5/8/13 at PNC Park

PNC Park is glorious . . .


. . . but I wasn’t thrilled about the circumstances of this particular game:


Not only was the first pitch scheduled for 12:35pm, but it was “Weather Education Day,” which meant there were hundreds of kids inside the stadium by the time I arrived:


One good thing about the slow pace of the day was that I had time to catch up with some friends, including Todd Cook and his sons Tim (age 7) and Kellan (age 2), who were here to see their beloved Mariners. Now . . . do you remember when I got a fist-bump from Tim on 6/3/09 at Nationals Park? And when I tried unsuccessfully to get a double-fist-bump from both boys on 4/14/13 at Yankee Stadium? Well, it finally happened here in Pittsburgh:


(It’s all about the small victories in life.)

At PNC Park, the visiting team occupies the right side, so that’s where I headed when the seating bowl opened at 11am. Unfortunately, by that time, only two Mariners were still playing catch:


Because Todd and his adorable kids were there, I knew I had no chance to snag any baseballs from the Mariners, so I headed to the left field side:


As you can see in the photo above, several pairs of Pirates were warming up. Five minutes later, I got Tony Watson to throw me a ball:


It was a huge relief — I’m always nervous about getting shut out when there’s no BP — and ten minutes later, I got another ball from Mark Melancon near the foul pole.

Several Pirates signed autographs before the game, including Jason Grilli . . .


. . . and Russell Martin:


“Hey, Russell,” I said, “everyone tells me that I look like you. What do YOU think?”

He looked up briefly and replied, “Yeah, I see it a little bit.”

Moments later, a middle-aged women who, shall we say, wasn’t entirely there, started shouting, “Russell!! You’re CUTE!!” You’re CUTE, Russell!!”

It was awkward, and Russell didn’t respond, so I said, “Hey! That means I’m cute too, right?!”

That didn’t make things any less awkward.

Several minutes later, I met a ballhawk that I’d heard about and caught up with another whom I’ve known for several years. Here I am with them:


In the photo above, that’s Robbie Sacunas (aka “Scoonz”) on the left and my buddy Zac Weiss on the right.

There was lots of time to kill, and I knew exactly how I wanted to spend it. Two words: donut burger. Several weeks earlier, I’d read about it on Cut4, and I knew right away that when I visited PNC Park, I *had* to try it. Zac and Robbie told me that the Hall of Fame Club served it — that’s the restaurant at the back of the second deck in left field — and they led me through a secret shortcut to get there:


I took a photo of them when we reached the club’s entrance . . .


. . . and by the way, this was the view behind me:


PNC Park is so beautiful that it hurts.

Here’s what the inside of the Hall of Fame Club looks like:


In addition to Zac and Robbie, I was joined by Todd and his kids as well as Neal Stewart from BIGS Sunflower Seeds. Here’s a group photo of us:


As for the burger . . .


. . . I’d describe it as “very good but not life-changing.” (It had bacon and cheddar and a fried egg; somehow I only gained three-quarters of a pound on this nine-day trip.) As I bit into it, my thoughts went something like this: “Hey, that’s a pretty good burger, and whoa! There’s something desserty going on. That’s weird. And tasty. Hmm. Okay.” Officially, this thing is called a “brunch burger,” and it’s definitely worth trying. Just know that the novelty is better than the quality; it IS ballpark food, after all.

When the game got underway, I was sitting here:


A.J. Burnett was pitching for the Pirates, and Felix Hernandez was on the hill for the Mariners. With these two hard-throwing righties, I figured there’d be lots of lefties hitting foul balls behind the plate. Good logic, right?

Yeah, well, there wasn’t ONE foul ball hit anywhere near me all day.

Meanwhile, my actual seat was in the middle of the 4th row behind the outfield end of the Mariners’ dugout, but get this — the usher wouldn’t let me move to any of the open seats beside the stairs. I didn’t want to sit on the outfield end of the dugout anyway. I predicted that Felix was gonna rack up lots of strikeouts, so I lurked behind the home-plate end . . .


. . . and attempted to run down the stairs at the end of each inning. Not surprisingly, a different usher scolded me and said I wasn’t allowed to do that, so I gave up on the Mariners’ side altogether.

As the innings ticked by, I got increasingly nervous. BIGS Sunflower Seeds, for those who don’t know, is challenging me to snag a game-used ball at every stadium this season, with $500 going to Pitch In For Baseball for every venue at which I succeed. Not only was this was my one shot at PNC Park, but I’d completed the challenge at each of the previous 12 stadiums.

