5/18/16 at Great American Ball Park

Rather than starting with a photo of the main gate, here’s a slightly different view outside the stadium:

1_parking_area_outside_stadium

That’s where I parked with my friend/videographer Brandon Sloter, who was with me once again to film me for my YouTube channel. The previous day we were at Comerica Park, and the day before that, we hit up Progressive Field. Now we were going to have two games in Cincinnati followed by one more in Pittsburgh. (Phew!)

I met up with some friends in the Reds Hall Of Fame, including a young ballhawk named Cole Adkins, who lent me his GoPro. I was excited to wear one for the first time . . .

2_zack_wearing_go_pro

. . . and I appreciated his generosity. He normally films every day during BP, so it was an extra-kind gesture on his part to give up his routine for me.

You can see Cole (and a few other ballhawks standing around) in the following photo. He’s wearing a black shirt with long/white sleeves poking out:

3_tour_guide_explaining_the_rules

Cole let me try on the GoPro before we entered the stadium. Then I gave it back before we ran inside, and as you’ll see in a bit, I wore it again briefly once BP got underway.

This was my gorgeous view from right field:

4_view_from_right_field_05_18_16

It was nice and empty at first. This was the view to my left . . .

5_view_to_my_left_05_18_16

. . . and to the right:

6_view_to_my_right_05_18_16

In the previous photo, do you see the guy wearing black pants? Well, a little while later, when I drifted toward him on a deep fly ball, he shouted, “Now now, don’t be like that!” and proceeded to botch the crap out of it. It was a ground-rule double that took a room-service hop, and somehow he didn’t even get a glove on it, so not only was he territorial, but he couldn’t catch. That’s a lousy combination. Don’t be like that guy.

Given the fact that I set my one-game record with 36 balls on 9/14/11 at Great American Ball Park, I was hoping for another huge day, but the regulars had told me not to get too excited. Cole and another ballhawk named Rocco Sinisi went on and on about how lame Reds BP had been lately, and all I could think was, “Yeah, right.”

As it turned out, they *were* right. (Always trust the regulars.) The batters barely hit anything into the seats, and the pitchers shagging in the outfield only tossed up a few balls to kids. I was looking forward to capturing some action-packed footage with Cole’s GoPro, but after 20 minutes, all I got was a toss-up from a ballboy. Here’s the ball in mid-air along with my reaction:

7_zack_getting_ball8851

Weak.

I gave the GoPro back to Cole — no point in wasting his battery — and contemplated my next move. To be fair, there were a bunch of home runs hit to left field, but we were all trapped in right field, so that wasn’t particularly helpful.

At 5:10pm, the seats along the right field foul line opened up, so I raced over with a few other fans to search for “Easter eggs.” In the following screen shot (from Brandon’s video), you can see me on the right, bending down to grab one:

8_zack_finding_easter_eggs

Look how many I found:

9_zack_returning_with_easter_eggs

That’s right — I picked up FOUR baseballs in the empty seats, bringing my total for the day to five. It was such an incredible accomplishment that a local news crew interviewed me about it:

10_zack_being_interviewed

Actually, that’s not quite how it all went down. Those same two TV guys had filmed me during BP on 5/6/13 at Great American Ball Park so when they heard I was going to be back in town, they planned to interview me again.

Toward the end of the Reds’ portion of BP, a ball rolled onto the warning track below me. When Tony Cingrani walked over to get it, I asked if he could leave it there so that I could retrieve it with my glove trick — and he did! Check it out:

11_glove_trick_for_ball8856

A few minutes later, I used the string to snag my 7th ball of the day. It was sitting atop the bullpen roof in the right field corner, and as you can see below, I had to swing my glove out to knock it closer:

12_zack_swinging_glove_for_ball8857

By the way, that wristband was given to me by Joey Votto on 8/18/11 at Nationals Park. I always wear it during Reds BP no matter what stadium I’m at.

My eighth ball was a home run by the Indians. I was in the front row when it was hit, and as you can see, I had to run waaaaaay back to retrieve it:

13_zack_snagging_ball8858

It landed about eight rows back and bounced deep into the section. The other fan racing me for the ball was Cole. Obviously I was glad to snag it but sorry that it happened at his expense. When I travel to other stadiums, I try to respect the locals/regulars and stay out of their way, but sometimes it’s unavoidable and we end up competing for the same balls.

Here I am snagging my ninth ball — another home run that Cole would’ve gotten if not for me:

14_zack_snagging_ball8859

That’s Cole in the fifth row wearing jeans. The guy down in front is named Sean. This was the first time I’d met him. He’s a rookie ballhawk but already has a pretty good idea of what he’s doing.

