8/4/15 at Citizens Bank Park

I drove down from New York City for the day with a few friends. This young man was not one of them . . .

1_zack_and_harrison

. . . although I do consider him a friend and was glad to run into him outside the gates. His name is Harrison Tishler, and he’s a fellow ballhawk.

Here are the guys who made the 100-mile drive with me:

2_john_zack_andrew_jeff

In the photo above, the man on the left is a writer named John Proctor. He was working on a long “philosophical” story about me and wanted to see me in action at a stadium. The dude wearing sunglasses is named Andrew Gonsalves. He’s from Los Angeles, loves the Dodgers, and is one of my closest friends. (He’s the guy who filmed me snagging a baseball in my hotel room at the Rogers Centre in 2011.) The gentleman on the right is named Jeff Rose. He’s actually a Reds fan, but was wearing a Phillies hat for some reason.

The line to get in was very long . . .

3_line_at_the_left_field_gate

. . . and there was no reason for that. The Phillies only open one gate at 5pm, and at that gate, they only use two (out of eight) metal detectors. What’s the point of that? If a few hundred people are waiting to get in, why make it difficult for them?

You can see the line wrapping around the stadium in the following photo:

4_meredith_kim_from_pitch_in_for_baseball

More importantly, the woman waving at the camera is named Meredith Kim. She works for my favorite charity, Pitch In For Baseball, which was having an event/gathering at the stadium. That was my main reason for attending this game. I thought I was going to be doing an unofficial Watch With Zack experience with some local kids, but that didn’t happen — not sure why, but hey, whatever. I was just glad to be there, and it didn’t take long to get my first ball:

6_ball_from_luis_garcia

It was thrown by Phillies pitcher Luis Garcia after I asked him for it in Spanish.

You know who else snagged a ball? This guy:

7_jeff_rose_with_his_first_ball_ever_maikel_franco_homer_deep_in_the_seats

That was the very first ball that my friend Jeff had ever gotten, and it was a good one — a BP homer by Maikel Franco that landed deep in the seats. He offered it to the nearest kid, who gave him a funny look and rejected it. I wasn’t there when this interaction occurred, but according to Jeff, the kid was like, “That’s really special — YOU need to keep it!”

Speaking of kids, look at this one:

8_rowan_with_improvised_dodgers_shirt

That’s quite an interesting Dodgers shirt, huh? His name is Rowan, by the way, and we chatted a bit during batting practice.

My second ball of the day was tossed by Cody Asche in left field, and then I used my glove trick to snag my third ball off the warning track in left-center.

During the Dodgers’ portion of BP, I got two home runs in right field. The first was hit by Andre Ethier, and I scrambled for it in the seats. The second was hit by a lefty that I couldn’t identify, and I caught it on the fly after backing up on the stairs and jumping.

My sixth ball was another homer that required a leaping catch, this time in left field, and I happened to glove it right in front of a very tall man. For a split-second, I thought he was gonna be pissed, but as it turned out, he was excited to have been “robbed” by me of all people. He’s on the right in the following photo:

9_zack_with_jeremy_and_rich

(Uhh, yeah, I was just a bit sweaty.)

His name is Rich. He has season tickets in left-center field and had actually gotten in touch six weeks earlier to offer them to me for a handful of games — for free! How incredibly generous. I was glad to finally meet him in person and get to know him better.

In the photo above, the guy on the left is a fellow ballhawk named Jeremy Evans. He looks like a real grown-up now compared to this photo of us which was taken four years earlier on 7/23/11 at Camden Yards. It seems we only run into each other every two years, so it was great to catch up.

Before the game, I tried to get a ball from the Dodgers’ bullpen, but instead, all I got was a photo of Alex Wood’s wonky pitching motion:

10_alex_wood_warming_up

This was his first game with the Dodgers after having been traded from the Braves.

Here’s where I sat during the game — or, in this case, stood along with everyone else when Jimmy Rollins stepped to the plate:

11_standing_ovation_for_jimmy_rollins_in_his_return_to_philadelphia

After spending 15 years with the Phillies, this was his first at-bat with the Dodgers. And he struck out.

Here I am with Meredith during an inning break:

12_zack_and_meredith_kim

I gave her two of my baseballs for her young daughters.

Here’s David Rhode, the executive director of Pitch In For Baseball:

13_david_rhode_hanging_out_in_left_field

Later in the evening, I caught a hot dog during the “Hot Dog Launch” — the first time I’d ever achieved success in that event. Check it out:

14_hot_dog_launch_wrapped_in_duct_tape

Going strictly by numbers, my accomplishment was as impressive as catching a home run. There was only one longball hit the entire night — a grand slam by Maikel Franco in the 7th inning — and this was the only hot dog that the Phillie Phanatic shot into fair territory. John (the writer) seemed to be impressed, which is good. He should’ve been. It really WAS incredible. I don’t care what else he writes about me as long as the hot dog makes it into his story.

