6/30/11 at Yankee Stadium

It was a day game, I assumed there wouldn’t be batting practice, and I was half-right. When I first ran inside the stadium, the Yankees were nowhere to be seen, but the batting cage and screens were all set up:

In the photo above, do you see the cluster of players down the left field foul line? That was the Brewers’ pitching staff, or a least most of it. I hurried over, and soon after I arrived, I got Yovani Gallardo to throw me a ball over more than a dozen rows of seats. This was my view after catching it…

…and then guess what happened? Gallardo motioned at me to throw it back…so I did…over all the people in the front row. He then threw it back to me and held up his glove again, and we ended up playing catch for a minute. Very cool.

I noticed that two Brewers were playing catch near the dugout, so I headed over for a closer look:

Manager Ron Roenicke was throwing with catcher Jonathan Lucroy. For some reason, the right-handed Lucroy was wearing a glove *on* his right hand, which means he was throwing left-handed. (Random piece of trivia: the last lefty-throwing catcher in the Major Leagues was Benny DiStefano, who appeared behind the plate in three games for the 1989 Pirates.) When they finished, Lucroy threw me the ball — and then he asked me to throw it back. What the hell was going on? I tossed it back, and then he threw it back, and we would’ve kept going if one of his teammates hadn’t absent-mindedly walked out of the dugout right in front of him. Lucroy let me keep the ball, and then BP got underway.

The Brewers hit for half an hour, during which time I snagged a grand total of ZERO baseballs. After BP, there were two balls sitting against the back wall of the left field bullpen:

I got a groundskeeper (pictured above in the white shirt) to toss one to me. Then, with more than 45 minutes to kill, I found a sliver of shade and read several chapters of this book:

It’s called The Bullpen Gospels, it was written by Dirk Hayhurst, and even though I’m only 100 pages into it, I can state definitively that it’s awesome. Hayhurst basically chronicled his life in Spring Training and the Minor Leagues, and he gives a real inside look at what it was like. There might also be some stuff in the book about his time in the Major Leagues. I don’t know. Like I said, I’m only 100 pages in. The point is, you need to buy this book immediately. It’s hilarious and crude and touching and revealing, and you will love it.

Just before game time, I got my 4th and final ball of the day from Brewers bullpen coach Stan Kyles. Here’s the ball with Kyles (facing me with his arms folded) in the background:

Kyles had seen me playing catch earlier with Gallardo. I’d been wearing my old-school Brewers hat at the time, so in order to get him to hook me up an hour later, I had to change my look. Here’s what I came up with:

Go on. Laugh all you want. No, really, it’s okay. I can take it. I know I looked ridiculous, but it worked. And in the process, I also shielded myself from the sun.

I got a good look at Randy Wolf warming up in the bullpen:

See the “batter” standing in against him? That was bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel.

From a ballhawking perspective, the highlight of the game took place in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Mark Teixeira hit his 300th career home run into my section, but unfortunately the ball sailed 15 feet over my head. Look how close I came. I’ve circled myself in the following screen shot. The ball hit just below the State Farm sign:

Aarrghh!!!

The ball was snagged by a beer vendor, who then handed it to this fan:

Here’s a photo of the vendor:

Even though I was really bummed about NOT getting that ball, I decided to give some advice to the lucky fan. Not surprisingly, he had no idea that it was a milestone homer, nor did he have any idea that he could get something for it. Long story short: he gave the ball back in exchange for all of the following:

1) a signed bat from Teixeira
2) a signed ball from Teixeira
3) the opportunity to watch BP from the field with his son at a future game
4) a photo-op with Teixeira during BP at the future game

Not bad.

Aside from Teixeira’s homer, the (non-ballhawking) highlight was CC Sabathia’s dominant performance. He pitched 7 2/3 scoreless innings, giving up two walks and six hits (all singles) while tying his career high with 13 strikeouts. Final score: Yankees 5, Brewers 0. The Brewers began the series in first place in the NL Central; the Yankees swept them and made it look easy.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

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

• 474 balls in 59 games this season = 8.03 balls per game.

• 720 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 5,136 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.)

• 56 donors

• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $28.48 raised at this game

• $3,374.88 raised this season

Finally, three of the four baseballs have invisible ink stamps on them. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light:

19 comments

  1. Ben Wideman

    I second your review of the Bullpen Gospels. it is an incredible read. Almost as good (and very similar) is Odd Man Out by Matt McCarthy.

  2. Matt Jackson

    I read The Bullpen Gospels about six months ago and blew through it in just a few days. It’s totally worth your bookstore dollar, folks. But for every copy you buy, make sure you also buy TWO of Zack’s books… just to keep his ranking up on Amazon!
    Also, Zack… you’re a good guy for helping that fan out with some advice about the exchange for the milestone ball. Watching BP from the field will, I’m sure, be an unforgettable moment for the two of them.
    ~Matt

  3. Ben

    Sadly, it doesn’t appear as if you had a chance at Teixeira’s homer, but still, knowing it was hit to our section, it’s painful to watch. Nice hat ;-)

  4. Dylan

    Sorry about the Texeira homer. I watched the highlight and was wondering if you’d snagged it. Weird about Lucroy. I played catcher as a left until I broke my thumb and realized it was hopeless. Now I’m and an outfielder,first basemen, and third basemen.

