8/26/08 at Yankee Stadium

This was my second straight Watch With Zack game with Mark, Evan, and Hailey–a family from Los Angeles who’d been to Shea Stadium with me the day before.

Evan (age 16) and Hailey (four years younger) had each snagged a commemorative ball at Shea. Now they were hoping to accomplish the same thing at a sold-out Yankees-Red Sox game.


As I’ve mentioned in previous entries, the bleachers at Yankee Stadium are a) awesome for snagging baseballs during batting practice and b) completely separated from the rest of the ballpark. You can’t enter the bleachers without a bleacher ticket, and once you’re there, you can’t leave.

That said, Evan and I had two tickets apiece–one for the bleachers and another for the main part of the stadium, where we were planning to meet Mark and Hailey after BP. Well before the gates had opened, I gave Mark detailed instructions on how to reach the corner spot in the right field grandstand as quickly as possible. That whole area was going to be insanely crowded; it was essential that he and Hailey get there first and hold their ground.

Evan and I were first in line at the bleacher entrance. When we finally got to run inside, not only did we have the whole place to ourselves for 30 seconds, but we had a great view of Mark and Hailey running in and claiming the corner spot.

jose_veras.jpgEvan claimed a spot against the railing in right-center field, so I gave him some space and positioned myself one section closer to the foul pole. That’s when I got the first ball of the day–I’m not saying “my” first ball because it was literally THE first ball that entered the stands. It was thrown by Jose Veras. I had asked him in Spanish. He put some serious velocity on it. I had to jump two inches to make the catch, and when I opened my glove and noticed that the ball was commemorative I felt a bit guilty. That feeling, however, half-disappeared a few minutes later when Veras tossed another commemorative ball to Hailey.

I used my glove trick to snag my second ball from the gap between the outfield wall and the bleachers. It was a home run by Derek Jeter that landed there, and as soon as I reeled it in, all my guilt returned. Evan (for some reason) hadn’t brought the materials for HIS glove trick, and I realized I could have let him snag that ball with mine. I wasn’t too concerned, though, because it was still early, but I grew increasingly anxious as the remaining minutes of the Yankees’ portion of BP ticked away. Would the Red Sox be using commemorative balls that belonged to the Evil Empire? Doubtful.

Did Hailey feel guilty when she snagged a second commemorative ball?  Equally doubtful. It had fallen short after being thrown to her by a Yankee, landed in the gap between the bleachers and the grandstand, and gotten tossed up by a police officer who retrieved it.

With 20 minutes remaining before the Sox were going to take the field, I got extremely lucky and snagged my third ball of the day. Brian Bruney had tossed it to a woman in the front row who somehow managed to drop it and let it trickle behind her into the aisle where I was standing. No one else even saw the ball. Even the woman herself hadn’t seen it roll behind her, so no one else was reaching for it. It was the easiest and most undeserved ball ever, and of course it was commemorative. The woman, whom I’d met several weeks earlier (and who was very friendly), immediately turned around and asked for it. She said it had been thrown to her, and everyone else agreed. What did I do next? I asked Evan if he wanted it, and when he said “no” (because he hadn’t snagged it himself), I handed it to the woman. I hardly ever give away commemorative balls (because it gives me a sinking feeling in my gut), but in this case it was clearly the right thing to do.

The Yankees were beginning their final round of BP, and Evan still didn’t have a commemorative ball. He’d come extremely close to snagging an A-Rod homer (and later came close to two other balls), but got a dreadfully unlucky bounce and had to watch it ricochet all the way back onto the field. I felt responsible and awful. The bleachers were more crowded than ever because of the Red Sox, and for some reason there just weren’t any other balls dropping into the gap…but then, by some miracle, with five minutes remaining in the Yankees’ portion of BP, a ball fell short of the wall in right-center and landed there. Ohmygod. This was our chance, and yet we didn’t know if the ball was even commemorative because it was lying logo-side-down. Meanwhile, Evan told me he’d practiced using his glove trick at home but had never tried using it at a game…so I stretched my rubber band over my glove, then propped it open with a blue Sharpie, and handed it to him. I held the end of the string in case he lost his grip, but he had it under control and I talked him through it. He didn’t realize he had to aim for the ball with the tip of the glove, and it was hard for him to even see the ball because of a hanging net that’s two feet out from the wall. He finally managed to get the ball to stick inside the glove, but because I hadn’t put the rubber band on tight enough, the ball slipped out after he’d raised the glove one foot. The good news is that no one else had a ball-retrieving device. The better news is that security didn’t notice us. And the best news was that the ball had rolled onto its side, and we could see the edge of a commemorative logo.

