5/2/09 at Rangers Ballpark

I’m so optimistic.

I knew there was rain in the forecast, and I could see how gray the sky was, but I was still hoping there’d be batting practice.


I took a cab from my motel to the ballpark at around 2:45pm and started wandering around with my camera:


It’s a beautiful stadium, inside and out. Easy to get to. Nice area. Not too desolate. Not too crazy. Just perfect, really.

As I approached the first base entrance, I saw the Dallas Cowboys’ new stadium way off in the distance:


I don’t know anything about football. I don’t care about football. But I *am* intrigued by stadiums in general, and I figured there’d be some people reading this blog entry who’d enjoy getting a look at this impressive new facility, and I had lots of time to spare, so I decided to take a little stroll and get a few closeups.

This is as close as I got:


(I’m telling you…all domed stadiums look like spaceships. In fact, I think they secretly ARE spaceships. When aliens finally get around to invading/destroying our planet, they will use our domes as escape vessels. And they’re gonna start with Olympic Stadium. Just you wait-n-see.)

The sky got darker. I felt a raindrop. It seemed like a good idea to head back toward the Rangers’ ballpark.

The following photo shows how deep into the parking lot I had walked; the red arrow is pointing to a tree under which I foolishly took cover for the next few minutes:


By the time I reached that tree, it had started raining. Not too hard. Probably not even hard enough to have delayed a baseball game, had one been taking place at that moment. It was just an annoying rain, and I didn’t feel like walking around in it, and the tree was providing excellent shelter. So I stayed there.

Then it started raining a little harder, and I started getting ever-so-slightly wetter. I thought about running across the street and looking for a dryer spot inside (or along the outer edge of) the stadium, but there wasn’t an obvious place to go.

Then it started raining a little harder. Crap. And a little harder. Double crap. My sneakers and shorts and baseball cap were all getting wet, but I decided to stay under the tree, hoping that the rain would let up…and *then* I would make a run for it. Then it started raining harder. Then there was thunder. Then it started raining EVEN harder. My feet were now soaked, and the wind picked up. My backpack was getting drenched. I covered my camera with my wet shirt. Then there was lightning, followed immediately by the loudest crack of thunder I had ever heard. Holy hell. Then there was a gust of wind that blew a huge/portable construction sign 50 feet down the street RIGHT in front of me. I held onto the tree, afraid that I might get blown away from it, and then remembered that standing under a tree when there’s lightning isn’t the best idea. And…then the sky opened up. I don’t know if I’ve ever seen rain that hard, let alone been caught
25_rosters.jpgout in it. I had no choice but to dash across the street (while trying not to get hit by cars or blown over the by the wind or slip on the pavement) and race alongside the edge of the stadium until I reached an alcove with some ticket windows. I was so wet and uncomfortable…it was as if I’d been standing in a cold shower fully clothed. I started going through a mental checklist of all the items in my backpack and thinking about what might’ve gotten ruined by the rain. My wallet was soaked. My contact cards were mush. Oh man…my rosters. They were toast. The paper was so soggy that it started to tear as I gently unfolded it, and as you can see in the photo on the right, the ink had bled all over the place.

It was 3:15pm. The stadium wasn’t going to open for another 75 minutes, and even then, there obviously wasn’t going to be batting practice. What the hell was I supposed to do? Just keeping hanging out and be cold and wet for the next seven hours?

As a general rule, I spend my money carefully and avoid all unnecessary costs, not just when I’m traveling, but in life. This, however, qualified as an emergency. I didn’t want to get pneumonia and die, so I called a cab, went back to my motel, cranked up the heater in my room all the way, put my shoes on it (as well as my soaked “Homer” shirt which I said I’d be wearing in my previous entry), changed my socks and underwear, replaced my wet cargo shorts with dry (Ahh, dry!!!) cargo pants, and entertained myself with FARK.com for most of the next hour.

I called another cab, and when I got back to the ballpark at 4:30pm, there was a HUGE line of fans, waiting (in the rain) to get in. Why? Because there was some Nolan Ryan statue giveaway. Oh my Lord. Well, it didn’t even matter. It was still raining. I knew there wasn’t going to be anything happening on the field…and it was then, while I was standing in line, that I heard about the building collapse at the Cowboys’ training facility just 15 (or so) miles away in Irving, TX. Scary stuff.

