4/25/12 at Citi Field

Things keep getting tougher at Citi Field. Last year it was the gates opening half an hour later. Then it was the Mets’ inability to hit. More recently it was the addition of the party deck, and now it’s the fact that Frank Francisco recognizes me. When the stadium opened yesterday at 5:10pm, I hurried out to the right field seats (where it’s nearly impossible to catch batted balls because of the overhang of the 2nd deck), and when I asked Francisco for a ball, he shouted, “How many you got now?!”

“Today’s a brand new day,” I said, “and I got none.”

I thought it was a cute answer, but he wasn’t impressed. Instead of tossing me the ball, he pointed me out to Ramon Ramirez, who later walked over and asked how many stadiums I’d been to.

For me, getting recognized by players is usually a bad thing. It means that they probably won’t ever throw me a ball, and you see, when I’m trapped in the stands of a cavernous stadium and the home team’s few power hitters take their cuts before the gates open, I rely on toss-ups.

Thankfully I got a ball from the center fielder pictured below:

At the time I didn’t know who it was, but now (after having combed through the Mets’ roster), I’m certain that it was rookie outfielder Jordany Valdespin. (Thanks to Francisco, he probably now knows all about me and won’t ever throw me another ball. Life is hard.)

I knew that right field was dead, so I headed over to the left field side for the final group of the Mets’ portion of BP. To my surprise, there was a right-handed batter with impressive power, and he hit a home run RIGHT to me. This was my view when I caught it:

Once again, I had no idea who it was, but later realized (when seeing the guy’s stance and swing during the game) that it was Zach Lutz. I’m no scout, and I’ve barely seen him play, but his swing is so violent that I can see him becoming a Mark Reynolds-esque/all-or-nothing type of hitter. I just hope he sticks around because he could single-handedly make batting practice much more entertaining.

When the Marlins pitchers started playing catch, I headed into foul territory . . .

. . . but didn’t stay there long. None of the players appeared to be using commemorative balls, and with a bunch of heavy-hitting righties taking turns in the cage, there was only one place I wanted to be: straight-away left field.

I’m not sure who hit the next ball I caught — probably Hanley Ramirez — but I can describe exactly how I got it. Starting in the same spot pictured two photos above, I ran 30 feet to my left and made a jumping/lunging catch on my glove side. I noticed right away that there was a kid two rows behind me, who had a glove and appeared to be about 10 years old. Would he have caught the ball if I hadn’t been there? Who knows, but I gave it to him regardless, and both of his parents thanked me.

Now, do you remember the conversation I had with Heath Bell the day before? Remember the part when I asked him to hook me up with a Marlins commemorative ball? Keep that in mind while I refresh your memory about something else . . .

Does this photo look familiar? (Go ahead and click it. Really. Do it. This is important. It’ll be okay. It’ll open in a new window, and you won’t lose your spot. Have you clicked it yet? Okay, good.) It was originally posted in my entry from 4/9/11 at Citi Field. See the kid on the left in the green hat? His name is Zach, he was at Citi Field yesterday, and as soon as he saw me, he asked if I’d sign his copy of The Baseball.

“Absolutely,” I said, “but let’s wait until there’s a left-handed batter.”

Waiting for a lefty turned into waiting for the group to end, and then there were several distractions after that. Twenty minutes later, I still hadn’t signed his book — but I was going to. That’s when Heath Bell (who was shagging in left-center) fielded a ball and turned around and threw it in our direction. Yes, OUR direction. Zach was in the front row, and I was standing directly behind him in the third row. The ball sailed right to him, but seemed to handcuff him a bit, and it tipped off his glove. Where did it end up? Right between us in the second row. As I bent down (over a row of seats) to pick it up, I had every intention of giving it to him, but once I had the ball in my hand, I noticed that it had the Marlins commemorative logo. Zach immediately started freaking out and claiming that the ball had been intended for him. I was like, “Yeah, but it has a commemorative logo,” and he was like, “YEAH!!! THAT’S WHY I WANT IT!!!” and I was like, “Oh Jesus.”

Part of me wanted to say, “Listen, kid, you could’ve caught the ball, but you didn’t, and I got it. The end.” But the other part of me was thinking, “This kid knows me and looks up to me and asked for my autograph last year and now wants me to sign his copy of my book and has the same name as me. Don’t be an ass. Give him the ball. You’ll get another next month in Miami.” And so, with ambivalence and a sinking feeling in my gut, I handed it to him. Here he is with the ball — and my book (which I signed):

What would you have done? Kept the ball? Given it to him? Dig deep and really think about it.

