8/15/15 at Miller Park

This was the fifth and final stadium of my mini-road trip. My friend Brandon — a professional videographer — did the driving, and as you can see in the photo below, we encountered a major storm on the way to Milwaukee:

1_driving_toward_a_storm_on_the_way_to_milwaukee

Here’s another look at the clouds:

2_storm_in_the_distance_photographed_by_brandon

Brandon had recently done some filming for several storm-chasing groups in the midwest, so he did something that never would’ve occurred to me. He took the next exit, found a quiet street (beside a cornfield, of course), and pulled over. Look closely at the following photo and you’ll see him in the distance:

3_brandon_walking_toward_a_corn_field

He’s kind of crazy. I love it.

Here’s a photo of me with the storm clouds looming:

4_zack_corn_field_and_stormy_sky

Here’s another shot taken by Brandon:

5_corn_field_and_stormy_sky_photographed_by_brandon_sloter

Wow. (Right?) He may have played with the contrast a bit on that one, but that really IS what it looked like.

I was getting nervous about getting drenched (if not killed by lightning or a tornado), but he was perfectly calm and enjoyed taking photos right up ’til the last second. Then he was like, “Let’s get back to the car,” and just as we walked across the street, we felt the first few drops.

During the rest of our drive, the heavy rain normally would’ve bothered me, but Miller Park, of course, has a retractable roof, so all I could think was, “Ha ha ha . . . BRING IT.” As it turned out, though, it was sunny when we reached our destination:

6_approaching_miller_park

Why was there already a long line outside the Friday’s restaurant?!

7_line_outside_fridays

Oh, right, because I’m an idiot and didn’t realize that the game started at 6:10pm. Good job, me. And then, to make matters worse, the restaurant opened 20 minutes late — time I should’ve been able to spend out on the left-field terrace snagging baseballs. Here’s what the view looked like after we finally made it inside:

8_view_of_bp_from_fridays_08_15_15

Here’s the terrace itself:

9_tables_and_terrace_at_fridays

As you can see in the photo above, the overhang of the second deck makes it hard for home runs to land on the terrace. They have to be hit perfectly, but it does happen. And guess what? I got my first ball that way, with an unexpected assist from our waitress after the ball bounced up into the restaurant! How’s THAT for a weird way to get on the board? And yes, that counts. I’ve always counted balls that are given to me by stadium employees. Here’s a screen shot from Brandon’s video that shows me with the ball and the waitress, whose name is Brianna:

10_zack_with_waitress_who_provided_ball8354

By the way, you’ll see the video at the end of this entry. Keep reading for now . . .

On game days at Miller Park, the tables on the terrace at Friday’s have a one-hour limit and a $30 minimum. In other words, there was a lot of food but not much time to eat it, so as you can see below, I had to stuff my face quickly between pitches:

11_zack_eating_and_paying_attention

Here’s what we got:

12_lunch_at_fridays_08_15_15

I ordered the chicken caesar salad, and Brandon had a bacon cheeseburger with fries, so basically I’m going to live longer, but he’ll enjoy his life a whole lot more.

This is what we shared for dessert:

13_dessert_at_fridays_08_15_15

Oh yeah. To hell with longevity!

A little while later, Brandon got a shot of me being dissed by Phillies pitcher Elvis Araujo:

14_zack_getting_dissed_by_elvis_araujo

I was stunned not to get a ball from him because . . .

1) I was the only fan wearing Phillies gear.
2) I was the only fan who knew his name.
3) I asked him for a ball in Spanish
4) There were SO MANY balls sitting near him on the field.

But no. No love from Elvis. And there weren’t any glove trick opportunities either. Remember this video of me using the trick there in 2013? I was hoping for more of that action this time around, but there just weren’t any balls that landed in the gap down below.

When the entire stadium opened, I still only had one ball. Very frustrating. I always want to put on a good show when Brandon is filming.

I headed out to right field . . .

15_view_from_right_field_08_15_15

. . . but didn’t like my chances there. Look how crowded it was:

16_view_to_my_right_08_15_15

I headed to the second deck with Brandon, and just as I was telling him to stop filming — that the entire day was a disaster and it just wasn’t worth it — I got Domonic Brown to chuck me a ball. Soon after that, I caught a home run (which I gave to the nearest kid). I’m not sure who hit it, but I can tell you that I made a decent play, drifting down several steps to the front row and reaching out for the snag. (You’ll see footage of this in the video.)

