8/25/08 at Shea Stadium

This was a Watch With Zack game, and my “clients” were going to be with me for two days. They’d flown in from Los Angeles to see both New York City ballparks for the first time, and their trip kicked off with this Mets-Astros game at Shea Stadium. Here we are before the gates opened:


In case you’re new to this blog, I’m the guy on the left. The person (I can’t bring myself to call him a “kid” since he’s taller than me) on MY left is a 16-year-old named Evan who’s been reading this blog for a few years and leaving comments as “evan.bizzz.” The other two people are Evan’s 12-year-old sister Hailey and their father Mark.

Evan was no stranger to batting practice. He had snagged 41 lifetime balls, but he didn’t simply want to pad his numbers on this trip; he was determined, if not flat-out dying, to add a commemorative ball from each stadium to his collection–not an easy task. Hailey, meanwhile, with just a handful of lifetime snags, was still hoping for a commemorative ball but willing to accept any ball that came her way.

Before I continue, I want to give a shout-out to a kid named Joe–aka
“josephfaraguna”–who not only recognized me outside Gate C and took the above photo but was kind enough to let me have the corner spot in the Loge once the
stadium opened. There were actually two corner spots on the right field side that I wanted–one for Evan on the Field Level–and another for Hailey and her father upstairs. Each spot was probably going to be good for at least one ball. We just had to GET THERE before anyone else, and thanks to Joe’s generosity (plus the fact that we were first on line), we did.

When Shea opened at 4:40pm, I quickly took Evan to the place he needed to be, then hurried upstairs with Hailey and Mark and got them situated. Here they all are:


Hailey told me she didn’t know any of the players’ names, and I told her it didn’t matter–that because she was young AND was basically the only girl in the stadium with a glove, all she had to do was be loud and polite and begin each request by saying “Excuse me.”

When the Mets finally finished stretching and began throwing, I ran back downstairs to help Evan. We looked closely at every ball that was in use, trying to spot the commemorative logos, so we’d know who to ask. I helped Evan identify all the players and coaches, and when Guy Conti strolled by (with a jacket covering his uniform number), I called him by name and asked for a ball. Evan and I both knew he had a couple balls in his back pocket, but we weren’t sure if they were commemorative. Conti pulled one out and tossed it to someone else, then took out the second ball and tossed it to Evan. It was commemorative!!! Perfect logo. No smudges. No scuffs. It was even rubbed up with mud (like this). We were both SO relieved, and we waved to Hailey and Mark and exchanged a thumbs-up.

As for Hailey…
She got Dave Racaniello, the Mets’ bullpen catcher, to toss her a ball, and as it sailed through the air, I was praying that she wouldn’t drop it. What did she do? She reached out and made a backhand catch like it was nothing. (She told me later that she plays baseball and softball.) Unfortunately, her ball wasn’t commemorative, but it almost didn’t matter. Everyone had pretty much accomplished their goals within the first 20 minutes–everyone but me, that is. I still hadn’t snagged anything.

I headed out to the left field foul line for a bit, but it was deader than dead so I headed back to the right field side and checked in with Hailey and Mark in the Loge. While I was up there, she got Aaron Heilman (who normally ignores EVERYone) to toss her a ball, and once again she made the catch look easy. I took her picture, then ran downstairs to check on Evan, and while I was there, I saw him catch a ball tossed by Jose Reyes! He and Hailey each had two baseballs. Not bad…


…and oh-by-the-way, I nearly forgot to mention that the ball Hailey got from Heilman was commemorative.

