6/20/12 at Citi Field

I attended this game with my friend Steve Gritzan. Here we are outside the stadium:

Steve and I have known each other for about three years, and I have to say . . . he’s pretty weird. He prefers listening to baseball on the radio rather than watching it on TV, and he likes the regular season more than the post-season. He says he enjoys the monotony of the season, when there are games every day that hardly matter. That said, I totally get his perspective and love the fact that he’s obsessed with baseball in his own special way.

One more thing about Steve and then I’ll move on: he owns an independent record store in Jersey City called Iris Records, and he once hosted one of my writing group meetings there. Here’s a photo of the place (taken during the meeting) in case you’re curious.

Soon after Steve and I had our picture taken, a nearby fan called me over. His name was Ian, he recognized me from this blog, and he asked me to sign his ticket. Here he is with it:

In the photo above, Ian is wearing orange, and his friend Ben is wearing yellow. Note the original Home Run Apple from Shea Stadium in the background.

As for batting practice . . . oy vey. I got completely shut out while the Mets were hitting. I didn’t snag my first ball until the Orioles came out, and even then it took another 20 minutes. Jake Arrieta threw me that ball, and I caught another less than five seconds later. Seriously. It happened THAT fast. The people near me were shouting and looking up, so I looked up too, saw a home run flying at me, took a few steps to my left, and reached up for the grab. Ta-daaa!! Then I gave one of the balls to the smaller of the two kids pictured below in the “WRIGHT” jerseys:

My third ball of the day was tossed by a player that I couldn’t identify. In the following photo, you can see him through the plexiglass. He’s standing on the right and wearing the black warm-up jersey:

I gave the ball to the kid pictured above, and then I took a slightly better photo of the mystery player:

I later showed that photo to my friend Avi Miller, who knows everything about the Orioles and was visiting from Baltimore. Avi needed approximately three-eighths of a nanosecond to identify the guy.

“That’s Pedro Strop,” he said.

“Are you sure?” I asked. “How do you know?”

“I recognize his necklace,” he said before “joking” that he could probably identify all the Orioles by their fingernails.

After batting practice, I got my fourth ball from an Orioles coach at the 3rd-base dugout. I’m not sure who it was, but if I had to guess, I’d say it was John Russell.

This is where Steve and I sat for the entire game:

At the end of every inning, I wandered down to the front row to try to get a 3rd-out ball from the Orioles. After four innings of neglect/failure, I finally got this:

It looked rather beat up for a game-used ball, but I assure you that it WAS the actual ball (as opposed to the infield warm-up ball that sometimes gets switched). How do I know? Because Justin Turner ended the inning by popping out to J. J. Hardy, and Hardy tossed me the ball. I had my eye on him the whole time.

An inning or two later, there was a brief pyrotechnic display (as part of an advertisement for Verizon) that left the stadium smokey:

Steve and I were not impressed:

As for the game . . . the Mets beat the Orioles, 4-3, despite Frank Francisco’s best effort to make things interesting in the 9th. (He entered with a 4-2 lead, loaded the bases, and walked in a run. It was ugly but exciting.) After the final out, I got a ball from home plate umpire Tim Timmons and then got a photo with Avi. Here we are:

Here are the four balls that I kept . . .

. . . and here’s a look at three of them in black light:

One last thing for now . . .

Do you remember this photo from my blog entry about Game 3 of the 2011 World Series? The photo shows me with a 14-year-old girl named Meggie Zahneis, who had won an essay contest sponsored by Major League Baseball. Meggie is now MLB’s Youth Correspondent, and she recently interviewed me for an in-depth article about ballhawking for charity. I tweeted the link last night, but for those who missed it, here it is again. Please read it if you have a few minutes to spare, and while you’re at it, give Meggie a shout on Twitter. She’s a great person and a very talented writer.


• 6 balls at this game

• 218 balls in 30 games this season = 7.27 balls per game.

• 822 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 347 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 6,037 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.)

