4/28/09 at Miller Park

This was the final game of my trip, and I started off by using the glove trick to snag two balls from the gap in left field. The first was easy because it was sitting right below me, but the second ball was way off to the side and it took me TWENTY minutes to reel it in! (It was worth it; there was nothing else going on at the time.)

The following photo (taken by my friend Kelly) will give you an idea of the challenge I faced. I’ve drawn a red “X” to indicate where the ball was initially sitting, and as you can see below, I moved the ball a bit, but it was now trapped against a wall:


One thing that made this so tough was that the area in the gap was slightly sloped. I had to swing my glove back and forth to try to knock the ball closer, and every time I managed to do that, it kept rolling back to where it had been.

Here’s a photo that shows me swinging the glove:


As you can see, there were a couple bars/pipes that were perpendicular to the wall. This meant that I couldn’t swing my glove as hard or far as I wanted in either direction.

Eventually I managed to knock the ball away from the wall, and then once it was out in the open, I managed to knock it closer. Finally, when I’d moved it right below me, I was able to lower my glove gently and snag it. Here’s a shot of my glove dangling just above the ball…


…and here I am, reaching out for it after carefully lifting the glove back up:


I must not have put the rubber band on tight enough because as you can see, the ball was barely being held in place. Anyway, the trick worked. That’s all that mattered. I don’t need style points. I just need baseballs. (And yes, I really do “need” them. Some people need air. I need baseballs. Don’t question me. Well, I also need air.)

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the edges of my glove got VERY scuffed because of my antics. Every time I had swung the glove to my left, I tried to drop it on the ball and tug it back in one motion. (This took far more athleticism and hand-eye coordination than almost any ball I’ve ever caught on the fly.) But I kept missing 9 out of 10 times, and as a result the glove kept hitting/skimming the concrete. My glove now looks like absolute crap, and I’d have to say it was worth it.

5_ball3923_got_game.jpg There was a third ball that landed in the gap, and as I was in the process of trying to knock it closer, a stadium employee retrieved it and (much to my surprise) tossed it up. That was my third ball of the day, and the words “GOT GAME” were already written on the sweet spot.

Over the years, many teams have marked their balls in various ways, but the Brewers (as I discovered firsthand the day before) have recently been scribbling random words and phrases. I’m not sure if this is their attempt to deter employees from stealing the balls, or if the players and coaches are just being silly. Either way, it doesn’t bother me. As far as I’m concerned, it’s nice to snag a ball that’s different from all the others, but I’d be pretty disappointed if I’d never gotten a single ball and then ended up catching one that had been defaced.

When the Pirates took the field, I got Jesse Chavez to toss me my fourth ball of the day. Then I ran over to the seats along the left field foul line because there was a ball sitting on the warning track, about a foot out from the wall. By the time I got there, a fellow ballhawk named Shawn was already standing above the ball. I was pretty sure he had a glove trick of his own, yet he wasn’t setting it up, so I asked him if I could go for it. At first it seemed like he wanted the ball for himself, but then I realized he was cool with it. He was there with his mom, and they were both focusing on Pirates bullpen coach Luis Dorante (who was playing catch and had two balls in his back pocket) so we each had our own agenda. Anyway, I set up my trick, waited for the nearby on-field security guy to look the other way, and then plucked it.

Even though the Pirates had taken the field, they hadn’t started hitting. The Brewers were still taking their final cuts, so I raced to their dugout…


…and got two balls tossed to me within a 30-second span when everyone came off the field. The first was given to me by a ballboy and the second was flipped by bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel. At first, it didn’t seem like he was going to hook me up, so I modified my request and asked for a dirty ball. That convinced him, and this is the ball he gave me:


