6/16/09 at Kauffman Stadium

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

I had a BIG day ahead of me at Kauffman Stadium . . .

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. . . and it was made even better by the fact that Jona was with me. Here she is, caught slightly off-guard in my Diamondbacks cap:

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I was going to be filmed during batting practice by FSN — the Royals’ TV network — so I made my way to the TV truck and took a few photos of the outside of the ballpark:

3_outside_kauffman

Needs landscaping. But it’s still a glorious facility.

I made it to the truck and met up with a guy named Kevin, who was going to be producing my baseball-snagging TV segment. He and I had emailed and talked a few times over the past few weeks, but we still needed to discuss some last-minute details.

Here’s a look at the inside of the truck . . .

4_tv_truck

. . . and here I am (red arrow pointing to me) with Kevin, looking at a shot of the field and establishing the plan:

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I’d brought copies of both of my books (How to Snag Major League Baseballs and Watching Baseball Smarter) so that Kevin could have a cameraman get a shot of them. I figured the books would be filmed right there in the truck, so I was surprised to see this:

6_tv_truck_my_books

Gravely dirt surrounding the books?

Warning track.

Cool.

Here I am with Kevin outside the truck:

7_zack_kevin_outside_truck

See that tent on the right? I hung out there for about half an hour, drank a much-needed bottled water (that had been buried under ice in a gigantic cooler) and talked to a bunch of people from the TV crew. One guy brought me back inside the truck and gave me a five-minute explanation of how all the equipment works, for example . . . how the network can provide a slow-motion replay RIGHT after the play happens live. It was fascinating. I’ve probably watched tens of thousands of baseball games on TV, and I never knew the details of how they’re produced.

Jona took off the D’backs cap. I put on my Royals shirt. Here we are near the left field gate:

8_jona_zack_outside_kauffman

See that little black thing between my chin and the Royals logo? That’s a microphone. I had a battery pack clipped to my belt in the back, and the wire ran up the inside of my shirt. Kevin had said that he’d have a camera on me at all times during BP, often from afar, and that he’d be able to pick up everything I said. (We joked about that scene in “Naked Gun” where Leslie Nielsen goes to the bathroom and doesn’t realize his mike is on.)

The line to get in was LONG:

9_line_for_greinke_t_shirts

That’s because there was a Zack Greinke T-shirt giveaway (ugh) and there ended up being 10,000 more fans at this game than usual.

The newly renovated outfield area was exquisite. Here’s a look at the field from the concourse . . .

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. . . and here I am, practically all by myself, after running inside:

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(In case it’s not obvious, I’m the one at the back of the section with the black backpack.)

See the fountains on the left? More on that in a bit.

It didn’t take long before I snagged my first ball of the day. Someone on the Royals hit one that rolled to the wall in straight-away left field, and I was able to reel it in with my glove trick. First I had to knock the ball a bit closer, and in the following photo, you can see me just starting to fling the glove out:

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Here I am leaning out as far as possible to snag it:

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See the guy standing just behind me and to the left, pointing a camera down at me? His name is Fred. He was there with his two kids. They’ve been reading this blog for a while, and they’d gotten in touch to let me know they were going to be there. More on them in a bit.

I snagged a second ball off the warning track with my glove trick and then pulled up a third ball from the gap in front of the batter’s eye. Here’s an artsy photo of my successful attempt at Ball No. 3, taken by Jona. It’s kinda hard to see the ball because of the sunlight, so I drew a red arrow pointing to it:

14_zack_going_for_ball4043

The stadium had opened at 4:30pm, and for the first hour of BP, everyone was confined to the outfield — more specifically, the area between the bullpens. That was fine, though, because there was SO much room to run. Check out the fantastically wide walkway at the back of the “Pepsi Party Porch” in right field:

15_zack_RF_walkway

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a single homer that landed there all day. The balls just weren’t carrying. It was frustrating as hell.

