Charity update (with photos from Iraq…)

As many of you already know, I’m raising money for charity this year by getting people to make small pledges for every ball I snag. The money is going to a charity called Pitch In For Baseball, which provides baseball equipment to needy kids all over the world. So far, I’ve gotten 104 pledges ranging from one penny per ball up to one dollar. In 22 games so far this season, I’ve snagged 178 balls (including batting practice) and raised over $3,600.

If you’re thinking about making a pledge, or if you just want to read more about this, click here.


Another way to help this charity is to buy a children’s book called A Glove of Their Own.
I have a copy, and let me tell you…it’s very touching and the whole thing is beautifully illustrated. If you have a young child (especially
one who loves baseball), you should pick up a copy, and when you do, Pitch In For Baseball will receive a $3 contribution. (You can see the
Pitch In For Baseball logo on the cover.) The publisher of this book is Franklin Mason Press, and if you go to this page on their web site, all you have to do is click the “Add To Cart” button
and then select the charity code “PIF-129” from the pull-down menu. You’ll end up with a great book, and Pitch In For Baseball will receive three bucks in the process. This book has gotten a lot of positive press. The Yogi Berra Museum has even gotten involved to help promote it. Do a Google search for it and you’ll see how many other people and organizations are on board.

In other charity news…

Pitch In For Baseball recently orchestrated a huge equipment drive for the children in northwest Baghdad. The project was called “Operation Homerun” and it was a joint effort with the U.S. Military, the Iraqi Ministry of Youth and Sport, and MLB International.

I want to share an email about this (that was recently forwarded to me) from a member of the military. Here it is, and then keep scrolling down to see the photos that he attached…

—–Original Message—–

From: Browne, Conor 1LT 2-1 ID S-9 OIC

Sent: Thursday, May 07, 2009 8:56 AM


Cc: Auld, Todd LTC 2/1 ID S-9; Greco, Dennis MAJ 403rd CA BN A Company

Commander; Faulkner, Kone MAJ 2-1 STB PAO; Beckert, Christopher LTC 2/1 ID



Subject: Operation Homerun: Baseball in Baghdad

Mr Rhode,

I hope all is well in the States.  It was a great day for the “Dagger Brigade.”  This morning Soldiers from D Troop 5/4 Cavalry and A Company 403 Civil Affairs Battalion delivered equipment donated from “Pitch in for Baseball.”  Mr Fahkri, a deputy in the Ministry of Youth and Sport, had invited about 40 children to the equipment drop off.  As part of the delivery the soldiers gave a quick demonstration of the new equipment that would be shared by the Northwest Baghdad youth centers. Mr. Fahkri said that they would be forming a league and we would be invited to the first exhibition game once they have had enough time to practice.  It was a great opportunity for the soldiers.  And while there was some tentative children, many of them were picking up the game quickly and showed a true interest in the sport.  I’ve collected and attached a bunch of the pictures that were taken during the distribution.  Our public affairs team plans on writing a story on the event.  When they’re finished, we’ll make sure you get a copy of the article.  It was a long process to get the equipment into the hands of some kids.  But interest, by the Youth and Sport personnel and the children, in making the most of the equipment was very promising.  Thank you so much to your organization and for your personal support for this endeavor.

Very Respectfully,

LT Conor Browne

Assistant Civil Military Operations Officer 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry


Division Camp Liberty, Baghdad, Iraq









In other non-charity news…

I’m flying to L.A. tomorrow. I’ll be at Dodger Stadium on May 18th, and I’m planning to snag my 4,000th ball that day during batting practice in the left field pavilion. If you’re in the area, come on out and say hi. It might end up being a crazy day, so it’s hard to predict what’s gonna happen to me once the game starts, but as things stand now, I’m planning to be in the LF pavilion, pretty much in straight-away left field, perhaps shaded a bit toward the foul pole. My seat is in the 4th row, but I might move around if there are empty seats nearby. FYI, I’m planning to wear my Homer Simpson t-shirt during the game, not because I think it’s fashionable, but because the Dodgers will be playing the Mets and I want everyone in NYC to be able to look for me on TV. (Consider it a little game within the game.)

