2008 World Series — Game 4

This was my fourth World Series game ever and only the second at which I was actually going to be inside the stadium. (I spent Games 1 and 2 of last year’s World Series behind the Green Monster.)

I wouldn’t have gotten to attend this game if not for my friends Clif and Gail. Gail has a friend at ESPN. The friend was able to get tickets. Gail had a couple extras and invited me and my girlfriend Jona to come along.

Here we are heading down to Philadelphia on the New Jersey Turnpike:

tickets_driving.jpg

The parking situation was a nightmare. There were about a million fans (including tailgaters) at Lincoln Financial Field right next door for the Eagles game, and that evening there was going to be a concert by The Who at the neighboring Wachovia Center. Somehow we managed to find a spot amidst the sea of RVs, and as we headed over to McFadden’s for a pre-BP meal, I made everyone wait while I recreated a photo of myself that was taken 15 years earlier. Check it out below. The photo on the left was taken outside Veterans Stadium before Game 5 of the ’93 Series, and the photo on the right was taken yesterday:

zack_world_series_photos.jpg

There was quite a line for tickets:

people_looking_for_tickets1.jpg

Other people had their own methods:

people_looking_for_tickets2.jpg

I can only describe the scene surrounding the stadium as one of general hoopla:

general_hoopla1.jpg

I’d been to this stadium 18 times before for regular season games; it was strange (and more stressful than exciting) to be there for all this madness. There was even a mechanical bull in  the middle of a big inflatable ring:

general_hoopla2.jpg

I’ll admit that I was part of the madness. Not only did I bring my Big Glove, but I had a big ball to go with it:

zack_big_glove_outside_10_26_08.jpg

Here are the four of us…Jona, me (wearing a ’93 World Series cap), Clif (wearing an Eagles jersey), and Gail:

jona_zack_clif_gail.jpg

Clif and I wandered around with the Big Glove, and I made sure he was the one carrying it so he’d be the center of attention. It worked. Not only did a dozen people approach us and ask to take photos with him, but he was interviewed by a TV crew from Florida. I should’ve taken a photo of Clif with the microphone in his face, but I spaced out. This was my first game in more than four weeks, and there were other moments when I just wasn’t on MY game.

The stadium opened at 5:30pm (roughly three hours before game time), and we received a few giveaways as we headed inside. The first was toilet paper (aka a Phillies “rally towel”)…

rally_towel1.jpg

…and even THAT had an authentication sticker:

rally_towel2_authentication_sticker.jpg

(The sticker on my Beltran ball is cooler.) The second item was a coin commemorating the Hank Aaron Award, and it came in a nifty little decorative cardboard case (which also had a sticker):

giveaway1a.jpg

Here’s a look at both sides of the coin:

game_4_coin.jpg

As for BP…

Since every section was going to be open at the start of the day (to accommodate the huge crowd), I raced out to the seats in right-center and had the whole place to myself for the first minute.

Well, almost all to myself.

As I was racing to pick up a home run ball that landed in the empty seats, an usher came charging down the steps and slammed into me and started scrambling for it.

“What the HELL are you doing?!” I shouted.

“The same thing as YOU!” he snapped. “Trying to get a ball.”

“Yeah but you WORK here!”

“They haven’t even opened UP yet!” he said. “You’re not supposed to be here!”

“Um, actually the stadium HAS opened,” I said, and the usher was like, “Uhhh…sorry.”

Unbelievable.

Anyway, I got that ball (along with a nice bruise on my left biceps) and snagged another homer that landed in the seats two minutes later. Neither of these balls had the World Series logo on them. No surprise there. They were just regular balls.

The seats in right-center stayed pretty empty for the first 10 minutes or so…

zack_BP1_10_26_08.jpg

…but nothing else was hit within my reach. I could have easily gotten Scott Eyre to toss me a ball, but instead of asking for it, I asked if he might be able to toss me one with a World Series logo instead. He said he hadn’t seen any, and that they weren’t being used in BP, and that he hadn’t even seen those balls in the bullpen.

Clif (aka “goislanders4” if you read the comments on this blog) started off in the corner spot in left-center:

clif_during_BP1_game_4.jpg

Here’s a closer look at him:

clif_during_BP2_game_4.jpg

He didn’t get anything there, but he didn’t go home empty-handed. I’ll let him be the one to tell you about it.

