8/23/13 at Citi Field

I brought a secret weapon to this game:


No, I wasn’t invited to a tailgate party; I had some wacky ballhawking plans . . .

Do you remember the ball that I saw in a bullpen gutter on August 21st? In case you don’t, here and here are photos of it. You may recall that I wasn’t quite able to reach that ball, in part because a security guard stopped me from leaning out of the stands. When I blogged about it the next day, several people told me that I should make another attempt to snag it, and one guy suggested that I bring barbecue tongs to extend my reach — more on that in a bit, but first take a look at the crazy-long lines outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:


My line was so long that it curved into the parking lot. Why was it so crowded? Because this was a Friday, and the weather was perfect, and the mighty Tigers were in town, and there was going to be a post-game concert by Third Eye Blind.


As I was running toward left field at 5:10pm, a home run landed in the empty seats and trickled down to the front row. Naturally, I took a photo of the ball before I grabbed it . . .


. . . and within the next few minutes, I got two more baseballs. The first was thrown by Josh Satin, and the second was tossed up from the party deck by an employee.

That’s when I made my move.

Hoping that the ball would still be in the gutter, I ran over to the seats in right-center. Here’s what I saw:


The ball was there! And when the security guard turned his back, I pulled out the tongs and snagged it:


The ball was nasty. I have no idea how long it had been sitting there, but it felt damp — and it smelled like it.

Question: What does one do with such a putrid object?
Answer: One places it in a plastic bag and ties it in a knot.


And then what?

Well, after tossing it in my backpack, I wondered whether or not to count it — you know, as a “snagged ball” in my collection. What do you think? Should I count it or not? I’m going to let YOU decide, but in order to do that, you need to leave a comment with your vote, and if possible, explain your reasoning. After 24 hours, we’ll count the votes, and that will settle it.

Here are two things to consider when voting . . .

1) Several days ago, I tweeted about this ball and asked if it would count. This was the most common response — several folks told me the same thing in person — and this was the funniest.

2) A few people have said it shouldn’t count because it’s not a complete ball. That’s true, but neither was this one that I snagged during BP at Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. I counted that one, and everyone seemed to agree that I’d made the right decision, so why is this ball less valid? Because more of it is missing? (It’s still a “ball,” after all.) Because I can’t verify the source? (We can’t verify the source of “Easter eggs,” but we still count those.)

There’s lots to consider, but rather than typing an endless list of potential arguments, I’ll let you decide. I’m leaning toward counting the ball, but if you guys collectively tell me not to, then I won’t. It’s that simple, so speak up!

Anyway . . . back in left field, an unidentifiable Met tossed a ball to me that fell short and landed on the party deck. The same employee who’d given me the other ball tossed me this one, and I immediately handed it to the nearest kid. That was my 4th or 5th ball of the day, depending on the outcome of the vote.

My next ball was a home run by a right-handed batter on the Tigers. It sailed five feet over my head — the wind was shifty and making it tough to judge fly balls — but I was able to grab it in the seats. Take a look at it:

Lots of teams have marked their baseballs over the years; this is how the Tigers have been doing it for a while.

I snagged three more balls during BP:

1) A home run which I caught on the fly in a rather crowded area.
2) A toss-up from Matt Tuiasosopo which I handed to the nearest kid.
3) A toss-up in left-center from one of the bullpen catchers, I think.

That brought my total for the day to eight or nine.

I headed to the Tigers’ dugout after BP, but all I got there was a photo of Max Scherzer:


You know about his eyes, right? If you’ve never noticed, they’re different colors.

During the lull before the game, I decided to unravel the cover-less ball and settle the main argument once and for all. If it turned out to be an official major league baseball, that would strengthen the case for counting it — and believe me, I would know if it were the real deal.

I took the ball out of the plastic bag . . .


. . . and placed it on the ground and began pulling the thread:


It was hard to get started because there was a crusty layer on the ball, but once I got past that, the process was smooth. After five or ten minutes, I’d removed the entire outer layer:


Why did it take so long? Because that layer contains 555 feet of poly/cotton thread. That material is supposed to be white — it basically looks like dental floss — but this ball was waterlogged straight through to the core.

The next layer — 150 feet of gray three-ply yarn — came off quicker:


The third layer — 65 feet of tan three-ply yarn — came off really fast . . .


. . . and I kept going with the fourth/innermost layer:


That final layer had even thicker (four-ply) yarn. Here’s what it looked like when I reached the end:


Yep, this was definitely an official major league baseball — no doubt about it. That little pink ball is called the pill . . .


