I know everyone’s waiting for my blog entry about snagging Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit (and for me to make a decision about what to do with the ball). I’m working on it, okay? Hopefully that whole situation will play out soon. In the meantime, I want to share another cool story — going to a recent Mets game with former adult film star Lisa Ann. Here’s a photo of her that I took after meeting up in Times Square:
Here’s a selfie that we grabbed before jumping on the No. 7 train and heading out to Citi Field to see the Mets and Blue Jays:
Why was she joining me for a baseball game? And how on earth did we even connect in the first place?
Four months earlier, she tweeted at me to say that she enjoyed my book Watching Baseball Smarter — a great compliment for sure, but why did she care? I really didn’t know too much about her at that point, so I checked out her Wikipedia page and learned that she hosts a fantasy sports radio show on Sirius/XM called “Lisa Ann Does Fantasy.” Nice name, huh? But in all seriousness, she was clearly interested in sports, and as we struck up a correspondence, it became clear that she *really* knew her stuff.
Fast-forward to our subway ride out to Citi Field. Among the many things we discussed, Lisa told me that several months earlier, she wasn’t sure if she’d be able to host her show through the summer because she didn’t know enough about baseball. That’s why she picked up a copy of my book and got in touch with me. She wanted to learn everything and become an expert and host her show year-round.
When Lisa and I first talked about attending a game together, I didn’t think she’d want to go early for batting practice. I figured she’d prefer show up just in time for the first pitch, but no — she insisted that she wanted the full Zack Hample experience.
After getting off the train, we spent a few minutes taking photos on the subway platform overlooking the stadium. Here’s a shot of Lisa . . .
. . . and here’s another selfie of us:
Lisa was totally cool with all the photos, and in fact she wanted me to take photos. Before I met her, I was concerned that she’d get annoyed if I pulled out my camera every two seconds, but she felt the same way I did — that certain things need to be well-documented, and this game was one of them.
Unfortunately, despite the fact that it was sunny, the forecast called for heavy rain in the late afternoon. Lisa told me to stay positive, but I peeked at the radar, and it was bleak. There was a HUGE blob of green, yellow, and orange sweeping across Pennsylvania and heading in our direction. I was certain that there wasn’t going to be batting practice, and sure enough, roughly 20 minutes before the gates opened, I got a text from a friend on the inside. The tarp was already covering the infield.
This was our reaction:
I was pretty bummed. I mean, of ALL the days for the weather to be dumb, why did it have to be this one?
Fellow ballhawk Andrew Korpacz, celebrating his 20th birthday at the stadium, was also disappointed:
Lisa told me it was no big deal — that we’d still have fun (which I knew was true) and that we’d hit up batting practice together some other time.
As you might expect for someone with more than 850,000 Twitter followers, lots of people recognized her and asked to take photos with her, starting with a longtime buddy of mine named Eric Marinbach. Here they are:
I met Eric in 1992 at Shea Stadium. And at Yankee Stadium. He was there ALL the time, and I’ve probably run into him at 500 games since. He knows lots of players and has one of the world’s largest collections of signed bobbleheads. If you ever see him, go say hi. He’s very friendly and loves to schmooze.
Here I am with Lisa:
This was our first glimpse of the field:
Bleh. What a waste. But you know what? The lack of BP gave us more time to hang out and chat, so in a way, it might have actually been a good thing.
Here’s Lisa near our seats behind the 3rd base dugout:
Moments after I took that photo, a few big raindrops started to fall, so we hurried up the steps into the concourse. That’s when my friend Julian Bryce — a professional photographer — called to say that he was about to enter the stadium. I had hired him to be there during BP and take photos. I was hoping he’d get some nice action shots of me and Lisa snagging baseballs, so now I didn’t know what he was going to photograph. While waiting for him to come find us, Lisa posed for a selfie with a young man who was VERY excited to see her:
Then we met up with Julian, and since there was no action on the field, we headed up to the club level. Here I am standing around with Lisa and Andrew (who had no idea who she was) and a couple of friendly employees that I’ve known for years:
Andrew headed off to meet some friends, and Julian kept taking photos. Here’s a nice one of Lisa:
I don’t go up to the club level too often, so whenever I’m there, it’s like a mini-reunion with all my favorite people. Here I am with a supervisor named Toni, who used to give me a hard time in the Loge Level at Shea Stadium, but turned out to be incredibly cool:
The Mets need more people like her.
There was still plenty of time to kill, so Lisa and I got some food. (Pizza, if you must know.) Here we are at the concession stand:
Here’s a photo of Lisa and Julian in the Caesar’s Club:
It was nice and quiet there. Nobody bothered us, and we just sat and ate and chatted for a while. Every so often, I stepped out of the club area with Julian to peek at the field:
There was still no action, and I was starting to get a bit antsy. That’s because I had snagged at least one baseball at every game I’d attended since 1993 — a streak nearing 1,100 consecutive games — so of course I needed to keep it going here with Lisa.
Half an hour before game time, we headed down to the 100 Level for three reasons:
1) That’s where our seats were.
2) I wanted to try to get a pre-game toss-up.
3) Several days earlier, one of my favorite ushers had asked if he could meet her.
Here I am (having changed into Blue Jays gear) with him and Lisa:
His name is Larry, and quite simply, he’s awesome. I’ve given him a bunch of baseballs over the years, mainly for him to hand to little kids in his section, and now he had something special for me:
That’s a commemorative Mickey Mantle ball (and no, I’m not counting it in my collection). The Yankees used these balls during a game at the old stadium in 1996. In case you’re interested, here’s more info about it.
Lisa took a moment to check it out . . .
