9/2/08 at Dodger Stadium

There are more idiotic rules at Dodger Stadium than there are baseballs in my collection. I lost count of the exact number, but I can definitely tell you the worst. Ready for this? You might want to get a cold beverage and sit down. Okay, here goes: the parking lot opens at the same time as the stadium itself. Since the colossal parking lot surrounds the stadium on all sides–and since most living creatures aren’t able to be in two places at once–it’s technically impossible to get inside for the start of batting practice.

Of course there’s a way to get around anything, and at Dodger Stadium you can drive into the parking lot at any time if you tell the guard that you’re there to buy advanced tickets. Sometimes, if you’re lucky enough to be there without a car, you can walk right in without dealing with him. The entrances are multi-lane roads with numerous tollbooths, and when you get there early in the day, there’s only one guard at the far right booth. If he’s busy dealing with stadium employees (who have to drive in early) he won’t notice you or have a chance to stop you–or he might just assume you’re an employee–if you walk in on the left side.

That was my situation. No car. I got dropped off by a friend and walked right in, two-and-a-half hours before the parking lot AND the stadium were scheduled to open. I wasn’t breaking any rules, however. I actually did need to buy a ticket–two tickets, in fact, because of Stupid Rule No. 867. At Dodger Stadium, you see, the bleachers (aka “pavilions”) have their own separate entrances. You need a pavilion ticket to enter the pavilion, and once you’re there, you can’t move into the main part of the stadium. This was going to be my final game in L.A. I wanted total access. I wanted to be in the left field pavilion for batting practice and then be able to roam freely for the rest of the night.

I walked past several employees on my way into the parking lot. None of them said a word or even looked at me, so I pulled out my camera and started taking pictures.

In the four-part photograph below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, I’m a) on the outskirts of Dodger Stadium property with the mostly vacant tollbooths in the distance, b) just past the booths and finally able to see the stadium, c) at the edge of one of the many sections of the parking lot, and d) approaching one of the many staircases:


Dodger Stadium was built into a hill. Not only do the pavilions have their own entrances, but every seating level in the main part of the stadium does as well. Therefore (and here comes Stupid Rule No. 1,644), you can’t enter the Field Level without a Field Level ticket, nor can you even walk around the outside of the stadium without climbing stairs.

I finally made it to the Top Deck. That’s where the ticket office is located. I waited in line for five minutes, then bought a $13 pavilion ticket and a $60 (ouch!) seat on the Field Level.

Then, since the gates were wide open and there were other fans chilling in the seats, I walked inside. In the following four-part pic, you can see a) the beautiful pavement outside the Top Deck as well as one of the open gates, b) the concourse inside the stadium, and c) a shirtless man in right field shagging balls during d) early BP.


Early BP!!

I knew there was a way to snag baseballs before the gates opened (I described it in my previous entry), so I decided to head all the way down to the bottom. First, though, I had to take a couple pics that I could later combine in Photoshop to make a panorama…


…and while I was doing that, I noticed that a home run ball landed in the left field pavilion.


I exited the Top Deck and a) headed down yet another staircase toward the Reserve Level, b) saw that all the gates there were wide open as well, c) walked inside for a look at the concourse, and d) and snuck a peek at the field:


No harm done. No one even saw me, and even if they had, whatever. I didn’t feel like I was breaking any rules. I was a paying customer, and if I wasn’t supposed to keep walking inside, then stadium security should have kept the gates closed.

After that I a) headed down to the Loge Level, b) said hello to an iPhone-sized lizard along the way, c) entered another set of wide-open doors, and d) documented the contrast in light between the concourse and the field:


I made it down to the area outside the left field pavilion, and all the gates were open:


I should mention that I was on the phone with a fellow ballhawk at this point–a ballhawk who shall remain nameless. I told him I wanted to walk into the pavilion and look for that home run ball. He told me not to do it.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked.

“It’s too risky,” he said.

I told him I wanted to break double digits and that this was a good way to start.

He told me it would be “the caper of the century.”