On a final note, my friend and fellow ballhawk Nick Yohanek (aka “The Happy Youngster”) has really gotten screwed by both the Marlins and the media, and now he’s getting bashed mercilessly as a result. Check out the Associate Press story about him (note Coghlan’s absurdly dishonest quote in the 4th paragraph) and then read Nick’s version of the story on his blog. Wow.


  1. nycautographcollector

    Its nice to see charity at work. Good luck on 4G, I can’t wait for the post. $3,600 already, you’re doing a great thing man!

    Happy was just on PTI, by the way, and Tony and Dan Lebitard sided with him. Haha.

    But good luck, and hopefully we can spot you on TV Monday night. Are you going to wear a crazy shirt?


  2. Txbaseballfan

    Have fun in LA! Don’t turn all “Hollywood” on us! Kidding of course. Can’t wait to read all about the B4K snag!
    As for “Happy”, the haters will all fade away with time & no one will remember who they are, but Happy will keep on snaggin’! Give ’em hell Z!

  3. ladod4ever

    good luck in LA….but Im saying I can’t make it because I have school to go to!!!!!! But Im watching the game either way!!!! O and about LUCKY that’s pretty sad about the whole incident and the Florida player is just a little punk!!!!! But the truth will come out

  4. thomasb.

    It makes me sad to think that Major League Baseball players are abusing their “power”. They made it to that level because they love the game, yet they forget another aspect, which is the fans. Without the fans, there would be no major league baseball players. It’s sad to see how they forget how joyful and ecstatic the fan is when they catch a home run ball, or even a ball, heck, being at the game to see the game they know and love. Yet, when they have a chance to directly give back to their fan, their CUSTOMER, they basically spit in their face and call them liars. Egos, steroids, and fan UN-appreciation is dragging the game we know and love so dearly down a level. We need more players like Griffey, Mauer, Bell, and a few others who love the game purely. It makes me happy though to see you giving back Zack, with your charity partnership this season. Great idea and keep up the good work!! Good luck on ball number 4,000. Are you going to put in a special case to keep is safe?

  5. goisles

    1) The pics and letter from Iraq are terrific! That’s what it;s all about,

    2) Sad story on the Happy Youngster, but should anyone be shocked by what goes on in the media. Heck, don’t be surprised if someone with the Marlins told Coghlan the made up ransom story.

    Actually, what’t the big deal with giving up a game-sed Hanley Ramirez bat? Do the Marlins have an exclusive with Steiner Sports? Give me a break.

    3) Puck Collector is finally on the board in the Ballhawk League. Given Stalag Yankee Stadium conditions, we bought a seat earlier this week on the Field Level, but then the Yanks finally loosened the policy for Yankee BP!

    4) Good luck in LA.

  6. goisles

    1) The pics and letter from Iraq are terrific! That’s what it’s all about,

    2) Sad story on the Happy Youngster, but should anyone be shocked by what goes on in the media. Heck, don’t be surprised if someone with the Marlins told Coghlan the made up ransom story.

    Actually, what’t the big deal with giving up a game-sed Hanley Ramirez bat? Do the Marlins have an exclusive with Steiner Sports? Give me a break.

    3) Puck Collector is finally on the board in the Ballhawk League. Given Stalag Yankee Stadium conditions, we bought a seat earlier this week on the Field Level, but then the Yanks finally loosened the policy for Yankee BP!

    4) Good luck in LA.

