9/4/14 at Miller Park

Prior to this game, I’d been to Miller Park five times and snagged a total of 63 baseballs, so I was expecting another big day. My friend Brandon, a professional videographer who’d filmed me two days earlier at Wrigley Field, was planning to get more footage here . . . but right before the stadium opened, I told him not to bother. You see, Miller Park has a Friday’s restaurant that’s open year-round and overlooks left field. On game days, it’s a great place to get a head start on the competition and snag a few baseballs before the stadium officially opens. On each of my previous five visits, I’d gone there and done quite well, but this time, because of a recent fire (that caused $700,000 of damage), the restaurant wasn’t open early. Why do a video that wouldn’t capture the full ballhawking experience?

Miller Park normally opens 90 minutes early (which is pathetic and makes me hate the Brewers), but it just so happened that I was here on a special day. This was one of 10 games in 2014 at which season ticket holders could get in an extra half-hour early, and a local friend of mine named Kenny was kind enough to bring me and Brandon in as his guests.

When the special gate opened at 5:10pm, I ran full speed toward the second deck in left field. I was completely out of breath when I made it there, but it was worth it, or so I thought, because I had the entire section to myself for a couple of minutes. Here’s what it looked like:

2_view_from_second_deck_09_04_14

Moments later, someone on the Brewers crushed a home run in my direction, but guess what happened? It landed several rows behind me, clanged off a metal bench, and ricocheted back onto the field — the ultimate example of bad luck.

Brandon took his time heading out to my spot, which was fine. He certainly didn’t miss much. Here a photo of me standing in the front row:

3_zack_second_deck_09_04_14

Wow, that’s really exciting.

The Brewers only took one group of BP after the gates opened. They didn’t hit any other home runs, and I couldn’t get anyone to throw me a ball.

When the Cardinals’ pitchers began playing catch along the left-field foul line, I put on my Cardinals hat and ran down to the 100 Level. Look closely at the following photo, and you’ll see me standing at the railing:

4_zack_left_field_foul_line_09_04_14

Because the stadium hadn’t yet opened to the general public and because there was NO ONE else wearing Cardinals gear, I got two of the easiest toss-ups of my life. The first one came from Trevor Rosenthal . . . I think. Here are a few photos of him:

5_player_who_threw_ball7654

Is that Rosenthal?

The other ball was tossed by Seth Maness.

With Matt Holliday set to take his cuts in the first group, I hurried back upstairs and ended up snagging two of his home run balls. Here’s a cool photo of me chasing the first one:

6b_zack_snagging_ball7656

I actually had a bit of competition for the second homer. It landed 10 rows behind me and took a lucky bounce back toward me as a college-aged kid cut across from the next section.

Here’s an action shot of a ball I didn’t snag:

7_matt_holliday_home_run_ball_landing_deep

I think Kenny grabbed that one. Holliday was hitting bombs. It was fun to watch and frustrating that I only got two.

During the next group of hitters, Brandon told me that he saw Carlos Martinez throw a ball into the upper deck on the 3rd base side. Long story short: I ran up there . . .

8_view_from_miller_park_upper_deck

. . . but didn’t find it. (Was he trolling me?)

The rest of Cardinals BP sucked. I went to right field for a bit, then headed back to left field, and eventually sat down:

9_zack_bored_and_hating_life

No one was hitting homers. The players and coaches ignored all of my requests for baseballs. It was a total waste of time.

After BP, I raced back downstairs and made it to the Cardinals’ dugout in time to see this:

10_basket_of_balls_none_for_me

No baseball for me.

Then I caught up with Kenny . . .

11b_kenny_kasta_and_zack_09_04_14

. . . and bought him the beer I’d promised him two days earlier as a “thank you” for saving me a spot in the bleacher line outside Wrigley Field. He’s a good dude. I’m sorry I don’t get to see him more often, and I was bummed that two other Milwaukee-based ballhawk friends — Shawn Bosman and Nick Yohanek — weren’t at this game.

After the national anthem, I wandered down toward the left-field foul line. When I made it down to about the fifth row, I stopped and watched the Cardinals do their pre-game throwing. There was NO competition for baseballs. It was unbelievable. Not only was I happy about the prospect of an easy toss-up, but I was glad to be out of New York and NOT be restricted by stadium security. In New York, if you want to do anything in any part of the stadium after batting practice, you need to have a ticket for THAT section or else you’re not getting in. It’s such a pain in the ass (and makes me hate the Mets and Yankees), but anyway, here I was, standing and watching the players right before the game in a section where I didn’t belong, not causing any harm, when I heard someone say, “Excuse me,” from behind. I turned around and saw a mean-lookin’ usher and thought that I *was* about to get hassled after all. Instead he simply told me that I wasn’t allowed to be standing at this time and that I needed to take a seat. And then he turned his back and started heading up the steps.

HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
Talk about stupid rules.

