9/25/08 at Shea Stadium

The game was thrilling; the snagging was not.

I arrived at Shea at 4:43pm–three minutes after the stadium opened–and bought a $10 ticket and raced inside to the left field foul line.

I managed to get ONE ball during the entire Mets’ portion of batting practice, and it was thrown by Nick Evans from more than 100 feet away:


Earlier this season, I’d gotten Evans to throw me a ball by announcing that I was “going deep” and then bolting up the steps. I didn’t think it’d work a second time, but I tried it anyway, and to my surprise he threw the ball in my direction. The first time he did this, he’d waited for me to reach the cross-aisle and then made a perfect throw that hit me on the run. This time, however, he launched the ball 10 feet over my head before I’d made it up half a dozen rows. Luckily, there were only a handful of fans scattered along the front row and none of them bothered to run for the ball after it landed. The ball was commemorative, and the logo was so scuffed and worn that I couldn’t read any of it:


If this had been my first Mets commemorative ball, I would’ve been pissed, but I’ve gotten enough that I actually thought this one was kinda cool.

At around 5:25pm, I exited the stadium and headed to the bleacher entrance and was lucky enough to run into my friend Gail (aka “Clif’s mom”) who introduced me to a woman who happened to have an extra ticket. This other woman wouldn’t let me pay her for it. She gave it to me for free, and in exchange I had to catch a ball for her.

I didn’t give her the next ball I snagged because it was commemorative AND brand new. For some reason, the Cubs were using it, and I got Michael Wuertz to toss it to me. Check it out:


The bleachers were still gloriously empty five minutes later…


…and they remained fairly empty throughout BP.

With powerful righties like Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Mark DeRosa all taking cuts, you’d think that I would’ve snagged about 40 balls. But no. I only got ONE more ball–a regular ball–and it was tossed to me by Jeff Samardzija. I know he’s supposed to be the future stud of the world, but still…what a disappointment. I can’t explain it. Batting practice was just dead.

I gave the regular ball to the lady who’d given me the ticket and then (since the bleachers are general admission) claimed a spot in the front row out in left-center.

This was the view to my left in the top of the first inning…


…and this was the view straight ahead about an hour later:


Yeah…it rained.

A lot.

And I sat through it with Gail and Clif because a) I really wanted to catch a home run and b) the game was THAT important/good.

Unfortunately, the only two home runs were hit by Micah Hoffpauir, who bats left-handed and pulled them both to right field. These two home runs (which were part of his 5-for-5 performance) happened to be his first longballs in the major leagues, and thanks to Shea Stadium’s lack of outfield seating, I wasn’t able to get near either one.

Enough about me. Let’s talk about the game…

The Mets basically HAD to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they DID win after coming back from a three-run, seventh-inning deficit. Pedro Martinez pitched for the last time at Shea and struck out a season-high nine batters. Jose Reyes scored a pair of runs and stole three bases. And then there was that game-tying, Houdini-like slide by Ryan Church with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. I didn’t get a great view of it from my spot nearly 400 feet from the plate. All I could tell was that the ball beat him by like 10 feet and yet he somehow managed to elude the catcher and reach back with his hand…and that the ump called him safe. It was unreal.

There weren’t many fans left at that point…


…but that just made the whole thing more special. It was OUR little private game. OUR Amazin’ Mets. OUR soggy/dumpy stadium. OUR walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.

Final score: Mets 7, Cubs 6.

(Hooray for meaningful baseball games in late-September.)


? 3 balls at this game

? 531 balls in 70 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

? 566 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

? 3,808 total balls


  1. padreleigh

    Hey Zack…

    Got two balls tonight. Numbers 103 and 104 on the year. Caught a bp homer from Matt Antonelli. The second ball was interesting. Ronny Paulino on the Pirates hit one deep to my left in LF. I ran after it buy it hit a seat first and fell to the ground. I reached down and had my hand on it and some bozo actually stomps his foot on my hand really hard. I was not amused and told him as much. I hate amateurs. Don’t come to bp without a glove and don’t hurt people by being out of control. Geeze. Anyway, I got the ball and it was brand new. I’m going to try and get my Adrian Gonzalez home run ball signed tomorrow on the last day. I’ll let you know how that goes. I saw Rob again and he had 4 balls the last time I saw him. Have a good one.


  2. scoeaj25

    Hey whats going on Leigh I ended up with 3 on the night. And my sis ended up with 4 she got me by 1. I got Adrian to toss me up a 3rd out ball at the dugout, felt bad it was packed with kids but he still tossed it right to me. And then at the end of the night I got another ball from the Ump walking back into the clubhouse. My Sis ended up with another ball from Denny Bautista in the bullpen during the 6th inning. I am beat right now. But I am not sure if I am going to stay tomorrow for the whole game. But now I keep thinking about it. I think I have too, I mean its the last game of the season. I will give you a call tomorrow and let you know. Have a good one and if I don’t see you tomorrow good luck on the autograph and the snagging.