Now let’s get something straight, once and for all…

Over the years, I’ve taken some heat from fellow ballhawks–especially the old-school guys–because I “beg” for balls and use my glove trick so often. My only response is: “Why is that a bad thing?” Some ballhawks are only interested in catching home runs, and I’ll be the first to say that they deserve a TON of credit. It’s not easy, and some of their numbers are mind-boggling. There are, however, other ways to snag baseballs, and I think that those ways should be respected. If you look at how my stats break down in Erik Jabs’ ballhawk league, you’ll see that only a small portion of my baseballs were batted. It’s not that I’m bad at judging fly balls, or that I can’t catch them when they start flying at me…it’s that I just don’t spend that much time in the outfield seats. For me, it’s all about maximizing my numbers so I like to roam and get baseballs in all sorts of ways. If it somehow became illegal to ask players for balls, or if fans received the death penalty for using glove tricks, then yeah, I’d focus on catching home runs, and I’m sure my numbers would be pretty good. But for now, I’m content snagging baseballs any way I can get ’em. Thank you.

I had seven balls in my backpack when I decided to head up to the 2nd deck in left field. Rather than using the concourse to get from the dugout to the left field side, I cut through the seats and ended up getting Craig Monroe to throw me a ball along the left field foul line. I was about ten rows back and he fired it over everyone’s heads in front of me. *Then* I headed upstairs and got three more balls thrown to me during the next half-hour. Nothing fancy. The first came from Ian Snell, the second (which I later gave away to a kid) came from Brandon Moss, and the third came from Mister Jesse Chavez out in left-center. He must’ve thrown a dozen balls into the crowd, and he wasn’t being too selective.

By the end of BP, the 2nd deck was officially crowded, but get this…almost everyone was sitting down:


People in the Midwest pride themselves on being laid-back, but this was ridiculous. There were very few kids (perhaps because it was a weekday in April), and only a handful of adults had gloves, so there wasn’t really direct competition. Instead, people were just in the way. My friend Nick (aka “The Happy Youngster”) had warned me about that. He was at this game too–I had stayed at his place the night before–and he snagged a bunch of balls as well. Miller Park is heavenly. That’s the official Zack Hample assessment.

I had 11 balls at the point. Five of them had the word “PRACTICE” stamped onto the sweet spot, and another ball had a big “P” drawn on by the Pittsburgh Pirates:


You can see the little numbers that I wrote. The ball on the upper left, for example, says “3921” because that was the 3,921st ball I ever snagged, and if you’re wondering why the numbers are above the sweet spot on some balls and below it on others, the answer is that I always mark the balls on the same spot. Evidently, the person who stamps “PRACTICE” on them isn’t too concerned with which way the balls are facing. (By the way, I photographed the “GOT GAME” ball before I marked it. That’s why there’s no number on it.)

I snagged my 12th ball of the day at the Pirates’ dugout after BP. Some random equipment guy rolled it to me across the dugout roof. Thrilling, yes.

After that, I rushed to the upper deck and crammed all my wandering and photo-taking into the 40 minutes before game time. (Miller Park is so great for foul balls during games that I didn’t want to miss a single pitch.) This is what I saw as the escalator was approaching the upper deck:


Here’s a look at the retractable roof…


…and this is what I saw when I peered over the side edge of the upper deck:


The word “beautiful” might not come to mind when you first see these pics, but that’s actually how I would describe this stadium. The angles are really interesting, and I love how the roof narrows/hinges into one spot. The glass panels above the last row of seats are tasteful; I like how there are beams AND how the light comes streaming in. Domed stadiums, to some extent, always look like spaceships and are often ugly. I’d say Tropicana Field is the worst and Minute Maid Park is the best, but Miller Park might be a close second. I don’t know…Chase Field is also pretty nice.

The concourse behind the left field foul pole was empty…


…and didn’t look like like it was ever meant to be seen by fans. I love finding quiet areas inside major league stadiums. It keeps getting harder, with all these new facilities that are built without nooks and crannies, so I was glad to see that anything’s still possible in Milwaukee.

Here’s my panorama from the last row behind the plate:


I ran into my friends Scott and Chad (you might remember them from 4/25/09 at U.S. Cellular Field) on the way to my seat on Loge level, and I met up with Kelly in the concourse.