. . . and I decided to cut it open when I got home.

Here I am with the entire ball:


After that photo was taken, I placed the pill and all the thread and yarn back in the plastic bag. Then I went to the bathroom and scrubbed my hands with warm water and soap for like two solid minutes.


Here’s where I sat during the game:


There were three home runs (two of which were hit off Daisuke Matsuzaka in the first two innings of his Mets debut). Unfortunately, they all landed one or two sections to my right. Miguel Cabrera hit one of the homers — a three-run shot in the second inning, giving him 41 longballs this season, to go with 126 RBIs and a .356 batting average. That’s just sick.

The Tigers won the game, 6-1, and no, I didn’t stay for the concert. I did, however, give away another ball before leaving the stadium.

When I got home, I began the difficult process of cutting open the pill:


That rubbery reddish/pink layer measures one-tenth of an inch thick.

The black layer underneath . . .


. . . measures 0.15 inches thick . . .


. . . and the little ball in the middle (aka “the pellet”) has a diameter of thirteen sixteenths of an inch. I talked about all this stuff in great detail in The Baseball, specifically in Chapter 7 which is called “The Rawlings Method.” If you consider yourself a serious baseball fan, you really oughta read it. The manufacturing process is so complex that it’ll change the way you think about the sport.

Anyway, that’s pretty much it. I snagged nine balls at this game and kept six of them. Here they are:


Of course, if you guys think I should only count eight, then that’s what I’ll do. I’m torn, and I could argue either way, so help me figure it out.  Voting will end at 12pm ET on Sunday, August 25, 2013.


And hey, even if the ball doesn’t count, it was still fun to snag it and take it apart and share the process with everyone.


• 9 baseballs at this game . . . I think.

• 510 balls in 70 games this season = 7.29 balls per game . . . right?

• 942 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 467 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 29 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, Camden Yards, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, Rogers Centre, Miller Park, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Target Field, Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Tropicana Field, Turner Field, Citizens Bank Park, Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, and the Oakland Coliseum

• 6,969 total balls . . . maybe?


(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, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 38 donors for my fundraiser

• $3.43 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $30.87 raised at this game . . . yes?

• $1,749.30 raised this season through my fundraiser (or perhaps only $1,745.87?)

• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $37,655.30 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009 . . . or not.


  1. James Lee

    Count it because you went through all that trouble of bringing a tongue (surprised they let you take it in), snag it and unravel it to prove it was an official MLB ball. That’s a lot of dedication and more work than most balls you ever snagged, so it deserves to be counted.

  2. Dave

    Ha! I didn’t think you’d actually be allowed to bring in BBQ tongs. I’m glad it worked though!

    I say count it!

  3. Austin

    Count it you were in a mlb stadium and found the baseball and retrieved it. Also, if Heath Bell gave you a bucket of baseballs, would you count it?

  4. kslo69

    Seems like it should count the same as any other “Easter egg” you found in the past, now that it’s been authenticated.

  5. Mark McConville

    It might be a coverless ball but its still an MLB ball that you got at an MLB stadium, in the words of Hawk Harrelson “You cannnnn put it on the boardddd, yesss” count it

  6. Navi

    Balls are balls bro. Count it, its a real baseball, it just doesn’t have the cover on it. It’s obviously a home run and the cover might have been blown offmidway. I never knew that Max Scherzer had heterochromia iridum, thanx
    -Navi from NY

  7. Tommy M.

    Good idea about bringing the BBQ tongs to retrieve that ball. In most stadiums taking them inside the ballpark wouldnt even be allowed. About that ball, i vote NOT to count it. I agree that it is in fact a Rawlings OMLB ball, based on the evidence of you taking it apart to see that it was the real deal. However, one thing still hits my mind. The cover of the ball is missing, and that can only happen one of three ways. Either the cover was knocked of the ball by a solid shot, it was removed by a player, who then possibly tossed it up to where it was found, or, the cover was removed by a fan before it getting to where it was found. So, with that said, i know you wouldn’t be abale to live with yourself counting a ball that was POSSIBLY handled by another fan before you. There’s my thoughts on it. Happy vote counting!

  8. Dennis B

    I think it should count. You need a certain percentage of a dollar bill for it to be legal tender (both serial numbers showing). You have at least 75% of the ball. If you found just the cover it wouldn’t count because it’s not a ball.

    Very funny to see you brought tongs to a game!

  9. Bryan From NY

    May not be an official MLB ball but you went through security with BBQ tongs at citi field which is impressive and it actually worked and got you the ball so what the hell count it!