Here’s how the hot dog was packaged:

15_hot_dog_launch_unwrapping

Paper and tin foil. Okay.

The hot dog itself was nasty. (I’ve come to realize that ALL hot dogs are nasty, but this one was particularly bad.) The meat itself was low quality, and the temperature was barely warm, but worst of all was the soggy/mushy bun. Have a look, if you dare:

17_hot_dog_launch_soggy_bun

Out of morbid curiosity (and to avoid the guilt of being wasteful), I took a big bite.

Yeah. Not good.
NOT GOOD AT ALL.

I had already eaten this and gotten two scoops of ice cream, so don’t worry — I wasn’t hungry.

This was my view late in the game:

18_view_from_left_field_08_04_15

Throughout the night, I met various people who were connected to Pitch In For Baseball in various ways. There were more than 100 folks in our group, spread out in the left field seats. Although there wasn’t a defining moment or unifying event, it was still nice to be there with so many other people who shared a common interest: helping kids play baseball and softball.

Here’s a selfie with my friends in the background:

19_zack_selfie_with_andrew_and_jeff_and_john_in_the_background

Andrew had his glove and kept threatening to cut me off if a home run came near us. That was cute — reminded me of a chihuahua barking at a great dane.

The Franco grand slam did land in our vicinity — roughly 10 rows down and half a section to the right. There was a split-second after he connected when I jumped up excitedly, but quickly realized I had no chance.

Here are the four of us after the game:

20_andrew_john_zack_jeff_postgame

Final score: Phillies 6, Dodgers 2. And by the way, Jimmy Rollins went 2-for-5 with a double.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 6 baseball at this game

• 500 balls in 70 games this season = 7.14 balls per game.

 370 lifetime balls in 39 games at Citizens Bank Park = 9.49 balls per game.

• 1,123 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,306 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

pitch_in_for_baseball(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.)

• 22 donors for my fundraiser

• $156.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,626.16 raised this season (including a $150,000 donation from the Yankees in exchange for my giving Alex Rodriguez the ball from his 3,000th career hit)

• $190,479.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

9 comments

  1. Mike

    Your Twitter comment about the lack of fans in Montreal is a bit short-sighted. Montreal was a minor league baseball city until the Expos came into the league. People in the city do care about baseball. Maybe not on the level of hockey but there is a passion there. Actually, the Can/Am League’s Quebec Citadels have had the highest overall attendance this season, so that might also point to the fact that fans in Quebec do like their baseball. Seeing as you’ve been to Olympic Stadium, you probably saw that it’s not the best spot for baseball. The 1994 strike really killed fan momentum and publicly funded stadium votes were shot down. You can’t totally blame the fanbase for not showing up when they feel that the league and players really screwed them over. That type of argument is like saying, well the Brooklyn Dodgers attendance in 1957 dropped from second to third, so they had to move since fans weren’t coming anymore. It didn’t help that their ownership stopped investing in the stadium and wanted the city/taxpayers to fund a new park.

  2. John

    Long time (and I do mean LONG time) reader, first time commenter. Miss the blog entries! Nice snags and belated congrats on 3000. Thanks for taking all of us along with you for the ride, which sure has been a wild and exciting one. Keep on following your passion and living the dream. Looking forward to reading about your next milestone snag…and all of the excitement, craziness and joy that accompanies it

  3. Zack Hample

    JOHN-
    Thanks for commenting! You might miss the entries, but I used to miss sleep (and many other things). I’ve decided not to live for the blog this year, which is why I’m now six weeks behind despite not even blogging about every game. I do plan to catch up, though, on a bunch of entries, so stay tuned.

    CBELTRAN15-
    Thanks! It was empty because (a) the Phillies absolutely suck and (b) kids are back in school. I went to more games/stadiums in 2011, but didn’t catch as many homers. I don’t know. Hard to compare. I love being at games outside of NYC, so any time I get to travel is automatically better.

    MIKE-
    I *could* be there, but I don’t want to.

  4. jvfuentes

    A truly good and delicious hot dog is a very rare thing, but they do exist! We have a butcher’s shop here in Bend, they make 14″ all beef dogs fresh every day. Totally delicious and no questionable ingredients.

  5. Zack Hample

    TRACY COLLINS-
    Latos, in my opinion, is one of the least friendly players I’ve ever seen/encountered. Can’t say I’m sorry to see him struggling.

    JVFUENTES-
    That sounds amazing, and I want one. Maybe even two.

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