4/13/16 at Coors Field

Let me start with a photo of my ride to the stadium:

1_my_ride_to_coors_field

Best.
Car.
Ever.

It belongs to a friend and fellow ballhawk named Dan Sauvageau. You’ll see some photos of him in a bit, so for now, I’ll just say that he kindly picked me up at the airport. He was with his 12-year-old daughter, Emily, and I was with my friend/videographer, Brandon Sloter. Brandon had filmed me the day before at Safeco Field and in Oakland the day before that. I’m hoping to do videos for my YouTube channel in all 30 stadiums, and this game in Denver was Day 3 of a four-stadium trip.

We hit some traffic on the way to (and right outside the) stadium . . .

2_traffic_outside_coors_field

. . . but we still arrived with a little time to spare. Here’s what it looked like just before everyone headed inside:

3_lines_outside_coors_field_04_13_16

There must’ve been two dozen people there — how adorable.

As soon as I ran in, a left-handed batter on the Rockies hit a ground-rule double that bounced into the wide aisle behind the outfield wall in left-center. I raced over and grabbed that ball, and less than a minute later, I chased down a home run that landed in nearly the same spot, barely beating out a guy with a fluffy gray beard. Here’s a photo of him glaring at me:

4_robert_harmon_during_bp_04_13_16

He wasn’t actually glaring. His name is Robert Harmon, and we’ve been friends for years. Remember the story I wrote for Yahoo! about Barry Bonds’ final home run? Robert was featured in it because he was one of three fans who ended up scrambling for that historic ball.

Anyway, here’s a photo of me from behind, taken just after the Giants started hitting:

5_zack_standing_around_during_bp_04_13_16

There was no action at first, but when I saw Hunter Pence step into the cage, it was time to get serious. To put it simply, THE MAN HITS BOMBS in batting practice — I’ve seen him play enough to know that — so I moved all the way back to the concourse behind the left field bleachers. Look how far I was from home plate:

6_zack_in_left_field_concourse

That might seem like an absurd spot to stand and wait for a home run, but keep in mind that this was all taking place one mile above sea level, where, because of the thinner air, baseballs travel 8 to 10 percent farther.

Pence didn’t come close to reaching the concourse at first, but I didn’t give up on him. I knew it was only a matter of time before he launched one, and sure enough, it finally happened. Here’s a screen shot from Brandon’s video that shows another fan tracking the ball and running toward the back of the concourse:

7_other_ran_running_back

Yeah, THAT’S how far it went.

The other fan judged it perfectly, but unfortunately for him, I was already in the spot where it landed. Here I am reaching up for the catch:

8_zack_catching_hunter_pence_homer

I’ll admit that I look awkward in the screen shot above, but hold your judgment until you actually watch the video. It’s only 31 seconds, so no excuses. Here it is.

As you may have noticed, the title of the video describes this as a “490-foot home run.” I didn’t make that up. Greg Rybarczyk, the founder of ESPN Home Run Tracker, estimated the distance, so don’t bother arguing. I’ve known Greg for a while, so before I posted the video on YouTube, I sent it to him. He said it “had a true distance of about 490 feet, plus or minus maybe 2 or 3 feet since I don’t have the precise time of flight.” This is definitely the longest home run I’ve ever caught, the runner-up being Robinson Cano’s 479-foot blast during the 2011 Home Run Derby in Phoenix.

For the next group of BP, I headed over to right field:

9_right_field_seats_04_13_16

Despite the lack of competition, it was so dead that I only managed to get one ball out there — a toss-up from Mister Pence, which I gave to the nearest/smallest kid.

Back in left-center field, I got a ball thrown to me by Giants pitcher Cory Gearrin. That was my fifth of the day, and I followed that up with a pretty slick catch on a home run. (I think it was hit by Buster Posey). Brandon filmed this one as well, but it’s not on YouTube yet, so for now, you’ll have to settle for two screen shots. Here’s the first . . .

