2007 World Series — Game 2

Several years ago, when MLBlogs switched over to WordPress, a bunch of my blog entries were lost, including this one. Thankfully I had saved all the photos, along with the text from my original entry, so this was fairly easy to recreate. Enjoy!

I started the day by giving a 30-minute speech about my baseball collection to 51 middle schoolers at the Lexington Montessori School. I demonstrated the glove trick, showed the USA Today article, passed around the three balls I’d snagged the night before, talked at length (upon request from the teachers) about the writing/editing process, gave a quick tour of my website (which was projected from a laptop onto the big white screen), and answered lots of questions:

1_zack_school_speech

Most of the questions were typical and innocent. Where do you keep all the balls? Did you ever get into a fight for a ball? Is Manny Ramirez your favorite player? And so on. But one of the questions took me by surprise. When I told the kids that I wear clothes that make me look young so the players will be more likely to throw balls to me, one of the boys blurted out, “What if you wore a dress?”

“Stay after school,” I told him. “We need to talk.”

At the very end of my presentation, one of the kids asked, “Can I have a baseball?”

I knew that if I gave him one, there would’ve been 50 other jealous kids and half a dozen frazzled teachers, so I politely turned down his request.

“Can I have your autograph?” he asked.

“Sure,” I said, prompting every kid in the room to ask if THEY could have my autograph too. I said yes, they all ran and got scraps of paper, and the teachers ended up being frazzled after all because it was the end of the school day and the kids were supposed to be outside to meet their parents. The teachers cut me off after five minutes and made the kids leave. I followed them out and signed a few more autographs, including two on baseball gloves, one on a warm-up jacket, and another on a soccer ball:

2_kids_with_zack_hample_autographs

THAT was a first.

There were still a bunch of kids who had to take off without my autograph, so my friend Ben (who teaches there) quickly wrote down their names and told them that I’d sign something for them before I left.

“Do you mind?” he asked.

“Not at all,” I said. I still had three hours before I needed to leave for Fenway Park, and I loved the fact that I could make a bunch of kids happy by doing something as simple as writing my name.

3_bathtub_photo_schoolBen and I went back upstairs and printed a dozen copies of the bathtub photo off my website, and I started signing them for the kids whose names he’d just written down. Then it occurred to us that the first bunch of kids who’d gotten me to sign would be jealous of the second bunch who got bathtub photos, so we went back to the computer and printed 39 more copies, and I signed them all, personalizing them to each kid as Ben checked their names off a master list to make sure we weren’t missing anyone.

At 4:30pm, Ben dropped me off at the ALEWIFE subway station. From there I took the red line to PARK STREET and transferred to the green line which took me to KENMORE. The conductor made some announcement about where to exit for “Fenway Pahhhk,” and I nearly laughed out loud. I looked around to see if anyone else had the same reaction. Nope. No giggles. No smirks. No eye contact, and I wondered if everyone in Boston talks like that.

I reached Fenway at around 5:20pm and worried that batting practice was already underway. I don’t think it was, of at least IF it was, no one was hitting sizable home runs to left field.

Once again, the mean garage guy was yelling and cursing at everyone who tried to go up on his precious roof, so I was forced to stay on the sidewalk. After half an hour of staring into the quickly darkening sky at an uncomfortably sharp angle . . .

4_view_from_lansdowne_street

. . . a ball bounced over the Green Monster and dropped straight down into the middle of Lansdowne Street. I ran forward to try to catch it before it smacked the pavement (while simultaneously trying not to get run over by any cars), but I was a second too late and the ball bounced directly over my head and into the bare hand of a guy who’d been standing directly behind me. I was beyond pissed, but I got a chance to redeem myself five minutes later when a home run clanged off the back railing behind the Monster Seats and skipped high in the air and sailed over my head into the fenced off alley. (Check out my Game 1 entry for pics of the alley.) Several fans hurried over to the seven-foot fence, and by the time they got there, I was already on the other side, racing down the hill, and when I got to the bottom, I had my first ball of the day. (No, it didn’t have a World Series logo.)

During the next half hour, there wasn’t a single ball that landed in the street or alley. Meanwhile several homers flew onto the garage roof, and eventually I noticed that there were a few fans up there hiding at the back, including one guy with a glove. I crept closer to the ramp that led to the roof and waited for the mean guy to look the other way, and as soon as he did, I made my move and raced up it. Before he had a chance to turn around, I was hiding in between the cars in the middle of the roof, using a black SUV as a shield. I turned around and looked at the fans behind me. There were six of them as well as two other garage employees who obviously didn’t care. Damn! It was just that one jerk at the bottom who’d prevented me from snagging several baseballs. PLUNK!!! A ball smacked the roof of a nearby car and bounced to one of the other guys.

“If a ball breaks a windshield,” he said, “we leave it in the car. That’s only fair.”

