8/31/12 at Yankee Stadium

Despite snagging a bunch of baseballs, this was a day that I’d like to forget. Things started well when I ran into a young fan named Mike, who’d brought his copy of “The Baseball” for me to sign . . .

. . . but then it all started turning to crap. When the stadium opened at 5pm, I headed to the second deck in right field and didn’t snag anything. No Easter eggs. No home runs. No toss-ups. Never had a section of seats been so dead . . .

. . . and to make matters worse, I stood there watching helplessly as several home runs landed near my regular spot down below. Had I stuck with my normal strategy and gone to the lower deck in right field, I would’ve snagged at least one ball during the first group of Yankee hitters — probably two and quite possibly three.

I moved to left field for the next/final group of Yankee hitters, and although I did manage to snag several balls during that short amount of time, I also managed to piss away two or three opportunities by misjudging home runs that ended up sailing over my head or falling a bit too short. I don’t know why. I just wasn’t on my game. I simply didn’t HAVE IT.

As for the balls that I actually got . . . my first was thrown by David Phelps. My second was a home run that landed in the seats; I think it was hit by Steve Pearce, and as soon as I grabbed it, I handed it to the nearest kid. My third was a home run — possibly hit by Chris Stewart — that I caught on the fly, and my fourth was thrown by Phelps. I had to run 20 feet to my left and jump for that one, and when I looked behind me, I realized that he’d been aiming for a kid, so I handed it over. So yeah, I had four baseballs at that point but easily could’ve had eight or nine. Poor me, right? Yeah, I know, but just wait. This is nothing compared to what happened later.

When the Orioles came out, I headed near their dugout . . .

. . . and got completely ignored. Normally I would’ve gotten one or two balls tossed to me there, so my hypothetical total for the day was pushing double digits.

The highlight during BP was seeing Adam Jones hanging out ON the center field wall (for like 30 seconds) and talking to fans in Monument Park:

Of course, getting this commemorative ball . . .

. . . thrown to me by Luis Ayala wasn’t the worst thing ever.

Here’s what the crowd looked like toward the end of BP:

As you can see, there wasn’t exactly a whole lot of competition — just a lot of . . . obstacles.

While I was standing in left field, hoping for one or two homers to fly in my direction, Nick Markakis and the other left-handed hitters put on a SHOW and hit dozens of homers to right field. At one point, Markakis hit seven consecutive pitches into the seats, and there I was, standing in left field like a jackass. The Orioles must’ve hit 30 or 40 home runs to right field during BP. That’s not an exaggeration. They might’ve even hit 50. I’ve never seen anything like it. I mean, even Omar Quintanilla was going yard with shocking regularity. At least a third of all these homers landed in the second deck. I’ve lost count of my hypothetical number, but whatever. You get the point. No matter where I was, the action seemed to be taking place elsewhere, and yet this isn’t even CLOSE to the worst thing that happened.

I caught one final homer at the end of BP — a line-drive off the bat of (I think) Lew Ford. As it was descending, I drifted down several rows of seats and then climbed into the vacant camera well. That’s where I was when I caught it. At the time, it felt great, but right now, it feels worthless.

Now before I continue, I must warn my friend Todd Cook that I’m going to share two photos of Ichiro. You see, Todd is a diehard Mariners fan and . . . well, just read the following quote. It’s a comment that Todd (aka “Cook & Son Bats”) posted in the comments section of my previous entry):

“In the future, please give about a two-paragraph pre-warning that you’re about to include pictures of Ichiro in a Yankees uniform. I’m trying my hardest to never really see that . . . Many thanks. Sincerely, The Society of Mariners Fans Who Wish To Preserve Their Memories of Ichiro Only In A Mariners Uniform.”

Now that I’ve given the warning (and explained it for everyone else), I think it’s safe for me to show you what my view looked like in the bottom of the 1st inning:

Here’s what it looked like during a late-game inning break:

Asian women really love Ichiro, and you know what? I do too. I just don’t wear short shorts and scream and wave at him, and we can all be thankful for that.

Now, as for the terrible thing that happened . . . quite simply, I botched my chance to catch Curtis Granderson’s 9th-inning home run. I refuse to link to the highlight, so go look for it if you want, but I’d rather that you don’t. All you need to know is that the ball was a line drive that initially appeared to be heading RIGHT to me. At the last second, though, it hooked nearly 10 feet to my left, and I reacted a split-second too late. I had empty room on my left. I simply got caught flat-footed and then moved too slowly. I lunged for the ball, missed it by less than a foot, and had that awful/sinking feeling in my gut as it slammed off the back wall. The ball ricocheted into the folded-up portion of a seat in the second-to-last row, and as I began to lunge for it, another fan reached down and grabbed it. The end. I suck.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 6 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave two away)

• 490 balls in 62 games this season = 7.9 balls per game.

• 854 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 6,309 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.)

• 43 donors

• $2.36 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $14.16 raised at this game

• $1,156.40 raised this season

• $20,313.40 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

24 comments

  1. Nick Badders

    The A’s have scored 18 runs so far tonight. Thats all. Oh, wait, never mind. Do you know if the Red Sox or Orioles use commemorative balls on the road? I’ll see the Red Sox game in Oakland on Sunday, maybe Saturday (1st) and I really want to get a Red Sox commemorative ball. And I’ll be at A’s Blog day on September the 14th in Oakland, and they play the Orioles, so I look forward attempting to snag a commemorative ball then.

  2. Big Glove Bob

    Hey Z-Man, don’t get too down on yourself. You did win a jump ball contest for a Jeter gamer a few days ago. Focus on that.

    Big Glove Bob

  3. Zack Hample

    NICK BADDERS-
    I saw a few Orioles commemorative balls today at Yankee Stadium, so yeah, you might see some in Oakland. Not sure about the Sox. Let me know how it goes.

