8/5/08 at Citizens Bank Park

QUESTION: What did this game have in common with 9/14/05 at Shea Stadium, 7/24/07 at Citizens Bank Park, and 9/5/07 at Yankee Stadium?

ANSWER: I was there with my mom.

naomi_zack_outside_stadium.jpg

This game ended up being the Phillies’ 35th sellout of the season, and we hadn’t bought tickets in advance, so when we arrived at the ticket windows nearly four hours before game time, the best we could buy were obstructed-view seats behind the right field foul pole in the upper deck.

Didn’t matter.
We never went up there.

By 3:45pm, we were waiting outside the Ashburn Alley gate in left field, and by four o’clock I got my first “Are you Zack Hample?” of the day.

paul_zack_ethan.jpgIt was a guy named Ethan who’d been reading this blog for years and leaving comments as “dodgerdude.” This was the first time we’d ever met in person. He was there with his friend Paul, and my mom took a picture of the three of us. (Ethan is on the right.)

The Phillies hadn’t yet started hitting when I ran inside the stadium at 4:35pm, but that didn’t matter because there was already a ball sitting halfway out on the warning track in left-center field. Just as I was starting to set up my glove trick, I heard another “Are you Zack Hample?” This time it was a guy named Jeff who’s been reading this blog but hasn’t yet commented (for some crazy reason). I said a quick hello, then flung my glove out and knocked the ball closer on the first try. Ethan grabbed his camera started taking pics. That’s when Phillies outfielder So Taguchi walked over. I asked him for the ball in Japanese, but I figured I was screwed. None of the Phillies seemed to like my glove trick and some (like Shane Victorino) had previously attempted to sabotage it.

taguchi_putting_ball_in_glove.jpgBy the time Taguchi walked over and picked up the ball, I had lifted my glove out of the way. He looked up and (in perfect English) asked me to lower it…so I did…and he stuck the ball inside. Cool.

The Phillies started hitting less than a minute later, and another ball ended up rolling to the same spot. By this point Taguchi wasn’t anywhere in sight. There weren’t any players nearby, for that matter, so once again I began the process of flinging my glove out and knocking the ball closer. Jeff also had a glove trick and asked if he could try to get the ball even though I had already started making my attempt.

“Sure,” I said, “we’ll just have a good ol’ fashioned battle for it.”

From the time that I knocked the ball closer to the time that I raised my glove back up to set up the rubber band and magic marker, Jeff had several opportunities to lower his glove right over the ball and snag it. But for whatever reason his trick failed. His rubber band was probably too tight or too loose, so I ended up getting the ball to stick inside my glove. As I was raising it back up for the final time, another ball flew out of nowhere and slammed the padded wall below. I looked up. Shane Victorino. Who else? Thankfully his aim was off, and he was still too far away to run over and grab my glove, so I was able to lift it the rest of the way and pull out my second ball of the day. (I’m not mad at Victorino. I think he was just being playful. Of course if he’d actually prevented me from getting that ball, I would’ve unleashed the Hample Jinx on his Hawaiian you-know-what.)

A little while later, I botched my chance at snagging ball No. 3, although it was a difficult chance that surely would NOT have been scored an error if there were an official scorer for snagging. Here’s what happened. Pat Burrell launched a home run over my head. The ball landed in an empty row, ricocheted back toward my row, clipped the back of a seat, popped up in the air but flew away from me on an angle as I was just arriving. In the split-second that the ball was in the air right in front of me, I took a swipe at it with my bare hand, but unfortunately the ball hit the tip of my fingers and deflected over the seats below and started trickling down the steps. I was trapped in the middle of the row, and I knew I was done. VERY frustrating.

LF_crowded_08_05_08.jpgTo make matters worse, the left field seats were as crowded as I’d ever seen them. (You can see my mom in the photo on the right. She’s wearing sunglasses and looking at me.) Granted, it wasn’t nearly as packed as the short porch gets at Yankee Stadium, but by this ballpark’s standards, it was highly unpleasant. Finally, toward the end of the Phillies’ portion of BP, a right-handed batter (no idea who) hit a home run in my direction. I was standing on a crowded staircase. I judged the ball perfectly. I shuffled down a couple steps as the ball began its descent, and at the last second I reached up and made the catch above half a dozen other hands. My mom was sitting a few feet away and had a great view. That felt good.