. . . and then posed for a photo with Mr. Met:
After that we headed out to right-center field:
I was hoping to get a toss-up from someone in the Blue Jays’ bullpen, but Andrew had already claimed the best spot out there. Rather than staying and competing with him on his birthday, I led Lisa back toward our seats on the 3rd-base side.
When we ran into this guy in the concourse, she requested a photo:
He’s a famous Mets fan known as “Pin Man.”
Down in the seats, Julian suggested that I pose with my glove as if I were about to catch a ball:
Did you notice Lisa in the background of the previous photo? It looks like she’s thinking, “Dude, really?” I know it’s a silly photo, but I’m telling you — there was NO action, so we had to entertain ourselves somehow. Several Blue Jays eventually played catch a bit farther down the left field foul line, but I had no chance, so when the game started, I still hadn’t snagged a ball.
Here’s the final photo that Julian took before he left the stadium:
Our seats were pretty much right in the middle of Section 122 — approximately halfway up and in the center of a long row. Lisa was willing to move over with me and grab a couple of empty seats next to the stairs, but asked that we not have to move again and again. Basically she didn’t want to draw any extra attention to herself, and can you blame her?
The beginning of the game was uneventful. In the top of the first, Matt Harvey retired the Jays in order, and in the bottom of the frame, Lucas Duda hit a two-out single to center field. Travis d’Arnaud swung at the next pitch and grounded into a force out. Second baseman Ryan Goins caught the throw to end the inning, and when he jogged back toward the dugout, I got him to toss me the ball.
Here it is:
That’s rather beat up for a gamer, but whatever. I was glad to have it.
Here’s Lisa with the ball:
Here’s a better photo of our view during the game:
As you can see, it was fairly crowded, but there were still plenty of empty seats, so if we did have to move, I figured it wouldn’t be a problem to shift one row up or down.
Hanging out with Lisa was a real pleasure. She was extremely friendly, and we talked about all kinds of stuff — sports and her career and life in general. When the two of us were interacting, it didn’t feel like I was in the presence of a celebrity. The only time I thought about it was when some 20-something-year-old doofus barged down the stairs and shouted, “ARE YOU LISA ANN?!?!?!?!” for the entire section to hear. It was sooooo cringe-worthy. Throughout the day, various people recognized her, but I didn’t realize the extent of it until she showed me something creepy on her phone. Some guy sitting nearby had spotted her and taken a stealth-photo of us and tweeted about making eye contact with her, which perhaps he had, but still . . . yikes!! We spent a minute scrutinizing the image and trying to figure out the spot from which it was taken. The whole thing made me nervous, so I can only imagine how she must have felt — and how it must feel to have to deal with that kind of attention all the time.
In the 4th inning, with the Mets leading, 3-0, we were greeted by a member of the Mets’ social media team, who invited us up to the “business box” on the press level. Here’s what it looked like up there:
This is totally random, but in the previous photo, do you see the three Mets players, way in the distance, leaning on the dugout railing? See the guy with the shaved head just below them, walking to the right, just below the business box? That’s Steve Wilkos.
Lisa happily posed for photos with all the social media guys, and we stayed there for two or three innings. See the man wearing the orange shirt in the following photo?
That’s Branden Wellington, the Mets’ “in-game host,” who roams all over Citi Field and appears on the jumbotron for various features and promotions. I’d seen him dozens of times, but this was our first official meeting. Here we are:
Eventually Lisa and I headed back down to Section 122 and grabbed a couple of empty seats on the opposite staircase. Here’s a selfie of us:
After taking that photo, she texted it to me so that I could be the one to tweet it out — and then she retweeted it. That was awfully kind of her.
Obviously I was still bummed by the lack of BP and to have only snagged one baseball, but I was delighted to have made a new baseball buddy. Earlier in the night, I had offered to point out various things from my book, but she just wanted to hang out and watch the game.
In the top of the 8th, the Jays scored two runs to trim the Mets’ lead to 3-2, and in the bottom of the inning, we had a minor seating issue, which unfortunately turned into a whole big thing. Quite simply, a couple of folks showed up and politely informed us that we were in their seats, and when we got up to move, we decided to take off instead. No big deal, right? People switch seats all the time — and lots of fans leave early. Well, when you’re well-known and you do ANYthing out in public other than breathe, haters are indeed gonna hate, and whaddaya know? This situation was no different. Lisa told me later that people were accusing her of being too cheap to buy tickets behind the dugout, and they claimed that we got kicked out as a result. I felt terrible about that and offered to appear on her radio show and set the record straight. She told me I didn’t need to do that, so let me state here that she did nothing wrong. One of my best friends had gotten me those tickets directly from the Mets, so our presence in that section was legit. I haven’t gotten an update from Lisa, so I assume everything’s okay. Most importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about what it’s like to *really* be in the public eye, so the next time I take her to a game (maybe Yankee Stadium?), I’ll be much more aware of our surroundings and take everything down a notch or two.
On our way out, Lisa asked me to grab a photo of her in front of this Mets car:
Then we rode the train together all the way back to Times Square and parted ways.
Later that night, Lisa posted a collage on Instagram with some photos and kind words. Check it out:
What a great experience. No wonder she has so many fans and a blossoming career in sports radio.
• 1 baseball at this game
• 332 balls in 43 games this season = 7.72 balls per game.
• 1,176 lifetime balls in 156 games at Citi Field = 7.54 balls per game.
• 1,096 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 760 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 492 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball
• 8,138 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.)
• 17 donors for my fundraiser
• $129.40 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $129.40 raised this season
• $40,084.90 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009