4/25/09 at U.S. Cellular Field

Screwed by the weather!

No batting practice.

Miserable day all around.

Game time temperature: 39 degrees.

Don’t go to Chicago in April.

This is what I saw when I ran into the stadium:


Thankfully (and for some strange reason) there was a ball waiting for me in the right field bullpen:


I might not have noticed this ball if not for my new friend Scott and his friend Chad. (In the photo above, Scott is the guy wearing jeans and a black jacket, and Chad is in a maroon shirt just beyond/above the red tarp.) I was staying back under the overhang of the second deck because it was pouring. These two gentlemen, however, were down in the seats and looking for easter eggs when they discovered the ball in the bullpen. Scott doesn’t have a ball-retrieving device and Chad had left his at home, so they waved me down and let me go for it.

In the following photo (which was taken by Scott), you can see me trying to knock the ball closer:


The bad news is that my string got horribly tangled (I blame the wetness) and I failed to reel in the ball. The good news is that a couple of groundskeepers eventually walked into the bullpen and one of them tossed it to me. Although there’s no official “assist” category for ballhawks, Scott and Chad definitely deserve one. Not only had they pointed out the ball, but they didn’t even ask for it when the groundskeepers made an appearance. So…BIG thanks to them.

The ball was soaked, and it weighed about half a pound. My glove was also soaked. My string was soaked. My backpack was soaked. My feet were clammy. The ink on my rosters had bled all over the place. My whole body was freezing. It was just a day of suck. And to make matters worse, when it stopped raining, the Blue Jays never came out. Normally, when there’s no BP, the teams will still take the field and play catch. But no. Not this time. There was nothing happening on the field. There was no way to snag baseballs…so I wandered and took photos, starting with the open-air concourse in center field:


I headed to the left field corner of the upper deck…


…and then made my way toward home plate:

I’m not sure what to make of the support beams. Are they really necessary? I mean, are the really
holding up the top edge of the upper deck? Or are they just there to make The Cell look charming and old? I’m pretty sure–and correct me if I’m wrong–that when construction began on this stadium in 1989, technology had advanced to the point where view-blocking beams would’ve been unnecessary. This upper deck is rather high and far and steep; if I were trapped in the last few rows and THEN had to sit behind one of those beams, I wouldn’t be happy. But then again, security is so laid-back at this stadium that unless it’s sold out, there’s no reason why anyone would ever have to sit there.

Here’s my panorama attempt from behind the plate:


This is what the upper deck concourse looks like. Pretty nice, pretty standard:


I noticed some lousy stadium design as I cut through the seats toward the right field side. In the following photo, look how far the steps extend toward the front of the upper deck:


What’s the big deal?

Let’s say you’re sitting in the front row and you want to get to the concourse. When you reach the steps, you’d either have to climb over them or scoot carefully between the bottom step and the railing. It took somewhat of an effort for ME to reach the tunnel in an empty stadium, so I can only imagine how tough it would be for old/fat people when it’s packed.

Here’s another oddity. Not a mess-up. Just something cute and quirky. Look at the little segment of railing attached to the side of the beam:


Here’s another panorama:


I wasn’t kidding when I said security is laid-back. I *did* have to pay $34 for a field level ticket in order to get into the field level seats, but once I was in, I was free to go everywhere, including here:


Can someone please tell me why it’s okay for autograph collectors to cluster at the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field, but not at Wrigley Field? Or Citi Field? Or the new Yankee Stadium? I hate that certain teams (read: owners) have the right to enforce all kinds of strict rules. There should be a league-wide policy that gives every fan permission to get as close to the field as they want, in any section, at any time of the day until the game begins. Then, if certain anti-fun owners feel the need to instruct their security guards to check tickets, so be it. I wish I were the commissioner of Major League Baseball and/or an owner. (Evidently you can be both at once.) I’m telling you, the world would be a better place.

