This was a Watch With Zack game, but for a change, my “client” didn’t need any help snagging baseballs. His name is Ross, and if he looks familiar, that’s because he’s been featured on my blog in the past. Two years ago, when he was a 13-year-old with very little ballhawking experience, we did a game together on 9/6/09 at Citi Field. Then, just a few weeks later, he joined me again on 9/23/09 at Citi Field. Now that he’s mastered many different ballhawking techniques, his biggest challenge is simply getting to games. He’s still not old enough to drive, and since he lives on Long Island, the main thing he needed was a ride from New York to Baltimore. Beyond that, he just wanted to hang out and see how many baseballs we could both snag. Here we are outside the Eutaw Street gate:
When the stadium opened at 5pm, we hurried out to the left field seats and made sure not to crowd each other. I took the following photo from where I was standing, so you can see how far over Ross was:
Ross snagged two baseballs during the Orioles’ portion of BP:
The first was a homer that landed in the seats — he’s not sure who hit it — and the second was a J.J. Hardy blast that he caught on the fly. Excellent positioning. Solid glove-work. His day was off to a good start.
Meanwhile, I snagged four balls before the Indians took the field:
1) A Derrek Lee homer that tipped off the end of my glove as I cut through an empty row of seats. My fellow ballhawks talked a lot of trash after that, and I’ll admit that I could’ve caught it on the fly, but here’s my excuse: my left foot is still so weak from the sprained ankle that I suffered on 6/3/11 at Citi Field that I reached cautiously for the ball. It’s sort of like when an outfielder is running back toward the wall and doesn’t reach as far as possible because he’s worried about getting hurt. Same thing. I’m still not THAT stable on my feet, and I didn’t want to lose my balance and tumble forward. So whatever, Tim and Ben and Matt and Avi. Laugh all you want, but I still got the ball.
2) A homer by a batter that I couldn’t identify. It tipped off another man’s glove and landed near me in the 3rd row.
3) A J.J. Hardy homer that barely reached the front row. I was in the 4th row when it was hit high in the air, so I drifted down the steps and made an uncontested, one-handed catch.
4) A Mark Reynolds homer that I caught on the fly. I had determined fairly quickly that it was going to sail a bit too far, so I climbed back over a row while the ball was in mid-air.
The seats were painfully crowded during the Indians’ portion of BP:
Ross got his 3rd ball of the day along the left field foul line. It was tossed up by a player that he didn’t recognize. As for me, my 5th ball was a homer by another one of those “unknown” players. I had drift to my right and jump a bit, but I didn’t take a full leap. Instead, I jumped entirely off my right foot, and as a result, I barely got high enough to catch the ball in the very tip of my glove. Then, toward the end of BP, I used my glove trick to snag this ball that landed in the staircase next to the bullpen:
As soon as I reeled in the ball, I looked around for the smallest kid with a glove and handed it over. Here’s the little guy who ended up with it:
Moments later, I was approached by an Orioles fan who introduced himself as Sam. He recognized me from somewhere — this blog, I think — and asked if he could get a photo with me. I happily obliged, and we chatted for a bit, and three days later, he emailed it to me. Here’s the photo…
…and here’s the actual email (copied and pasted into this entry with his permission) that he wrote to go with it:
SUBJECT: Met you at Camden Yards Thurs. July 14th
DATE: July 17, 2011 11:17:48 PM EDT
I wanted to thank you for posing for a pic with me at the Oriole game last Thurs. during Indians BP. I was the big guy with the beard, no glove:(. It was a pleasure meeting you, and a true pleasure to see your glove trick with the ball that got into the bullpen… awesome and right before the cop waddled over!:) I have attached the picture in the hopes it might make it onto your blog. Wishful thinking I guess, but it did turn out to be a great pic. Don’t be alarmed by the fist I’m making in the pic, I am a former boxer and still do that in pictures by habit… Anyway, it was super cool that you give baseballs to kids that haven’t gotten any, and I saw you do just that after the bullpen ball. Well, I know you’re really busy catching balls, but thanks for taking the time to pose for a pic and talk a bit!
And there you have it. Super-cool guy. Glad to have met him and very appreciative that he took the time to write. (If anyone wants to see some other friendly emails that people have written to me over the years, click here.)
Ross got his 4th ball of the day from Chris Perez in the bullpen. Here he is reaching out for it:
I got my 7th ball of the day from Asdrubal Cabrera at the dugout. Here he is playing catch with it, moments before he jogged in and flipped it up:
Ross wandered all over the place during the game. (His parents had said that was fine, and I knew it wouldn’t be a problem.) He started in the Flag Court (let’s not even talk about the home run that landed there in the top of the 1st inning)…
…and we ended up behind the 3rd base dugout…
…but he also spent some time chasing foul balls in the cross-aisle behind home plate. Camden Yards is an *awesome* stadium that provides lots of different snagging opportunities. You seriously can’t go wrong at that place.
At some point in the middle innings, Ross snagged a 3rd-out ball from Orlando Cabrera behind the dugout. After the 7th inning, I got a 3rd-out ball from Matt LaPorta, and then in the top of the 9th, I got an assist from Cabrera on a foul ball hit by Grady Sizemore. The following photo kind of tells the story…
…but let me explain exactly what happened.
There were two outs. Kevin Gregg was on the hill. Cabrera was on deck. Sizemore swung at an 0-1 pitch and sent a foul ball shooting back into the protective screen. The ball landed near Cabrera (wearing No. 20 in the photo above), and I got him to toss it to me. (BTW, nice smudge on the ball, eh?)
The Orioles lost, 8-4. (Poor Jeremy Guthrie dropped to 3-13.) After the final out, Ross and I posed with our baseballs:
I asked him if he wanted any of the balls that I’d snagged. Not surprisingly, he said no, so I gave one to a little kid on the way out.
• 556 balls in 68 games this season = 8.18 balls per game.
• 729 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 242 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball
• 25 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls (click here for a separate page of Watch With Zack stats and records)
• 5,218 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 get involved.)
• 56 donors
• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $64.08 raised at this game
• $3,958.72 raised this season
Finally, only one of the balls that I kept had a solid invisible ink stamp on it. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of that ball in regular light versus black light:
(Just noticed that it looks like the “2” has a halo. Ha!)
Regrettably, I didn’t examine Ross’s baseballs under the black light, but hey…Ross, I know you’re reading this, so let me know if you want to do it, and we’ll make a plan. Also, while I still have your attention, congrats on the five baseballs you snagged. I know you were hoping for double digits, but hell, you still had a pretty impressive performance for your very first game at a new stadium — and with such a huge crowd during BP.