The stadium seemed eerily calm when I headed inside, and of course the field was covered:


I thought about wandering up to the upper deck and taking photos, but then an announcement was made over the stadium’s PA system. It said that there was a severe thunderstorm in the area with powerful wind (really?!) and dangerous hail (Christ!). The announcement continued. All fans were told to stay on the field level concourse.

I quickly headed to the weird/interesting/quirky concourse at the back of the seats and took the following photo…


…and then headed down and took this one:


For the record, the arches in the outer wall of the New Yankee Stadium’s Great Hall are not unique. Arlington had ’em 15 years earlier.

As I made my way around toward the left field side, I met up with a man named Brian (who was there with his 10-year-old daughter Sarah) who’s been reading this blog for a while and leaving comments as “bmpowell74.”

We ended up wandering around together for more than an hour, during which I signed his copy of Watching Baseball Smarter and took dozens of photos of the stadium.

Check out this amazing cross-aisle at the back of the left field seats:


It’s kinda far from home plate, but balls DO land there.

The rain had stopped briefly (as you can see in the photo above) but then it started pouring again.

We took cover under the narrow overhang of the center field offices…


…and then headed to the second deck behind the right field foul pole. The following photo really shows how much rain had fallen:


Brian led me up to the club level. Check out the stream of water pouring off the roof:


Here’s what it looked like through one of the tunnels. You can see the rain streaking behind the seat on the left:


Now…for all you people out there who called Shea Stadium home…remember how nasty the field level tunnels used to get when it rained? You know how there was always a huge scummy puddle at the bottom because the drains were small and clogged and poorly placed? (I actually miss that.) Behold the stupendous tunnel drainage at Rangers Ballpark:


This stadium is awesome. I know that sounds silly when I’m talking about something as specific as this, but seriously, it’s an outstanding facility.

Look at this classy (yet understated, unlike the new Yankee Stadium) club level:


I mean, c’mon. That is just outstanding.

We headed downstairs and I took some more photos along the way. I love this next one, which shows all the beams and railings and platforms and open-air concourses:


The rain finally stopped and two White Sox pitchers (John Danks and Scott Linebrink) came out and started playing catch along the left field foul line. When they finished, they tossed the ball to a little kid in White Sox gear–hard to argue or compete with that. It was around 6:30pm at that point, and I still didn’t have a ball. I wasn’t worried about being shut out because at the very least, I figured I’d be able to play the dugouts during the game and get a third-out ball…but I didn’t WANT to play the dugouts. I wanted to hang out next to the batter’s eye and go for a home run. I could’ve padded my stats and stayed near home plate all night, but this is a special ballpark and I wanted to do something spectacular.

After the start of the game was pushed back to 7:45pm, Octavio Dotel and Bartolo Colon began playing catch. I went down to the front row, lined myself up with them, and waited patiently. The following photo, taken by Brian, shows me standing there with some White Sox gear of my


By the way, that “HAMILTON” jersey in the photo above just reminded me that in one of the team stores out in center field, there’s a ball signed by Hamilton (on the sweet spot) that’s “selling” for $249. Shame on the Rangers’ ownership. They get their one and only demerit for that.

Dotel airmailed Colon several times. It might’ve been because the ball was slick, or maybe it was just due to the fact that he’s not THAT good, but regardless, on one of these occasions, the errant throw sailed so far above Colon that I was able to reach over the railing and catch it. Ha-HAAAAA!!! No shutout!!!

Colon and Dotel had brought an extra ball out with them, but Colon had airmailed Dotel a few minutes earlier, and the ball rolled all the way to the warning track in center field. Dotel didn’t bother retrieving it, so I had essentially caught their only ball. Colon looked up at me and waved his glove as if to say, “Throw it to me.”

“Are you gonna give it back when you’re done?” I asked.

I had no idea if he spoke enough English to understand me (he probably does–he’s been in the major leagues for a while) but he nodded, and I figured he wasn’t going to screw me over, so I tossed the ball to him (as a mediocre knuckleball) and watched contentedly as the two pitchers finished playing catch with it.

At one point, their throwing was interrupted by a procession of flag-toting Boy Scouts:


I found this to be rather amusing, and I loved the fact that Colon was holding MY ball with his multi-million dollar right hand. (If you look very closely at the photo above, you can see the other ball sitting on the field just to the left of the yellow “STANLEY” ad…right above the blueish flag, third from the right.)

