2009 World Series — Game 5

On a personal level, the best thing about Game 5 of the 2009 World Series was getting a free ticket. The worst thing was that I had to watch the Phillies and Yankees. To put it lightly, I don’t care for either team. I thought about wearing all Mets gear (as a way of staging my own mini-protest), but ultimately I decided to dress like this:


It was my way of messing with fans of both teams without getting laughed at. As I made my way around the stadium, I noticed people staring and pointing. One guy asked if he could get a photo with me. His friend asked if I was bipolar.

It was only 2:30pm — more than five hours before the first pitch — so I had time to get food (don’t order pasta or the turkey burger at McFadden’s) and take a bunch of photos…

Here’s a look at the street that runs from the 3rd base gate to the Ashburn Alley gate in left field:


One word: HOOPLA.

The whole place had a carnival-like atmosphere…


…and yet as I walked around, I noticed that I wasn’t really feeling it. It didn’t feel like the World Series. It just felt like any other game, except colder. I was hoping to snag at least eight balls in order to maintain an average of nine balls per game for the entire season, and of course I wanted to get my hands on a commemorative game-used ball with the 2009 World Series logo, but I felt no sense of urgency. I don’t know why — maybe because it’d been so long since my last game that I’d fallen out of SnagMode — but I felt rather Zen about the whole thing. Ultimately, I just wanted to snag one ball and see a good game.

The TV crews were out in full force…


…and there were other media as well. A classic rock radio station was broadcasting from a tent, and as I walked by, the female DJ waved me over.

“I gotta talk to you for a minute,” she said, reaching for a microphone.

Sure enough, she asked me about the clothes I was wearing.

I explained that I didn’t like either team.

“You hate everybody!” she joked, and then she asked me why I was even AT the game.

“Because I got a free ticket,” I said.

“How’d you manage that?” she asked.

I told her about my books and my baseball collection and mentioned that there’s a ticket company called First Hand Tickets that recently “sponsored” me…and that I got the ticket from them. She was pretty intrigued by the whole story and kept asking me questions. I couldn’t believe how long the interview was lasting, but once it was over, she told me that it was being taped and that her editor was going to trim it down and air part of it later. Oh well. Still cool.

Before I headed off, she got one of her assistants to take the following photo of us:


As for First Hand Tickets…basically, what it all comes down to is that StubHub isn’t the only option. StubHub is so big that it’s tough (in my experience) to get personal attention, but with

First Hand Tickets, you can actually call up and speak to real human beings who can help you get what you need. They even help put together flight and hotel packages, so check out their site and give them a call. The head of the company — a really nice guy named Warren — said he’ll offer discounts to people who ask for him and mention my name. So yeah. Keep these guys in mind.

Anyway, by the time the gates were getting ready to open, the sun was setting…


…and by the time I ran inside and snagged the first November ball of my life, it was already dark:


It was thrown by Phillies pitcher Kyle Kendrick, and as you can see, it was a regular MLB ball. It’d be really cool if teams used World Series balls during BP before World Series games. I don’t see what the big deal is. I suppose MLB figures they’ll end up selling more World Series balls (at thirty bucks a pop) if they’re harder to get a hold of, but if that’s their logic, then I must respectfully disagree. If there were even a few World Series balls floating around during BP, fans would go nuts to try to catch every single ball. More people would show up early (which would lead to extra concession sales for the home team), and for every fan who managed to catch a World Series ball, there’d be 20 other fans standing right nearby, asking to have a look at it. Those people would be more inclined to buy the balls if they actually saw them being used — and if they felt like they were THIS close to actually catching one. Plus…Home Run Derby balls are used during BP prior to the Derby itself, so obviously it can be done.

At one point, during the first few minutes of BP, Phillies fans were ganging up on the few Yankee fans. One guy who was decked out in Yankee gear got (intentionally) slammed from behind while reaching up to catch a home run. This caused him to drop the ball, and when he tried to scramble for it in between two rows of seats, the Phillies fan (who was absolutely huge) dove on top of him with crushing force. It was perhaps the most blatant case of aggression and violence that I’d *ever* seen at a game. But you know what? Any non-Yankee fan in the Bronx is likely to be treated just as badly, if not worse. I’ve seen Yankee fans rip opposing teams’ caps off fans’ heads and light them on fire. In conclusion: “Yankee and Philly fans, I now pronounce you man and wife.”

