7/28/08 at Yankee Stadium

It was a day of new and old friends.

THE NEW: A 28-year-old Californian named Matt who’d been reading this blog (and keeping in touch with me) for months. He was finally in New York City and took me out to lunch before we headed to Yankee Stadium.

THE OLD: A 14-year-old Mets fan named Clif (aka “goislanders4” if you read the comments) who was a Watch With Zack client on 9/25/07 at Shea Stadium.

This was another Watch With Zack game–for Clif only– although I still felt responsible for helping both of these guys snag a Yankee Stadium commemorative ball. Matt didn’t have many chances on the west coast, and he was going to be flying back there the next day at 6am. Clif, meanwhile, had been trying unsuccessfully to snag one of these balls all season–or at least at the few Yankee games that he was able to convince his mom to take him to. Clif had wanted one of these balls SO badly and for such a long time that he told me he felt like he almost didn’t want one anymore.

Matt (on the left in this photo) and Clif (being goofy in the middle) and I hung out for 45 minutes outside Gate 6 and mapped out our strategies. Unfortunately for Clif, I didn’t know I’d be going to this game with him until about a week or two before the fact, whereas Matt had his trip planned for months. Therefore, I had told Matt well in advance that the place to be during BP was the corner spot in the right field seats, all the way out near the bleachers…so he rightfully claimed that spot. Still, I figured the right field upper deck would be pretty good during the first 10 or 20 minutes of BP, and I offered to give that area to Clif. He turned it down. He felt he had a better chance downstairs by roaming for home run balls, trying to get players to toss him balls, and using his “cup trick” to pluck balls off the warning track.

It made sense to split up so we wouldn’t all be directly competing with one another. Clif’s mom Gail had no problem with him being on his own for BP. We all had each other’s cell phone numbers, and I told Clif that if there was lots of action in the upper deck and I got a ball early on, I’d call him and tell him to run upstairs…and then I’d either get out of his way or stay up there and help him snag one. I was willing to simply GIVE Clif one of these commemorative balls, but to his credit, he didn’t want one unless he snagged it on his own.

The stadium opened at 5pm, and I raced up to the upper deck and had it all to myself for the first five minutes:


Of course, there was NO action during this time. In fact, there was hardly any action up there during the forty minutes that the Yankees were on the field. By the time the upper deck was starting to get crowded, one ball was hit into the seats near the foul pole…and one ball was tossed up by Joba Chamberlain to a man with a cup of beer instead of a glove. It was a total disaster, but I did see Matt get a commemorative ball tossed to him by David Robertson.

Matt had told me outside the stadium that he really only needed one ball, and that if he snagged one, he’d hold onto the corner spot for me and let me slip in. After the Yankees finished their portion of BP, I ran downstairs and took him up on his generous offer. I would’ve given the corner spot to Clif, but I assumed the Orioles weren’t using commemorative balls, and anyway, he wanted me to catch at least one ball so my streak wouldn’t end.

I was in total panic mode by this point. It was coming up on 6pm, and the right field seats were so crowded that I literally could not move:


Luckily, I didn’t have to move once I had the corner spot, and thanks to my bright orange Orioles T-shirt (with “RIPKEN 8” on the back), I was able to convince Jamie Walker to toss me a ball. His throw sailed high, so I timed it and jumped as high as I could and lifted myself up even higher by pushing off the side wall with my right arm…and I made the catch. PHEW!!! It was a regular ball, and I offered it to Clif, just because that seemed like the right thing to do, but he wouldn’t take it. And that was IT for batting practice. One lousy ball between the two of us. Can you believe it?


Matt and I parted ways at that point, and Clif asked me if this was my worst game ever at Yankee Stadium. No. But it was close…at least at that point.

During the game, Gail stayed in her assigned seat in the Loge level with her friend Michael while Clif and I moved all over the place. We spent the top of the first inning going for foul balls on the 3rd base side. Since there was only one aisle seat, we alternated batters. I sat on the end for Brian Roberts (a switch-hitter batting lefty against Mike Mussina), then traded seats with Clif when (the next lefty) Nick Markakis came up.

No action.

