6/12/11 at Coors Field

As I mentioned last night on Twitter, I snagged three baseballs at this game in THE weirdest ways. Here’s how it all went down…

First, do you remember my friend Brandon’s epic photo of Matt Kemp’s home run bouncing out of Coors Field two days earlier? Well, yesterday, when I first entered the stadium, Dodgers TV broadcaster (and former major leaguer) Steve Lyons was filming a segment about it in the left field bleachers — and he was using a brand new baseball as a prop. In the following photo, he’s sitting 10 rows back:

In between takes, I called out to Lyons and asked if I could talk to him for 10 seconds when he finished.

“Nope,” he joked, “I can’t do that.”

“Oh man!” I shouted. “How about eight seconds?”

“What do you want to talk about?” he asked.

“Well,” I began, “way back in 1999, you narrated the opening of a segment about me on FOX Sports in Oakland. I’m the guy who’s caught a zillion baseballs at games, and I really just wanted to say hi.”

“Give me a minute,” he said before doing one final take — and then he walked down to the bottom of the section.

“I just caught my 5,000th ball two weeks ago in Toronto,” I said, “but I only had about 1,500 when you did that segment on me.”

“Well,” he said, flipping the ball to me, “here’s another one for your collection.”

Here’s a photo of us that was taken moments later:

Did I count that ball in my collection? Yes, absolutely, and just as I did when Boog Powell tossed me a ball on 5/11/11 at Camden Yards, I added Lyons to this huge list.

Lyons was really cool. He stuck around for five minutes and talked to everyone:

My friend Dan Sauvageau, pictured here in Indians (Pedro Serrano) jersey, grabbed his copy of my new book and showed his page to Lyons:

Lyons recognized that the girl standing behind behind Dan (two photos above) was the same girl in the book and said, “Hey, Emily!”

Here’s Lyons with the book:

Before Lyons took off, he told me that he’d like to do another segment on me, but there was one catch…

“You’d need to come out to Dodger Stadium,” he said.

“No problem,” I told him. “I’m planning to hit up all 30 stadiums this season and should be there in late August or early September.”

“Tell ya what,” he said, “let me give you my card, and then you can get in touch when you figure out your plans.”

“Cool. How much of a heads-up will you need?”

“About a week.”

“Should I call or email?”

“Either way,” he said, and that’s how we left it.

Here’s a photo of Lyons’ business card:

As you probably noticed, I blurred out his contact info to protect his privacy. I left the “yahoo” portion of his email address in there as well as the Los Angeles area codes…just because. (No harm in that, right?)

By the time Lyons took off, several Dodgers pitchers were playing catch in shallow left field. (You can see a few of them in the photo above.) I would’ve headed over there, but (a) the rest the stadium hadn’t yet opened, and (b) I was still on crutches and it was difficult to get around. Several minutes later, with my friend Robert Harmon standing beside me, I saw one of the pitchers intentionally toss a ball into the empty seats near the tarp. Robert saw it too, and we both looked at each other.

“Man,” I told him, “if my foot weren’t [messed] up, I’d run over there and get that.”

“Well,” said Robert, “would you like me to run over there and get it for you?”

Robert is quite an experienced ballhawk — he was one of three guys involved in the scuffle for Barry Bonds’ final home run — and even though he gives lots of baseballs away, I was surprised that he was willing to give one up for me. That said, I told him that he couldn’t simply GET the ball and BRING it back to me. No sir. As a general/personal rule, in order for me to count a ball in my collection, it can’t come from another fan. I explained to Robert that the ball essentially had to enter my possession first.

“Okay then,” he said, “how do you want to do this?”

“If you’re willing,” I said, “run over there and when you find the ball, stand near it. Don’t pick it up. Just stay there and guard it and don’t let anyone else touch it.”

Robert understood the plan and hurried over to the seats in foul territory:

The rest of the stadium had just opened, and there were actually several other fans who had reached that section before he did. But they didn’t know that there was a ball there. Initially, Robert wasn’t able to find it. He was snooping around six rows back, but the ball had been tossed into the second row, so I shouted and got his attention and waved  him down to the front. Thirty seconds later, I saw him look down at something — and then give me a fist-pump.