  7. rdub202

    what is one lousy bat from those guys. people bashing hanley on the comments is kind of silly though. by the sounds of how things were handled, he probably had no idea. as a teammate, he should have stepped up and been willing to help out to get the kid his ball back if he did know. stupid seeing everyone bashing hawking in general, to each his own…shut up and move on.
    crap that the marlins thought that happy switched the ball too, he said it himself, he is the one who immediately went to find an authenticator, which they failed to provide.
    ugh, too much more to comment on. i think happy was justified to make the requests. interested to hear if he ever gets those tickets.

  8. braves04

    Great pics from Iraq. It makes me even more proud to have pledged to this cause.
    The Atlanta Journal-Constitution picked up part of the full AP story on Nick, but never mentioned his name or nickname. I still assumed it was probably someone that’s been on this blog before.
    I hope L.A. is good to you. I might make it out there in August for a Braves trip. Dodger Stadium is old, but a fun place to visit.


    Nick, you should have just kept the god damn ball. When you didn’t get the Ramirez bat, you should have just said then fine, no deal, and I’m 99% sure, they would have put it in the deal.

  10. nhanson29

    Zack.. if you caught Rookie X’s first home run, would you give it back? I know you give away a ball or two to kids, but would you do the same to a player? By Rookie X, I mean a normal prospect, not like Matt Wieters or someone like that.

    Personally I think he’s getting mega screwed.. I really doubt that a bat, ball, and one of the dozens of bats Hanley will go through each year is too much to ask.

  11. gregb123

    Yankee Stadium was very entertaining last night. I snagged seven balls (including one Twins commemorative). It was a fun night until the 9th inning. Stupid Yankees.

    Puck — Good seeing you. Did you get anything else after BP?

  12. devinu

    Hey Zack! Have fun in L.A.! Quick question(s). When are you coming back the the New Yankee Stadium and I am going up to Toronto in September for a Yanks Game. Any idea what type of room you had? The view of the field looked pretty sweet!

  13. yankees42294

    how did u get the twins commemorative? was it during the twins bp?


    Nah greg, i was stuck on 5 but i was happy. I got 3 twins comm. so. The buckets were filled with the comm. balls. Shoulda had at least 7 balls thought, maybe more, if the Yankees didnt change their policy, and had kept everyone without a ticket out of field level for BP.

  15. zackhample

    I’m in Los Angeles. Gotta run off to a dinner-party-thing with the fam, so here are some quick answers to the comments with questions…

    Yes, I plan to wear my yellow Homer Simpson shirt on Monday, but only during the game. I’ll be wearing other stuff during BP.

    Not sure how I’ll store No. 4,000, but I know I’ll at least keep it separate from all the others.

    I would definitely want the player to get his ball back — that would be my ultimate intention — but I wouldn’t give it back for free. I’d probably ask for a jersey…anyone’s jersey, even the bullpen catcher. I’ve never gotten one of those.

    Not sure about Yankee Stadium. I might try to make it to one of the Orioles games coming up. As for the Toronto hotel, all I know is that it was a “field-view room.”

  16. stlfan


    Look at this!! Freaking are you kidding me!! I hope this works. Scroll down, then on the left choose MLB. Look at the first question. LOOK! Btw, love the army photos, really sweet. (I’m a guy, but still they were really sweet).
    Tanner from STL


  17. padreleigh

    Hi Zack….

    I just posted something, but it doesn’t look like it took. Here’s repost attempt number one. Shorter version…

    I caught Edgar Gonzalez’s pinch home run in the 7th innning tonight. Number 3 for me on the year! Now, I’ve caught HR’s from both the Gonzalez brothers. Haha. No video here at work. I’ll have to post a link to the video in the morning when I go home. No TV interview for me and no one wanted the ball or bothered me. Ha ha. Welcome back to California and thanks for being my good luck charm.


  18. gregb123

    Leigh — Awesome!! Did you stay till the end of that marathon? That must have been such a fun game! Were you anywhere near the walkoff homer?

  19. holdsw

    What is the big problem with me switching from my Padres hat to my Reds hat? I was at the game Friday and you kept giving me a really hard time about it.