Now…did you notice how empty the stands were in the photo above? It didn’t stay that way for long. By the time the Yankees took the field, I still only had one ball, and the seats were packed:


I just wasn’t on my game. In addition to the TWO tossed balls that had tipped off my glove (longer arms would’ve helped), I wasn’t judging home runs well, and I think it was partly due to the fact that the balls weren’t carrying. Everything was falling short — no surprise there — and I was slow to make the adjustment. Once I turned my attention to the glove trick, however, things started picking up. There was a ball that rolled onto the warning track near the left field
alfredo_aceves_2009.jpgfoul pole, and as I was trying to reel it in, Alfredo Aceves walked over and stuffed it in my glove. Then, in straight-away left field, I had a chance to use the trick to reel in another — and get this: even though I was wearing my Yankee gear at that point, there was a female Yankee fan in the front row who was incredibly rude to me. Basically, she was taking up two spots against the railing, and she refused to let me in because she wanted the ball for herself. (She was about 25 years old, looked like she was 45, needed a meal more than she needed a ball, and wasn’t wearing a glove.) She made such a big fuss about not letting me into the front row that the two Phillies fans to her right moved over to make some space for me. (Thank you, Philadelphia. You’re not so bad after all.) Once I climbed into the front row, the woman told me that if I got the ball, I had to give it to her since she’d let me in. (I ignored her at that point.) Moments later, as I was starting to lower my glove over the wall, she said, “Ohmygod, you are so embarrassing. Can you go away?” My response went as follows: “Lady, there are 45,000 other seats in this stadium. If you have a problem with me, you can move to any one of them.” While everyone else was cheering for me, the woman was talking trash and cursing. I just tuned it out, went about my business, snagged the ball, and headed back up the steps.

Five minutes later, while still wearing my Yankee gear, a Phillies fan was kind enough to hold my legs while I reached way out and across the flower bed to reel in another ball with the glove trick — my fourth ball overall. Granted, this fan recognized me from YouTube and then proceeded to ask for the ball (I gave him my rally towel instead — estimated eBay value: $20), but it was still a nice gesture on his part.

Batting practice ended two minutes later, and on my way out of the section, I found a ticket lying on the ground. Half an hour later, while walking through the field level concourse, I found another. Check this out:


See the ticket for Section 130? Do you know where that is?! Take a look at the Citizens Bank Park seating chart below:


That’s right…the game hadn’t even started, and for the rest of the night, I was guaranteed to have full access to the seats behind the Yankee dugout. This was a big deal because my actual seat was up here:


I was officially supposed to be in the “right field bleacher deck,” or some kind of nonsense like that, but there was no way that I was going up there. I didn’t know where I’d end up — I was expecting to have a standing-room-only ticket — but I knew I wasn’t going to any section where it was physically impossible to catch a ball. If I had to, I’d stand in the concourse all night and wait until a foul ball or home run started flying in my direction and then bolt down the steps. The problem with sneaking anywhere was that there simply weren’t empty seats.

But wait…hang on…I’m getting ahead of myself. Just after Alanis Morissette sang the national anthem, Derek Jeter came out and started playing catch in front of the dugout (probably to derek_jeter_2009.jpgshow off for her and/or to ask for her phone number). I used my “Section 130” ticket to get past the ushers, and then I waltzed right down to the front row. Almost every seat was full at that point, but there was one opening in the middle of the section right behind the dugout. It just so happened that this open space was at the outfield end of the dugout, where Jeter was likely to return with the ball. Another happy coincidence: my Yankee shirt said “JETER 2” on the back, so I slipped my arms out through the sleeves and turned the shirt around so that I was wearing his name on my chest. I poked my arms back out, grabbed my camera, positioned my backpack in just the right spot so that it wouldn’t get trampled…and before I knew it, Jeter was finishing up. I didn’t have time to take a photo. All I could do was wave my glove and shout his name and try to make sure that he could see my shirt. He was walking right to me with the ball in his hand. Could it be?! I’d never gotten a ball from him and always wanted one. Even though he played for the Yankees, he was one of my all-time favorite players — one of only two guys (Mariano Rivera being the other) who can actually make me root FOR the Yankees. He kept walking closer. I shouted my head off. He looked to the left, then to the right. Was there a more worthy recipient? A pretty young woman or a cute little kid? No! Jeter took another step and then flipped the ball right to me. The fans on either side reached for it, but they had no chance. I dove forward and caught the ball (pictured on the left) in my glove with full extension, and I belly flopped on the dugout roof. Oh. My. God. DEREK JETER!!! And as a bonus, this ball broke my own personal single-game World Series record of four balls, which I achieved last year at Game 4.