I considered taking off my shirt before walking inside. Or removing my hat. Or briefly wearing my dark blue Padres shirt over the white shirt I was currently wearing–anything to change my physical appearance in case someone was watching from afar.

But I didn’t. This was L.A. Everyone’s laid-back. I’m Zack Hample. I deserved to walk into the pavilion and look for that ball.So I did.

And I found it:


“I see the ball,” I told my friend.

“This is nuts,” he said.

“I’m walking toward it…”

“Oh my God.”

“…and I just picked it up…”

“Caper of the century!”

“…and now I’m going to get the hell out of here.””That’s probably a good move.”

As I exited the pavilion, I noticed a security camera mounted high on one of the walls. Yikes…but at the same time…oh well. There was nothing I could do about it now, and anyway, maybe the guy who’s job it was to look for people like me had been taking a dump.

I headed toward the main part of the stadium. The Field Level gate, like all the others, was wide open…


…so I walked in, noticed another security camera, and sat down in the last row behind the left field foul pole:

field_level_sneak_peek.jpgTakashi Saito was finishing a bullpen session, and several members of the Japanese media were filming him. A few other Dodgers pitchers briefly came out and played catch while the infielders turned double plays way off in the distance. It occurred to me that I might be able to snag another ball or two, but mainly I was just glad to have a place to sit in the shade. My ribs still hurt like hell (from that accident I’d suffered three days earlier in Anaheim), and the blisters on my right foot were on fire. I still had almost two hours to kill before the stadium officially opened to the public, and I was planning to sit there as long as poss–

“Excuse me,” said a voice from behind, “do you work here?”

I turned around and saw a security guard.

“No sir,” I said.

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh,” I said innocently, “I’m from out of town and I was just walking around and happened to notice that the gate was open so I thought I’d just come in for a minute and take a quick peek at the field.”

“Okay, well the stadium isn’t open yet–”

“It’s not?”

“–no so I’m gonna have to ask to you leave and wait outside until 5:10.”

“Okay, I’m really sorry about that. I had no idea.”

“No problem,” he said as he started leading me back to where I had entered. Then, for good measure, he closed the gate behind me.

It was 3:30pm. I still had lots of time to kill and didn’t know where to go. If my foot hadn’t been in so much pain, I would’ve headed back to the Top Deck and looked at the field for the next 90 minutes, but it almost hurt just to think about that, so I walked back to the left field pavilion and sat in the thin strip of shade just outside the gates which were now closed.

I pulled out my phone and called my friend with an update, and less than a minute later, a security SUV rolled to a stop 40 feet in front of me. The driver lowered the passenger window and shouted something.

“I’m gonna have to call you back,” I told my friend quietly. “I might need you to bail me out.”

I walked over to the SUV and said, “I’m sorry, I didn’t hear you before. What was that?”

“Who are you?” demanded the uniformed man.

“Umm, I’m just a fan and–”

“Were you walking around inside the stadium earlier?”

“No sir.”

“Okay, well, we saw someone on our security cameras walk inside here and pick up a ball.”

“I’m just waiting for the stadium to open.”

“Where are you parked?”

“I’m not parked anywhere.”

“How did you get here?”

“I was dropped off earlier by a friend.”

“Who’s your friend?!”

“My friend? He’s…just some guy from San Diego. I’m from New York and I’m out here visiting, and we made the trip together.”

“Do you have a ticket for tonight’s game?”

“Yes,” I said and immediately regretted it. Should I have said no? Should I have pretended to be completely lost? Would I have been in less trouble then? Would he have directed me back to the advanced ticket window? Crap crap crap.

“I’m gonna need you to get inside the vehicle.”


“You’re not allowed to be on the premises,” he continued, “until the parking lot opens at 5:10pm. I’m going to drive you to the edge of the property, and you are to wait there until that time. Is that clear?”

I got into the back of the SUV, closed the door behind me, and put on my seatbelt. I felt like I was being sent to the principal’s office. I wished my dad were Bud Selig.

The security officer, a middle-aged white man with a gray mustache, drove for about 20 seconds and then slowed down to a rather abrupt stop.

“Do you mind if I search your bag?” he asked.