I took her out to right-center field when the rest of the stadium opened at 5:35pm, and as soon as we got there, I saw a ball roll to the wall in left-center so I raced back. I snagged that one with the glove trick, then got Ke
vin Gregg to toss me another in straight-away left field, then got Arthur Rhodes to toss me my sixth ball of the day in left-center. I was wearing
an aqua-colored Marlins T-shirt to go with my aqua-colored Marlins cap, and it was definitely paying off.

zack_jeff.jpgBack in right-center field, I crossed paths with Jeff (here we are in the pic on the left) and caught another home run in front of my mom. (Might’ve been hit by Mike Jacobs. Might’ve been Jeremy Hermida. Whatever.) Then I got Alfredo Amezaga to throw me a ball by asking in Spanish, and when Renyel Pinto ended up with a ball in his glove several minutes later, I shouted, “Para mi madre!” which means “for my mother” and got him to toss that one as well. I made sure to be the one to make the catch–I couldn’t have counted it in my collection if my mom had caught it–and then made a big production of handing the ball to her because I could see both Pinto and Amezaga staring at me.

Toward the end of BP, I tried to use my glove trick for a ball that was several feet out from the wall in the bullpen, but before I had chance to reel it in, a security guard marched down the steps and made me stop. I told him I was trying to get it for a little kid (which was true), and he still wouldn’t let me get it. Not only that…he cut the string off my glove and then marched back up the steps as if he was proud of himself for accomplishing something. Normally I keep extra string with me, but I didn’t have any this time. I just forgot it. No big deal. Batting practice ended several minutes later, and before I left the seats, I reached into my backpack and pulled out a ball for the kid. He had a glove. He’d been trying unsuccessfully for the previous 45 minutes to get a ball. I thought he deserved one. It’s as simple as that.

Right before the game, I snuck down to the Marlins’ dugout and got my 10th ball of the day tossed by Hanley Ramirez. Sweet!! I’d been hoping to get to add him to my list for years.

My mom and I grabbed a couple empty seats on the third base side. Nice view. (The stairs were on my left.) And as you can see in the photo below, the Phillies “fans” were really into the game:

fans_playing_cards.jpg

When the Marlins took a 4-0 lead in the 7th inning, lots of “fans” left the stadium and my mom and I moved two sections to the right. This was the view:

view_late_in_game.jpg

When Rhodes fanned pinch hitter Greg Dobbs to end the 8th inning, catcher John Baker arthur_rhodes.jpg
forgot how many outs there were and jumped up in preparation to throw the ball around the horn. Rhodes got his attention, but Baker still appeared confused, so Rhodes got the ball from him, and since I was already in the front row at this point, I got him to toss it to me on his way in. It was the second ball of the day that he’d given to me.

“Did anybody get that one?” asked my mom when I returned to our seats.

I opened my glove and showed her the ball, and she couldn’t believe it. (Believe it, lady!)

We both had a great time at the game. Obviously it was nice to spend 12 hours together (including our time in the car), but it was more than that. She got to see me in action and get a real glimpse into my world. I got to teach her a few things about baseball and share my passion. The weather was perfect. We ate hot dogs and peanuts while secretly rooting against the Phillies, who ended up losing, 8-2. It was just perfect.

After the game, I bolted back down to the dugout and got a ball from Marlins 1st base/infield coach Andy Fox. I think it was the infield warm-up ball. How else could it have gotten so beat up. Check it out. Is this NOT a thing of beauty?

grass_stains.jpg

STATS:

? 12 balls at this game

11_balls_i_kept_08_05_08.jpg? 285 balls in 40 games this season = 7.1 balls per game.

? 140 balls in 14 lifetime games at Citizen Bank Park = 10 balls per game.

? 85 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

? 30 lifetime games outside NYC with 10 or more balls

? 536 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

? 3,562 total balls

44 comments

  1. josephfaraguna@yahoo.com

    Congrats Zack on the twelve. Got four @ shea, which tied my record, 1 from Pedro Martinez. I leave for Arizona and chase field on friday.

  2. jigsawbolander@aol.com

    Zack,

    I was wondering: what do you say to ask for a ball in Japanese? I was hoping to ask Kosuke Fukudome when I go to a Cubs game.

    Brendan

  3. boodleheimer1@aol.com

    The pic of the Phillies “fans” really into the game is one of the funniest visuals with caption (including New Yorker cartoons for years back and currently) I’ve ever seen. Why are those folks there? Don’t they have any chairs at home?

  4. fenwayballhawk

    even though u got 12 balls at this game, is philly usually that good of a ball snagging park, i was thinking of making a trip to there and shea at the end of august and was wondering wat are the best places to go to snag in citizens bank ballpark
    http://fenwayballhawk.mlblogs.com/

  5. meikd423

    i like citizens bank park entries. i don’t know why, i guess its just cause they’re different or something.

    do you know if the phillies still use ashburn alley balls?

