9/8/08 at Citizens Bank Park

I knew this was going to be a good day. Not only had accuweather.com reported that there was a ZERO percent chance of rain, but 15 minutes before the stadium was set to open, this was the crowd waiting to enter:

waiting_to_enter_09_08_08.jpg.jpg

I’d never seen so few people waiting outside Citizens Bank Park, and even though there were dozens of fans lined up behind me by the time the stadium did open, batting practice was still emptier than usual.

Throughout this season, the Phillies have been starting BP several minutes after the gates open. It’s awful. I’ve always been the first fan to run inside, and every time I’ve reached the seats, there’s never been any action on the field. Well…on this fine day, perhaps because of all the September call-ups who needed to take their cuts, BP was already underway when I ran in, and the batter immediately launched a ball over my head into the seats. There was one other man already sitting in the middle of the section–a very old man who clearly worked at the stadium–and after I found the ball, Shane Victorino started yelling at me and insisting that I give it to him.

“I give balls to KIDS!!!” I shouted at him, to which he yelled, “Suuuure!!!”

Of course Shane Victorino would know whether or not I give balls away because, after all, he spends every second of every game following me around the stadium. What a punk. Maybe if he focused more on the field instead of the stands, he wouldn’t be playing for a second-place team.

nationals_ball1_09_08_08.jpg.jpgThirty seconds after I snagged that first ball, another home run flew over my head, landed several rows behind me, popped up into the air, and bounced back over me toward the empty-ish seats below. It was like an instant-replay of that ball on 8/30/08 at Angel Stadium that led to my rib injury. This time, however, I couldn’t make an attempt to catch it. It still hurt when I ran, hurt when I reached, and would’ve killed if I’d jumped, so I stood there and watched helplessly as the ball plunked down two rows away. Amazingly, the few fans IN that row took their time getting there, so I carefully climbed over the first row and reached under the second and grabbed the ball (pictured on the right) with half a second to spare.

Then things went dead.

There was an entire 15-minute round of BP with left-handed hitters–Jimmy Rollins, Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard–who didn’t hit a single ball into the left or center field seats. (Remember that at Citizens Bank Park, you’re trapped in left and center for the first hour.) I’d gotten off to such a good start, and now it was being wasted on a day when the seats were still deliciously empty:

empty_row_09_08_08.jpg.jpg

Halfway through the Phillies’ portion of BP (with Victorino still jawing at me), I drifted 20 feet to my right and caught a Jayson Werth home run on a fly. Then things slowed way down once again. I wanted to have a big day, but I wasn’t snagging balls in bunches. I did get lucky, though, right before the Phillies left the field. First I caught another home run on which nationals_ball2_09_08_08.jpg.jpg
the fans in front of me ducked, and then I caught a ball thrown by Kyle Kendrick that I totally didn’t deserve. He was aiming for a kid in the front row, but he didn’t put enough muscle into it. The ball fell a few feet short, landed ON the railing in front of the flower bed, bounced directly over the kid’s head, and sailed into my glove. I immediately walked down the steps and offered him the ball, but he wouldn’t take it. A woman sitting nearby asked me why. I explained that the kid preferred to try to catch a ball on his own rather than have one handed to him by someone else. She didn’t get it. Anyway, it’s a good thing (for me) that the kid didn’t want that ball because it was commemorative.

When the Marlins took the field and Logan Kensing started playing catch near the foul pole, he had a few extra balls with him and after a few minutes I got him to toss one to me. Five minutes later, I moved about 50 feet closer to home plate and got Andrew Miller to throw me another–my seventh ball of the day–when he finished warming up.

Normally, when the rest of the stadium opens, I head out to right field but because the Marlins had so many right-handed hitters, I decided to stay in left.

My eighth ball was a home run that landed near me, hit an empty seat, and bounced straight up in the air as fans converged from all sides. It seemed like they were all waiting for it to drop back down before they made their move. I, however, lunged and snatched it with my bare hand while it was still on the way up.

“Nice grab!” shouted a guy who apparently didn’t mind that he’d just been outsnagged.

A little while later, Paul Lo Duca threw a ball *AT* a fan who was taking his heckling a few steps too far. Lo Duca didn’t throw it THAT hard, however, and I don’t think he really meant to hit the guy because the ball smacked a seat five feet away from him and happened to roll right to me through a row of mostly empty seats. As soon as I picked it up, I handed it to the nearest kid and quickly got a chance to reach double digits. There was a deep fly ball hit in my direction which I happened to judge perfectly. (It doesn’t always work out that way.) I put my head down, ran up a few steps, looked back up and spotted the ball and then darted five feet to my right. As I reached out and made the one-handed catch, I got clothes-lined by a fan in the row behind me. I wasn’t mad because I realized it was an accident. He had a glove too and I assumed he’d just been reaching for the ball, albeit recklessly.