Anyway, when I tried entering the seats behind the Pirates’ dugout, I was intercepted by an usher. I was screwed, or so I thought. How the hell was I going to get down there? And if I couldn’t get down there, how was I gonna snag a gamer?

I sat here for an inning and pondered my next move:


Eventually I noticed that there were three staircases behind the dugout, but only two ushers. Ha! I watched them carefully and waited until they both had their backs turned to the middle staircase, and then I went for it.

Great success! They never saw me, and I grabbed an end-seat in the second row. Check out my view:


It took a couple more innings, but eventually I snagged my gamer when Felix Hernandez grounded out to end the top of the 7th inning, and Garrett Jones tossed me the ball on the way in. Here’s a photo of it:


The man sitting in front of me was glad that I got the ball. He was actually annoyed at several kids in the section, who had each snagged about three or four (infield warm-up balls included). When he saw me photographing it, he offered to hold it for me so I could get a better shot of the field in the background. I was like, “Thanks, but I’m fine,” but he insisted, so I was like, “No, really, I appreciate it, but I got the photo I need,” but he kept insisting, so eventually I let him hold the ball for me:


Gee, sir, thanks so much.

I spent the 8th inning in left field . . .


. . . and the 9th inning in right-center . . .


. . . but no one went deep while I was out there. The only home run of the game was an opposite field shot to right-center by Jesus Montero in the top of the 7th. Even if I’d been in the outfield at the time, I wouldn’t have caught it because it landed in the middle of a crowded section, so whatever.

Final score: Mariners 2, Pirates 1.

After the game, I met up with Todd and the kids and tried to get another double-fist bump:


Stupid me. I should’ve quit while I was ahead, and by the way, that’s not blood on Kellan’s right calf. I asked Todd about it, and he said, “It’s chocolate.”

I also met up with a gentleman named Evan who’d brought two of my books — How to Snag Major League Baseballs and The Baseball. Here we are just before I signed them:


I chatted with Evan and Robbie for a while . . .


. . . and took one final photo on the way out:


Did you notice all those people in right field? Those were season ticket holders, who were getting to play catch on the field. I know what that’s like, and I wished I could’ve joined them.


30_the_three_balls_i_kept_05_08_13• 3 balls at this game (pictured on the right)

• 160 balls in 21 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

• 39 balls in 6 lifetime games at PNC Park = 6.5 balls per game.

• 893 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 13 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, and PNC Park

• 6,619 total balls


(For every stadium this season at which I snag a game-used ball, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball.)

• 26 donors for my fundraiser

• $1.63 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $4.89 raised at this game

• $259.80 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $6,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $28,165.80 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009


  1. Cook & Son

    Great seeing you in Pittsburgh, Zack. You know, a tired Kellan just can’t be counted on for fist bumps. And he was TIRED by the end of the game. He slept for 3 hours once we hopped in the car. I’d also recommend everyone try the donut burger. I’m glad I can say I have had one, even though I, too, was not overly impressed. GREAT MARINERS WIN! GO MARINERS!

  2. Ray Burton

    What would the ushers say if you explained about the charity situation ? Nice bit of infiltration though. Would be very cool to play catch on the field. Nice touch from the Pirates for season ticket holders. Other teams should follow their example. On a roll for game balls Zack. Where to next ? Keep going with the food critiques .

  3. tc219hr


  4. Rocco Sinisi

    Yes Zack, last year Erik and I were at G.A.B.P. having a good time glove tricking some baseballs during BP. I GT’ed some balls, and Erik GT’ed some balls, and then I told him that that was probably enough GTing for the day before security cought on to what we were doing, but there was a baseball on the Batter’s Eye that Erik just couldn’t pass up GTing, and snagged the ball. Immediately after Erik GTed the ball, some fan called security, and securtiy snatched ME up, because I’m “Billy-The-Kid” in Cincy, and of course they thought that I must of GTed the ball, and asked to see my glove to see if there was string on it. But, there was no string on it, because I take the Army 550 Cord off my glove every time I GT a baseball and put it in my pocket. I told them that I didn’t know what they were talking about, and why they were hasseling me, and I didn’t “Rat-Out” Erik either, but some other idiot fan pointed Erik out in the crowd, and security snatched him up and booted him out of GABP for the rest of the day!!! So, you see, you should be happy that you get to GT balls, because you are who you are…the ball park personnel know who you are, and know that you are coming, and allow you *SPECIAL* privilages that us average ball hawks don’t get! I know you don’t want to hear this, but If you weren’t who you are, you’d get booted out of some of these ball parks too!!!

