8/11/11 at Camden Yards

I snagged 15 balls before this game started, and you know what? They all felt worthless by the end of the night. During batting practice, I put on a snagging clinic of such epic proportions that two of my fellow ballhawks actually bowed down in a “we’re not worthy” pose. Everything (and I mean EVERYthing) went right, but when things mattered most, I pissed it all away. I truly can’t believe how stupid/moronic/idiotic I am, and if I weren’t going for 1,000 balls this season, I’d probably skip the next month of games and get as far away from this cruel sport as possible.

Before I entered the stadium, I made a deal with another ballhawk named Tim Anderson involving potential “Easter eggs” in left field. You see, Tim is half my age and happens to be very fast and athletic; even if I didn’t have lingering pain from my June 3rd ankle sprain, he’d still beat me in a race. The Orioles were giving away Jake Arrieta T-shirts, so the deal was that I’d give him mine in exchange for a head start toward the left field seats. As a result, I found a ball sitting in the front row…

…and then I found another one here:

Take a closer look at that ball:

Pretty cool, huh?

Two minutes later, Tim (and a few others) arrived and told me that he’d found a ball in the right field seats. Here he is standing behind me with his arms folded:

My 3rd ball of the day was a slicer hit by Chris Davis into the totally empty seats along the left field foul line. I ran all the way over from straight-away left field and found it in the front row. Then I hurried back to straight-away left field and caught three J.J. Hardy homers on the fly.

When the White Sox took the field, Zach Stewart played catch in deep left field with bullpen coach Juan Nieves. When they finished throwing, they stood around and talked…

…and when they finished talking, Nieves flipped me the ball.

“Give it to a kid,” he suggested, even though there weren’t any kids around.

So I did. Sort of. The ball that Nieves gave me was unusually dirty and rubbed with mud…

…so I kept that one for myself and gave a much cleaner ball to the nearest/smallest kid.

My 8th ball of the day was thrown by Alejandro De Aza. I was in the front row along the left field foul line. He was about about 100 feet away in straight-away left field. As soon as I caught it, I once again handed it to the nearest kid.

The left field seats were pretty crowded by that point…

…but that didn’t seem to slow me down. Jake Peavy tossed me a ball with a beautifully smudged MLB logo…

…and then I snagged three more home runs…

The first was hit by a right-handed batter on the White Sox. Several fans behind me reached for it and collectively dropped it, and it bounced *right* to me. My friend Ben Weil was right in the thick of it, and when he saw me get the ball, he shouted, “SERIOUSLY?!”

The second homer was hit by Adam Dunn. I caught it on the fly in the tip of my glove after making a mid-row leap.

The third was hit by Carlos Quentin. It landed near me in the seats next to the Orioles’ bullpen and luckily didn’t ricochet far.

My 13th ball of the day was a random, no-look toss-up by Jesse Crain. With his back to the stands, he flipped it high over his shoulder. I was in the 4th row, and whaddaya know, the ball came right to me. I gave that one to a little girl who’d been trying hard to catch one for the previous 10 minutes.

At the very end of BP, I caught another homer on the fly in deep left-center. I had just raced up the stairs to chase another home run. I failed to snag that one, but then as soon as I turned around, the batter (not sure who) blasted another one right to me. I’m telling you, luck was on my side.

After BP, I got Gavin Floyd to sign my ticket:

As he handed it back to me, he smiled and said, “No fly balls today.” Very cool that he remembered our exchange from the previous game.

Approximately 15 minutes later, I got my final ball of the day from Orioles pitching coach Rick Adair. There had been several balls sitting in the bullpen — home runs that had landed there during BP — and when Adair made it out there, he tossed them into the stands.

Now, you know how I’ve been taking photos with numbered signs at various stadiums this season? Here’s a collage of the first 12. I’m planning to hit up all 30 stadiums this year, and starting with the 3rd one that I visited, I’ve been making different faces to show how I feel about each place. Camden Yards was No. 2, and if you look at my face in the collage, you can see that I was smiling generically. That’s no way to represent THE best stadium in the Major Leagues (or at least one of the best stadiums), so I decided to re-take the photo. Here’s what I came up with:

Just so you know, I picked that photo from many others. Look how many different faces I made (and how much time went into it):

What do you think? Did I pick the best one?