It took me 10 minutes to make my way over there. I had to climb up about 20 rows’ worth of steps in the bleachers, then proceed through the concourse into foul territory, and finally work my way back down to the front row. I was exhausted and drenched in sweat. My armpits hurt from where the crutches had been digging into me, and the heels of my hands were also sore. But it was worth it. Look what awaited me:

There he was, protecting the ball for me under his right foot (and holding up the copy of my book that he’d recently purchased). What a guy.

I took off my backpack and leaned my crutches against a seat.

“Are you ready to secure your baseball?” he asked.

“Yes, sir!” I replied.

“I hope you won’t mind my shoe print on it,” he said.

“Are you kidding?” I asked. “That only adds to the awesomeness of this whole situation.”

With that, Robert moved his shoe out of the way, and I carefully bent down and grabbed the ball.

Is that a cheap way to have gotten a ball? Yeah, but I think it’s also an interesting and creative way to have gotten a ball. It all depends on how you look at it, and personally, I don’t feel bad about it. I think it’s pretty damn cool, and I owe it all to Robert.

Here’s another photo of us. He’s holding my book (and a very special pen that Tommy Lasorda once complimented). I’m holding his five-page rant/manifesto/letter to the Rockies:

(Robert, if you’re reading this, I think you should post your entire letter here as a comment. I know that lots of people would get a kick out of it. And hey, thanks for the ball. You’re okay in my book…literally…pages 22-23.)

We had some time to kill before the game started, so Robert began reading the book — umm, I mean, flipping through and looking at all the pretty pictures:

More specifically, he was checking out the section (in the “Rawlings” chapter) about commemorative balls.

Shortly before game time, I found a club-level ticket and got Aaron Miles and Dee Gordon to sign it. Here’s Gordon in the following photo:

I was starving at that point, but the game was about to begin, and I had no way of carrying food down to my seat in the front row in left-center field. The solution? I treated Robert to lunch (for the second time in four days) in exchange for his schlepping services. I got a pork sandwich…

…and (for the first time in my life) some chocolate-covered bacon…

…which was kinda good, but kinda meh. At first, I was like, “Mmmm!! Chocolate!!” but then I was like, “Ew, this chocolate tastes like bacon.” But I like bacon…sometimes…if I don’t think too hard about what I’m actually eating. I swear that if I had a personal chef (who was as good at cooking as I am at Arkanoid), I’d be a vegetarian — maybe not forever, but for quite some time. There are certain things that I just wouldn’t want to give up forever.

Anyway…

Here I am with Dan and his seven-year-old daughter Emily:

This was the 381st major league game that she had attended — and it was a certifiable slugfest. (Humidor my ass.) There were seven home runs, and of course the only one that came anywhere near me sailed 30 feet over my head. Troy Tulowitzki hit it in the bottom of the 7th inning. Here’s a screen shot in which I’ve circled myself in red:

Can you spot the ball? I looked at that screen shot for five solid minutes, and I’m stumped. I found a couple of white specks here and there that could be the ball, but I’m not certain.

In the bottom of the 9th inning, I wandered over to the corner spot in center field. This was my view straight ahead…

…and this is what I saw to my left:

Once again, I was hoping to get a ball from the Dodgers when they walked across the field (from the bullpen) after the final out.

No luck. They completely ignored me. And that, I assumed, was the end of my snagging.

Final score: Dodgers 10, Rockies 8.

But hang on…

Do you remember the photos (see here and here) that Brandon took when we exited the stadium the other night? At Coors Field, the handicapped aisle in left field (where I’d been sitting) is connected to the secret, under-the-stands concourse and other restricted areas. That said, as I was limping up a ramp with my crutches, I had to step aside to let a cart drive slowly past — and when it passed, I noticed that it was loaded with the Dodgers’ equipment.

“Look at all those balls and bats,” I said to Emily, who was standing next to me. (Her dad had run ahead to get the car.) The driver of the cart — a young athletic white guy who couldn’t’ve been more than 25 years old — heard me, and as he reached the top of the ramp, he quickly turned around in his seat for a split-second and yelled “Here you go!” and dropped a baseball on the ground. The ball trickled down the ramp to me (along the side wall), and I stopped it with my aircast. Before I had a chance to pull out my camera, the guy was gone, so I got Emily to take the following photo:

Ta-daaaaa!!!

That was my 3rd and final ball of the day.

See what I mean?

WEIRD.

(I would’ve given the ball to Emily, but her dad has caught several thousand, so she didn’t exactly want or need another.)

