8/11/09 at Camden Yards

“T-Shirt Tuesday” always draws a big crowd at Camden Yards:


Thankfully I had a spot at the front of the line, and it paid off. As soon as the stadium opened at 5pm, I raced out toward the left field seats and found a ball sitting in the front row along the foul line. The ball was VERY scuffed and even had a tiny piece of concrete embedded in its cowhide cover. Check it out:


I would’ve taken a photo of the ball sitting in the seats, but Jona had my camera, and since she didn’t have a season ticket, she was trapped in right field for the first half-hour. The good news is that she took a bunch of photos of me from afar. In the photo below, I’m the guy in the white T-shirt:


Within the first few minutes, I lost a three-person race for a loose ball in the seats…


…but quickly made up for it by making a nice running catch on a home run hit by Melvin Mora. The following four-part photo (starting on the top left and then going clockwise) shows me 1) running through an empty row, 2) crossing the staircase, 3) pausing for a moment to look up, and 4) lunging far to my glove side to make the catch:


That first section was 22 seats wide. I love having room to run. Baltimore is the best.

Unfortunately I had some bad luck after that. Three different balls tipped off the very end of my glove — two of which ricocheted back onto the field — and then I got robbed on a deep fly ball by Chris Tillman:


Cool photo, huh? Here’s a closer look:


It might look like the ball is falling short of my glove, but I guarantee that I would’ve caught it.

I’m happy to say that my luck improved soon after. Robert Andino launched a deep home run to my right and I took off through an empty row. As I reached the staircase on the far side of the section, I looked up just in time to see the ball fly 20 feet over my head. It landed on the staircase and took a gigantic bounce deeper into the section. It bounced all the way into the seats above/behind the cross-aisle (which is about 25 rows back). I sprinted up the steps as a fellow ballhawk trailed close behind…


…and I cut through the aisle and managed to grab the ball as it began to trickle down the steps of the elevated section. Fun!

That was my third ball of the day, and I snagged another soon after. I’m not sure who hit it. All I know is that it was a home run by a right-handed batter on the Orioles. It landed in a mostly-empty patch of seats in left-center field, and I ran over and grabbed it. There was nothing special about it until I took a peek at the ball itself. Here are two photos of it:


Have you ever seen anything like that?! Forget the small gash on the right. I’m talking about the bas-relief-like impression on the left. It looks like there are letters, perhaps the first three of the word BASEBALL? But if so, what would have created that mark on the ball? Could it have been a bat? And if it was, why aren’t the letters reversed like a mirror image? I’ve snagged my share of bat-imprinted balls, and the markings always look two-dimensional like this, so I’m completely stumped here.

At 5:30pm, I changed into my dark green A’s gear, and Jona headed over to left field. She took a photo of me standing around…


…and got another photo of me climbing over some seats:


I didn’t end up getting that ball. I wasn’t getting anything. I kept having close calls, and Jona captured me with a look of dismay after one of them:


Somehow, I ended up snagging a bunch of balls after that. I don’t know why. I guess my luck just improved. It started when I positioned myself deep in the section for Tommy Everidge. I caught one of his home runs on the fly, and then ten seconds later, I grabbed another one of his home run balls that whacked a seat and bounce right up to me. It was beautiful. I was running through the row, and the ball popped up waist-high, and I kind of swatted at it with my andrew_bailey_2009.jpgglove and scooped it up in one motion. (I later gave that one away to a kid. I should probably keep the home run balls and give away the ones that are tossed to me, but whatever.) Then, a few minutes later, I started using my glove trick to knock a ball closer on the warning track, and a player came over and picked up the ball and tucked it into my glove. I’m not sure who it was, but the same thing happened AGAIN five minutes later with Andrew Bailey (whom I now realize was the guy who bounced the ball to me off the warning track the day before). Anyway, poof, just like that, I’d snagged four balls within a 10-minute span to salvage my day, and then I snagged another home run ball — my ninth ball overall. It was absurdly lucky. The ball fell five feet short and headed right toward two guys with gloves who were standing two rows in front of me. Incredibly, they not only dropped it, but they somehow managed to bobble it two rows back. It kind of skipped off their wrists and blooped right into my row where I bent down and grabbed it without any competition. I mean, the seats were fairly crowded at that point, but there wasn’t anyone else in my row at that moment (which is why I was IN that row). You get the point. It was as lucky as it gets.