Moments later, two players finished throwing, so I stood up (sorry, I know I’m a terrible person) and called out to them. Here’s a photo that Brandon took from behind:

12_pregame_throwing_09_04_14

(See? That usher really DOES look mean. Right? It looks like he’s ready for a shoot-out, with his hands hovering over imaginary gun holsters. What’s up with that? And what’s with the sunglasses? It might’ve been bright an hour earlier, but c’mon, dude, the moment passed.)

The Cardinals dissed me once again and didn’t throw me the ball. What the hell! It’s one thing not to get a ball when there are little kids nearby, but when I’m the ONLY person in the stadium asking for a ball? It kinda makes me hate the Cardinals.

I still only had four balls when the game started, but I was excited about turning my day around and doing something big. In my previous five games at Miller Park, I had snagged a total of five foul balls, so it was completely within reason to assume I’d get another.

Why is this stadium so great for foul balls? This was my view for every left-handed batter . . .

13_view_for_lefties_during_game_09_04_14

. . . and here’s what it looked like on my right:

14_sooooo_much_room_to_run

That is an INSANE amount of room.

For all right-handed batters, I moved to the far end of the walkway. Here I am (two hours later) circled in red:

15_zack_in_cross_aisle_09_04_14

Here I am walking back for a lefty . . .

16_zack_walking_back_for_a_lefty

. . . and here I am noticing the camera:

17_zack_not_happy_about_the_lack_of_foul_balls

Things did not go as planned. Instead of snagging 17 foul balls over the course of the game, I got none, and to make matters worse, I should’ve had one, but the ball took the unluckiest ricochet in history. I refuse to describe it because it’ll just make me hate life all over again.

Here I am resting between innings late in the game:

18_zack_sitting_for_a_moment

It was September baseball at its worst — micromanaging along with expanded rosters. The Cardinals and Brewers combined to score five runs, but used a total of 13 pitchers. The pace of the game was dreadfully slow even for me, the most diehard of fans, so if *I* was bored despite moving back and forth all night and playing my own game within the game, can you imagine how most of the other people felt? Brandon was especially aggravated by the end, and when the Cardinals recorded the final out of their 3-2 victory, we got the hell out of there:

19_outside_miller_park_after_the_game

Somehow I’m still averaging more than 11 balls per game at Miller Park, but I can’t say I’m looking forward to being back there anytime soon.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 4 baseballs at this game

• 481 balls in 70 games this season = 6.87 balls per game.

• 67 lifetime balls in 6 games at Miller Park = 11.17 balls per game.

• 1,036 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 7,657 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 about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)

• 21 donors for my fundraiser

• $1.71 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $6.84 raised at this game

• $822.51 raised this season

• $39,486.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

13 comments

  1. Bryan (NY)

    What do we want? DETAILS! When do we want them? NOW!
    On a serious note losing a ball on a horrible bounce is bad enough let alone a foul ball, but there’s always another one and surely you’ll rebound from 4 balls don’t hang your head!

  2. Liz Merry

    You had to SIT DOWN? I don’t get it. Maybe a reaction to Kanye West trying to make some wheelchair bound folks stand up and dance in Australia? I don’t think I have ever been told to sit down by an usher at a game. By other fans, yes. Haha!

  3. Zack Hample

    BRYAN-
    Thanks. I’m already over it. It was just a frustrating day all around. I’m used to having a bad time at games in New York, but when I go on road trips, I expect things to be better.

    LEIGH BARRATT-
    That’s pretty good . . . for someone who always sits in the outfield.

    BOSTON BALLHAWK-
    There’s a certain threshold of beauty that domed stadiums can’t cross, but I actually think Miller Park is pretty nice. Tropicana Field is the absolute worst. The Metrodome was bad, and the Tokyo Dome is right there with it, but places like Safeco, Minute Maid, and Miller are nice in my opinion. (Marlins Park = ew.)

    LIZ MERRY-
    Ha, yeah, it was bizarre. (HEY, LADY!! DOWN IN FRONT!!)

  4. Drew Selz

    Hey Zack, Its Drew I emailed you about meeting up at the game but unfortanely i wasn’t able to come. It sucks you had a bad day Miller Park. It is kind of a tough stadium for bp since there isn’t any field outfield seats worth a damn. But good luck the rest of the year snagging!

  5. Zack Hample

    LIZ MERRY-
    Ha, well, there was some celebrating tonight at Citi Field. Total domination.

    YACOV-
    You should go back and try again.

    DEMETRIUS-
    Citi Field will always be the answer to any question about worseness.

    DREW SELZ-
    Sorry you couldn’t make it, but as you can see, you didn’t miss much.

    AARON M.-
    Yup.

  6. Zack Hample

    I think baseball is always better outdoors, but domed stadiums are still somewhat of a phenomenon to me, so I actually like it when a roof is closed. But then again, it makes it tougher to track the flight of fly balls.

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