8/9/08 at Shea Stadium

I hate weekend games. They’re too crowded, and there are always a million kids. The only thing that made THIS weekend game tolerable–the only reason why I went in the first place–was the fact that I had access to the left field bleachers, aka “the picnic area.”

The bleachers are normally reserved for groups of 100 or more fans. Therefore, it’s almost impossible to get in, but once you make it there…not only is it great for snagging baseballs during batting practice, but you’re allowed to wander back into the main part of the stadium at any time. In fact, you’re even allowed to enter the main part of the stadium when it opens at 4:40pm–a very good thing because the bleachers don’t open until 5:40.

During that first hour…


…I managed to snag exactly ONE ball. It was a pretty good ball, though, I have to say. It had ball3571_from_johan_santana.jpg
a commemorative logo (pictured here on the left), and it was thrown by Johan Santana after he finished playing catch.

The right field Loge was dead. There were no opportunities to use the glove trick. The front row in the Field Level was packed. There was a mob at the Mets’ dugout. There was literally no place to go so I headed up to the left field Loge, just for the hell of it…just to kill the remaining minutes before the picnic area opened. Nothing there either. But I did get to meet a guy named Erik who’s been reading this blog for a while. (Erik recently left his first comment as “nysetrader76” and you can find it here.) We chatted for a minute, and when I mentioned that I had a picnic area ticket, he told me that he’d seen a ball drop into the gap between the outfield wall and the bleachers. I probably would’ve discovered this ball on my own shortly after entering the section, but it was great to have this information in advance. My friend Greg (aka “gregorybarasch”) was at this game, and he also had a picnic area ticket. Although we agreed to share the balls that dropped into the gap (as we had done on 7/29/08 at Yankee Stadium), we were still going to be competing somewhat. The first ball would be up for grabs, and there was no guarantee there’d be any others after that. In addition, fans and employees were sometimes able to go underneath the bleachers and climb fences and get into the gaps and grab those baseballs, so I was going to have to act fast.

Finally, the bleachers opened and I ran inside and peeked into the gap (just to the left of the “B” on the Bud Light ad on the outfield wall). This is what I saw:


I set up my glove trick and feared that it would be tough to use with all the weeds and pieces of trash surrounding the ball…but it wasn’t. I had my second ball of the day, and Greg was nowhere to be found. I think he was still in the main part of the stadium trying to exploit the Marlins’ pitching staff. I don’t know. All that mattered was that he still wasn’t there when another ball dropped into the gap at the center-field end of the bleachers. If he’d been there, I would’ve let him get it, and if I knew no one else could’ve gotten it, I might’ve even left it there for him (because I’m that kinda guy), but it was too risky. I had to go for it. And I did. And I quickly had my third ball of the day.

provider_of_ball_3574.jpgGreg turned up soon after.

During the first hour that Shea was open, I noticed that there was one usher in the bleachers collecting all the home run balls. I hadn’t seen her toss any of them back onto the field, so when I was finally out there and noticed a couple baseball-sized bulges in her pockets, I innocently asked, “What happened to all those balls you were collecting before the bleachers opened?”

“I still got ’em,” she said without much emotion, leaving me to wonder if she was being testy or just feeling ho-hum about the whole thing.

“Any chance you might be able to spare one of them? Please?”

She reached into her pocket and pulled one out and handed it to me–just like that–and I later gave it to a little kid.

Did I count this ball in my collection? Abso-snagging-lutely. Ball No. 3,574. As I’ve mentioned before, stadium security has gone out of its way so many times to prevent me from getting balls that on these rare occasions when they actually show me some love, I gladly accept it.

Meanwhile, the bleachers were getting uncomfortably crowded:


In the photo above, do you see the guy wearing a black shirt, white shorts and white shoes? Well, he was a jerk. At one point, when a home run ball was heading our way and I got a head start to the spot where it was going to land, he stuck out his arms and elbowed me in the chest to prevent me from getting past, and wouldn’t you know it…when he turned around I noticed that the front of his shirt had a Yankees logo.

