4/6/16 at Yankee Stadium

My season got underway with a grungy subway ride to Yankee Stadium:


There wasn’t a huge crowd outside Gate 6 . . .


. . . but as luck would have it, my line got held up for five minutes because there were no baskets.

That’s right — baskets! See those little white things on the tables in the photo above? The guards hadn’t yet brought them out to the tables where I was waiting. For some reason, fans are required to place their items *in* the baskets before proceeding through the metal detectors, and since the baskets weren’t there, I had to stand around and watch helplessly as hundreds of people at other lines filed into the stadium.

Here’s what it looked like when I finally made it out to the right field seats:


Several minutes later, I got my first ball tossed by Dellin Betances:


I was hoping that the Yankees and/or Astros would be using their leftover Spring Training balls during batting practice. This year, for a change, there were special balls with commemorative logos — one for the Grapefruit League that said “FL” and another from the Cactus League that said “AZ.” I’d seen photos of these balls and really wanted one, and while I certainly could’ve traveled to Florida and Arizona and snagged a whole bunch of them, that wouldn’t have counted toward my collection. I don’t do Spring Training, but if I happen to snag a Spring Training ball at a regular-season game . . . well, that’s a whole nother story. Remember when Heath Bell saved a ball for me from the 2009 World Baseball Classic and tossed it to me on 7/23/09 at Citizens Bank Park? Same deal. I wouldn’t have counted that ball if I’d snagged it at the WBC, but since I got it at a major league stadium during the regular season, it totally counted.

Anyway, I caught a couple of homers during the Astros’ portion of BP, but those were regular balls. The first was hit by Colby Rasmus, and I caught it while climbing down over a row at the back of the section. The other was hit by a righty (no idea who), and I grabbed it “in traffic” as I like to say, meaning there were folks all around me. I handed that ball to the nearest kid and ended up giving away another ball later.

Getting three balls including two homers on the fly might sound good, but I was disappointed. I just wasn’t on my game and missed several other opportunities for various reasons. At one point, for example, I ran to the back of the section for a deep home run, which ended up ricocheting down from the bleachers right to the spot where I’d been standing. A few minutes later, I raced toward the bullpen for a ground-rule double, which I barely missed, and while I was there . . . yup, you guessed it — another one bounced right to my regular spot. I barely missed a third ball by not jumping high enough for yet another ground-rule double. That was particularly frustrating because I could’ve jumped higher. I just didn’t expect it to sail as high as it did, and I only whiffed by a few inches. The most infuriating moment came when I scurried for a home run that landed in an empty row, cupped it against the folded-up portion of a seat, and had it yanked out of my hand by a fellow who, let’s say, could probably have a decent career as a sumo wrestler. No chance to compete with that. But whatever. I was still in a good mood overall. It was nice just to be at a baseball game after a five-month hiatus.

Here I am posing with a couple of guys who recognized me from Barstool Sports:


The guy on the right had handed me his phone and asked me to take a selfie with them in the background. It seemed like a fun idea, so I took a similar photo with my camera.

These guys also recognized me:


They were really nice and asked a zillion questions.

Not everyone was friendly, however. Later in the evening, one guy shouted, “Your sports blog sucks!” as he walked past me, and another guy, who must have boycotted the news starting last June, yelled, “Boooo!! You stole money from A-Rod!!”

Umm, okayyyy.

Before the game started, security wouldn’t let me hang out next to the visitors’ bullpen, so in order to say hello to the Astros’ friendly bullpen catchers, Javier Bracamonte and Carlos Munoz, I had to head up to the bleachers. Look who I ran into there:


That’s my friend and fellow ballhawk Chris Hernandez, and if you think he looks miserable, you’re right! Not only was it stupid-cold, but he’s never too thrilled, it seems, about being at this stadium.

Guess what he showed me? A Spring Training baseball that he’d gotten from a coach. A few minutes later, I asked Bracamonte if he had another, and he hooked me up! Check it out:


That made my day.