It was such a slow day that THIS is the best action shot I can provide. It’s a photo of me taking a photo. Wow…


Colon eventually tossed me the ball, and then (after changing out of my White Sox costume) I got a photo with Brian:


The game started and I found a seat in the third row next to the batter’s eye…


…and then there were a bunch of rain delays. Four different delays? I don’t know. I lost count. The game itself lasted 2 hours and 37 minutes, and all the delays lasted a combined 2 hours and 27 minutes. It was a looooooong night. There wasn’t any action on the batter’s eye, but the delays did allow me to snag a couple extra balls.

At one point, I saw a glove with four balls sitting on a ledge in the White Sox bullpen…


…so I waited there for about 10 minutes until bullpen coach Juan Nieves came out.

“Any chance you could spare a baseball, please?”

He looked up at me, saw all the White Sox stuff, picked out the dirtiest ball (dirty because it had been rubbed up for a game), and tossed it up.

A bit later on, after the longest of the delays, the Sox ran and stretched and threw in shallow left field, as if they were warming up at the start of a normal game. Chris Getz (who has failed in the first two games of this series to hit his first career home run to me) tossed me a ball after he finished throwing, and that was that.

I was forced to snag Wiffle Balls from the mini-field in deep center:


That’s when you KNOW you’ve reached an all-time low as a ballhawk.

The stadium was pretty empty when the grounds crew removed the tarp for the final time…


…and I considered playing for foul balls behind the plate, but the thought of a home run landing on that batter’s eye drew me back to the bleachers.

In the final inning, there was a foul ball that flew back and hit the facade of the second deck and dropped RIGHT down to the exact spot where I would’ve been sitting (which didn’t have another fan within 20 feet), so that hurt, especially when nothing came my way in center field, but I still feel like I made the right decision. After two decades of chasing insignificant foul balls, I’m trying to be more home-run conscious, at least when I’m at a stadium that’s set up in such a way to increase the odds.

I have one more game here tonight. It’s gonna be on ESPN at 8pm ET, so you have NO excuse not to watch it and look for me. I’ll be sitting next to the batter’s eye in the ninth row (over the right edge of the Samsung ad in the photo above), and I’ll be wearing my ridiculous Waldo shirt, possibly over my gray hoodie if it’s cold. (Oy. The fashion police are going to arrest me.) Even if there’s a just a harmless fly ball hit in my direction, I’ll stand up so you can see me.


• 3 balls at this game

• 123 balls in 16 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.

• 585 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 3,943 total balls


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

• $20.38 pledged per ball

• $61.14 raised at this game

• $2,506.74 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball


  1. Jake

    Zack, I caught the game on WGN last night. I was sure that they were going to call it but kept watching and saw you a couple of times in Center. Stay dry and catch a homer tonight.

  2. thomasb.

    Zack, if all goes well and you continue getting 7.7 BPG, you will have your 4000th ball in 7.4 games. Are you still going to the Twins @ Orioles two game series this Wednesday and Thursday? I’m looking to go to a game with my dad (annual family trip as I am a Twins fan), and it would be really cool to see you in action at a game.

  3. bettencourt

    Zack, i have a question for you when you catch a ball have you ever been yelled at by other fans saying give it to a kid? Also in the bull pen how high are those walls you think looks like an awsome ball park. good luck tonight, ill be looking for you.

  4. Cole

    Hey Zack!

    I’m not sure if you are interested in this or not, but I have a subscription to MLB.TV and I was watching the game last night. I knew you’d be wearing your “Homer Shirt”, so I thought I’d look for you. I ended up being able to see you numerous times and took a few screen shots. I can email them to you if you’d like, but they aren’t THAT cool. I mean you would only be able to tell it’s you if you were absolutely looking for that obnoxious (yet awesome) yellow shirt like I was. Anywho, I’ll be doing the same thing tonight, and I’ve got a video capture software set up for when you make a diving catch on the batter’s eye! Good luck!

  5. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Are the windows in center field all offices, or are some hotel rooms, like in Toronto

  6. grif30

    Good stuff. It would be cool if you could possibly get some photos of the offices in centerfield.

  7. gjk2212

    thomasb (and zack)

    see you at camden on the 6th, potentially also the 7th…

    please please please tell me the twins are using commemoratives in bp..please!