“What the HELL are you doing?!” I shouted at him. “This isn’t Yankee Stadium! We don’t DO that here!”

“Whaddaya talkin’ about?!” he snapped. “You tried t’cut me off!”

“No I didn’t,” I said, “and you know damn well what I’m talking about. Keep your elbows at your side, and we’ll both be fine.”

Ten minutes later, with BP still in full swing, a beer had replaced his glove. Shocker. (Neither of us got that ball, by the way, but he did see me snag a few more.

ball3575_homer_into_bleachers.jpgMy fifth ball of the day (pictured on the left) was a home run that landed in the bleachers–you can see where it hit the metal ridges on the benches–and it took some skill to snag it because it skipped up off a wall and was about to plunk down in the aisle as I ball3576_from_pierre_arsenault.jpg
was racing another fan for it. Basically, I had to catch it on an in-between hop after guessing how high it was going to bounce off the unfamiliar metal flooring. My sixth ball (pictured on the right) was tossed by Marlins bullpen coordinator Pierre Arsenault. I have no idea how this strange marking got on it, but I once snagged another ball like it. Could it have been pounded into a net? The L-screen, perhaps? Or the batting cage itself? Don’t those nets have wider holes?

Five minutes before BP ended, Greg took off and headed back into the main part of the stadium, and two minutes later, another ball landed in the left-center field gap. I reeled it in. It was muddy. (Eww; there’s something extra dirty about Shea Stadium dirt.) It was my 300th ball of the season:


I had a great seat for the game. Not only was I in the front row behind that nice wide aisle, but there weren’t any other fans with gloves, and the two biggest/meanest-looking guys in the section were glued to their cell phones:


Were they texting each other? (GUY ONE: omg these fones r gr8 lets go mets!!! GUY TWO: u got dat rite boieeee lol.) I just don’t get it.

There were five home runs hit during the game, and I nearly snagged the best one: Daniel Murphy’s first as a big leaguer. If you haven’t heard of this guy, now’s the time to get his name into your head. I think he’s gonna be around for quite some time. He’s 23 years old, bats left-handed, has a great eye, excellent pitch recognition, a patient approach, and a gorgeous swing. He pinch hit for Scott Schoeneweis (boo!) in the sixth inning and went oppo off Renyel Pinto, a southpaw with nasty stuff. The ball, which was hit pretty much right in my direction, barely cleared the outfield wall but fell short of the bleachers and bounced back onto the field. If it had been hit 10 feet further, I would’ve been all over it.

The two Carloses–Delgado and Beltran–also went deep for the Mets while Jorge Cantu and Mike Jacobs went yard for Florida.

The Mets ended up winning, 8-6. Schoeneweis “earned” the win after working one-third of an inning in relief of Brian Stokes. Aaron Heilman (boo!) got the save. Beltran and David Wright (yay!) each had three hits. It was a fun night, made even funner when I got a brand new commemorative ball from Ramon Castro at the Mets’ dugout after the final out.


? 8 balls at this game

? 301 balls in 42 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.

? 538 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 328 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball

? 3,578 total balls

? 1 day until I’ll be at PNC Park. I’m planning to wake up tomorrow in the 6am hour (ouch) and hit the road soon after. It’s a six-and-a-half-hour drive according to MapQuest. Thank God for iPods and girlfriends. Jona will be with me, as will my entire doo-wop collection (much to her dismay). (What? You don’t like doo-wop? Download “Canadian Sunset” by the Impacts and tell me that’s not an awesome song. Go on. I dare you. Anyway, my doo-wop collection only accounts for about one-sixth of one percent of all my music, so whatever.) I’ll be attending two games (August 12-13), but she’ll probably only join me on the second day. I’ll be taking my laptop, but I have no idea if I’ll have the time/energy to blog while I’m there. I don’t know. I might be able to crank out an entry before I head back to the ballpark on Wednesday afternoon…


  1. bscevan@yahoo.com

    im a huge cubs fan, and im not gonna just beg for stuff but seriously man, your an idol, im going to turner with my dad, (im just 14) and im gonna try your glove trick, just made it this morning, i hope its not too crowded, when i went to citizen bank park we were in the first 100 people in and by the time i was at the wall, it was more crowded than your picture of it. And you said it was croded, maybe it was because it was an interleague game against red sox’s. Should i expect this competition at turner if im there when gates open??

