6/16/15 at Citi Field

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:

1_lisa_ann_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:

2_lisa_zack_times_square

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 . . .

3_lisa_citi_field_in_the_background

. . . and here’s another selfie of us:

4_zack_lisa_citi_field_in_the_background

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:

5_lisa_and_zack_frowny_faces

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:

6_andrew_korpaz_20th_birthday_thumbs_down_for_no_batting_practice

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:

7_lisa_and_eric_marinbach

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:

8_lisa_and_zack_outside_citi_field

This was our first glimpse of the field:

9_tarp_on_the_field_not_raining

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:

10_lisa_at_the_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:

11_lisa_posing_with_a_fan

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:

12_andrew_zack_lisa_and_guards

Andrew headed off to meet some friends, and Julian kept taking photos. Here’s a nice one of Lisa:

13_lisa_looking_off_to_the_side

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:

14_zack_and_toni_the_supervisor

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:

15_zack_and_lisa_getting_pizza

Here’s a photo of Lisa and Julian in the Caesar’s Club:

16_lisa_and_julian_with_his_camera

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:

17_tarp_on_the_field_panorama

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:

18_zack_larry_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:

19_zack_holding_the_mickey_mantle_ball

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 . . .

20_lisa_checking_out_the_mickey_mantle_ball

. . . and then posed for a photo with Mr. Met:

21_lisa_with_mister_met

After that we headed out to right-center field:

22_pregame_view_from_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:

23_zack_and_pinman_and_lisa

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:

24_zack_prentending_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:

25_lisa_and_zack_before_the_game

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.

PHEW!!

Here it is:

26_ball8138_from_ryan_goins

That’s rather beat up for a gamer, but whatever. I was glad to have it.

Here’s Lisa with the ball:

27_lisa_and_zack_with_the_ball

Here’s a better photo of our view during the game:

28_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:

29_lisa_posing_with_the_mets_social_media_guys

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?

30_lisa_in_the_business_box

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:

31_branden_wellington_and_zack

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:

32_zack_and_lisa_late_in_the_game

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:

33_lisa_posing_with_a_mets_car

Cute.

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:

34_lisa_ann_instagram_post

What a great experience. No wonder she has so many fans and a blossoming career in sports radio.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 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

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.)

• 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

32 comments

  1. Zack Hample

    DEMETRIUS-
    Thanks, I got it and will answer you at some point, hopefully sooner than later. Right now I’m still trying to answer all the media requests, and on top of that, I still have hundreds of unanswered emails. Please be patient. :)

    GAV-
    It’s a terrible book that thankfully went out of print, and it’s hard to find. My suggestion is to pick up a copy of my newest book, The Baseball. The final third of that book is called “How To Snag Major League Baseballs.” That section by itself is longer than my entire first book, and it’s approximately 47 times better.

  2. Big Glove Bob

    So, the pin man got to meet the pin cushion! Tell me a little about the pizza you both had. Did she insist on white sauce?
    I am glad you are taking your time deciding what to do with the ball and I am pleased with the way you have conducted yourself in interviews.
    However, basically begging a known cheater who can’t stand you and who you really can’t stand either for a lousy Twitter “follow”? Why would that mean anything to you? The guy is a piece of garbage.

    Big Glove Bob

  3. Zack Hample

    BIG GLOVE BOB-
    Don’t be an ass. Lisa was absolutely lovely and doesn’t deserve to be mocked with sexist, juvenile humor here or anywhere. But thank you for the kind words regarding the A-Rod ball. Asking him for a follow on Twitter was only half-serious. In a symbolic way, I do think it’d be fun to connect with him there, but in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter.

  4. Big Glove Bob

    Zack, easy now….it is something called humor. Trust me, I could give myself carpal tunnel typing comments, but I decided to stay low key and exercise some serious restraint.

    Long Relief

  5. raytheaustralian

    That`s a real change in career direction for Lisa. Soaking up the atmosphere at a ball game is the way to learn. You`re not a bad teacher either Zack. Good to see the Mets ground staff treat you better than the Yankees employees. Any negative feedback from Mets fans about the A-Rod thing ?

  6. Rockiesfan

    Hey zack I had the same Problomr my first ball hawking game. There was no BP and no players on the field (the only thing I could do was hang out by the bullpen). Do you have any suggestions for what to do when that happens again?

  7. Zack Hample

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    Actually, as I mentioned on Twitter recently, the rudest person I’ve encountered lately (not counting the internet) was a Mets security supervisor. Everyone at Yankee Stadium has been great. It’s hard to say who’s being negative online — mostly Yankee fans, I think. Thanks for the kind words.

    ROCKIES FAN-
    Hanging out near the bullpen is a good idea — and the dugouts too, if you can get near them.

  8. Troy Gustavson

    Your day at the park with the former porn star, really? What your “fans” really want to hear about is the A-Rod ball. Come on, Zack! Get with it!

  9. Zack Hample

    TROY-
    Ha, I know, but listen . . . this is always how I’ve written my blog. Even when something big happens, I blog about my games in chronological order. The A-Rod entry is coming soon. Hang tight.

  10. Liz Merry

    Lisa seems absolutely lovely and kudos to her for wanting to be more than “just a pretty face”, as some of the female sports media are. She is smart to bring the fans of her former career along to a new one that may last the rest of her life. I am disappointed in Big Glove Bob’s juvenile attempt at humor. Any 13 year old could have come up with those “gems”. You went for the Easy Laugh, Bob, as novice comedians often do. Keep trying. You’ll get it.