Here’s another look from the front row next to the dugout:


Half an hour before game time, two White Sox players started throwing in shallow left field. I figured there’d be a mob of fans trying to get the ball (at least there would’ve been in New York) but the only mob was passing by on the warning track:


The White Sox had invited 2,200 Girl Scouts (and their parents/siblings/etc.) to take a lap around the field. I was concerned that one of the kids might get hit by an errant throw, but the two players–John Danks and Gavin Floyd–were very careful. (One little girl walked right up to Danks with a ball and pen in her hand and was quickly stopped by security.) Meanwhile, I was the only fan in the seats who had a glove, and when the guys finished throwing, Danks had no choice but to toss me the ball.

Then I got Floyd to sign my ticket:


The game was delayed 14 minutes at the start, and it rained on and off throughout the night. (I’m surprised it was rain and not snow.)

I decided to stay behind home plate and go for foul balls. This was my view late in the game:


Why was I there and not in the outfield? Because Jim “Future Hall of Famer” Thome and A.J. “99 Career Homers” Pierzynski weren’t playing. It was so miserable and cold that I decided I deserved the pleasure of sitting close to the action.

Scott and Chad had the same idea. They were sitting one section to my right. There were a few foul balls that came close enough for us to get up and run, but we didn’t snag any of them. I got a third-out ball from Jose Bautista after the second inning, and Chad kept his mini-streak alive by getting a ball from the ump after the game, but that was it. Hardly any action. Super-lame. The White Sox won, 10-2, and then there were fireworks. Whoop-Dee-Doo!


One final thing…

At some point during the game–I think it was the top of the 5th inning–I felt my phone vibrate in the upper right pocket of my cargo pants.

“Who the HELL is texting me?” I thought as I reached for it. (I don’t text. I have T-Mobile. I didn’t sign up for texting, but I still get charged 20 cents every time I send or receive a text. It’s complete B.S., and as a result, whenever I give my cell phone number to someone, I have to insist that they never text me. But they still do. And my phone bill get inflated several dollars every month. The cheapest texting plan from T-Mobile is $5 per month, so I’m still saving money, but it’s still a ripoff, and I can’t wait to dump them and get an iPhone. Anyway, there IS a point to this story…)

I pulled out the phone and flipped it open, and this is what it said:


Yes, that would be THE Heath Bell who pitches for the San Diego Padres–he’s the only one who has permission to text me–and he was talking about my charity. I had told him about it when I saw him on 4/15/09 at Citi Field, and he told me to email him the link. (Very quickly, for those who don’t know, I’m getting people to pledge money for every ball I snag during the 2009 season. That money will go to a charity called Pitch In For Baseball, which provides baseball equipment to needy kids all over the world. The largest pledge so far is one dollar per ball. The smallest pledge is a penny, and it’s all adding up in a big way. If you want to see the complete list of donors and learn more about it, click here.) I was surprised that Heath signed up so quickly. Ten days? I would’ve been glad to have him sign up after ten weeks, for even a nickel per ball, but he came through. He is truly The Man. I can’t say it enough.


• 3 soggy balls at this game

• 88 balls in 12 games this season = 7.3 balls per game.

• 581 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 151 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 3,908 total balls


• 95 donors

• $18.16 pledged per ball

• $54.48 raised at this game

• $1,598.08 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball


  1. brewfan87

    Many people rip Miller park for the roof, but I love it because stuff like this doesn’t happen. Every game is guaranteed to take place (barring a tornado/lighting failure/other catastrophe), and if batting practice is scheduled it will take place, no rain-outs here. I do wish they would open it when it’s sunny and 50 degrees, but they have the stupid rule where it has to be 60. What’s wrong with 50 and sunny? Nothing in my book. Great post and you WILL have better luck tomorrow in Milwaukee. I sent you an email regarding the game. See you tomorrow.

