9/4/11 at the Oakland Coliseum

It was a Sunday, the game was scheduled to begin at 1:05pm, and both teams took batting practice:

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that I didn’t snag *any* batted balls before the game. But wait, there’s more good news. Ready for it? I got nine toss-ups, starting with Fautino De Los Santos (who fired the ball about 65 miles per hour at me) and Michael Taylor.

After the first group of BP, I went to left field (because a bunch of righties were hitting) and got my 3rd ball from Josh Outman. I handed that one to the nearest kid and headed back to right field. I stayed there for the entire Mariners’ portion of BP and got balls from Trayvon Robinson, Chance Ruffin, bullpen coach Jaime Navarro, and Jason Vargas. I was all the way out in right-center for the last one, and I was pretty high up. This was my view:

Right after BP ended, I got another ball from Navarro, this time at the 1st base dugout, and then caught up with a friend named Lee Wilson. Here we are:

If you have a copy of The Baseball, you might recognize Lee as one of the top ten ballhawks. (See pages 285-286.) Among the thousands of baseballs that he’s gotten over the years, he’s snagged roughly 60 game home runs, including Nomar Garciaparra’s first career homer (which happened to be his first career hit) and Barry Bonds’ 64th homer of the 2001 season. Lee Wilson is a LEGEND. And he’s cool as hell too.

Lee actually worked on the construction of the Coliseum when it was expanded in 1996. You know that gigantic structure in center field? That was the main feature of the expansion. It’s so big and ugly and monstrous that it’s been nicknamed “Mount Davis” as a way to make fun of Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis. I wanted to check it out, and Lee came with me. Here it is:

When I took the previous photo, this was what was behind me and to the right:

See all those doors? They’re open to everyone. There wasn’t anyone checking our tickets, so we headed inside and walked several hundred feet through a wannabe-fancy concourse. Here’s what it looked like:

It was pretty nice — for an airport.

A few minutes later, we turned left and headed through a tunnel that led to the seats. This was our view of the field:

It was “breast cancer awareness day.”

Speaking of awareness, Jona showed up just before game time and got to meet Lee. (It could also be said that Lee got to meet her.) Here they are during the national anthem:

At that point, I was hanging out in the right field corner because Mariners starter Blake Beaven was warming up in the bullpen. I was hoping that one of his pitches would get loose and roll onto the warning track near the foul pole. Well, sure enough, that’s exactly what happened, but unfortunately, when bullpen catcher Jason Phillips walked over to retrieve the ball, he tossed it to someone else. The fan who got it was a middle-aged man with no glove or Mariners gear. Phillips, it turned out, hadn’t seen me before he gave the ball to this other guy, so when I got his attention, he practically looked apologetic for not hooking me up. He then made a gesture to indicate that I should stay where I was, so I handed my camera to Jona. It felt great to *know* that I was going to get a ball within a matter of minutes. Phillips returned soon after with a ball and tossed it to me. Here’s a photo of it in mid-air:

That was my 9th ball of the day. My 10th was a foul ball hit by Kurt Suzuki in the bottom of the 2nd inning. It came right to me. I caught it on the fly. And that was my only foul ball of the game — kinda funny (and frustrating) that I had SO MUCH ROOM to run and never got the chance to use it. I mean, the first few rows in the adjacent sections were completely empty. If a foul ball hand landed 50 or even 100 feet away, I would’ve been able to race over and grab it. But no. That never happened. Still, it was awesome to catch that one foul ball. I could’ve easily ended the day with none, so I’ll take it.

Soon after I caught it, an usher handed me a “foul ball club” card:

I thought I was going to get some sort of certificate to commemorate my dazzling grab (okay, fine, it was as easy as it gets), but instead, the card’s only purpose was to make sure that I was uninjured and wasn’t going to sue the A’s. The usher then told me that there was a kid in his section that he really wanted to give a ball to, and he asked me if I’d give away the next one I got.

“I don’t know if I’m going to catch another one,” I told him, “so here, why don’t you take this one now?” I then reached into my backpack and pulled out a newish ball that I’d gotten during BP. The usher took it and brought it to the kid (who was sitting in the last row with his family), and everyone applauded.

The A’s won the game, 8-5. Trevor Cahill picked up his 10th victory (to go with 13 losses). Andrew Bailey notched his 19th save. Hideki Matsui hit three doubles. Blah blah. It really wasn’t an exciting or memorable game, but I loved every second of it. That’s what happens when I have an excellent chance to catch a ball on every single pitch.

Here I am, posing with the foul ball after the game:

This was an extra-special ball for me because it was my 20th game-used ball (not counting toss-ups) of the season. My previous record was 14, and I did it back in 1993.

Here’s what it looked like when Jona and I were walking from the Coliseum to the nearby BARTstation.

When we reached the platform, I noticed a little kid with an empty glove, so I pulled a ball out of my backpack and walked over:

I handed him that ball and took a photo of him several minutes later before our train left the station:

Then I photographed my foul ball on the window ledge:

Brandon and his girlfriend Siobhan met us at the BART station in Dublin. From there, we drove six hours to his family’s beach house in San Clemente. Our plan was to go to an Angels game in Anaheim the next day…

BALLHAWKING STATS:

•10 balls at this game (seven pictured here because I gave three away)

• 892 balls in 107 games this season = 8.34 balls per game.

• 768 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 293 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 159 lifetime game balls (not counting game-used balls that get tossed into the crowd; 142 foul balls, 16 home runs, and 1 ground-rule double)

• 5,554 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.)

• 58 donors

• $7.18 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $71.80 raised at this game

• $6,404.56 raised this season

6 comments

  1. Ste

    Nice! I’ve been waiting for you to go to Oakland! Even better is was during the Mariners series! I’m so glad you had a great time!

  2. mlblogsbigglovebob

    Zack- Great blog as usual. I am a bit of a purist over people paying the proper due respect during the national anthem though. If I see someome taking a picture when I am in KC next week, I may grab them and try to toss them in a fountain! :)

    Big Glove Bob

  3. Todd A

    Awesome job again Zack. And on a side note, I agree with BGBob (again). When I was standing in line at the SF game, the singer was warming up for the anthem and even though we all could hear it, only the 138 guys and I took off our caps while she sang. Back on track, loved watching you snag. Hope you make it to the bay again soon (or I’ll catch you on the road one of these days). T-

  4. Zack Hample

    STE-
    Thanks. I was expecting to hate it, but I ended up having a really good time.

    JON MADDEN-
    Yes indeed.

    BIG GLOVE BOB-
    Yikes. Glad I kept my camera off in KC. Being wet wouldn’t have been any fun.

    TODD A-
    Wow, okay. I always stand and take off my cap during the anthem, but I didn’t realize that it was such a faux pas to do anything else.

    MALCOLM-
    Playoff games are happening for me…

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