4/19/12 at Yankee Stadium

The story of the day was Curtis Granderson. Not only did he end up going 5-for-5 with three home runs, but he was also responsible for my 1st ball of the day — a batting practice blast into the right field seats that I caught on the fly. Here’s what the section looked like after I made the grab:

My 2nd ball was tossed by Boone Logan, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the nearest kid. Ball No. 3 was an Eric Chavez homer that landed in the bleachers and bounced back down into the regular seats. I had anticipated it perfectly (by running a full section to my right and eyeing the bleachers for a possible ricochet), but without the good luck that followed, my effort would’ve been meaningless. This is why I always insist that ballhawking requires a combination of luck and skill — and why I love Branch Rickey’s famous quote that “luck is the residue of design.”

Several minutes after the Twins started hitting, I ran nearly halfway around the stadium to the left field foul line, barely arriving before the pitchers finished playing catch. This was my view:

Brian Duensing ended up throwing me a ball . . . which sailed so far over my head that I didn’t bother jumping for it. I was more than a dozen rows back, and since there weren’t any other fans near me, I still ended up snagging it.

During the middle of the Twins’ portion of BP, there was one group of hitters who were all left-handed. I considered various scenarios and strategies and came up with three lousy options:

1) Hang out in left field (not crowded at all) and try to get a toss-up.
2) Hang out in right field (very very very crowded) and try to catch a home run.
3) Head up to the bleachers (semi-crowded) and hope for a moonshot.

I chose option number three. Here’s what it looked like as I headed into the bleachers:

I picked a spot near the front.
One ball reached the bleachers.
It went right to another fan.

And yes, the visibility was brutal. Not only was the sunlight coming at me directly from the sky, but it was also reflecting off the metal benches.

The left field seats remained empty, so I headed over there for the final group of BP. Wanna see how empty? This was my view to the right . . .

. . . and to the left:


Because there was virtually no competition, I easily got this player to toss me my 5th ball of the day:

Here’s a closer look at him:

At the time, I had no idea who it was, but now (after having done some Google-imaging) I’m almost certain that it was Jared Burton. Can anyone help me confirm this?

During the last few minutes of BP, I caught two home runs on the fly, and they couldn’t have been easier. I mean . . . I had to run 30 feet to my left for the second one, but there was no one else near me, and the ball came right to my row. The same batter hit both of these balls, but I don’t know who it was.

On my way out of the section, I gave a ball to a security guard to give to the kid of his choice, and late in the game, I gave away another to a little boy in my section who’d been sitting quietly with his glove (and his family) all night.

This was my view for the entire game . . .

. . . and for the first few batters in the top of the 1st, I had an entire empty row on my left:

Not surprisingly, it didn’t last long . . .

. . . but during those few minutes that I had all that space, it was fun to imagine the possibilities.

For the second game in the row, the Twins had a 4-3 lead after the 1st inning, but the real story (as I mentioned at the start) was Curtis Granderson. Here’s what the jumbotron said when he came to bat in the bottom of the 6th:

He already had three home runs by that point, and he was likely to bat again in the bottom of the 8th! My mind and heart were racing at the thought of catching his 4th (and/or 5th?!) home run of the night, but it wasn’t meant to be. Granderson cracked under pressure and ended up hitting singles in his final two at-bats. What a chump!

For the record, I didn’t come close to any of his home runs, although I did jump out of my seat and start running for one of them. Most of the seats were full, so even though the ball landed just one section to my right, I had no chance. Mark Teixiera and Ryan Doumit also homered to right field, so there was lots of action in my general vicinity, but all I could do was spectate. You people in half-empty stadiums with cross-aisles and standing-room sections have NO IDEA how good you have it.

One of the highlights of the game was seeing Mariano Rivera (whose age now matches his uniform number) retire Minnesota in order on seven pitches. He’s so good that it’s almost not fair.

Final score: Yankees 7, Twins 6.

Here’s a photo that I took of the stadium from the nearby/elevated subway platform:

The biggest highlight of the day was getting to talk at length to a part-time major league scout. He’s a friend of a friend, and I got to pick his brain for 20 solid minutes. I’m not sure if I’m allowed to reveal his name or the team that he works for, so let me just share one random/interesting fact with you: his team has a minimum height requirement for right-handed pitchers. In other words, when scouts are looking at high school and college pitchers and considering who to select in the draft, the front office won’t even consider a guy if he’s under 6-foot-2. For lefties, there’s no requirement. I always knew that teams prefer tall pitchers, but I figured that the cutoff was six feet, and I had no idea that there was an actual rule about it. I guess I’m going to have to marry a very tall woman.


• 7 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave three away)

• 55 balls in 7 games this season = 7.86 balls per game.

• 799 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 160 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 31 consecutive games at the new Yankee Stadium with at least two balls

• 5,874 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 learn more about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 17 donors

• $1.00 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $7.00 raised at this game

• $55.00 raised this season

• $19,212.00 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Here’s one final photo for you — a side-by-side comparison of one of the balls in regular light versus black light:

The end.