  11. Big Glove Bob

    Liz, I am not a novice comedian. I supervise Corporate Security Officers and Operations for a large financial services firm. I call them as I see them. Why did you capitalize Easy Laugh? That is something a novice to proper grammar would do. Keep trying though…you’ll get it.
    Long Relief

  12. Andy

    Zack, there’s no way you knew who Steve Wilkos was. I doubt you watch much trash tv. Did someone point it out?

    Oh and how’s your gf dealing with your new friendship with such a star?

  13. Zack Hample

    LIZ MERRY-
    Well said. Her career and life and both extraordinary.

    BIG GLOVE BOB-
    I think she capitalized it for emphasis, but anyway, c’mon, can we all stop the arguing?

    ANDY-
    Correct. Someone else pointed him out.

  14. Big Glove Bob

    I am not a mall cop. I don’t wear any kind of uniform at all actually. But, what if I were? Are you an elitist? And, I would make those jokes to her face and if I came face to face with you I would probably give you a good dressing down as well. However, in deference to Zack, I won’t rip you to shreds on here. Move along now.

    Dinner Portion

  15. Hayley

    @Andy – I’m not concerned. There’s no point in being in a relationship with someone if you don’t trust them. Lisa seems like a sweet woman who knows her stuff. At first I was worried that this whole thing would mar Zack’s squeaky clean image, but eh, sex workers are people who deserve respect just like everyone else, and screw anyone who looks down on them (like, ahem, some of the people in this comments section).

  16. Big Glove Bob

    Hayley, you have no idea how hard I have worked for sex at various times in my life!
    I joke a lot about a lot of things. It doesn’t mean that I look down on anyone making a legal living. There are far too many people living off the working people to look down on.

    Long Relief

  17. Zack Hample

    GAV-
    Thanks! I happened to be watching at the time.

    LIZ MERRY-
    Sigh.

    BIG GLOVE BOB-
    Ditto.

    ANDY-
    Whoops! Sorry I missed your question when I replied the first time, and now the girlfriend herself has weighed in on it.

    HAYLEY-
    :)

  18. jvfuentes

    So, you know how I like to Daddy-brag on your blog on occasion. I bounced this one down an entry because it didn’t seem appropriate for such a momentous occasion as A-Rod’s 3,000th, but I’m feeling the need to tell SOMEONE about Jeronimo’s big game yesterday, and I generally try not to bore my co-workers with that kind of stuff, so, once again, it lands on you :) It was the LL divisional championship game, in which he pitched 2 shut out innings, made some GREAT plays at first, and knocked in the walk off run! Now it’s off to the state championship tourney, July 24, in Hermiston, OR where the temp is projected to freak’n 112 degrees?? Gah. Other news, he roped his first three HRs this season, The first of which was PROPHESIED, and is sitting proudly on a shelf in the living room.

  19. Zack Hample

    COOK & SON BATS-
    When “people” are former adult film stars who are concerned about being harassed/attacked wherever they go, they tend to wear a little extra clothing.

    JVFUENTES-
    Outstanding! And daaaaamn, that’s hot.

  20. jvfuentes

    So, the night before his game, when I was pulling into our driveway, the song “Geronimo”, by Sheppard came on the radio, which is kind of his theme song. Do you know it? Then the next morning, when we were leaving for the game, it came on again, and I thought to myself, “This is a good omen!” and decided to film his ABs that day, which I never do. Sure enough, he went yard and I got a nice little video as a memento. PROPHESY!

  21. jvfuentes

    Second place is bittersweet. But hey it was a great experience for the boy, and his performance was magnificent! Over the course of 4 games he did not K once, and made only 1 out at the plate! He had 2 doubles, quite a few singles, and check this out, July 28th was his Aunt’s birthday, and she requested he hit an HR for her, to which he responded “Sure!”, A request he fulfilled on his first at bat of the semi-final game! How awesome is that?!? He did not give up an ER in the first 3 games, 6 IP. He made a couple of errors at first on some tough throws, but also fired a laser across the diamond for a stellar no-force 1-3-5 double play that no one saw coming, also in the semi-final game. The boy is developing nicely! The kids were playing so well. The final game was a real heartbreaker, especially because there was a certain “What if” factor that came into play. We were all at the park, and I got an uneasy foreboding feeling when it was announced that the game would be delayed 30 min. I left the general area to escort my daughter to the restroom, and when I came back I saw the entire team sucking down high fructose corn syrup popsicles!! One of the fathers decided, without consulting a single parent or coach, to provide them to the players “Because it is so hot!”. Are you kidding me!?! 10 minutes before game time?? I confiscated my son’s with a promise to replace it after the game. I regret now I didn’t grab every one of those d@mn poison pops. The kids went out there and played the sloppiest ball they had played all month, swinging at bad pitches, committing errors on on easy grounders. One of our best fielders committed THREE errors on a soft double play grounder that rolled right to his feet! He failed to glove it, failed to bare hand it, and then when he attempted to throw to first for at least 1 out, he flipped the ball behind him. I am hesitant to take anything away from the victorious team, they played well, but our boys looked like they were 8 years old again, and made the other team look much better than they actually were. Our one chance at a rally was clubbed to death by the coach’s son. With 2 outs in the fourth, runners on second and third he hit a monster pop-up that hung in the air long enough to allow the runner on second to almost reach the plate. We all cheered when the pitcher was unable to make a catch. We all gasped when the pitcher then picked up the ball, and fired to first, FOR THE OUT! The batter was sitting there waiting for the ball to be caught, then had the temerity to tell the ump he had made the worst call he had ever seen. We were “mercied” in the 5th, 11-1, our 1 run coming from the son, who walked in his only at bat, and made it around the bases. A heartbreaking end to an incredible season, and a game that will always leave me thinking “What if?”

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