That made my night, week, month, and…I don’t want to say year, because there were quite a few highlights, but man, I was so excited after that. I almost couldn’t tell if it had really happened. I’d been having a lot of snagging dreams lately, and they all felt so real at the time.

As for the game, fun fun fun. Cliff Lee gave up a run in the top of the first, but the Phillies answered with three runs in the bottom of the frame and three more in the third. Chase Utley hit two homers, tying Reggie Jackson’s record for the most home runs hit by one player in a World Series. Unfortunately, I was halfway across the stadium for both of those homers, just chillin’ in foul territory. If I felt like I had a chance to catch a homer, then I would’ve been in the outfield seats, but there’s no cross-aisle at Citizens Bank Park. There’s no way to run left or right. There were no empty seats out there. I wouldn’t have been allowed to stand on any of the staircases, and even if I were, and even if a ball came right to me, there’s no guarantee that I would’ve caught it because the crowd was in a snagging frenzy, even with foul balls. People were pushing and shoving like mad.

In the top of the ninth inning, with the Phillies clinging to an 8-5 lead, this was my view from the back of Section 130:


Then, after Jeter bounced into a run-scoring double play, this was my new spot:


There was a pocket of empty seats down at the front.


I couldn’t sneak all the way down while the game was in progress, but I had my post-game route planned out: down the steps, through the second row, into front row, all the way to the right. That was as close as I could get to the spot where the umpires would be walking off the field. Home plate ump Dana DeMuth had tossed me two post-game balls in the past — both at PETCO Park, incidentally — but those came during the regular season. Would his generosity possibly extend into the World Series?!

The answer had to wait as Johnny Damon smoked a single to center. Mark Teixiera came up next and promptly fell behind in the count, 0-2. I was ready to pounce. I wasn’t sure if any other fans were thinking what I was thinking, so I need to move fast. Teixiera took a ball to bring the count to 1-2. My heart was pounding. I was afraid he’d hit a two-run homer and tie the game. I didn’t want extra innings. I wanted the Phillies to win, and I wanted them to win NOW. Next pitch? Strike three! Ballgame over. Final score: Phillies 8, Yankees 6. I raced down the steps, did some fancy footwork, and reached the corner spot JUST in front of another guy who’d been rushing there too. The rest was up to Mister DeMuth. As he began walking toward me, it was so noisy that I could barely hear myself screaming his name. Somehow, though, he must have heard me because this was the result:


Hell yeah.

It’s hard to tell in the photo above, but the ball was actually quite rubbed up with mud. The photo below (which shows all six balls that I snagged) will give you a better idea of what the ball really looks like. And here’s the best look of all.



• 6 balls at this game (the Jeter ball is in the middle of the bottom row)

• 538 balls in 60 games this season = 8.97 balls per game.

• 629 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 12 consecutive post-season games with at least one ball

• 5 consecutive World Series games with at least one ball

• 4,358 total balls


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

• $25.45 pledged per ball

• $152.70 raised at this game

• $13,692.10 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

The charity has already received thousands of dollars’ worth of donations. (Click here and look at the scrolling box on the upper right to see who has officially contributed.) If you’ve made a pledge but haven’t yet sent in the funds, now’s a great time to do it. I’m not free to attend Game 6, and I’m not even going to try to attend Game 7, so this effectively concludes my season. For instructions on how to pay, click here.


  1. jerseyboy

    Hey Zack,

    Lucky me, I get to leave the first comment. I’m excited to see this entry after all the talk we’ve had the last few days trying to get down to Philly. So glad it worked out for you. I’m surprised you didn’t get berated for wearing both teams’ gear at the same time. By the way, I have to ask, in the Philadelphia inquirer article, the person said you didn’t like any team, and had a soft spot for the Phillies. Was that his mistake, or did you just lie to him for the article?

    Anyway, glad to see you came away with 6 balls, and that Jeter one. I was close to Jeter’s toss-up on Sunday, but was not wearing a Jeter shirt, and hate him, so would never scream his name the way you probably did. Also, isn’t it crazy that section 130 truly is packed? I was down there, I could NOT get a seat down there, it sucked. And I didn’t have the luck of a ticket to get me in and out. So I had to leave. Anyway, great entry!


  2. ramones18

    its great to hear you were able to make it to the game.
    i was watching on tv and for a split second i thought you might have caught utley’s first hr but im said to read it wasn’t true. on that part where the phillies fan held you by your ankles, i saw an incident in anaheim this past summer before i moved back to boston where a fan agreed to hold another one by his ankles but let go of him and ran for it. needless to say THAT guy wasn’t in the stadium for long. haha
    beautiful 2009 WS ball. as a red sox fan, i sometimes admire jeter as well… i mean its hard to hate that guy.