  1. Brian

    Good stuff Zack! That shot of the bleachers w/ the sun beating down is brutal even on a computer screen….couldn’t imagine being there and trying to snag balls… Are you up in Boston this weekend?

  2. Double T

    Cool Game… The sun looked very bright in New York. My aunt was there this week and she said it was very sunny.

  3. Chris H (@ch1088)

    Hey Zack – just wondering if you recognized me at the game haha, I walked past you when you were running to left field, and later on I was up in the LF bleachers and I flapped my glove at you. I was telling my friend how you put me to shame in no less than five minutes when you caught those 2 on the fly and got the toss up – and matched my total for the last four games combined. haha nice work

  4. mlblogsfishfry55

    With all the BP home runs you catch on the fly, I wouldn’t be surprised if a big league team tries to sign you. You make it sound so easy, but with crowds and stairs, and bleachers, it’s hardly anything like tracking down a fly ball in a vast outfield.
    By the way, I was at the Marlins game at Nats Park last night and it looks like they brought their commemorative balls on the road! So you’ll have more chances if Miami is too mean to you.

  5. Skim

    Heading to Citi Field tomorrow rain or shine, without a San Francisco Giants hat. Hopefully, with rain in the forecast, people will stay away and players will actually come out and throw/hit. Anyone else gonna be there?

  6. Mateo Fischer

    I would back your thought that it is Burton, because he was one of the two “look alike”s on the Twins and it doesn’t look like it is Matt Maloney by the facial structure. I think I might have seen him throw you that ball, but I’m still curious as to how you got into the LF seats. Oh well, the world may never know.

  7. Cook & Son Bats

    I hope that scout doesn’t work for the Mariners. That’s a silly rule. I understand preferring a tall player, but not even considering someone less than 6′ 2″ is ridiculous. I heard of a righty who was 5′ 11″ and pretty decent once: Pedro Martinez. Silly.

    In unrelated news, Tim (with no assistance from dad) caught a Marlins Park commemorative today at Nationals Park. A beauty. It was a toss up from the bullpen into the seats behind the visitors bullpen. The tosser (Jeff Urgelles) told him he had to catch it and he only would get one chance…and the ball would have fallen back into the bullpen if he missed it. A quality catch for a 6 year old, the commemorative nature of the ball was icing on the cake.

  8. Skim

    Also, I have tickets for Fenway in late May. I just read one of your entries from last year. What’s the deal with the early access to the Monster seats? Also, what time do you recommend getting there for a 7:10 game? Finally, is it easy to go places where you don’t have a ticket for? I’m dying to get a Fenway 100th anniversary ball and I’ll do anything to get one.

  9. Austin

    Boo! I’m not going to my first MLB game of the season until at least next weekend. I might see the dodgers during the summer but my first MLB game will be in the bay area. (a any tips at the coliseum or whatever it’s called b) any idea when you’re going to LA Zack? Should I wear any anti dodgers gear? jk

  10. Donny in Houston

    Hopefully Yankee Stadium will treat me well this summer. I’ve heard so many horror stories I almost feel like skipping it for a train ride to Philly or something.

    I went to my first game of the year last night, Astros v. Dodgers, with the express goal of getting a Dodger Stadium commemorative ball and an Astros 50th year ball. Happy to say I got them both.

  11. Rocco Sinisi

    Hay Zack, the pitcher in the Twins gear that tossed you a ball at Yankee Stadium is Jerrod Burton!!! He was a ***Cincinnati Red*** for the last few years, and I know who he is! Rocco

  12. Zack Hample

    Sorry I didn’t respond in time, but no . . . no Boston for me. I get enough of the Bronx Zoo at home. I don’t need to travel to see more of it.

    Not bad.

    Your aunt speaks the truth.

    Definitely. Personally, I feel very discriminated against.

    CHRIS H-
    What?! That was you? Ohhhh, man. You probably thought I was super-rude.

    Thanks for the Marlins update. I’ll be seeing them in just a few hours at Citi Field.

    ZACH V-
    Sweet! How’d you manage that?

    Well, so much for that.

    Can’t say I was enjoying the comeback, but yes, baseball is rather awesome.

    Some things are better left to the imagination.

    Not the Mariners, and WOW, congrats to Tim. Now *I* need to get one of those balls.

    SKIM (again)-
    Did you read my Fenway entries from last season. Those contain lots of info. If you need to know more, email me.

    My tip for the Coliseum is to read my blog entries from when I was there in September 2011. I can’t think of a single piece of advice that I could possibly give you that’s NOT already in those entries. As for Los Angeles . . . no plans.

    It’s in fair territory down the right field line. You’ll have access to the bleachers and the rest of the stadium. Just ask for one of those tickets by name at the window.

    Glad you enjoyed it.

    Both?! Damn, man. Nicely done.

    Thank you, sir!

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