I don’t want to discuss or even think about the game because it’s too frustrating. I’ll just say very quickly that was only ONE foul ball that flew back the entire night. It basically came right to me, right to the spot in a gloriously wide and empty aisle where I’d been campingout throughout the game, but at the exact moment that this ball was hit, I got blocked by two guys who were standing around with their beers, and they pretty much knocked the ball out of my glove. What should have been THE easiest catch of all-time turned into a frantic scramble that I lost. I can’t even begin to describe how pissed I was, so let’s just leave it at that.

Here’s a photo (taken by the lovely Kelly) that shows me in the aisle…white shirt, arms folded in disgust, leaning against the back wall:


(I’m still pissed. I don’t want to think about it. And yet I’m still thinking about it. Leave me alone, brain! Think about something else. AAAHHH!!! Help.)

The Brewers won, 6-5, and Trevor Hoffman recorded his first non-Padre save since 1993. I love the guy, and I’m rooting for him all the way, but I don’t think he’s going to be an effective closer this season. The velocity just isn’t there. His fastball topped out at 86mph and was clocked several times between 82 and 84. Sure, Jamie Moyer is barely cracking 80 these days, but he’s a starter, and he’s also the exception to the rule. When I think of what a closer should be, I think of the words “dominating” and “intimidating.” Maybe that still applies to Hoffman because of his reputation. All I’m saying is…it makes me nervous to watch him pitch. It’s like when amateurs sing the national anthem. Do you ever feel like this? I find myself rooting for them simply NOT to mess up, rather than rooting for them to succeed. It’s the same whenever I watch Olympic figure skating (which is not often). Even though the competitors aren’t amateurs, I still cringe whenever they do a jump because I’m afraid something bad is gonna happen. That’s how it was for me at this game whenever Hoffman threw a pitch. Not a good sign.


Just because I’m about to list my stats doesn’t mean you should stop scrolling down the page. There are some very important (and perhaps disturbing) photos coming up at the end…


• 12 balls at this game

• 112 balls in 14 games this season = 8 balls per game.

• 41 balls in 3 lifetime games at Miller Park = 13.7 balls per game

• 583 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 3,932 total balls


• 98 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)

• $18.27 pledged per ball

• $219.24 raised at this game

• $2,046.24 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

Okay, it’s time for a few more photos, but first I have to ask if you remember the part in my previous entry where I showed Nick’s sports memorabilia. Does that ring a bell? Remember when I mentioned that he’s a police officer and that he has an effective way of protecting his collection? Good. Check it out:


That’s Nick in the photo above (and no, he’s not really a Pirate fan). When he first told me that he had guns in the house, I nearly threw up a little bit in my mouth, and when he first showed them to me, I thought they were fake. I know NOTHING about guns. Guns make me nervous. I’m a nerdy Jew from the Upper West Side. I play Scrabble and I like bagels. I went to a Quaker college. GUNS?! For real?!?! I’m friends with someone who owns guns?! How did this happen? Where did I go wrong?

The photo below shows the handguns. The one on the left (with the wooden handle) is a Ruger .357 magnum, and the one on the right is a Glock .40 caliber:


At least that’s what Nick claimed. He might’ve been lying, but I wasn’t about to argue.

Then he showed me the bullets:


I’m going to assume that the red stuff on the upper right is paint and not blood. That’s a good assumption, right? I actually didn’t notice the red until I got back to NYC and started going through the pics. (Nick…if you’re reading this, what IS the red stuff? Did you drop your bullet in a glass of cherry cola?)

Being close to Nick’s guns was so far beyond my realm of reality that I kinda got into it. It’s like I was in a foreign land with an expert tour guide. On one hand, I felt totally helpless when it occurred to me that if Nick wanted to kill me and steal all my baseballs, he could’ve done so in approximately seven-tenths of a second, but on the other hand, I felt very comforted by the fact that he knew what he was doing and probably didn’t want to cause me any harm. Like I said, he’s a cop. He’s been trained extensively with firearms. In addition, these guns were licensed, and he went though numerous safety checks to make sure they weren’t loaded. Then he assured me that there was nothing illegal about me touching them and taking photos with them and sharing it on my blog.