When the entire stadium finally opened at 5:40pm, I ran over to left field and nearly drooled at the amount of space, but guess what? There was very little action. In fact, I only caught one home run out there — look closely and you’ll see the ball streaking into my glove:

15_zack_catching_ball8860

That was my 10th ball of the day.

After BP, I was approached by a young fan (in Royals gear?!) named Shaan. He had contacted me a few days earlier when he found out that I was going to be there. He wanted to meet up and say hi and get my autograph on a ball. The ball that he handed me, however, was not an official ball, so I surprised him by giving him (and signing) one of mine:

16_zack_giving_ball_to_shaan

He was extra happy because it was an Arizona Spring Training ball — one of three that I had gotten during BP. (If you’re thinking, “Eww, who wants a Spring Training ball,” you have it all wrong. Those are much harder to get than regular balls, so they’re actually kinda cool.)

Then I caught up with a guy named Corey who had recently emailed me. He’d brought his copy of my latest book, The Baseball, so I signed that for him:

17_zack_and_corey_with_the_baseball

The game itself had lots of action, and in the top of the 3rd inning, I sorta/barely missed a home run by Rajai Davis. It landed one and a half sections to my left, but hang on! Let me explain. When the game started, I was sitting near that spot, but after an inning or so, I moved one section to my right. Why? Just based on how the seats were filling in and where I figured I had the best opportunity to catch a ball, so yeah, when that homer landed right where I’d been, I was so bummed that I needed to eat my sorrows away:

18_zack_chili_cheese_dog

Chili cheese hot dogs! Yum.

It didn’t help. I was still bummed.

Here I am with Rocco late in the game:

19_zack_and_rocco_05_18_16

He and I had our differences a few years ago, but it’s all good now. He’s a really nice guy and I was glad to see him.

Heading to the 9th inning, the Reds were clinging to a 7-5 lead. You can kinda see that in the following photo of the scoreboard:

20_scoreboard_in_the_9th_inning_05_18_16

With two outs remaining, I switched into my Reds cap and told Brandon to meet me near the Reds’ bullpen in left-center. I figured I’d try to get a ball from one of the coaches or relievers after the final out, but instead, THIS happened:

21_rajai_davis_home_run_screen_shot

That’s my man Rajai Davis, connecting on a fat off-speed pitch from Tony Cingrani. I knew right away that the ball was going to reach the seats, and it seemed to have just the right distance. Unfortunately there were several guys sitting on my right, pretty much in the exact spot where I figured it was going to land. The row in front of me was clogged by a couple of fans, but the row behind me was empty, so I scooted to my right and climbed back over the seats and lined myself up with the ball. I just needed it to carry enough to clear these guys and/or I needed them to miss it, so at that point, it was really just a matter of luck.

Although you can’t tell that it’s me, here I am circled in red:

22_rajai_davis_home_run_screen_shot

Here’s a cool side angle from another camera:

23_rajai_davis_home_run_screen_shot

Did you notice the white speck against the black sky?

Now take a look at the middle of this screen shot:

24_rajai_davis_home_run_screen_shot

That’s me in the red shirt and black jacket, holding my glove up after making the catch. And then? The celebration was on!

25_rajai_davis_home_run_screen_shot

Brandon had been waiting for me up in the concourse, so I ran up the steps and shouted excitedly at his camera:

26_zack_after_catching_rajai_davis_homer

It would’ve been great to have a video from the stands of myself catching a game home run, but then again, MLB doesn’t allow fans to post game footage online, so in a way, it doesn’t matter that Brandon wasn’t filming. What is he supposed to do — film every single pitch of every game we attend in case I happen to catch a homer? And then what? We couldn’t show it anyway.

Here I am with the ball — my 42nd lifetime game home run:

27_zack_with_rajai_davis_home_run

That total, by the way, does NOT include home runs that were tossed to me, for example when a ball lands in the bullpen and gets flipped into the crowd. Of those 42 homers, this was the 30th that I’d caught on the fly . . . in nine different stadiums. Here’s my complete list of gamers.

Here’s a closeup of the ball:

28_rajai_davis_home_run_ball

When things calmed down, I took a photo of the guys on my right and the empty-ish seats:

29_my_route_to_catching_the_ball

The guy in my row in the red jacket had a great opportunity to catch the home run. It was hit right to him. All he had to do was reach a foot or two over his head. Luckily for me, he didn’t catch or deflect it, so it was all mine.

Brandon is the kinda guy who . . . well, let’s just say that if I caught nine foul balls in one game, he’d make fun of me for an entire week about the 10th one that I misjudged, but even *he* was (mildly) excited about the home run. Here he is photographing it:

30_brandon_photographing_the_ball

Remember Sean from the right field seats during BP? In the photo above, that’s him in the Votto jersey. He hung out with us during the game and seemed genuinely happy for me about the home run.