  10. DanR

    Max Scherzer’s left eye says you should count it. His right eye says no. I say absolutely. It’s a major league baseball, to the core (pun intended), snagged at a Major League stadium. Let it join the club.

  11. Avi Miller

    As I said to you on Twitter, it shouldn’t count. Wouldn’t see that used by a team, even to play catch with. If you count it, then the question becomes what DOESN’T count as a baseball?! How many layers of string make it a baseball? If you found JUST the pill, would that count since it was part of a baseball at one point? Just like this is not a ball, only part of what used to be one. The ball from the All Star BP thing still had the pieces, just not all together. Here, you don’t even have the leather or seams. Just seems illogical. I’m not denying that it was once part of a ball, don’t get me wrong.

    In the end, all your little fangirls on here are saying to count it, and if you go with quantitative over qualitative, the logical third party like me goes unnoticed. You make the call in the end obviously.

    Do the right thing. In the words of Benjamin Hill, making this count would “be un-seam-ly.”

  12. DanR

    Now I’m actually reconsidering my vote… I was thinking about the guy you met who “snagged” like 138 balls in one day in the woods behind that minor league stadium (I forget where it was…Pittsburgh-ish?). I clicked over to his blog the day you linked to it and the whole time I was looking at his photos I was thinking, “These shouldn’t even count as baseballs. They’ve been there for who-knows-how-long, most of them are missing the cover, there was no ‘competition’ to get these balls (nobody else would want them except that guy), etc.” And if we’re honest, that criteria might apply to this ball as well. I am just like Max Scherzer’s eyes now. One vote to count it, one vote to not. #allkindsofconflicted

  13. Ray Burton

    Very interesting dissection of a Major League Baseball Zack. Always wondered how the ball was constructed. Now lets see you put it back together ! Definitely count the ball in your totals. Its the equivalent of a snagged ball , no matter what the condition.

  14. Nicholas Le

    I believe you should count it. OMLB ball. You got it at a stadium as a “rotten” easter egg. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s still technically a ball. Plus it was unique.

  15. Hayley

    Count it. A cover may be part of the general definition of a baseball, but you collect *major league* balls, which have much more complex criteria than just any old ball. This one meets most of them. I don’t think the cover is the most important thing. And it’s not like it was a disheveled mess of parts: it was still in ball form.

  16. Jon Madden

    Count it! I don’t know why you shouldn’t! It’s a real baseball- the only thing is that the cover is missing! Just because a convertible doesn’t have a roof doesn’t mean it’s not a car!

  17. Zack Hample

    Thank you SO MUCH for all the comments. Your opinions mean a lot to me. As of this moment (and there are still 12-plus hours remaining), you guys are overwhelmingly in favor of the ball counting, by a margin of 19-4. Now I’m going to answer everyone individually . . .

    Desire, in my opinion, shouldn’t affect the decision. If a ball were hit in San Francisco and landed in a heaping pile of seagull poop in the bleachers, who would want THAT? Right? But it would still count.

    I doubt it was a BP homer, or if it was, it couldn’t have ended up there on its own. Perhaps it landed in the bullpen and then got tampered with by the players. That’s my guess. Citizens Bank Park? On a weekend? For a 1:35pm game? Hell no. It’d be cool to meet, but it’ll have to happen under more favorable circumstances.

    I don’t think that the effort should determine anything. What if I went through all that trouble only to discover that it was a Little League ball?

    Well then.

    Thanks. Certain guards at certain stadiums are less . . . what’s the word? . . . thorough than others when it comes to searching bags.

    Good point. And yes to Heath Bell, if we were in a major league stadium on a game day.


    I agree.

    Ha, thanks.

    No matter what? What if another fan gives you a ball? Does that count? What if you buy one at the team store? I see what you’re getting at, but I think you need to be more specific. In any case, thanks for sharing your opinion.

    There’s no way that the cover flew off the ball in mid air, unless it had already/partially/intentionally been removed. Check out pages 58-59 of “The Baseball.” There’s a short section called “Knocking the Cover off the Ball,” which proves (according to “Mythbusters”) that it’s impossible for a human being to do that.

    Grady Little went with *his* gut feeling, but okay, fair enough.

    TOMMY M.-
    Thanks for the comment. There’ve been times when I’ve found baseballs in the stands long after the stadium opened. Those *could’ve* been handled by other fans, but I’ve always assumed that they weren’t, so I counted them.

    I like the dollar argument. Thanks.