I had to figure everything out really fast. How far would the home runs travel? How would they bounce off the cars? How would I be able to chase the balls without being seen by the jerk down below? Should I stay back with everyone in the open area? Should I move forward and risk getting trapped between rows of cars? Some cars were parked very close to each other, leaving VERY little room to run in between. There were also big vans, SUVs, and trucks, all with mirrors and bumpers sticking out. It was an obstacle course like nothing I’d ever encountered, and I made some rookie mistakes as a result. Two minutes later, another home run started flying toward me, a bit short and to the left. I hung back like a nervous idiot, waiting for the ricochet, while another guy squeezed past me and snatched the ball as soon as it landed. I just wanted to get ONE ball on that roof, and luckily the home runs kept coming. Another ball clapped off the pavement, one row of cars to my left, and I couldn’t get there in time. Another ball landed on the ramp itself, and several landed in the alley, but I was too far over toward left-center. Finally, there was one that hit the roof of a car directly in front of me and disappeared from sight before I could get there. I ran to the spot, fully aware that half a dozen guys 5_underneath_carswould soon be closing in from all sides, and I dropped down onto my stomach and looked to my left. Nothing. Crap! I looked to my right, and there it was, trickling away from me underneath an SUV. I stuck out my right arm but couldn’t quite reach it. The ball was six inches beyond the tips of my fingers as it stopped rolling, so I grabbed my glove and reached back under and barely managed to touch it. I reached farther with all my might, my right shoulder wedged underneath the edge of the vehicle, and I moved the ball closer. And closer. And finally, I was able to grab it with my bare hand. It probably only took a couple of seconds, but it felt like a fall semester. (No, this ball didn’t have a World Series logo either.)

For the rest of BP, I tried using the fans’ reactions at the back of the Monster Seats to figure out where the balls were heading. There were a few guys up there who seemed pretty alert. Generally, they’d start running for balls before the balls were in sight for me, so if they ran left, I’d do the same thing. It seemed like a good idea at first, but it ended up making me focus more on a smaller area rather than letting my eyes scan back and forth at the entire sky above the giant wall. Anyway, as it turned out, BP was almost done, and my rooftop adventure ended just as I was starting to get the hang of it.

I got food. I found a bathroom. I checked out Yawkey Way. Hundreds of fans were streaming past me into the stadium, and I was only a little bit jealous. Did THEY have a chance of catching a World Series home run? No, probably not. Did I? Oh yes, and just the thought of that made me giddy. At 8:20pm, I pulled out my walkman, tuned in to the local broadcast just in time to hear the starting lineups, and made my way back to Lansdowne. The street was packed . . .

6_lansdowne_street_pregame

. . . but the garage roof was not. In fact, there was only one other fan up there — the man with the glove who was there during BP. The mean garage guy was gone, and the coast was clear. I walked up the ramp to get into position and was immediately stopped by another employee.

“You can’t stay here,” he said.

“How come that other guy can stay here?” I asked.

“He paid to park.”

“How about if *I* pay to park?”

“Where’s your car?” he asked.

“I forgot it,” I said.

He gave me a strange look, and I explained that yes, I was willing to pay $35 dollars for the right to stand on his garage roof for the next three and a half hours.

I handed him a twenty and three fives, and he started walking off.

“Excuse me,” I said, “don’t I get some sort of ticket?”

“You don’t need a ticket,” he snapped. “I’ll remember you.”

“Yeah, but what if you’re not here? I’d really like a ticket just in case.”

He didn’t want to give me a ticket. It meant that he couldn’t pocket the money because there’d be a record of the transaction. But I insisted. And it’s a good thing I did because he ended up stepping away for a little while and his manager showed up and tried to kick me out.

I told the manager I’d paid to park.

“Where’s your ticket?” he asked.

“Right here,” I said, pulling it out of my wallet.

He walked off and didn’t say another word for the rest of the night.

A few other fans walked up the ramp in the early innings and were quickly turned away. Were THEY willing to pay to compete with me for balls? No way. The employees closed the gate at the bottom of the ramp, and I was overjoyed:

7_view_from_garage_ramp

As for the other guy with the glove . . .

He started out as a bitter rival — at least in my mind — and ended up turning into a friend. He’d flown in from Texas and rented a car and parked at the back corner of the garage. He set up a small TV on the hood so he could watch the game, and he had a laptop with a wireless connection so he could follow college football:

8_world_series_tailgater

He offered me drinks and snacks and a chair. We played catch and talked about the Red Sox and baseball and life. “It doesn’t get any more fun than this,” he said at one point. It was a mini-tailgate party, and several garage employees joined us. As tempting as it was to hang out with him all night, I kept my distance . . .