And so…here I am:


Wow, did that really happen? What have I done?! Quick!!! Let’s all think happy thoughts…

Rainbows! Kittens! Lollipops! Flowers!


Ahh, I feel so much better.


  1. gobuccos25


    What wrong with being a Pirate fan!? Just playin. By the way, I hope you are never allowed to come within a fifty foot radius of a gun again, those pictures make you look like a mad man. Congrats on yet another great day.

    P.S. Wooo. First. =P

    -Evan, gobuccos25

  2. 333greystreet

    Congrats on another fine day of snagging. Reading your last 2 posts makes me want to take a trip out to Miller Park. Its about a 9 hour drive though, so we’ll see.

    All in all, looks like you had a nice trip through the mid-west.


  3. bloggingboutbaseball

    Hey, Zack, those PRACTICE stamps look a lot like the ones the Angels use. It makes sense because the Tigers were just here last week. It’s interesting the way the baseballs all get intermixed. And I know just what you mean about amateurs singing the anthem… it makes me cringe. Trevor’s old… he’ll make it into the HOF, he should be done after this year.

  4. rockiesfanatic14

    wow zack. your speach on guns and your life seriously made me reconsidered reading this blog. my dad was like, “Well now I know who not to seek in a revolution, you can only throw so many baseballs until you get shot.” ha ha. then I saw the pics and it made everything better. Anyway… any news on coors field? If you do go for the Dodgers game it was pretty packed for the first series against them.

  5. skikola

    You actually pull off the “Thug” look quite well! The Atari shirt kinda kills it though ;-)
    That dirty-as-hell ball is awesome!

  6. Txbaseballfan

    1st-Your recap is really cool. I love those random writing balls! And I must admit, I’m starting to become quite fond of the extremely used ones. Great pics also.
    2nd-Until I saw your NRA membership photos at the end, I didn’t know where you were going with that. I guess being from Tx & liking hunting, I take it for granted that there’s others that haven’t been exposed to all that. Nice to see you conquered a fear though!

  7. ladod4ever

    Great entry!!!!! Man I would so pay you to be my body guard!!! Are you ready for dodger stadium

  8. MLBallhawk

    Check out those GUNS!!! Thanks for the pledge Zack! I challenge everyone that made a pledge for PIFB to make a pledge of at least a penny on my side as well for MADD!
    I am going to make a similar challenge to everyone that makes a pledge with my Baseballs 4 MADD as well!
    That way we can raise twice as much for 2 great causes!


  9. txfilmmkr

    Nice to hear your kudos for Minute Maid Park. Not being a huge fan of domed stadiums, I’m glad to have one for our home turf. No rainouts, air conditioning, and still have the option to pull the lid back on the three or four nice days a year we get in Houston. On top of that, they managed to do it right and not make it look like a warehouse.
    Your gangsta pics were hilarious. Like Brian, I’m around guns every day of my life… literally. I’m not a cop, but I have my concealed carry license and carry at least one handgun everywhere I go that I am allowed to carry, every day. If I am ever a victim, it won’t be because I’m an easy target. If you get back down to Houston and are so inclined, I can help you take the next step. We can go to the range where you can actually shoot a gun. I promise, if you had that much fun just posing, once you shoot one you’ll be hooked!
    Donny in Houston

  10. braves04

    Wow, those “happy” pictures are more disturbing than the firearms lol. You were safer at his place than any hotel in the area. I’m planning a trip to see the Braves in Cincinnati in June. Do you have any entries about that park?
    Whatever happened with Litsch at U.S. Cellular?

  11. cubs0110

    Haha, one of the funniest endings ever!