  6. votejs@comcast.net

    Zack, Jeff from the Phillies game here. Thanks again for signing the book and answering my questions. By the way, I believe my glove trick failed during our “old fashioned battle” because that was my first ever attempt in a stadium to use the glove trick and I was competing with the creator of the glove trick! That’s an intimidating first try. But I did successfully get one off the warning track when Ethan’s pen fell out of his glove and I swooped in. So it was a productive first day of snagging. I snagged 3 (but ended up with 2 after giving one to the kid it was apparently intended for), which is equal to the amount of balls I’ve gone him with over the last 15 years. All thanks to your blog and book.

  7. zackhample

    EVERYONE-
    I just answered all the comments on my previous entry. Now I’m getting ready to leave for Shea, so I’ll answer these later. I think I’ll be bringing the Big Glove tonight, ho ho ho…

  8. tbrays13

    Zack,
    Thanks for the blog, very entertaining. I just started reading it a couple weeks ago and I look forward to the new posts. I am a HUGE Rays fan and I wanted to know if you ever make your way down to Tampa Bay. I am a regular at the Trop and it is a great stadium for BP and autographs

    Devon
    http://raysarchive.mlblogs.com/

  9. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    Sounds like a good day. Spending time at a game with family is always great. Good luck at Shea.

    Jonathan

  10. fenwayballhawk

    if u are ever planning on coming to boston again could u bring one of those 2006 all star game balls, the pitt pirates ones with the black and yellow stitching, and i’d buy one from u for like 20 dollars, if u dont sell balls though thats fine
    http://fenwayballhawk.mlblogs.com/

  11. thomasb.

    I must say, Phillies fans are the most obnoxious fans in baseball. They get their chants going when they are on the road. Boo people who cheer for their team. Just let people enjoy the game.

  12. joshscards

    sounds like a great day.
    i wonder how many times you’ve gotten two (or more) balls from the same player in one day. And do you keep a list of the most balls you’ve gotten from players? (like David Wright-5 Pedro-4…type thing)

  13. nymetsgrrl94

    Do you ever root for a certain team when you are at the games or are you too busy running around everywhere to really cheer for one particular team? I have just been wondering for a while and I am finally asking!

  14. .

    Zack –

    It’s been a few weeks but I found some time…It was good to see the Phillies lose last night, I agree. And congratulations for another successful Citizens Bank trip. I mentioned I was going to Shea for the game yesterday but that fell through and I quickly scooped up pairs of tickets for Aug. 11 and Aug. 24 at Shea. If you plan on attending, say something. I’m still debating to visit the Braves series…Thank you fine sir.

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

  15. the72legend@aim.com

    Zack-
    Good job on the 12 baseballs. You mentioned Jeremy Hermida in your entry. I’ve seen him play a few times, when he was in the minors playing for the Jamestown Jammers(where his pro career started). Anyway, good to see te Marlins beat the Phillies(no offense Phillie fans :) ).Emma

  16. aefeq

    Zack,

    I gotta tell ya, your blog about baseball is as good as it gets. You probably think its wield that a guy my age appreciates snagging as much as I do but I don?t? care, it is my connections to the game. I have had such a great time talking to players and getting aballs because of your advice. Thanks to you, I have a tremendous amount of great memories.

    Greg, it was great seeing you and your dad tonight. Thanks for the dugout thing although it did not work out. I did get another ball at the Marlins Bullpen as I left.

    Good luck in school and I hope I did not get you in trouble with your dad! ?

  17. deleted

    Ah, I hadn’t refreshed the page for a while, and I didn’t know you had made a new post, so I left a comment on the previous one.

    After reading the current post, I can only look forward to the day where I can get around 12 as easily as you. Heck, once I get 3 in a game I’ll be happy.

    I also like the beat up balls. “Pearls” are nice for autographs, but I have fun guessing how each imperfection ended up on the ball.

    Congrats as always.

  18. gjk2212

    so i got a call from a friend at 515 today asking me to go to shea. i figures i have no other plans tonight, why not? i wont make bp which blows, but i cant possibly count this game when i missed all of bp. first time its happened in forever. anyway, i saw you. ill let you share.

  19. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    You made the Padres broadcast tonight. They had a good long shot of you in the 9th inning during Tadahito Iguchi’s at bat. I left a message on your voicemail about it. I’ll let you share the circumstances of your tv appearance in your next entry. Did your mom have to pay the $500 for the Watch with Zack game or did you give her the family discount? I know she’s family, but business is business, right? Ha ha. Take it easy.