Five minutes later, Heath Bell threw me another ball near the Home Run Apple. I took a quick peek at it, noticed that it lacked the commemorative logo, and gave it to a father and his little boy. Here’s the father showing it to the nearest usher:

Back in the days when I kept every single ball, the ushers and security guards hated me and created a separate set of rules to keep me out of the sections. Now that the stadium employees see me giving balls away, they’re all on my side and often bend the rules so that I can enter their sections. Funny how that works.

Anyway, if you’ve lost count, I had snagged five balls and given away three.

After batting practice, I got two more balls at the Marlins’ dugout. The first was tossed at the home-plate end by a player that I couldn’t identify. (He was white, short, scruffy, muscly, and looked like a bully.) The second was tossed at the outfield end by team owner Jeffrey Loria. Here he is throwing another ball to someone else:

I headed back to left field at the start of the game and stayed there for the rest of the night. This was my view in the top of the 1st inning:

I had lots of room to run, and there *were* two home runs, but both were beyond my range. One of them — a 5th-inning blast by Omar Infante — was close enough that I jumped up and started running for it. In the following screen shot (courtesy of MLB.com), I’ve circled the ball and pointed myself out with an arrow:

The ball hit the “Mazda” advertisement and ricocheted off some people’s hands to the bottom of the staircase under the word “Parts.” I had no chance.

One inning later, David Wright hit a homer that would’ve been GREAT to catch. It made him the all-time Mets leader in RBIs, putting him two ahead of Darryl Strawberry. Unfortunately, though, the ball landed on the party deck, way the hell out in left-center near the batter’s eye.

After the final out of the Mets’ 5-1 victory, I raced over to the Marlins’ dugout in time to see Heath Bell walking off the field:

“See you next month in Miami!” I shouted, but he didn’t look up. Maybe he didn’t hear me. Maybe he was pissed because his team lost. Or maybe both. I’m just hoping that the Marlins can turn things around — if not this year, then next — because I want to see him pitch in the World Series.


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

• 75 balls in 10 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.

• 802 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 389 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 51 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls

• 5,894 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.)

• 18 donors

• $1.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $7.70 raised at this game

• $82.50 raised this season

• $19,239.50 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Ready for some black light photos? All four of the balls that I kept have invisible ink stamps. Check out the following side-by-side comparison:

In the black light portion of the previous photo, did you notice the ball on the upper left? It appears to be double-stamped. Pretty cool, no? Here’s a closer look at it:

Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t. Just . . . appreciate its beauty and soak it in.


  1. mlblogsfishfry55

    Tough luck for Heath today, blowing his third save of the year. One question though, why did you give away the second commemorative ball you caught instead of switching it for a regular ball and then given THAT one away? Keep up the good work!

  2. Mateo Fischer

    I think I would have to meet Zach before I can say anything about the situation. While it’s easy to say that a kid is a kid, it’s also pretty hard to isolate the situation itself if it involves a person you actually know. Also, the description of a person, and the impression made by it, can be completely different than the impression caused by actually meeting and being around them. For example, I would be much less likely to give the ball to the kid in that situation if he were the kid from Nationals Park than…well any other kid I know really.

  3. Zach v

    Hey zack thank you for mentioning me again I got to talk to Heath bell for a little bit to thank him for the baseballs u have made me really happy and I saw u again. During that game I got 5 balls 3 50th annerversey 1 marlin and 1 base thank u again ZachV

  4. Ryan

    After reading a few blogs I can honestly say that, I don’t fully “get it”. I guess I just subscribe to a different set of rules when attending a baseball game than Zach. http://blogs.thescore.com/mlb/2012/04/26/one-rule-to-abide-by/
    Any respectable fan of baseball would be in agreement with “most” of these rules.

    I do quite enjoy the blog but spare me the details of flipping a ball to a kid. It’s expected, you’re an adult.

    Thanks for the posts!

  5. Zack Hample

    I only got one commemorative ball, and Zach was all over it. I offered him a different ball, and he wouldn’t have it.

    MLB FAN-

    Which kid from Nationals Park? Are you talking about someone specific or just making up a hypothetical person?

    At this point, you can’t unless you’re part of a group of 25 or more people — or if you know someone . . . or if you find those tickets randomly on craigslist.

    And then what? Give it to people like Frank Francisco?

    ZACH V-
    You’re welcome, but what are you telling me — that you got THREE commemorative Mets balls during the actual game? If you get a chance, please explain what you mean because I’m quite confused at the moment.

    Any respectable fan of this blog would spell my name right.

  6. Cook & Son Bats

    Ha, I over edited myself. I originally typed that you should print it and give it to Francisco so he’d understand why he should still toss you baseballs, but then I decided I didn’t need the “…so he’d understand” part — but apparently, I deleted the entire Francisco part. Anyway, glad you seemed to figure out what I meant despite my blunder.