10_zack_tracking_giants_homer

. . . and here’s the second:

11_zack_elevating_for_the_catch

Basically, when I realized that the ball was going to sail too high for me to jump and reach, I used a neck-high railing to hoist myself up onto the concrete ledge at the front of the bleachers. Robert jumped in front of me, and two other fans reached out from behind, but the ball ended up in the right spot for me to glove it.

That one felt good.

I caught one more homer at the end of BP — fairly routine and non-acrobatic. That one might’ve been hit by Buster Posey too. (He wasn’t in the starting lineup; that’s why he hit at the end of BP.) Kelby Tomlinson was hitting in that group, as was Madison Bumgarner. If I had to bet, I’d guess Posey, but who knows? I ended up giving away that ball to a father for his little kid.

After BP, I was approached by a fan named Caroline, who asked me to sign a couple of 8 x 10-inch photos of myself:

12_zack_and_caroline

We had met several years earlier — nice to see that she’s still at it.

I got to spend a little time (albeit rushed and semi-distracted) with a gentleman named Jesse Trujillo, who had set up an interview for me last summer at the height of all the craziness. This was our first in-person meeting, and like an idiot, I neglected to get a photo with him. He and a Coors Field regular named Mike (whom I’d met several times in the past) joined me for a brisk walk to the team store, where I purchased a new Rockies cap. After years of getting crushed in my backpack, my old one looked like crap, so I was glad to upgrade. When it was time to pay, Mike generously lent me his season ticket holder ID card so that I could get a discount — 20 percent, if I’m remembering correctly. Then Jesse took off, and I headed to the right field upper deck with Mike. Until a few years ago, there was nothing but regular seating up there. Now there’s a huge bar/restaurant/lounge/party/standing-room area called The Rooftop. I’d never been up there, so I was glad to finally check it out. Here’s Mike standing beside the loungy spot:

13_rooftop_lounge_area

Look how much open space there is:

14_rooftop_standing_room

As planned, I met up with Dan and Robert — here they are with Mike in between:

15_dan_mike_robert

Forgetting that I live in New York City, where there are famously awesome burger places like Shake Shack, Five Guys, Jackson Hole, and countless other non-franchised restaurants that you haven’t heard of, Robert went on and on about how THIS particular concession stand had THE best burgers . . . so I got a double-cheeseburger. My critique: it was good but not life-changing.

Here’s another photo of the space where fans can walk and hang out on The Rooftop:

16_rooftop_pergola

It’d be nice to see a thick mess of vines covering that pergola, no?

Brandon was also up there with us. Here’s a photo he took of the field:

17_view_from_the_rooftop

That’s a gorgeous view, but I would hate to watch the game from that spot.

Here’s one of The Rooftop’s bars:

18_rooftop_bar

Here’s what it looks like from the center-field end of the upper deck:

19_view_from_the_rooftop

Given the fact that the Rockies aren’t coming close to filling up Coors Field anymore, I think the new upper deck configuration is a great use of space. But enough of that. Let’s return to Earth, huh?

This was my view during the game:

20_view_during_game_04_13_16

Speaking of space, look at this glorious aisle:

21_view_to_my_left_04_13_16

I want to live there — like, actually set up a legal residence right there in the aisle. There are already outlets in that area, and there are bathrooms and concession stands within a 30-second walk. I suppose it would be awfully cold at the beginning and end of each season, and summer/day games could be unpleasantly hot, but whatever. Sign me up!

Brandon (who’s on Instagram — give him a follow) wandered to the top of the upper deck behind home plate. Here’s what it looked like from up there:

22_view_from_coors_field_upper_deck_photo_by_brandon_sloter

Meanwhile, here’s what I looked like after losing a chance to catch the easiest home run ever:

23_zack_after_missing_nolan_arenado_homer

See the guy in the red shirt directly behind me? In the bottom of the 3rd inning, Nolan Arenado smoked a deep line drive off Jake Peavy that clanked off that guy’s hands and plopped right down into the aisle behind my chair. Why didn’t I get that ball? Because I was sitting with Robert in left-center. I figured his spot was as good as mine — I’ve seen him catch lots of homers on TV — but no, the universe gave me the finger instead. I’m telling you, all I would’ve had to do was stand up and then reach up, and I would’ve caught the ball. I might’ve taken one step back to make it ever easier.

