8/18/14 at Citizens Bank Park

Do you remember when a guy named Brandon photographed me on 7/31/14 at Camden Yards? Well, he joined me for this game in Philadelphia, and I convinced him to film me instead. Here’s the video that he put together — check it out and then I’ll share a few photos and explain everything in detail:

Wow . . . right? Anyway, when I approached the Ashburn Alley gate, I saw two familiar faces — Grant Edrington (who’s going to college in Pennsylvania) and Rick Gold (who made the trip with me from New York and had held a spot at the front of the line while I bought a ticket). They’re both ballhawks, and you can briefly see them in the video. At the 0:24 mark, Grant is on the right side, wearing a yellow shirt, and bending down to pick up a home run ball. You can also see him from 0:25 to 0:31 as we both chase another longball that ends up ricocheting far away. Rick, meanwhile, wearing a gray shirt, dashes into view from the left side at 0:45 and proceeds to cut across the seats until 0:48.

My first ball of the day was so uneventful that Brandon didn’t bother including it in the video. I was standing near the front row in left-center field when a Phillies player tossed a ball to a kid. The kid dropped it in the flowerbed at the very front of the section, so I picked it up and handed it to him.
At the 0:59 mark, you can hear me say, “Wanna play catch?” to Antonio Bastardo, and to my surprise, he briefly took me up on it. At the end, he told me to “keep it.” That was my second ball, and it was all I got until the entire stadium opened at 5:35pm. Why? Because left field was dead. Except for the first few minutes when Marlon Byrd was cranking balls out, most of the batters were left-handed and/or just plain bad.

In case you’re unfamiliar with the glove trick, that’s what I was attempting to do (and also discussing) from 1:57 to 2:23.

At 2:36, you can see me snagging my third ball. At the time, I didn’t know who tossed it, but later figured out that it was Brandon Maurer. I got another toss-up soon after from Logan Morrison, and then, after complaining about how bad my luck had been, I started to get really lucky.

At 3:05, I said, “Oh, here we go,” upon seeing the batter hit a deep fly ball in my direction. Then I paused for a moment to gauge the distance and eventually wiggled down the stairs for the catch. That was my fifth ball, and I have no idea who hit it.

I don’t know who hit the next one either, but it was my favorite catch of the day. (See 3:48 to 3:55.) That’s because I had to run to the left and climb back over two rows of seats to get into position. Every so often, I’ll climb over one row to make a catch, but maneuvering over two is pretty tough. Unfortunately it got me in trouble with a security supervisor who marched down the steps, told me I wasn’t allowed to run for baseballs, and basically threatened to eject me if I did it again. (“This is your only warning,” he said.) More on that in a bit, but first, here’s what my view looked like from that section:


My seventh ball — a deep line-drive homer by Robinson Cano — was extremely lucky. I made the catch at 4:14, but to get the whole story, you need to watch everything from 3:59 to 4:35. This was the one where I ran into the next section to chase a ball, and while I was there, Cano hit me another in the 2nd-to-last row.

At 4:38, there’s a quick clip of me snagging my eighth ball. Once again, at the time, I didn’t know who tossed it, but later figured out that it was 3rd base coach Rich Donnelly.

From 4:44 to 4:51, you can see me drifting to the right to catch my ninth ball, and from 5:12 to 5:20, you can see me climbing down over two rows to catch number ten. I don’t know who hit either of those home runs, but I can tell you this: the supervisor was pissed about the last one. He hurried back down the stairs and said, “What did I tell you before?!”

I truly thought I was about to be ejected, so I apologized hardcore and told him that I’d been trying to obey his rule about not running for balls and that I hadn’t run for the last one, but had instead carefully stepped down over some seats. It soon became clear that he wasn’t going to eject me, but that he *was* going to lecture me about being a menace to society. Batting practice was basically done, so I didn’t mind when he led me up to the concourse. The main thing he told me was that I have to be careful around other fans. He was concerned that I might plow into someone and cause an injury.

“I totally understand where you’re coming from,” I said, “and of course you have no way of knowing who I am or what I’m all about, but for what it’s worth, I’ve attended more than 1,200 games in 51 major league stadiums, and I’ve never knocked anyone down while running for a ball. NEVER. Not even once.”