Many thanks to Ben for hangin’ in there while I made love to the camera.

As for the game…oof. It was great for Tim, who cemented his superstar ballhawk status by snagging a home run for the *third* straight day (and making it into SportsCenter‘s Top Ten plays), but it was a true nightmare for me. In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Nick Markakis hit his 100th career home run to the ***EXACT*** spot in the Flag Court where I always stand for left-handed batters — but he hit it on the first pitch of the at-bat, and I literally got there two seconds late. I was actually running out there as he stepped into the batter’s box, and I simply didn’t make it there on time. For some reason, none of my fellow ballhawks were out there. The home run landed at the very back of the Flag Court. All of the fans were at the front. There was truly NO competition, and it would’ve been the easiest catch ever. But no. As I was running out there — and JUST as I entered the Flag Court near the foul pole — Markakis launched the ball over my head. I tried running for it and ended up watching helplessly as it clanked off a garbage can (five feet from where I would’ve been standing) and then (to add insult to injury) bounced back over my head to a gloveless fan who snagged it right where I’d been two seconds earlier. So basically, if I’d gotten there two seconds sooner or later, I would’ve had the ball. FML.

I was so upset at that point that I went here:

I just had to get away.

As for the rest of the game…whatever. I don’t remember anything.

This was my parting photo of the 12 balls that I kept:

I’m a jackass.
The End.


• 15 worthless baseballs at this game (twelve pictured above because I gave three away)

• 732 balls in 88 games this season = 8.32 balls per game.

• 749 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 274 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 5,394 total balls

• 1 inexcusable mistake


(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)

• $106.80 raised at this game

• $5,211.84 raised this season


  1. Brad

    Dont take it so hard, Zack. Much more opportunities out there. By the way i think the middle left picture is the best one :).

  2. Ben Wideman

    Wow – talk about being hard on yourself. Dude – no matter how close you came to that HR, you essentially are at the point where you snag baseballs for a living! Don’t forget about that the next time you make a sad face with your 15(!!!?#$%#) baseballs you got at this game. 15 is more than the majority of baseball fans have caught in their entire life, and most people have never caught a HR – you’ve caught several, including some very significant ones. And I bet you’ll catch another several in your life. Chin up. Life is good for the Hample man.

  3. Chris Hernandez

    My lifetime total after yesterday at Citi (2 balls there) is up to 14. You got 15 yesterday! Consider this a missed opportunity, sure, but something tells me you’re going to snag something much, much better in the future.

  4. Andrew Meeusen

    It’s weird… I simultaneously feel bad for you and totally don’t feel bad for you. You have experiences at ballparks that 99.9% of fans dream about being able to have in their lifetimes (getting to rub up balls with Blackburn Mud, getting interviewed for your books at the ballpark, having solid conversations with some of the game’s biggest names, snagging the Bonds homer, and not to mention snagging multiple THOUSANDS of baseballs at or during games) and yet you feel THAT bad about missing Markakis’ home run. If it were anyone else without your skills, they would get criticized for pouting about an event that was unpredictable – the fact that you were racing toward the Flag Court at the time was merely in the hopes that the homer would occur. Either way, congrats on doing something all but a handful of people have ever done (snagging 15 balls in one day at a stadium – I myself having gotten my 15th LIFETIME ball last week) and I am sorry that you missed out on Markakis’ 100th.

  5. Nick Badders (@nickbatters on twitter)

    You got 15 balls today? Good for you. No HR, ok, that just sucks.

  6. Tom

    Are you serious?

    Your really that Jealous of someone else? Grow up Zack, in another life you might have died in Afghanistan last week, protecting the American way of life which lets guys like you run after baseballs all summer.

  7. Zack Hample

    Easier said than done.

    Kind of. There’s no guarantee that I would’ve caught Jeter’s 3,000th hit. I definitely would’ve been within two or three feet of the ball, but it still might have sailed a bit over my glove. With this Markakis homer, it was a *guaranteed* catch. Absolutely no doubt about it.