Meanwhile, when BP ended a few minutes later, I was as sweaty as it gets:


I don’t know what it is with me and butt sweat. I’m not sure if that’s a perfectly normal bodily reaction to running around nonstop for 70 minutes when it’s 90 degrees and humid…or if I should see a doctor about it. As for my upper body, my white T-shirt was completely soaked, and the A’s shirt was absorbing the moisture. I didn’t even care. That’s what showers are for. Someone once suggested that I get one of those under-armor shirts, but I haven’t gotten around to it.

I headed to the left field foul line when the A’s came back out to stretch and run and throw…


…and I got Mark Ellis to sign a ticket:


(Nice handwriting, pal. You’re fired.)

Then I got Adam Kennedy to toss me his warm-up ball after he finished throwing. I was surprised he gave it to me. He’d thrown me one the day before at the same time in the same spot when I was wearing the exact same thing.

During the game, I stayed in the right field standing-room-only section whenever there was a left-handed batter, and I moved to the seats on the right side of home plate for most of the righties. I was constantly on the move…


…and Jona was kind enough to carry my backpack for me.

(By the way, that alien shirt is THE shirt I was wearing as an 18-year-old in 1996 when I snagged my 1,000th ball. Check it out. On the front it says, “Baseball: a higher form of intelligence.”)

There weren’t any home runs that came anywhere near me, but there was some action behind the plate. In the top of the fifth inning, Mark Ellis hit a foul ball that shot straight back over the protective screen. It was heading about 40 feet to my left. The photo below was taken from the tunnel where I was standing, and the arrow is pointing to the spot where the ball ended up:


Naturally, I bolted through the aisle (is it too late to have an aisle installed at Citi Field?) and watched with great pleasure as a gloveless man sitting in the elevated section behind the aisle bobbled the ball and dropped it over the railing. There was another fan standing nearby in the aisle, but he didn’t even know what was happening, so I was able to swoop in and grab the ball after it took one bounce. It was embarrassingly lucky and easy, and I won’t lie — I love it.

I got even luckier after that (although in this case there was some skill involved too). One inning later, as I was hurrying through the aisle from the outfield to my normal spot behind the plate, Scott Hairston happened to slice a high foul pop-up in my direction.

Take a look at the photo below. It shows the aisle where I was walking, but even more importantly, it shows a platform that extends out from underneath the second deck. (There are TV cameras up there.) Here it is:


The ball went HIGH up in the air, and I really didn’t think I was going to have a play on it. I couldn’t be certain where exactly it was going to land, but I knew it was going to come close, so I got myself into position to give myself a chance. I weaved in and out of a few people, then did the same thing with those vertical/folding chairs. It felt like there were a million obstacles, and as the ball started to descend, I thought, “No way…” If the ball carried far enough back into the stands to reach the aisle, it was going to land on that platform. At least that’s what I thought…and I was pretty sure that if it missed the platform, it wasn’t going to reach me. Still, I kept drifting and looking up and tracking the ball as it came closer and closer, and then before I knew it, I was surrounded by grown men who were all jostling for position and reaching up. It was coming right to us…to ME. I had picked THE perfect spot, so I reached up as high as I could with both hands and squeezed my glove around the ball when it landed. Ha-HAAA!!! It was a totally unexpected foul ball. I hadn’t even been in a “good” spot. I was merely passing through. The whole section erupted with cheers, and I got high fives and fist bumps from half a dozen fans. Best of all, I got a kiss from Jona who’d been standing 20 feet away and saw the whole thing.

I went ALL OUT to get more foul balls after that — my one-game record is three — but I didn’t have any other chances.

The game itself was great. The Orioles won, 3-2, and the whole thing was done in 2 hours and 23 minutes. (I later learned that I witnessed a bit of history: Rajai Davis hit the 10,000th double in A’s history.)

After the game, I got a ball at Oakland’s dugout. A bunch of relievers walked in from the bullpen, and when they all disappeared from sight under the dugout roof, a ball came sailing up and bounced right to me. It was rubbed with mud, which means it was either used in a game or intended for game use, so that’s cool.

On my way out, a large middle-aged man struck up a conversation with me. He recognized me from the day before as That Guy who had gotten a foul ball from the press box and handed it to a little kid sitting nearby. It just so happened that this man was Landon Powell’s father, and the little boy (who was at his first game ever) was one of Landon’s nephews. Landon ended up signing that ball for him.

The End.


17_the_two_foul_balls_08_11_09.jpg• 13 balls at this game (the two foul balls pictured here on the right)

• 369 balls in 42 games this season = 8.79 balls per game.

