7/21/08 at Camden Yards

I went to this game with one of my newer/favorite friends–a guy named Leon Feingold who happens to be a former minor league pitcher, a current member of Mensa, and a part-time competitive eater. He’s also pretty tall. Keep in mind that I’m 5-foot-11…

leon_zack_outside.jpg

Although Leon hasn’t pitched in the minors since 1995, he’s still a dues-paying member of the APBPA (Association of Professional Ball Players of America) and we got special treatment as a result. Camden Yards is one of those stadiums that opens in sections; everyone is allowed to enter two hours early, but for the first half-hour, the left field seats are open only to season ticket holders. Leon used his membership card (and did a whole lot of smooth talking) to get us into left field as soon as the gates opened.

For the first five minutes, there was officially NO competition. Check it out:

left_field_empty1.jpg

I moved to the front row in straight-away left field and promptly caught a home run on a fly
(as Randor Bierd looked on). This ball has one of the largest and deepest scuff marks I’ve scuffed_sweet_spot.jpgever seen. I’m guessing it was hit into the seats before the stadium opened and landed on a concrete step…then either bounced back onto the field or was tossed back by an usher. (I wrote the “3516” because this was the 3,516th ball of my collection.)

Over the next 20 minutes, about a dozen other fans made it out to the left field seats, and I snagged five more home run balls:

The first one landed in left-center and bounced up against the chain-link fence that separates the seats from the bullpen. The second one hit my glove and landed in an empty row behind me as I jumped and lunged for it. The third landed near me and several other fans, and I won the scramble as it rattled around in the seats. The fourth sailed 15 feet over my head and took an incredibly lucky bounce right back to me. The fifth landed in the seats, and I out-scrambled Leon and several other fans.

Then I got another ball–my seventh of the day–tossed to me by Dennis Sarfate (pronounced sar-FAH-tay).

Don’t feel bad for Leon. He brought his glove and snagged two home run balls during BP. He caught the first one on a fly and got a lucky bounce on the second. And don’t feel bad for the other fans. There were PLENTY of balls to go around, and I ended up giving away one of mine to a father and his young son who somehow managed to come up empty. It was ball-snagging heaven.

roy_halladay_and_others.jpgAfter the Blue Jays took the field at 5:30pm, I got my eighth ball tossed by Roy Halladay, then used my glove trick to snag No. 9 off the rubberized warning track, and broke double digits thanks to a little charity from Scott Downs.

If you take a closer look at the photo on the left, you’ll see a “Southwest Airlines” sign on the outfield wall, just above the head of the guy (Blue Jays pitching coach Brad Arnsberg) wearing No. 38. That wall is set several feet out from the base of the stands, so I sacrificed five minutes in left field and ran out there, just in case a ball had dropped into the gap when I wasn’t looking. I had to be slick about it, though. The day before Manny Ramirez hit his 500th career home run, a crazy usher had threatened to eject me for using the glove trick in that section, so I couldn’t just charge down the steps to the front row and lean over the railing. Therefore, I took my time…walked slowly…kept my glove hidden in my backpack…pulled out my camera…pretended to take some pics…casually made it down to the front…peeked over…moved 20 feet to my left…and took a pic for real. This is what I saw:

ball_in_gap_07_21_08.jpg

Ball No. 11, baby!

Unfortunately, I didn’t get anything else during BP, and I got ignored/dissed by Blue Jays manager Cito Gaston for a ball that almost anyone else in the world would’ve tossed to me. But why dwell donovan_santos.jpgon the negative? Shortly before game time, I got my 12th ball of the day from a guy whom I correctly assumed was Donovan Santos, the Blue Jays “Strength and Conditioning Coach” (pictured on the right in the black shirt).

I spent most of the game with Leon, talking ab
out pitching and going for foul balls on the first base side of home plate. Nothing came close, and that’s probably a good thing because he probably leon_zack_inside.jpg
would’ve caught it. The day before the game, I asked him if he was planning to bring his glove and go for balls, and when he said yes, I asked what would happen if we were sitting together during the game and a foul ball came our way. I wanted to know if he planned to compete with me, and I got my answer: “You better eat your Wheaties tomorrow morning.”

two_game_used_balls.jpgI played the dugouts for third-out balls and got one from each side. Blue Jays catcher Rod Barajas flipped me the ball after Luke Scott took a called third strike to end the second inning…and Orioles first baseman Kevin Millar flipped me HIS ball after Matt Stairs grounded out to Brian Roberts to end the top of the seventh.

I jogged out to the right field standing-room-only section a few times over the course of the game, and and it’s a shame nothing came my way because that whole area of the stadium was a ghost town:

flag_court_empty.jpg

Still, I have two noteworthy things to report from my brief time in right field:

1) There was a fan wearing a T-shirt that said, “I AM KEEPING THE BALL.” Sadly, I didn’t get a photo, but I can tell you that it was a yellow shirt with the words stacked vertically. Very eye-catching. The back of the shirt said, “SEE FRONT OF SHIRT.”