I yanked the glove back up, tightened the rubber band, and handed it back to Evan. Then I reached down as far as I could and grabbed the netting and pulled it back so he could get a better view of the ball. (I realize this might be hard to visualize.) The entire operation took a minute after that. I was shouting instructions and encouragement (for example “jiggle the glove a little bit so the ball goes inside!”) and eventually he got it. I was afraid someone else would reach over the railing and snatch the ball away from him as he was raising the glove, but no one did, and he HAD it. The ball was nearly brand new. The logo was perfect.

He hurried over to the foul-pole end of the bleachers and called out to his father and sister to show them the ball. I followed close behind and took the following photograph as he was holding it up:


Did you notice Mark and Hailey’s reaction? If you look closely (and please forgive the lousy image quality), you can see that he’s yelling/cheering and she’s giving a thumbs-up:


After the Red Sox took the field, Evan didn’t snag any other balls, and I only managed to get one more. It was a home run to right-center by David Ortiz. I was standing at the railing. The ball landed half a dozen rows back and got bobbled into the tunnel, prompting a wave of fans to race after it. I happened to break through to the front of the pack, and I reached down and scooped the ball into my glove while on the run.

After BP, I took a photo of Evan leaning over the gap with his ball, and then I caught up with Hailey in the concourse and took a photo of her with the three–yes, THREE–balls she’d snagged.


Her final ball was tossed by Justin Masterson, and she told me that all the fans around her were complaining that she’d gotten so many. (Too bad, people. Learn to show up earlier.)

During the game, as you might imagine, security was extremely tight and the crowd was enormous. There weren’t any empty seats to be had until the sixth inning, when the hometown crowd realized that the Yankees weren’t going to overcome a 7-3 deficit.

Mark stayed in his seat for most of the game while I ran around with Evan and Hailey. In the four-part photo below (starting on the top left and going clockwise), we were a) waiting for home run balls in the tunnel in right field, b) camping out in left field when A-Rod came up with a chance to hit a game-tying grand slam, c) checking out shirts in the team store, and d) enjoying a better view late in the game.


Evan and I were able to get some ticket stubs from people as they were leaving the game–tickets for the seats behind the dugouts. He got one on the Yankees’ side, which he gave to me. I got two on Boston’s side, which I gave to him and Hailey.

Two minutes after Jonathan Papelbon recorded the final out for his 34th save, I got Damaso Marte to throw me a commemorative ball on his way in from the bullpen. Evan and Hailey, I learned five minutes later, unfortunately didn’t get anything.

Final score: Red Sox 7, Zack 5, Hailey 3, Yankees 3, Evan 1.

Just before we were all about to get kicked out of the stadium by security (you’re not allowed to linger after the game at Yankee Stadium like you can everywhere else), Evan and Hailey and I all started pulling out our baseballs for a group photo.

What happened next was distressing: Evan couldn’t find his ball.

We all emptied our bags and pockets, and his ball was literally NOWHERE to be found. We started looking under the seats, and within two minutes, the nearest security guard was demanding that we head for the exit. (He suggested that we check the lost-and-found. Thanks, genius.) We couldn’t figure out what had happened…but it was official. Evan had lost the ball. I’m amazed that he took it as well as he did. If it were me, I would’ve screamed and cried and cursed and carried on like a baby. Evan, as disappointed as he was, realized that there wasn’t anything he could do about it and stayed calm. I offered him one of my commemorative balls, and he wouldn’t take it until I insisted about four times. I still had three commemorative balls at that point and gave him a choice of two: the ball from Veras or the ball from Marte, which he ultimately selected after inspecting both logos for quite some time. We were in the concourse, and since security wasn’t yet hassling us about vacating THAT spot, we decided to turn the “hand-over” into an official ceremony. Here’s the silly photographic documentation:


(You know you like my farmer’s tan.) I think I might have successfully convinced him that owning an actual “Zack Hample baseball” was nearly as cool as owning one that he’d snagged on his own…and then we all headed for the subway.

