5/8/12 at Yankee Stadium

The weather was miserable, and not surprisingly, the tarp was out when I entered the stadium at 5pm:

Normally I would’ve stayed home — ballhawking without batting practice isn’t much fun in New York — but I hadn’t attended a game since April 30th, and I was seriously antsy.

The stadium was still empty when the first few Rays came out to play catch at around 5:20pm:

In the photo above, Jose Molina is the player in very shallow left-center. I have no idea who the other guy was, which is a shame because he ended up throwing me the ball when they finished. Here’s a photo of him that I took as he was heading back into the dugout:

Does anyone know who that is? Just to be clear, I’m talking about the white guy with the shaved head. My only guess is Chris Gimenez, but I’m really not sure. I’d like to know so that I can add his name to this very long list.

I got two more balls thrown to me during the next 10 minutes. The first came from Cesar Ramos, and the second came from Matt Moore.

All of these balls (including the one from the unknown player) were thrown over the entire “Legends” section. Take another look at the photo that shows Molina in shallow left-center. That was as close as I could get to the field.

The grounds crew removed the tarp at around 6:40pm . . .

. . . and since no one bothered to check my ticket, I stayed there for a while. (I passed the time by reading another brilliant chapter of Kitchen Confidential.)

Fast-forward 20 minutes. The game was about to begin. Jeff Keppinger and Will Rhymes were playing catch on the edge of the outfield grass, and when they finished, I got Keppinger to throw me the ball. I ended up giving that one away to a little kid.

This was my view during the game . . .

. . . and this is the home run ball that I snagged in the bottom of the 4th inning:

Yes, that’s right. As I mentioned last night on Twitter, I snagged a Raul Ibanez homer during the game. Here’s how it played out . . .

I was sitting in the 4th row in straight-away right field, three seats in from the staircase. The two seats to my right were empty; the reason why I’d moved over was because the TV camera (pictured above) was blocking my view. Anyway, with two outs and a runner on first, Ibanez lifted a 1-2 pitch from James Shields in my direction. I knew right away that it was going to be a home run and that it was going to land near me . . . but where exactly?! My first instinct was to jump up and move to the staircase. Then I froze and looked skyward. Before the ball reached its apex, I realized that it was going to sail about five feet over my head, so I turned away from the field and scurried up a few steps. Then I looked back up for a split-second to pick up the ball, then turned away from it again, then darted into a partially empty row and climbed back over a row because I knew I was positioned too shallow. By the time I looked back up for the final time, the ball was about to land, and I suspected that I wasn’t going to be close enough. At the very last second, I jumped as high as I could and reached back and missed it by six inches. Luckily, the guy who had a clear shot at catching it was not wearing a glove, and the ball bounced off his hands and landed at my feet. Everyone around me started to lunge for it, but I had already scooped it up, and just like that, I’d snagged my 17th lifetime game home run ball. Here I am with it:

Two innings later, a fellow ballhawk named Tony Bracco made his way out to my section to say congrats. Here we are together:

See the ball that Tony’s holding? That’s a 3rd-out ball that Robinson Cano had tossed him earlier in the game near the Yankees’ dugout.

Tony, an aspiring sports photographer with his own MLBlog, told me that he’d gotten a few shots of me, both before and immediately after the home run, and he emailed them to me later that night. Here are my two favorites (which I’ve photoshopped in order to point things out). The first one isn’t an action shot, but sets the stage nicely . . .

. . . and the second one shows me celebrating with the ball:

Huge thanks to Tony for helping to capture a special moment for me.

Ibanez launched another homer in the 7th inning — that one hit the foul pole — and when he came up to bat again in the 8th, I took a picture of the jumbotron:

I love seeing a home run listed on the jumbotron and knowing that I own that ball. That’s the great thing about snagging a homer, or even a foul ball (or even a 3rd-out ball): I get to enjoy the ball and relive the moment long after it has passed.

Want to see something funny? Check out the following screen shot, taken just as the Ibanez home run ball was first rattling around the seats:

Not only is there a guy with his legs up in the air (it was his own fault for diving over a row), but if you look five seats to the left, there’s a woman who appears to be terrorized by the action.

In the screen shot above, just where exactly am I?

Good question. I’m not visible because I was (a) wearing black and (b) bending all the way down to grab the ball. But look . . . here I am moments later, emerging from the pile with the ball:

In the screen shot above, did you notice the two women on the lower right? I love ’em. They’re wearing gloves and looking at each other and probably shrieking something along the lines of, “OMG!!! OMG!!! OMG!!!”

I don’t blame them. Being anywhere near a home run ball is VERY exciting — even for me after all these years.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave one away)

• 88 balls in 13 games this season = 6.77 balls per game.

