6/2/16 at Marlins Park

This was my fourth game ever at Marlins Park, and for the first time, I was here with my videographer, Brandon Sloter. Check out this screen shot from my “opening speech” outside the stadium:

1_zack_outside_marlins_park_06_02_16

As I said in the video, “It looks like a spaceship on the outside, and the inside is pretty unusual too.”

A little while later, I met up with my two best friends at the stadium:

2_zack_with_joe_scherer_and_drew_gregg

In the photo above, the man on the left is named Joe. He caught Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th career home run on 6/9/08 at Dolphin Stadium — a ball that I nearly got myself. The guy on the right is named Drew, and he keeps me up to date on everything going on at the ballpark. Not only was it great to reconnect with them, but they were kind enough to bring me and Brandon inside when the season ticket holder gate opened at 4:30pm.

For the first hour, only two sections were open:

1) straight-away left field
2) the left field foul line

Here’s where I started:

3_zack_in_foul_territory_06_02_16

Ichiro Suzuki and Christian Yelich were hitting in the first group. I was hoping that they’d slice a few foul balls into the empty seats, but it quickly became clear that I was wasting my time. I moved to straight-away left, and as you can see in the photo below, there wasn’t a whole lot of room to work with:

4_view_from_left_field_06_02_16

No, it wasn’t crowded, but that section is small and set way back, above and behind the visitors’ bullpen.

I didn’t get anything for half an hour. It was a real struggle. And when I did finally get a ball, it was a wimpy toss-up from Cody Hall during the last group of Marlins BP — not terribly exciting, but obviously I felt a huge sense of relief. Here I am catching it:

5_zack_catching_ball8930

A few minutes later, I got A.J. Ramos to hook me up by asking him to throw the ball hard. (He seems to like pegging them at people, John Rocker style, but presumably without the hostility.) Unfortunately his aim was off, and the ball fell short. Here it is bouncing off the wall in front of me:

6_ball8931_falling_short

Here’s a summary of the brief exchange that followed:

7_aj_ramos_annoyed

He was annoyed at me for not reaching over the wall and making the catch, and I was annoyed that he was annoyed when it had clearly been HIS fault, but then I realized that from his perspective, he couldn’t tell that I was in the 2nd row, so it probably seemed like I was being lazy, or that I was afraid of the ball. In any case, he gave me another shot, and I made the grab without incident:

8_zack_catching_ball8931

Here are the two baseballs that I had gotten:

9_first_two_baseballs copy

My third ball was a home run by a right-handed batter on the Marlins. That’s all I know. Here I am catching it — look closely and you can see it streaking into my glove:

10_zack_catching_ball8932

When the Pirates started hitting, the rest of the stadium still hadn’t opened, but whaddaya know? I got one more chance in left field and made the most of it, climbing down over a row of seats to make the catch. Here I am, just a split-second later, trying not to lose my balance:

11_zack_catching_ball8933

(Did you notice the fan ducking on the lower right?)

I handed that ball to the nearest kid — one of four balls that I gave away over the course of the day:

12_zack_giving_ball_to_kid

Then I ran over to right field at 5:30pm.

Now that the Marlins have moved in the fences, there’s a nifty gap between the outfield wall and the seats, and look! I used my glove trick to snag not one . . . not two . . . but three balls that had dropped down in there:

13_zack_using_the_glove_trick_06_02_16

I’ll spare you having to look at a bunch of screen shots here. Instead, just wait and check out all the action in the video (which is still being edited). If you subscribe to my YouTube channel, you’ll be guaranteed not to miss it.

Anyway, with my total for the day now at seven, I headed back to left field, but not to the seats above the bullpen. I headed to an area just behind the outfield wall called the Clevelander. I’ve talked about it before — it’s basically a club that happens to be located inside a Major League Baseball stadium. This was the view on my right . . .