The left field bleachers (which you can see directly over Hailey’s glove in the photo above) opened 15 minutes early, so we all had to hurry out there. This was one of those rare days when bleacher tickets were being sold individually, and apparently everyone else wanted to be there too. Remember how empty the bleachers were two days earlier? Check out how crowded it was this time:


Shea Stadium had been open for nearly an hour, and I still hadn’t snagged a single ball. I was starting to get nervous, but thankfully, right at the end of the Mets’ portion of BP, a ball rolled all the way out to the wall in left-center and I was able to reel it in with my glove trick. Before I could lower my glove over the ball, I had to swing it out and knock it closer. Evan took a few photos with his camera, and since he hadn’t packed the cable that connects the camera to his laptop, I took a photo of his photo. Naturally the quality is bad, but whatever. You can still tell what’s going on. Here it is:


By the time I snagged the ball, the Astros had taken the field and Reggie Abercrombie was standing nearby and watching me. He didn’t say much after I got the ball, but I suspect he was impressed. Evan managed to snag TWO more balls during the remaining 45 minutes of BP. The first was a ground-rule double that he had to reach over the railing to catch, and the second actually hit my left shoe. An Astros player had tossed it into the bleachers. It landed several rows back, got bobbled by some fans (shocker!), and quickly trickled down the steps to where we were standing in the aisle, which was so crowded that I literally wasn’t able to bend down to grab it. The ball hit my shoe and deflected right toward Evan who snatched it with one clean lunge.

Hailey and Mark were positioned in the front row in left-center, and if the Astros weren’t so stingy, it would’ve been a great spot to get another ball or two. But nothing was tossed their way. I was able to use the glove trick once more to snag another ball off the warning track, and that was it for BP. Evan had four balls, while Hailey and I each had two. Mark hadn’t snagged any, but I don’t think he cared. He just wanted to see us all in action, and of course he was happy that his kids had done well.

zack_hample_autograph.jpgOne of the highlights of my day occurred between BP and the game, while Evan and Hailey were with me. I’d been getting recognized by fans throughout the day, and one of them (a kid named Jordan) asked me to sign his copy of the Mets Magazine.

“Where do you want me to sign it?” I asked.

“Wherever,” he said and suggested that I sign David Wright’s photo on the cover.

It was an honor to get to write my name there, so after I did it, I took a photo…and here it is on the right. If you look closely, you can see that I wrote my up-to-the-minute ball total. That’s how I do all my snagging-related signatures. Whenever I sign copies of Watching Baseball Smarter, I write the date after my name. I always thought it was cool when major leaguers (or any celebrities) had variations in their signatures–no doubt because my mom runs the autograph department of the family book store–so I decided long ago that whenever someone asked for my autograph, I’d change it up every now and then.

From a Mets fan’s perspective, the game was great–the Mets won, 9-1, Mike Pelfrey pitched his second straight complete game, Carlos Delgado hit two three-run homers, and Jose Reyes had three hits including his major league-leading 15th triple–but from a ball-snagging perspective, it was lousy. For each of the first three innings, I snuck Hailey down to the seats behind the Mets’ dugout, then brought her back to Mark at our assigned seats on the left field side…then did the same with Evan at the Astros’ dugout. The goal was to snag a third-out ball as the players came off the field each half-inning, but there were a million little kids in the first few rows behind the Mets’ dugout, and as for the Astros…Lance Berkman kept ending up with the balls and tossing them deep (and unpredictably) into the crowd. We came up empty but still had fun sneaking around and playing our own little game-within-the-game.

After the third inning, I helped Hailey and Mark sneak back into the seats behind the Mets’ dugout, and I took Evan up to the Loge to go for foul balls. Again, we had fun running around, but came up empty. There was nothing I could do about that. I can guarantee BP balls, but the game itself is a whole nother story.

During the last half-inning, all four of us went down to the seats behind home plate, hoping for at least one ball from umpire Chad Fairchild as he walked off the field. But no. As soon as the final out was recorded, he marched through the tunnel and never looked up at us.

Oh well. The day was still a success.


Hailey didn’t actually keep my baseballs. She was content with the two she’d snagged on her own, so she just borrowed mine for this photo.


? 2 balls at this game

? 348 balls in 49 games this season = 7.1 balls per game.

? 545 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

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

? 3,625 total balls

? 1 more photo for you (taken just before we headed out of the stadium)…



  1. li7039@yahoo.com

    so if there going to both stadiums are you going with them to the yankee sox game tonight? good luck if you do and good luck if your in the bleachers.

