5/20/13 at Citi Field

I’d been looking forward to this game for several days because my first ball of the day was going to mark the 900th consecutive game at which I’d snagged one — a streak dating back to September 10, 1993.

When the stadium opened at 5:10pm, I headed to the left field seats with a clear vision of how I wanted things to play out:

1) Snag a baseball.
2) Get someone to take a photo of me with it.
3) Label it and stick it in a special compartment in my backpack.

Simple enough, right? Well, after several minutes had passed, my friend Mateo (who just returned from his freshman year of college in Minnesota) got Mets coach Tom Goodwin to throw him a ball. Unfortunately for him, it sailed a bit too high and barely eluded his glove. I didn’t bother going for it at first because Mateo was standing one full section to my right, but when I realized that he had no idea where the ball was, I ran over and grabbed it. (Sorry, Mateo, but you would’ve done the same thing to me, right? And I wouldn’t have blamed you.) At the very instant that I got that ball, I heard another one slam into the seats near me. First I flinched. Then I saw it rattling around in my row five feet away. Then I grabbed it. Five seconds later, it occurred to me that I had no idea which ball was which. D’oh!! I’m pretty sure that the second ball was a Justin Turner homer, and I’m positive that if I’d seen it coming, I would’ve caught it on the fly. I felt kinda bummed about the haphazard, semi-botched milestone, but what I could I do? I photographed the two baseballs . . .


. . . and got on with my day.

The worst thing about BP (aside from the fact that this was Citi Field) was the steady flow of fans getting wristbanded on the way to the Party Deck:


Sure, I could’ve moved to a different staircase, but (a) there were other ballhawks on my right and (b) hitters rarely reach the seats on my left.

My 3rd ball was another toss-up from Goodwin. (He hadn’t seen me get the first one.) My 4th ball was a homer by a right-handed batter on the Mets that I caught on the fly in the front row. (I gave it to man standing next to me, who handed it to his very thankful daughter.) My 5th ball was a home run by a left-handed batter on the Reds that I caught on the fly in the 3rd row. (My friend Mark was in the 2nd row and got a bit tangled up and couldn’t quite reach it.)

I should’ve caught another homer late in BP, but *barely* misjudged it. Basically, as the ball reached its apex, I drifted down the steps and hurriedly picked a spot because there were several other fans closing in from various directions. The ball ended up drifting about a foot farther than I’d predicted, and when I jumped and reached for it, it tipped off the end of my glove. That really pissed me off — and that was it for BP. Meh.

A little while later, I caught up with a young fan named Zach, who’d brought his copy of Watching Baseball Smarter for me to sign. Here we are with it:


Zach and I have crossed paths at a bunch of Mets games over the last few years. Despite usually showing up late for BP, he usually finds a way to snag a ball or two, and this game was no exception. He made a nice grab on a home run (hit by Brandon Phillips, I think) that was rattling around the left-center field seats.

I also caught up with a guy named Jon, who’s an expert autograph collector and has been reading this blog for years. He’d gotten Votto and several other guys outside the team hotel earlier in the day, and he got a few more signatures behind the Reds’ dugout.

Here’s a photo that shows where I sat for the 1st inning — directly behind a guy wearing the best jersey I’ve seen all year:


In the second inning, I moved one section to my left, and in the 3rd inning, Mark caught a Marlon Byrd homer two sections to my right. It was a nice play, mainly because he’d been half-paying attention when the ball was hit and had to scramble to get ready for it, but even he would admit that it was lucky. He was sitting on the end of a row, and Byrd drilled a line drive RIGHT at him. I tweeted a congratulatory message and hoped I’d get some home run action of my own, but it wasn’t meant to be.

During the middle innings, I gave one of my BP balls to a little kid sitting behind me.

After the game, which the Reds won, 4-3, I gave away another ball at the dugout and then got one tossed to me by Reds coach Billy Hatcher. Look how beat-up and gorgeous it is:


Then I caught up with Mateo and another ballhawk named Aaron (aka “Howie”). The three of us posed with Mark and his home run ball:


Aaron initially posed with the ball that he’d gotten, but I was like, “Nope, gotta put it away. None of us are showing our baseballs. It’s all about Mark.”

Mateo ended up with three. A few other guys each managed to get one or two.

Tough day.
Tougher stadium.


7_the_three_balls_i_kept_05_20_13• 6 balls at this game (three pictured here because I gave three away)

• 218 balls in 28 games this season = 7.79 balls per game.

• 900 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 14 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, PNC Park, and Camden Yards

• 6,677 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)

• $9.78 raised at this game

• $354.34 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $7,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $28,760.34 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Finally, one of the balls that I kept has an invisible ink stamp. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light:



  1. Mark McConville

    The only thing that kinda stinks is that the Byrd homer was my 99th lifetime ball, would have been a great 100th but hey, i’m happy catching a home run no matter what. As for my play on the ball, i was mid text when i heard the crack of the bat, i instantly looked up and saw it coming right for me. I drifted onto the stairs and down 2 steps and made the catch leaning against the railing. I watched the replay when i got home and the encore broadcast this afternoon but unfortunately they never panned back to show me celebrating or even a slo-mo of the ball leaving the yard and entering my glove. Just me briefly making the catch and raising my arms in celebration. Ill hopefully be in Philly Wednesday night to get my 100th ball. Little interesting note, I got my first ball in Philly and may get my 100th their too.