It should also be noted that by catching that homer, I raised more money for the children’s charity Pitch In For Baseball. People are once again pledging money for my gamers this season. That money will help underprivileged kids play ball, so if you have a few dollars to spare, click this link to learn more and consider making a small contribution. You can just pledge one dollar per ball and end up donating five to ten bucks at the end of the season. It all adds up and makes a difference.

The game went into extra innings . . . and then to the 11th inning . . . and all I could think was, “This stupid home run that I caught is going to cost me batting practice tomorrow.” The fact is, I’d give up batting practice for 10 days in exchange for catching a gamer, but at the time, I wanted it all.

When the game moved to the 12th inning, I knew that BP the following day was already in jeopardy, and if the game kept going to the 13th inning, I’d definitely be screwed. It HAD to end here. And guess what? Francisco Lindor led off the 12th with a solo homer to right-center. Muchas gracias! Final score: Indians 8, Reds 7.

31_final_score_on_a_tv

Did you notice the line about Jay Bruce in the photo above? Cole had kindly informed me that Bruce was sitting on a milestone, but I didn’t bother running over to right field, which was, of course, where he hit it. Right field in this stadium is okay early in BP when it’s empty, but it’s a real pain after that. The stands are steep so it’s hard to move up and down quickly, the railings on the staircases are long and in the way, and you can’t really play THAT deep because the tunnels will block you from running to the side.

I normally give away several baseballs to kids at every game, and I also donate balls directly to Pitch In For Baseball. Because I had only given away one here in Cincinnati (right after BP), I decided to pull three more aside for the charity, so as you’ll see below, I kept seven of the 11 balls that I had snagged.

Stay tuned for the video. Brandon is still editing it. I plan to post it on my YouTube channel soon, and I’ll also add a link here. In the meantime, check out my other ballhawking videos from various stadiums — Brandon filmed/edited them all except for the one at Fenway, and in my opinion, the newer ones are much better. Enjoy!

Fenway Park — June 8, 2012
Dodger Stadium — July 17, 2012
Citizens Bank Park — August 18, 2014
Wrigley Field — September 2, 2014
U.S. Cellular Field — August 11, 2015
Busch Stadium — August 13, 2015
Kauffman Stadium — August 14, 2015
Miller Park — August 15, 2015
Oakland Coliseum — April 11, 2016
Safeco Field — April 12, 2016
Coors Field — April 13, 2016
Globe Life Park — April 14, 2016
Progressive Field — May 16, 2016

***UPDATE***
Here’s the video from Cincinnati.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

32_the_seven_balls_i_kept_05_18_16 11 baseballs at this game (seven pictured here because I gave four away)

228 balls in 27 games this season = 8.44 balls per game.

 109 balls in 9 lifetime games at Great American Ball Park = 12.11 balls per game.

 13 different stadiums with at least 100 balls

302 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

1,193 consecutive games with at least one ball

 42 game home run balls; click here for the full list

 9 different stadiums with a game home run caught on the fly

8,861 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.

• 10 donors for my fundraiser

• $82.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $324.08 raised this season

• $190,834.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

12 comments

  1. Matt lehmann

    When is the next time you are going to Fenway park I’m gonna be there on the 21 of June on a Tuesday night and I have a redsox early entry card that can help you get in early if you want to come June 21 2016

  2. Tom B

    You may want to go back and edit the sentence where you talk about what you were wearing when you caught the home run! : – )

  3. raytheaustralian

    Well spotted Tom. Its not the first time he`s made that particular mistake. Some sort of freudian thing I`m guessing. Anyway , great snag Z. Keep them coming. You`re on a roll this year.

  4. Zack Hample

    NICK G-
    Done. And thanks!

    MATT LEHMANN-
    Thanks for asking/offering, but I’m not sure. I have no plans to be there at the moment.

    TOM B-
    Oy vey! Spell check can’t catch everything, so I’m glad I have you.

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    Ha, not Freudian — just a matter of writing 1,000 words (or more) per hour. Anyway, thanks. I won’t wear shirts anymore. Topless ballhawking. Clearly that’s the safest way to avoid that mistake.

  5. tyler

    Congrats on the home run! Also wouldn’t it be awesome wearing a go pro at Yankee Stadium! you can bust security and show them their security is bad

  6. TC

    Good job mate HR num200 for Joey Roo Votto could be caught by ballhawk Shawn or Rockie fan Dan. My money is on his mom Sue .. Hit the lotto with Votto.

  7. Zack Hample

    TYLER-
    Thanks, but I’m not even sure if security would allow someone to wear a GoPro there in the first place.

    TC-
    I wanna see you catch another milestone soon.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s