8/14/15 at Kauffman Stadium

My day started with a live radio interview on 610 AM Sports Radio in Kansas City. Here I am in the studio waiting to get on the air:

1_zack_in_the_radio_studio

I was on a show called “The Day Shift” with Lake and Bink, aka Jay Binkley and Henry Lake. Here I am with them after my segment:

2_zack_after_interview_with_jay_binkley_and_henry_lake

Great guys. They had interviewed me a few seasons ago, and I kept in touch with Jay, so when I told him I was going to be in town, he asked me to drop by the station. Pretty simple. We mostly talked about the highlights from my summer — snagging A-Rod’s 3,000th hit and hanging out with Lisa Ann. What else is there?

On the way out, I couldn’t resist photographing this tornado sign:
3_sign_for_tornado_warning

Back home in New York City, we don’t have stuff like that.

For lunch, I met up with Brandon Sloter at a BBQ place that was highly recommended by a local friend. It’s called Q39, and as you can see below, I was excited to try it out:

4_zack_outside_bbq_restaurant_called_q39

Here’s what I got:

5_ribs_pulled_pork_and_brisket

You’re looking/drooling at ribs, chicken, brisket, and baked beans. SO GOOD. Before the meal, we had planned to get ice cream for dessert at a different place, but we ended up being so stuffed that we had to skip it. Thankfully we burned off lots of calories during the long, inconvenient walk toward the stadium:

6_walking_to_kauffman_stadium

In the photos above and below, that’s Brandon in the blue shirt and my local friend in the PEREZ jersey. This friend wishes to remain anonymous, so don’t guess his name or identify him, if you know. But anyway, look at this scenic-but-ridiculous route we had to take:

7_walking_around_kauffman_stadium

Some places are made for pedestrians; the area surrounding Kauffman Stadium is not one of them.

Question: what happens when a team makes it to the World Series and is in first place the following season and it’s the summer and the weather is perfect and it’s a Friday night with fireworks and Mike Trout is town?

Answer: a huuuuuge crowd.

Look how many people were lined up outside the stadium THREE HOURS before game time:
8_long_line_for_the_early_bird_bp_tour

That wasn’t a line for regular entry. All of those people had purchased additional tickets (on top of their game tickets) for the “Early Bird BP Tour.” I’ve blogged about it in the past. Basically it gets you in the stadium two and a half hours before the first pitch, but for the first 60 or 90 minutes (depending on the day of the week), you’re confined to the seats behind one of the dugouts.

When I had done this in previous seasons, there were very few fans, most of whom chose to hang out behind the Royals’ dugout. Now it was an absolute zoo:

9_zack_miserable

Oh! And perhaps I should mention that just before we entered the stadium, an employee used a megaphone to announce that the Angels would not be taking batting practice. So yeah, that’s why I was so scowly in the previous photo. Forgive me, okay? All I wanted to do was grab a spot behind the Angels’ dugout and have a brief conversation with Mike Trout. Is that so unreasonable? He always waves to me from afar because I can never get close to him in New York. This was supposed to be my chance to finally reconnect with him. Do you think I wanted to attend a sold out game on Fireworks Night? No! But I was willing to suffer through it because of Trout.

Because of the lack of BP, the employee with the megaphone offered everyone a refund. No one stepped out of line to take her up on it, and life went on.

Here’s what it looked like when the “Angels dugout” group headed down into the seats from the Royals Hall of Fame:

10_heading_down_into_the_seats

In the photo above, the fan with the blue drawstring backpack is named J.T. — more on him in a bit, but for now, look how dead things were behind the dugout:

11_no_action_early_on

Did you notice the Royals warming up down the right field line?

Snore.

After a while, two Angels began playing catch in shallow left field:

12_angels_playing_catch

I did not get that ball.

I didn’t get anything until the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30pm. The Royals were already hitting at that point, and I had my eye on a ball that one of their lefties had sliced into the seats:

13_ball8349_in_the_empty_seats

J.T. had his eye on it too for quite some time, but he didn’t seem to be watching when an usher wandered over and picked up the ball and placed it in a cup holder. I ended up racing over and grabbing it — and then giving it to him. He had gotten in touch with me on Twitter several days earlier and had been looking forward to meeting, so he was pretty psyched to get a ball that I had snagged.

Moments after I grabbed that ball from the cup holder, a righty on the Royals crushed a home run onto the walkway near the left field bullpen. There weren’t any other fans out there yet, so I ran over and got that ball too.

Brandon filmed me throughout the day. The goal was to get lots of footage that he could edit into a short video for YouTube. Here’s a screen shot from the video that shows me catching a home run — my third ball of the day:

14_zack_catching_ball8351

I caught another one several minutes later and ran all over the place during BP. Here I am heading behind the batter’s eye toward right field:

15_zack_running_to_right_field

Here I am heading back to left field:

16_zack_running_to_left_field

Here’s what it looked like on the Pepsi Porch back in right field:

17_pepsi_porch

It wasn’t exhausting to run around nonstop for 20 minutes. On the contrary, it was refreshing and extremely fun — a total change of pace from all the games where there’s no good standing room in the outfield and security is crazy-strict.

After BP, I headed here . . .

18_angels_bullpen_from_above

. . . to say hello to Angels bullpen catcher Tom Gregorio, who ended up tossing me a ball without my asking. That was my fifth of the day.