  2. joshscards

    good game, man! its a shame “murph” couldnt get a little more on it. maybe you’d get a signed bat out of it. Btw, i’m now the sports editor of my high school newspaper (as a sophomore!!) and i’m going to start the year with a “ways to become closer to the game” article…inspired by some guy named zack hample…i’ll need some quotes but that will be in a few weeks

    good luck in pittsburgh- Josh

  3. braves04

    I’ll be at each of the Cubs/Braves games this week and the only crowd when gates open will be Cubs fans. It was mostly Cardinal fans at opening when they were here 2 weeks ago. Braves fans just don’t show up that early on weekdays, especially with school back in. Plaza and left field open at 4:35, rest of stadium at 5:05. Good luck with the glove trick.
    The Skip Caray Memorial is tomorrow at 10am inside Turner Field. Should be a good number of folks there, myself included.

  4. minh@me.com

    Hey Zack, just a quick question about Shea Stadium. What’s that bar for that goes over the seats? Like in the first picture.
    And also how are the fans towards other fans? Like if I went to Shea wearing an Astros uniform…

  5. aherr44

    Zach, you should come to a reds game this weekend! I’ll be at the park for all three against the cardinals. But it will be very strange being there with no Ken Griffey Jr, or Adam Dunn:(

    Oh well,

  6. meikd423

    i heard PNC is a good stadium to collect baseballs. i predict 25 over the 2 games. CONFIDENCE!

  7. bscevan@yahoo.com

    thanks but im not going to the braves vs, cubs, im going later in the season, i wish i could though, but dad has work during weeks….ugh

  8. districtboy

    Goislanders4, the great thing about PNC Park (ball-wise) is that no one is there (four). The bad thing is that it only opens 90 minutes prior. I’m not the best person to turn to for advice about PNC, since I’ve only been to two games but both were weeknight games versus a bad team (COL). When I went, I got what I usually average for a 2 and 1/2 hour prior game. If only they opened earlier, I would’ve broken my record. D’oh! I predict 18 balls in 2 games for Zack.

    Zack, did you ever consider traveling to Cleveland as well. They are playing the O’s on Thursday, and Angels on Friday. Plus, the Mets are gone until Tuesday. Also, what about any minor league games on the way back? Just kidding, but seriously the State College park is beautiful. Although in Reading and Altoona they are probably more generous with balls.


  9. ceetar

    I actually thought I saw you at this game. (I was up in my usual UR section 15) And I was watching the bleachers for the home runs obviously, but I figured you rarely go to Saturday games, guess I was right the first time…

    Then I heard you on WFAN Sunday morning with Ed Randall, who seemed half impressed and half amused with you.


  10. yankees42294

    congrats on getttin 300, at shea when ur in the main part of the stadium and the picnic area opens do they check your ticket when u go into the picnic area

  11. bigglovebob

    I don’t know how you do it! It is a feat for me to get two balls in a game. I took the big glove to our shut out of the Yanks tonight at the dome and the Yanks didn’t really show me any real big glove love. I won a leaping contest for a ball thrown into the stands by Yanks pitcher Brian Bruney. It was the only ball I saw make it in the stands with the special stamp on it. My goal was to get a commemorative ball so I guess it was mission accomplished. Congrats on your great game and good luck at PNC.

  12. zackhample

    I have to wake up in five hours to leave for Pittsburgh. I’ll have to answer comments later…

  13. jigsawbolander@aol.com

    Haha, Zack I love the picture of the two guys texting and your caption with it. Good luck in Pittsburgh


  14. aefeq


    You probably have your tickets already, but last year I was at PNC for a Friday night game and got a season ticket from a scalper for $30 bucks. I knew the ticket was from a season ticket holder because it had a picture on it. Anyway, I had no problem getting in LF early. The usher inside did not ask to see a season ticket holder ID.

