5/11/16 at Yankee Stadium

This was a night game with perfect weather, but for some reason the Yankees didn’t take batting practice. Thankfully the Royals hit, but everything got off to a slow start:

1_no_yankees_bp_royals_getting_loose

That was the only photo I took before the game. Why? Because BP was lame, and I didn’t feel like documenting it. Before the Royals started hitting, I got Mike Moustakas to throw me a ball along the left field foul line, and after that, I only managed to get two more, both of which were tossed randomly into the right field seats. One landed on the stairs and bounced back to me in the last row. The other was flipped high in the air by a player on the warning track. I didn’t manage to snag any batted balls, which is unusual for me during BP at Yankee Stadium. Why didn’t I snag any batted balls? Bad luck, bad strategy, and bad skills. There were three home runs that landed closer to me than anyone else, but they all ricocheted far away. I also misjudged a couple of balls, drifting back for one when it ended up barely clearing the wall (I still would’ve caught it had another fan not been standing there) and holding my ground on another that ended up zipping five feet over my 1b_thumbs_down_for_my_lameness_and_stupidityhead (hit by the diminutive Jarrod Dyson, of all people). It was THAT kind of day. I just seemed to be a step behind on everything. I considered moving to the back row for one group, but didn’t, and then two home runs ended up landing there. I raced up to the bleachers for another group, only to watch helplessly as a ball landed right where I’d been standing down below, so ten minutes later I went back down, and of course four home runs were then hit into the bleachers. You get the point. It was basically 45 solid minutes of that, and to make matters worse, my right thumb was hurting like hell. Someone had kicked it two days earlier while I was reaching for a ball on the ground during BP. It was so bad that I went for x-rays, which were negative, but it was still swollen and starting to show discoloration. Part of me wanted the game to end as quickly as possible so I could go home and ice it and go to sleep, but another part of my brain was like, “Watch me catch a home run tonight to make up for it.” I hadn’t felt so yin/yang-y since I got assaulted last year, and sure enough, I ended up catching a home run that night.

After BP, I met up with a few friends, dropped by the first aid room for yet another bag of ice, grabbed a seat in the shade, and played with my phone.

When the game began, there were a decent number of empty seats in the first two rows in right field, but I didn’t think much of it. I figured they’d fill up within 10 or 20 minutes. That’s usually how it goes, but for some reason, there was still quite a bit of room (for Yankee Stadium standards) when the second inning got underway. Meanwhile, the weather was good, and the pitching matchup was whatever. Everything just seemed pleasant and relaxing, and what can I say? I still had a good feeling about things, so I posted the following tweet:

2_feeling_good_about_my_chances

Based on the number of retweets, you can probably guess what happened (if you haven’t already heard). Just a few minutes later, Carlos Beltran connected on a poorly-located fastball from Yordano Ventura . . .

3_carlos_beltran_connecting_on_399

. . . and lifted a deep fly ball in my direction. In the following screen shot, I’m easy to spot because I was the only fan wearing yellow:

4_399_sailing_toward_right_field

From the moment this ball was hit, I knew I was going to catch it. Sometimes I’m not quite sure where the ball is going (like all of batting practice), but sometimes everything clicks. This was one of those times. I drifted down to the front row (all the way from the second row — such talent!) and moved a few feet to my right. My only concern was the big/young/athletic guy on my right with a glove, but thankfully he didn’t really go for it until the very last second. I’m not sure if he hadn’t been paying attention or if he lost sight of it or if he was just being nice, but whatever the reason, I was glad to be able to make a play on it. Here’s a side view of me reaching up for the catch:

4b_side_view_of_zack_making_the_catch

Here’s another angle — look closely and you’ll see the ball streaking into my glove:

5_zack_reaching_up_for_the_catch

It was such an easy catch that I didn’t feel like I deserved to jump around and celebrate like a maniac. All I did was hold up the ball and salute Beltran:

6_zack_celebrating

This was his third home run that I had caught (more than anyone else), and he has also thrown 32 balls to me over the years (also more than anyone).

As he rounded the bases, I was still holding up the ball in the background:

7_zack_celebrating_in_the_background

A nice lady nearby happened to take a photo of me high-fiving someone soon after:

9_zack_high_fives

Did you notice the time-stamp on my previous tweet? Go take another look. I had posted it at 7:41pm. Look at the time-stamp on this one:

10_did_i_call_that_or_what

I would love to know exactly how much time passed between my first tweet and Beltran’s home run. I know it was less than nine minutes because I didn’t get around to tweeting a follow-up right away.

Fun stuff.

Here’s another tweet I posted four minutes later:

10b_charity_tweet

That’s just a screen shot, so if you want to check out my fundraising page, click here. (And if you want to make a donation, even better.) Basically, people are pledging money for every game home run I snag this season. The money will go to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. This is the charity that received all the money for A-Rod’s 3,000th career hit.

Oh, and yeah, it was Beltran’s 399th career home run. AARRGHH!! I was so close to snagging yet another milestone, but hey, maybe it’ll still happen. Here’s a photo of the ball:

11_home_run_ball_05_11_16

You’d think that a game-used ball that gets caught on the fly would have a pristine logo, but I know from first-hand experience that the mud-rubbing process can actually remove some of the ink.

Several innings later (after the seats had indeed filled up), I took a photo of the guy who had tried to reach for the home run ball:

12_fans_on_my_right

He and his friend were from Canada. This was their first day ever in New York, so I bought them each a beer as a partial welcome and also as a thank-you for not being aggressive. They were really cool about the whole thing.

Evidently my tweet about “predicting” catching a home run was a big deal because ESPN featured me late in the game. Here’s a screen shot that was tweeted at me by someone who needed to charge his phone:

13_zack_on_the_espn_app

Here’s the link in case you want to see the video.

I was also featured on SportsCenter, and I wouldn’t have even known about it if not for my friend Alex Katz, who tweeted me a short clip. Alex, by the way, is a former ballhawk and future major leaguer. He’s currently a pitcher in the White Sox minor league system, and when he makes it, he’s going to break Carlos Beltran’s record for most baseballs thrown to me. Give him a follow on Twitter (@kittyelgato12) — he’s a really good guy (with a wipeout slider).

If anyone has the full segment from SportsCenter, please let me know. I still haven’t seen it. I’ve been so busy going to games and planning road trips and answering emails/comments that I’ve barely had time for anything else, such as looking for myself on TV.

On a final note, it feels good to have finally caught a home run this season. To most people, it might seem like I catch ’em all the time, but for me, going five weeks without one is rather frustrating.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 4 baseballs at this game

• 186 balls in 21 games this season = 8.86 balls per game.

 1,313 balls in 186 lifetime games at the new Yankee Stadium = 7.06 balls per game.

• 1,187 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 39 lifetime game home run balls (not counting toss-ups; click here for the complete list)

8,819 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

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.

• 9 donors for my fundraiser

• $77.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $77.77 raised this season

• $190,581.43 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

6 comments

  1. Tc

    Right to u nice positioning Bigg day 2…think bigger advertising tho. Wall Street Hunter Pence is sitting on 199. I’d want a OF mitt & a trip to SF to trade for 200

  2. Zack Hample

    DENNIS B.-
    Heh, thanks. :)

    TC-
    Sounds like a reasonable request for No. 200.

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    Thanks, but my finger still hurts quite a bit. This is a bad injury and probably won’t feel right for another month or two.

    MIKE BEERS METS-
    Hmm, who could THIS be?

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