• 34 donors

• $1.89 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $11.34 raised at this game

• $412.02 raised this season

• $19,569.02 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009


  1. Brian

    Looks like the ball in the top left corner wasn’t even rubbed down….probably just the photo….?

  2. Zack Hample

    That ball is actually BRAND NEW. I’ve never snagged a more flawless ball. It was almost shocking.

    CHRIS H-
    Don’t get me started.

  3. writerkid

    Thanks for the shout-out, Zack. It was a blast to do the story and I’m glad everyone seems to be enjoying it. I’m no Korean documentary squad, but I do what I can!

  4. ezpassmac

    Two things, Zach. Number 1: I was at the game and the coach who tossed it to you was Jim Presley. Number 2: An easy way to share with the readers if the ball you received on the third out is real can be proved by seeing if there was a Mets 50th Insignia on it.

  5. txmarinersfan

    Hey Zack, I know this is off topic to this post, but I am going the july 3&4 baseball games and I was wondering what hints you have for the best places to get a ball in bp at Nationals Ballpark? Thanks!

  6. Nathan

    Hey zack, I’m going to see the Dodgers in about a month. Is there anybody particularly friendly or any tips you have?

  7. Matt H (@LSThrasher04)

    I like the brand new ball next to the worn out one in the photo. I snagged a similar one a few years ago when Cody Ross was a Marlin and sliced a BP HR to right that I caught on the fly. It looked, felt, and even smelled like it was taken out of the box, thrown to Cody, and landed in my glove.
    I know you like the ones in poor condition, but I enjoy new ones and those that are stamped incorrectly. Even Rawlings isn’t perfect lol.

  8. Zack Hample

    Guess what? There was no “squad” with the Korean documentary. It was all done by one guy. Stay in touch!

    You saw me get that ball?! Cool, thanks for letting me know, but as for the commemorative logo appearing on a 3rd-out ball . . . that doesn’t necessarily prove anything. Teams could very well be using THOSE as their infield warm-up balls.

    I’ll check it out if/when I get a chance. Things are off-the-charts busy right now . . .


    My best advice is to read all of my entries from last season about Nationals Park. You can find them all here: http://zackhample.com/baseball_collection/lists/2011.htm

    The best advice I can give is to read my old Dodger Stadium entries. Every possibly strategy and ballhawking tip that I could possibly offer here . . . is already there.

    I’ve written detailed blog entries about *every* current stadium. If you want ballhawking advice about a particular ballpark, check those out.

    MATT H-
    I do like snagging brand new balls because I feel like I’ve gotten away with something. You know? It’s like they weren’t meant to fly into the stands yet.

    Wow, I had no idea that it was featured on MLBlogs. The funny thing about it (beyond your “charity work”) is that the caption says I’m posing with my four baseballs from Tuesday night. That photo was actually taken at Coors Field in 2008, but hey, it’s good to know that I’ve aged so little since then that people can’t tell the difference.

  9. Double T

    Going to a third College World Series game today, but im gonna show up 30 minutes late. so the likelyhood of me getting a ball is small unless i get a foul ball which is very unlikely in this stadium.

  10. Nicholas Badders

    CHRIS H- I had actually just been wondering that!
    ZACK- I was at the A’s/Dodgers games in Oakland on Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday, there was a ball that rolled to Todd Coffey, I asked him if he could please toss it to me and everyone else started yelling at him to throw them the ball. He asked “Who said please?” Everyone in the section pointed to me, and then some guy blurted out “I did!’ and got the ball. And I saw one guy use a ball retriever to get 4 balls on the out-of town scoreboard and somehow was not caught because ball retrievers are not permitted in Oakland. And on Thursday I was told by 4 Dodgers pitchers that they are not allowed to give out balls from the bullpen, and all 4 of them tossed someone else a ball within 5 minutes of me asking. BTW, I was wearing a Dodgers hat, shirt, necklace, and shorts. I went all out. And they were all the 50th Anniversery balls too. Two very frustrating games. At least I had a 15-minute conversation with Aaron Harang. The A’s actually sold out on Friday for the 2nd time this year, and I unfortunatly will be going on Sunday where I expect them to sell out again, as they are playing the Giants. I am guessing that I have a very low chance at getting a ball, so I hope there is batting practice. The game the day before is at 4:15 (National Broadcast) and I am wondering whether or not they will have BP. I would guess not.