2) At the foul-pole end of the standing-room-only section (you can barely see this in the photo above), the Orioles had one of several “ice stations” set up:

ice_station.jpg

Given the fact that it was 97 degrees and stiflingly humid at game time…how awesome is that? I’ve been to over 700 games in 44 different major league stadiums, and I’ve never seen this before. Can you imagine an ice station at Yankee Stadium? HA!!! You’d have to pay 25 cents per cube (no discount for fragments) and store the ice in a clear plastic bag because, as everyone knows, a styrofoam cup can be used as a weapon.

The Orioles won, 8-3. Jesse Litsch, who’s never been nice to me, took the loss. Radhames Liz, who has a phenomenal name, earned the win. Brian Roberts hit his major league-leading 37th double. Yay.

After the game, Leon got a ball (thanks to my expert guidance) from home plate ump Tim Tschida, and I got a ball from Alberto Castillo (not this Alberto Castillo, but THIS one, although I *have* received balls from both) at the Orioles’ dugout.

the_balls_i_kept_07_21_08.jpgSTATS:

? 15 balls at this game

? 253 balls in 35 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.

? 11 lifetime games with 15 or more balls

? 84 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

? 29 lifetime games outside NYC with 10 or more balls

? 531 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 127 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

? 3,530 total balls

32 comments

  1. li7039@yahoo.com

    im looking forward to my trip to Camden. Hopefully i can get 1 or 2 balls during BP.

    You heading back to nationals park this season?

  2. canonmelky

    Actually i have been to yankee games and they have given out free water and they also will give you free ice if you ask and you have a cup already same goes for shea stadium.

  3. mlballhawk

    Hey Zack –

    Did you happen to see the T-Shirt I did for ya?

    Check it out here http://mlballhawk.logosoftwear.com/storeshop/buyfromstore/ebcd5e2172d0e2349b3a35e242a29616

    I posted earlier that everyone that goes to a Yankees or Mets game should get it and have about 100 people out there with them on!

    Saw Tracy (tracycollinsbecky) last night and he thought maybe we would see you since the Yankees game was on the big screen during BP but obviously you were not there.

    Good to see things got better away from NY.

    Later

    JW
    http://majorleagueballhawk.com
    http://majorleagueballhawk.mlblogs.com

  4. mlballhawk

    Skip the shirt …. for some reason it isn’t right … I tried to order one of yours and mine and neither show up right!

  5. Stuart Jon

    Hey Zack,

    Great blogs: good read. I have been catching up as I have been off line for a while, as my son was born last week, we now have a Charlie Jon as well as a Stuart Jon!!

    Stuart Jon

  6. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    Looks like a good day at Camden Yards. My trip to Yankee Stadium was a success. As soon as I got in I got a great spot right near the right field foul pole. In the first 5 minutes a home run was hit and I got the ball. It was a commemorative one, so mission accomplished. Now I just hope the game at Shea tomorrow isn’t rained out. Or at least BP isn’t rained out. Maybe I’ll catch you some other time at a game.

    Jonathan

  7. Jake

    Zack, I was listening to a local radio station this morning and they played a sound byte of Lou Piniella and he said that he was going to cancel Batting Practice for the rest of the series because they only got two hits in the game. Just thought I’d pass that along.

  8. Graham

    15 Balls! Nice snagging session! Sounds like that punk Gaston almost got himself the Hample Jinx.
    -Graham

  9. gregb123

    Is anybody on here going to Philly on Friday? And does anybody know if the Braves are still using cheap-*** training balls this year?

  10. utahsteeler

    Hiya Zack…..Very cool blogs of late. I had several people watching for the “Waldo” shirt during the Derby. Nice job with the 15 balls at Camden. You lived every snaggers dream being in a near empty stadium! Had to be better than getting pushed and shoved at Yankee Stadium. I like the scuff marks on the balls, gives them a bit more character over a pristine ball.

  11. gjk2212

    just got back from shea. seriously, i dont know whats wrong. maybe im jinxed. i dont know, i never stole a ball from anyone or anything, but the last time i got more than one bal at a game was june 25. since then, i went to shea on 7/8 (one ball c/o jack taschner), the derby which i dont count, and tonight. i get in, and seriously i didnt have an opportunity at all to catch or have thrown or cup trick a ball. its unbelievable. the picnic area was empty until 6:25, and i wasnt allowed in. if they did let me in, i would have been alone and easily raked in 15, maybe more. but no. one freakin ball. the only good thing is my streak is alive, but it almost wasnt. i got it from the last guy off the field for the phils, some coach last name “de armas” (anyone knowing his first name would be awesome). he finished transfering balls from bucket to bag and kept an absolute mess of a ball in his glove, which i got. thank god. i was in panic mode. if i didnt already know what it said, i wouldnt be able to make out the words “official, league, baseball, commissioner, and seligs sig.” i hate the phillies. theyre not generous and they made tonight painful. very much. and im sure im not the only one. but i think the mets wanna lose. they find ways to blow games. i cant take it anymore. anyway, i desperately need to go to camden and washington right now, so maybe i can break out and even just a solid 5 or 6 at this point would be awesome.