  8. malacari360@verizon.net

    I wish you were going to yankee stadium this Wednesday. It will be my first game back since the opening day exhibition game. o well have fun in Baltimore.

  9. thomasb.

    I don’t know which day I’m going, because I have to younger siblings (6 and 2) and my dad has to arrange a day for my grandparents to watch them since my mom works. I’d like to go to on the 7th because my homework (woo hoo for school) will be due Thursday. See ya there.

  10. cubs0110

    Pretty simple day. Free ticket, snuck into $50 seats (the good foul ball spots were filled, unfortunately) Got 2 thrown in bp. Got an autograph request rejected by Greg Maddux… twice. Fergie Jenkins signed though.

  11. .

    So, from reading a few of these comments, it seems as though you will be at Camden Yards this Wednesday? I guess it’ll be time to party, as I will be traveling there in the ‘Gary Mobile.’ Just again, I stress to you, stay out of my way, sir! I’ve spotted that shirt a few times on the telly. At least you aren’t witnessing the angry Texans, because the Rangers are up five at this point with a runner on second. I’ll be traveling to the New Texas Stadium this upcoming season and I cannot wait. It’s going to be GLOR-I-OUSSSSS!!!

    – Donnie

  12. dannymb87

    hahah, everyone saw you there. Like 3-4 more feet and that ball was yours! At least you got some sweet slo-mo replays of you. Awesome man.

  13. Greg

    DIVE!!!!!!!!!!! You could have had Cruz’ ball and made it a HR. Haha, check out the footage later, that was SO close to a HR and possibly an IN-GAME glove trick??? Has that ever been done before?

    Red Sox Ramblings: http://thevendahhh.mlblogs.com

  14. Jake

    Zack, now you have a first hand account (if you didn’t already) of what they mean by baseball being a game of inches. Nice effort and you were plastered all over my TV screen (if you care). It sounded / looked like Cruz got jammed on that pitch.

  15. goislanders4

    damn, so close! They had an AMAZING angle of you gettign up and bolting down that aisle, then getting stuck behind that clueless, gloveless fan. At that point i was worried that if it did leave the yard, he would deflect it into the gap or somethig. then, you squeezed past him and reached your glove out and i thought it went into the gap until the center fielder threw it into the infield. i really thought you had it. damn!

    Well, im in washington and the game got rained out today, which sucked cause i had seats right behind the dugout. it looks like tomorrows game is gonna get rined out or at least not have bp :/ i hope it goes well, and at least im missing school. oh, and im in the same hotel as the astros and i saw carlos lee in the lobby. he was with a coach (or something like that) who was complaining about doug brocail getting injured.

    well, sorry you didnt get the ball, but again, they did a slow mo close up of the ball hitting the top of the wall, and at the las second, you can see your glove reach down into the shot.

  16. ssweene1

    If you get this tonight, check your email. I sent you some pix of your near miss…. haha


  17. zackhample

    I have to check out of the beautiful Motel 6 in a few minutes, so I’m only going to answer the questions with comments. Thanks to everyone who sent me screen shots from last night’s game. I’ll definitely be using one in the entry, which I plan to post tonight (hopefully before midnight) when I get back to NYC.

    Yes, I will be at Camden for both of those Twins games.

    Not “yelled at” but rather “urged to.” Those people will never get a ball from me. I give balls to kids who are minding their own business and trying to hard to snag a ball on their own and don’t have obnoxious parents telling me what to do. Not sure how high that bullpen wall is.

    Thanks, but I’ll pass on the Homer pics because I didn’t feature prominently in the action.

    Just offices, I believe.

    I think partial plans DO get people in early in Arlington. As for Philly, I have no plans yet to be there this season, but I’m sure I’ll make it at least once.

    Yes, see you in Balt.

    I once used the trick to get an in-game, ground-rule double ball (off the bat of David Justice) at SkyDome in 2000. Never done it on a homer, though.

  18. dmcco01@emory.edu

    Now Zack, a grown man who spends as much time as you do traveling around the country to collect baseballs has no business rolling his eyes at fans who would come stand in line at their own home park for a Nolan Ryan bobblehead.

  19. zackhample

    You are absolutely right. Mainly, I just like to complain about giveaways because the stadiums are more crowded.

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