  3. trickholmes@aol.com

    Time to fly down south for ball snagging winter leagues! next MLB game for Z hample = April 12 / Petco Park :)

  4. padreleigh


    I think you just turned me gay with all that gushing over Derek Jeter. Seriously, he’s just another ball player. Calm down. Nice job on the umpire ball at the end of the game. That was freaking sweet. Very nice ball.


  5. PSU532@yahoo.com

    Zack, nice World Series recap. I’m assuming you’re not going tonight? Glad you finally got a ball from Jeter. I hate the Yankees, but I was at the game back in 2004 where he dove into the stands against the Red Sox, so I’ll never forget that game.

    Check out this funny pic:


    I love the guy’s face right behind Spike Lee. He’s fuming that he didn’t get the ball!

  6. steelcity9999

    Congrats on snagging an Official World Series game baseball! That is awesome. Looks great with the mud rub.


  7. zackhample

    I have no idea how my Phillies comment got misinterpreted. I told the guy that I was definitely rooting for the Phillies over the Yankees, and that Citizens Bank Park is a good place to ballhawk, and that I like some of the Phillies players, but I never said anything about liking the team. How can you hate Derek Jeter?! My only complaint about him is that he gives the most boring interviews ever, but that’s actually part of what makes him so great: he doesn’t say dumb things. He doesn’t distract the team. He doesn’t make it all about himself. Anyway, yeah, section 130 was nuts. There was no place to go except in the 9th inning after some people had left and everyone else was standing.

    I once had a guy drop me onto the field at Shea Stadium while “holding” my ankles. What a putz. I didn’t even need his help in the first place.

    Umm, no. Time to go into hiding and finish writing my book.

    You’ll be fine. I think, though, that if you lived in an AL East city (or even an East city, or even an AL city) where you got to see Jeter regularly, you’d appreciate his awesomeness.

    He IS. Shut up! :-)

    Thanks very much! I hope we get to connect again/more next season.

    Nah, no game for me tonight. My dad is doing a signing/reading for his new book (about his Woody Allen comic strip), so I’m going to that. I won’t even get to watch the first few innings on TV. Nice photo, BTW.

    Thank you.

  8. keeper14@comcast.net

    Hey Zack, congrats on the Official World Series ball, I was at game 4 and hoping to catch one of those but it just didn’t work out. Other then that though, I had an amazing day in right field during bp. I caught toss-ups from Chad Durbin, Clay Condrey, and Brett Myers. Plus, I also caught homeruns from Jimmy Rollins, Mark Teixeira, and from Matt Stairs. Well actually, 4 homeruns from Matt Stairs! I totaled 9 balls on the day, exceeding my expectations by far. I read your blog all the time, and learned everything I know from you and your books. I was just wondering, is this some sort of record? I have never heard of anybody catching 9 balls in a W.S. game. Thanks!

  9. smf7293@aol.com

    Hey nice game. Did you ever try to get a third out ball since you were behind the dugout? Also, do teams use opening day baseballs only on the first day of the season or for all home openers?

  10. jerseyboy

    Jeter is the face, the representative of a team I hate. I the same way I hate Albert Steriodjols, Tom Brady, I hated Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller, Kobe, Chipper. I mean, it’s one of those things. You hate a team, you hate the face of their team. Jeter is VICIOUSLY overrated as well. He’s not 1/10 of the player the media makes him out to be. Roberto Alomar didn’t get half the credit Jeter gets, and he was very equivalent statistically. It’s like Jeter is the messiah, it’s ridiculous. Michael Jordan as well. He was NOT the greatest player ever. Tom Brady is no where NEAR one of the best QB’s ever, but for some reason, the media treats these guys like they can sell sh*t to an *sshole.

  11. zackhample

    Are any of you going to the parade tomorrow? Have any of you ever been to the parade?

    As far as I know, that’s a record. If I had to guess, though, I would assume that SOMEone SOMEwhere has managed to break double digits at a World Series game, but I’ve never heard of anyone achieving such a feat. Congrats.

    I went down to the front a few times, but the players were mostly either dropping the ball on the mound on their way in or just keeping it. As for Opening Day balls, I believe they’re only used on Opening Day, and not even for the whole game. I need to go back through my notes (from when I went to the commissioner’s office) and make sure.