    BIG GLOVE BOB-
    Thanks. Because of your comment, I took my Jeter ball out of the cabinet where I store my best baseballs, and now I have it sitting next to me.

    JOHN LISANKIE-
    It was good hanging out with you. Sorry I didn’t mention you in the entry, but the way I see it . . . I did you a favor by not mentioning you. Right? :-)

  4. Mateo Fischer

    See? This is what you need me for. Had I been there, I would’ve taken all of the spots you did after the second deck incident. You then would have finally been able to get to the “twenty ball” plateau at Yankee Stadium.
    -Mateo
    http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

  5. Nick Brouse

    Hey Zack, my name is Nick Brouse and I have a younger brother (Colton) who are big fans of yours. We saw the game last night and felt bad to see you not come up with the home run, but you just got to remember we all have our bad days and just gotta look forward to what the future has in store. We actually did have the opportunity to meet you on 7/29/2008 at old Yankee Stadium, but I know you have met tons of people over time and probably don’t remember us. But we both think its awsome what you do, and me and my brother both attend many minor league as well as some major league games throughout the year. We had the opportunity to get interviewed n CBS21 of Harrisburg, about what we do which we learned from reading your blog over the years. It’s pretty neat, and I even tossed in some lines you have mentioned before lol, so the web adress is http://www.whptv.com/mediacenter/local.aspx?videoId=3706877&navCatId=20127
    If this don’t work just type in cbs21 on google, go to thier main page, and under sports videos its called “Brothers beat the odds as All Star Baseball Collectors.” Its just an interview thats pretty cool… Enjoy and we both wish you the best of luck with your snagging the rest of the 2012 season!

  6. Spencer

    Hey Zack
    I have a random question for you, and very good possibility you have no idea either, but after spending the last 3 hours searching all over the internet / including every Boston Red Sox message board and forums I could find … Do you have any idea or KNOW of any die hard Red Sox fans, you could direct me to .. trying to figure out who the Bullpen catchers are for the Red Sox ( its not listed anywhere i can find there is always a skinny latin man and a heavier white guy .. lol ) and i cant seem to find any info anywhere ….

    other than than … looks like your having a great season .. and I enjoy your blogs —

    Take care man

    SpencerS

  7. Nick Badders

    Spencer- I’ve been looking and haven’t been able to find it yet. I think I’ve spent 2 hours today at least. I may take to twitter if nothing else.

  8. Spencer

    apparently its a case of National Security ….. LOL . cause i certainly gave it all the effort I could looking

  9. Skim

    Nick Brouse: How is it “all free”? And why don’t you wear a glove? Also, that’s pretty weird that there’s a non-seating area behind part of the dugout.

  10. Skim

    And Zack, if this had happened before you had written The Baseball, you should have included B.J. and Justin Upton hitting their 100th homers on the same day. I actually was in Philly when Justin connected, and it was a bomb. I was behind the D’Backs dugout at that point.

  11. Big Glove Bob

    Zack- Big Glove Bob will be in the hizzouse at the K from 9-18 to 9-22 to catch 5 tilts.

    Big Glove Bob

  12. Nick Brouse

    Skim- Its all free because one we dont pay to get in because we know alot of season ticket holders, and two, well it is free ain’t it? I mean, we aren’t going to the team store and buying baseballs or something we are obtaining balls for free, so idk how to really answer that question. But yea, there is a section above the dugout but the place we stand to catch foul balls is kinda inbetween a set of stairs and the gradstand. And to be honest, the reason we never bring our gloves is because we we were younger we used to always bring our mits along but usually came up empty handed. So we stopped bringing them to games and i don’t really know how but get many pretty much every time we attend a game.

  13. Nick Badders

    I did get a Fenway park ball at the A’s game! there were so many being used for BP, it was ridiculous! I think 4 of every 5 balls used was commemorative.

  14. Zack Hample

    LEIGH B.-
    Yeah.

    JOHN LISANKIE-
    The bad thing is that these moments never do leave my head. I still remember (and feel upset about) a foul ball that I dropped (when I wasn’t wearing my glove) in 1993 at Shea Stadium. A FOUL BALL. So you can imagine how I feel about screwing up on home runs. And this wasn’t even a milestone. I hate my brain sometimes.

    NICK BROUSE-
    I just watched the interview, and WOW, very cool. Congrats on all the snags and nice job getting some coverage. You guys both came off really nicely. I do think you should bring gloves, but hey, it seems like you’re doing pretty well without them.

    CHRIS-
    My next time out is probably going to be Friday’s game at Citi Field, so there’s not going to be anything hefty about it.

    SPENCER-
    I’m all for random questions, but I don’t know the answer to yours. Sorry about that.

    SKIM-
    If brothers had SNAGGED both of those baseballs, then it would’ve been book-worthy.

    BIG GLOVE BOB-
    Sweet! Looking forward to catching up with you.

    NICK BADDERS-
    Damn. That’s awesome.

  15. johnlisankie

    Thank god it wasn’t a milestone. It was #201 so I probably would’ve been sick if it was his two hundredth. Keep thinking about the Bonds and Jeter home runs.

  16. Nick Badders

    I was looking through my blog’s site stats just now, and the most used search engine term for my blog in the past week was “Breast Cancer Awareness – Zack Hample” ………. No joke. You can’t make this stuff up. I’ll see if I can tweet you a screen shot.

  17. Zack Hample

    JOHN LISANKIE-
    No need to bring god into it. But yes, I’m still trying to focus on happier moments.

    COOK & SON BATS-
    Heh. You’re welcome.

    NICK BADDERS-
    That’s hilarious.

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