We moved out to straight-away left field in the bottom of the first to prepare for A-Rod. Given the fact that this was the Yankees’ 31st sellout of the season, there weren’t exactly a whole lot of empty seats from which to choose. The best option was ALL the way out near Monument Park (at the very edge of the grandstand) in the first row behind the aisle. Basically, there was a side wall at the edge of the section, then two seats, then a staircase. As the Yankees went down one-two-three, Clif and I slipped into these two seats and security didn’t say a word. A-Rod was batting cleanup so we were going to have to wait half an inning for his turn. Clif sat on the inside (against the side wall) and left the end seat for me.

“I guess I should put on my glove,” I said to Clif as the right-handed Melvin Mora stepped into the box. I didn’t expect anything to come my way, and I almost didn’t care about catching any home run other than A-Rod’s, but it seemed silly not to be prepared…for whatever.

I told Clif that if someone hit a home run to left field, I’d be out of the seat in no time, and that he’d be able to follow close behind, and that if the ball weren’t caught on a fly, there would likely be a scramble for it, at which point there’d be just as good a chance for him to get it.

Mora fell behind in the count but then ripped a 1-2 pitch up the middle for a single. This brought up Luke Scott, a lefty, who pulled an 0-1 pitch through the right side to put runners on the corners.

Kevin Millar stepped up to the plate, and I asked Clif if he wanted to switch seats with me. He didn’t. And Millar crushed the first pitch to left field. And I was out of my seat in less than a second. As the ball left the bat, I had no idea where it was heading. Fly ball to the warning track? Home run into the seats? I wasn’t sure, but it was obviously well hit, and there was only one direction to run: to the right. The ball reached its apex, and I kept racing through the aisle, and as it began its descent I knew right where it was going to land. It WAS going to be a home run, and I had a chance to get there. I kept running. The ball was coming down. There was a tall guy and a group of fans blocking me at the front of the aisle. I wasn’t going to be able to make a backhanded catch…so I intentionally ran past the spot millar_homer.jpg
where I predicted the ball would land, then cut sharply back to my left at the very last second and jumped and lunged for the ball as half a dozen hands reached up in front of my face. BAM!!! I felt something hit my glove, and for a split second I wasn’t sure if it was someone else’s hand or the ball itself. I opened my glove. It was the ball.

I didn’t hold up the ball or make a big production of it; the last time I’d caught a home run in that section, security kicked me out because I didn’t belong there. After catching Millar’s blast, I just wanted to get back to my seat and apologize to Clif. HE was the one who needed a commemorative ball…not me. And yet he was so excited because he’d gotten to witness my catch. (He’s my new official good luck charm.) He said I disappeared from sight and that he spotted a glove go up at the last second and he knew it had to be me.

The security supervisor walked over–the same guy who’d kicked me out of this section once before.

“Are you the one who caught that ball?” he asked.

“Yeah,” I had to admit. (Leave it to Yankee Stadium to ruin what should be a joyous moment.)

“Wait right here,” he said as he focused his attention on his walkie-talkie. At that point, I turned to Clif and told him to get out of there. “Go find your mom.” I said. “I think I’m about to be ejected from the stadium. There’s no reason why you should stick around and get in trouble with me. Go! Hurry! I’ll call you in a little bit. Don’t worry. We’ll work it out…”

With that, Clif started walking away, and the supervisor turned back to me. He kept one ear to his walkie-talkie and said, “I gotta see if they want the ball.”

“Cool!” I said. “You mean there’s a chance that Millar wants it for himself?

“That’s what I’m trying to find out,” he said.

“Clif!!!” I shouted, barely getting his attention. He looked up from a distance, and I waved him over. When he walked back, I told him that I wasn’t in trouble and I explained the situation.

As it turned out, no one wanted the ball…except me. After this fact was established, it appeared that I was free to go, and I was just getting ready to head back to the seats when a vendor I know walked over and introduced me to the supervisor.

“Do you guys know each other?” he asked.

“We’ve crossed paths a couple times,” I said, aware that nothing good was possibly going to happen as a result of this interaction.