Here’s a closeup of the ball on the ramp:

Seriously, how bizarre is that?! And just curious…is there anyone who thinks that any of my three baseballs shouldn’t count? I’ve already marked them and decided to count them, and I’m not going to reverse my decisions, but I’m just wondering. Let me know what you think. (My opinion on the final ball is that it came from a stadium employee; even though I didn’t snag it in the stands, it should still count.)

When I reached the top of the ramp, this is what I saw:

The exit was off to the left; the Dodgers’ equipment was in the trailer on the right. Here’s a closer look:

HOW.
COOL.
IS.
THAT.

From a ballhawking (and not-being-in-pain) perspective, this four-game series was a disaster — but I still got to hang out with friends and see some really cool stuff along the way.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 3 baseballs at this game (pictured on the right)

• 407 balls in 50 games this season = 8.14 balls per game.

• 711 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 237 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 5,069 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(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.)

• 52 donors

• $6.94 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $20.82 raised at this game

• $2,824.58 raised this season

Finally, here’s a side-by-side look at the three baseballs in regular light versus black light:

Nothing too distinctive this time — just a bunch of glowy randomness, for the most part.

15 comments

  1. Andrew Meeusen

    Those are definitely some strange ways to obtain 3 baseballs. But all of them should count in the collection. I figure if you’re on the stadium’s property and someone who works at the stadium (player, coach, employee, broadcaster, etc.) gives you a ball, it should count.

    BTW, any idea if/when you’ll be coming to Arizona this year?

  2. Dylan

    Weird game. Have fun at Safeco(FYI I don’t like Seattle that much) and catch tons of baseballs.-The Ranger Fan

    biggestrangerfan.mlblogs.com

  3. samdafan

    I think that all of your balls should count. I mean the one that Robert protected for you counts as much as a ball that hit off of another fan before getting to you. Steve Lyons was a former player and the ball was in the stadium, so the ball you got from him definetly should be counted. The ball from the cart counts as much as a strength/conditioning coach or bat/ballboy tossing a ball to you. I’m glad to see that you will wore some Dodger apparel throughout this game. Dee Gordon has a lot of potential and his autograph is one that I would love to get.

    Good Luck,
    Sam

  4. Garrett Meyer

    Hey Zack! I stared at that HR Screenshot forever and couldn’t find the ball. My only guess is the white speck just to the left of “3B” on the Rockies side. As for my opinion on the baseballs, the only one that I think shouldn’t count is the one in the first row behind the tarp. I think it was in Robert’s possession for awhile because he was holding it with his foot. Kinda bizarre, but it’s my opinion. Have fun on the rest of your trip!

    Garrett (KC)

  5. Matt Huddleston

    I was feeling the same way as Garrett on which balls should count. The other two were given, but that one was already in Robert’s possession. I feel holding it with the foot, is the same as holding it with your hand. I couldn’t find the baseball in the screen shot. I even went back and watched the home run recap video, and still couldn’t figure it out. Very odd.
    -Matt

  6. mlblogssteelcityballhawk

    idk man, i guess you could say steve lyons acutally “worked” for the stadium? does your friend with his foot on the ball actually have possession of that ball? the last ball sounds like the legit one!!

  7. Trevor Moore

    Crutches or not, in my opinion the ball Robert stood on until you arrived should not count, he denied other fans the opportunity to grab it by hiding it under his foot. If it had been your 5,000th ball would you have been satisfied getting it that way ?

  8. Kelly Mc

    I can’t believe Steve Lyons has a YAHOO email address on his business card!! It costs like $1 to get your own domain and set up email forwarding! If I was looking to hire someone and their professional business card had a yahoo (or hotmail, aol, gmail) email address on it, I’d laugh in their face!

    I’m iffy on the legitimacy of counting the foot ball. Why is holding/saving a ball for you w/ a foot okay, but not a hand when it comes to your stats (insert rage of people born with no hands here ;)? Regarding the Lyons ball, I think if he gave it to you while performing in official capacity as Dodgers employee, then I say yes… it’s the same as a trainer, groundskeeper, usher, etc. giving you one.

  9. PSU532

    Zack, TOTALLY non-baseball related, but did you see Crystal Harris and Hefner broke it off, 5 days before their wedding? I still can’t believe you met her and your friend lived with her!

  10. Bibby

    I’m sorry, but that chocolate-covered bacon looks like a large sunburned tumor. Yuck, Dude. (Great entry, though!)