“Yeah, but with my luck,” he replied, “the first time you do it will be here today in Philadelphia.”

While I was getting scolded, several fans came over and defended me.

“Leave him alone!” one woman shouted. “He didn’t do anything wrong! He was giving away baseballs to people!”

“I understand that, ma’am,” said the supervisor, “but that’s not the issue.”

Moments later, a man interrupted the supervisor to shake my hand and say, “Thank you so much for giving a ball to my son. This is his first game.”

It must’ve been tough for the supervisor to stay mad, and all things considered, he turned out to be quite friendly and reasonable. I appreciated that he was willing to have a discussion, and I actually made him laugh later when he saw me changing back into my Phillies gear.

After the supervisor took off, several ushers approached me and apologized. One of them said, “Don’t judge us all based on the actions of one individual.” A different usher told me that they had no problem with my running around. “Everyone was running for balls,” he said. “They’re just not as good at it, but we thought you were very respectful.”

At that point, there were several balls in the Phillies’ bullpen — home runs that had landed there during BP — and the ushers were nice enough to let me hang around and try to get one. That’s what I was doing in the video starting at 5:29. It would’ve been easy to snag two or three with my glove trick, but given my recent run-in with the supervisor, I decided to play it safe and wait for a toss-up. Eventually it happened at the 5:38 mark, courtesy of Phillies bullpen catcher Jesus Tiamo. That was my 11th ball of the day.

Brandon didn’t sit with me during the game, so there’s no video evidence of what happened next. First let me show you my view during the top of the 1st inning:


In the bottom of the 1st, I moved half a dozen rows closer and it quickly paid off. With two outs, Ryan Howard hit a foul squibber that trickled into the Mariners’ dugout. Chris Woodward, the team’s infield coach, retrieved the ball, climbed to the top step, scanned the crowd for a worthy recipient, and ended up tossing it to me.

Here’s what my ballhawking notes looked like after that:


For the record, I can write *much* neater than that, but whatever, these were just meant to be my private scribbles.

Some time around the 5th inning, I received the following photo in a text from Brandon:


I wondered if he was still in the upper deck, so I looked up there, and sure enough, I spotted him:


I managed to make one more snag before the night was through: a 2nd/3rd-out ball tossed by Robinson Cano after the 7th inning, which is to say that it was the product of a double play. Andres Blanco had grounded into it off Tom Wilhelmsen.

After the final out of the Phillies’ 4-1 victory, Brandon caught up with me for a quick video recap. He then took off with some friends, leaving me and Rick to drive back to New York and talk about our favorite hobby for two solid hours.


6_the_nine_balls_i_kept_08_18_14• 13 baseballs at this game (nine pictured here because I gave four away)

• 421 balls in 60 games this season = 7.02 balls per game.

• 321 lifetime balls in 35 games at Citizens Bank Park = 9.17 balls per game.

• 1,026 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 367 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 252 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

• 7,597 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 about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 20 donors for my fundraiser

• $1.62 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $21.06 raised at this game

• $682.02 raised this season

• $39,346.02 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009


  1. Bryan

    In the bottom you gave stats for Camden yards not citizens bank, otherwise nice catches, awesome you got it all on video

  2. Jared

    Like Demetrius, I also really enjoy the videos. I think it’s neat to actually see ballhawks in action not just regular people standing in one spot.

  3. Zack Hample

    ALL OF THEM!! Hopefully. Someday. For now, though, I’m just hoping Brandon will film me in a couple of weeks when we’re at Wrigley Field and Miller Park.

    That’s right, you heard me. I’ll be at Wrigley Field on September 2-3 and at Miller Park on September 4. See you there?

    Thanks. Most people *do* act like statues, huh?

  4. Big Glove Bob

    Z-Man, awesome video. You are truly a master at judging balls off the bat. I actually think you could play outfield in MLB without embarrassing yourself. I can’t judge distance for anything. One eye of mine is 20-20 and the other was rated at 20-200(and that was 15 years ago). Thankfully for me the way the dynamic works is that I think I am closer to things than I really am. I will pull into a parking spot and think I am right up against the curb and when I get out and look I am 3 feet away.
    Big Glove Bob

  5. Jared

    Hey Zack,

    In San Diego, there are commemorative balls being used? Will you go there?