    Anyway…. you should have stayed in Chicago and come to today’s game. It was ridiculous, there was almost nobody there for batting practice at all…. you would have had a great time. I bought my bleacher ticket for $17 (including charges) at 4:30 after I was SURE it wasn’t going to rain. I got there and there was almost no bleacher line. I got the best spot in the bleachers, and it began. David Patton threw me my first ball. It was really dirty and grass stained. He said “you don’t want this one”. I told him that I very much did want it, so he threw it. Ball #2 was thrown by some Cubs coach (yes, I don’t know all of them…) I was in the well area of left, and I reached into the basket as it tipped off of my glove, hit someone else’s hand, and fell in the basket for an easy pick-up. Ball #3 was from Brett Carroll. Thanks to my roster, I knew his name, and before he threw me the ball he said “Hey, who knows my name?” I said I did, and it was that easy. Ball#4 was from some random Marlin with a jacket on; I asked for the ball, he tossed it up, it was that easy. Ball #5 was hit into the basket, another easy pickup.

    So yeah, I now have a new 1 game record! And this was all from a single spot in the bleachers. It almost seemed too easy. I really wonder how many you could have snagged.

    Also, congrats on breaking $2000!

  12. bigglovebob

    Zack- Amazing trip. That is funny with you and the guns. I have taken many a bleeding heart liberal to the range in my day and you guys get off on the power of the gun more than anyone! If you even come to Minnesota, I will bring you to one and let blow a few rounds down range!

    My ballhawking style has taken after yours in that I move around for toss ups as opposed to more traditional ballhawking. It is just too hard to traditionally ballhawk with that big glove.

    I am tempted to pay for you to come to the dome and see what your stats would be there. They would go crazy if they saw a glove or cup trick and don’t even allow anyone in the first two rows of the outfield anyway. There is no lower level in right field, only the folded up seats for football. And the guys shag balls in groups of 2-3 usually. So, if one guy in a group tosses you a ball, you are dead from that group for the rest of BP.

    Has anyone ever called you out to the players? If I wore opposing team gear I could see some of the veteran Metrodome ballhawkers telling the players that I am a big Twins fan and am just wearing the opposing team’s shirt.

    I hope to have a third of your output when I go to Miller in June! Great Work!

  13. graysalomi@yahoo.com

    If it makes you feel any better Zack, a grand majority of the suburban ‘sconnies have guns in their house… I’d say, like, 50% of us have some sort of firearm. We have to have them to hunt deer…if we don’t we’ll die from the harsh winter.

  14. ssweene1

    This is no disrespect to Zack at all, but Chad and I were in the right field bleachers working toss ups. And during the innings we were keeping a good eye on Zack as he roamed the foul ball concourse. Here is the sweet play by play: Me:”Chad, that ***** going right towards him!” Chad: “Yeah man hes got that”
    Chad: “Oh man, he is gonna be pissed”
    ***Zack then proceeds to punch the wall***
    Scott and Chad laugh uncontrollably because I would have done the exact same thing…
    Good times had by all, thanks again for showing us the ropes the past week, thanks to Nick for giving us some tips on his home ball park, we hope to hang with you guys again soon..


  15. marypolitan@gmail.com


    You crack me up! That was too funny!

    And as a Houston Astros fan, I love what you said about Minute Maid. Come back some time!!


  16. bettencourt

    nice post i really like how that you show alot of the stadiums. i really think that that ballpark is ome of the best stadiums in all of baseball i have never seen a roof like that befor. r u shooting for another 100 something balls this month of may

  17. gjk2212

    hey yallll

    sweet trip, i cant wait to get out to miller park..

    first game at new yankee stadium last night…

    went to gate 8, and went under the bleachers to the farthest field section in left field. usher was so nice and told us we could chill until it got too crowded. the yankees started hitting and phil coke came over to talk to eric (the bobblehead guy) with a ball in his hand. i held my glove out and he flipped it to me. just as the angels took the field, steve soliz retrieved a ball from the bullpen, spotted me angels hat, and flipped it up. as soon as the angels started to hit, the nice usher said we had to leave. i was pretty appreciative he let us stay there that long, so i left after saying thanks. every field section was being guarded, and one lady on the lf foul line was half paying attention. i pretended to take a picture and she looked the other way for a split second and i bolted down. brian fuentes threw me his warm up ball, a ball rolled down the line to an on field guard who gave me it even though i was wearing angels stuff, and kelvim escobar threw me a ball because “i was wearing the right clothes”.