“That’s fine,” I said, “but I want you to know that I *did* bring a baseball with me to get autographed.”

“Let me see it,” he said, reaching his hand toward me.

I fumbled around in my bag and pulled out the ball. I’d barely gotten a chance to see it myself. I noticed that it was partially scuffed, no doubt from where it had landed on the concrete steps in the pavilion, and I feared that the officer might get suspicious. What autograph collector would try to get a scuffed ball signed?

The officer took the ball and inspected it thoroughly, as if it were an apple that I’d dared him to eat.

And then he handed it back to me. I could tell by the look on his face that he knew he was being lied to, and yet I’d lied too well (which is a rarity) for him to do anything about it.


As he drove me back down the big hill and deposited me at the tollbooths, I resisted the urge to ask for a ride back when the parking lot opened. Instead I just got out (and waited for him to drive away) and unleashed a string of obscenities that would’ve put Blink 182’s “Family Reunion” to shame.

Half an hour later, my friend T.C. (aka “tracycollinsbecky” if you read the comments) showed up–this is not the friend I’d been talking to earlier–and I told him what had happened.

He suggested that we wait a bit and then walk back in.

So we waited.

That’s when I removed my Dodgers cap and put on my Padres shirt–just to be safe and make it look like I really was from out of town. And then, finally, after 15 minutes, we cautiously headed back in, but before we even made it to the top of the hill, the same security officer appeared out of nowhere and made us get into his SUV.

“What are you doing back in the parking lot?!” he yelled. “I thought I told you to stay out!!”

“My friend called and said he needed an extra ticket so I w–”

“Your friend doesn’t mean ANYTHING to me right now!!!”

T.C. and I sat in silence as we were driven to the bottom of the hill, and then the officer issued a threat: “If I see you in here again before 5:10, you won’t be going to the game!”

We walked back in at 4:50.

We knew we were taking a chance by not waiting, but we refused to accept missing the first few minutes of batting practice. Luckily the officer was nowhere to be found, and by the time we made it to the area outside the left field pavilion, there were already a dozen other fans standing around. They must’ve used a different entrance. Some of them were even talking about running inside and looking for easter eggs, but as it turned out there wasn’t a single ball to be found.

I played the staircases for the first 20 minutes of BP (you can see the stairs in my previous entry) and snagged two baseballs during that time. The first was a home run hit by a righty on the Padres that I caught on a fly halfway down the stairs, and the second was a ground-rule double hit by a lefty. After it cleared the outfield wall, it took one bounce in the gap and smacked the back of a beer cart–you know, one of those rolling concession stand thingies–and plopped down into a pile of clutter on a shin-high shelf. The vendor who was setting up the cart had no idea what was happening and probably freaked out a bit when I led the stampede from behind.

I only snagged one more ball during the rest of batting practice, and it was another home run that I caught on a fly. I have no idea who hit. It was a righty. Possibly a September call-up. Doesn’t matter. The staircases had all become crowded by that point so I’d been playing several rows back and had five feet of empty space on all sides when the ball met my glove.

At 6:05pm, I spotted Heath Bell (aka “my new BFF”) in left-center field and asked him if this was the last round of batting practice. He told me it was, so I exited the pavilion, used my Field Level ticket to enter the main part of the stadium, and sprinted around the concourse to the Padres’ dugout on the first base side.

This was my view as I waited for BP to end:


My plan was to get one of the Padres to throw me a ball as they left the field, and (Stupid Rule No. 2,108) even though I had to stay behind the concrete partition, I was able to do just that. I’m not sure who threw it. It was a coach. Might’ve been Craig Colbert. I wish I knew, but there was no way to be certain. All that really mattered, though, was that I had the ball–my fifth of the day.

I wandered and explored for the next half-hour. I started by moving to the outfield end of the partition and photographing the bizarre “booth seating” along the foul line:booth_seating.jpg

After that I headed up to the Loge and checked out the seats (including the entire dugout partition) on the right field side:


Then (Stupid Rule No. 3,659) I was forced to show my ticket to get back into the Field Level where I took a pic of the concourse:


What was so special about the concourse? Nothing really. I always photograph concourses because they’re part of the stadium and every stadium is different.