• 805 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 163 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 17 lifetime game home run balls (not counting the four gamers that I’ve gotten tossed to me by players, coaches, and other stadium personnel)

• 5,907 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 28 donors

• $1.66 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $8.30 raised at this game

• $146.08 raised this season

• $19,303.08 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Here’s one final photo of the home run ball:

Yeah, it looks like just about every other ball, but it obviously means so much more.

Two more things . . .

1) Here’s the home run footage on MLB.com. (You might have to wait through a 15-second commercial.)

2) It was a good night for ballhawks, as two of my friends also snagged home runs in other stadiums. Rick Gold got his hands on a Kelly Johnson homer in Oakland, but more impressively, Tim Anderson grabbed the second of FOUR homers that Josh Hamilton hit in Baltimore. Congrats, gentleman.

20 comments

  1. Skim

    Son of a gun, another home run! My mom called me in for dinner and I said, “One second, I’m reading Zack Hample’s blog!” and then it jumps out at me and says “This is the home run ball that I snagged” and now I have to go watch the highlight.

  2. Cook & Son Bats

    Well, Chris Giminez is bald and uses a catchers glove. And that guys is bald and holding a catchers glove. I think you nailed it. Nice snag on the former-Mariners homerun!
    -Todd

  3. Nick B

    This has nothing to do with baseball, but one of my friends, Nathan Strube was hit by a car yesterday… he was only 13… he was longboarding down a street and collided with a truck. My baseball team won 14-1 in honor of him today.

  4. Ted Z

    I was watching a new series on TLC called “My Crazy Obsession” and I instantly thought you’d be perfect for it. Check it out because they are probably casting. Any publicity is good publicity, eh?

  5. kslo69

    Nice entry Zack. I like the screen shot! The man in the back row is definitely enjoying the show. Condolences to Nick B. It’s always tough to lose a friend.

  6. Zack Hample

    SKIM-
    Heh. I like it.

    PHILADELPHIA45-
    Were any of the baseballs commemorative?

    BLAKE THE SNAKE-
    Thanks for the link, but it seems to a different highlight, namely the Rangers diving on the tarp at Camden Yards.

    TODD-
    Thank you, sir, but I still want a more definitive confirmation about Gimenez.

    ETHAN-
    Thanks!

    ED MOLLOY-
    Yeah, I was pretty damn close to that one, but got a late jump because I had to take a detour around some people sitting next to me.

    NICK B-
    That’s awful! I just googled his name and read an article about it. Hope you’re doing okay.

    TED Z-
    I just checked it out and might drop them a line when I get home. Thanks. It does look rather fitting.

    KSLO69-
    Thanks.

  7. philadelphia45

    Zack- No. I don’t think I am going to any more mets games this year so I lost my chances. i’m seeing the Marlins, Orioles and possibly Red Sox so I will have shots at snagging a commemorative.

  8. Double T

    Nice job on the home run. i come on here every day and expect something cool to happen.

  9. Nick B

    I’m doing a lot better today than I was yesterday. I think going to the Coliseum in my new Yoenis Cespedes jersey tommorrow to see the A’s and tigers plaay will help take my mind off of things.

  10. Nick B

    KSLO69-
    Thank You very much. I had known him for a while and it was more of a suprise than anything because it was completely unexpected.

  11. Andrew

    I was hoping I would have a chance to meet you, and get you to sign a ball I have when you go to Miami on May 21st. I’m pretty sure I will be there when gates open, but not 100% sure. are you going to be in LF or RF during BP? or, if better for you, we can meet sometime during the game…

    If you don’t want to give me your autograph, then i guess just scratch all of the above :P

    Hope to see you there!
    Andrew

  12. Zack Hample

    PHILADELPHIA45-
    That’s a bummer, but not all hope is lost. Try to go see teams who recently played at Citi Field. They might have picked up a few commemorative balls and tossed ’em into the ball bag.

    DOUBLE T-
    Thanks, but you must be disappointed by my newest entry (5/10/12 at Yankee Stadium). That was about as boring as it gets.

    NICK B-
    I wish I could be there with you, but alas, I’m stuck at Yankee Stadium again.

    ANDREW-
    I’m always happy to sign autographs — just not during batting practice, unless we can do it really quickly between groups. I’m not sure where I’m going to enter the stadium or where I’ll be during BP. I’ll probably be running all over the place, and then as soon as BP ends, I’m probably going to run (yes, RUN) all around the stadium to take photos from every conceivable angle. I think that the most reliable place to meet (and this goes for anyone else at this game who wants to say hello) is behind the winning team’s dugout, several minutes after the game. I’m not sure if we’ll be able to get down into the first few rows, so let’s meet behind the moat (about 6 or 8 rows back). Cool?

  13. Zack Hample

    The answer is . . . it depends. I buy all my tickets (for New York games) on StubHub, so just check out the site and see how much people are charging for Citi. I guarantee you it won’t be much because those seats are 14.3 miles from home plate.

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