    the field level bp thing is annoying but easy to get around and it eliminates all crowds during bp down there. rf is a solid choice, so many bp homers. as for the building, its very nice and historic, but the restaurants and ppl in suits and the place in general kinda gives off a cold feeling, and the field looks exactly the same as the old one. at some points i didnt feel like i was in a new one.

    whatever, 5 balls is more than i ever got at the old one..not surprising.

  18. "D" The Rockpile Ranter

    Quote from Zack “For me, it’s all about maximizing my numbers so I like to roam and get baseballs in all sorts of ways”
    I like the way you said that. Do what works for you. Me, I’m hoping someday to get a chance to perform the glove trick. This was a great entry Zack. I dug the handgun pics. I think it’s cool when other bloggers hook up and do some games. Lead the way oh “King of Snag”, as the rest of us follow. I knew Happy was a cool dude…D

  19. Txbaseballfan

    FYI for all —
    Miami-Dade County in Florida has passed a vote for a new ballpark for the Marlins that is set to open 2012. You can go to mlb.com to read the article & see a 3 minute video that shows architect drawings of what it will look like. Pretty cool, one hint….. yes, it will have a retractable roof.

  20. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Ok, so the Yankees lowered ticket prices on the 800 and 325 dollar seats. in order to compensate people who already bought tickets, those people were given free tickets. this occured on Tuesday or Wendsday, so the prices for tonights game for the 800 dollar seats were like 150.

    so i was joking around with my dad, and said that i bet if you had an 800 dollar seat, you couldn’t go into the oufield setas for BP!

  21. nycautographcollector

    zack that was freaking hilarious. i nearly cried. no joke.

    anyway, i had a pretty sweet night at another minor league game and got something that might make you a little bit jealous (you do have one though, already) so check it out when you get a chance

    either way great trip to the mid-west


  22. soxsider26

    The bottom left gun picture is my favorite…..you pull off the ********** thief look really well. Congrats on a successful trip.

  23. dannyz

    Woot! Go Zack!

    I went down to the Jays/O’s game today. Snagged two balls!!! I think meeting you has been my good luck charm or something. My first was a BP homer that richocheted off my glove (shoulda caught it) and bounced into another row. Had to struggle for it, but got it nonetheless. Second ball came after the game. Jays batboy was being real nice, gave one to most of us waiting patiently at his end of the dugout.

    So that brings my lifetime total to 4. Yay!!

  24. bigglovebob

    I just wrote a new blog entry concerning the use of tricks such as the glove trick and cup tricks. I know it may prove to be a bit controversial but it was meant to inspire discussion and not cast stones. After reading your blog I am so looking forward to my trip to Miller Park!

  25. jerseyboy

    I think I woke up my whole building with my laughter from Rainbows! Kittens! Lollipops! Flowers! Hilarious!!


  26. zackhample

    Somehow I neglected to answer comments from this entry. Sorry about that. I’m really pressed for time now, so I’m just gonna answer the comments with questions…

    Nothing’s wrong with it. Just protecting Nick from his Brewer fan friends by setting the record straight.

    It looks like I’ll be there in August. At least Manny (booo!) will be back then. Maybe I can get him to throw me a ball.

    I’m VERY ready. Only nine days to go.

    I was in Cincy in ’05 so scroll back through the archives, and you’ll find it. I barely saw Litsch in Chicago. Oh well.

    If you want to pay for my trip, I’ll be there in a flash. And if you don’t want to, I don’t blame you. Let me know. I’ve been called out a couple times…yes.

    It’s looking like I might reach 200 balls by the end of the May. Crazy!

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