  20. Alex

    Hey Zack, I was wondering when is the next time you are going to be in Yankee Stadium? I am going to one of the Baltimore games this week, but I am not sure which one. (no recent posts because I have been reaaaaaaaaaaaally busy lately)

  21. cjpyankee

    Hey zack just wanted to let you know I will be at the dodger game tommorow. I saw you at yankee stadium this year and you told me to leave you a comment. I will bring a picture from NY tommorow and hope to see you. Good luck on # 4000 cant wait to see it

  22. buschstadiumballcollector

    Hey zack its darron from st louis. the brewers were in town for a few games and today was lou brock statue day. There were a ton of people there and we wanted the statues so we got over to the stadium early. when i got to the stadium there were a few people out there in left center so thats where i went. well about 10 minutes into the brewers portion of batting practice i slid down to the first row(the wind was blowing in) so thats where i stood and a ball was hit almost directly to me i accidently left my glove in my parents car. well a ball was hit and it hit my hand and then hit the ground. so the guy next to me picked it up and i noticed something on the sweet spot so i asked to see the ball.he was a little hesitent on handing it over(i dont blame him) well i got to looking at it and on the sweet spot it said “GUMDROP” kind of like youres the other day but with differnt words well nothing else came my way and so i was begging batting practice ended and i went to the visitor bullpen by my season ticket section. when i got over there there were some baseballs just sitting there. a groundskeeper told me he could not give away the balls so i started taking pictures of them which he made into a neat little row on the bench and one said “schwager …” so when i asked Marcus Hanel for it he said no then i kept asking for just any ball he says to me as he tosses a ball “thanks for opening the flood gates” and people started screaming for balls i thought it was funny alight ive got to go but ive got 2 baseballs this year = )

  23. padreleigh

    Hey GregB….

    What’s up? You’ve been AWOL lately. Good to see you back. I had to go to work so I left after the 10th. I missed the last 6 innings and the walk off. It was in the upper deck so I wouldn’t have been near it anyway. I heard it bounced back onto the field and no one got it. I liked my homer though. It was a good catch on a line drive. I’ll take it!

    Hey Holdsw,

    Hello again little dude! I remember you. I wouldn’t say I was giving you “a really hard time” about switching hats. I would say I was messing with you a little bit. You would know it if I was giving you a really hard time. I know that Zack and alot of other people on here switch shirts and hats for the other teams when they’re snagging at games. They get alot of balls too. I personally just don’t like it. I’d rather get balls hit to me or thrown to me without doing all that. I just want to represent my team. It’s kind of cheating and deceptive and not in good character TO ME. That is MY OPINION though. I remember you saying it was “smart” to switch hats. You’re pretty young. You have an advantage of being a kid and you can get plenty of balls just being a kid. I’m not the only one who feels this way. Did you see all the negative stuff the Happy Youngster had to deal with because of the switching of team gear? Alot of people don’t like it. I doubt anyone even saw you switch gear except for me. I just noticed you because I’m a pro. Haha. In the end, it is just a baseball game and you can do what you want. Just be prepared to deal with negative comments from people that notice and don’t like it. Are you a San Diego kid or were you just visiting? If you’re a local, say hi next time you see me. I’m not that bad. How many did you get Friday? I bet you got more than me. I saw you get two, but you probably got more. I got 3. Did you see me save that old lady’s face?


  24. padreleigh

    I was just reading your post again and looking at the pictures above and something hit me. These kids are playing baseball, but have to have soldiers with machine guns protect them while they do so. These poor kids can’t even play baseball without the threat of some crazy, insurgent attack. I just hope all you younger readers and little leaguers take a good look at the above pictures and thank God and any soldier you see walking around that you can play baseball on a field here in the USA without needing men with machine guns to protect you. Once again, freedom isn’t free. Great pictures Zack and Bravo Zulu to Pitch in for baseball for getting these kids the equipment all the way over in Baghdad.