  11. Ben

    This was interesting. I 100% believe the final ball from the equipment guy should count. The one from Robert….if his foot wasn’t on it, then it should definitely count. I’m leaning towards counting it, but you have to determine whether or not his foot means possession, and I’d argue it does. No, he never had it in his grip, but he touched it. Although, there are indeed plenty of baseballs one would obtain that count, that others touch first. It’s a tough one. I think I’d count it, but I’m not sure it’s earned. Now the one that I don’t think should count is the one from Steve Lyons, and here’s why: I believe balls that should count are balls that come from the field of play. Even if they come from an employee in some odd way, they are essentially still from the field of play. This one did not come from that field of play, and we have no idea where it did in fact come from. It could have been a ball they got from the team store, who knows. If you KNEW it came from the field of play, I’d be all for it. But not knowing that, I wouldn’t count it. I want to know that my ball comes from the Major League Baseball field.

    Ben

  12. Andrew Meeusen

    I wish to pose a hypothetical, only because I like playing Devil’s Advocate (haha!):

    I go to Chase Field all the time, and many of the ballplayers of course like to toss up baseballs into the crowd, especially to little kids. Many times they actually single out (point to) a kid and toss the ball in his or her direction. On a couple occasions, someone else has caught the ball and handed it to the kid that was singled out (myself being included), whether by a bad toss by the player or a missed catch by the kid or just plain reflexes. Now, if I had been the one singled out by the player, and someone else had caught the ball first with the intent to give it to me immediately, I would still feel like I would be able to count the ball in my collection despite my not having been the first fan to obtain the ball. Thus, my question: if Robert touched the ball (even with his foot) with the sole intent of it being immediately given to Zack as soon as he hobbled over, why shouldn’t it count in a collection? Especially since Zack would have had that ball anyway had he not been disabled on his own. I still say count it.

  13. Zack Hample

    EVERYONE-
    Sorry for taking a little while to respond…

    ANDREW MEEUSEN-
    Cool. And as for Arizona, yes! I’ve finally figured it out. Check out my new blog entry “30 Stadiums in 2011” for the dates.

    MITCHELL-
    Ooh yeah.

    DYLAN-
    Thanks. Safeco turned out to be pretty great — much better than I’d expected.

    SAM-
    Thanks for weighing in on it. Glad you agree with my decision to count all the balls.

    GARRETT-
    In actual lawsuits where fans have sued other fans for possession of the ball, the cases have always been thrown out when fans have “stepped” on balls or “sat” on them or “pinned” them against the ground. Therefore, if it doesn’t hold up in a court of law, I don’t think it should hold up in the first row behind the tarp with my friend involved. But I do appreciate your opinion on the matter.

    MATT HUDDLESTON-
    Ditto. (That IS weird about the ball not showing up in the replay.)

    STEEL CITY BALLHAWK-
    Aww, c’mon, Lyons was getting paid to be there that day, and Robert could not have *grasped* the ball with one shoe. That’s the way I see it.

    TREVOR MOORE-
    If another fan had yanked the ball out from underneath Robert’s foot, then that would’ve been it. That fan would’ve gotten it. What if Robert had stood near the ball and threatened people not to come near it? Same thing, right? He would’ve been denying other people the ball, and yet he wouldn’t have been touching it. I admit that it was a cheap way to get a ball, and I would not have wanted my 5,000th ball to be snagged like that, but I do firmly believe that it should still count.

    KELLY-
    Yeah, but it’s Steve Lyons. His email address could be “dont_hire_me@im_an_idiot.com” and people would still hire him because he’s STEVE EFFIN’ LYONS!!! (I don’t think he’s an idiot, by the way. Just making a silly example.) As for the hand versus foot issue, try picking up a ball with one foot (with a shoe on it) and tell me how it goes.

    PSU532-
    I know, that’s nuts. My friend (Brandon) still talks to her all the time. He’s gonna invite her to Dodger Stadium when we’re there in late August.

    BIBBY-
    That’s an insult to tumors. (Yeah, it was narsty.)

    BEN-
    Fair enough. But what about a brand new ball that goes from the Rawlings box to an equipment bag in the dugout to my glove. A ball like that wouldn’t have ever made it onto the field, and yet I would still count it. I have also NOT counted balls that came from the field that weren’t official balls, so I think it all balances out.

    NICHOLAS-
    Yours probably tasted better since it was cold.

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