At around 6:45pm, several Padres came out and began stretching and running and throwing in shallow right field. I managed to talk my way down past the regular seats and into the front
padres_warming_up.jpgrow of booths because there was actually a sensible usher who was able to think for himself and use something called judgment. He saw my
Padres cap, Padres shirt, Sharpie, and glove. I wasn’t trying to hide my intentions. I just walked up to him and asked if there was any possible way I could go down to the front row, even for two minutes, to try to get a ball or an autograph or even to take a few pictures. He was like, “Well, you’re not really supposed to be there without a ticket but…I guess it’s okay for a few minutes.””I promise I’ll be gone before the game starts,” I told him, “and you won’t see me again for the rest of the night.”

He appreciated that and let me do my thing, and while I was down at the front, I looked back at him every so often and gave a little “thank you” nod.

Not only did I get two more balls–one from Will Venable and another from Kevin Kouzmanoff less than a minute later–but I got Edgar Gonzalez and Matt Antonelli to sign my tickets:


Double digits? Was it possible? Would I be able to get the players to toss me third-out balls over the dugout partitions? It had been easy to get the ball from that Padres coach after BP because there weren’t any other fans in front of me. But during the game? I didn’t know what to expect.

The first inning was a complete waste, but when Juan Pierre ended the second by grounding into a 3-6 fielder’s choice, I waved like a lunatic and caught the eye of shortstop Luis Rodriguez and got him to toss me the ball, right over the heads of all the Dodger fans sitting in front of me. It was beautiful.

The following inning, when Casey Blake made the third out by grounding into a 5-4 fielder’s choice, I got that ball as well from Antonelli. It almost seemed too easy. Before I ran back up the steps to the concourse, I pulled out one of the balls I’d snagged during BP and handed it to the nearest kid.

I couldn’t get anyone to throw me a ball behind the Dodgers’ dugout although I did have several close calls. I needed ONE more more ball to reach double digits and two more to reach 3,700 overall. Could I possibly snag one more third-out ball and then get one from the home plate ump when he walked off the field after the game?Halfway through the game, my toes were in so much pain that I wanted to have them amputated. I wasn’t even using them. Every time I took a step with my right foot, I tried to tilt it back and put all my weight on my heel. I was probably risking another injury by compensating for the pain, but it had to be done. I truly would not have been able to keep going.

The sixth and seventh innings were dead. There was no action behind the dugouts, and I managed to miss the action on the field; Andre Ethier led off the bottom of the sixth with an opposite field homer (that T.C. nearly caught) but I didn’t see it because I was still limping through the concourse back to the first base side.

That was the story of my night, but all my suffering eventually paid off. Russell Martin ended the eighth inning by grounding into a 6-4-3 double play, and I got first baseman Adrian Gonzalez to toss me his infield warm-up ball on his way in. Gonzalez had done the same thing on 8/31/08 at PETCO Park. Apparently he has a thing for switching the game-used ball with his warm-up ball and tossing THAT one into the crowd instead.

Despite all the stupid rules and evil security guards at Dodger Stadium, it IS incredibly easy to enter any section once you’re in the Field Level. I didn’t get stopped once the whole night, even when I was wearing Padres gear and wearing my glove and running down the steps to a seat in the first row behind the partition.

Anyway, I’d reached double digits–a sign that I’d conquered the stadium–and the game was almost over so I made my way to the home-plate end of the Dodgers’ dugout. That’s where the umps walk on and off the field, and when Joe Beimel retired Sean Kazmar for the final out of the Dodgers’ 8-4 win, I kept my eye on Jerry Meals and got him to toss me my final ball of the day. Hoo-HAAAAA!!!

Adios, Dodger Stadium.


• 11 balls at this game

• 423 balls in 56 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

• 552 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 138 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

• 90 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 35 lifetime games outside NYC with at least 10 balls

• 20 different stadiums with at least one game with 10 or more balls

• 17 double-digit games this year (which is a personal record)

• 3,700 total balls

By the way, I forgot to mention this in my earlier entries from this trip, but while I was in San Diego, I visited the Barnes & Noble in Hazzard Center in the Mission Valley area and signed  their only two copies of “Watching Baseball Smarter.”