9_world_series_tailgater

. . . and only wandered over during commercial breaks. I was there on a mission, and I wasn’t going to be distracted. HIS mission was simple. He was only interested in one player, and when that player wasn’t batting, he stayed seated with his back to the Monster and his laptop . . . on his lap. Incredible. Even my competition wasn’t competition.

10_cbs_denver_at_world_seriesHalfway through the game, the CBS news crew from Denver waved to me from the street, so I walked down the ramp and did another interview. What are you doing? Did you catch any balls today? Could you show us the balls? Are you having fun? How do you spell your name again? Did you really pay $35 to stand on the roof of a garage? Are you surprised that there aren’t more people trying to catch home runs?

“I can’t believe there’s no competition out here,” I told the camera. “There’s only one other guy with a glove–”

“–Just cuz I don’t have a glove doesn’t mean I’m not competition!” shouted a college-aged kid who was eavesdropping on the interview with a few buddies. “You better watch out!!”

He wasn’t kidding, and just like the “Fenway Pahhhk” incident on the train, it took a serious effort on my part not to laugh out loud.

After the interview (which lasted all of three minutes), some other guy standing nearby said enthusiastically, “Hey, now you’re famous!”

The game slowed down drastically once Schilling was taken out in the top of the 6th, and I had time to take a few pics (using my 10-second timer). During left-handed hitters’ at-bats, when I knew nothing was coming over the Monster, I got as comfortable as possible:

11_zack_sitting_garage

When light-hitting righties were at bat, I played closer to the foul pole and stood on the ramp:

12_zack_looking_up_at_the_green_monster

At various other times, I wandered all over the roof and took random pics of the cars and stadium:

13_view_from_back_of_garage_roof

The game-time temperature was 48 degrees. By the seventh-inning stretch, it must’ve dropped to the low 40s or high 30s because I could see my breath, and my face was stinging. I jogged in place. I jumped up and down. I kept moving. Staying warm was just part of the challenge.

The game itself, unfortunately, was a low-scoring affair. The Rockies scored in the 1st. The Red Sox scored in the 4th and 5th, and that was it. Eleven total hits. One extra-base hit. No homers. Blah. Once again, my glorious opportunity to catch a World Series home run went down the drain, but I still had lots of fun, and I’m glad I made the trip. Final score: Red Sox 2, Rockies 1.

Were the Rockies going to win two of three in Denver and force a sixth game back in Boston? I knew it wasn’t likely, and I knew my season was likely done.

As Red Sox fans flooded the streets, I shouted, “Anyone wanna sell their ticket stub?!”

Everyone ignored me.

I shouted again and again and got the same result.

I decided to shout one more time, and some guy asked me how much I was willing to pay.

“Ten bucks?” I asked.

He kept walking.

I entered the KENMORE subway station and shouted again to the mob of people waiting to pass through the turnstiles (or whatever those weird things are). ONE guy offered me his ticket for five bucks. I got all excited, but of course but it wasn’t the fancy kind. It was one of those small/colorless box office stubs — and it was crinkled into oblivion.

“Thanks but no thanks,” I said.

He was annoyed.

I headed downstairs.

The first train that pulled in was insanely crowded. I was exhausted and had no business trying to squeeze aboard, but I couldn’t bear the thought of waiting for another train. I walked up to the wall of passengers at the open doors and shouted, “Can you people make room for a New Yorker who hates the Yankees?!”

Everyone laughed and pushed a bit farther inside, and I was in:

14_boston_subway_postgame

“Anyone wanna sell their ticket stub for twenty bucks?!” I asked.

“Right here!” shouted a guy buried in the crowd. “I’ll sell you mine!”

I reached for my wallet and another guy yelled, “I’ll sell mine for fifteen!”

“Fourteen!” shouted the first guy.

“Fourteen!” I repeated. “Anyone want to beat that?”

No one said a word, so I pulled out the money and passed it through the crowd. Five seconds later, someone passed a teeny strip of the ticket to me.

“What the HELL is THIS?!” I shouted.

“It’s the stub!” yelled the guy.

“Noooo!!! That’s just a saying!!! I want the whole ticket!!! I can’t believe you tore it!!!”

“You said you wanted the ticket STUB!”

“I want my money back!” I said, passing the ‘stub’ back to him.

“A deal’s a deal!” he yelled and passed the rest of the ticket toward me.

“This ticket is creased!!” I shouted. “You sold me a torn creased ticket!! What the f*ck?!”

“You wanted a ticket!” he yelled unapologetically and got off at the next stop.

I got off at PARK STREET ten minutes later, still shaking my head and debating what type of jinx to put on Red Sox Nation, when an older man tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a beautiful ticket.

“Here you go,” he said. “We got a couple of ’em last night.”

Not a bad way for my season to end.

15_2007_world_series_tickets

STATS:

• 316 balls in 41 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.

• 496 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 3 consecutive World Series games with at least one ball

• 3,277 total balls

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