    This is Rob from out here at PETCO. I was talking to Heath Bell for a good 10 minutes today during the Pads bp session. And he was asking me for your phone number. And I of course didn’t have it. And I completely forgot about asking Leigh for your number, to give to him. I told Heath I will try and get it tonight and or tomorrow morning and give it to him. And I am going to meet him at 11am. But wow Heath is an awesome guy and such a class act. And he hooked my Sis up with a nice looking ball. If its cool Zack email me your number if you get this so I can get it to Heath tomorrow or email me letting me know if it is ok to give your number to him and/or get it your number from Leigh. Heath said he has your email but he rather call you. My email is juveasts@hotmail.com I am going to send you an email also about this. Talk to you later Zack good luck with the snagging for the rest of the year.


  3. mikeeff

    glad you were there-what an amazing game and the best slide i ( in my limited experience) have ever seen. that slide basically saved their season.

  4. zackhample

    I’m about to leave for Shea for what hopefully WON’T be the last game. Hoping to make it into the picnic area. Still working one final angle to get in. Wish me luck and look for me if there are any home runs that land in the bleachers…

  5. mlbwhiz

    DOES anyone know how to upload a profile pic?

    Check Out my Blog and Comment!

  6. braves04

    That first commemorative looks just like the one I got in Atlanta. Obviously, I’d have liked a newer one, but happy nonetheless to get one. With all the rain predicted, how did it hold off long enough for the teams to get BP in?
    In July, we had a 17 inning game vs. Houston that was preceded by 2 hours of rain. It was a 1pm game that ended at 8:45pm. I love those small crowds when it feels like the minors.

  7. districtboy

    Well, I went to Camden Yards on Saturday. BP was rained out, so I only managed two balls. The highlight of the day was when Jim Duquette (who I destroyed in my blog), gave me the peace sign.

    Greg –I had a fun time last night, even though I only got like one sixth of what I paid for (no BP, and seven innings of baseball).

    mlbwhiz — To upload a user pic, go to “Preferences”, and then “Edit Profile”. The spot is right below “Interests”.


  8. gregb123

    Camden Yards was fun last night, even though BP was rained out. I snagged six balls anyway, including my 300th of the season.

    Aaron — Yeah, good hanging out with you. See you next year, I guess.

  9. braves04

    Oh my, I turned to the Brewers for just a few minutes and then they showed the highlight of the homer. Way to go Zack!

  10. baseballexperiences

    Thats amazing. More interviews 2 come and that might be the last ever homerun ever hit at shea. Ridiculus!- Joe

  11. gregb123

    AWESOME!! How the hell did you come down with that ball!?!? There were like ten other people with gloves jumping for it! WOW! Let’s hope nobody else hits a home run today!

  12. baseballexperiences

    Also at the beginning of the game i told my dad that if a homer was hit into the main part of the bleachers, 50% chance you’d get it. Look what happened. Congrats again, Joe

  13. aherr44

    Congrats Zack!! I had to rewind my dvr and watch Beltran’s Homer a few times to see if that was you! When I saw the “dance” it confirmed my suspicions!! How in the world did you catch that!!!

  14. aherr44

    Well looks like you got the second to last homer at shea. Bummer for you! Well if this holds true you got the last met homer!! I saw you running for the homer!

  15. puckcollector@optonline.net

    OMG 2 years in a row the mets blow it. what i dont get is that minaya was signed to a 4 year extension. what an end to the ballparks in NY. and while i hate the mets i also hate seligs brewers so idk what to think know.

  16. metmainman

    Zack you’re amazing. Even on days like today you find ways to make things awesome. Congrats on your third home run ball in the week.

  17. mlbwhiz

    Way to go zack. I had to do a double take. I can’t believe you got Yankee and Shea homer runs



  18. vegantemp@hotmail.com


    *3* home run balls??!!! Wow. You are very talented, Z. But…more than that, you are a good guy. A really good guy. I saw firsthand how rude/obnoxious/evil those Yankee fans were you last week(clearly jealous of your skills on the dance floor), and yet you remained joyful and friendly through it all and never retaliated. Amazing. Keep up the good work in baseball and in life.

    You’re my hero. : )

  19. zackhample

    I just got back from the LAST game ever at Shea Stadium. Not a good day for the Mets, but what a day for me. Wow. Did anyone happen to tape the game? If so, is there any way you could make a clip of my catch (and any replays that were showed) and email it to me? It looks like SNY will be airing a “fast-forward” (condensed) version of the game starting at midnight. Could anyone tape that for me? I’m not able to tape stuff, unfortunately.

  20. li7039@yahoo.com

    Zack, I may have the game taped. Ill ask my parents if they did and if they did ill do my best on trying to get you the clip.

  21. li7039@yahoo.com

    zack also if i do have it, its on VHS and i would have to record it with another cam than send it to you. Let me know if you need it.

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