    I’m a perfectionist; what’s good for someone else is not necessarily good for me. But yes, life is still good.

    Maybe. You just never know with these things. Yeah, I’ll catch more homers, but I might not ever have a chance to catch another 100th.

    Thanks. I understand what you’re saying.


    Jealous of Tim? No no no, I love Tim and I’m so happy for him. He’s a great guy, and he’s one of the most talented ballhawks I’ve ever seen. All of his accomplishments are well deserved. It just would’ve been nice to match his home run catches this week with a big one of my own.

  8. jere80

    This is the precedent I’ve been waiting for! Zack, when you did your Fenway “ballpark number” photo, your face was pretty neutral. Your opinion, and that’s fine, of course. However, you did admit in that post and the next day’s Fenway post that you ended up having a great time, after you took that photo. Now that you’ve done a re-do with Camden, you COULD add a couple percentage points of positivity to the Fenway face when you go next week. Could! Just throwin’ stuff out there.

    Note to Tom: In whichever life of Zack’s you’re talking about, there’s no draft. He’d still have to CHOOSE to join the military. Although as long as we’re talking about a world where multiple lives exist, I guess there could be a draft in any of those alternate lives. So you’re right. What?

  9. Nick

    I’ve been reading this blog for a long, long time, and own several of your books and generally enjoy what you do. BUT, lately you’ve been going off with this whole sense of entitlement about snagging baseballs – like every important baseball is yours before it’s hit, and no one else has a right to it. Like the above comment said – you have a dream life. You get to run around like a kid at a candy store, picking up baseballs and making friends with Major Leaguers. You take it for granted, and this post (along with a few others from this season already) shows how spoiled you are getting. It was the same thing the other day when you were whining about only getting TWO baseballs – more than most people EVER get. It’s getting really, really annoying. Just enjoy life – you don’t have to have EVERY baseball.

  10. Ted

    Love the blog Zack! I don’t comment often, but I always appreciate your prose. So does the Sultan of Snag ever get bored during a game? I can get through about 3 innings and several appletinis, then I get bored sick that I need to be rushed to the nearest emergency room and injected in the heart with adrenaline. What’s my favorite part of a baseball game? The kiss cam. I have recurring dreams of being featured before 45,000 smooching the stranger next to me. In most of my dreams, the person next to me is a chizzled hot dog vendor. However, once it was my grandma! You gotta do what you gotta do when you’re on kiss cam, right? You ever been on kiss cam?

  11. VoiceOfReason

    Did you know…

    Instead of running around major league stadiums like the taco bell dog playing fetch, you can buy 10 Major League baseballs for $1 at most sporting goods stores?

  12. Gabe

    Actually, you cannot. Official Rawlings Major League Baseballs are going to set you back at least 10 bucks a pop. At most sporting goods stores, it will be significantly more.

  13. kslo69

    Guys, the pathos adds so much to the blog. Zack, Sweet entry, loved it. Personally I like the middle photo of the top line the best. Understated, yet very emotive.
    Going to see the Sox vs. Mariners tomorrow! Whoo Hoo! It’s going to be my first day off since Father’s Day, thank you Lord! I’ll be rocking the “Bend Elks” hoodie, going to see if I can get Jacoby to sign the bobble I have of him in an Elks uni. I’ll let you know how it goes.

  14. Mateo Fischer

    @ CLE 12-14
    @ DET 15-17
    Vs. NYY 18-21

    Oh and I think what gets lost in the plethora of balls Zack snags is how lucky any person needs to be to get a HR hit anywhere close to them. Although he has snagged 16 I have to imagine the number of games he has sat in the OF is somewhere in the 100s. Multiply that by 7 innings and 20 minutes per inning and you have somewhat of an idea how much time he has spent waiting for a ball to come his way. The lemonade is good but lemon juice alone isn’t really.

  15. mlblogsfishfry55

    Zack, when I first read your tweet about “pissing away” the chance at the Markakis homer, I thought it was because you were literally in the bathroom when it happened, but then I figured you would never make a boneheaded mistake like that. How awful would you feel if that happened?