  2. nycautographcollector

    thats a shame that it rained…but i guess 3 balls isnt a bad day for the conditions. thats awesome about heath bell texting you, i bet that made a somewhat crappy day much better…

    anyway, i had a decent day graphing the nationals yesterday and should have an entry up tomorrow night for that. im going to another minor league game wednesday so i will post about that as well

    glad your trip seems to be going well so far! and glad to see how much money your making for charity. seems like you can make maybe $7500 this year at this rate, maybe even more! keep it up!

  3. cookandsonbats

    sorry about the less than ideal conditions. while you were soggy in ChiTown, my son and I were experiencing our first taste of Citi Field. Here is my report on Citi, if you care to take a look (I give you a shout out in it): http://cookandsonbats.mlblogs.com.

  4. bigglovebob

    Zack, I sat in the upper deck there once and it is insane how steep it is. I heard at one point they were considering hiring Sherpas to escort people to their seats up there. Weather like that is the reason I wish our new stadium was going to have at least a retractable roof like Miller Park. A quick question, how to you count “new” stadiums you have been to? You don’t refer to a stadium as new if it is the same stadium with a new name do you? A bit of trivia about that park when it was built in the late 80’s. The neighborhood was/is so bad that the neighboring thugs would literally shoot at the construction workers up on the scaffolding. Not sure if they ever hit anyone.

  5. cubs0110

    I was just about to go to that game, but as soon as I stepped out of my dorm to leave, it started raining, so I went back in and wished you luck.

    Anyway, after reading the start, it looked like that one lone ball would be the only one that day to keep your streak going. I’m glad you ended up with 2 more so it was a below average, but very respectable 3. It would have been cool to hang out with you again, but there’s no way I would have got a ball, and that’s the only reason I go to sox games, haha. I’d feel bad for those girl scouts if the sox were playing the Reds, and Hererra was out there warming up. watch out… haha.

    Now, Heath Bell. Holy crap! That’s AWESOME!. Heath IS the man, and I now have a favorite NL West team! I wonder if any other major leaguers will sign up before the season’s over.

    Good luck in Milwaukee! I hope you leave the midwest on a positive note :)

  6. ssweene1

    There is one huge detail Zack omitted about this game.. that it was 73 degrees 30 minutes BEFORE the gate opened. I have been living in Chicago for 30 years. And I have never personally felt such a temperature change as I did that day. It was crazy.

    Good times, I enjoyed the game in spite of the weather.

    We are going to Milwaukee Tuesday, see ya there.


  7. dennisox

    Sorry about the weather…I was wondering why you were coming to Chicago in April. It’s taking a chance buying tickets in advance here.

    The uppperdeck beams weren’t orginally there; a few years back they took out eight rows off the top and made it a bit less steep; that’s when the overhang/roof was added. That was the compromise. I think it really helped make the place look better. The Sox are in their 19th season at the “new” park. Most people can’t believe it’s been that long. It took me a long time to give in and call it home. The old Comiskey Park is still so familiar to me. It would be the oldest park in MLB, but it had no chance. The threat of the team moving to Florida was worth gettting a new park. It’s very different from the first few seasons.

    Thanks Zack!

  8. Txbaseballfan

    Way to fight through it Zack! The rest of us may have given up in your situation, but you stuck it out & that’s commendable. I guess every stadium has some little quirk that makes you wanna ask the architect just what he was thinking when he planned that. 3 is better than 0!

    TODD– Maybe it’s my computer, but I don’t think your link is working. FYI.

  9. braves04

    Good job on the 3, considering the conditions. Hopefully, I can navigate the Cardinals fans tonight at the Ted. Oh, you won’t regret getting an iPhone. I’m addicted to mine and often read your new entries on it during my lunch breaks. Good luck in Milwaukee!

