I know? I will answer comments from previous entries…yes.

    JW-
    Well, it’s “fun” just to be at a Derby and have a chance to chase all those baseballs, but yeah, you’re right. Very cool about Drew and Youk.

    THEBIGTICKET0021-
    “Three Nights in August.” I still have about 100 pages to go.

    DNESBITT14-
    That’s insane that security was so strict at the College World Series. What the hell.

    DONNIE-
    You’re hilarious, and we need to meet. I hope it happens this season. I know the comments suggested that I was shut out, but I figured I’d just let everyone wonder until I had a chance to blog about it. Day games are evil, and I avoid them at all costs (except when I’m trying to catch someone’s 600th career home run).

    EVERYONE-
    I’m now going to answer questions that were left on my previous few entries, so look for those comments in a little bit.

  16. Kylie

    Um, oh my God.
    Mariano Rivera gave you his water bottle. That sounds like something I would ask for.
    That is amazing.
    Those baseballs you snagged are all in perfect condition.
    I’m willing to bet the kid in the Rox hat was probably Jackson Holliday.
    Oh, and I definitely saw you on ESPN. That shirt may be as ugly as sin, but it works well.
    Kylie — http://kylie.mlblogs.com

  17. bloggingboutbaseball

    Zack, I’m pretty sure I just saw you in the documentary The King of Kong. Ever heard of it, because I think you had a little cameo in it?
    Congrats on your Derby success!

  18. zackhample

    KYLIE-
    You don’t like my shirt aside from the fact that it makes me easy to spot? That’s really a shame.

    SONICMAJ-
    Yup, that was me. Good call!

  19. sammywu17@hotmail.com

    Zack,
    I remember watching the derby that there were some fans ran to the black area in the center fields for HR balls but got stopped by police. I was shocked to see how far police would go to stop fans. One police just hold a fan with his whole body weight. What happened to the fans, did they get arrested?

  20. braves04

    No commemoratives from the Nationals last night, but I did make a nice backhanded catch on a Nats BP home run. It just seemed to come right to me on a line. No clue who hit it because half the team wore pullovers. Of course, it had to be a training ball!

  21. goisles

    There was a guy behind us on line. he was with his son from mass., and we started talking, and he said that he had tix in the bleachers (sec 43) for the derby and All Star Sunday. i asked if he saw a guy in a “where’s waldo” shirt, and if he got any balls. then he said that you got atleats 2, and told the story about the chinese lady.

    and my dad says that the lady deserved the spot. he said what if the lady meant to get on line before you, but got held up in traffic. she had bad luck, and so did you with the ticket scanner.

    also, i wonder if they would let a kid in w/ the big glove? they let kids in w/ string bags for the ASG, and not adults, so it might work.

  22. thebigticket0021@aim.com

    Zack, do you think you will go to fewer games next year in New York with the yanks and mets both getting new stadiums or will you go to more than usual because of the new stadiums?

  23. gregb123

    1) The trip to Baltimore was a last-minute thing, so I didn’t really have time to leave a comment here.
    2) I did have a season ticket, but LF was dead for what could have been a glorious first half hour. (There were about three other people there during that time.)
    3) We should work on getting to a game at Camden this summer.
    4) I avoid Yankee Stadium like the plague so that my average stays high. It’s not that my average is high because I don’t go to there. It’s like a chicken/egg thing.
    5) I’m planning a four-game trip to Cleveland and Detroit in mid-August. Did you know that “Progressive Field”‘s gates open 2.5 hours before games?

  24. shortstuffjoey94@aol.com

    Hey I am going to a Pirates staidum, Indians Stadium, tigers stadium, cubs stadium, w sox stadium and the brewers stadium. I was wandering when the gates open and where the best place to be is to get the most balls.

    Thanks,
    Joey

  25. meikd423




    here is the final video that i uploaded for the ball that i caught.

    and zack, about being made to sit in your seat by the cop, they were doing that in the upper deck too (ha, i see myself in the white shirt in the upper deck in the pic before bp started. ) and i escaped the first usher who came but the second kicked me out.

  26. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    lsthrasher –
    I live in Atlanta and collect balls at the Ted as well. Did the Nats use comm. balls at all from what you could tell? And my luck always seems to land me training balls, no matter what team. Do you go to Atlanta games a lot? Just wondering.

    Jonathan

  27. droo5757@gmail.com

    Hey zach. I have been reading your blog for a while now and have been learning alot of tips from you. Well, I finally got to try out my skils tonight at Turner Field against the Nationals. I got a ball from the a Nationals Pitcher and it was my first ever MLB ball. And would you know it, it was a Nationals Inagural Season Ball for the new stadium. I couldnt believe it. Thanks for everything!

  28. .

    ANYBODY for July 24 at Shea, Mets vs. Phils? Last game of the series in the battle for first and I’ve noticed the Mets have been very generous the past couple of weeks due to their – what was a win streak, but at BP they give out plenty of baseballs. Every kid at the Sunday Night ESPN Rockies game received a ball while the kids waiting for the catch got nothing. Just from what I saw, stay in the first base line corner spot on the Field Level next to the Dream Seats. Too many were going over there. I’ll be there next time, ha.

