4/4/11 at Yankee Stadium

My season got off to a terrible start. I went to Yankee Stadium for my first game of 2011…

…and when I ran inside and pulled out my camera to take this photo…

…my friend Ben ran in behind me and found a ball sitting near me in the empty seats.

Then things got worse.

I misjudged several home run balls, including two that would’ve been easy catches had I simply stayed put. I don’t know what was going on. I kept assuming that the balls were going to fall short, but instead they kept carrying. I can’t blame it on a winter of inactivity; at my first game last season, I snagged 15 balls including EIGHT home runs that I caught on the fly.

Anyway, this was my view from right field…

…and when the Yankees finished their portion of batting practice, I had ZERO baseballs. I could’ve easily gotten one from Mariano Rivera at one point. He walked into the bullpen and picked up all the loose home run balls that had landed there, and he began tossing them into the crowd. He aimed one toward a girl who was standing ten feet to my left, but his lob fell short, and the ball bounced back into the bullpen. I wandered over behind the girl, figuring that he’d give her another shot, but I decided ahead of time not to jump or reach over her. I was simply going to reach straight up, and then if the throw sailed too far over her head, I’d innocently end up with it. Well, the throw did sail too high, and just as I was about to squeeze my glove around it, a large man reached in front of ME from behind and snatched it. It was six inches from my glove. The girl had no chance. All I had to do was jump ever so slightly, and I would’ve made an easy grab from a future Hall of Famer, but no, I lost my chance by not being aggressive. I suppose that’s a good way to be in general, but in this case it backfired.

Still, I wasn’t afraid of getting shut out, although maybe I should’ve been. I began the day with a streak of 661 consecutive games with at least one ball — a streak that dates all the way back to September 10, 1993 — and yet I just didn’t feel a sense of urgency. I figured I’d get some baseballs when the Twins started hitting, and sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.

Matt Capps tossed me my first ball of the year. I was hoping that it would be a leftover Target Field ball from last season, but no it was just a regular “Selig” ball:

Still, it was great to get on the board.

But would you believe that I only snagged one other ball all day? Some righty on the Twins (no idea who) lofted a deep fly ball in my direction toward the end of BP. I managed to judge it perfectly, and I camped out in the spot where I knew it was going to land and jumped for it at the last second, simply to prevent the guy on my left from robbing me. All the other fans cheered and yelled “Nice catch!” and I got a few hand shakes and high-fives. That was nice, but I was still annoyed with myself.

The highlight of the day was running into two young fans named Vincent and Adam, who recognized me from this blog. Here I am with Vincent, who’d brought his copy of my new book:

I signed it for him, and we all hung out for a bit. Then I got Vincent to take a potentially very special photo of me. I’m kind of planning to attend games at all 30 major league stadiums this year, so just in case it ends up happening…

For those who can’t tell, that’s a big number “1” that I’d drawn with magic marker on a piece of printer paper. I’m thinking it’d be cool to have photos of myself holding signs numbered 1 through 30 at all the different stadiums. I’ve already booked flights to games in Arlington (April 25-28), Houston (April 29-30), Toronto (May 26-29), Denver (June 9-12), and Seattle (June 13-15). I’m planning to be in Baltimore this week (April 6-8) and Citi Field next week (April 11-13, but probably not if it rains), and I might hit up Philly on April 15th. I’m also thinking of going to Pittsburgh for the first weekend in August and to Boston on June 20-21. Beyond that, don’t ask. I’m hoping to take a mega road trip with my friend Brandon through the midwest and out to the west coast in August and September, but it’s not even close to being confirmed. People often ask me to let them know when I’m gonna be at various stadiums, and I always tell then to check my blog for updates, so here you go. Hope to see/meet lots of you guys along the way, and if you do have a copy of The Baseball, please bring it so I can sign it for you.

Anyway, back to Yankee Stadium, I tried to get a ball from the catchers and coaches shortly before the first pitch. And of course I failed. But I still like the pic I took, so here it is:

The left field seats were spectacularly empty during the game. This was the view to my left in the bottom of the first inning:

In the photo above, did you notice the name on the jumbotron? Yeah, Alex Rodriguez. My number one ballhawking goal is to catch one of his home runs, and whaddaya know, right after I took that photo — I’m talking about the very next PITCH — he smoked a line-driver homer to left field. Unfortunately it landed two full sections (about 100 feet) to my right. Ben and Vincent and Adam were sitting there and all came within five feet of it. If you watch the highlight, you can see me (before the camera zooms in) streaking from the right side of the screen. (One day, A-Rod. One day…)

Speaking of the jumbotron, look at this nifty fact that was displayed during one of Jim Thome’s at-bats:

He’s homered in 46 ballparks, and I’ve snagged at least one ball in 48 ballparks. (Clearly I’m much more talented.) Here’s my complete list.

The Yankees had a 4-3 lead when the top of the ninth inning rolled in. What did that mean? Enter Sandman. Mariano Rivera. Gosh-darn I love him! Here’s a photo of him running in from the bullpen. You might want to click it for a closer look:

Not surprisingly, he pitched a scoreless inning to notch his 562nd career save.

On my way out of the stadium, I looked for the youngest kid I could find who had a baseball glove. It took a while — this was a chilly weeknight in April, after all — but eventually I spotted an adorable boy (who must’ve been about six) walking with his dad. I walked up alongside them and said to the kid, “Hey, did you catch a ball today?”

He looked up and shook his head and looked kinda bummed.

“Well, here’s one for you,” I said, pulling the ball from Matt Capps out of my pocket and handing it over.

The kid’s face lit up. His dad could not believe it and asked, “Are you sure?”

“Absolutely,” I said. “I got two baseballs during batting practice, so I have one to spare.”