Officially, the game-time temperature was 43 degrees, but according to AccuWeather.com, the “Real Feel” temperature was only 31 degrees. Now that you know that, look at this guy:


Was he dumb or showing off? Or both? Look at the person sitting on his left. Look at everyone else in that photo. Nearly everyone was bundled up and wearing a hat or a hood, and he was in shorts and a t-shirt. (And eating sushi. At a stadium. So yeah, dumb. I’m gonna be all snooty for a moment and say that I’ve eaten fresh sushi in Japan, and yes, there’s a huuuuge difference in quality.)

This was my view during the game:


Soon after I took that photo, some creeper took a lousy pic of me and tweeted it:


You know what wasn’t sited/sighted? Quality pitching. It took an hour and 45 minutes to play the first three innings, and here’s why:


In case you’re bad at math, that’s a total of 17 runs. The game was moving so slowly that I had time to photograph random mystery objects:


Seriously, what is that thing on the railing? There was another one near the front row, and I spotted them on the railings in other staircases too. I tweeted about it during the game. Most people guessed that those things have something to do with WiFi, but I’m not convinced.

Thankfully the pace picked up in the later innings, but because of the weather and lopsided score, the seats had pretty much cleared out:


All that room didn’t help me. Over the course of the game, there were six home runs, and none of them came within 100 feet of me. Two of those dingers were hit by the 21-year-old Carlos Correa, who seriously looked like Superman:


Gotta love his 2.375 OPS. See it posted to the left of the jumbotron? Unfortunately for him, six of his teammates were hitless on the season. See all those goose eggs in the lineup? That’s losing baseball right there. Final score: Yankees 16, Astros 6.

Look what I saw on the subway platform on my way home:


Shall I zoom in for you?


Oh, New York City — what am I gonna do with you?


17_the_two_i_kept_04_06_16• 4 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave two away)

 1,209 balls in 174 lifetime games at Yankee Stadium = 6.95 balls per game.

• 1,167 consecutive games with at least one ball

 78 different commemorative balls (click here to see my full collection)

8,637 total balls


  1. Mateo Fischer

    Minor correction: You have your lifetime total in the stats listed as Citi Field. Other than that, though: Hi, how’s it going. I’ve been living a life away from baseball recently, but it was nice to see you at BallhawkFest.

  2. Zack Hample

    D’oh! I copied my “stats” template from my last game last year and left the stadium in there by mistake. Thanks for pointing that out. It’s fixed. In other news, hi! Think we’ll see each other this year? I hope so.


  3. jere80

    Dustin Ackley batting cleanup and Ivan Nova in the lineup. This will never happen again. BTW I love that Interstate logo that they used in ST. They had patches of that on the hats and sleeves (a little more colorful than the one on the ball) and when I was in Ft. Myers I was totally zoomin’ in on those things.

  4. Zack Hample

    It *is* a cool logo. I wonder if this’ll be a regular thing in Spring Training and to what extent the logo will change next year — probably not at all except for the year.

    I think that counts. The two of us can be snooty together.

  5. raytheaustralian

    Love the Spring training commemoratives. Just back from a week snorkelling and diving on the Great Barrier Reef and you show me subway rats ! had to wash my eyeballs after that.

  6. RyanC

    Hey Zack! Glad to see you’re off and running. Reading (and re-reading) your blog entries helps get through Michigan winters. Going to my first game of the season tomorrow and it’s supposed to snow (yay).

    Just out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on the extended netting going up this season and next? My local minor league team just put up 20 foot high nets from dugout to dugout, pretty much killing my dugout ball snagging. I haven’t seen you mention your opinions on it, so what do you think, how is it going to change your game?

  7. Zack Hample

    We would make a great team. You can handle the snakes, and I’ll deal with the rats.

    RYAN C-
    I watched part of the game on TV, and it looked brutal. Game-time temperature 31 degrees — real feel temperature 19 degrees. As for the netting, I haven’t commented because I haven’t seen it in person, but basically, I hate it. But I also think it’s kind of necessary. But I mostly hate it. Having grown up in the 1980s, I can tell you that the wussification of society is noticeable and maddening. Life is much less fun because of all the rules and regulations. I suspect that even people who aren’t actively trying to catch baseballs are not thrilled about having netting up, but I could be wrong.