I’d made/brought a sign to help me get balls, and Jona took a pic of me waving it around in the front row:

zack_BP2_10_26_08.jpg

It didn’t work. Here’s what it said:

zack_BP3_10_26_08.jpg

When the Rays pitchers came out and started playing catch along the left field foul line, I changed into my Rays gear and positioned myself near Dan Wheeler, who was all the way out near the outfield wall. I didn’t shout his name. I didn’t wave my arms. I just stood there, and within FIVE seconds, he looked up (on his own) and spotted me in the crowd.

“ZACK!!!” he shouted. “I’ve been meaning to talk to you!”

“What’s up!” I shouted back.

dan_wheeler_2008.jpg

“Was that you who caught the two home runs at Yankee Stadium and–”

“–and did that stupid dance?”

“Yeah!”

“Yeah, that was me!” I yelled, “and I also caught the last Mets homer at Shea!”

“Unbelievable!” he said as he continued throwing.

“Dan!” I shouted a few moments later, and when he looked up, I told him I was dying to get a World Series ball and asked if he could help. He pretty much said the same thing as Eyre. I asked if I could meet him out by the bullpen or at the dugout after the game, and he said he didn’t think he’d be able to get one. “Well then, how am *I* supposed to get one?” I asked.

“Catch a B.J. Upton homer during the game,” he said.

“Yeah, that’d be nice,” I replied, and that was pretty much the end of our conversation.

(I should probably point out, for those who might be new to this blog, that I got to know Wheeler back in the days when he pitched for the Mets, and he’s remembered me ever since; last year, when I saw him at Camden Yards, he asked for a signed copy of my book.)

I started working my way down the foul line (can you spot me in the pic below?)…

zack_BP4_10_26_08.jpg

…and set up my operation behind the Rays’ dugout:

zack_BP5_10_26_08.jpg

I stayed there for the entire portion of the Rays’ batting practice. I knew I was missing opportunities to catch (or at least chase) home run balls in the outfield, but I figured my best chance of getting a World Series ball was to get someone’s attention–Joe Maddon, perhaps?–and work the personal touch. It didn’t happen. I got acknowledged by plenty of people, but NO ONE had a World Series ball or even knew where to find one.

I did, however, get a regular ball (not sure who tossed it…might’ve been Fernando Perez) and got filmed/photographed/interviewed by at least 20 different members of the media who were milling about on the warning track. In the photo above, in case you missed it, there’s a guy pointing a camera at me. Apparently there was a brief shot of me that was used during the FOX pre-game show, and I also got a couple mentions online. The following photo appeared on a blog on the St. Petersburg Times web site

zack_tampa_bay_blog.jpg

…(did you notice Jona in that pic?) and the following text appeared in this article in the Times itself:

zack_st_petersberg_times.jpg

So it wasn’t a complete loss.

Here’s some general weirdness…

world_series_weirdness.jpg

…and here’s what the pre-game festivities looked like from my spot behind the Phillies’ dugout:

pregame_hoopla.jpg

NOTE: I said “spot” and not “seat” for a reason. My actual seat was in the upper deck on the third base side. I never went up there. Gail and Jona did (and I believe Clif even went up there too for a bit), and this was their view during the game:

view_from_426.jpg

Not bad, I suppose, but MY view was better:

view_behind_dugout_game_4.jpg

That was only my view for about two minutes. It was incredibly easy to get down into the seats behind the dugouts. The only problem was that there weren’t any EMPTY seats, so I was constantly jockeying for position and trying to avoid getting caught. I had to crouch on the steps a couple times while I waited for the third outs to be recorded. And I was only down in the seats when there were two outs. The rest of the time? I was hiding in the field level concourse, trying not to go crazy from having a view like this:

view_during_game_4.jpg

Yup, that’s how I watched most of Game 4 of the World Series. Sad but true. Sometimes I climbed up and tried to look over everyone’s heads…

zack_trying_to_see.jpg

…but it never ceased to be annoying. Anyway, if I was willing to spend an entire World Series game (two games, in fact) last year outside the stadium without seeing a single pitch, you can be sure I was willing to do it here in Philly for the chance to remain on the field level and get a game-used ball with the Series logo.