  16. DanR

    Yo Zack, personally I think of the 9 photos, the one in the bottom left corner captures your love for Camden Yards. You got a mention on Yahoo Sports today, in their coverage of Tim’s 3 in a row streak. At least they put a couple of links to your Shea/Old YS HRs! You should go Bobby Valentine on ’em and start sporting the fake moustache. That’d be a “fresh face” haha http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/post/Thrice-as-nice-O-8217-s-fan-catches-a-homer-on?urn=mlb-wp15745

  17. Zack Hample

    I’m an emotional guy. I can’t help it. That’s just how I am. Sometimes awesome stuff happens to me. Sometimes crappy stuff happens to me. I react to this stuff when it happens, and I describe my emotions on this blog. Take it or leave it.

  18. Whitesoxgm

    So zack, that sucks, but think, you’ll have plenty of chances I’m the inching years. I wanted to ask, have you ever been to a no hitter or perfect game? I saw mark buehrles perfect game (I wa at it I mean) oh and today I went to the sox royals game and got 3 balls! My highs Orr! Unfortunatley I brought 2 home because I dropped a jokiam soria toss up. Have you ever dropped a ball?

  19. Ben

    @Tom- what are you talking about jealous?!?! That’s an asinine comment. He wasn’t out in LF with Tim, nor ever planning to be, so one has NOTHING to do with the other. Additionally he was and is very happy for Tim as we talked about it on the whole drive back to New York!

    To everyone else that doesn’t get it, think of something you want soooo badly. Something you try soooo hard for, then you stop for a second, you do something so silly that costs you that opportunity. It’s happened to all of us, I’m sure. I can think of a few times I stupidly turned my back for a couple of seconds, and lost out on an opportunity. It SUCKS!! And in the time thereafter, it hurts. A lot. But eventually, you get over it and move on, though it probably stays with you forever.

    As for the entry, Zack, I’m glad you talked about how great BP was, because man, it was for you. Everything went right, and you made some nice catches, one climbing on a chair, even if you don’t remember.

  20. TS

    So you talk about the “worthless” baseballs you caught? Any one of those worthless baseballs would mean a ton to the small kids who aren’t as aggressive as you in running up and down the aisles, basically stealing what could be a joyous moment from them. My sons looked at you and asked me why a grown-up would do that? I had no answer for them. As I showed them this sad blog, one of my sons said, “that’s 5,400 times he’s stolen joy away from a kid while he gets just another ‘worthless’ ball.”

    Hope you are enjoying yourself, because there are a lot of kids out there who certainly don’t enjoy what you are doing.

  21. Ben

    To “STEAL” joy from a kid would mean to be physically taking it from them, which is never EVER being done. And kids enjoy that baseball for 2 minutes, before they forget about it, and move on to the next thing, which is wanting ice cream, or something like such.

  22. Jon Madden

    Wow. That’s all I can say. This happens to me all the time in Rochester where a ball either lands where I am going, or where I just was.

  23. TS

    Ben: I am glad you grown-ups get such a charge from gathering up as many balls as you can. But I disagree with your theory. Perhaps you do not have kids. We go to one MLB game per year. Last year Alfonso Soriano threw a ball to my sons and they cherish it to this day. It is displayed on their dresser and they pick it up and talk about it on a weekly basis. We went to Camden Yards on Thursday evening for our game this year. They, among many other kids, anxiously awaited for a home run ball during BP, but were very fearful for getting in Zach’s or a couple of the other grown ups’ way while they hoarded all the balls they could physically get to. Thank goodness there was no one at Wrigley doing that last year. Congrats guys. You all are real winners for racking up as many “worthless” (Zach’s words, not mine) balls as you can while kids politely watch you, wishing they could get one. But at the same time it a learning experience for them — they learn that they don’t want to be “that guy” when they grow up.

  24. max

    I don’t usually comment, but I give TS a standing ovation! Thanks for writing what many of us think.