  10. mlbmark

    Hey, I have a good story for you. Opening Day at Citi Field. I’m on the foul grass next to first base, and Bud Black is playing first to take infield grounders. Shortstop overthrows first, ball caroms off wall, I field it and throw perfect chest-high strike to Bud. We wave at each other. I used to cover him when he pitched for the Giants in 1991. I never actually looked at the ball to see if it was a Citi Field special, but there is nothing quite like being down on the field and throwing to first at MLB personnel. :)


  11. makaram@charter.net

    Thinking about watching with you for husband’s 40th, but wondering-is that major league team you and your editor hate the Red Sox? And is it a good-natured hatred, or down deep and dirty? Can you be nice? : )

  12. Howie

    The 2009 Snagging season is underway. My 2nd met game of the year was on saturday. Arrived @ noon. Went to front row in nats hat within a half hour got a ball (training ball) and a John Lannan auto. Nothing during game. After game went to players parking lot and got jose and david wright’s autos.


  13. ljg3

    i love the blog. i think you need to come to comerica park. id like to read about past times you have been to comerica. its a real good park for snagging balls. the bullpens in left field allow fans to easily reach over. also security is pretty lackadasical unless its around home plate. plus detroit is a real baseball city. it isnt like a new york or boston where most fans just go to go. detroit fans go and are into the game. the fans know the way baseball is played. they wont ask 200 questions a game. It is a beautiful park in the center of detroit. if you can tell me past times you have been to comerica and if they are in your blog id love to read them. thanks

  14. bettencourt

    hay zack very cool that heath has signed up so quick its good to see people help the cause. to bad no batting practice maybe next time.

  15. 333greystreet

    I had a similar game last Monday. Terrible weather throughout, no batting practice, visiting team throwing inside. I still managed to get 2 balls thrown to be since there was basically no one there.

    Good luck tonight in Milwaukee against my beloved Buccos.


  16. Alex

    Did you ever go back to left field to see your *friend* security guard? I wonder if he would remember you. That guard at Yankee Stadium who was kicking people out when you were there in left, go really pissed at me so I hope he won’t remember me when I go back for the 2nd.

  17. Txbaseballfan

    HEY ZACK! —
    I don’t know what your plans are for the next couple days, but just FYI, the attendance at last night’s game @ Camden — 10,621! Is that horrible or what? Anyway, just thought I’d pass that along. The Angels are in Baltimore for the next series.

  18. gjk2212

    hey everyone

    went to citi last night..extremely frustrating during mets bp..3 balls snatched in front of my face thrown to me by taller older fans. and an “mlb the bigs 2” ball was in my cup when ken takahashi took it out and threw it in, no explanation or laughing or anything. anyway, got balls thrown to me by burke badenhop, matt lindstrom, and dan meyer as well as a jorge cantu hr on the fly. took my 2 brothers and his friend for his birthday…both my bros got 3 each, and my bros friend got his first 2 ever..

  19. (This is a picture of Yankee HOF'er Whitey Ford & I)


    I feel the exact same as you with text messaging. TEXTing is so impersonal. I was also at the game for a bachelor party, and yes, it was very cold. Chicago in April is not the best. Hope you enjoyed it though.


  20. zackhample

    I’ve read all the comments (as I always do) but right now I’m only going to answer the ones with questions…

    Even if a stadium were to change its name 50 times and get renovated, I would NOT count it as a new stadium for me.

    Thanks for the history lesson. Very cool to know.

    I can be *very* nice, and I have nothing against the Sox. I’ve sent you a private email to discuss…

    No entries from Detroit. Last time I was there…I hadn’t yet started this blog.

    Nope, never went back. That whole stadium is a disaster.

    No time for Camden quite yet…

  21. ch1088

    I was under the assumption that once you were up in the upper deck, you weren’t allowed down into the other sections. How were you able to take pictures and stuff? Unless the White Sox changed their policy since 2009.

  22. ch1088

    I read somewhere that if you have a ticket for the upper deck, you aren’t allowed to go down to the other levels, like they section it off. So I wasn’t sure that if you were able to completely walk around the whole stadium and go up and back down.

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