5/31/16 at Turner Field

This was my 17th lifetime game at Turner Field, and for the first time ever, I was there with a videographer for my YouTube channel. Here I am talking to the camera just after the stadium opened at 4:30pm.

1_zack_talking_to_the_camera

I was probably saying something along the lines of, “OMG, I love this place soooooo much!”

In my previous 16 games here, I’d snagged a total of 217 baseballs. That’s an average of more than 13 balls per game, so obviously I was thrilled to be back and hoping to have another big day.

Unfortunately BP got off to a rough start for me. I got completely shut out during the first group of hitters, and things didn’t get much better after that. Here’s a screen shot from the video, which shows me jumping for and missing a home run ball:

2_zack_jumping_reaching_missing

There were several other near misses and unlucky ricochets. And then THIS happened:

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That’s my friend Bryce on the right, congratulating a fellow ballhawk named Will for beating me out for a ball in the gap behind the outfield wall. Turner Field is one of the best places for using a device to retrieve balls that are out of reach; security is totally cool with it, and as a result, there was LOTS of competition. Whenever a ball dropped into the gap, it was like a swarm of vultures dive-bombing a juicy carcass. Fans of all ages would start racing through empty rows, rushing down the steps, and climbing over seats. And get this — Bryce had inspired Will to make a retrieval device several years ago, so he was especially pleased to see him out-snag me.

After about 20 minutes, I finally got my first ball of the day — a home run that I caught after taking a circuitous route up and then down the stairs. Here’s the ball streaking into my glove:

4_zack_catching_ball8908

Not surprisingly, the ball was not commemorative. This is the final season of Turner Field, so the Braves are using special balls during games. I was hoping to get a few during BP, but nope, every ball had the standard MLB logo.

Here’s a good look at the gap between the outfield wall and the seats:

5_seats_gap_outfield

There are also gaps in right-center and straight-away right field. Twenty or thirty balls per day must land in there. There are endless opportunities, but like I said, there’s lots of competition, so if you bring a device, make sure it works well and fast.

When the entire stadium opened at 5pm (only left field and right-center are open for the first half-hour), I still only had one ball. Left field was rather crowded, so I headed to straight-away right. This was my view:

6_view_from_right_field_05_31_16

A few minutes later, a left-handed batter on the Braves (not sure who) hit a long fly ball that was clearly going to sail over my head, so I climbed back over a row to get closer to it:

7_zack_climbing_rows_for_ball8909

I actually climbed over two rows, and when the ball landed, it unexpectedly ricocheted right into my chest:

8_ball8909_ricocheting_back

That was lucky — one foot higher and I might’ve ended up with another black eye. Remember when I got hit in the face with a ball on 7/31/13 at Turner Field? The result was not pretty, but anyway, as for this homer to right field, it deflected back at me so fast that I failed to catch it cleanly. Instead I bobbled it . . .

9_zack_bobbling_ball8909

. . . but managed to hang on.

Then I used my glove trick to snag my third ball of the day:

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I handed that one to a girl who was standing nearby:

11_zack_giving_ball_to_girl_05_31_16

That was it for the Braves’ portion of BP. In a word: weak.

When the Giants came out, I headed over to the left field foul line and stayed a dozen rows back. I kinda had to because of the huge nets that are now erected during BP to protect people down in front.

I got Kelby Tomlinson to throw me a ball, and soon after, I got another from Brandon Crawford. Look how far away he was:

12_brandon_crawford_throwing_ball8912

In the screen shot above, do you see the two players on the outfield grass? Brandon Belt is on the right, and Brandon Crawford (in the process of chucking the ball to me) is on the left. His throw fell short, forcing me to climb down over a row and lunge far forward:

13_zack_catching_ball8912

I got one more ball in foul territory, and it was far less exciting:

14_zack_catching_ball8913

It was tossed from 10 feet away by George Kontos, who was already looking elsewhere by the time I gloved it. That was my sixth ball of the day.

When the Giants started hitting, I ran back to right field and promptly got a toss-up from Derek Law. That ball had been bobbled by a man on my right, so I handed it to him for his kid.

Then I caught a pair of Jarrett Parker homers, and unfortunately, this is the best screen shot I can provide of the first one:

15_zack_catching_ball8915_while_cameraman_was_ducking_for_cover

My videographer didn’t see the ball coming, so when he saw me run toward him and then climb back over two rows, he got scared and ducked. As you can kinda see, I was straddling the second row when I caught the ball.