  2. ramones18

    its gonna be packed tonight at yankee stadium, but youre lucky to see a good game. good luck snagging

    im going to angels stadium tomorrow vs the athletics

  3. ramones18

    oh and this is my email i dont know why i left comments with my nickname as redsawx i dont know how to change it to my email

  4. Txbaseballfan

    At least you didn’t walk away empty handed! That’s weird about the bleachers with the wide aisle, must have been a fluke thing a couple days ago. Well, now they get to experience some REAL fan devotion at Yankee Stadium. Show ’em how it’s done! Brian

  5. districtboy

    Must’ve stayed as late as possible after the game, one of my favorite traditions. I hate when ushers in Washington say “the players never come back, just go”. One game, I got so tired and lazy, I left probably three minutes before ushers would start yelling at me. Then guess what happens for the first time all year? The ball boy comes out and tosses three balls right to where I was standing. Never will leave early again…..ever. A similar thing happened at a Reds vs. Nats game, and right as I started walking up the stairs to leave, a camera guy tosses the lineup card right where I was.
    I hope you succeed metsmainman
    Great post as always Zack!


  6. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com


  7. rickymcentire@yahoo.com

    good luck zack, and good luck all the people who have commented and are going to games today. unfortunately,
    i’m a 14 year-old utahn who lives 2 hrs south of the nearest professional team(orem in the pioneer rookie league, thanks for the tip erik, by the way do you live in utah) and has no drivers license living with parents who only watch high school sports. you people are lucky to live in a state with a major league tea. the closest i am to the majors so far is the salt lake bees(the minor league afflate of the angels)

  8. puckcollector@optonline.net

    hey zack, two things: where do the umps exit the field at Shea, and how hard is it to sneak down behind the dugouts.

    im goint to one game at shea in Sept. and that’ll be my only chance to get a shea comm.


  9. puckcollector@optonline.net

    hey zack, two things: where do the umps exit the field at Shea, and how hard is it to sneak down behind the dugouts.

    im goint to one game at shea in Sept. and that’ll be my only chance to get a shea comm.


  10. rickymcentire@yahoo.com

    i can’t contain my excitement! two more days until major league baseball finally starts using instant replay and will no longer be cursed by me for their embarissingly obvious bad calls.

  11. padreleigh

    So, TC…..did you get the ball last night? I couldn’t tell. See you in an hour.


  12. josephfaraguna@yahoo.com

    zack- thanks for the nice part in the blog and meeting eachother. it was a great night i got luis ayala to throw me his and brian stokes’s warmup ball and pedros one that i assumed i wasnt gonna get at first. clif- great hanging out and for the bleacher experience. too bad we didnt get delgados blast at the end though.- Joe

  13. meikd423

    wow. the mets blew a 7-0 lead that they had until the 5th. i knew it though. i told my mom after victorino scored the first run to make it 7-1, that this game just felt like one that they were gonna lose, and they did.

  14. fromtheeyesofateen

    Hey Zach- If you’re going to Yankee Stadium tonight i just heard on SportsCenter that A-Rod is taking early batting practice today.

  15. baseballexperiences

    Zack- This is Joe, got a new email. Rough night for any new york baseball fan. Next season please come quickley. – Joe