  7. Big Glove Bob

    Zack- You did the right thing, you count the ball and give it to the kid. Karma will pay you back in Miami.
    Big Glove Bob

  8. Hank

    Zachary you shouldn’t have given the ball to the kid. That’s what’s wrong with kids these days, they are whiney brats who think they should get everything. He SHOULD have caught the ball if he wanted it so bad. He you can’t catch the ball than you don’t deserve it. But it shows your a nice guy willing to give the ball over to the kid. If he really was such a big fan of yours he would have allowed you to keep the ball, since he would realize how much you have wanted a commemorative ball and Heath Bell, your boy tossed it up to you. Instead he threw a fit like a giant baby, something uncalled for in my opinion.

  9. connor

    I disagree with Hank, you were right to give Zach the ball. A fan is more valuable than a baseball.

  10. kslo69

    Probably made the best decision Zack. Considering he’s a fan and all. Besides, it’s very possible that he would not have been so concerned over the comemerative if you hadn’t been filling his head with all this ballhawk talk. Just like your interaction with Francisco, it seems you’ve made your bed, and must now lay in it. ;)

  11. Skim

    I agree with Big Glove Bob. You’ll probably get more Marlins commemoratives at Marlins Park than you can fit in both hands.

  12. Double T

    My girlfriend says finders keepers… Honestly though, he had a chance for the ball, and he missed, so you should have kept it.

  13. Andy

    Zack, after that bad publicity from the MSN article, I felt like you probably felt guilty and decided you had enough bad publicity for one week so you gave him the ball! Any thoughts on the Texas Rangers couple that are getting slammed for not giving the foul ball to the screaming kid? They claim they didn’t hear him.

  14. Dylan

    People in Texas aren’t exactly prone to give balls away. We focus on the game. And we were playing the Yanks’, and it was sold out, so they may not have heard him.

  15. Tom

    It’ll be that much sweeter when you get your hands on another Marlins commemorative ball.

  16. kslo69

    A lesson that I teach my kids anytime the opportunity comes up is that crying does not get a person what they want. My favorite response when they are howling for some worthless trinket that has caught their eye is “How does it feel to want?”

  17. kslo69

    Other big news from Central Oregon; Jeronimo gave up only 1 run in 3 innings yesterday, struck out the side in the 2nd. Watch for it on sport scenter.

  18. Zack Hample

    I’m so smart. (And by the way, I know I owe you an email or two, but I’m truly swamped at the moment. Hoping to catch up this weekend.)

    Karma is about as real as Santa Claus, which is to say VERY in the minds of some — but not mine.

    CHRIS H-
    Hmm, interesting.

    I need to defend Zach for a moment. He didn’t throw a “fit.” He just really really REALLY wanted the ball, and I can’t blame him. When I was his age, I was ten times more obnoxious (and sometimes still am), so let’s cut him some slack. I don’t think that his reaction or behavior was out of line; the only thing he did wrong was *not* catching the ball in the first place.


    I have indeed made my bed. The more I write about ballhawking, the more I find myself competing with people who’ve read my stuff.

    Unlikely. Marlins Park looks like an absolute nightmare.


    Well, that’s one way to look at it.

    The Texas couple may have been deaf, but it seems that their eyes were working fine. That said, it’s not a crime to keep a ball, even if there are adorable kids around. I mean, if a kid wants something and cries, does that mean that he (or she) should automatically receive it? Giving baseballs to kids is nice, but damn, I hate when people expect it. Enough coddling.


    I suppose.

  19. Joe

    What you should have done was spend a few minutes to sign his book when he asked, briefly giving up a low-probability shot at a batted ball at Citi Field. Then perhaps he would not have been hanging around nearby to compete with you. Given the situation as it played out, I think you did the right thing. As you point out, he was likely aware of the desirability of the commemorative ball as a result of reading this blog. So again, you have only yourself to “blame” for the situation. Sorry for the bad luck, but I believe in karma.

  20. autocollector

    It’s one of those situations where you just have to go with your gut, there wasn’t ONE overall right decision. It’s a judgement call and either way you did what you had to do.

  21. Zack Hample

    Why do you believe in karma? Do you have any proof of its existence? I believe in randomness. Sometimes there are patterns in randomness, but I don’t believe it means anything, nor do I believe there is any way to influence it.

    This is a very sensible answer.

  22. Ben Weil

    Here’s the thing: Why does this kid go to batting practice and try and get balls? BECAUSE of you. YOU Zack, are the reason he would even know to want this ball in the first place. Basically, it’s your fault for him wanting it so badly. That said, you only have yourself to blame for this situation! No, just kidding, though that may be true, that’s not my point. My point is, he should be grateful to you for this fun hobby he is acquired. But alas, he is a kid, so of course that’s not true, as he does not know better. Would anyone feel bad for you, and give the ball to you if you didn’t catch, and it deflected off of your glove? No, of course not. That said, I absolutely would not have given that ball away. I’ve stupidly fumbled away a ball I really wanted before. And that’s my loss. I got over it. And so would he.