  25. padreleigh


    That might have been my big butt chasing baseballs in LF at PETCO. Boom Boom Boom Boom. Hahahahahhaha.


  26. gtapunk

    Since I thought you’d have some downtime, time to write your new book, thought I’d suggest checking out the Dirty Jobs pilot. Obviously you know all about the baseball rubbing mud, so entertaining at the very least. It features said mud, Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, showing it being collected, and made into the product ready to go, and then he (Mike) is in Philladelphia with the guy rubbing the balls prior to gametime. I couldn’t find a clip online, if I do, I’ll pass it along. Unrelated, there is also an episode where he is a Bowie Baysox groundskeeper.

    Have fun in L.A!

  27. baseballexperiences

    Leigh- From 16-18 seconds they have a nice closeup of you. Nice catch, it looked easy the way you caught it.

    Zack- HAve fun getting 4k today. I have a feeling it will be in the left field bleachers, thrown by Clayton Kershaw, or a glove trick.

  28. Stuart Jon

    Hey Zack,

    I hope number 4000 is something special, I’m guessing it will be a BP ball of some sort. Can’t wait to read about it. I will be watching tonight and looking out for you!

    Sad to read about Happy Youngster, every sport has an ugly side though.

    Stuart Jon

  29. zackhample

    I survived the earthquake last night!! In fact…I didn’t even feel it. I’m so disappointed. Don’t forget to look for me tonight during the game. I’ll be wearing my yellow shirt and sitting in left field.


    Not sure, but if you figure out your plans, let me know.

    Excellent. Looking forward to seeing you…

    I think you’re lying. There was no earthquake. :-)

    I would love to see that episode. Please send me the link if you find it online.

    There are no glove trick opportunities in the pavilions. There’s a huge gap between the outfield wall and the bleachers, but fans can get down there because it’s an open space, so any ball that drops down there will be grabbed immediately. I might not ask for balls until after I get No. 4,000 which would mean that the milestone ball will almost certainly have to be a BP home run. We’ll see.

    Sorry not to answer every single comment. I gotta run…for now.

  30. zackhample

    I just got back from Dodger Stadium. Crazy game. Batting practice was very slow, but I’m happy to report that I snagged a certain type of ball that I’d never gotten before. Feel free to guess, but I won’t reveal the answer until my game entry is up. Hopefully that’ll be within the next 24 hours.

    I’m still not sure. There’s a chance I won’t go to any other games this week. I really need to pick up the pace on my book and get more work done.

    Thanks. It’s nice to know that you (and others) are looking forward to it. I just noticed (because of your comment) that Happy’s blog is down, and I just emailed him, but it’s like 2am where he is in Milwaukee, so I doubt he’ll get back to me tonight. I’ll call him tomorrow when I get home and ask him what’s up. I hope he’s okay.

  31. gtapunk

    Found the Dirty Jobs episode, there’s some annoying ads to put up with, but once at the video, you can fast forward, well, advance it to 19:46 for the segment on the rubbing mud. He was in Veterans Stadium, and it aired November 2003, so looks like they were using commemorative balls for the final season there!
    I’ll be interested in hearing the new ball you got! I’ll guess said Veterans Stadium commemorative ball!
    Just looking through your commemorative balls, looks like you have not managed to get any World Series balls since 2001, wonder if they stop using them after the WS, unless they have just evaded you. Alright, I’ll stop now!

  32. baseballexperiences

    I am 99% sure i know what ball it is. Did you talk to me about it in right field @ citi last friday? Im really jelous. I wont spoil it for everyone else though.
    Cant wait to hear about 4k.

  33. jerseyboy

    My guess would have to be it’s one of those baseballs with the MLB 2K9 or some sort of advertisement on it.