  16. gjk2212

    went to nats park last night

    i could see how it could be great for balls, if you could use ball retrieving devices. anyway, got marco estrada to throw me one, and when i saw 2 balls land in the lf pen, i decided to go for them. one was too far out, the other was under, so i had to manuever it under. i saw 2 more land in the red porch gap, so instead of wasting my time, i ran over there for what should have been 2 easy snags. i take the cup from my bag, when i hear security behind me “i wouldnt recommend using that”. so im like, ok fine, whatever, ill put it away. before i can move, the guy goes “gimme it.” im like, no, i didnt even use it. he takes it from my hand and walks over to his post, playing with it and taunting me. meanwhile, 2 dodger fans i had met were calling him a “cold man” and how could he do that? i went over to him and asked if i could have it, and i would put it away? just shook his head no, with a look on his face. arrogant jerk. after bp? nope. after the game? nah. i basically argued with him, and he loved every second of it. anyway, john lannan threw one into the red porch and it rolled down some rows to me. still 3 balls laying in the gap that i coulda got in 1 minute total. i see him with my cup, and he shoves it in his pocket. he goes up and starts talking to a cop, gives the cop the cup, and walks away. i follow the cop, hoping to tell him the situation, and maybe hell let me put it away. before i can catch him, he throws it in an empty garbage can. i wouldnt have went for it if it was full of trash, but it was 100% empty. so yeah, i got my cup back. the guy was still watching me like a hawk, and grounds crew already had gotten the balls. so i went to right. i still really needed a nats commem. no dodgers at all were throwing balls up, and i coulda went for a homer in left but it was pretty crowded. finally, 2 balls roll to the wall in left. i run to the sort of overhanging corner spot, and ask chad billingsley if he could toss one up. i clearly see the one closer to me is commem. so i dont ask until he gets to that one. he puts both in his glove and looks up, and underhands one. i fumble around for the logo….YES! i didnt need to be obsessive working the dugouts all game, it was a decent, unrubbed up commem. nothing during or after, but i def. can work that place alot better now that i know to hide my cup. 3 balls. bad but fun.

    mike(yanks9224)-nice meeting you. had fun. you get any postgame balls?

    zack-see you at camden tonight!

  17. zackhample

    I have absolutely NO time to answer comments right now. I’m about to go rent a Mini Cooper (with Jona) and drive down to Baltimore. I’ll check back in whenever possible. Tomorrow I’m flying to San Diego. I still need to blog about last night’s Yankees-Red Sox game. AAAAHHHH!!!!

  18. yankees42294

    gjk2212- yea it was nice meeting you. i got nothin after the game. Tell me when ur goin to a Met or yankee game maybe we could meet up.good luck at camden tonight

  19. gregb123

    I’m probably going to Nats Park on Saturday. Anyone else gonna be there?

    njmetfan — What does the guy that took your cup look like?

  20. districtboy

    Greg, I will probably be there on Saturday. I truthfully can’t fully promise anything, though. You probably don’t remember, but I asked you if you were you on June 18th at Camden Yards in the center field corner of the right field seats. It was right as you reeled in a ball from the gap. You referred to the game as “it sucked”. Whatever. The main thing I remember about that game is how stingy Tim Byrdak was with balls.

    You’re coming around the time I’m closing in on 200 career balls. I hope I get it sooner than Saturday, but if not, you could witness history. Just kidding.


  21. gregb123

    Aaron — Oh yeah, I definitely remember that! Cool. I don’t really remember what you look like, but yeah, cool. That day did suck. Seven balls at Camden is rough. At least the game was exciting. Good luck with #200.

  22. aefeq


    Good Luck in CA!!!!!


    I was at the Nats game in DC tonight. I thought there would be no bp because of impending rain and it was sprinkling at 4:30pm when the gates opened, but I ran inside to find that bp was on!

    I went straight to the Red Porch seats because there was no one there and immediatley got a ball for John Lannan.
    As he was tossing it to me, I heard several people say “heads up” and there was a ball soaring towards me. Believe it or not, I turned with my back to the field (ala Willie Mays) and made a luck, over-the-head basket catch.
    2 balls in exactly 3 minutes since the gates opened.

    I did manage a couple more that I gave away. The Dodgers are absolutely the worst team I have ever seen with regards to giving balls away.

    Sorry for the long post but I gotta say, Nats park ranks right up there with Camden and Philly in terms of snagging.