    – Donnie
    http://donnieanks.mlblogs.com/

  29. charlie@baseballstuff.mlblogs.com

    Nice job getting 2 balls, but they let you bring that big long string in for the glove trick, which could easily be used to choke someone, but not the large glove? weird…

    I was at Coors Friday and had this conversation with Ryan Speier:
    “Hey Ryan!”
    (he looks up from the Bullpen)
    “Do you know Zack Hample?”
    “what? WHo?”
    “The baseball collector.”
    “No”
    “The guy you gave your glove to!”
    “Oh yeah, From NY. I’ve meet him a few times”

    Just though I’d share that…

  30. braves04

    XHOLD- The Nationals do use commemoratives on the road, though they’re mixed in with training balls. The one I caught was of the training variety. Friday’s game was my 33rd this year, though I don’t snag every game. Let me know when you make it back out.
    DROO5757- I’m jealous lol. But it’s really special that your first MLB ball was a commemorative. Congrats!

  31. zackhample

    EVERYONE-
    I’m going to Camden Yards tomorrow.

    SAMMYWU17-
    I would assume the fans got arrested.

    LSTHRASHER04-
    Sounds like a nice play. Too bad it was one of those dumb balls.

    PUCK COLLECTOR-
    Well, I’ll have to respectfully disagree with your father.

    LI7039-
    Cool ball, but I’ve never seen that before. I have no idea where it came from.

    THBIGTICKET0021-
    I’m not sure yet. I probably won’t go to THAT many games. Maybe half a dozen at each stadium. Maybe a dozen. Probably not too many more than that.

    GREG-
    Cool. I’m gonna want to go to Camden a lot next year. NYC is going to be a snagging nightmare (with the exception of a new batch of commemorative balls). But yes, maybe we can swing a trip down there together before ’08 is through.

    JOEY-
    I don’t know enough about those stadium to give you specific advice, but if you read through my old blog entries, you’ll learn a bunch of general strategies that will help you no matter where you’re trying to snag.

    GOISLANDERS4-
    I’m glad you were able to find a good clip of that Derby homer.

    DROO5757-
    You’re very welcome! Glad to help. Thanks for this awesome comment.

    DONNIE-
    I’m not gonna be attending the July 24th game.

    CHARLIE-
    Awesome story about Ryan Speier. Thanks.

    DB3PAR-
    Well said.

  32. phillies_phollowers

    Hi Zach…we met outside of Gate 6 at the Derby. It was nice to have met you; sorry to hear you had such a rough night! Glad you were able to snag a few, though. If you want to see some more pictures, I have posted some funny “blooper” shots on my blog and a link to a bunch of other photos from the Derby, the parade and Fan Fest there as well. Feel free to check them out. I was sitting in the 2nd level across from 1st base so I had a good spot for photos…not so much for catching anything though. Not very good at that anyway. Well, have a good one!

    Jenn
    http://philliesphollowers.mlblogs.com/

  33. flakattack56@hotmail.com

    I was at the Derby with my two sons and wife on the front row in the left field corner. We were split up at the start, because my youngest son wanted to hawk autographs by the dugouts, but security wouldn’t let them by. He and my wife quickly moved to the railing on the home plate side of the foul pole while my other son and I went straight to a spot at the front of an isle about 6 feet from where the plexiglass outfield wall begins. My youngest son got one ball thrown to him while my oldest son and I got zero. Balls were flying all around us — left, right, behind — and the only couple hit or thrown directly to us were snagged by others in the sea of gloves that were stuck out. The people who made out like bandits were the ones right by the foul pole or people 3-5 rows back, because the players’ kids and players kept lobbing them over the heads of those of us on the railing. May times batted balls would come to rest directly in front of us on the warning track, and the person picking them up would lob them over our heads. Oh for the glove trick! I know how you felt with the kids working their way to the front. I had two kids crowd in to my left, and before the end my son had two kids who were literally between him and the railing! I guess one’s better than nothing, but I must say we were disappointed considering the prime spots we were able to stake out.

  34. karent

    Zack your just too crazy. Sometimes I think you look for trouble. Still, you achieve what you set out to do. You know I’m kidding right but if you ever need someone to bail you out, you can count on me. See you at Shea man, you know where i’ll be. Seriously, your a good guy. Stay out of trouble.

  35. joshscards

    Zack-

    i read your previous answer to donnieanks…that’s the game ill be going to before i go home to florida..wish i could have had the chance to run into you again…..

    next time you come south to Dolphins Stadium, Ill be there!

  36. gjk2212

    greg-i might be going, but ill be late for bp. this will be my first missed bp in 2 years, but im going still because i want to soak in the first place battle. but, im in a broadcasting camp that runs til 4 so ill be late, hopefully ill be able to salvage a ball.

  37. thebigticket0021@aim.com

    i know Zack was going to Camden Yards tonight, i was just looking on mlb.com for stats and attendance. i couldn’t believe it when i saw that attendance was only 12,772!!. i bet Zack had a field day snagging

  38. zackhample

    JENN-
    Nice to have met you too! Also nice to be getting a comment from you here.

    FLAKATTACK56-
    Wow, that sounds rough. Glad ONE of you was able to get a ball, at least.

    KARENT-
    Me? Look for trouble? Um, no. Trouble comes looking for me, and sometimes (like, when there are idiots in control), there’s no way to avoid it.

    NJMETFAN-
    Weird!

    JOSH’S AUTOGRAPHED CARD COLLECTION-
    Ahh, bummer…but you can bet that I’ll be back at Dolphin Stadium before TOO long. I have a good friend in Miami that I need to visit.

    AL-
    Good stuff…and nice to hear from you again. I’ll have to check it out more when I have some free time. Right now, things are just kray-zee.

    GREG-
    Shea today? Not for me, Senor. I’ll be in the Bronx.

    THEBIGTICKET0021-
    It was soooo nice and empty last night in Baltimore. Yum.

    JEFF-
    Thanks!

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