    PNC is easy to snag at. Without trying I got 3 in an hour so you should get 10 at least!

    Good Luck!

    Brendan (Helmet Guy)

  15. patrickbball94@aim.com

    hey zack,
    i’ve been reading this blog for a real long time, just never commented.
    but now i feel the need to comment and all i have to say is:


    I’ve been trying to go to games at Shea when you were there and maybe we could’ve met up for just like a few minutes before the game (I know you’re busy snagging balls and I wouldn’t want to take up your time). Anyways, back to what i was saying. Reason why I say “wow” is because I went to this game!! I couldn’t believe I didn’t see you and actually I was in the left field lodge before the game for some time and I think I saw you but at the same time didn’t believe myself so I decided not to say anything but then while reading this entry you said you were actually there before the game!

    when do you think your next visit to Shea will be? I’m probably going to one of the games at their next home series against the Braves(Aug. 19-21) and if you’re going to one of those let me know!

  16. bscevan@yahoo.com

    so if i go to san fran game at turner the 16 or 17th i should probably get a ball most likely

  17. csparks@zoominternet.net

    Wow, more Reds games. They might be getting sick of you. Awesome that you’ve seen my 2 favorite teams (and the only 2 I can see home games for) the reds and the Indians. Good luck

  18. Txbaseballfan

    Thanks for the emails Zack! Will try to grasp this whole blogging thing. Going to the Ballpark in Arlington Fri. 8/15. Attempting the “glove trick” for the 1st time, will let you know how it goes. Keep up the awesome work!

  19. Jake

    I think I know what the mark is from. It could of come from the tarp that they put out in the grass right in front of home plate. I went to the DBacks – Braves game on Saturday, only got one but it was nice.
    Good luck in Pitt

  20. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    Did anybody see the Cubs fan get some Big glove love on WGN last sunday.that glove gets around,I could see Manny wearing it during a game .manny being manny .padreleigh get Ryan Braun again ,then dance like Bernie Brewer.

  21. Jake

    I just saw your buddy from Colorado (I think his name is Dan) catch Chris Ianettas HR in the second inning in the front row.

  22. zackhample

    I’m back from my first of two games at PNC Park. I didn’t get shut out, and I didn’t set any records. That’s all I’ll say for now. I might have the entry up later today (Wednesday), but it might take a bit longer. Also, I just booked a trip to California. Should I share the dates/cities or just make it a big surprise? Hmm…

  23. deleted

    First of all, I love doo-wop :) great stuff.

    I like the ball that ended up being 300 on the year. How boring would it have been to get a perfectly good ball?

    And I can’t wait to read your pnc posts.
    I predict 10+ each game you attend. Good luck!

  24. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    I finally caught a homer this year!!! I caught Mike Cameron’s home run leading off the top of the third inning during the Padres vs Brewers game in San Diego. I had to reach over quite a bit to my left. I kind of robbed a Brewers fan, but I don’t really care about that. It popped into my glove on the fly, but it popped out as I was bringing it back towards me. I had to catch it with my other hand in mid air as it popped out. It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take it. It didn’t hit the ground. That’s two Brewer’s homers in two years (Ryan Braun’s first MLB homer last year). Now I need one more HR to catch you and TracyCollinsBecky at two for 2008. If anyone wants to see it on MLB.com it’s around the 35:00 mark of the game archive. He hit the first pitch leading off the inning. They had a pretty good close up on the replay. Also, if any of you guys are computer savy it would be cool if you could somehow mail me a video clip of the homer? Maybe post a link on here? If not, it’s ok.
    I also caught a Prince Fielder bp homer on the “beach” in center and got Mike Cameron to throw me a ball during bp. I gave the Mike Cameron bp ball to a kid. I’m keeping Prince’s ball for myself. Three guys ran on the field during the game. They jumped down to the field RIGHT BY ME. I was like….what the heck? They were funny running around, but going to jail is not cool. Very exciting night for me. Hope you had a good time in Pittsburgh.