In case you were wondering, the reason why I didn’t give him a choice of all three commemorative balls was that one of them had a special marking that I wanted to take home and photograph (and keep). It was the Derek Jeter home run ball, which had a faint imprint of the MLB logo from another ball. Check it out:


My theory is that another ball was pressing hard against this one in the BP bucket or basket…or even in a ball bag…and that the logo was slightly imprinted onto this one.

Here’s a photo of the imprinted ball next to another ball, which will hopefully illustrate my point:


And finally, here’s one more photo which I took earlier in the day when Tim Wakefield was warming up in the bullpen. It’s just a cool shot that should be shared for all to see:



? 5 balls at this game

? 353 balls in 50 games this season = 7.06 balls per game.

? 546 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

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

? 3,630 total balls


  1. gjk2212

    sounds fun lol

    i might be at ys tomorrow, going for commemoratives. possibility. nice seeing you last night zack. and on 95. heh.

    quick camden recap-an ok day, not good, not horrific. didnt have a season ticket, but got lance cormier to bounce one off the warning track to me and somehow didnt see a ball land in the right-center field gap. i looked, there it was, and i pulled it up easily. went to left field foul line where the sox pitchers were throwing, and heard “heads up”. a ball was over my head by a few feet, hit a stair and rolled almost right to me. i turned around to face the field, and a ball was rolling foul. i walked along the front row, following it, and missed my first shot at it. got stuck under the wall. i leaned over, dug it out with my hat, and grabbed it. i spotted a ball later on, a little up the 3rd base line, laying on the warning track. before i had time to take my cup out, fling it out, and knock it in, jim thome started signing. so he was kinda in my way of throwing it out. while he was signing, i said “jim, any chance you could spare that ball?” he nodded, and when he was done signing, he flipped it without looking, and i barehanded it in front of the face of some clueless guy next to me. that was all i got. came VERY close to an umpire ball, while some kid got multiple. i was mad. almost got a few 3rd out balls, things werent going my way though. fun day anyway, whatever.

  2. Txbaseballfan

    Cool photos Zack (Jona might be out of a job!). I’m surprised Evan wasn’t more upset too, especially since he came all the way from L.A. just to get commemeratives. Oh well, can’t fault him for having a good spirit. He got a ball from the great Zack Hample, so I guess all is well in Evan’s world! Great post, talk to you later. Brian

  3. Txbaseballfan

    By the way, do you know whatever happened to that ball from your 7/29/08 post? The one from the Grand Concourse @ 149th St. No.4 train? Was just reviewing some old photos of yours & ran across that one. Surely someone has gotten it by now. Also, still wondering about your visiting team shirts. Do you get them from a particular store or random place? Hope you need an extra suitcase for all your balls when you get back from Ca.!Brian

  4. rickymcentire@yahoo.com

    nice job zack,
    sucks about evan losing his ball, but you were nice enough to give him one of yours. good luck in california!

  5. puckcollector@optonline.net

    3 things:

    evan im sorry to hear you lost the ball, and im sorry that im making this joke at your expense:

    at least the Yankees outscored SOMEBODY (referring to the score that zack kept)

    also the line at yesterdays game of people w/ oversized bags who couldnt get in was HILARIOUS. The people were scraming at security (mostly boston fans who didnt know about are lunitic rules) and i dont blame em.