I went to the second deck in left field for the last two groups of BP:

17_zack_left_field_2nd_deck_08_15_15

As you may have noticed, I had put on my red Phillies shirt to complete my outfit, but it didn’t help. No action whatsoever. I nearly snagged a homer that landed one section to my right, but eh. I just wasn’t feeling it, and once again, I wondered if it was worth completing the video. I was thinking of scrapping it and returning to Milwaukee next year to try again.

After BP, I peeked into the Brewers’ bullpen and got VERY excited:

18_balls_in_bullpen_after_bp_08_15_15

See all those baseballs sitting around? I wasn’t sure which ones I could reach with my glove trick (without getting ejected), but figured I’d have a good shot at the one in the back left corner. See which one I mean? It’s just beyond home plate near the green padded wall.

Here’s another look at it from above:

19_ball8357_below_me

As you can see, it was blocked by a mesh awning-like thing, but I knew I could still get it.

Having changed back into my blue shirt and black cap (so as not to draw any extra attention), I carefully leaned out over the railing and worked my magic. Here’s a screen shot from Brandon’s video, which he filmed from the second deck:

20_zack_glove_trick_for_ball8357

Moments later, I raised my glove with the ball tucked firmly inside:

21_zack_glove_trick_for_ball8357

HA!!

That was my fourth ball of the day, and it felt goooood. And I wasn’t done. Did you notice the camera man watching me in the previous photo? I won’t claim that he gave me permission to enter his special off-limits area. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble, so let’s just say that when I asked, he simply shrugged and pretended not to notice (though he did have a faint smile on his face). Here’s a closer look at him:

22_friendly_cameraman

Here’s what the bullpen looked like from there — note Brandon circled in red up above:

23_brandon_filming_me_from_above

I went back to work, snagging the next ball easily . . .

24_zack_glove_trick_for_balls8358_and_8359

. . . and handing it to the camera man — a small thank you. Then I struggled for a bit with the ball in the corner because it was kissing the padded wall, and I had to tap it just right in order to move it out. But eventually I got that one too, increasing my total for the day to six.

For the first time ever, the little party deck area in right-center field was not being guarded by security, so I wandered in and hung out for a while before the game. Here’s what it looked like as Jerome Williams warmed up:

25_jerome_williams_warming_up

This was the view directly behind me:

26_walkway_behind_me_08_15_15

That’s a great place to run back and forth for home runs. Remember, catching batted balls is all about having lateral mobility, so anytime there’s an aisle in the outfield, that’s pretty much where you want to be.

I resisted the urge to stay there, instead opting for my favorite foul ball spot in the major leagues: the wide/perfect aisle at the back of the second deck. First check out my view for right-handed batters:

27_foul_ball_spot_for_righties_during_game

Not bad, right?

Now look at all this space I had:

28_brandon_photographing_me_from_the_walkway

Amazing. I love it there so much. If I attended all 81 home games at Miller Park in a single season, I believe I would snag 100 foul balls. That might sound crazy, but I’m serious. In my six previous games here, I had snagged five foul balls (and would’ve had more if not for some stupid luck).

I was hoping that Brandon would be able to film me catching a foul ball, but I told him not to stress it. The pitching matchup was awful for my purpose (two soft tossers), so the odds seemed slim.

Brandon ended up wandering off in the middle innings and taking lots of photos, including this gem from the upper deck:

29_miller_park_from_the_upper_deck_photographed_by_brandon_sloter

As for me, I got into some (playful) trash-talking with an old guy who told me that the next foul ball was his. He even (playfully) threatened me with his cane:

30_old_guy_who_playfully_threatened_to_fight_me_for_a_foul_ball

The next foul ball turned out to be the ONLY foul ball that reached the aisle, and of course I caught it:

31_ball8360_cesar_hernandez_foul_ball_caught_on_the_fly

And of course Brandon was nowhere in sight. Cesar Hernandez hit that ball off Jimmy Nelson with two outs in the top of the 7th. I drifted about 15 feet to my left and caught it on the fly in “light traffic,” which is to say that there were several other folks nearby, but not much competition.