  11. johnlisankie

    Hey Zack, I just wanted to know, have you ever been robbed of a home run? At the Yankees-Mets game last night, on the Andruw Jones home run, it was literally right in my direction. I went down one step and put my glove up, and felt the ball slap into my glove, and before I could even close my glove, the man next to me had his hand in my glove, and about half a second after the ball came into my glove, it was gone? It’s really difficult to cope with something like this. What should I do?

  12. Matt H (@LSThrasher04)

    Know what you mean with the new baseballs. The only other way to get a ball that clean is to buy an overpriced one in team shops. If only people knew how easy it can sometimes be in BP, they could save $25.

  13. kslo69

    That’s sweet that you found an MLB cap there Nick. Personally I’m not too fond of the “urban camo” look, but that is still a sharp looking cap. What I’ve been looking for is one of those black caps that just has the “NL” logo, like the umps used to wear back in the day.

  14. Nicholas Badders

    KSL69 – I’m not big on the camo either. I’ve found many caps on ebay, but all overpriced by hundereds of dollars. When MLB had those umpire auctions, I almost won a brand new umpire hat in my size too. I was outbid by $3.65!

  15. Zack Hample

    CHRIS H-
    No, but my friend Ben Weil has some of those jerseys. Here he is wearing one:

    Very cool. Thanks. Now I just need to actually get the mitt.

    I hope it went well for you.

    What a frustrating bunch of crappy circumstances. The guy who lied about saying “please” should lose HIS balls. What did you talk about with Harang? That sounds awesome.

    I saw that you posted this comment on my newest entry, so I answered you there.

    MATT H-

    An old “NL” cap . . . wow. If you get one, take a pic of yourself wearing it and send it to me. I must see it!

  16. kslo69

    I think that would make a good statement regarding…you know what! If I can’t find one I’m going to see if I can get one embroidered for a decent price.

  17. Nicholas Badders

    When I was at the game on Sunday, there was BP and I saw the guy. I was pumped, so I started jogging down the bleacher steps and he yelled “You’d better not take my seat!” The bleacher seats in Oakland are general admission of course, with the give people in Right Field that have “their seats,” like the drummer guy and the people with all of the signs. Well I guess this guy had one too and he pushed me out of the way so that he could get there. Unfortuntely, there were no ushers in view. And no balls were hit to the bleachers at all during BP all all. There was a foul ball that I almost caught in the game. I had an asile seat against the wall down the RF line, and somebody on the A’s fouled it down the line, and as I tried to track it down, I reached out, and some usher yelled “NO!” and started to race down the steps. I steped back and Gregor Blanco caught the ball next to the wall. Ok… final story… Seth Smith hit a ball down the RF line and it bounced on the line, you could see paint fly up, but it was ruled foul. I asked Gregor Blanco for the ball, and he said sure, so right before he tossed it to me, I heard a loud “NO!” from the Giants bullpen and he rolled it there. And on Thursday, When Yoenis Cespedes hit hsi walk off homer, I got out of my seat and sprinted to where I figured the ball would end up. I was late my a few seconds.. It was his first carear walk-off hit. Now about Harang… I started to talk with him about the ball, then about the stupid rule that they are not allowed to give out balls from the bullpen. Then we got into his 41-pitch first inning 2 days before, and I asked him if he could help me with some pictures for the mygameballs.com scavenger hunt, which he failed to get back to me about… I’ll have to try again some other time…

  18. Nicholas Badders

    On the bright side, I did get an MLB Fan Cave T-Shirt in a pre-game t-shirt toss

  19. kslo69

    Austin, That’s sweet, just what I was looking for! Thanks! Unfortunately 7 5/8 is going to require a summer buzz cut, but whatever. (BTW Zack, how about “We require your tower property”? Oh yeah!!)

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