Basement storage locker

Ever since I started ballhawking, I’ve been storing baseballs in my old childhood bedroom at my parents’ place. My folks were never happy about the amount of space that my collection took up, but I convinced them to let me keep it there. What didn’t fit (or rather, what wasn’t allowed to remain) in the bedroom got sent downstairs to their DISASTER of a basement storage locker. Here’s what it looked like several years ago:

1_barrels_of_baseballs_in_the_basement

Yuck.

Here’s another old photo of the locker:

2_lots_of_barrels_in_the_storage_locker

The big green bins (pictured above in the back left corner) hold 600 balls apiece. The smaller barrels each hold 400.

Sometimes, when the media comes over to interview me about my collection, I’ll move a few barrels upstairs. That’s why the following photo makes it look like there’s space . . .

3_open_barrels_in_the_basement

. . . but it probably only stayed that way for a day or two. For the last few years, the locker has been FILLED with barrels holding more than 5,000 balls, and yes, I know this is officially a First World Problem, but I’ve been stressed lately about storage space.

This past weekend, I took a little road trip to the Bronx:

4_driving_right_past_yankee_stadium

No, I didn’t visit Yankee Stadium, but it just so happened that my route took me right past it. My destination was a lumber yard, and I brought a special friend with me:

5_wood_sticking_out_of_the_car

His name is David. That’s him in the photo above, and as you can see, the wood took up all the space in our station wagon — and then some.

Here’s what it looked like inside the car:

6_wood_on_the_dashboard

I drove *very* carefully back to the Upper West Side. Then I dropped off David with the wood at my mom’s building, returned the car to the garage, and grabbed us some lunch. When I finally made it back to the building, I was surprised to see that David had moved all the barrels out of the locker:

7_barrels_moved_from_storage_locker_by_david

The locker was empty, except for a few planks of wood that he’d placed in there:

8_empty_storage_locker

I should mention that David is super-handy. He used to work as an elevator mechanic. Now he repairs trains for the MTA. There’s truly nothing that he can’t build or fix. Several weeks earlier, I had told him that I wanted an L-shaped storage unit built into the locker. More specifically, I wanted it to have a little platform so that if there’s ever a flood in the basement, the barrels will be elevated several inches off the floor. I also wanted it to have a sturdy countertop that could support a second layer of barrels.

While David took some measurements, I dumped my final batch of balls from the 2014 season into a brand new barrel:

9_filling_a_new_barrel_with_baseballs_from_2015

Storing baseballs in barrels doesn’t allow me to be nearly as organized as I’d like. The best I can do is keep the commemorative balls on top:

10_commemorative_balls_on_top

FYI, I keep the best one of each commemorative ball in a separate place, neatly displayed. The commemorative balls in the barrels are all extras.

David, meanwhile, was cutting wood . . .

11_david_cutting_wood

. . . and drilling it together with screws . . .

12_david_drilling_in_screws

. . . and starting to put things in place:

13_david_in_the_locker_with_preliminary_wood_formations

The project was taking much longer than we’d expected, and for a while, I wondered if it was even going to work. But it HAD to work. I needed this more than you can imagine.

Here’s another photo of David going at it:

14_counter_finally_taking_shape

Eventually my mom showed up to say hello and check in on our progress.

15_naomi_dropping_by_to_say_hello

After several hours, the countertop was finally in place:

16_counter_top_in_place

At some point late in the evening, David told me to start getting the barrels ready to be moved into the locker. I interpreted that to mean: “Take the lids off all the barrels to see which balls are in them and if there’s any extra space to squeeze in a few more.” Some barrels were filled with standard Selig balls, while others brimmed with commemoratives:

17_barrel_of_commemorative_balls

I know I’ve snagged 67 different commemorative balls (here are 64 of them in one photo), but I don’t know how many total balls I’ve gotten with commemorative logos.

Anyway, here’s David putting the finishing touches on the storage unit . . .

18_david_working_on_the_back_wall

. . . and here he is sitting on it to prove its strength:

19_david_prooving_that_the_structure_is_strong

That didn’t actually prove anything. He only weighs about 150 pounds — slightly more than each barrel.

In the photo above, did you notice the barrels tucked underneath the counter? Here are the rest put in place (including a little stack of empty ones):

20_basement_storage_locker_finished

That’s right — ALL the barrels that used to completely fill up the locker are pictured above. And look how much space is remaining! There are still three barrels upstairs in my old bedroom (plus another 720 balls in the drawers), but now I could fit all of them in the basement, if I had to.

In case you can’t tell, the long part of the L-shaped counter can hold five barrels, and the short part against the back wall can hold two more . . . on each level. That’s 14 total barrels’ worth of space, plus I now have room on the floor. For the first time in years, there’s legitimate space for my collection to grow, and let me tell you, it’s a great feeling. Here I am with David at the end of our 12-hour day:

21_zack_and_david_triumphant

Finally, for dramatic purposes, here are the “before” and “after” photos side by side. Behold the difference!

22_basement_locker_before_and_after

In the “before” photo, do you see all those boxes on the left? Those are mostly filled with baseball cards, which are now tucked away at the back of several closets upstairs.

I realize this isn’t the most exciting blog entry, and in fact it might be downright boring for some people. For me, though, maximizing the space in the basement will make a huge difference in my life, and I wanted to document the change.

18 comments

  1. Davel

    This is actually very inspiring. My “collections” are not nearly as extensive as yours, but living in an NYC apt really puts a squeeze on your storage. “Trying” to organize is an ongoing battle. I’m glad you’ve been able to maximize your space. It feels like a relief.

  2. cbeltran15

    A system like this would be excellent for me, but I like knowing which ball is which, so I order them neatly in shoe boxes in my closet. I might ultimately invest in Ziploc bags, number the bags, and put each ball in its respective bag and dump them all in a bucket. My collection is only 278 deep, though, and your collection is nearly 8,000 (probably closer to 7,000 with all of the baseballs you give away), so it’s great that you have room to expand your collection.

  3. Zack Hample

    DAVE L-
    New York City is probably the worst place to store anything. I’ve always hoped I’d have an apartment someday that would be big enough to have an entire room devoted to my baseball stuff, but I don’t think I’ll ever be THAT rich.

    CBELTRAN15-
    I would love to know which ball is which, but that seems unrealistic with the quantity I have. I understand that ziploc bags are the way to go for some people, but for me, I wouldn’t want to have a layer of plastic between my skin and the ball whenever I touch one, ya know? I like being able to handle them and get the sensory pleasure of feeling the various textures.

  4. Zack Hample

    The weather is MISERABLE in New York City — several inches of snow last night and freezing rain today. Wish I could see you guys on this trip, but California is kinda far.

  5. jvfuentes

    Do you use any kind of agent (such as silica) in the barrels to prevent mold/moisture damage?

  6. Zack Hample

    Ahh, thanks. I did a search for that and watched the video and was bummed I only made it in there for a split second. If only his family hadn’t been there, I would’ve gotten more face time. (I’m mostly kidding about that.)

  7. C.B.

    Being an aerospace and mechanical engineer (as well as a software and applications designer/programmer) I appreciate any feet of engineering. Tell your friend good job (:

    -Chris (Long Island, NY)

  8. Zack Hample

    Thanks!! I just copied and pasted your comment to my friend (because he doesn’t read my blog too often). I’m sure he’ll appreciate it.

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