5/19/16 at Great American Ball Park

This was the fourth day of a road trip with my friend/videographer, Brandon Sloter. We started with games in Cleveland and Detroit, and now here we were in Cincinnati for the second straight day. Thankfully, despite the 12-inning game that the Reds and Indians had played the night before, both teams took batting practice before this one.

It didn’t take long for me to get my first ball — a home run that I caught on the fly in the front row. Here’s a screen shot from Brandon’s video that shows me reaching up for the grab:

1_zack_catching_ball8862

I’m not sure who hit that one or any of the homers that I ended up snagging. Sometimes I can recognize players by their bodies, batting stances, or swings. This was not one of those days.

Here I am getting my second ball from Reds pitcher Jumbo Diaz:

2_zack_catching_ball8863

The previous day, my friend Cole Adkins had lent me his GoPro at the start of BP, but there was so little action early on that I gave up on it. Naturally we gave it another shot:

3_cole_zack_rocco_gopro

While introducing Cole and talking about the device that was now strapped to my head, I had no idea that our fellow ballhawk Rocco was videobombing in the background.

Silly Rocco.

A little while later, I got a ball thrown to me by Reds pitcher Jon Moscot. Check out this screen shot from the GoPro video:

4_zack_catching_ball8864_gopro

Pretty cool, huh?

At 5:08pm, I headed up to the nearest tunnel in preparation for the mad dash toward foul territory — the scavenger hunt for “Easter eggs” officially begins at 5:10pm — and look who was already there:

5_zack_heading_out_tunnel

That was Cole, tiptoeing away from me, and when we reached the concourse, we were both surprised to see that another ballhawk named Sean was already leading the charge:

6_running_in_the_concourse

Cole might be a couple of decades younger than me, but I’m still faster — and I nearly caught Sean by the time we reached the right field foul pole:

7_approaching_the_empty_seats

Then the fun part began:

8_zack_grabbing_easter_egg

That was the first of four balls that I found. Can you spot the next two in the following photo?

9_two_more_easter_eggs

There was one more here . . .

10_final_easter_egg

. . . and when I made it back to right field, I showed them all to Brandon’s camera:

11_zack_four_easter_eggs

My eighth ball was thrown by a player on the Reds . . .

12_zack_playing_catch_with_ball8869

. . . and I proceeded to play catch with it. Here I am throwing it back:

13_zack_playing_catch_with_ball8869

It was great to have that documented with two different cameras.

Do you remember when Reds pitcher Caleb Cotham tweeted at me? Well, this was the first time I’d seen him since that happened, so when I called out to him and identified myself, he came over to say hello:

14_zack_talking_to_caleb_cotham

That was really nice of him.

Cotham pitched briefly for the Yankees last year, and he remembered me from the whole A-Rod thing. He even knew about the home runs that I’d caught at Yankee Stadium the previous week, so we talked about that, and I asked him about life in Cincinnati. He’s a really good guy, and I wish him all the best in his (hopefully long) MLB career.

Ready for two different camera angles of my ninth ball? (It was a home run, by the way.) Here’s what it looked like with the GoPro:

15_zack_catching_ball8870_gopro

In the photo above, do you see the little black speck to the left of my glove? That was the glove of a player who had flung it high into the air at the ball. Heh. Good thing he missed.

Meanwhile, here’s what that catch looked like from where Brandon was filming — see the ball streaking into my glove?

16_zack_catching_ball8870

Did you notice that the people behind me barely flinched? Did they not see the ball coming, or did they expect me to catch it? Weird.

My 10th ball was a homer that I chased down deep in the right field seats. Here’s what it looked like with Cole’s GoPro as I barely beat out . . . Cole:

17_zack_snagging_ball8971

Sorry, Cole, but hey, you’re welcome for lunch! But no, really, as I mentioned in my last entry, I always try to be respectful of other people’s space, especially the regulars when I visit other stadiums, and I never feel good about snagging baseballs at the expense of my friends (well, except for Greg Barasch), but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Ultimately the competition is what makes it fun, and sensible people understand that.

My 10th ball was a commemorative Arizona Spring Training ball . . .

18_zack_showing_ball8871

. . . and yeah, I had changed into my Indians gear by that point, which didn’t help at all.

Here’s some GoPro footage of my 11th ball — a home run that I caught on the fly:

19_zack_catching_ball8872_gopro

Did you notice the “AZ” logo on that ball too?

