6/28/12 at Yankee Stadium

It was another day with the usual suspects at Yankee Stadium:

In the photo above, from left to right, you’re looking at . . .

1) Mateo
2) Dylan
3) Stephen
4) me
5) George

Did you notice that I was wearing a catcher’s mitt? That’s the one that Rawlings recently sent for my attempt to catch a baseball dropped from 1,000 feet. The mitt desperately needs to be broken in, so I brought it with me to the Bronx, hoping (but not expecting) to get one of the White Sox to play catch with it. It didn’t happen, but it was still fun to show it to my fellow ballhawks. I also had my regular glove, so that’s what I used during BP.

My first ball was tossed by Cody Eppley as soon as I entered the left field seats . . .

. . . and less than 30 seconds later, Mateo arrived on the scene:

The reason for his bemused expression in the previous photo is that he’d been facing the field for a solid minute. When he eventually turned around to tell me something, I happened to have my camera pointed at him.

For the next few minutes, the seats on my left were gloriously empty . . .

. . . and I took advantage by making a nice running catch on a Mark Teixeira homer. The ball was heading roughly 30 feet to my left, and while it was in mid-air, I realized that it was going to sail a bit too high, so after running for about 20 feet, I climbed back over a row and then kept running. I didn’t think I was going to be able to reach the ball, but I lunged for it anyway and barely caught it in the tip of my glove. I have to say . . . it felt really good.

When the White Sox started warming up, I headed to the seats behind the 3rd base dugout, and when I got there, I heard someone say my name. It was a woman who introduced herself as Eileen . . . and then showed me this:

Awesome. It was a library copy of my book The Baseball.

As you may have noticed (based on her purse), Eileen is a diehard White Sox fan. Because she wasn’t trying to get any of the players or coaches to toss her baseballs, she gladly helped me identify them. In fact, she even called out to them for me, and it definitely helped. Alexei Ramirez tossed me my third ball of the day, but unfortunately, when Eileen got Don Cooper to hook me up moments later, his throw sailed 10 feet over my head. (He flung it underhand, not that that’s an excuse.) Mateo was 10 rows behind me. The ball landed right between us. Wanna guess where it ended up? It’s really unbelievable. It landed ON the very top/plastic edge of a seat and skipped perfectly all the back into his row. <Insert joke about “sloppy seconds” here.>

As pissed as I was about the unlucky ricochet, it was nothing compared to how I felt about this:

That was the result of trying to be polite and saying “excuse me” while running behind a clueless fan who ended up bumping into me and causing me to slam my leg against the corner of a metal armrest. I was angrier about missing the ball than I was about my leg, and things got worse from there. Less than one minute later, while climbing over a row of seats, I tore the crap out of my cargo shorts. I didn’t even catch them on anything; the fabric simply gave out, and I ended up with a football-sized hole on my crotch. I realize that in the grand scheme of human suffering, missing a batting practice home run ball and scraping my leg and tearing my shorts (even nice cargo shorts of which I’ve grown fond) are thoroughly insignificant, but in the heat of the moment, it all added up to make me furious.

During the final group of BP, I caught two homers on the fly that were hit by Tyler Flowers. The first one came right to me. The second one required me to run to my right, climb back over a row and make a leaping, back-handed catch. I handed that ball to the nearest kid.

After BP, I met up with a guy named Jeff Sammut, who hosts a sports talk radio show in Toronto on a station called Sportsnet 590 The Fan. Here we are:

Jeff wasn’t working at this game. He was there as a fan, and if he looks familiar, it’s because he interviewed me on 5/27/11 at Rogers Centre. Click here to see the photo of us that was taken then. Jeff is planning to have me back on the show on July 9th to talk about the 1,000-foot catch. (Hopefully I’ll be alive then. If not, it’s going to be a boring interview.)

After Jeff and I parted ways, I left the stadium. Keep reading past the stats and I’ll show you why . . .