    also this kid in the first row like directly behind the batters box, got a foul ball tossed to him by Youk, he dropped it into the row behind him, and it was old people, and cuz Youk pointed at him the didnt go for the ball, and when he picked it up after like a minute of searching for it under the seats, he yeld it up and like spun around to show it off, like they way you did when you CAUGHT ON A FLY shelley duncans HOME RUN. first of all kid (he was maybe 10) you didnt even CATCH the ball, and the throw was BABIED to you, AND HE POINTED AT YOU. anyone with half a mind would have picked it up and kept it. i have the attitude of if you drop a ball thats tossed to you (not a HR on a fly), you dont deserve it, unless you like get shoved from behind. if you really care that much learn how to catch

    no balls for me. i didnt go to BP

  6. hitsrus

    Hi Zack, First Comment, but reader for months! Can anyone tell me how hard it is to get a commemoritive at Yankee and Shea. Also where can I find a copy of Zack’s book
    How To Snag Major League Baseballs, other than Amazon.com, $120.00 is just too much. Thanks! Good luck in California Zack!

  7. yankees42294

    gjk2212- if u are going to yankee staium let me know cuz im deffintly going tomorrow

  8. utahsteeler

    Great, Great posts lately Zack!! I have read all of them but haven’t commented, life a bit crazy right now. You made that family so happy with your help….Jim

  9. Txbaseballfan

    To hitsrus — the only place I have able to find it is your local library. I know that’s not very cool, but at least you get to read it. If you find it somewhere else, let me know too! Brian

  10. zackhample

    I’m in San Diego. I’m sooooo tired, and yet I’m about to be forced (by my friend here) to go out and eat “dinner.” Good Lord. This week might kill me, but damn it’s gonna be fun. I’ll answer comments later…like, within the next day or two, hopefully, and I should be posting about Camden Yards within the next 24 hours.

  11. braves04

    Zack, I was trying to re-create the impression of the MLB logo on another ball. The player on the logo faces left, so an impression on another ball would leave the player upside down or facing right. It looks like your ball features the logo also facing left, so could it be a misprint or something?
    Snagged 3 at Turner Field Thursday night. It would’ve been four, but the ball took a crazy bounce and an usher picked it up when I was 2 feet away. He gave it to these people he talked to earlier. I had no competition behind me in right field. The Marlins were very generous, but kids are always favored. I just stood a few rows back and collected home runs.
    Around 5:00, a would-be easter egg landed in right, but there were stadium employees snagging on their own before it opened. It seemed very unprofessional and really pissed me off to know they weren’t giving them to kids or back to the teams.

  12. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    Welcome to town. Saw a great game in Anaheim last night. So much more entertaining than a normal Padres game. Angels have a great comeback and win 7-5. Saw TracyCollinsBecky and MLBballhawk there. During bp Josh Hamilton hit the farthest ball I have ever seen hit in Anaheim in right field. This was confirmed by MLBballhawk as well. He hit it completely OVER the lower RF section and it landed in the first row of the second section up. You’ll get a better feel for the distance of the hit once you go up there tomorrow. I am guessing around 500ft easy. Bp was kind of dead but I had fun. I had a great hr seat in RF most of the game but nothing came close. I guess I’ll see you later today. Good luck.


  13. zackhample

    I have no idea about that subway ball, but I noticed it’s not there anymore. I just got all the T-shirts on eBay from various “stores” and individual sellers.

    Not sure yet.

    Welcome to the comments section! Snagging balls at Shea is easier, but most of the balls (in BP) aren’t commemorative. Snagging at Yankee Stadium is tougher, but pretty much all the Yankees’ BP balls *are* commemorative. Not sure where you can find my first book. You just have to keep looking online.

    A misprint? Nah…I think it’s just a mirror image.

    Thanks, and see you soon…

  14. jampr92@aol.com

    Hey Zack,

    I’ve been a fan of this great game since the day I was born. It has always been a dream for me to catch a ball at a baseball game. I started reading your blog in June of this year and became very interested. The more I read the more I wanted to catch a ball. When I went to a Mets game on August 19 I caught a foul ball by Chipper Jones during batting practice. Even though it was a Training ball I was still excited. I thank you for all of your great blogs. I’ am a Yankee fan at heart but one day I hope to come to a game with on opening day in the New Yankee Stadium. When tickets go on sale I hope to contact you and go to the New Yankee Stadium and catch a few commemorative ball. Thanks again. Keep on writing those blogs.

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