Later on, the old guy returned with a wacky hat and posed for a selfie with me and the ball:

32_zack_with_the_old_guy_after_catching_a_foul_ball

Here I am standing in the aisle late in the game:

33_zack_standing_in_the_walkway

That’s pretty much how my night ended. Seven total balls . . . one from a waitress, one toss-up, one BP homer, three with the glove trick, and a foul ball during the game. Given how poorly things had gotten started, I was quite pleased with how it all turned out.

Brandon and I did not stay for the post-game Goo Goo Dolls concert. We headed straight to the car . . .

34_outside_miller_park_after_the_game_and_before_the_goo_goo_dolls_concert

. . . and made a stop at a place called Kopp’s, which has THE best frozen custard in the known universe. I can’t even describe what I got. Just look at it:

35_best_custard_of_all_time_at_kopps

Nice way to end the trip.

Here are the five balls that I kept:

36_the_five_balls_i_kept_08_15_15

Did you notice that two of them have the old commissioner’s signature? Doesn’t matter to me — just an interesting little detail. And now, as promised, here’s the video:

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 7 baseballs at this game (five pictured above because I gave two away)

• 554 balls in 78 games this season = 7.10 balls per game.

 74 balls in 7 games at Miller Park = 10.57 balls per game.

• 1,131 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,360 total balls

13 comments

  1. Allison L

    They opened up the party deck area you were in to first come, first to enjoy. Don’t know for how long they’ve done that but it’s definitely a nice perk to the park!

    Now I’ll be dreaming of Kopp’s I haven’t been in a very long time. Frozen custard is the best.

  2. Larry

    Did they just let you stand in the walkway like that? They never let me do that…. Also, where did you take that storm picture?

  3. Zack Hample

    ALLISON L-
    Very nice perk indeed. I think I’ll be dreaming of the custard too, after looking at the photo multiple times during the blogging process.

    LARRY-
    On the 3rd base side of the plate, you can get away with standing around, but on the 1st base side, the usher is kinda grouchy and will only let you stand there if you have a ticket in his section specifically in the last row.

  4. Luke Markey

    Hey Zack, I’ve read a lot of your blog entries and have been pretty into all the commerative baseballs. I was wondering how to know the teams that will be using them this year.

  5. Liz Merry

    I am always a sucker for the food pics, and this entry didn’t disappoint! The Philth always disappoint, even when they are the visitors. Whatevs…

  6. Dinner Portion

    Miller Park is a dump. Sad, because that is the closest stadium that isn’t named Target Field.

    BGB

  7. Zack Hample

    LIZ MERRY-
    Yeah, they *are* a loudy road team.

    DINNER PORTION-
    I don’t think it’s dumpy. I really enjoy going there, but I can see how it’d be annoying day after day after day.

    SD BEACH CRAP-
    Shawn wasn’t at the game, unfortunately. I was hoping to see him and a few of the other regulars. Meanwhile, where IS Leigh?

  8. Ryan n

    So glad you’re back zack, I have been withdrawing without any ball hawking, or even your epic hawking stories. Read a lot of your past posts, specifically your ones about Oakland and San Francisco since i am a bay native, and you mentioned Oakland was one of the best for a foul ball. I was wondering, do you had a top foul and homer snagging stadium? and how would you rate Oakland?

  9. dutchbaseballtraveler

    Hi Zack,
    How are you doing?
    I am Milan van der Breggen, 14 years old and I live in the Netherlands. I write articles for the only baseball magazine in the Netherlands called Fastball Magazine. I’d love to be a sportswriter when I’m an adult. Would you like to do an interview about ballhawking with me that will be published in Fastball Magazine? Please let me know what you think!
    Regards Milan van der Breggen

  10. Zack Hample

    RYAN N-
    Thanks, but I’m only partially back. Blogging just isn’t a priority for me right now, but hopefully I’ll keep it going a bit. Miller Park is the best for foul balls, and I think Oakland is next. It’s terrible for home runs, though. I think Camden Yards is the best for home runs. There’s SO MUCH ROOM there, and the outfield dimensions are short, especially in left field.

    MILAN VAN DER BREGGEN-
    Hey, thanks for getting in touch. I see that you emailed me as well, so I’ll answer you privately there . . .

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