“This is my good buddy Zack,” said the vendor. “He catches lots of balls. He’s the king of the foul ball.”

“Oh yeah?” said the supervisor. “By the way,” he continued without hesitating, “where are you supposed to be sitting?”

I was officially busted. He told me to leave. I asked if I could come back just for A-Rod’s at-bats. He said no. And that was that.

Clif and I briefly visited Gail and Michael in the Loge, then got some Dippin’ Dots (yum!) and headed back down to the short porch in right field. There were NO empty seats out there, and I was hoping to catch a second home run, so I was forced to stand in the tunnel. This was the view:


By the middle innings, the Yankees were getting blown out. The Orioles had scored four runs in the second, then added two more in the fifth and five in the sixth to take an 11-0 lead.


This meant people would be leaving early, so I took Clif to the third base side as the bottom of the sixth ended and got a fan to give me two ticket stubs for the seats behind the outfield end of the Orioles’ dugout. I knew Clif’s best chance to snag a commemorative ball would be to get a game-used, third-out ball tossed up by the Orioles. I lent him my Orioles shirt, watched as he used the tickets to get down to the fancy seats with his mom, and called him as I headed back to right field to give SPECIFIC directions on how to maneuver for third-out balls. The most important thing to do, I explained, was to anticipate the third out being recorded while the ball was still in play and bolt down to the front row during that small window of time. We discussed several other strategies as well during the top of the seventh. He was all set.

In the bottom of the seventh, I found an empty seat–a folding chair, actually–in the aisle directly behind the right field wall. Robinson Cano was called out on strikes and Xavier Nady followed with his first homer as a Yankee, a blast into no man’s land beyond the left-center field wall. Then there was a pitching change. Then Melky Cabrera reached on a throwing error by Brian Roberts. Then Jose Molina doubled. And then Johnny Damon hit a three-run homer 80 feet to my left that I had no chance of catching. But several pitches before this home run, nick_markakis.jpgDamon ripped a line drive that kicked off the base of the wall in foul territory and rolled all the way out to Markakis in right field. To my surprise, I was the ONLY fan who bothered to ask for it, and Markakis flipped it up right to me. Sweet! Two game-used commemorative balls at a sold out Yankee Stadium! But I still felt bad because once again, Clif needed one of these balls…not me.

After Damon’s home run, there was another pitching change, followed by a Wilson Betemit single, a Richie Sexson pop-up (shocker), and an inning-ending strikeout by A-Rod. I knew Clif was screwed. He was behind the outfield end of the dugout. Orioles catcher Ramon Hernandez was near the home plate end of the dugout. And that’s where the ball ended up being tossed.

I called Clif again and discussed his remaining options. I told him he’d have another chance for a third-out ball after the eighth inning, and that he might be able to get a commemorative ball after the game. The Orioles were winning by such a wide margin that it wasn’t going to be a save situation. In other words, there was one less reason why an Orioles pitcher would want to hold onto the game-ending ball.

In the top of the eighth, Aubrey Huff crushed a home run off the facade of the upper deck. The ball plopped back down onto the field, and I almost got it tossed to me by Justin Christian, who had replaced Bobby Abreu the previous inning. (Maybe if I’d called him “Justin” instead of “Jason,” he would’ve tossed it to me. Oops.)

The bottom of the eighth seemed to last forever. Christian grounded out, Cano doubled, Nady struck out, Cabrera singled, Molina walked, and the Orioles made another pitching change. With two outs, Damon took the first pitch for a ball and then found himself in a hole after taking two quick called strikes. NOT GOOD. If he struck out, Clif would once again be screwed. I was praying that Damon would at least make contact. A ground ball would’ve been great. Millar always tosses third-out balls into the crowd. But a fly ball would’ve been even better…but not if it were hit too deep or near the foul lines. Then the outfielder might simply toss it to the fans where he caught it. What we needed was a…YES!!! A fly ball to center field. Yes, yes, yes. Center fielder Adam Jones made the easy catch and started jogging in with the ball. Then he tossed it to Markakis who jogged slowly bac
k to the dugout. From my spot all the way out in right field, I could see Clif wearing my bright orange shirt, and I saw Markakis heading toward his end of the dugout. Markakis was looking down as he approached. Not good! He needed to look up and see the shirt. LOOK UP, FOOL!!! At the very last second, he did indeed raise his head and flip the ball toward Clif. I saw a bunch of people reach in front of him, and I had no idea if he caught it. I immediately called him…but his voice-mail picked up. Crap! He was obviously calling me at the same time. I hung up and waited…waited…waited, and then the phone rang. Clif had the ball. I told him he was awesome. He told me he loved me. And we made a plan to meet after the game. (Final score: Orioles 13, Yankees 4.) Here we are, each holding our game-used, commemorative balls from Markakis:


Not bad.

And guess what? Not only had Gail managed to snag a ball (not commemorative) during the Orioles’ portion of BP, but Clif had gotten a second ball (not commemorative) from a security guard after the final out.

When I got home, I turned on “Baseball Tonight” but because I’m too dumb to figure out how to tape anything, I had to film the highlight of Millar’s homer with my digital camera. I’d share the video here, but it’s really low quality, and you can’t see much anyway. I mean, there’d be no way to tell that it was me who caught that ball, so you’ll have to settle for a few basic screen shots.









Again…I know it’s impossible to tell that it was me. I shared these screen shots so you can see how far I had to move to make the catch. I might share the video at some point (in which you can see a little white blur darting through the aisle), but right now I’m waiting to see if I can get a higher quality clip from someone else. Did anyone tape this game?!

I’ll be in the right field bleachers tonight…


? 3 balls at this game

? 263 balls in 37 games this season = 7.1 balls per game.

? 533 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 119 lifetime game balls (not including game-used balls that get tossed into the seats)

? 100 game balls since my streak began

? 5 game home run balls

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

? 8 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls

? 3,540 total balls


  1. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    That sounds like a very exciting day for both of you. I have a gotten a ball from Markakis before when the O’s came to Atlanta. My day at Shea last Wednesday wasn’t good. It had great potential but nothing came of it. I was the 2nd person in the stadium. I ran to stand in a corner spot down the 1st base line and when I got there a guy was sitting in the seat eating a hot dog. When he left, I somehow didn’t notice and someone else got the spot, along with the 3 balls tossed to that spot. I think at least 2 of them were All-Star balls. I had a chance at another ball and reached out as far as I could for it and somehow the kid next to me had longer arms and I squeezed my glove closed on his. But going to Shea for the first and only time was a nice experience. I have no idea how you maneuver for balls in the place with those bars through all the seating areas.

  2. meikd423

    First comment!!!!!!

    its wierd too because i opened the blog and it still said 7/22/08 at yankee stadium but i just clicked refresh out of desperation and this popped up.

    But Damn, im SOOOOOOOOOOOO bad at posing in pictures. NONE of those pictures look like me. i look wierd in all of them but i still love them.

    I was a little worried cause there was a kid going for third out balls too, and he was about 2 years younger than me but still, 12 can be competition. but he wasn’t as experienced as me at getting them. so when a yankee hit a ground ball with two outs, i bolted down the steps and was the first one there but it turned out to be a single and this kid caught on with what i was doing. luckily he was distracted by what he thought was a towering home run. i knew it was a fly out though.
    so i was the first one there

    and yeah, a bunch of people tried to reach in front of me for the ball at the dugout. everyone thought Adam Jones had it so when he walked into the dugout, everyone kinda gave up hope, but when i started yelling at nick markakis everyone stood up and the kid who was next to me started pushing me and trying to get through into a little spot on the dugout but i wasn’t gonna let him. so at the last second when markakis threw ME the ball, an adult on my left reached out but he reached too high, the adult on my right reached but he was too far away and it missed his finger tips, and the 12 year old kid tried to put his glove out at the last second and bumped my elbow a little and i thought this would be a problem but i still ended up reaching out and caught it in the tip of my glove. thats when i called zack and told him. when the game ended i was about to take a picture with my mom when i noticed that a cop had a ball and all these kids next to me were throwing money at him for the ball and when i asked him nicely, he said he saw me already get a ball, so i told him it was for my sister (thanks greg, for that wonderful excuse that ended up getting me the ball) and he flipped it to me. just like that, i had gotten two balls which is my all-time high for yankee stadium. (i’ve only been there 5 times in my life and only saw two batting practices.)