Then I caught up with my buddy Tang, who’s a talented/regular ballhawk at Kauffman Stadium:

19_zack_and_tang

Before the game, I headed to the seats along the left field foul line:

20_angels_warming_up_before_the_game

Once again I was hoping to say hey to Mike Trout, and this time it happened . . . quickly. Take a look at the four-part photo below:

21_mike_trout_spotting_zack_and_jogging_over_to_shake_hands

In the first photo, he was starting to jog into foul territory.
In the second photo, he spotted me.
In the third photo, he veered toward me and I bent down to shake his hand.
In the fourth photo, I was happy.

I think it’s pretty cool that he came over to me first and then began signing for everyone else. Here’s a photo of him doing his thing:

22_mike_trout_signing_autographs

Look how close I was:

23_mike_trout_signing_autographs

I love him. He’s the best. That’s all there is to it.

Here’s a Mike Trout autograph that someone else got — not exactly the best handwriting:

24_fan_with_a_mike_trout_autograph

This was my view from right field during the game:

25_view_from_right_field_08_14_15

Look how much space I had on my right:

26_walkway_on_my_right

It probably would’ve taken a 430-foot home run to reach me, but whatever. I was just glad NOT to be trapped in the usual sea of seats and people.

Here’s a look at the left field walkway (and Brandon’s camera/microphone) a little while later:

27b_brandon_and_walkway_on_my_right

Here’s a photo that Brandon took from the upper deck:

28_photo_from_the_upper_deck_taken_by_brandon

Here I am in the middle innings with J.T. and two of his friends:

29_zack_with_dakota_jt_finn

In the photo above, the kid on the left in the light blue shirt is named Dakota. J.T. is standing next to him in the white Jersey (and by the way, you can follow him here on Twitter.) The young man in the dark blue shirt is named Finn. It was fun hanging out with them.

Late in the game, something happened that I’d been warned about. The standing room area in right field had gotten so crowded that the walkway to get over there was blocked by a guard in left-center. Look at this nonsense:

30_evil_usher_blocking_the_walkway

What a cruel man, that monster in the yellow shirt — enjoying his job a bit too much and denying my freedom as an American citizen!

But really, take a closer look at his face:

31_evil_usher_blocking_the_walkway

That’s the definition of smug.

Here’s Trouty on the jumbotron in the 7th inning:

32_scoreboard_in_the_7th_inning_with_with_mike_trout_at_bat

Did you notice how crowded it was in the walkway? That’s what happens when you don’t let anyone walk over to right field. (In case you can’t tell, I HATE BEING CONFINED.)

Here’s Trout schmoozing with his much less talented teammates during an inning break:

33_angels_outfielders_talking

It’s very nice of him to treat them as if they’re important.

Brandon took the previous photo, as well as the next one:

34_zack_on_staircase_in_deep_left_field

A little while later, the Royals wrapped up a 4-1 victory. Brandon and I were already outside the stadium by the time the fireworks started . . .

35_postgame_fireworks_08_14_15

. . . and we’d made it across the highway before the stadium had cleared out:

36_kauffman_stadium_from_afar_at_night_with_a_truck_streaking_past

As I mentioned in the video, which you can see below, we were gonna have to drive 560 miles overnight to Milwaukee — the last stop on our little five-day/five-stadium road trip. Good times in the midwest!

BALLHAWKING STATS:

37_the_three_balls_i_kept_08_14_15• 5 baseballs at this game (three pictured here because I gave two away)

• 547 balls in 77 games this season = 7.10 balls per game.

 121 balls in 12 games at Kauffman Stadium = 10.08 balls per game.

• 1,130 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,353 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.)

• 25 donors for my fundraiser

• $187.54 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $150,750.16 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)

• $190,603.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

5 comments

  1. raytheaustralian

    Very cool that Mike Trout takes the time to inter-act with the fans like that. I have a feeling that we`re going to see him around MLB for a few years to come yet. I love the stadium photo from the upper deck. Its sad that the season is coming to a finish but its been a great year of competition with a few surprises at the end. Big year for you too,

  2. Zack Hample

    Yeah, something tells me he might have a decent career ahead of him. I’m not sad at all about the season ending. People always think it’s crazy when I say that, but I went to 110 games this year (so far) and basically had no life for a solid month after the whole A-Rod thing. I truly need a break, but I *am* most definitely looking forward to the rest of the World Series.

  3. Big Glove Bob

    Z-Man, I got a kick out of this entry. I am surprised Benny Bang Bang wished to remain anonymous though :) I just got back from KC. I was there for the first two games of the World Series.

    KC staff upgraded my seat substantially for the 14 inning tilt that was game one. I sat next to a Mets fan who was actually a good guy. I just hope that the Mets fans treat Royals fans half as good as we treated them at the K. I doubt it though.

    Anything can happen in the series. I have heard great things about that Q39 although I am more a fish guy than a BBQ guy. I have heard that the brisket is awesome.

    If the series gets back to KC, I may go back. It is my home away from home and I miss it the 6 month off season when I am not there.

    Big Glove Bob AKA “Long Relief”

  4. TC

    110 is a lot of games for you,i went to 138..TC 81 sd,3 la.and 23 Trout angel games, 31 spring. good luck tonite game3 at citi u can do it

  5. Zack Hample

    Ha ha ha to Benny. Between me and you, we attended the entire World Series. From what I saw and heard, Mets fans treated Royals fans like crap. One of my friends from KC has a friend who said, “Get a few hits, score a few runs, and Mets fans act like you just killed their dog in front of them.”

    TC-
    Wowzers. That’s a ton. My total ended up at 113 with three World Series games at Citi. Time for some off-season relaxation at last!

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