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

• 239 balls in 32 games this season = 7.47 balls per game.

• 824 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 349 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 172 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball

• 6,058 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)

• $9.45 raised at this game

• $451.71 raised this season

• $19,608.71 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Okay, so . . . why did I leave Yankee Stadium before the game started? Because I was still pissed off. And because I was stressed. And because I’m really *really* REALLY busy these days. And because a gentleman who goes by “kslo69” recently left a comment on my blog in which he suggested that I buy a skater’s wrist brace, you know, for the 1,000-foot catch. So I did. Here I am trying it on at a store called Blades (which wasn’t going to be open after the Yankee game):

Did you notice that I was wearing the brace backwards? Here’s another photo:

Do you see that curvy plastic strip? It’s meant to cover the heel of the hand and provide support when a skater falls on his (or her) ass. In my case, however, I’m not terribly concerned about hurting the heel of my hand. I’m much more worried about the impact of the ball snapping my hand back and breaking my wrist — but look! The plastic strip (which is VERY sturdy) should prevent that:

The wrist guards (one for each hand, not that I’ll need one for my right hand) cost $20. Then, for another $35, I bought knee guards, which I’ll wear on my elbows. Check it out:

I’m feeling well protected, and now check THIS out . . .

Here’s a double-photo (taken several days ago) that shows me in Central Park with the catcher’s gear from Rawlings:

In the photo on the right, did you notice that when I’m looking straight up in the air, the mask overhangs my throat? I really think I can do this.


  1. Nick

    I personally, don’t think that the catcher’s mask hangs over enough… I think you should get a catcher’s neck guard to attatch to the mask. They are only about $5…

  2. Mike

    @Nick. I sort of agree. Fortunately, I have a hockey goalies throat guard that will be avalabile Monday, should Zack want it.

  3. Liz Merry

    The boys above are right. Definitely two wrist guards. Is the plan to catch it over your head as opposed to underhand in front of you? You may want a neck brace as well in case it hits the mask. Catching it underhand would give you more surface area. The ball won’t have an angle like when a HR is hit to you, so any slant in the glove will reduce the size of the glove’s “footprint”. That would be harder, though, right? Please take every precaution to prevent injury.

  4. jere80

    Dammit, I finally come up with the “are you gonna go for a basket catch or a classic pop-up catch” question, and someone beats me to it by a mere 2 hours.

    So I’ll change my comment to: Nice shirt by Stephen–I lived in Yorkville when I lived in the city.

  5. Zack Hample

    Whaddaya mean it doesn’t hang over enough? Draw a straight line down from the tip of the chin where it juts out. You can clearly see that my throat is safely tucked underneath.

    With lots of hand gestures and waving.

    I’ll take a look at it, and if it seems to be helpful, then I’ll wear it. Right now, my biggest concern is having to catch a 95mph knuckleball. How can we make sure that the ball has some rotation when it reaches the ground? No one’s gonna know if the balls are knuckling until *I* am actually standing underneath them.

    Yes, good call.

    Well, I do plan to make a one-handed catch. Catchers do it all the time, so why can’t I? I caught hundreds of balls today in an 85mph batting cage, and my wrist is fine.

    I plan to catch the ball over my head and in front of my face. No basket-catch here.

    First World Problem: all the good comments are taken.


    CHRIS H-

  6. Nicholas Badders

    Look at the people who agree with me. If you want to feel completely well-protected, than I would reccomend a neck guard. I drew a straight line from the tip of the catcher’s mask to the protected neck area and I feel as if there is neck on the other side of the line. All home plate umpires use neck guards and even though catchers do not, I know of many injuries that could have been prevented with a neck gaurd. Oh, and good luck on Monday! I leave for Boy Scout camp in 10 hours or so… I am dissapointed that I will miss it, but I hope that there will be lots of pictures and/or videos from the event! Have you thought of hiring a personal videographer for the event? Like the one for #6000? Again, best of luck too you and I hope everything goes safely and as planned!