The second Parker homer was less eventful. Here’s the ball streaking down into my glove:

16_zack_catching_ball8916

I gave that one to a kid:

17_zack_giving_ball8916_to_a_kid

That was it for BP. Nine balls. Pretty good considering how slowly things had started for me.

A little while later, I caught up with a young fan named Gehrig who had brought his copy of my latest book, The Baseball. Here we are:

18_zack_and_gehrig_with_the_baseball

Using the ballhawking advice in the book (along with his excellent baseball instincts), he had snagged six balls during BP. I signed the book for him, and we hung out for a bit, and then I rushed off to eat a pre-game meal at . . .

19_waffle_house_dinner

WAFFLE HOUSE!!!

There’s a Waffle House *inside* Turner Field, and I absolutely love it, and no, I’m not joking. There might even be some Waffle House footage in the video, which, by the way, will be up on YouTube soon-ish. The best way to make sure you don’t miss it is to subscribe to my channel. If, for some reason, you can’t deal with that, keep an eye on my Twitter because I’ll post a link when it’s ready, and if you can’t even do THAT, check back on this entry because I’ll add a link to the video at the bottom.

Here’s a photo of the visitors’ bullpen, just because:

20_visitors_bullpen_from_concourse

No, I didn’t snag a ball there. I just want to show you what it looks like because . . . TURNER FIELD, MAN!! It’s not gonna be around much longer, and I already miss it like crazy. If you haven’t ever been to this stadium, do whatever you can to get there. You have three and a half more months. Make it happen.

When the game got underway, my number one goal was to snag a commemorative ball. None of my nine balls from BP had a special logo, so now I needed to make something happen. I spent a little time behind home plate:

21_brief_view_behind_the_plate

I also went for 3rd-out balls behind the Giants’ dugout:

22_zack_going_for_3rd_out_balls

(Stupid me, being here when the Giants were in town. So. Many. Giants. Fans.)

I wasn’t feeling it at either of those spots, so I moved to the 3rd base side and stayed deep, where there were lots of empty seats. Here I am from behind:

23_zack_sitting_on_the_3rd_base_side

How nice that my videographer happened to be filming at that moment because Gregor Blanco sliced a high foul pop-up in my direction. I jumped out of my seat and drifted to my left:

24_zack_tracking_a_foul_pop_up

When I determined that the ball was going to land behind me, I climbed back over a row:

25_zack_climbing_back_over_a_row

And then ANOTHER row:

26_zack_climbing_back_over_another_row

Here’s the ball landing:

27_foul_ball_landing

It ricocheted back up into the air . . .

28_foul_ball_ricocheting_up_in_the_air

. . . and wouldn’t you know it — I had to climb back down:

29_zack_climbing_back_down_over_a_row

At the very last second, I lunged and made a back-handed catch . . .

30_zack_reaching_out_for_the_catch

. . . and then with my momentum taking me back toward the field, I hopped down over another row (to avoid face-planting):

31_zack_jumping_down_over_another_row

Has anyone ever climbed over four rows of seats in the process of snagging a baseball? I think that might be a new world record. Can we get Guinness on the phone?

I was very very very very very happy at that moment:

32_zack_celebrating_ball8917

And look! I even made it onto the Giants’ broadcast:

33_zack_on_tv

I showed the commemorative logo to my cameraman:

34_zack_showing_ball_to_the_camera

Here’s a better look at it:

35_ball8917_gregor_blanco_foul_ball_with_commemorative_turner_field_final_season_logo

Beautiful!

I’m getting bored of circular logos (like this and this and this and this), so I appreciate the Turner Field logo for its unique shape and design. That said, I think it falls short of perfection because of how difficult it is to read the words “Turner Field.” It looks like there are faint X’s through the letters, as if it’s part of the stonework, and I just don’t think that holds up. I do love how the design of the stadium is incorporated into the logo, along with a bold Braves logo and the years. Commemorative logos without years (like this and this and this and this) are tremendously disappointing because they lack essential info.

Speaking of numbers, look what happened when the game became official after five innings:

36_number_of_games_remaining_at_turner_field

That’s how many home games are remaining at Turner Field. See the number “54” on the outfield wall below?

37_outfield_from_3rd_base_side

In the bottom of the 9th inning, I moved closer to the action . . .

38_zack_bottom_of_the_9th_inning

. . . and when the game ended, I worked my way down to the home-plate end of the 3rd base dugout and got my 11th ball of the day from home plate umpire Alan Porter.

Final score: Giants 4, Braves 0.

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When the Giants cleared the field, I gave away two of my BP balls to kids. Here’s the second recipient, who was absolutely adorable:

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If you look closely, you can see me waving to him (in the middle), and him waving back to me (on the right). D’awww!