  25. Andrew Meeusen

    Well, now, wait just a sec. In Zack’s (and every other over-12-year-old person who enjoys catching baseballs at a game) defense, why should kids get all the fun? I go to the ballpark out here in Arizona all the time, and I go to batting practice and try to snag balls (not that I’m very good, mind you). You should really see some of these little kids out here that get 5 or more baseballs a game during BP. Yesterday, I stood next to a kid who literally got eight baseballs from different players, and each time Daddy sent her back down to try to get more. Your comment about the kids “politely” watching, and “wishing they could get one” is utter bunk. A few months back, I was at a Diamondbacks-Phillies game where the team had invited the local Little League teams to come and be recognized. You should have heard some of the things coming out of those kids’ mouths while they were trying to “politely” ask for a baseball from the players. “I hate you” and “I hope you die” stick prominantly in my mind from that game from those kids (and those are just the “family-friendly” phrases I’ll put on the Internet here). I has appauled that their parents and/or coaches would allow them to behave that way, and I ended up rooting for the Phillies NOT to throw them any baseballs (which, of course, they didn’t). TS, do you really believe that the game of baseball inspires no more magic for adults than for children? I know the names of every baseball player I’ve ever gotten a baseball from, as does Zack (though his list is slightly longer than mine!), and I also appreciate them, and I get the nicer ones signed and display them. Don’t get me wrong, things can get a little rowdy sometimes, and some people do take ballhawking as a “sport” too seriously sometimes, but if you honestly think that people like Zack (or Ben, or me) are going around whacking little kids out of our ways to obtain a baseball, I pity you for not being able to have a little fun in your own life. I know as a kid I dreamed about being a major leaguer, and if I can’t actually play shortstop for the Diamondbacks, I’d like to be able to try to pretend a little during batting practice once every couple weeks. And there’s NOTHING wrong with that.

  26. Zack Hample

    Yeah, I attended Dwight Gooden’s no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 1996.

    Thanks for backing me up, but I’m going to respectfully distance myself from your claim that kids don’t care about the baseballs that they snag. Some don’t — there’s no denying that — but I think that most of them do.

    You’re completely missing the point. My calling the baseballs “worthless” was a combination of sarcasm and hyperbole to illustrate how bad I felt about missing the most important ball of the day. That said, click the following link, read everything all the way down the page, click the link at the bottom there, and keep reading some more. It might just change the way you feel: http://bit.ly/q1Uemh

    Beautifully said. Standing ovation for you.

  27. TS

    I read some of your link, and not to offend, but it did not change the way I feel. I really think those moments should be for the kids. Don’t get me wrong, it’s completely your right to do what you do, but I just think it is a real bummer for the kids that happen to come to the park for a game in which you are there. That scene at Camden with you all racing around, jumping seats and yelling to each other was intimidating. I recognize when I see fear in my kids, and they no doubt were feeling fear (and I’m pretty sure I recognized it in many other kids’ faces). It was like they got thrown into a ball game where they had to play against a bunch of adults trying their hardest. Not fun.

    We ended up having a great time, because we were there to watch a baseball game and walk the grounds where Ripken once played. Sure it would have been nice to have the opportunity to catch a ball, but that obviously was something that was going to be handled mostly by the aggressive men who came for the sheer purpose of collecting as many balls as they possibly could. It was just a sad start to a great night.

    And I’m not disputing what you say about giving balls away, but I saw a couple of kids (not mine) ask you for a ball and you declined.

    To Andrew: As I said, it’s your right to do what you do. I just find it a little sad. I can’t speak for what happened in Arizona, but the kids I saw at Camden were very polite, and most of them appeared pretty intimidated.

    And I appreciate the pity, but my life is just fine, thanks. You say you always wanted to play in the majors and this is your way of getting close to living that dream? Well, I always dreamed of playing in the NBA. So, I think I’ll run out and dunk on some 10-year-olds.

  28. Andrew Meeusen

    Hey, TS, if the NBA lets you keep the basketballs that get thrown into the stands wildly by the players during shoting practice before the game, then you go for it. Maybe your kids just need to stop being so fragile and get out there. Life’s full of risks, and if they’re cowering in fear because people are running around and shouting, I hate to think what might happen if they, say, try out for school sports or live in New York City where people are always running around and shouting. Just my two cents.

  29. Zack Hample

    I give *lots* of baseballs away — just not to people who ask for them. That’s my personal rule. Of course, if you guys had approached me and asked for my advice on how to snag a ball, I would’ve been glad to offer some pointers. And I’m sure that most (if not all) of my fellow ballhawks would’ve been glad to help as well.