Sadly, though, I kept getting blocked/dissed. The competition on the Phillies’ side was in-SANE. At one point, as I was reaching high up and leaning to my backhand side to catch a third-out ball tossed by Ryan Howard, someone grabbed my arm and yanked it down, causing me to fall over onto the people sitting next to me. (Maybe THAT’S when I bruised my arm.) I can’t even begin to describe how pissed off I was. The fact is, I would have caught that ball if I weren’t…violated. Yes, that’s the word.

The competition behind the home-plate end of the Rays’ dugout was nonexistent. There were a few times when I was the ONLY fan standing and shouting for the ball as Carlos Pena jogged in with it, and he ignored me each of those times and kept the ball for himself as he disappeared from sight. It was depressing.

One good thing that happened is that I found a couple of ticket stubs, including one in section 117 which was exactly where I needed to be for third-out balls on the Phillies’ side…

tickets_i_found_game_4.jpg

…but it didn’t make a difference. No luck. No love.

I was obviously rooting for the Phillies to lose, and yet if I were given the choice between a) the Rays winning by a small margin or b) the Phillies winning a laugher, I probably would’ve picked the latter. Even at the World Series, I’ve learned, fans WILL leave early, and I was in desperate need of empty seats.

Well, I got my seats in the bottom of the 8th when the Phillies scored four runs to open up a 10-2 lead. It wasn’t the way I envisioned it, but it gave me all the space I needed to maneuver down to the front row behind the Rays’ dugout to try to get a ball from home plate umpire Tom Hallion after the final out. Unfortunately, Hallion ignored me on his way in, and just like that…POOF!!!…my night ended without a World Series ball. On a lifetime list of disappointing moments at baseball games, that one ranks just behind my near miss of Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th career home run. And then, to make matters worse, I ran into a kid who’d been competing with me for third-out balls all night…and he’d gotten one…THE final third-out ball…the ball that J.C. Romero used to strike out Rocco Baldelli to end the game. Carlos Ruiz had tossed it to him on the Phillies’ side. He was thoroughly excited, as he should’ve been, but I just wasn’t feeling it.

“I learned from the best,” he said, referring to me (and my blog), which was nice, but I was feeling so defeated at that point that I could only offer a weak “congrats.” I just wanted to go home. I wanted the season to end. A couple minutes earlier, I’d gotten my fourth ball of the day from Rays bullpen coach Bobby Ramos, but so what? It was another regular ball. All four of my balls at this game were regular. How sad…

four_balls_game_4.jpg

What a lousy way for a magical season to end.

STATS:

• 4 balls at this game

• 543 balls in 73 games this season = 7.4 balls per game.

• 569 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 4 consecutive World Series games with at least one ball

• 3,820 total balls

0 comments

  1. Kaybee

    Wow, that’s pretty sad. Yeah, I don’t know what to say about a game like that. I mean, it sounds like a really depressing night. But you did have an incredible season. Everyone will remember the catches, not this game.
    Kaybee-http://kaybee.mlblogs.com

  2. muddly17

    Zack, Great season. Can’t wait till next year. I like the last tag about you being whiny ;) . Keep your head up. There are plenty more games for you in the future.

  3. baseballexperiences

    4 baseballs for a world series game, that’s still great.[it ties my 1 day record] you also got to go to the only citizens bank park world series that didn’t have a rain delay. Great season- Joe

  4. snagfan

    Zack,

    Sorry about your luck at the WS game. You had a very memorable reg season thogh. (I know that is not any consolation when one does not achieve ones goal of a GU WS ball). I know the feeling. I had that same feeling when I did not even get a chance at catching Sheffield’s # 500 ball this year. Oh well, maybe next year.
    Keep the fine blogs coming. Looking forward to 2009.

    Mike in Detroit……

  5. .

    Zack –

    Most men have two balls but you my friend with have over 4000 balls next season. lucky hahaha. citi field next year brotha.