  8. Big Glove Bob

    Z-Man- I went to Spring Training to catch the Royals this year and had a fair share of fun. I didn’t do it to ballhawk though. It was just to get out of Minnesota and see the World Champs in some nice weather. I successfully flew on a plane for the first time in almost 15 years. It was a good experience so I am not opposed to flying someplace this season.

    I have no real desire to see New York though. Everything seems so freaking expensive and such a hassle compared to just about every place else in the good old USA.

    Big Glove Bob

  9. jere80

    Yeah that extensive subway system that zooms you around to anywhere in the greatest city in the world within minutes for under 3 bucks is such an expensive hassle… ???

  10. Nick Horowitz

    Can’t wait to hear more blogs for this season! yes I still read these by the way

  11. Big Glove Bob

    Jere80- I live in a place that has all 4 major sports leagues…great arts scene…beautiful sights…and booming businesses. I walk right out to my attached garage and get into my car as opposed to a walking blocks battling people to get wedged into some sleazy subway car. When I get to a business, most have ample parking. I park and walk 200 feet maximum to get into restaurants and stores. My walk from my car’s trunk to my fridge with groceries is literally 10 feet.
    Part of my job is being an emergency medical provider. We learned in class about how many more people DIE en route to the hospital in NYC due to all the traffic. Lets talk about the cost of food, housing, entertainment, etc. etc.

    NYC is indeed expensive and a hassle. Maybe those underground peasant vessels don’t cost an arm and a leg…but most everything else does.


  12. T

    is the pic lousy cause u didn’t have a ball in ur hand or glove? I thought there was a ball in the subway not a rat .TC

  13. Ian Hansen

    Do you plan on going to Fenway, Yankee, or Citi in mid June or mid July? By the way I am 15 and I am on a bit of a streak my self. Last year I caught 5 at Nationals park, 2 at Safeco field, 2 at Citizens Bank on a rainout, and only 1 at Camden Yards. I have followed you since 2009 and you are a big reason why I have traveled out of my hometown of Indianapolis to go to almost all the ballparks and hassle my dad to be at the park 2 hours early and ballhawk!

  14. Dave Mitchell

    Congrats on the FL ball! The ST games I made almost no one was using ’em for BP (except one game @ Viera when the Braves were using ’em & I scored a toss-up from a pitcher shagging in the outfield without even asking). Was at a minor league game & the Reds’ high-A team in Daytona was using AZ balls in the bullpen so I.m gonna have to work on that. I suspect there may be changes next season if they continue with special Spring balls; first, this years’ are dated “2016 Spring Training” above Manfred’s signature, and the interstate sign logo seems to be 2016 specific (it was used in most league graphics, and they tend to do a new league theme each season) …

  15. Spencer G

    Hey Zack, i love following your blog posts, and obviously i am in awe of your wicked collection. I’m a huge baseball fan from England, but studying in the US currently. Hoping to go to a Marlins game next month. Any tips/advice regarding Marlins Park?

  16. Zack Hample

    Congrats on flying! Hopefully this opens up many more stadium visits for you. Despite everything you said about New York, I’d still like to see you here.


    Thanks! Hopefully I’ll have some new entries up from the games I attended this past week in Oakland, Seattle, Denver, and Arlington.

    I did once see a baseball in the subway. It was down on the tracks, and I thought about glove-tricking it, but ew.

    Fenway? Probably not. Yankee? For sure. Citi? Probably not a whole lot. Congrats on the snags, and I’m glad to hear that I’ve inspired you to travel. I just hope your dad doesn’t hate me.

    Thanks! And yes, get to work on snagging those baseballs.

    Thanks very much. Have you seen my blog entries from Marlins Park? That’s the best place to start. Search for my name and add the name of the stadium, and the entries will pop right up.

  17. Ian Hansen

    To follow up, my dad thinks its unreal how you have snagged 36 baseballs at Great American Ballpark and how you have this streak. He thinks what both you and what I have started is really fun and cool. I have also made him buy caps for almost all the teams.

  18. Ian Hansen

    Yep! When I went to Nationals park and Camden I met some fellow ballhawks that know you. I cannot remember their names but it was a blast talking to them.

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