    Leigh

  20. the72legend@aim.com

    cubsbaseball-
    I also dream about the day when I can snag 12 baseballs at a MLB game. Minor league games are SOOOOOOOOOO much easier to get baseballs at, especially at the Single-A short season level :). MLB baseballs are nicer(in my opinion) and a lot cooler to snag :). Emma

  21. meikd423

    alright, something big happened tonight. something involving tv. something………………………..

  22. deleted

    I think 12 would be an average haul in small market cities.

    In my personal case, 1 is good…. lol

    I really wish I could get another chance at Shea. I KNOW I could get at least 1 if I could just go to one more game. Unfortunately, my plane leaves tomorrow.

  23. tommyd2107

    No batting practice today at CBP due to a media softball game. I walked into the stadium and saw that and was angry. Good thing you went on Tuesday and not today.

  24. padreleigh

    Greg…

    75 balls in 63 games. An amazing 1.19 average. I bet your’re around 200+ balls on the season? Thanks for the apology, but your post really, really ticked me off. It’s been a long, long, long sorry season I’ve been watching. I’m obviously very touchy right now. I’m going into therapy soon. Sorry for my anger as well, but I think you understand as I understand about your day as well. Later.

    Leigh

  25. gregb123

    I’m dying to hear what this TV thing was…

    So, I was at Citizens Bank last night. I snagged six balls, even though half of BP was moved up to before the gates opened due to some media softball game. I would have had ten to twelve easily if not for that crap. Anyway, the six I did get: a BP home run on a fly, and tosses from Matt Treanor before the game, Hanley Ramirez right before the game, Cody Ross after the second inning, Renyel Pinto after warming up the outfielders in the seventh (my 500th lifetime ball), and the home plate ump after the game.

    Brendan — It was fun hanging out with you yesterday, and don’t worry about my dad. He’s cool.

    Leigh — Yeah, I know, I hope we can put that whole thing behind us. Anyway, you might not have as many balls as Zack and I do this year, but I’m sure a much higher percentage of your balls are BP homers caught on a fly, right? It seems like you get so many more exciting balls than I do.

  26. tommyd2107

    Greg there was BP yesterday, when I got to the stadium they had the Media softball game going on and when I asked if they had BP I was told no. Oh well, I am going to the game friday hopefully with better success.

  27. gregb123

    Tom — There definitely was BP. The Phillies took their portion from about 3:45 to 4:40, and the Marlins took their portion from 4:40 to about 5:30.

  28. zackhample

    EVERYONE-
    I went to Shea last night. It went well. I’ll write an entry about it at some point within the next 24 hours. Also, is there anyone here with season ticket connections in Pittsburgh?

    JOSEPHFARAGUNA-
    Thanks, and congrats to YOU.

    BRENDAN-
    Look at my TV interviews on YouTube, and you’ll hear me say it. Just do a search for my name on that site, and it’ll pop right up.

    BOODLEHEIMER1-
    Chairs at home…I love it!

    FENWAYBALLHAWK-
    Citizens Bank Park is terrible when it comes to catching balls directly off the bat during games, but it’s great in almost every other way. As for the best places to snag in that ballpark, you just read about ’em right here. And as for a 2006 All-Star ball…sorry but they’re not for sale. Oh! And as for my bag, I just bring a backpack. Kinda big. Nothing too fancy. Most ballparks allow it. At Yankee Stadium I have to smuggle a flimsy/pathetic drawstring bag inside.

    GOISLANDERS4-
    Thanks. I don’t know about the Ashburn Alley balls. I’ve only seen one…ever…and it was the one I snagged, so I suppose it’s possible that they’re still being used on occasion.

    JEFF!
    Thanks for commenting. You’re welcome for the book, and I completely understand about your first glove trick attempt being a tough one.

    DEVON-
    You’re welcome. I’d love to make it back down to the Trop, but I don’t have any plans to do so as of yet.

    JONATHAN-
    Amen.

    DB3PAR-
    Well, I wouldn’t say THE most obnoxious, but they might be near the top of the list.

    JOSH’S AUTOGRAPHED CARD COLLECTION-
    Hmm. Interesting. But I don’t keep stats on that. I know Manny Acta has thrown me more balls than anyone. I think it’s over 15 since 2003.

    ELLIE-
    I always root for someone. Absolutely. Sometimes it’s hard for me to follow all the action if I’m running around, but I still care very much about what takes place on the field.