  30. Witness

    Zack gives away balls to kids at every single game he attends. I’ve witnessed it dozens of times. If you spent an entire game with Zack, you’d see this firsthand. He does not give balls to kids that simply ask for them, however. He wants to make sure the ball is really appreciated (as much as he appreciates them), so he’ll only give balls to kids that are wearing gloves and trying hard to get baseballs on their own. Kids have their way of getting balls from players by simply being cute and asking for them. The ballhawks in the stands are actually keeping the area safe by catching home runs and foul balls. If they weren’t there, kids might get hit by these flying weapons and seriously injured or killed. Yes, there should be a little fear at BP. It can be a dangerous place to be, but don’t blame ballhawks for that.

  31. Tim Anderson


    You saw fear in your kid’s eyes because people were talking to eachother in an outside voice? Interesting.

    I can personally guarantee you that if any balls were actually hit to or thrown to your kids, none of us would have caught them.

    You are the one who sounds entitled now. You and your kids went to a baseball game so that means you should snap your fingers and everyone should leave the seats so they can get baseballs?

  32. Ben

    TS- What it sounds like your saying, is BECAUSE there are kids there, the adults should not be allowed to have fun. WE should be the ones backing off, and doing absolutely nothing and sitting idly by, and not enjoy the experience. Look, I love kids. My career is working with kids. But from my experiences, here’s what I know: Kids have a much easier time getting balls thrown to them from players than anyone over the age of 15 does (unless of course you’re blonde with boobs). And that’s fine. It can be frustrating at times, but I get it, and I don’t dispute it. And due to that fact, what must adults do to try and get a ball? We have to try and catch one on our own. And you’re expressing an issue with Zack running around trying to catch balls. Let’s say he wasn’t doing it. There were other people there doing it as well. But let’s say NO ONE was running around attempting to catch the balls. What would have then happened? You would have had other gloveless adults, that don’t try and catch balls, that don’t really know what they’re doing, barreling over each other, in an attempt to get the balls that hit the seats, and land in the crowd. I see it time and time again. WE are not those people. We watch as those people do that, and shake our heads. At least I know I do. Personally, I got 3 balls on this day. 2 of them, I caught on the fly, and the other one, I found. If you had come to me after seeing me catch a ball and asked me for one, I would have given it to you. I like to keep 1 ball from every game I go to, but after that, I have no problem giving them away.
    Now, the point I made earlier about kids forgetting about the ball, and not truly caring, well, I was being a bit harsh. Not to say I think I was wrong, but I don’t think it’s that way with all kids. I’ve certainly seen both ends of the spectrum. I’ve given brought back balls to kids at the youth programs I work with, and yes, some of them are forever grateful. But, at the same time, I’ve seen kids get balls at games, and they seem like they couldn’t care less. And on top of that, I have seen certain kids collect balls at games, like it’s a hobby, since players are so much more willing to give the balls to a kid. But I’ll tell you, I have a fully documented list of every ball I’ve ever gotten, and if you name a ballpark, I can tell you about the ball(s) I got, who they came from, why they’re important to me, etc. And I mean that. I am MORE than willing to provide people – kids or adults – with the pleasure of receiving a ball if I’m able to do so. But that doesn’t mean I, or any other adult, shouldn’t be allowed to have fun trying to get a ball ourselves as well.

  33. TS

    Guys, I am done commenting here. My purpose in commenting at all was in hopes that maybe every once in awhile, you guys that grab as many balls as you can for sport will think twice and maybe not go after a ball here and there like you are trying to catch the final out in Game 7 of the World Series, thus allowing a kid to be able to have a shot at it.

    Some of you have devolved into taking shots at my kids, and I will not stand for that. Enjoy your sport guys. Hopefully, one day you might see the world through the eyes of someone other than yourselves.

  34. Ben

    Well, I believe it is unfair for you to generalize the way you are doing, because if you ever watch me personally, I constantly back off when a ball is thrown in my direction and there is a kid right next to me. In fact, I did it at that game! But you didn’t see that, did you?

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