One beautiful thing about the outfield setup at The New K is that the walkway extends all the way around the outfield, right behind the batter’s eye, so it’s easy to move back and forth between right field and left field. As a result, I positioned myself differently for lefties and righties and did a whole lot of running in the process:

16_zack_running

Now, about those fountains, here’s the best photo of them (for ballhawking purposes) that you’ll ever see:

17_LF_walkway_and_fountains

Can you imagine how many balls land in the water?!

If only there were some way to fish them out.

Oh wait . . . there is!

Check it out:

18_zack_ball4044

Ha-HAAAAAA!!! Yes, that’s right, I was prepared. The day before I flew to Kansas City, I was with my family at a lake about an hour north of NYC, so I came up with an invention and practiced in the water.

Here’s a photo (taken at the lake) of the contraption:

19_lake_experiment

It’s basically a collapsible colander — you know, like, a pasta/vegetable strainer.

Look how it opens up:

20_lake_experiment

And look how well it worked:

21_lake_experiment

Yeah, I practiced with a tennis ball. So?

My only concern was sneaking the device past security at the stadium. Most places frown upon fans bringing anything with metal inside, but as it turned out, no one noticed or cared. Remember, this is Kansas City. There’s no one named Wilpon or Steinbrenner running the show.

Anyway, back to dry land . . .

I went down to the lower level of the Porch in right field (it’s all standing-room-only; anyone can go there at anytime, even during the game), and it was way too crowded as you can see below:

22_zack_lower_RF_walkway

At that point, the Royals were wrapping up BP, so I began the process of changing into my D’backs gear. I say “process” because I had to unclip the microphone before I took off my Royals shirt. Here I am futzing with it:

23_zack_changing_shirts

Then, of course, once I had the D’backs shirt on, I had to put the mike back in place:

24_zack_diamnondbacks_gear

Ta-da!

Even after the D’backs starting hitting, there was still a depressing lack of longballs, so I focused on using the glove trick. Here I am reeling in my fifth ball of the day:

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Remember the guy named Fred that I mentioned earlier? He took the following photo, which shows me jumping and catching a ball tossed by Chris Young:

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Another ball landed in the water. I ran over and frantically set up my device and went in for the kill . . .

27_zack_failed_water_trick

. . . but the ball sank before I could get it. NOOOO!!!

The balls only seem to float for about 30 to 60 seconds. Keep that in mind in case you ever find yourself making a water attempt of your own.

In the four-part photo above, did you notice that there was a camera pointed at me? A cameraman had finally made his way out and caught up with me. His name was Mickey, and at one point, he had to take me aside (behind the batter’s eye) and make me stop running for a minute so he could hook me up with a second microphone:

28_zack_getting_re_miked

Then he followed me around everywhere for the rest of BP:

29_zack_filmed_during_BP

Jona got a fun photo of me right after I snagged my next ball. It was a homer that flew over the batter’s eye and bounced up onto the bushy embankment behind it. There were a couple of other guys (neither of whom had gloves) who saw the ball bounce up there and thought they had it, but they reacted too slowly, and I came running out of nowhere and raced up the hill and grabbed it. They weren’t mad at all. They seemed to be amused and impressed, and I think you’ll agree when you see their reactions. Check it out:

30_zack_after_snagging_ball4047

A couple of minutes later, I scooped another ball out of the water:

31_another_water_attempt

Here I am just after reeling it in:

32_zack_gets_ball4048

Yeah, I was pretty happy, and by the way, the photo above might look grainy, but that’s just the result of mist from the fountains.

One problem with the left field seating is that there are only four rows, so it gets crowded fast (especially during the first hour when everyone HAS to stay in the outfield) and the walkway behind the seats is narrow, so it gets pretty packed at times. See what I mean?

33_LF_walkway_crowded

More running:

34_zack_running

I think I ran about five miles inside the stadium. I wish I’d counted the number of times I ran back and forth from right field to left. I kept doing it throughout the game, as well as during BP.