    DONNIE-
    I don’t think I’ll be at either of the two Mets games you mentioned. :-(

    EMMA-
    Thanks, and I’m glad you think it was good that the Phillies lost.

    AEFEQ-
    Thank you! Much appreciated. I’m practically blushing over here…

    DAVID BLATTMAN-
    I’m gonna try to keep it up. Thanks. I just took a peek at your blog and saw Phil Hughes…made me remember the time he tossed me a ball at Yankee Stadium, so naturally I’m rooting for him now.

    CUBSBASEBALL-
    I saw your other comment, and as for this one…I think you explained it perfectly when you said you like to guess how each imperfection got on the ball. Yes!

    NJMETFAN-
    I would never ever ever never go to a game if I couldn’t be there for BP. Cool that you saw me. Sorry we didn’t cross paths.

    LEIGH-
    Awesome. I had no idea, naturally, so thanks for letting me know. I appreciate all the details you sent me in that email. Is it okay if I quote from that in my next entry? (I charged my mom double. It IS a business.)

    TOMD8670-
    Yikes. Was there any way to find out about that before the fact? I feel bad for Greg who made the trip all the way from NYC.

    GREG-
    The TV thing really wasn’t that big of a deal, but it’s still cool, and I’ll share Leigh’s account in my next entry if he’s okay with that. (He sent me a private email about it.)

    LI7039-
    I don’t think there’s gonna be any match-up. I just looked on StubHub for the game on Friday, August 15th, and the absolute cheapest ticket in the stadium is over $80. I’m sorry but it’s just not worth it for me to spend that kind of money at Yankee Stadium.

  29. li7039@yahoo.com

    i do not blame you zack. Yankee stadium is the pits, the only place worse is the nassua coliseum

  30. tommyd2107

    Zack,
    According to Greg there was BP they just moved it up. I was on the Phillies site at about 3 o clock and saw no mention of the softball game.

  31. the72legend@aim.com

    -Zack
    I have family that live in Pittburgh and West Virginia. They are avid Pirates fans. Not sure if any of them have season ticket connections but I know they go to a lot of games. If you want more info email me.
    Emma

  32. topper937@aol.com

    Hello Zach and guys,

    I have been a long time reader of yours for about two years now and this is my first comment. I am 16 years old and I love the hobby, and you are the main man at this hobby.

    I collect baseballs and mainly autographs. I hope to be getting your books from amazon soon.

    I usually go to YS and have been to Shea once. Tomorrow I am going to Shea to see the Marlins play. I will be sitting in the loge behind the plate in the first row. I have been told many balls come rolling up the net.

    But for pregame, I am looking to get some Marlins autographs. On the Mets site it says that gate C opens earlier than others..so does this mean you are only allowed to go in a certain area near gate C (I think i read that it goes along the right field seats??) during that time, or can you go throughout the stadium?

    Will the ushers allow you to go down to the field level seats even without a ticket to try for balls and autographs during BP? I am hoping to go on the away side outfield to get some pitchers if any will sign during BP.
    Thank you for the help everyone and I will do my best to return the favor and help you guys out with anything!!

    Also will they let fishing nets in the stadium like at Yankee Stadium?
    Keith

  33. meikd423

    topper937
    gate C is right behind homeplate. and yeah, you can go anywhere in the stadium for batting practice. and no, they won’t let you in with a fishnet

  34. David Blattman

    Zack,
    Phil Hughes pitched real well tonight. Went 4.2 innings, surrendered 3 hits, 1 ER, 2 BB, and 2 k’s. He’s looking good, but of course that’s just the minors. Only time will tell how he does in his 3rd run as a Major Leaguer.

    And feel free to comment on any of my articles on my blog if you’d like – “The Hot Corner” – http://dailyrant.mlblogs.com/

  35. meikd423

    no problem. there is a small chance that i MIGHT be going to the game against the marlins tomorrow too.

  36. padreleigh

    Hi Zack….

    Sure, use the any quotes you like. I won’t even bill you. Pro bono. That’s hot that mom had to pay double. Ha ha. Nice walk off by David Wright today. I’m shooting for 100 losses and the first pick in the draft. Stupid Heath Bell.

    Leigh

  37. meikd423

    Leigh
    i would kill to have “stupid heath bell” because the mets have blown 6, not a type-o, 6 of johan santanas would be wins. so yeah, we’ll take him!!!! if the bullpen had kept all of his wins, than he would be something like 15-8 right now. i think the bullpen is mad at him for making too much money

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