More soon…


  1. 07nlchamps

    Hey Zack, so if you can’t drive into the parking lot, or walk through the parking lot until the gates open, how did all of those other people get to the gates before the gates opened? Also, it’s funny you mention all of the open gates, my mom and dad were in LA last year, so they decided to go to Opening Day. They parked in the lot, and then my dad decided he didn’t want to spend what they were asking for Opening Day tickets, so they walked in through an open “vendor” gate, (somebody was making a delivery and left it open), so they went up to the 3rd deck and found some empty seats and watched the whole game without getting kicked out of their seats. It had rained earlier in the day last year before the game, so a lot of people didn’t show up. Then, get this, my dad has the audacity (after getting into an Opening Day for FREE!) to complain about the price of beer at Dodger Stadium LOL!

  2. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    Dodger Stadium is just STUPID. I hate it. I hate the drive up. I hate the parking. I hate the ticket situation. I hate everything about it. It makes you appreciate what you have in San Diego so much more. Now, if we could just win a few games…..Hmm. Can’t wait to snag today. I hope some of you locals here in SD stop by the Barnes and Noble in Hazzard Center and score an autographed Zack book. Sweet. Talk to you later.


  3. lasmog@hotmail.com

    You entry today was just riveting. I was eating up every word of it. Dodger Stadium is the ballpark I know the best so I could totally relate to everything you were saying. I have been wondering for a while how to get into the park when the gates open. I noticed on Monday you were there pretty early. Did you have any trouble getting in then?
    There are a couple things you should know for the next time you come out. The Dodgers will let you into the left field pavilion for free during batting practice. If you have a ticket for anywhere else, they let you in and expect you to move to your seats later. Also if you have a ticket for anywhere besides the pavilion, they will usually let you into the field level during batting practice. However once the other gates open you can only enter at your level. I?m sorry I would have told you that when I saw you on Monday, but I didn?t realize you had bought a ticket to get into the pavilion.

  4. dodgerduder

    Zack- Ah, It’s so nice to see parks that I have been to and know really well on your blog! Dodger Stadium security thinks they are the FBI, and it’s really annoying. Two years ago the dodgers had one playoff home game, and I showed up 5 hours early with my cousin. I was outside the gate that you entered, and finally sprinted all the way to the bleachers once the gates opened. I was than told that all the BP policies had changed for the post-season, and that only bleacher ticket holders and field level ticketholders could enter….. and that I SPRINTED (with my asthmatic cousin) around the stadium for nothing, and than had to walk back up to my seats in Reserved. I yelled at them, because I was upset, and was told they would kick me out and I wouldnt be going to the game if I keep complaining.

    I’m going to SD tomorrow, and would love to know where the Dodgers Hotel, Players Parking lot, and VIP entrance is… I’m on a quest for Manny, Maddux, and if I ever run into him….. Vin Scully


  5. Txbaseballfan

    That’s gotta be the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard, 2 tickets just to attend 1 game?! Well, it IS in L.A. (consider the source!). No luck on the HR derby ball autograph yet, two more games this season, fingers crossed. Kudos on the personal record! You need to start sharing some of that magic! Brian

  6. districtboy

    Zack – What an amazing entry. That could be the best before-game story you’ve ever written.

    By the way, I was looking at the “Lists” on your website. You never snagged at Hiram-Bithorn Stadium?


    P.S. – I’m now addicted to Cubefield.

  7. Kylie

    Um, oh my God. That’s ridiculous–all of it. I don’t know why they’re so anal about security–if they really didn’t want you inside, they should just lock the fricking gates.
    I’ve been to Dodger Stadium before, but it wasn’t much of a to-do–just watched the Rockies take BP and stood in the right field pavilion trying half-assedly to catch a ball. Came close, though.
    Congrats on double digits and on 3700 :]
    Kylie — http://kylie.mlblogs.com

  8. 47cardsfan

    That may have been one of the best pre-game storys I have ever heard with sneeking into the stadium, getting the ball, and lying to the uniformed guard about how that wasnt you who was inside the stadium on the security cameras.
    All I have to say is this story is awesome!!!