A bit earlier, someone had successfully reached in front of ME for a ball. It happens. It’s a competition. You win some. You lose some. And usually people are good-natured about it.

tpx_imprint_09_08_08.jpg.jpgToward the end of BP, I happened to reach in front of a guy’s face to catch yet another home run ball on a fly (pictured on the right with a faint “TPX” imprint), and guess what? He was thrilled. Why? Because he hadn’t seen the ball coming. He actually thanked me for saving his life. Unfortunately, several men sitting behind us didn’t see it that way. First they accused me of stealing the ball from him, and then one of them started cursing at me for having changed into Marlins gear. I tried to explain that he had misinterpreted the situation, and that’s when things got really nasty. The guy who’d been cursing then threatened me (“Don’t make me come over there,” etc.) and ended up reporting me to security, claiming that I had crashed into another fan and stolen a ball. I didn’t know this until a guard came over and told me that a “formal complaint” had been filed against me. He then asked to see my ticket, and he pretty much demanded that I apologize to everyone involved. Needless to say, my ticket never left my backpack and the word “sorry” never left my mouth. But do you know what DID happen? While all of this garbage was taking place, I snagged ANOTHER home run ball!!! Oh my God, it was beautiful. It landed several rows behind me and took a perfect bounce in my direction. So easy. It was my 12th ball of the day, and the rude fan was NOT happy after that (even though, as far as he knew, I only had two or three balls). He actually had the nerve to follow me out of the section as I made my way toward the dugout. Gimme a break.
 
With all due respect to the many people in Philadelphia who I’m sure are wonderful human beings, I have to say (and not just because of this incident) that Phillies fans are the second worst in baseball–a very distant second behind Yankees fans and only slightly worse than Dodgers fans.

Hanley Ramirez tossed me my 13th ball of the day at the 3rd base dugout after finishing his pre-game throwing.

Ryan Howard threw me my 14th ball as he jogged off the field in the middle of the fourth inning. I was sitting behind the Phillies’ dugout, solely for the purpose of snagging a third-out ball, and Mark Hendrickson helped my cause by making contact on a 1-2 pitch from Joe Blanton and grounding out to Chase Utley to end the frame. There were a million little kids running down to the front row after every inning, and on this occasion, Howard lobbed the ball right to me over all of their heads, so I didn’t feel guilty. (I do, at times, feel a bit old and out-of-place when playing the dugouts, so when I do it, I take extra care to be respectful to those sitting around me. Ask Shane Victorino.)

Although the Marlins never held the lead and only tied the score once early on, it was still a good game with lots of drama. The Phillies took an 8-6 lead into the top of the ninth, and I headed back to the seats behind their dugout (after having wandered for much of the night). Brad Lidge allowed a double and a single to put runners on the corners with one out, but he then struck out the next two batters–Wes Helms and Jorge Cantu–on six pitches to notch his 35th save.

As soon as the final out was recorded, someone on the Phillies unexpectedly flipped a ball onto the dugout roof from down below. I was already in the front row at that point, so I gloved it before anyone around me even knew what had happened, and then, about 45 seconds later, I got Lidge to toss me the game-ending ball on his way in.

Five hundred?
Here I come…

STATS:

the_15_balls_i_kept_09_08_08.jpg? 16 balls at this game (new personal record at Citizens Bank Park, beating my old record of 14 which I set the day CBS was with me)

? 442 balls in 58 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

? 165 balls in 16 lifetime games at Citizens Bank Park = 10.3 balls per game.

? 554 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 139 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 91 lifetime games with at least 10
balls

? 36 lifetime games outside NYC with at least 10 balls

? 18 double-digit games this year (extends my personal record)

? 3,719 total balls

0 comments

  1. thet206kid

    Nice entry Zack,,
    I cant understand Phillie fans either,, the ones who start fights and curse are the worst,, I feel bad for the good fans cause the bad ones overshadow them and from my own run ins with phillie fans, i have a strong dislike for all of them.
    Tony
    http://thet206kid.mlblogs.com/

  2. joshscards

    wow, i didnt expect that to do that at all….you get the point…its spelled with “ph” instead of a f…

  3. braves04

    Some guy at the Marlins/Phillies just lucked into his 2nd foul ball of the game. No glove, middle of the row, and never spilled the beer.