    Brendan aka, helmet guy

  23. nycautographcollector

    well its been a long time since i last commented but i did see you on the 10th at shea…anyway if you can recall i think you may have realized that i wasnt 100% all there. i got into a fight with my GF and its been tough since she isnt coming back to school this year with me but were okay now…

    anyway i did end up getting 1 ball that night as i was walking out of the picnic area someone hit a HR over the bullpen and i was there to snag it…unfortunately it wasnt commemorative or anything and the ball was in such horrible condition so i handed it over to a little kid that was there. he had no shot at getting the ball so its not like i beat him out for it or anything

    anyway auto-wise i had a huge…i mean huge! 889 autos this year (and yes i am planning on 1 more hotel to get my 900…baltimore maybe? also so i can see my GF when i come home) is huge and it was highlighted by some big-time players:

    brandon webb
    greg maddux
    trevor hoffman x2
    adrian gonzalez x3
    mark grace
    hunter pence x4
    luis gonzalez x6
    dan uggla x9
    chipper jones x3
    brian mccann x3
    ryan ludwick x1
    tim lincecum x1
    scott kazmir x1
    bj upton x2
    carl crawford x1
    carlos pena x7
    don sutton (HOF) x1
    jerry coleman (HOF) x1
    erik bedard x1
    felix hernandez x1
    barry zito x4
    josh hamilton x9
    mike young x5
    ian kinsler x6
    kevin millwood x5

    and thats just the icing on the cake of 889 for the year!

  24. braves04

    Snagged 2 Wednesday night at Turner Field. The first was a home run midway through Braves BP. I didn’t catch it, but tracked it fairly well, so I was first to arrive after it landed.
    I caught the 2nd on the fly about 5 feet from my original spot. It was a line drive right at me off the bat of Cody Ross. This ball must have been straight out of the box. No blimishes or dirt. It even had that new-ball smell.
    I could’ve had a third, but for some reason wasn’t able to track it. The high, towering home runs seem to give me trouble. Anyone got tips on those?

  25. deleted

    Hey Zack, here’s a quick comment about what I have planned in the next few days.

    On Thursday I’ll be in Chicago for something, and if I have time, I will be able to go to Wrigley for batting practice… on Waveland Ave.

    Then on Saturday/Sunday I’ll be going to minor league games in hopes of getting a game ball. That was one of my goals this year, and I never said it had to be a major league game ball. (I know, I’m finding loopholes in my own goals!)

    So I’m gonna get some cheap lawn seats down the right field line and hope for a foul ball or two. At the park I’m going to, the only outfield seats are in picnic areas. But it would be easy enough to run over there if a homer is hit.

    I’m only 1 ball away from my goal for the year (not counting the 2 I gave away). I’m hoping to reach both of my goals this weekend.

    (p.s. I think my screen name changed again.. I don’t know how or why)

  26. deleted

    … And now it changed again. But this time I figured out HOW to change it. I think it will stay this, unless it decides to change by itself again.

  27. sammywu17@hotmail.com

    What time will you be at Angel Stadium on Sat. I think I will be outside from 12 to 4

  28. puckcollector@optonline.net

    oh, and a guy got ejected from Yankee Stadium for leaving his seat during God Bless America to go to the bathroom. google the story. i saw it on Yahoo. apparetnly its a YS rule that prohibits movement during the song.

    i have two questions:

    a) What if ur not American and
    b) what if you dont believe in god.

    any either way cmon. that it the MOST ABSURD rule ever. they guy might sue.

  29. zackhample

    Well, you know the answer by now. Sorry (everyone) for the delay in answering.

    Sorry I didn’t get to write back in time. How’d it go?

    I didn’t bring my Sox shirt to Yankee Stadium…just the hat which I was nervous wearing.

    They exit directly behind home plate, and it’s usually totally easy to get down there. You just…go. Not every staircase is guarded.

    Thanks, but I was at Camden on the 27th.

    I wasn’t that nervous during the first hour because I figured I’d snag at least a few in the bleachers…and I was right…but it was tough.

    Sorry to hear about the fight, but I hope all those incredible autographs made you feel a little better.

    My tip is just to practice. Get a friend to hit you fungos in the park.

    Game time is 6:05pm. Stadium opens at 4pm? I want to be on line at the gate at 3pm and AT the stadium by 2pm so I can walk around and take pics. Let’s look for each other.

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