    It’s definitely an official ball. I would bet everything I own plus my life on it. The fact that it IS official means more to me than all the stuff I had to go through in order to snag it.

    At this point, I just hope it’s not hit during BP by a player that I can’t identify.

    On September 22, 2005, I found four non-official balls in the seats when I first ran into Shea Stadium for batting practice. I decided not to count them because I suspected that they’d been used earlier in the day during a youth clinic. Here’s my blog entry about that game:
    Here’s a photo of the four bogus balls:

    The point is that any type of ball can end up anywhere at a major league stadium for any reason. Of course, there’ve been times when I’ve snagged minor league balls during BP at major league stadiums, and I *have* counted those balls. Basically, if I find a ball (and there’s no proof that major leaguers were ever using it), then it needs to be an official major league ball, but if I snag a non-official ball FROM a major league player or coach, then it does count. Does that make sense? I hope everyone reads this.

    DAN R-
    I accept your double/contradictory vote, although I omitted them from the 15-4 total. Finding balls in the woods is different from finding them inside a major league stadium. Come on. You can’t deny that, although I see what you’re getting at. As for your “competition” claim, what if you’re the only fan in an entire section? My friend Sean was once the ONLY fan in all of left field DURING a game at Camden Yards after there’d been several looooong rain delays. Does that mean that he wouldn’t have been able to count a game home run ball had he snagged on? I think we all know the answer. My point is that the level of competition shouldn’t determine what does or doesn’t count. Indeed, it’s what prevents me from going after minor league or Spring Training balls. It’s just too easy, so why bother? But those balls obviously count for lots of other folks. As for the guy who got 138 balls, his name is Rick Sporcic, and here’s his blog entry about it:

    Who cares if a team would use it? If two guys were playing catch with a brand new ball that got loose and rolled into a puddle on the warning track, they wouldn’t use that either. I would argue that this cover-less ball could have easily been used to play catch. Would it pass inspection by the home plate umpire for use in an actual game? Hell no, but neither would most BP balls that are either too new or too dirty or too scuffed or whatever. I found much more than half of a major league baseball, so therefore I think it should count. Just finding a pill would be too little of the ball, so no, that would not count. Also, what’s with the “fangirls” comment? You’re no less of one than anyone else here, but that’s not how I think of people who enjoy my blog and share my passion for ballhawking. Whether someone is 12 or 52 and loves me or hates me, he or she has a right to express an opinion. The fact that my peers are voting here doesn’t make people more likely to say “count it.” If anything, I expect to be judged harshly by my peers, so I’d think that if I tried to slip a bogus snag past people, they’d be the ones most likely to call me on my B.S. This is a team effort, and I consider you part of the team. Also, I love you.

    Thanks. I think that’s the main issue.

    Thanks. Any reason why? Just a gut feeling?

    Thanks. I appreciate your thoughts.

    There are plenty of reasons, but okay, we can go with that.

    I agree. Thanks.

    Nice to see you here in the comments section. That’s a great point, and I totally agree.

    Ha! I like it.

  18. Avi M (@AviMillerBSR)

    I guess I can explain the harsh/rude/unnecessary part of my comment more in person, not so much in a public space as such.

    Go team go!

  19. Cook & Son Bats

    After reading the rest of the comments and your responses, I had a follow-up comment. I totally agree with MiLB / Spring balls should be counted differently/separately from MLB ball, but I don’t think that “it’s too easy” is really the right reason. I just think they’re different. As far as the easy-factor goes, some MiLB stadiums are harder. We’re averaging 5 at MLB games this season, but the most we’ve got at any of the 4-5 MiLB games we’ve attended this season is 2.

  20. Russell

    I don’t think you can count this ball. I understand that you took the ball apart and have made sure it is an official MLB ball but it’s not all there. If the outer leather and red string where there off to the side and you retrieved that as well then count it but it’s not 100% there. If you count this ball then at what point does it not count? Would “the pill” count? At the end of the day you make the decision to count it or not. Are you going to feel right about it if you count it? The fact that you are debating if this ball should count or not should be a clear indication to not count it. Good luck I hope you make the right decision.

  21. cbeltran15

    Count it. It’s an official major league baseball. And even if it was a training ball, it should still count because you “snagged” it at a major league game.

  22. Zack Hample

    Ha, okay.

    AVI M-
    Okay. Hopefully we’ll get to talk soon.