  7. Zach v

    Was at the game on Friday at Yankee stadium. Their suites are very classy. I was wondering if umwere going to be there. I won’t be at citi field for a long time good luck.

  8. Zack Hample

    The Spinners are going to provide a film crew, so I think I’m covered. As for the neck guard, can you link to a photo that shows one? Also, where I would I get one on such short notice?

    ZACH V-
    Glad you had a good time. How come you won’t be back at Citi Field for a while?

    Yeah, well, I’ll have 75 baseballs to work with. He only had one.

  9. Skim

    Liz Merry- (I say this jokingly) Don’t use Luis Castillo as an example of why people shouldn’t catch one handed. If he had thrown home after he dropped it instead of to second base, the Mets might not have lost. When I go to baseball games, I always catch balls one handed. That’s how I taught myself to do it, so that’s what I always do. Also, it gives me a bigger range. Even when the ball is coming right at me, however, I still make the one handed catch. And I’ve never dropped one.

    Zack- I hope you don’t feel strange about this, but last night in my dream, I was catching baseballs dropped from a helicopter on a baseball field. Wonder where I got that idea from. When I was catching the softballs, I could see the ball when it was released. I woke up before I could catch a baseball from 1,000 feet, but I remember thinking in my dream that it was scary, trying to catch spheres dropped from great heights. But in my dream, I was using my standard outfielder’s glove and I was making basket catches, which in my opinion are harder and hurt your hand more. Unfortunately, I will be at summer camp on July 2nd (actually I’m leaving in about 30 minutes) but I will try to use my brother’s computer to find out results. Are you going to have it videotaped?

  10. Brian

    Zach, I’m about an hour from where you’re making the fateful catch. I know you had said in a previous blog that the stadium is going to be closed at the time and people won’t be allowed to go in, but just for haha’s I figured I’d ask if my 8 year old son and I can come up and at least ATTEMPT to go inside? Completely understandable if you don’t want anyone there “just because”….

  11. connor

    Zack, I work at this summer camp where the kids do a number of sports throughout the day including skateboarding. We use the exact same type of wrist guard (I think it’s even the same brand). This past week one of the kids fell on his hand and broke his arm while wearing one of those. I was talking to the skateboard instructor afterwards and he was convinced that the wrist guard actually *caused* the bone to snap because the bone broke where the rigid plastic part ends about halfway up the forearm. He believes that that hard plastic part wouldn’t allow the bone/arm to give a little the way it might have naturally, so it protected the wrist but put more stress on another part of the bone where there was a serious break (and not a pretty sight apparently). So the moral of the story is that these things may look and sound like a good idea but it’s *possible* that they do more harm than good. Anyway, (here comes my disclaimer) this is totally unscientific advice/reasoning and I don’t know anything about skateboarding or baseball injuries but this may be something to consider especially after what I witnessed a couple days ago. The risks you’ll be facing wont really be you putting all your weight on your wrist though so I would just do whatever feels right. Good luck!

  12. Austin

    Zack- I don’t know if you have tried it but amazon prime is good for things like this. It’s free 2-Day shipping on almost everything on amazon, and 1-day shipping is $3.99. I think it’s $70 bucks, but I wouldn’t bet money on that. Speaking of money as far as I know you didn’t write this book, so a lawsuit??? http://item.mobileweb.ebay.com/viewitem?itemId=380324915114&index=3&nav=SEARCH&nid=26279377724 Sorry it’s on the mobile version of eBay, I’m on a iPhone.

  13. Cook & Son Bats

    wearing that wrist brace backwards with the hard plastic on the back of your wrist and lower hand seems like a bad idea to me. Seems like the end of the hard plastic (where it would normal wrap around the heel of the hand would be dangerous on the back of your hand. Doesn’t the end of it form a hard line across the back of your lower hand? Seems like the force of the ball hitting your glove could push your hand back against the hard plastic pressure point and create a (bone) breaking point in your lower hand.