UNREAL.

I’ve still never gotten a truly easy home run during a game. I’ve always had to run and/or scramble, climb up or down over a row of seats, reach, lunge, jump, sneak past security, drift/run up or down a staircase, stretch across railings, deal with other people’s hands and gloves in my face, etc. This would’ve been like Ted Williams playing in a slow-pitch softball game. (Umm, wait, I didn’t mean to obnoxiously compare myself to Ted Williams. That was just the first comparison that came to mind. You get my point.)

As bummed as I was about not catching that ball, I was glad that my buddy Bob — another Coors Field regular — ended up with it. He even thanked me, knowing he would’ve had no chance if I’d been sitting in my seat.

<sigh>

Here’s a famous beer vendor at Coors Field known as “Earthman”:

24_earthman_the_beer_vendor

Here I am with Dan and Emily:

25_dan_emily_zack_04_13_16

Do you like my new Rockies cap? Purple IS my favorite color. For real.

If you’ve read my book, The Baseball, you might recognize Dan as one of the top ten ballhawks of all time — check out pages 287-288 and you’ll see Emily’s photo too. Dan has now snagged 93 home runs during games, and Emily has attended 584 Rockies home games. (Wow! Right?) Next time you’re at Coors Field, go say hi if you see them.

Having learned nothing from my not-sitting-in-my-ticketed-seat blunder, I wandered out to left-center field late in the game. This was the view:

26_view_from_left_center_field_04_13_16

I just couldn’t help myself. LOOK AT ALL THIS SPACE!!!

27_cross_aisle_in_left_center_field

Oh, and here’s even more space:

28_cross_aisle_and_new_outfield_wall

Pardon me while I sob uncontrollably for five minutes.

(Okay, I feel better now. Kidding. No I don’t.)

In the previous photo, did you notice the outfield wall in right-center field? See how tall it is? That’s new as of this season. During this game, Rockies shortstop Trevor Story hit two triples high off that wall — balls that would’ve cleared the fence in previous seasons.

Here’s the scoreboard with two outs remaining in the game:

29_scoreboard_04_13_16

Compared to all the pitcher’s duels I’ve sat through in recent seasons at Citi Field, this was a gosh-darned slugfest. And I loved it. But on a personal level, it did me no good. My night ended with seven baseballs, including zero during the game.

Dan, Emily, Brandon, and I used this special route to exit after the final out:

30_exiting_through_the_special_concourse

I got one last peek at the field:

31_final_sneak_peek_at_the_field

There was no time for a lengthy goodbye. Brandon and I had to hurry back to our hotel because we were going to have to wake up at 4:15am the next morning for a flight to Dallas. And Emily was going to have to wake up early for school.

Stay tuned for the video. When Brandon completes the editing process and sends it to me, I’ll post it on YouTube.

UPDATE: Here’s the video.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

32_the_five_balls_i_kept_04_13_16• 7 baseballs at this game (five pictured here because I gave two away)

• 41 balls in 5 games this season = 8.2 balls per game.

 109 balls in 19 lifetime games at Coors Field = 5.74 balls per game.

• 1,171 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,674 total balls

On a final note, my fundraiser for Pitch In For Baseball is now in its eighth season. Once again, people are pledging money for every home run ball that I snag during games. Here’s some info about the fundraiser, and if you donate, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.