14_seats_in_the_clevelander_on_my_right

. . . and here’s what it looked like on my left:

15_two_ballhawks_on_my_left

Meanwhile, in order to see the batter, I had to duck down a bit:

16_zack_in_the_clevelander

This section is weird and cramped and fun, and the awnings covering the seats make things awkward. There’s truly nothing else like it in the majors.

The awnings, which, by the way, are only used during BP, worked in my favor. Here’s my eighth ball of the day, bouncing down unexpectedly off one of them and barely eluding the guy standing above me:

17_ball8937_rolling_off_the_canopy

That ball dropped into the gap behind the scoreboard. Here I am bending over and grabbing it:

18_zack_reaching_for_ball8937

What a beautiful sight, huh?

Here’s some awkwardness for ya:

19_zack_waiting_for_ball8938

A righty on the Pirates had hit a deep fly ball that bounced from the warning track onto the awning. I was waiting for it to roll off, along with the guy in the yellow hat, so we both had our gloves up the air. The ball ended up rolling faster and farther than we expected, which was bad for him (because he was underneath the awning and therefore had no chance) and tricky for me because it kinda “handcuffed” me:

20_zack_catching_ball8938

Wow, that’s ugly! But I made the catch.

Here’s a six-part image that shows me getting my 10th ball of the day:

21_zack_snagging_ball8939

It was a home run that sailed over my head, ricocheted back toward me, and plopped into the front row.

Toward the end of BP, when Jonathon Niese walked over to retrieve a ball on the warning track, I simply said, “Hey, what’s up?”

His response: “What’re YOU doing here?”

He remembered me from Citi Field from his time with the Mets. I figured there was no chance that he’d give me the ball, so I didn’t bother asking. Instead we chatted briefly, and before he walked away, he tossed it onto the awning so that it would roll off to me. He was so cool about it (recognizing me AND still hooking me up) that when I got back home to New York, I wrote him a letter to say thanks. Anyway, here I am catching that ball:

22_zack_catching_ball8940

That was my 11th of the day, and here’s No. 12:

23_ball8941_in_scoreboard_gap

I used my string/glove to knock the ball closer (I call that the “half-glove trick”) and then reached down and grabbed it. Easy.

After BP, I caught up with a bunch of people:

24_zack_with_jake_robert_alex

The guy on the left is named Jake, and the dude in the orange shirt is Robert. They’re both regular ballhawks at Marlins Park and made me feel welcomed on their home turf. I appreciated how friendly they were. The fan on the right is named Alex, and as you can see, he’d brought his copy of my book The Baseball, which I signed for him.

I wanted to wander for a bit after that, not just to get shots for the video but also because the stadium is a fascinating place. Here’s the pool in the Clevelander:

25_clevelander_pool_and_field

Unlike the pool at Chase Field, no one ever swims in this one. It’s mainly just for show. (I said “mainly” because there have been exceptions.)

Here I am standing above the batter’s eye, admiring the curvature of the left field wall:

26_zack_and_curvy_walls

Shortly before game time, I did a quick segment for the video at the famous bobblehead museum, which is located in the concourse behind home plate:

27_zack_bobblehead_museum

Brandon wanted to take a photo from the upper deck — he does that in every stadium — but here at Marlins Park, the attendance was so low that the upper deck was closed. Therefore he had to talk to Fan Assistance and then plead his case with stadium security. The best they could do was take him up to the suite level, and even though the game was about to begin, I decided to join him. Here’s what it looked like at the top of the escalator:

28_elevator_and_windows

Kinda airport-like, huh?

Take a look at the ceiling near the bar in the suite level:

29_club_level_ceiling

Kinda gaudy, no?

Here’s a guard outside one of the suites:

30_guard_and_suite

I give up. I’m running out of adjectives. Sterile? I don’t mean to completely diss the stadium. It’s certainly designed and decorated in ways that I wouldn’t personally choose in a million years, and yet it works. It’s Miami. Things are supposed to be flashy. And the team’s owner is an art dealer. Of course he’s going to have bizarre taste, and you know what? I actually like it. The whole place is strange, and that’s good. Too many new stadiums all feel the same, so it’s nice to have one that stands out.