  5. Joey Haueter

    What other dates are you going to Cleveland and when are u going to wrigley

  6. Wes

    What a cool entry, It was Fantastic!! Do you have any suggestions for pnc park? I might be planning on going there and sitting behind the dugout?

  7. connorhoopman

    Zack, do you know if the special mother’s day balls will only be used on Sunday or if teams will use them for a few days. I might go the Phillies on Tuesday so I am trying to find out. I hope you can snag some!

  8. John

    Thanks a ton for this blog. Number one, it is a great read in college classes- especially when the Professor drones on and on.
    Number two, I managed to snag two balls at the game Pirates v. Mets game the other evening. Jason Grilli (who graduated from my school, good ole Seton Hall) blew the save, but your tip about befriending ushers paid off. Plus, I had major bragging rights on my friends, so thanks for tips that improved my social “stock.” The umps are great, plus robbing a drunk guy of a ball (my second) was priceless.
    Also, did you know the Mets are changing prices by day? I scored a left field landing seat for 5 bucks- it was listed the day before as 30, so you may want to check the deal out. You get access to Caesars Club- ushers dont care if you sit where its empty, so its a good place for a view.
    Also, know the grammar was awful- I just finished finals- my brain is fried.
    Keep up the great work and a great read.

  9. Mike

    One of these days I’m going to drive to PNC park, and when I do, I’m going to swing by NYC , pick you up and take you with me

  10. ch1088

    In picture 2, why are you making such a frowny face with all those lovely ladies in the background? Unless you’re frowning because they weren’t lovely. That donut burger looks… tasty, I wonder how many calories there are in it. The best word to describe that picture of the guy holding the ball for you is.. awkward. Haha.. PNC looks awesome, I gotta get out there this summer.
    – Chris

  11. LarryNY

    Great time at Camden Zack! Can’t wait to read your blog. Yankee game this week? I can do Tuesday or Wednesday. Let me know what you have in the works. Ttys

  12. Tommy Tutone

    i gotta love how rocco, who is ex cop / ex military, is admitting to lying to ballpark security…smh…his whining about zack is making him sound more and more like john dimwit.

  13. Zack Hample


    COOK & SON-
    I forgive Kellan for being tired. I figure that as I see him more and more over the years, he’ll be more and more alert by games’ ends.

    I don’t think the ushers would believe me, and if they did, I doubt they’d care. Glad you like the food critiques. I’ll have lots more coming up on my next road trip.

    T.C. 219 HR-
    Oh yeah? Very cool. I have yet to see the segment. I think I have a link to it somewhere in my emails, but haven’t had a chance to follow up.


    Going for a ball on the batter’s eye is risky, but I don’t think he deserved to get kicked out of the stadium because of it. I’m sure I do have special privileges in some places, but I also get picked on at Yankee Stadium and Nats Park (and sometimes at Citi Field), so let’s call it even.

    I probably won’t be back in Cleveland this season. As for Wrigley, not sure yet.

    Thanks. Glad you enjoyed it. If you want to sit behind the dugout, I’d suggest making sure that you actually have a ticket there, rather than trying to sneak down. Tough place. But it sure it purty.

    Definitely only on Sunday.

    You’re welcome! Thanks for checking out. Very cool to hear that my tips have helped you out. Grilli is a really nice guy. I’m glad he’s kicking ass this season and hope it continues. As for the Mets . . . yeah, I’m aware of what they’re doing. They call it “dynamic pricing”? More like annoying pricing, but thanks for the heads-up.

    I like the sounda that.

    I was just annoyed that they were all heading inside. Let them be lovely somewhere else.

    Great time indeed. We gotta figure out a game soon, but maybe it’d be better to go to Citi Field?

    Rocco is great. I love him. Ballpark security needs to chill. But I hear ya.

  14. NBA

    Love the old school Pirates hat. PNC Parkwas the third ballpark I had visited. Saw them play the Mets. My favorite features were the giant Roberto Clemente statue near the outfield gate and the Clemente bridge that all of the fans walk across to get to the game. The view of the skyline is what really makes this ballpark though.

  15. NBA

    Love the old school Pirates hat. PNC Park was the third ballpark I had visited. Saw them play the Mets. My favorite features were the giant Roberto Clemente statue near the outfield gate and the Clemente bridge that all of the fans walk across to get to the game. The view of the skyline is what really makes this ballpark though.

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