8/16/11 at Nationals Park

People often ask how the hell I can afford to travel to so many games. One of the answers is that I stay with friends and family whenever possible, and right now, I’m with family in Greenbelt, MD. Here they are:

In the photo above, the guy in the striped shirt is my half-brother’s husband Barry. (They got legally married in California just before Prop 8 passed in 2008, and BTW, this is not the same half-brother that was with me on 8/1/11 at Citi Field. I have two half-brothers and a half-sister.) The woman on the left is his sister Robin, and the young man on the right is her son Evan.

Barry and Evan came to Nationals Park with me. Here we are outside the center field gates:

Five days earlier, the Korean filmmaker was planning to get some footage of me during BP at Camden Yards. Of course, the Orioles denied him permission, and I ended up snagging fifteen baseballs. Yesterday, the filmmaker was once again planning to follow me around during BP, and guess what happened? The Nationals said no, and I ended up snagging sixteen baseballs. WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICULT?!?! I truly don’t get it.

Anyway…

When the stadium opened, I headed to the 2nd deck in right field and got Tom Gorzelanny to throw me my 1st ball of the day. Here it is:

Then I headed to the “Red Porch” seats in left-center and started piling up the numbers. My first ball out there was retrieved from the gap behind the outfield wall by a groundskeeper. The groundskeeper then handed it to a security guard in the front row, and the guard then handed it to me — kind of cheap, but it counts. My next ball was the opposite of cheap. While standing in the front row, I saw a right-handed batter (not sure who) crush a deep drive in my direction. I could tell right away that the ball was going to carry over my head, so I climbed back over a row. Then another row. And another row. At the last second, I turned back toward the field, and when I looked up, the ball came right to me for an easy catch. (I gave that ball to the nearest kid.) My 4th ball of the day was a ground-rule double. (I gave that one away too.) My 5th ball was tossed by Livan Hernandez, who now officially recognizes me. (“How many balls have I given you this year?” he asked before tossing it. “You’ve thrown me a few,” I said, “but it’s a brand new day, baby!” I felt really stupid saying that, but it worked. Livan is the best.) My 6th ball was thrown by some random strength-coach-type-guy. Here’s a photo of him in the outfield:

My 7th ball was a homer that I caught on the fly. (Nothing fancy about that one.) My 8th ball was tossed from the bullpen by a security guard. (There were half a dozen balls there, and he chucked them all into the crowd.) My 9th ball was another homer that I caught on the fly. (I was in the front row and lunged far to my left for it, snagging it right above the head of a little girl who hadn’t seen it coming. I then gave the ball to her.)

When the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30pm, I raced into the right field stands (on the lower level) and found two baseballs sitting in the seats.

Barry and Evan had no interest in snagging baseballs. They just followed me around and sat in the shade:

My 12th ball of the day was tossed by Sam LeCure. Then I headed back to left field and used my glove trick to snag a ball from the bullpen. The following photo shows two baseballs sitting there; I got the one that was closer to the stands:

When BP was about to end, I headed to the 3rd base dugout and got two balls tossed to me — my 14th and 15th of the day. The first came from Billy Hatcher. The second came from an equipment guy who was dumping the balls into a couple of zippered bags.

Before the game, I noticed that Ramon Hernandez was playing catch in left field with bullpen coach Juan Lopez. I headed out there, and when they finished, Lopez threw me the ball. Here’s a very exciting photograph that I took of them, less than a minute later:

Barry and Evan and I sat along the left field foul line until the 7th inning stretch. Then they left and I moved here:

I didn’t snag any balls during or after the game.

Final score: Nationals 6, Reds 4.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 16 baseballs at this game (13 pictured here because I gave 3 away)

• 760 balls in 91 games this season = 8.35 balls per game.

• 752 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 5,422 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)

• $113.92 raised at this game

• $5,411.20 raised this season

Finally, of the thirteen balls that I kept, three have (faint) invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of those balls in regular light versus black light:

12 comments

  1. Mike

    Like you said, you could have attended the doubleheader at Fenway, or gone to DC to snag 16 baseballs. Really, what is it like to snag baseballs when it isn’t insanely crowded?

  2. S

    You completely forgot to mention me. I was the kid in the Red seats who stole a ball from you, and then you stole a ball from me.

  3. Zack Hample

    MIKE-
    It’s pretty damn fun. :-)

    S-
    Well, now that you’ve mentioned it, allow me to clarify what happened for everyone else. The first time that Livan Hernandez tossed me a ball, you lunged out in front of me and snagged it right in front of my face. That took me by surprise since I had clearly asked him for it, and he was clearly tossing it to me. When Livan then told you to give the ball to me, I told you that you could keep it. (So really, I gave away four balls yesterday if you count this one — or five, if you count the one that a groundskeeper handed to me to give to a little girl who was standing next to me, but whatever. I didn’t count either of these two baseballs in my stats or even feel that they were worth blogging about.) Livan then tossed another ball to me soon after, which I actually caught and counted. Meanwhile, the ball that you claim I “stole” from you was the ball that was tossed up from the bullpen by a security guard. You were standing above me on the steps. I was standing well below you. The ball was thrown a bit over your head, and when you reached for it, it deflected off your glove and plopped right down to me. I scooped the ball up and asked you if I could keep it since you’d taken the Livan Hernandez ball from me earlier on. You said that was fine. I then said, “Okay, so we’re even?” You said yes. I then gave you a friendly tap on the shoulder, and that was it. No thievery whatsoever. I will say, though, that you need to tone things down a bit. I respect your passion for snagging baseballs, but you need to look around and be aware of your surroundings and think before you act. At one point, when you were racing left and right, you whacked my friend Evan on the back of the head with your elbow. He was *so* pissed off about it (and in quite a bit of pain), but we both decided not to say anything. Another time, as you know, you got us both in trouble with security when you flung your glove trick down into the gap. There was other stuff, too, but we don’t need to get into it. My point is not to make you feel bad; it’s to defend myself against your potentially damaging claim, and to educate you about ballhawking etiquette. I certainly could’ve used a lesson or two (or fifty) when I was first getting started.

    NICK-
    Word.

  4. Tom

    Why do you think the Nationals changed from the “Training” balls to using real ones? Is it possible that Davey Johnson had something to do with the change, as it seems like they changed right around when he took over?

    BTW, been reading the blog for a year-plus. Tried the glove trick for the first time a week-and-a-half ago and snagged a ball in the gap between the right-center field wall and stands at Camden Yards. People watching me do it were amazed that it worked.

  5. Nick Badders (@nickbatters on twitter)

    Speaking of the glove trick, I was about to get 2 balls off the Out-of-town scoreboard in Oakland During BP on Saturday and right before I lowered my glove down, I had 20 people on my back, telling me stuff like the ushers were waitng to come get me, there wer camera everywhere, i would get ejected within 2 seconds of lowering my glove and that a little kid like me (BTW im 13) should be trying to get balls when I don’t have any to begin with… Thought i’d share.

  6. Zack Hample

    MATT-
    Well, if I simply refer to him as James, people might forget who I’m talking about.

    TOM-
    Congrats on the glove trick success. As for the Training balls, that’s a good theory. You might be right. Davey is old-school and probably doesn’t stand for having his players use crappy balls.

    NICK BADDERS-
    Damn, that sucks. I keep looking forward less and less to being there.

    JON MADDEN-
    You should come!

    THE BAT FLIP-
    Yup. See here:
    http://www.zackhample.com/baseball_collection/lists/thrown_balls.htm

    GARRETT MEYER-
    Lots of times.

    YOSSIF-
    See what I mean? Everyone thinks so.

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