    – Donnie

  6. districtboy

    Wow, that’s pretty sad. I’m NOT trying to cheer you up. However, it just reminds me that I once got just four balls on a WEDNESDAY NIGHT game versus the D-Backs at NATIONALS PARK. So, um…..yeah. Now I’m sad. Hopefully the postseason will be coming to Washington soon. ;)

    Aaron
    http://districtboy.mlblogs.com/

  7. padreleigh

    Zack…

    Congrats on a great season overall. Congrats to all the snaggers as a matter of fact. Let’s all have an even BETTER 2009.

    Leigh

  8. happyyoungster

    Sounds like you need a hug, Zack.
    Okay, on a serious note…WS logo or no WS logo, you are still our MVB (MostValuableBallhawk).

    Okay, seriously serious this time…congrats to you my friend, on a great ’08 season. Here’s to even better success in ’09. That goes out to everyone that reads this blog.

    http://thehappyyoungster.mlblogs.com/

  9. tracycollinsbecky@yahoo.com

    you could have written in spanish and japanese on the flip side CAN I HAVE A WS BALL .stay focused .Buy a WS ball for less than 20$at mlb.com.Jona needs to wear skimpy clothes and get a ball.Her sign could say-Will leave my boyfriend for a WS ball.I think i saw you running down stairs in a white shirt for 3rd out balls. Padreleigh Go Tampa -have a tampa too

  10. Alex

    Tracycollingsbecky it wasn’t him. I was the kid competeting with him that he mentioned. I was going with him from dugout to dugout looking for a W.S. ball, my name is Alex. He was wearing black. But Zack, you gotta cheer up. Most people don’t get 543 baseballs in their LIVES. And you also went to 73 games, 8 less than 1 home schedule for a team, how lucky. Just to be at the world series is a thrill, you witnessed about the 2 W.S. game ever in Citizens Bank Park. Think about how great the entire year was, not one game.

    Alex

  11. txfilmmkr

    Chin up, buttercup. There’s always next year, right? Opening day 2009 is only a short 5 months away!

    -Donny

  12. jacoby1993

    Zack,

    First of all, i wanted to say, congrats on your WS game, it may not have been the best game you attended, snagging-wise, but you kept your baseball streak alive, and that’s good.

    The second thing i wanted to make point of was your 2 pictures comparision of you holding a ticket back in 1994 (?) and the 2008 picture, you actually look younger in the 2008 picture then the 1994 picture…maybe it was the weather in 1994, (cloudy) that made you look older.

    Anywho, really, baseball will start up in 5 short months, like Donny said, it’s not that long, work, sleep, party, travel, and before you know it…it’s back….and the snagging comes back.

    Haha, wow, i made a long comment, but that’s okay :)

    GIN

    (Virginia)

  13. pabravesgirl

    A few notes.

    That “I need tickets” guy is there practically every single game I goto and always in that exact spot.

    Shame you got ANOTHER rally towel. I sold all 4 of mine for $65. Not bad.

    That picture you have up with Rocco Baldelli on deck,(Where you said “Not bad but I suppose my view was better”) would you mind terribly if I saved that picture? I send pictures and such to spring training sites for autographs and I never got to see him play before. A buddy of mine went to high school with him in Rhode Island and Ive been following him since he was in AAA. :] Just let me know. I know I like people to ask before they just take my pictures and claim they took them haha. Thanks!

    PS….SELL THE TOWEL ON EBAY! ;) Make some extra cash haha.

  14. mjblue23@insightbb.com

    At least you were at a World Series game and got a ball. I don’t even have 4 baseballs lifetime, haha.

  15. mjblue23@insightbb.com

    At least you got to go to the World Series and get a ball, I don’t even have 4 baseballs lifetime, haha.

  16. meikd423

    a fun night. a very fun night, although because of that night, i will most likely NEVER go back to philadelphia ever again. it was disgusting, beer cans everywhere. mountains and mountains of empty beer cans.

    and the only two balls that i got were from matt garza in center field and evan longoria pregame at the dugout.

  17. bpallstar

    So Zack,

    I’m sure you’ve gotten my email by now…And I was serious about my Game 6 offer, and really wished it had worked out.

    But since my (and everyone’s) season is now over, now is as good as a time as any to tell you my Game 2 story.

    I seriously lucked into INCREDIBLE seats. Granted, I normally sit in the front row of left field for every game, but these seats were absolutely amazing. Because I am a Rays full season ticket holder (yes, we exist), I won the ticket lottery and was able to get amazing seats by logging onto Ticketmaster at precisely the right time.