    and seeing zack catch a home run LIVE was awseome

  3. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    That sounds like a very exciting day for both of you. I have a gotten a ball from Markakis before when the O’s came to Atlanta. My day at Shea last Wednesday wasn’t good. It had great potential but nothing came of it. I was the 2nd person in the stadium. I ran to stand in a corner spot down the 1st base line and when I got there a guy was sitting in the seat eating a hot dog. When he left, I somehow didn’t notice and someone else got the spot, along with the 3 balls tossed to that spot. I think at least 2 of them were All-Star balls. I had a chance at another ball and reached out as far as I could for it and somehow the kid next to me had longer arms and I squeezed my glove closed on his. But going to Shea for the first and only time was a nice experience. I have no idea how you maneuver for balls in the place with those bars through all the seating areas.

  4. thebigticket0021@aim.com

    its funny, i was watching sports Center last night, and i saw the Millar Home run. i looked closely because i thought maybe you would be in left field and i saw someone running through the isle in a white shirt. i knew there was a slim chance that it was you. so i thought nah what are the chances that he would be right there and be the one in the white shirt running.
    And it was indeed you! sounds like you at least had fun, (even without a ton of balls)
    I’m looking forward to reading your entry for tonights game

  5. gjk2212

    sounds awesome..i need to get back to the bronx-wait. kidding. hate it. idk when my next game will be. clif-congrats.

  6. gjk2212

    sounds awesome..i need to get back to the bronx-wait. kidding. hate it. idk when my next game will be.

  7. gjk2212

    sounds awesome..i need to get back to the bronx-wait. kidding. hate it. idk when my next game will be. clif-congrats.

  8. braves04

    I watched the MLB.com highlight and was able to see you clearly darting across the walkway. Congrats to you and Clif on those game balls, especially at a sold out game.
    A second chance for me to go to New York has come up in September for the Braves/Mets series. I’d try and see the Rays/Yankees as well.

  9. braves04

    The MLB.com video showed you darting across the section fairly clearly. Congrats on the commemoratives for you and Clif, especially at a sold-out game.
    A second chance for me to visit NYC has come up for September when the Braves are there. Hopefully, it will work out this time lol.

  10. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    You went a long way for that one. Nice snag. I’m hoping for a Conor Jackson shot tonight right to me. We’ll see. Wish me luck. Good luck yourself tonight too.


  11. Jake

    Hey Zack
    When I was watching Baseball Tonight last night, I saw the two homers hit to left field and thought it would be cool if Zack caught one of those, and you came through congrats. The DBacks have a 7 game homestand before I have to go back to school. I want to make it out to at least 4 of those games. There is a four game series with the Braves and of course they had to put Chipper on the DL. Missed him by one night in Denver and going to miss him again in the valley ugh.
    That HR ball is beautiful by the way.

  12. tigerssss

    Hey Zack-

    Two things:
    First of all, after further review of the footage of the Millar HR, I could see you running through the aisle and making the catch. Nice job!

    Second of all, I’ve been wondering about something for a long time. Where do you get the “What A Game” shirts and other MLB logo apparel? I must know.

    P.S. Where did you get the Waldo shirt? I’m just curious.

    From Peter
    (I am also “jfunk” but i’ll use this from now on)

  13. zackhample

    Thanks. Sounds like a really rough day for you at Shea…and believe me, even *I* have trouble maneuvering around all those railings. Shea is NOT an easy place, at least not when there are 50,000 fans at every game.

    See you get that commemorative ball LIVE was awesome. So we’re even. Thanks for sharing all the details. Very cool to hear about it from your point of view. As for the photos, what do you expect? You make goofy faces every time. :-)

    I’ve done eight “Watch With Zack” games since I started the business last year, so I’m averaging about one per month.

    Yeah, just stay away from the Bronx. There are moments of greatness that can occur at Yankee Stadium, but it’s so stressful the rest of the time that it’s almost not worth being there at all.