I love the GoPro — don’t get me wrong — but in my opinion, it falls short on showing what’s actually required to make a catch in the stands. Take this homer, for example. Based on the previous image, you’d think it was a routine catch, but as you can see in Brandon’s footage below, I had to jump, and my feet were off the ground:

20_zack_catching_ball8872

It wasn’t a textbook example of a gravity-defying vertical leap. I only needed to elevate a few inches, but still, you can’t see stuff like that with a first person vantage point.

Before heading to left field, I gave two baseballs to a pair of kids in right-center. Look closely at the following screen shot, and you’ll see each kid holding a ball:

21_kids_with_baseballs_from_zack

Can you spot the ball in the following GoPro screen shot?

22_zack_snagging_ball8873_go_pro

In case you missed it, it’s kissing the facade of the 2nd deck. Here it is as seen from Brandon’s camera, deflecting down to me:

23_zack_snagging_ball8873

Even though it landed right at my feet, I didn’t see it at first, but I still managed to grab it just before several other fans approached.

My 13th ball was a high home run that pretty much came right to me. Here it is from the GoPro . . .

24_zack_catching_ball8874_gopro

. . . and here’s the shot that Brandon got:

25_zack_catching_ball8874

Here’s Cole turning off the GoPro at the end of BP:

26_cole_turning_off_gopro

I greatly appreciate his generosity in lending it to me. Other than the one wimpy toss-up that I’d gotten the day before while wearing the GoPro, this was my first time ballhawking with one, and I can’t wait to see what the footage looks like when Brandon edits it all together. He said he might do some side-by-side action along with his own footage. How cool would that be?!

After batting practice, I headed to the upper deck to get a shot with all of my baseballs:

27_zack_with_baseballs_in_upper_deck

Then I gave a ball to the nearest kid and headed down to the right field corner. I hoped to get a ball from the Indians’ bullpen, but look what happened:

28_zack_near_indians_bullpen

When I asked pitching coach Mickey Callaway for a ball, he held up his hands to indicate that he didn’t have one. Fair enough. It was nice of him just to acknowledge me.

During the game, I had some space to work with . . .

29_empty_row_on_my_left_05_19_16

. . . and talked about it, on occasion, to Brandon’s camera:

30_zack_in_left_field_05_19_16

At one point, I noticed a kid sitting one and a half sections to my left, so during the 7th-inning stretch, I walked over and handed him a ball. As you’ll see below, the arrow pointing down is aimed at my head, and the arrow pointing up shows the ball in the kid’s hand:

31_zack_giving_ball_to_kid_05_19_16

There were three homers during the game. Carlos Santana hit two — one to right-center and another to right — and Joey Votto blasted one into the Reds’ bullpen in center. In other words, there was no action for me, but that’s fine. I had caught a Rajai Davis homer the previous night, and I was just glad to have had a fun/solid day during BP.

Final score: Indians 7, Reds 2.

When Brandon finishes editing the video, I’ll post it on my YouTube channel and also add a link to it here, so stay tuned. In the meantime, you can see some of the footage in this video that Cole posted on his channel.

***UPDATE***
Here’s the video.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

32_the_nine_balls_i_kept_05_19_16 13 baseballs at this game (nine pictured here because I gave four away)

241 balls in 28 games this season = 8.61 balls per game.

 122 balls in 10 lifetime games at Great American Ball Park = 12.2 balls per game.

303 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

1,194 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,874 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

11 comments

  1. Maxwell Mckiernan

    Man you’re so lucky. Seems like every AZ or FL ball you get is nearly pristine!

  2. raytheaustralian

    GoPros are great for action photography. I always thought that they would work well in your hobby. The footage should be interesting. The only trouble is that you look like a bit of a dork with it strapped to your head [ not you personally ]. It adds a new dimension to your photo record of the games. How many more games on this road trip ?

  3. Zack Hample

    MAXWELL MCKIERAN-
    Yeah, it’s strange how most of them have been pretty close to brand new.

    LIZ MERRY-
    Thanks! Nice to hear from you.

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    I agree that it IS kinda dorky, but on rare occasions it could be fun to get more of these shots. There will be one more blog entry about this trip. I hope to post it in the next day or two.

    TYLER-
    Yup, it’ll be in a YouTube video soon.

  4. Rocco Sinisi

    …IT WAS FUN HAVING YOU IN THE HOUSE!!! (that was my wife Jill in photo #2 with the white sleeves)

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