    Your line of reasoning makes sense. I just happen not to see it that way, and I must respectfully disagree about Jeter being overrated. Four years from now, when he has 3,500 career hits, are you still going to think he’s overrated? Was Pete Rose overrated? Roberto Alomar was great, but he was also a jerk (spitting in the face of an ump, anyone?), and he didn’t win all those rings, and he retired before he put up HOF-type numbers.

    Heh. Oh well. I’m sure he/she still found a way to get down there.


  12. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Well i managed to get 2 balls at Game 6, so i am on the postseason snagging board!

    Did you ask the commisioners office (or the phillies equipment guy) about the ashburn alley balls

  13. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Oh, and the stadium was awful last night.
    No energy what so ever.
    Dead. Lifeless.

  14. yankees42294

    im going to the parade tomorrow, i went to the giants one a few years ago, massive amounts of people, if you go leave mad early

  15. dailymlbroundtable

    Just a question… where do you get all your hats to bring to the games and do you ever tour around ballparks before your visits? Thanks…

  16. zackhample

    Nicely done! Given the fact that the Yankees have priced the average/die-hard fan right out of the stadium, I’m not surprised to hear that the place was dead. And yeah, I did ask about the Ashburn Alley balls.

    Well, how about that. Although I think it’s especially stupid for a professional athlete to use drugs, I happen to think that all drugs should be legalized.

    Oh, come on. Torre will always be The Man.

    Thanks. For a moment, I thought I was gonna be going (with a reporter from a New York-based magazine), but now…nope.

    I bought every team’s cap from a really cheap souvenir stand outside Yankee Stadium in 1992. Since then, I’ve replaced a lot of them with higher quality hats from stadium team stores. As for the tours…no.

  17. puckcollector@optonline.net

    Notice how EVERY Yankees employee mentions how nice it is to win a WS in the first year of the new stadium.

  18. brihalos2005

    I went to Angels & Yankees game 5 (Angels won) and sat in my favorite section for playoffs so it was great to see how all this went down at an actual World Series game for comparison!! I got to sit next to some pretty cool people so that made it even better (one girl even brought her glove, and it was her friend’s first ever game!).

    I have yet to ever grab a ball in my lifetime, but maybe that changes in 2010. not for lack of trying or bringing a glove (though it would be sweet to barehand one too). part of my problem is where I normally watch games (think upper upper deck thanks to my in-laws that have season tickets), and I stay in my seat a lot. but whenever I sit at the field level it’s usually along the lines. so I’ll be going back and reading more of your tips for next season and sure it will pay off…

    Brian S. (brihalos2005)

  19. jerseyboy

    Maybe Jeter will get to 3,500 hits, and maybe then he’ll earn some respect in my book. But it doesn’t change the fact that that he isn’t even the best shortstop on his own team. He is an average shortstop and a solid hitter. Yeah, Alomar was a major piece of crap, but the numbers are comparable. Jeter gets credit for being a team leader, and making plays NO one could make, and other ridiculous claims that the media wants to be true. I can’t stand a player surrounded by hype he doesn’t deserve, or live up to. He is NOT a difference-maker, cause no position player in baseball is.


  20. zackhample

    Upper deck?! Booooo! There are some places where that might work, but c’mon, you gotta get down to the field level.

    You don’t think Barry Bonds was a difference maker when he was walked over 100 times intentionally in one season and got on base more than 60 percent of the time?

  21. jerseyboy

    Of Bonds’s 4 MVP years with San Francisco, including the one with the .609 OBP I believe it was, only 2 went to the playoffs, and 1 did go to the World Series. They only finished 1st once, and the year they went to the World Series, the team was FAR superior to any other year on that team. My point was…LeBron James, all alone, can win a game. Peyton Manning, with a bad defense, essentially all alone, can win a game. Dominik Hasek can dominate, and as long as his team scores once, can win a game. Tim Lincecum, can dominate and win a game. Barry Bonds, all alone, can’t win a game. Arod couldn’t. Bonds got on base more than 3 out of every 5 times, his team didn’t make the playoffs. A position player can only do so much. He could go 4 for 4 with 4 home runs every time, but if the team give up 5, what good is his effort? Baseball is a TEAM sport. Most of the pieces have to click to succeed. So while Bonds’s gigantic stats may have made some difference, and made the team better, Arod’s 57 HR’s in ’03 didn’t keep Texas out of last. Pujols big year this year didn’t get his team through the first round. I suppose a small difference can be made, but in baseball, they are so minimal, that the impact doesn’t make much or a blip on the overall picture.

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