  4. gjk2212

    ok, so i DID go to shea last night, and it was flat out amazing. it started terribly, since there was a 60 % chance of rain. also, my mom was going/taking me to the game, and she was running a few minutes late. we made great time getting to shea, and i wasnt expecting bp. the skies sort of cleared, and i ran at at 4:48 to see bp!!! balls # 1 and 2 were thrown by bobby parnell and luis ayala respectively, after warming up, and both had shea commemorative logos. i went up to the loge and got duaner sanchez to throw me one from semi short right field by yelling “hey duaner, lets see that arm!” then dave racaniello finished warming up pitchers in the bullpen and threw his 2nd of 2 balls to me. the first one went to ______. at 5:38, i went to the picnic area and the guy said it was opening in 30 seconds. i didnt have a ticket there, but he had checked everyones already (or so he thought). i went in and some guy has snuck in, found a ball, and offered it to me. i said sure, why not, and i count it because some charity isnt bad when fans have obnoxiously robbed me in the past. i went to center field and there was a ball in the gap, covered in dirt and soaking wet. as i got my cup out, a hr ball went sailing way over my head. nobody else was in the section, there were only 10 or so people in the bleachers, and i went and picked it up. then i went back and used the cup to get the ball from the gap, which took awhile because it was wet and wouldnt stick in. it had a commemorative shea logo, too. then i went to the main bleachers and got a ball thrown to me by steven shell. i went over to the left field end and got jesus colome to throw me one, and went back to center and got one from jason bergmann. that put me at 10. then i grabbed 2 moonshots from the bleachers with nobody near me at all. a home run landed in the netting, and i ran down to go for it. a girl already had it, and she climbed through to get a ball from the gap that i had been planning to cup trick easily, but hadnt had time. anyway, i went back up and a homer bounced through the aisle in left center, and i was the first one down to get it. tim redding threw a ball to an annoying kid, and when it cleared their heads and i grabbed it, i gave it to a kid in a david wright shirt who had a glove. i grabbed one more homer out of the bleachers, that actually rolled right to me, and that was it. i was exhausted, sweaty, and i had 6 baseballs in my pockets. 1 in each of the back, and 2 in each of the front, carefully organized so id remember the order. i sat with my mom in a decent foul ball spot during the game, couldnt get to the field level in the 9th (security), and the mets won. i set my all time personal record with 14, it was truly awesome. i didnt expect much last night, and i got alot. final breakdown was 3 shea balls, 3 regular balls, and 8 training balls. of course i had to have a big game with the nats in town. yay. dumb training balls. but im definitely not complaining.

    puck-awesome meeting you, cant wait to hear your stories, and hope to see you again sometime.

  5. deleted

    Hey Zack.

    First off, nice job, as always.

    Today I finally broke my pitiful single game record of 2, with 3.
    Two of THOSE were my first two glove tricks ever. I was really happy that I actually got it to work.

  6. bloggingboutbaseball

    Wow! Closing in on 500! I’m up to 16 this year. Whoopie.
    I got two last night at the Dodgers-Padres game in SD and I ran into Leigh! Hi, Leigh. Cool guy. We talked about this blog a little. And my sister’s boyfriend caught his first ball EVER… a homer on the fly… he’s 28 years old. He was as excited as a ten year-old. Thanks to your tips and tricks. Keep up the good work, Zack.

  7. gregb123

    Aaron — I should be at Camden on Saturday. See you at Gate H (or whatever the hell that CF gate is)?

  8. deleted

    Matt-

    I like your bog. A big reason why is that you are very similar to me. (well in some ways…)

    I also just recently broke my 1 game record of 2. (not with 7 though!!)
    I also have 20-ish baseballs in my life (I’d say 28-30???)
    I’ll check in on your blog every once in a while to read your latest entries.

    I would have posted a comment in your blog, but for some reason it said I wasn’t able…

    Oh well, at least you got the message.

  9. zackhample

    TONY-
    Yup, I agree. A small percentage of fans always ruin it for everyone.

    ACSPORT79-
    Please no.

    GOISLANDERS4-
    If I had a budget for this, I’d hire you as my personal statistician.

    JOSHSCARDS-
    I don’t think I’d actually wear something like that, but it does sound funny.

    YANKEES5221-
    Thanks.

    LSTHRASHER04-
    Hmph.

    GJK2212-
    That is in-SANE!!! Congrats. Oh my God. Wow. (And I’m not even being sarcastic.)

    CUBS BASEBALL-
    Nice.

    AARON-
    Definitely not Chacin. Remember, I don’t count balls from minor leaguers.

    TWINSLOVE-
    Eighty-five, I think. That was in 1993. I’m actually not sure how many I attended in 1992, so it might’ve been more.

    BLOGGINGBOUTBASEBALL-
    Sounds like fun. (Leigh IS a cool guy.) Thanks for the nice mention(s) in your 9/2/08 entry…and as for the glove trick, no, I didn’t get to use it in L.A. or Anaheim.

    MIKE IN DETROIT-
    Yeah, good luck on that…if Sheff even makes it that far.

    CHRISTOPHERWOOD-
    Thanks! I hadn’t heard this news until you posted it here.

  10. bloggingboutbaseball

    Zack-
    You’re very welcome, sir. You’re the reason I got into this!

    Cubsbaseball-
    Thanks for the feedback. Please do keep reading! I don’t know why you couldn’t comment on mine.

    Anyone know if there’s a setting or preference I need to change? I’ve found that sometimes I can’t comment on certain blogs, too.

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