Before leaving the stadium, I took a photo of the umpire ball:

40_ball8918_from_umpire_alan_porter

Then I posted this tweet about it. Heh.

There was no teary goodbye on this night in Atlanta because I was planning to be back at Turner Field the next day. Stay tuned for that blog entry. For now, I’ll leave you with a photo of the six balls that I kept:

42_the_six_balls_i_kept_05_31_16

Like I said before, I’ll add a link to the YouTube video as soon as it’s ready. Thanks for reading/watching!

***UPDATE***
Here’s the video. It’s great. You should watch it.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

 11 baseballs at this game (six pictured here because I gave five away)

285 balls in 33 games this season= 8.64 balls per game.

 228 balls in 17 lifetime games at Turner Field = 13.41 balls per game.

1,199 consecutive games with at least one ball

 81 different commemorative balls

8,918 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

13 comments

  1. jere80

    “54 home games remaining.” Well, yeah, with that attitude! That’s like when the Red Sox hyped up the “final game of the century” at Fenway in 1999, and we were all pissed–helllooo, what if we make the playoffs??? And we did! All these teams have to do is insert “regular season” into these things.

  2. Jonah Platt

    Today’s society is so focused on making money and being the newest (and luxury boxes). That’s why I hope my local ballpark (Smith’s Ballpark(look at some pictures, that place is beautiful. It’s also pretty easy to snag)) doesn’t get torn down for a LONG time.

  3. tyler

    Are you going to stop snagging after 10000? Also should i have gotten opening day dirt from mlb auctions?

  4. Shaan Ahuja

    Hey zach, where do you get the pass to get in at 4:30 pm to Great American Ballpark? I’ve lived in Cincy all my life and I’ve wondered how to get in before 5:30. If you could, could you just comment the link to buying an early bird pass? Thanks

  5. Zack Hample

    JERE80-
    Two little words go a long way . . .

    JONAH PLATT-
    Sounds like a great place. I hope it lasts too.

    TYLER-
    I plan to keep going. As for dirt, that’s for you to decide.

    SHAAN-
    I don’t know the link, but you can get ’em at the Reds HOF.

  6. ryan k noone

    Hey Zack its Ryan (previously) long haired foul ball guy from Oakland. you beat me so far, I only climbed 3 rows for my first foul of the year. Also as i kinda mentioned I cut my hair, and donated it, so it is really really short now. A kid at a game the other day after seeing me snag a few balls asked me if I was you.. Completely made my day, and I was beyond flattered haha thought you might like that story. keep doing you- Yours truly, Ryan.

  7. raytheaustralian

    Just saw you on MLBs Best doing your silly dance [ after taking a catch I think ]. You had an Atlanta cap and blue baseball evolution t-shirt on. Where is the new Braves stadium going to be built and will it be named after Ted turner as well ? I`ve always thought that it would be great to have a stadium named in your honour. Zack Hample Stadium sounds OK too. We`re going to be in Dallas on the 25th en route to Costa Rica. We are going to pig out like natives at the Hard Eight BBQ while we wait for a connecting flight. Wish we could stop over for a few days and catch up with you for a few games at Arlington as well. It seems a shame to come so far and not go to a Rangers game.

  8. Angie Bullman

    Thank you so much. I got 18 balls at turner field thanks to all your tricks. I got to use the glove trick. I got 14 in bp and 2 from each bullpen. Thank you for inspiring me to be a ballhalk. Thank you so much Zack.

  9. Zack Hample

    RYAN-
    That’s a great story! Thanks for sharing. But wow . . . I can hardly picture you without that amazing hair. Been seeing you in some highlights lately. Must be so nice to have room to move around. Best wishes for continued success and hopefully I’ll make it back out there soon.

    NM-
    Not sure, but when I pick a date, I’ll announce it on Twitter.

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    Ha, you saw that all the way in Newcastle? Outstanding. SunTrust Park is the name of the new stadium. I like your idea better. It’s located far from downtown. Of course there’s a controversy about that. Have fun in Texas and Costa Rica. Wish I could see you guys.

    BLOGGING ‘BOUT BASEBALL-
    Thanks! It was great seeing you. Tough stadium ya got there.

    NOLAN ROSS-
    Lots of advice. I don’t have time to retype/condense it here in a comment, but you can find it all in my Target Field blog entries: http://zackhample.com/baseball_collection/lists/blog_entries.htm

    ANGIE BULLMAN-
    Wow! That’s amazing. You’re very welcome.

    JOHN-
    Not at the moment, but I hope to make it there this season.

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