  34. Txbaseballfan

    I’m with BEN, I think it’s one of those video game balls, or possibly a World Baseball Classic ball. Maybe some got mixed in with MLB balls, who knows? Either way, I’m excited to hear about it & also hear about your night!

    HAPPY– If you are reading this, hope all is well my friend!

  35. padreleigh

    Hmmmmm. The Dodgers were just in Miami to play the Marlins. I’m going to guess you got a Billy the Marlin commemorative ball? No, just kidding. It’s got to be a video game ball or a New Yankees Stadium commemorative ball.


  36. gjk2212

    im gonna say you snagged a golf ball.

    im turning 18 tomorrow and will be celebrating it snagging at yankee stadium (with the help of greg, donnie, and my special trick;) not telling)

    see anyone there?

    and theres a faint possibility ill be in dc thursday…citi next tuesday and possibly friday..

  37. cookandsonbats

    Anyone know what happened to the Happy Youngster’s blog? Its seems to be AWOL. Did he take it down after the Coghlan incident?

  38. gregb123

    Nationals Park is the absolute best. 13 balls last night, including a Freddy Sanchez foul ball in the 5th inning.

    Hope you succeeded in L.A. last night. (Of course you did, and I can’t wait to hear about it.)

    In other news, I’m going to Chicago next week!!! Two games in the bleachers at Wrigley, then two games at U.S. Cellular. Can’t wait!

  39. Stuart Jon


    Happy Youngster seems to have gone AWOL after everyone has taken the opportunity to bash him. It’s interesting to see the reaction. Here we have a FAN trying to make money (which he was not, but let’s say he was) out of a Ball Club, refreshing as it is normally the Ball Club making tons of cash from its fans, 8 bucks for a beer or 6 for a burger? Or even 2500 for a field seat? That’s perfectly ok, but God forbid it being the other way around, the media, and all these fans (most of which don’t even watch baseball) come out and start insulting him and ball hawks in general, now I am no ball hawk, my stats will show that, but so what if grown men want to catch ball or get autographs, they have paid their money for the ticket and taken the time to go to the game!!

    Zack is even doing this for Charity this season, all these punks that have bashed happy youngster and other ball hawks should stop and think before citing what is right and wrong. I intend to write something on my own blog about this at some point.

    Stuart Jon

  40. cubs0110


    can’t wait for your Chicago report! I hope you have better weather than Zack did.

  41. gregb123

    Cubs — If you see me, introduce yourself. I’ll be in the bleachers Thursday and Sunday nights.

    Puck — I don’t know, I kinda never got around to it. I actually just asked the guy who runs it if I could join, so we’ll see what happens.

  42. MLBallhawk

    I KNOW!! I KNOW!! Ooops but that was only because I was there! What really sucks is the ball that the guy knocked out of my glove was the same kind!!!

    Oh well ……… I look forward to the entry and seeing what you say about me ;-0

    Baseballs 4 MADD

    PS … Happy is MIA …. APB on HAPPY!!


    Whoa, and all the entries on Happy’s blog are gone.

    If he deleted them, i’ll say that that was a bad idea. Dont let all those other jerks get to you Happy! Keep on bloggin!

  44. districtboy

    Ahh, the Pirates series at Nationals Park is as good as I though it would be. 10 balls yesterday (perhaps could have had more if I didn’t have to leave early). Then today I broke my record for most balls in a single game snagging 17. It helped that Tony Beasley has dreadful memory (he threw me two balls in eight seconds), and that I found three easter eggs right off the bat. Anyways, I can’t wait to find out how you got 4000. My random guess: thrown to you by Ramon Troncoso (who threw me #200).


  45. cubs0110

    There was a Happy sighting today at the cell :) It was a nice surprise seeing him there doing his thing. I’ll let him tell you about his day and what happened with his blog, but I got 4, and just missed a Jermaine Dye homer. This one dude happened to dash to the exact spot where it landed. There’s also a shot of me missing a high five with the dude that caught it. Not my best TV moment, haha.

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