• 611 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 113 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 51 lifetime games outside of New York with at least 10 balls

• 131 lifetime game balls (not counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd)

• 10 lifetime game balls at Camden Yards

• 15th time snagging two or more game balls in one game

• 4,189 total balls


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

• $24.75 pledged per ball

• $321.75 raised at this game

• $9,132.75 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball


  1. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    Hey Zack,
    I got a ball last night at the Gwinnett Braves game. It was a foul ball that hit off of Brian Barton’s glove before he tossed it to me. He uses a red glove and the ball had red marks all over it. But what I didn’t know is that minor league teams don’t rub up their game balls. This one was perfectly white minus the red marks.

  2. royalsfreak

    Hey Zack. Congrats on the two foul balls! My first gamer has yet to reach my glove, but I’m happy for you. I also found out that MiLB game balls are (usually) not rubbed up with mud. Did you know that??

  3. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Is the 200 level a good spot for foul balls (specifically section 222 behind the O’s dugout)

  4. floridafly@aol.com

    My career in foul balls caught during a game is 2 also. I doubt I could ever reach that again. I was extremely lucky that game, and there wasn’t that big of a crowd at Landshark Stadium.

  5. mbenz@theroy.org

    That ball must have landed on one of those little plates or plaques that is on each seat indicating the seat or row number. Pretty cool marking – looks like it hit seat 10.

  6. rockiesfanatic14

    Hey Zack
    Just wanted to let you know that ill be at coors field on the 25th. I think i already told you this. Anyways ill probably be late so you should save me a spot in line, lol. I dont care if you do but that would be cool.

  7. rockiesfanatic14

    Hey Zack
    Just wanted to let you know that ill be at coors field on the 25th. I think i already told you this. Anyways ill probably be late so you should save me a spot in line, lol. I dont care if you do but that would be cool.

  8. gregb123

    Did you see that Landon Powell hit one to the back of the standing room section at Camden Yards today?

  9. Txbaseballfan

    Nice recovery my friend! You were right, the next day WAS better! I love your scuffed balls (HEEHEE!), the one with the word impression is a mind blower. Whatever did that would have to be reversed, which is opposite of how it normally works. Did I say that right? The imprint is usually reversed if the ball hits something with normal print. That’s what I meant. Who knows, but it sure is fun to think of different theories! I got 2 foul balls from a minor league game last week, in two different innings from two different batters, with the same smudges on the the logos! Thought that was worth mentioning.

  10. alexmcmurray@gmail.com

    You look great in the Oakland A’s apparel, Zack!


    Castro Valley, CA

  11. zackhample

    Hmm. That’s weird because game balls ARE rubbed with mud throughout the minors.

    I demand to know your source about the minor league mud! :-)

    It’s only good in front of the press box. Once you get behind the dugouts, the 200 level is covered by the overhang of the second deck.

    That’s a great stadium for foul balls.

    Hmm…interesting theory.

    I’ll see what I can do about the line. No promises, but either way it’ll be nice to see you.

    Ugh. Don’t talk to me.

    Heh. Yes, you said that right. I was with you all the way.

    Nope, I’m not following the Reds closely, but MLB.com has a milestone tracker on its site, so check it out.

    Yeah, it’s a cool pic, but the event it captured was (and still is) painful.


  12. cubbies24


    My name is Christian I’m 13 and I was wondering if you will ever be in Chicago for a Cubs game. I only have one baseball that i snagged from a game. It was the inaugural season ball for the Yanks. I hope that one day perhaps this year you can help me get a few more. I have seen all of your videos and check out your blog every day. I’m a big fan of yours and I would love to go snag some baseballs with you.

    Arigatou, Gracias, Spasiba, Thank You.

  13. Greg


    Almost snagged my 1st game ball yesterday. Since I am a vendor working the games, I never actually try to snag but I was selling something right next to the Pesky Pole (RF foul pole) and Josh Reddick (lefty) was up. During the sale, I thought to myself that I should just stay here until the AB is over, but after completing the sale I took a step or 2 back up the aisle. Wouldn’t you know, he laced a ground rule double to the EXACT spot where I just was. I would have come right to me. I wouldn’t have been able to keep the ball (being a worker), but it still would have been cool to actually snag a game ball. Oh well.

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

  14. ssweene1

    @Royalsfreak and Zack

    Convince me that I am wrong, but I have been to many minor league parks and all those balls were rubbed down with mud. I have a crate full of balls from Alexian Field (independent league) and from the Kane County Cougars (single a) and nearly every one that is a gamer is rubbed down..

  15. Txbaseballfan


    I have been to LaGrave Field (Independent League) here in Fort Worth, Texas and have gotten 2 game balls & both were rubbed with mud. Whoever said they weren’t is mistaken.

  16. Section86

    yey for being the one that beat you in that 3 person race in bp. im wearing the orange shirt and greenish shorts.


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