    COOK & SON-
    Actually, yes, other people wanted it. In the comments on my previous entry, James Lee was talking about going for it next week if I hadn’t gotten first. Also, I don’t want to pad my stats. If I did, I would’ve simply counted it. I want to do the right thing, so I’ve asked my peers to help me decide. I don’t think it gets any fairer than that. Of course, I don’t want to have a collection (or claim a grand total) at which people scoff, but unless a person *only* goes for batted balls in the stands, it seems that having “questionable” baseballs is inevitable. Do you think Pete Rose ever got the benefit of the doubt from an official scorer, when perhaps it should’ve been ruled an error on the fielder? Yes, of course, but we still recognize 4,256 as The Total. On the other hand, he was probably robbed of a few hits by scorers, but that’s just how it goes. I feel like I’m much stricter than most ballhawks about what counts and what doesn’t. Hell, I don’t even count game home runs in my “home run total” if they get tossed up to me; I have a separate category for those. I’ve also snagged a bunch of balls at Futures Games (official major league baseballs at major league stadiums) which I didn’t count. If I had, no one would’ve questioned it. I’m still torn about the cover-less ball, but as of now (with an hour left in the voting), I’m planning to count it. The people have spoken. Don’t you think that’s reasonable? As for snagging baseballs at major vs. minor league stadiums, that’s a good point. I didn’t realize that the numbers were so low for you guys. I can tell you, though, that back in 1995 when I worked for the Boise Hawks, I used to hang out in the parking lot outside the stadium during every game *until* I snagged a foul ball. I almost always got one by the end of the first inning. To me, that’s way too easy, and I know that many other minor league stadiums (and parking lots) are like that. To me, there’s too much inconsistency in the minor leagues. I’m not saying that these balls are worthless — just that they should be tallied separately.

    I’ve already addressed the “pill” conundrum; check out my response to Avi Miller. There’s also the argument that a dollar bill is still good if a certain part of it is missing. I’ll feel weird whether or not I count it because there are good arguments on both sides. That’s why I’ve taken a vote.

    Thanks. That makes sense.

    The vote now stands at 20-6 in favor of counting the ball, but I’ll wait to make my official decision until 12pm ET.

  23. Cook & Son

    Sorry if it came off that way, but I wasn’t accusing you of trying to pad your stats. I was trying to make the point that there is probably only a very small subset of the world that would even question this issue. At the end of the day, this is a debate about stats. Think back to 11 year old Zack who had never snagged a baseball and had no stats. Does he count this thing as No. 1? My gut feel is that he does not. But, maybe?

  24. Zack Hample

    There’s a lot I would’ve counted at age 11 that I wouldn’t count now. I would’ve been more eager to get my first ball back then. Not sure how I would’ve felt at the time about a cover-less ball. It probably wouldn’t even have occurred to me that it *was* a baseball. But hey, it’s all good. No apology necessary. I think I’m inclined to count this as a ball now *because* I’m so knowledgeable about baseball and baseballs and the manufacturing process. Even without the cover, I know how much work went into making it.

  25. Ben Weil

    Well, my take is that it must have gotten there by way of a major leaguer. I’ve seen many players use, examine and dispose of destroyed balls, and obviously, that’s what this is. So do i think it is a ball by way of a player? Yes. So that’s the case for counting it.

  26. Zack Hample

    You’re too late, but thanks. Your input makes me feel better about the decision.

    Thanks. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

    It’s official. The cover-less ball *will* count. Thank you all for voting and explaining your reasoning.

  27. Drew

    The yarn ball should only be counted as 1/2 of a ball. That’s my thought. BTW, the Clevelander has been open almost every game at least 1/2 hr. for just us. I finally caught one on the fly in there. The Marlins used up their supply of Marlins Park balls. One of the players asked me how we are allowed in every game so early. He was cool about my contacts. I heard that you can earn a special pin at Coors Field if you catch a HR on the fly during a game. That would be a fitting ending to your 30 stadium quest.

  28. Philip Joens

    Count it. I’ve counted lots of waterlogged and gross balls I’ve found at X’s games. They are baseballs. Those teams use so many cheap baseballs though that I have to prove to myself that they didn’t use them. I haven’t counted souvineer baseballs I’ve found outside the fence, but I have counted Diamond baseballs that could’ve been used in batting practice and may have been left behind by a high school game that was played at the park.

  29. Zack Hample

    There are no fractions in baseball except with innings pitched and games in the standings. As for the Clevelander . . . nice! I hope you appreciate how good you have it with the special access. Thanks again for hooking it up for me when I was there. I really REALLY want to catch a home run at Coors.

    Thanks. Nice to know that you do something similar.

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