  2. Ray Burton

    Citi Field , the other New York. Were the natives friendlier in Queens ? Why do so many people happen to have a copy of your books at games for you to autograph ? Do they know you are going to attend and look for you ? Happy 900 games Zack.

  3. Zachv

    Hey thank u agian for signing my book. After meeting u at the reds dugout I went back to my seats and got Brandon Phillips’ autograph. He is such a nice person to meet. At the end of the I went down by the bullpen to try and get a 2nd ball. I originally got 3 balls but some obnoxious father demanded me to give his son the ball. I said to him I caught it this ball is mine. But he wouldn’t listen to me. There was alot of annoying kids yelling at bones to get a ball. As I was leaving bones threw me one. Would of been nice to come home with 3. It was nice to see u agian. Thank u agian. Go Mets

  4. James Lee (@esigs)

    Congrats on the 900th consecutive game streak! I find two other facts impressive as well:
    1. You stuck with your hobby for over 20 years. I don’t know how many people can say that about most things they do in life, like a job or even a career, etc.
    2. You “averaged” more than 45 games per season. How many fans attend that many games on average for 20 seasons? Specially if you are 15 years old, as you were when the streak started? For me, it would take about 75 years just to “attend” 900 games, never mind a streak.

  5. Sad Pirates Fan

    Zack is BIGS paying you to do the 30 stadium tour (in addition to paying your expenses)? You must be missing a ton of work and losing tons of money by not working at the bookstore. Just curious.

  6. connorhoopman

    Congrats man. I’m gonna watch that highlight right now. The Phillies are on a 8 game road trip right now.

  7. Brad Jerome

    What’s with all the entitlement? As ballhawks, we put in the time to be there, have our equipment ready to go and pay attention to the game to have someone rip us for it. I am not a pro-ballhawk by any standard as many are, but I do alright. I am also an autograph collector and use these balls to gather my autographs as it is a HECK of a lot cheaper than buying them. I only use white, clean, new balls for Superstars or players I really like. I usea lot of my ballhawked ones for team balls and load up signatures. If they want their kid to get a ball then do some proactive parenting and put them in a position to do so, and have the right tools ready to get the job done. It REALLY isn’t THAT HARD!

  8. kslo69

    Nice entry Zack! Are you going to watch Harvey throw tonight? That guy is a monster!

  9. Jonathan Elias

    Great to finally see you again! Thanks for including me in the entry. Did really well overall. The only guys I needed who I didn’t get were Jay Bruce and aroldis Chapman, but oh well they’ll be around for years to come.

    I’ll email you probably after the season about what I talked to you about. I think it would be great if PIFBB wanted to do that, and hopefully we can discuss that soon.

    Meggie- I don’t trade or sell. I have amassed nearly 10,000 autographed cards and have never sold nor traded one. Sorry. Just a personal aspect of my collection.

  10. LarryNY

    Hey Johnathan,

    I was actually gonna go to the reds game but unfortunately I had a funeral to attend. Where did most of the players sign if you don’t mind me asking. Behind the dugout or outside the stadium? I appreciate it!


    Hope your having fun man in Chi-town! I have been to Comerica quite a few times! I happen to like that stadium a lot!

  11. Mitchell Jones

    I cant go tonight because im meeting trey burke and have a hockey game but it is POURING IN DETROIT and if you want a gamer bette rhave good seat security here sucks good luck i will try to see you soon!

  12. Dave Mitchell

    Enjoying your blog as always … looking forward ti meeting you @ the Trop and maybe getting my copy of “The Baseball” signed.

  13. Jumpnhigh

    When you coming to Toronto. It’s a challenge here for sure you’d want to take on no?

  14. Jack Walker

    Zach, you would be very proud to hear that at the Astros vs Athletics I got two balls using the “glove trick” and Brandon Moss and Rosales were very impressed!

    Thanks for the tips! Couldn’t have done it without all your videos!!

  15. Zack Hample

    Dammit. You certainly did.

    Who the hell were you texting that was so important? Text between innings, young man! How’d it go in Philly?

    Overall, yes, people are friendlier at Mets games than Yankee games. As for my books, lots of folks out there want their copies signed, so they follow me on Twitter and keep tabs on this blog. Then they know when and where to find me.

    ZACH V-
    You’re very welcome, but I’m sorry to hear that you had a tough time with some other fans. That stinks.

    Thanks! That’s a good point about sticking with something for so long. Some people might argue that it’s a sign that I haven’t matured, but hey, whatever. There are always critics. And yeah, I certainly have attended lots of games. I feel lucky to have been able to do that.

    That’s between me and BIGS, but thanks for your concern.


    Which guy?

    Thank you.

    I love it. Well said.

    You posted your comment on May 22nd. I was at a game at U.S. Cellular Field that night. No Harvey for me.

    Looks like you got your answer from the man himself.

    You’re welcome. Always nice running into you. I wish it happened more often, and yeah, let’s talk about the charity thing whenever.

    Chicago was pretty good; Detroit was MISERABLE because of the weather.

    Thanks. Sorry you couldn’t make it.

    Glad to hear it. Keep an eye on my schedule at bigsbaseballadventure.com because some dates might change. Hope we can meet. I’d be delighted to sign the book for you.

    I was there on May 24th. Sorry you didn’t know that ahead of time.

    You should be my spokesman. :-)

    Nicely done!

  16. Mark McConville

    Haha i was texting my girlfriend, and ill be in philly wednesday night for Phillies Red Sox

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