  5. Nicholas

    Looks like another decent day at Yankee Stadium.
    a) Love that hat!
    b) Too bad about the Tex homer.
    c) One of my best friends is a lefty and the best catcher I know [Unless you count Kurt Suzuki or Casey Chavez (Eric Chavez’s brother and the A’s bullpen catcher)]
    d)You know how I almost caught that Landon Powell home run? (and for those of you reading this comment who don’t know who he is, I don’t blame you) It would have been his, drum roll please…10th career home run!
    d) I have read Bullpen Gosples and other than The Baseball and Watching Baseball Smarter (By Zack Hample) Is the best bok I have ever read.
    But, yeah looks like you had a good game.

  6. Shane T.

    Zack, you forgot in your stats: 245 consecutive games with at least two balls. I had to check your earlier entries to be sure the string hadn’t broken while I was distracted.
    Speaking of distractions … no, I can’t say it’s an attractive hat, but some things need to be practical, and on a hot day in the bleachers, that is a practical hat. No mockery from me.
    And a very good deed for Mr. 300. If there is karma, you’ll get showered with about twenty balls at your next game. (Or maybe later. Despite what John Lennon said, karma is not always instant.)

  7. Ben

    Nicholas — ummm it goes a,b,c,d,E not a,b,c,d,D did you go to kindergaden? I’m just playin with you.
    Zack — anoter solid game at Yankee it was great seeing you, hope to see you sometime in late July or august.. That is if you are not on your road trip. Keep it up

  8. Nick Badders (@nickbatters)

    *Ben,
    No i didn’t go to kindergarten. Scientific Fact. You’re welcome.
    Not really, I did go, but can’t remember anything except it goes abc, not ght. Thank you for catching that. So:

    Looks like another decent day at Yankee Stadium.
    a) Love that hat!
    b) Too bad about the Tex homer.
    c) One of my best friends is a lefty and the best catcher I know [Unless you count Kurt Suzuki or Casey Chavez (Eric Chavez’s brother and the A’s bullpen catcher)]
    d)You know how I almost caught that Landon Powell home run? (and for those of you reading this comment who don’t know who he is, I don’t blame you) It would have been his, drum roll please…10th career home run!
    *EEEEE) I have read Bullpen Gosples and other than The Baseball and Watching Baseball Smarter (By Zack Hample) Is the best bok I have ever read.
    But, yeah looks like you had a good game.

    There.

  9. Tyler K

    I read The Bullpen Gospels about a month after it was released, around June 2010. The book over all probably the best baseball related books I have ever read except for you know maybe “Watching Baseball Smarter” and “The Baseball” you will definatly enjoy this book up to the last page.

  10. Mark McConville

    Hey Zack, ive been reading ur blog for a while now and read ur book a few months back, u inspired me to start ballhawking, ive seen u a bunch of times so far this season at citi field and yankee stadium, i was there tuesday and for this game, i was gonna introduce myself but i didnt wanna bother u during BP, in ur pic of ben from the tuesday game u can see my orange shirt behind him, i was also at the game when ur girlfriend got hit at citi field, hope she was alright, tough day at the park today tho with the short BP, i was standin on the same staircase as you, i had a maroon shirt and sunglasses on, next time i see u at a game ill introduce myself, ohh and i watched you run over for the teixera homer, thought u were gonna get there for a second, keep up the good work my man

  11. Zack Hample

    BEN WIDEMAN-
    I don’t know “Odd Man Out,” so thanks for the recommendation.

    MATT JACKSON-
    Thanks for the plug!

    CHRIS HERNANDEZ-
    Well, in the meantime, keep checking out the blog. Hopefully this will explain some of the mystery.

    BEN-
    It’s a VERY nice hat. Thanks for noticing.

    DYLAN-
    Whoa, you play all over!

    NICHOLAS-
    You are too kind.

    SHANE T.-
    I don’t always include every stat and streak at the end of the entries. I like to mix-n-match and throw some different numbers in there, but thanks for lookin’ out. And I’m glad you see the practicality of my hat. Jona doesn’t and simply mocks me for wearing it.

    BEN-
    Funny about the alphabet. I didn’t even notice until you pointed it out, so apparently I need to go back to kindergarten too.

    TODD-
    More like 1,000 beers.

    TYLER K-
    :-)

    MARK-
    Hey! Next time you see me, please introduce yourself even if BP is in progress. I think I know who you are, but I could be mistaken. At the Tuesday game, did you catch a BP homer that deflected off someone’s glove? And are you close to six feet tall? I might be way off, but like I said, I think I know who you are. Really glad to hear that I inspired you to start doing this. Hope to run into you again soon.

  12. Mark McConville

    yea zack ur right on, that was me who caught the bp homer, first ball ive caught on the fly and my 13th total ball in 6 games this season and im like 6’1 haha but no doubt next time i see you at a game ill introduce myself

  13. mlblogstheminorleagues

    Hayhurst is the nicest guy ever! I read his book when it came out but now that he pitches for my hometown Durham Bulls, its even better because you can picture the happenings of the book more with the actual player right before your eyes. Pretty cool guy

  14. Zack Hample

    MARK-
    First ball on the fly?! Damn, you sure looked experienced on it. It was a really nice play. Deflections are tough.

    THE MINOR LEAGUES-
    Cool. I hope he makes it back to The Show and writes another book.

  15. Mark McConville

    haha yea man, i mean i used to play ball and i play in a fast pitch softball league and im an outfielder so im able to judge balls pretty well

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