  23. Big Glove Bob

    Without getting too deep, Karma is one of those things that you just have to have faith in. I believe in it because in my 39 years I am convinced I have experienced it a lot. It is kind of like reaping what you sow. Here is my latest semi baseball related karma story. Two weeks ago I was in KC for opening weekend at the K. I used Priceline for my room and got a hotel that I have stayed in numerous times before. It is an old hotel and all the floors are laid out the same. I know from staying there that rooms that end in 05 and 10 are the smallest rooms in the hotel. That is where they like to stick the Priceline customers. When I checked in, I told the clerk that I was a little superstitious and could not stay on floors 5 or 10 or in a room that ended in 05 or 10. She looked at her computer and I was indeed slated to be in a room that ended in 05 or 10. The hotel was pretty booked up and after some looking she gave me an executive room on the 6th floor. Yippee! A free upgrade for my lie at the front desk. Fast forward to nights two and three at the hotel. The floor was filled to the brim with college kids that were partying ALL night. It was the worst experience I have ever had at a hotel. The doors slamming, the screaming, the music, it went on and on. I chalked it up to karma. Had I not lied at check in I would have been on another floor, away from all the noise and sleeping sound in my smaller room.
    Big Glove Bob

  24. SpencerS

    So you thank Frank recognizing you will become a problem ? / to be honest I am always worrie about players recognizing me / even though in Oakland ( no home team BP ) and AT&T the Giants are a kid only toss up team so it’s not a issue– Talked with Frank multiple times last year when he was with Toronto and came to Oakland seemed like a nice guy who liked to joke around – ( than again every player is different to different people / I know you have a friendship with J.Gutherie and from my experience with him he is one of the true A-Hole players in the game today ) —

    All the years of going to see the Mets and being the only one there , this really is the first time a home town player recognized you ? I always wondered this actually

  25. Skim

    I think it would be worthwhile to make a few trips to Cleveland because the listed attendance in the newspaper is almost always under 10,000.

  26. Zack Hample

    Thank you for the recommentaion. I’m not opposed to watching math-related stuff if it’s done in an entertaining way.

    I really hope so.

    Just showing up with a copy of my book would’ve been enough.

    Thanks for weighing in here. You know I always appreciate your comments and pretty much always agree.

    Fun story, but in my world, it’s just a coincidence.


    Lots of players have recognized me over the years. It’s only a problem when the players start blabbing about me to their teammates, and in this case, it’s even worse since the Mets are particularly unfriendly.

    I’d be there often if I didn’t have to work.

  27. Spencer

    Thats funny you say that about the Mets team being ” unfriendly ” I have thought that Mets teams in general have been very unfriendly through the years as well ..

    this year so far I have found the Indians to be one of the most unfriendly and least engaging team to deal with

  28. Mateo Fischer

    It was a specific person I was talking about. Remember the game against the Diamondbacks that you came to? When you came to the gate, you pulled me aside behind a wall and “warned” me about him so to speak, that he was a pain in that he the last game you had been there he asked you who a player on the opposing team’s name was and then when you asked the player for a ball by name, he started yelling the player’s name like he knew it all along. Is this ringing a bell at all? I also recall that he was lying about how many baseballs he had gotten when we were asking the D-Backs pitchers for balls while they were throwing down the line. It might help you that he was with his dad the game we both went to.

  29. Frank Calderon

    Hey Zack, I was at Dodger Stadium with Cardinals visiting. Matt Carpenter picked up a ball during B.P. and tossed it just over the outfield fence to me and some kid standing next to me. To be honest the ball flew right at my glove and when the kid looked at me and said “please Mr. let me have the ball, I havent caught any today” I called out to Carpenter twice till finaly he turned around and I pointed at me or the the kid. He clearly pointed at the kid and I let him see I gave it to the kid. Later on after picking up another fly he walked over and tossed it. But the cool thing was 2 weeks later the kid saw me waiting for fly balls and said hello with his dad and said. Dad he’s the one that gave me the ball. The dad said “thanks” he has it saved on his beds head board shelf. That was when I was so glad to of given him the ball. But to be truthful Zach. I gave it to the kid because I know rules are balls should not be taken from kids….

  30. Zack Hample

    Hmm, interesting. In my experience, the Dodgers have always been bad, and the Phillies are becoming really bad.

    I think I know who you mean, but I’m still not sure.

    Awesome story. Thanks for sharing this with me (and everyone else here).

  31. Zach

    Hey this year I got 9 mets ball but I gave one away and about 20 or 30 balls and I’ve given a few away to. I’ve gotten david wrights wristband. And saw u a few times thank u for the marlins ball. See u next year

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