The father thanked me profusely and shook my hand. He then told his son to thank me, and when the kid turned back my way and mumbled a few polite words, I said, “I decided to give YOU the ball because you have a glove. It showed me that you really wanted one.”

The kid smiled and disappeared with his dad into the crowd.

As for the other ball that I’d snagged, I took a few photos of it when I got home. First, check out the beautiful imprint of the MLB logo:

Do you see it? It’s just below and to the right of the Rawlings logo. I love stuff like that, and if you click here, you’ll find some other weird/imprinted balls that I’ve snagged over the years.

Now…do you remember that recent entry I posted called “Baseballs and black light?” If you haven’t seen it, you must check it out immediately. And now check THIS out. I looked at the ball in black light, and sure enough, there was an invisible ink stamp on it:


Here’s a side-by-side look at the ball in regular light versus black light:

Baseballs make me happy. That’s really what it all comes down to.

Hopefully I’ll do better at my next game. Perhaps later today at Yankee Stadium? Not sure. When I’m home in NYC, it’s always a last-minute decision.


• 2 balls at this game

• 662 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 498 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 140 consecutive Yankee home games with at least one ball

• 11 consecutive games at the new Yankee Stadium with at least two balls

• 4,664 total balls


(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)

• 30 donors

• $4.86 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $9.72 raised at this game


  1. Chasicle

    Shouldn’t that imprint be reverse? Or is it an imprint of an imprint? Or maybe the factory accidentally stamped it again?

  2. Zack Hample

    Whoa, you commented fast. I was just proofreading the entry after posting it, and when I got down to the bottom, there you were. Anyway, you’re right. That didn’t even occur to me, but yes, imprints are always mirror images. (Right?) So it should be reversed. Hmm. Now I’m totally puzzled and intrigued.

  3. Rob Cundari

    I noticed that you are planning to be in Toronto during the weekend of May 26-29? There is a very real possibility that I might be at the Saturday game with my three kids (our new annual outing) and would love to meet the man behind the myth (OK…so your not a myth…legend perhaps? Ballhawk HoFer?). Anyways…if things turn out, I’ll let you know. Not sure if it will be the weekend prior against Houston, or that weekend against Chicago.

  4. Matt

    If A-rod’s home run had been of the towering sort, you may have been able to dash over in time. But considering it was a bullet, you had no chance at it. (Not to sound negative.) I’ve got a question for you. Assuming that you’re not able to get either ball that the player records history with, which event would you rather be at. (If it occurs this year.) Derek Jeter’s 3,000 hit. Or Mariano Rivera’s 602 save? Just wondering. It kills me to be reading entries on blogs like yours, and not being able to go to a game. (The closest Major League ballpark is over 300 miles away.) But I guess going to five games, at five different ballparks this summer will make up for it. Best of luck the rest of the season. Hope the 30 ballpark thing works out.

  5. Malcolm

    Great to read about your first game of the season! I was excited to see that you’ll be in Toronto, but I’m going to miss you by one game! I’ll be there May 30 and 31, but likely not on May 29. Oh well, it would’ve been nice to meet you and get you to sign my books.
    – Malcolm

  6. Nelson Varona

    Zack you forgot to tell the part of the story about how the security guard was busting your chops while you were trying to snag baseballs. This guy really was a killjoy!

  7. mlballhawk

    Hey Zack! It looks like it should be good for snagging balls the first part of the season. Attendance seems to be way down right now.

    On another note, I met the WARLOCK on Sunday. Just blogged about it as well on my MLBlog …. check it out!

    Hope to be able to get to BallhawkFest in July!

    Talk to you soon!


  8. Tyler K

    I was sooo excited when I saw you were coming to Seattle but then I saw the date I’m hopefully going to the series before then on the 4th through 7th for the Rays wish you could come on week earlier I would make the trip down from Canada for SURE!!!!!!!!! PS The book was great! Good Job!

  9. Zack Hample

    Thanks for all the comments. I read them all, and I hope to answer them later. Right now I’m racing to blog about the April 5th game so I can hurry off to bed and be well rested for Baltimore. More soon…

  10. Pingback: 4/5/11 at Yankee Stadium « The Baseball Collector
  11. Zack Hample

    I’m not a myth? Damn, that hurts my feelings. But no, really, it’d be great to meet you, so please do keep me posted.

    Sweet! I’m about to head to the stadium…

    I’d prefer to see Jeter’s 3,000th hit. No question about it.

    Oh, man! Sorry about the timing. You could always mail your copy of the book to me (with a SASE) and I’ll sign it and send it back. Just send it to me at the Argosy Book Store (www.argosybooks.com) and put my name in the address.

    Nice! It’s about time…

    It was great seeing you at this game, even if you did rob me on that ball from Mariano. :-)
    As for security, if I told all the stories about the times that I’ve been hassled at Yankee Stadium, it would take everyone a week to read each blog entry.

    Awesome. Did you tell him that he got me fired from CBS in 2003?

    TYLER K-
    Sorry we’re gonna miss each other, but those are the only dates that worked for me, and I’ve already booked my non-refundable flights.

    Well, I do like hot weather, but I probably won’t make it there twice in one season.


  12. Donny in Houston

    Good to know you’re finally coming back to Minute Maid Park. I’m going to have to make plans to attend one or both of those games. They’re playing the Cards and that’ll be Berkman’s first return to MMP since leaving last year. Let me know if you need somewhere to stay.

    Donny in Houston

  13. mikepiazza

    Hey Zack,

    Thanks for the mention. Great hanging with you and good luck in Baltimore.


  14. Zack Hample

    It’ll be great to see you. I actually have a great friend in Houston, so I’m all set with a place to stay, but thanks anyway. Keep me posted on your plans.

    Well, thank you for the rides and good company.

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