15 comments

  1. Joey Schulz

    Can you please go to Fenway again this year? Also, do you have any BP tips for Fenway? Because your video on YouTube has no BP, so can you reccomend where the best seats are considering the Green Monster? Thanks Zack! I’m currently reading your book “How to Snag a Major League Baseball.” Have a good day!
    -Joey

  2. Larry

    Coors looks like a fun place to ballhawk. I’ve always wanted to make the trip out. Also, I’ve just started using Home Run Tracker quite a bit this season. Hoping it helps me snag a game homer later this season. Tell Greg I said thanks. Hope all is well

  3. Zack Hample

    JOEY-
    I’m not sure if I’ll make it to Fenway this season. It was a huge bummer about BP being rained out the day that I was filmed, but if you search for my name along with the name of any stadium, you’ll find my blog entries. Those will give you lots of tips/ideas. Also, I recommend reading my book, “The Baseball.” That’s MUCH better than “How To Snag.” and has all that info, expanded and updated and written 100 times better.

    LARRY-
    It can be fun, but it can be annoying too. If you don’t have a ticket down in that special wide aisle, you’ll feel trapped in the bleachers.

  4. Big Glove Bob

    That is the coolest car I have ever seen. Let’s hear the details about that sweet ride.

    Big Glove Bob

  5. Zack Hample

    What kinda details do you want? Dan had it “wrapped” last year, I think, and I was happier riding around in it than I would’ve been in a stretch limo.

  6. Long Relief

    Any details really…who wrapped it? Were there any copyright/trademark issues? Who made the MLB logo hood emblem? Did this “wrap” exist before or was it a ground up custom deal?

  7. Dan

    My daughter back in November of 14′ came home from school with a drawing of what she was going to do to her first car when she got older. I told her I’d do it for her right now if she wanted. I called a friend of mine that owns a custom graphics company and texted him the pics and he said no problem. A couple phone calls to attorneys, and was told it wasn’t a problem, as long as I didn’t put the company I own on the car, too. Basically, you can’t make money off of making it look like your company has something to do with MLB. Since we were getting a new commissioner last year, we had to wait until the new OMLB came out with Manfred’s signature on it, and not Selig’s. My friend took a photo of the ball, blew it up and a week later my car was finished. I had to make the MLB LOGO headrests myself since I couldn’t find any to buy.

  8. Long Relief

    Dan, Wow! It looks awesome. I have a black Kia Cadenza myself. What about the MLB logo hood emblem? I am talking about the small oval MLB logo that you have where the KIA emblem would normally be. Who made that? Do people stop you everywhere you go? It kinda makes your car theft-proof in a way…hard to drive a stolen car around that looks like a baseball!

  9. Dan

    The small front and back MLB logos are just vinyl like the rest of the car. I get asked all of the time if I work for MLB. Hopefully the uniqueness keeps it from getting stolen lol. Since it’s a one of a kind, I have to make sure I don’t cut people off etc. because they would recognize me the next time they saw the car. 😉

  10. Dan

    I should mention my wife hates driving it because of all the attention she gets when driving it, so she drives our other cars instead lol.

  11. raytheaustralian

    How hard did that 490 foot home run impact your glove ? You made it look easy. Where would it have landed if it wasn`t a stadium at altitude ? Do they usually sell out at Coors ?

  12. Zack Hample

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    Not hard at all. As far as I’m concerned, it felt like catching a lazy fly ball. It was probably only traveling around 50mph by the time I caught it. Without the altitude, I suppose it would’ve landed near the back of the bleachers. Coors hardly ever sells out.

  13. leftonbasesports

    Hey Zack,

    Headed to Fenway tonight – do you know which Yankees are on the friendly side and will toss a ball up if you ask? We’ll be around that side of the field for pregame stuff. I got two last night, one from a groundskeeper in the bullpen after the game ended and another from a Yankee pitcher (don’t know who he is). Miller snubbed me and my buddy about 7 times…

  14. Zack Hample

    Hey, sorry I didn’t get back to you in time. I can’t always respond that fast, but I hope you did well. Miller is notoriously stingy with baseballs. Dellin Betances is the most generous at Yankee Stadium. And Carlos Beltran.

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