  14. Mike

    Zack, we will try to put spin on the ball as it leaves the helicopter. After that I have no idea what happens after that. Like I said last night, no one has ever done this from a helicopter before. The ball may pick up rotation from the flow field of the rotor blades, it may stop rotating half way down. I have no idea. Better believe that I’m watching those first softballs closely.

    @ Brian. The reason the stadium is closed is for two reasons: I don’t want anyone hurt if the ball goes off course, but far more importantly if anything happens to the helicopter and there is a crowd, then, well, it gets pretty grim. I’ve spent a lifetime in aviation and it isn’t pretty when a flying vehicle hits the crowd.

    We do have a plan for those people observing. If you do want to observe, and it’s ok with Zack, respond back in this blog.

  15. Zack Hample

    Cool dream. I don’t feel weird about it, and I agree about having a better range of motion with a one-handed catch. The Spinners are going to have a film crew there. I don’t think it’s going to be broadcast live, but I’m pretty sure that the footage will end up on YouTube.

    Wait, we’re talking about two different things — a throat guard and a neck brace. Do you have a link for the brace?

    Send me an email, and we’ll discuss . . .

    That’s excellent advice, and I really appreciate it. Whether or not I use the skater/protective gear for the stunt, can I donate it to your camp? I won’t have any use for it.

    I wrote a brief introduction for that scorekeeping book, but it’s weird how my name is listed there as if I wrote the whole thing. As for the cover of “The Baseball,” no, it hasn’t changed. That awful photo was used in an early draft of the cover, which, evidently wasn’t changed soon enough, so a few images of it have escaped into the world. I don’t think that any hard copies were actually printed with that cover.

    I think you’re right. The wrist brace doesn’t feel comfortable, and I think it might do more harm than good. I’m really thinking hard about this, but now I’m actually leaning toward *not* wearing it. Damn, what to do . . .

    I learned today that the terminal velocity of a softball is 80mph. Thoughts?

  16. Austin

    Zack- The reason the wrist guard dosen’t feel right is because it is supposed to be flipped around. The problem with this is that in your situation the
    Wrist guard won’t help. I know this because I play hockey, and I’m pretty sure this is correct. If I’m not someone please correct me as I play hockey with gloves with protection not wrist guards.

  17. Zach v

    I’ll b in Canada with a camp but I’m missing two games my next one is aug 7 but I was very happy with those seats. David wells came by nicest man ever he will sign any thing for u. Oh and I’m getting reconized from a lot of mets these days. Dillion Gee even asked me how many games I go to a year. My reaction was like what? I thought it was just plane strange. It was at a fan signing. Even the ball boy won’t give me a foul ball when I was at the nohan game the foul/fair ball was giving to the kid next to me. He starts bouncing it up and down I was mad he gave a crappy ball at the end of the game and gave it to the kid behind me I will be going to see the Rockies and nationals to. Hope I’ll see u there

  18. kslo69

    You know Zack, I thought about moving the plate to the back of the hand, but then reconsidered, due to the possibility of the hand snapping back across the plate. I was thinking that just strapping the hand to the plate in the normal fashion would be sufficient protection for the wrist. Perhaps that sturdy glove will be enough to offset this danger, but it’s something to consider (with less than 24 hrs remaining before you make the catch…sorry!) Best of the weather and luck to you!

  19. kslo69

    Connor, I’ve heard of that sort of break happening, but it’s been with younger kids whose bones weren’t fully developed. In this situation I don’t think that particular break is a danger due to there being considerably less mass involved.
    Zack, as for the throat guard, I’d say yes. You may find yourself leaning farther back than you anticipate.

  20. kslo69

    Neck brace…some type of foam “roll bar” brace like football players use that wouldn’t sacrifice much mobility. Great idea.

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