    Our (extra) seats were in section 128, row A2, directly behind the Rays bullpen. And by directly, I mean that the only thing between myself and the Rays bullpen was the wall. These seats are normally reserved for military personnel, and are typically not available to the general public. Needless to say, I sold my normal tickets and took these instead.

    So I wish I could give you a long recap of all the balls I snagged. Truth be told, aside from the chance to cheer on my home team, I was there for one reason: to walk home with a gold ball. Because of this I restrained myself from asking for any autographs or baseballs, despite the fact that Balfour, Price, Howell, Jackson, and Wheeler signed right in front of me. Instead, I informed the ball boy and Edwin Jackson of exactly what I wanted, and begged for a gold ball if one were to come my way. In some ways, not having a streak to keep gives me a few advantages in situations such as these…i.e. it really wouldn’t have meant much if I’d gone home empty-handed, and I was able to focus solely on the prize at hand.

    Strangely enough, only one ball was hit down the right field line to the ball-boy all game (I’m pretty sure it was Jimmy Rollins in the 7th). When it was hit I begged the ballboy for the ball, but he informed me that MLB wanted to keep all of the game used balls and I would need to snag one myself, as he dropped the ball back into the bag with all of the normal baseballs.

    Come the top of the 9th (with one out), I saw Shawn Riggans sit in front of me, grab the ball out of the bag, and start rubbing it as though it were a BP ball . Immediately, I begged my wife to ask for it, as I knew her chances were greater than myself. After a little hesitation, she asked, and he handed it to her like it was nothing (women and children have advantages that the rest of us don’t enjoy). 2 outs later David Price sealed the deal, and I walked away with one gold baseball, and a Rays win.

    It was my 84th, and sadly final, Rays game of the year. And I walked away with the keeper, and piece of history, that I’d always wanted.

    BTW Zack, my offer stands. We have a guest bedroom, and are always game to entertain company whether in Spring Training or the Game 6 that never was. Shoot me a line if you ever want to see the American League Champion Rays in action.

    -Andy

  18. zackhample

    KAYBEE-
    I hope that’s what people will remember. (I hope that’s what *I* remember.)

    TMUDDLY_17-
    Heh, thanks for noticing.

    JOE-
    Thanks for helping me see the bright side.

    PUCK COLLECTOR-
    Thanks for feeling my pain.

    MIKE IN DETROIT-
    Next year indeed. Sorry about Shef.

    DONNIE-
    Certain ball jokes never get old. :-)

    AARON-
    Thanks for making me laugh about it. Four balls at Nats Park? Yeesh.

    LEIGH-
    Thanks, dude.

    HAPPY YOUNGSTER-
    Much appreciated. Hug accepted.

    TRACYCOLLINSBECKY-
    Jona just said, “In order to get YOU baseballs, I’m gonna wh*re myself out? Not gonna happen.” (I just think she oughta wear skimpier clothes in general, whether or not there are baseballs involved.)

    ALEX-
    Very nice to hear from you on the blog. Thanks for getting into the comment action, and thanks for your thoughtful words.

    DONNY-
    I need more than a five-month break. I am worn OUT.

    GIN-
    Yes, true, I’m glad the streak didn’t die. Thanks for the “younger” comment. That’s nice to hear.

    THE BRAVES GIRL-
    Rally-schmally. I’m just gonna give that towel to my Philly Fan Friend who drove me back to NYC after Game 4. Feel free to grab that Rocco photo and do whatever you want with it. Thanks for asking, though.

    MJBLUE23-
    Yes, at least I was there and got one. True.

    CALILION-
    Not sure if “funny” is the word, but yeah…

    GOISLANDERS-
    So wait, did you get the Garza ball in that corner spot where you started out?

    ANDY-
    I got the email, and I can’t thank you enough. My God. That is soooo generous of you, and I’m really bummed (on many levels) about the Phillies’ victory. I would definitely like to see some baseball in St. Pete in the near-ish future (when’s the new ballpark opening?) and I’m already thinking of hitting up Spring Training in ’09, so I hope I get to take you up on the offer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s