    Also, Derek Jeter Day in NY is on September 7. Commemorative balls will likely be used.

    Hope it helped


  6. Zack Hample

    Thanks so much! That’s extremely flattering and kind of you to say. I’m amazed you can ballhawk at all with such bad vision. I’m also worried about your safety behind the wheel, but then again, you’ve always seemed like a good driver.

    I’m hoping to make it out to San Diego, but I’d only make the trip if I have a free place to stay, and Brandon (who lives there) has a busy/unpredictable schedule next month. As for the Jeter balls, whatever. They’re ugly, and the stadium will be packed, and I already sold my ticket. I’m officially out.

    They certainly did!

  7. Big Glove Bob

    Z-Man- The bad driving would come into play if the dynamic was reversed and I thought I was further away from things. But as it is, I give myself more room instead of less. I can still pass the eye test when I renew my license without lenses. I did get one contact lens about 15 years ago that made my vision 20-20 in both eyes but it felt like my “good” eye was “dead” since it was used to doing the mountain’s share of the work. Maybe as a goof I will start sporting a monocle?

    Big Glove Bob

  8. B

    Hey Zack,
    I have been reading your blog for a while, But have never left a comment. Will probably leave some more in the future. Hopefully we can meet each other at a game some day.

  9. Zack Hample

    Ahh, okay. Using extra caution can’t be a bad thing, right? Anyway, a monocle would be incredible. Haha!!

    Thanks for dropping a line. Let me know which stadium(s) you live closest to. That would be a good way to start planning an in-person encounter.

    I’ll be at the next five games (if the weather’s dry enough for BP, and right now it’s looking good).

  10. cbeltran15

    Oh lovely, I was planning on going to all five also and I was hoping for minimal competition… why can’t you just go on a vacation to a more ballhawk-friendly city? Just kidding, see you tomorrow at Citi.

  11. Cook & Son Bats

    I didn’t read the comments above, so pardon me if this is mere repetition, but that video shows some crazy skills. Navigating those stairs/chairs is incredibly difficult and you make it look like child’s play. Truly amazing. I would bet most MLB outfielders couldn’t have made many of those catches.
    In other news, good to see CBP’s own Maddie in some of those scenes. Go get ’em, Maddie!

  12. Zack Hample

    Thanks for the kind words. To be fair, though, I don’t always judge balls that well. Sometimes I get all messed up when the wind is blowing hard or when it’s unusually warm or cold (which affects how far the ball carries). But here in Philly, I just seemed to have a good idea of where every ball was heading.

    Ahh. Well, I probably won’t be at either of those stadiums in 2014, but hopefully I’ll make it back in the not-terribly-distant future.

  13. Sam from Seattle

    Hey man nice catch on the Lagares home run tonight. I spotted u in ur mlb umpire hat.

  14. Benny Amesquita

    This is my favorite video of you in action. That snag after climbing over two rows is awesome!

  15. Zack Hample

    Thanks! That hat is not actually an official umpire hat. It does have an MLB logo on it, but it’s a larger logo, and it has some color. But still . . . you have good eyes if you saw that on TV. I usually wear my official umpire hat earlier in the season when it’s not so hot, so I won’t sweat it up.

    And you stayed for the whole thing?!

    Thanks! I really appreciate that.

  16. Tyler Penner (@TylerPenner)

    I stayed. It was a 1:20 game, so it’s not like it was late at night. I also had planned to be at the game anyway – first game ever, so I didn’t want to leave early. (I also just spent 4 hours/12 innings at an independent game last night – I like to stay for the whole thing all the time if I can.)

  17. Zack Hample

    It actually doesn’t make a huge difference. A lower wall does make it easier, but if left field is crowded, then that kinda ruins everything. The point is, I don’t chose my spot there based on the wall. There are other more important factors that affect BP.

  18. SamG15

    Awesome!! My favorite blog entry I have read. I think what you do is really cool!! Will you post more entries where someone is taping you? I really hope so!

  19. Zack Hample

    Thanks! I don’t know, but I hope so too. It’s hard to find people to film me. Brandon is the best, but he lives in California, and I’m in New York.

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