  12. tommyd2107

    Ill be in Philly on Friday. How about that Phillies/Mets game tonight I was so glad the Phillies won.

  13. .

    Finally a successful snagging day! I can’t wait to hit up Camden Yards August 22 and 23 vs. the Yankees. Although I’d rather prefer to see a different team than the Yankees, it’s Camden Yards and a first experience so I’ll try to make the best out of it.
    I haven’t been to a baseball game since July 13 and feel like I’m having withdrawals. Even though the Mets repeatedly find ways to piss me (and others) off, I still pay money to watch them play baseball when I can easily watch it at home. Tomorrow (July 24) I’ll be heading over to Shea Stadium at 8:30 AM for a 12:10 PM start in the last game of the series vs. the Phillies. ANYBODY ELSE GOING?!

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

  14. 1bderek25

    U.S. Cellular offers free ice on hot days. I think it’s almost a standard practice nowadays in many stadiums.

  15. sheffro1@hotmail.com

    Dude. You went to Camden without me. So sad. Oh well, it was a weekday, so it would’ve been tough for me anyway.

    I’m going to Wrigley Field on Saturday. I’ll try to snag a ball for ya!

    – Heff

  16. mlbmark

    Congratulations for passing Tris Speaker and moving into the top five on the equivalent all-time hit list. The ice station was great and it only needs to be stocked now.

    You (and all other bloggers) should leave your URL on http://octobergonzo.mlblogs.com – since MLB’s national TV postseason campaign (this year’s Dane Cook) is about MLBlogs and specifically October Gonzo. As someone with us when we launched all this in April 2005, I figured you would appreciate that all those commercials are pointing people to http://www.mlblogs.com

    Mark/MLB.com
    http://mlblogs.mlblogs.com
    http://statues.mlblogs.com
    http://www.mlblogs.com

  17. thomasb.

    A couple years ago my family did our annual Camden trip to see the Twins play. Well, it was also hot, and right where that ice stand is, there used to be a vending spot. A lady was selling sodas and beer. Well, I scraped up my knee going for a home run during BP and the lady gave me a bag of ice to put over my knee. So we were friends, and I would go up to her during the game and get a cup of ice (styrofoam cup might I add). That is the BEST stadium I have been to.

  18. zackhample

    LI7039-
    I don’t think I’ll be back in D.C. this season.

    SOXSUXYANKS-
    Yeah, but how many people actually bring cups? And at Yankee Stadium, you can’t even bring a bag inside, so what are you supposed to do? Carry your cup around in your hands all night?

    JW-
    Yep, I saw the shirt. Very cool.

    STUART JON-
    Congrats on the addition to the family!!!

    METSFAN2001-
    Totally.

    JONATHAN-
    Congrats on the commemorative ball, and I hope to hear good things about Shea.

    DNESBITT14-
    Yikes. Good thing I don’t plan on seeing the Cubs anytime soon.

    GRAHAM-
    Well, he didn’t actually STEAL a ball from me, but he should’ve been nicer.

    GREG-
    I’ve been thinking about it, but it’s not looking like I’ll be able to make it.

    UTAHSTEELER17-
    Thanks! Sorry I didn’t perform better for you at the Derby.

    NJMETFAN-
    Dude, that’s rough.

    TOMD8670-
    I don’t think I’ll be seeing you there this week.

    AARON-
    Cool. I hadn’t seen that.

    DONNIE-
    What are you thinking?! Camden Yards is gonna be a zoo when the Yankees roll into down.

    CUBSFAN-
    Oh yeah? Then…how come I’ve never seen it before?

    HEFF!
    I know, it never feels right to be there without you. When are we going?! You have to let me know about Wrigley.

    MARK-
    Thanks! I will check out Gonzo’s blog for sure…

    DB3PAR-
    I want to marry Camden Yards.

  19. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    hey mlbhawk, grady hit lead hr.that ball snagger in anaheim got it/sizemore 24th.indians came for ball ,4 seasons 20 20 grady, he was sitting behind me ,security is on it,dont throw beach balls pd will cuff you

  20. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    hey mlbhawk, grady hit lead hr.that ball snagger in anaheim got it/sizemore 24th.indians came for ball ,4 seasons 20 20 grady, he was sitting behind me ,security is on it,dont throw beach balls pd will cuff you

  21. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    hey mlbhawk, grady hit lead hr.that ball snagger in anaheim got it/sizemore 24th.indians came for ball ,4 seasons 20 20 grady

  22. mlballhawk

    Got Love TCB ……. he posts the same thing 3 times and even with 3 posts you still can’t figure out what he’s saying!

  23. danlcox77@yahoo.com

    Hope it’s not a stupid question; what does YSOP stand for?
    Cool hearing about the ASG festivities. Thanks, Dan form Ohio

  24. zackhample

    BALLHAWK-
    Leave the poor guy alone. We’ve all been there…you post a comment and don’t think it went through, so you click “Submit” again and again.

    DANLCOX-
    Youth Service Opportunity Program. Snore. I only wore it because it matched the Blue Jays’ colors. Obviously it didn’t help with Gaston.

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