I had eight balls at that point, and I was hoping to reach double digits. (That’s always my goal, and actually, at this point in my ballhawking career, I almost feel like something has to go wrong for me NOT to reach double digits. I don’t mean that to be cocky. It’s just that I’m averaging about eight balls a game, includes games without BP, so yeah, as long as a stadium opens at least two hours early and there’s BP, I really should snag at least 10.)

I used the glove trick again in the left field bullpen, and in the following photo, you can see Mickey with white earphones, listening to me and pointing the camera my way:

35_zack_getting_ball4049

Then I used the trick AGAIN along the left field foul line. The four-part photo below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, shows me:

1) Starting to fling my glove out to knock the ball closer.

2) With the glove just past the ball as Jon Rauch and Scott Schoeneweis look on.

3) With the glove back up, briefly, so I can set up the rubber band and Sharpie.

4) About to snag my 10th ball of the day. The arrow on the left is pointing to the kid that I ended up giving the ball to, and the arrow on the right is pointing to the cameraman:

36_zack_glove_trick_ball4050

After BP ended, I had a fan reach in front of me and snatch a ball that a D’backs coach had tossed up (fair enough), and then I changed back into my Royals gear. The battery in my microphone had died, so Mickey had to unhook it and give me a new one:

37_zack_getting_re_miked

Then I gave him a close-up demo of the glove trick:

38_zack_showing_glove_trick

I was done being filmed after that, so I had time to pose for a few photos and sign a couple of baseballs for Fred’s kids:

40_zack_signing_baseballs

(I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: writing on a ball is not easy. There’s no place to rest your hand. If you have an old ball lying around, try signing it. You’ll see what I mean.)

As far as posing for photos, here are five that were taken throughout the day with people who’ve been reading this blog:

41_zack_with_blog_readers

1) Kent (holding up a copy of Watching Baseball Smarter which I signed for him)

2) Fred and his kids (Colin, age 9, and Laurel, age 11)

3) Bob Buck

4) Carter

5) Brenda (she actually brought food into the stadium for me and fed me . . . wow! . . . and she had a copy of my book, too, but it’s hard to see because of the sun)

Just before the game started, several D’backs infielders played catch in front of the dugout, and I got Ryan Roberts to toss me the ball when they were done. You can see the ball on its way to me in the following photo:

39_zack_about_to_catch_ball4051

Once the game started, I happened to notice this in the center field gap:

42_seven_balls_in_CF_gap

OMG!

Seven balls!

I never got any closer to them than that.

During the game, I hung out on the walkway in LF for right-handed batters . . .

43_zack_during_game copy

. . . and I stayed on the upper porch in right field for all the lefties. I’m not in the following photo, which shows the RF walkway, but it’s still cool, so here it is:

44_RF_walkway_during_game

Several ushers in left field (where I had scooped two balls out of the water earlier) had told me that they’d NEVER seen a fan do that before. I find this hard to believe. The New K has been open for more than two months; I expected to run into a few regular ballhawks with water-retrieval devices. I expected some serious competition, if even just from one or two other guys, but nope, I was all alone out there to do my thing. It’s really a shame that there weren’t any homers hit during the game because I would’ve had a great chance to snag them.

This was the view from my actual seat:

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I didn’t sit in it much. In fact, I think I only sat in it to take that photo.

After the game, I changed back into my D’backs gear (for what felt like the 8 millionth time) and raced over to the bullpen.

Chad Qualls spotted my reddish shirt amidst a sea of blue and threw me a ball without my even asking. Then, about 30 seconds later, I pointed out a ball lying off to the side and got coach Jeff Motuzas to toss it up, but of course he tossed it short and it bounced back down. He was already gone by that point (didn’t even linger two seconds to see if I’d catch it), but I was lucky to get hooked up by a security guard who’d seen the whole thing unfold. (Well, he must not’ve seen the ball I got from Qualls.)