  25. padreleigh

    I think this might be the link. Not too computer literate, but I try.

    Oh, I almost forgot! I saw a BRAND NEW Mets commemerative ball on the track today in BP. It was in the Padres bin apparently hijacked while the Padres were in NYC playing the Mets. I asked out relief pitcher Brian Corey VERY VERY NICELY for the ball because of its uniqueness in San Diego. He just looked at me for a second and then turned around. Then one of Trevor Hoffman’s kids came over and picked it up. I asked him real nice as well and explained why I wanted it. He looked at the logo then brought it over to Brian Corey to show it to him. They talked about the ball for a minute, then looked at me. I totally thought I was going to get it. Then, Trevor’s kid just throws it in. I was so mad. Little, spoiled punk. I desperately need a Hample Jinx on Trevor’s kids and Brian Corey. NOT A COOL MOVE AT ALL. Maybe I can get it tomorrow.


  26. padreleigh

    Oh man, in the above post ….I meant to say “asked OUR relief pitcher Brian Corey…”, not “asked OUT …..” haha. That read really funny. Talk about a typo.


  27. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    IM thinking about asking out the ballgirl on a date.stephanie she is a hottie ,ill ask her to bring Corey along.you like Chase too?

  28. zackhample

    Thanks so much. I really appreciate that. It’s always nice to hear from people who appreciate what I do and also try to do it themselves. Citizen Bank Park has become extremely crowded (because the Phillies are unfortunately playing great baseball) but I think Turner Field should have less competition. The Braves’ run is DONE.

    You’re right. Good things do tend to happen when she’s around.

    That’s the Mets for ya.

    I’m happy to give you some quotes. Just give a shout when you’re ready.

    The bar? You mean that orange ugliness? It creates “box” seats and otherwise serves no purpose except to annoy me. You should be fine wearing Astros stuff at Shea. You might get dissed a couple times, but no one will touch you or throw stuff at you…assuming you don’t celebrate obnoxiously if/when the Astros score. But just walking around with the stuff on? Or sitting quietly in your seat? No problem.

    You’re welcome.

    Twenty-five balls in two games? Maybe if I’d attended a third game.


    I’d love to go to some games this weekend, but I have other plans (that don’t involve baseball) here in NYC.

    Good prediction. I almost snagged 18. And yes, I did consider going to Cleveland, but in the end it just ended up being too crazy.

    You heard me on The Fan? Cool! I didn’t know I was gonna be on ’til the last second so I didn’t have a chance to mention it on the blog.

    Yeah, usually.

    I think I saw you right at the start of the Yankees’ broadcast on the YES Network. Do you have a shaved head?

    Nope. No baseball games for me this weekend. I probably won’t make it back to D.C. this season.

    BRENDAN NO. 1-
    Heh, thanks. Glad you like it.

    BRENDAN NO. 2-
    Thanks for the info about tickets and LF access. As it turned out, it wasn’t nearly as tough to get in as I’d feared.

    Thanks for finally getting in on the comment action. You should’ve said “hey” when you THOUGHT you saw me. I definitely won’t be at Shea on August 19-20, but I’m thinking about making an appearance on the 21st. I probably won’t know ’til the last second, however.

    I’m surprised they don’t recognize me by now. I’ve seen the Reds this season as many times as I’ve seen the Mets, I think.

    You’re welcome. Good luck tonight. Let me know how it goes.

    Ohhhhh!!! I think you’re probably right. Good call. Thanks.

    I missed it.

    Thanks very much. I just tried to leave a comment on your blog, but Firefox says I don’t have permission, and Safari is too old (on my computer), I think, and the sign-in page on MLBlogs keeps refreshing. Damn!

    Thank you for supporting me on the doo-wop. (Jona feels busted.) I agree about the 300th ball. Good point. Sorry I let you down in Pittsburgh by failing to break double digits.

    Congrats on the home run snag!!! That’s awesome. Very nice reach! I didn’t know you had that kind of range. :-)

    I think you should go for it.

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