    Cool. Glad you were able to spot me in the highlight. Keep me posted on your NY plans. Hope you can make it here.

    Thanks for noticing my incredible range. :-)

    Thanks for thinking of me when you saw those homers get hit. I probably would’ve caught the second one too (the grand slam) if security hadn’t kicked me out.

    Thanks! I own two shirts with MLB logos on them, and I bought them both from kids at my college back in the day. I literally got the shirts right off their backs. As for the Waldo shirt, I think I got it at H&M, but I’m not positive.

    Yankee Stadium was pretty good on Tuesday night. I’m not sure if I’ll get to blog about it today (Wednesday) but I’ll have the entry up soon either way. Also, stay tuned for an entry this weekend about Fenway. I’ll be there on Friday…

  14. csparks@zoominternet.net

    Awesome job catching the homer! Tonight I went to the pro for the second time and got two balls, both tossed into the crowd. The tigers didn’t take BP, so I could have had more, but I’ll take two. Only one homer went near me during the hour of bp and it was cleanly caught by someone else. As for the game, the best part (for indians fans) was when a tigers fan with a “I love you Magglio Ordoniez” poster was on the scoreboard, we all booed untill a slash went through it, then they turned to cheers. Cant wait to here about Tuesday and good luck at Fenway

  15. deleted

    Hey Zack, tonight I went to the first ever minor league game at Wrigley Field.

    I got 2 balls, the first was one of only 2 home runs hit in the bleachers during bp. It was a major league ball, so I assume that they just used the Cubs’ stash.

    The Second was a ball from the dugout after the game (rainout) some random dude poked his head out, and a few fans and I asked if he could toss out a few balls. Luckily, one rolled to me, and I officially had my first minor league ball.

    I’m going to New York next week, and HOPEFULLY I will get lucky and get a commemorative ball from each stadium.

  16. dodgerduder

    Congrats to all 3 of you! I cant wait for thursday! Im still not sure where I want to go! Zack, do you know if you are still going to be at this game??


  17. thomasb.

    Are usher’s aloud to make up rules on the spot? Am aloud to ask for a supervisor to see what the official “rules” of the ballpark are? I got kicked out of the right field pavilion three times at the Nats game last night. Twice by the same usher who insisted BP was over even though the Phillies had just started their portion of BP. Another usher who gave me a speech about how he wishes I could get every ball that is hit because it is a kid’s and young adult’s dream to catch a baseball. He said the section was usually for groups of people with 5 or more. BS, I see plenty of couples there. It is a general admission ticket too. I can get it at the ticket window outside of the stadium. I should be able to go there. There are no signs outside of the sections up there that say “This section is closed half way through BP”. I see your trouble Zack and how frustrating it is when ushers are power hungry.

  18. beach71389

    I was at Nats Park last night and I got something I never thought of getting – a softball! I was the first person in line for the gates to open to the rest of the park at 5:30 and I ran down into the outfield seats to check for easter eggs. I cop/security guard pointed at me and lobbed me a ball. I noticed that it was bigger than usual but I couldn’t tell why because he was a good fifty feet from me. As it got closer I could tell it was a softball… so weird. Any ideas?

  19. meikd423

    same thing happened with me at nats park. i was in right field and this old lady usher said that i had to go to my seat because bp was over when the orioles had just taken the field. she was mad because i jumped over a seat.

  20. tommyd2107

    I have tickets for the Phillies game on the 5th so if your there ill see you there. Yankees traded Farnsworth for Pudge Rodriguez today. Another future HOFer on the Yankees now.

  21. joshscards


    just got home from the met, marlins game. i got there pretty late (parents had to work) but still came away with a pedro feliciano signed ticket and A DUANER SANCNHEZ TOSSED BALL. I used a tip of yours: ask in spanish. It helped. Thank You

  22. zackhample

    I just wrote a looooong comment that answered all the other recent comments, and it seems to have disappeared. I can’t deal with rewriting it. Sorry. Maybe later. Right now I’m working on my entry about Tuesday’s game instead. Apologies. (Ethan…I’m not going today.)

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