Jona got a photo just as I caught that last one:

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Here I am with Jona (photo by Fred) after the game:

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Two more things . . .

1) The Royals won the game, 5-0, behind a complete game, four-hit, 132-pitch effort from Gil Meche. It was impressive, but of course it killed me. Where are the slugfests when I need ’em?

2) The footage that was filmed of me during BP is going to air today, June 17th, during the Royals’ pre-game show on FSN. Also today . . . I’m going to be interviewed live on the pre-game show at around 6:30pm (local time), and then I’m going to be interviewed again *live* during the game itself. It was supposed to happen in the broadcast booth, but just my luck — today the announcers are gonna be doing the game from the Party Porch, so I won’t get to wander around the press box and cause trouble. At first I was told that my interview would be taking place for half an inning during the fourth inning, but I just heard from Kevin that it’s gonna happen in the top of the third. Great. I already know how it’s gonna go down: Zack Greinke (who’s pitching tonight) is gonna mow down the D’backs on seven pitches, and I’ll be gone before I can blink. Maybe, just maybe, since I’m going to (hopefully) be talking about my charity work, karma will be on my side and Greinke will have his worst inning ever, and the D’backs will bat around . . . twice . . . and there’ll be lots of pitching changes and pick-off throws and conferences on the mound, and hey, why not throw in a rain delay while we’re at it? Maybe I’ll get to talk on the air for like an hour. (I’m such an optimist. Sometimes.)

Okay, I gotta go . . .

SNAGGING STATS:

48_the_12_balls_i_kept• 13 balls at this game (twelve pictured here because I gave one away)

• 233 balls in 29 games this season = 8.03 balls per game.

• 598 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 105 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 45 lifetime games outside of New York with at least 10 balls

• 4,053 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 110 donors (click here to make a pledge or just to get more info)

• $24.16 pledged per ball

• $314.08 raised at this game

• $5,629.28 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

Oh wait!

One more thing . . .

Earlier today, I got an email from Fred with some photos, including this one of his kids with the balls I signed:

49_laural_colin_signed_balls

10 comments

  1. Big Glove Bob

    Nice retro entry! Now, if you tried a water retrival device they would warn you to stop and threaten to give you the boot.

    Big Glove Bob (AKA The Dinner Portion)

  2. Zack Hample

    Thanks! It’s amazing how lax security was at Kauffman Stadium compared to how it is now. That place has pretty much turned into the NoFunZone.

  3. Cameron

    You should post some more of these throwback posts. Being somewhat of a new reader of your blog, I like reading some of your older writing. Good luck ballhawking this season!

    -Cameron

  4. Zack Hample

    Thanks! I’ve written a bunch of entries about games I attended prior to 2005, which is when I began this blog — not sure how many more of those I have, though.

  5. Zack Hample

    That’s awful. Have you salvaged any of them — or have you even bothered trying? There are so many more missing entries that I haven’t even bothered with. I still discover them when I randomly decide to read my old stuff or link to it in new entries. I’ve only bothered to rescue my missing game entries plus a few other big things. All the rest will just stay missing. Anyway, it’s great to hear from you! I’m just keeping things low-key in NYC this winter. How are you?

  6. jvfuentes

    These last two entries are the first two retros that I had read when they were first posted. :D I also probably mentioned then that the collapsible colander makes a great UFO play thing for little kids in the single digits. Speaking from experience!

  7. NBA

    Like me, I bet you would have loved to have been at the 2012 Home Run Derby at Kauffman Stadium. There’s just something appealing about those balls flying into the fountains. Did you get time to visit the Royal Hall of Fame in the outfield?

  8. Zack Hample

    Yeah, I’ve been there several times while waiting for the “Early Bird Tour” to start. That’s where they have all the fans gather. I’m not really a museum person, but it *was* pretty cool.

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