    P.S Congrats on #3700

  9. nycautographcollector

    so zack i did a bit of reasearch and i have discovered that dodger stadium is owned by the city of los angeles, and by california state stautes is a state park as well as a landmark actually…technically speaking if the gates are open to the park therefore it is officially by law open for business…which would be the sale of tickets at the ticket box…but because there is a business transaction taking place, a customer may, at his/her leasure remain on property as long as there is no disturbance created directly by that person(s)

    therefore under california law, you should not have been asked to leave the first time, and you should have not been asked to leave the second time. the security officer did not have any right to ask you to remove yourself from the premisis for any reason unless you were drunk and acting in a disorderly manner, which you werent.

    according to city and state functions, that security guard would be removed from his position and would more than likely cost the dodgers a hefty fine of up to $10,000 to be paid to the city.

    my aunts best friend was a district attorny in LA for like 26 years so i got in contact with her and asked her about the situation…

    good stuff

  10. zackhample

    Thanks for the comments. I’ve been reading them all, but I’ll have to answer them later (like, in a couple days) because I’m still incredibly busy, and I hardly have any time to spare. I was at Shea on Friday, and I’ll be blogging about that soon. I was at Citizens Bank Park tonight (Monday), and I’ll blog about that after the Shea entry. I might be at a game on Tuesday (September 9th)…possibly Shea, Citizens Bank, or Camden. Everything’s up in the air.

  11. padreleigh

    Hey there Zack…

    Scored three today at the Padres vs Dodgers game at PETCO. Caught an Adrian Gonzalez HR on the fly on the beach. Scored a Kevin Kouzmanoff ground rule double on the beach and got a “toss up” from Chase Headley in between innings. The warm up ball. That was it. Those were balls 91, 92 and 93 on the year. Not exactly 400+ but I’ll take it. Manny didn’t oblige me with a HR. Maybe tomorrow. Talk to you later.


  12. thet206kid

    Nice entry Zack
    I want to go to another stadium so bad, I have only been to Yankee, Mets, and the Rays, and New York its too crowded and you have to put up with a lot, i want to go to Pittsburgh or Baltimore to see what its like there.

  13. snagfan

    Unfortunately as we all have probably experienced this year. Not all of the Security/Crowd Mgrs are on the same page and it is there word against yours. I have seen many of the same rules upheld differently by the same Security people at the COPA this year. Mainly the “glove trick” rule. When they say put it away, I abide and put it away.
    However, I have met a ton of ushers/crowd mgrs at the COPA who are very cool people and have let me sit in some great sections for free….(52 games attended to date this year at the COPA)

    Fun times….
    Mike in Detroit..

  14. zackhample

    Hilarious about your dad complaining. Not sure how those other people got in early. Maybe they just did the same thing at other entrances?

    Thanks for feeling my pain about Dodger Stadium, and congrats on catching a homer on a fly on the beach. That’s gotta be rare.

    Thanks. I had no problem getting in early on Monday. My friend Brandon just dropped me off, and I walked right in past the tollbooths, and no one said anything. I’m still confused about how the pavilion works, in terms of security. That whole stadium is maddening.

    That’s horrible.

    I’ve had two tickets to the same game before. Remember my recent “Watch With Zack” game at Yankee Stadium?

    No Hiram for me. I’m really hoping MLB moves a few more games there so I can experience it (and of course add it to my list).

    Well said. I love it.

    Thanks so much.

    This comment of yours was so good that I had a friend telling me about it over the phone before I had a chance to make it home and read it for myself. You’re the best.

    You should definitely try to make it to some other ballparks.

    That’s a lot of games for one stadium. No wonder everyone knows you.

  15. Nicholas Badders

    Wow… I was browsing through the lists on your website and came across this game. I would like to point 1 thing out. That shirtless man is Heath Bell if I am not mistaken.

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