This is where Brandon got to take his photo:

31_off_center_view_from_club_level

That was actually a photo from my iPhone. Brandon took a much better shot, but wasn’t happy. He still wanted to get into the upper deck, and when it became clear that he was gonna spend the next hour dealing with stadium security, I decided to head back out to the Clevelander. Here’s what it looked like from the back of the club:

32_view_from_the_back_of_the_clevelander

Here’s something else that I saw from behind:

33_clevelander_bootay

The game, meanwhile, was speeding along, partially due to the fact that Wei-Yin Chen had a no-hitter going. See the scoreboard in the following photo?

34_no_hitter_through_five_innings

No hits through five. Great night to try to catch a home run. And man, if anybody had hit one to left-center, I would’ve had lots of room to run for it.

Things were so slow in the outfield that I sacrificed half an inning to get my photo taken with this lovely lady:

35_zack_with_baseballs_and_body_painted_woman

If there hadn’t been a line of people waiting to take photos with her, I would’ve offered a friendly lesson on how to pose with baseballs. I mean . . . jeez! You can hardly tell that there were two in her hand because one was behind the other, and to make matters worse, she had the “practice” stamp facing out. Details, people!

Brandon somehow talked his way into the upper deck and got this photo:

36_photo_from_the_upper_deck_by_brandon_sloter

He also went to the deepest part of center field and took a photo there too:

37_photo_from_center_field_by_brandon_sloter

Chen lost his no-hitter in the top of the 7th. The game ended up lasting 12 innings, during which there was a grand total of ZERO home runs.

Final score: Marlins 4, Pirates 3.

The highlight was seeing Ichiro collect his 2,964th and 2,965th career hits. I seriously love that guy, but can we please stop talking about him passing Pete Rose on the all-time hits list? It’s not even accurate to talk about the “professional baseball” record because Rose got 427 hits in the minor leagues, so you’d have to add that to his major league total of 4,256. Let’s appreciate Ichiro for being Ichiro and end this nonsense of crowning him as the hit king. Okay? Thanks.

After the game, the Pirates tossed at least a dozen balls into the crowd near their bullpen — maybe even 20. It was a tremendous display of generosity. Here I am getting one from bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade:

38_zack_catching_ball8942

That ball looked nice and used and rubbed up with mud:

39_ball8942_from_heberto_andrade_postgame

Brandon and I were the last two fans to leave the stadium, and I took a few photos on the way out. Look at this one:

40_view_from_stiarcase_06_02_16

(So weird!)

The lights had already been dimmed:

41_last_look_at_the_field_06_02_16

Here’s one final photo of the concourse, taken just as we began descending on the escalator:

42_empty_concourse_06_02_16

Good times in Miami!

I plan to add a video link to this entry, but will you remember to come back and look for it? Uhh, no, you definitely won’t, so if you want to see it, here’s a reminder to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Thanks for reading/watching.

***UPDATE***
Here’s the video.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

43_the_nine_balls_i_kept copy_06_02_16 13 baseballs at this game (nine pictured here because I gave four away)

 309 balls in 35 games this season = 8.83 balls per game.

 45 balls in 4 lifetime games at Marlins Park = 11.25 balls per game.

1,201 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 307 lifetime games with 10 or more balls

8,942 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.

• 11 donors for my fundraiser

• $102.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $411.08 raised this season

• $190,914.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

6 comments

  1. Gael Quesada

    Hi Zac! I’m your biggest fan, I saw you catch your 9,000 baseball at chase field! You signed one of the baseballs that I got at chase field ! I watch all your videos, you are a legend! I use your glove trick too!

  2. Ismael

    Hi from down under🇻🇬🇦🇺 How many R joe have? I want Ichiro for player Marlins hitting coach for 1200 more hits. 7 yr

  3. Matt lehmann

    I’m going to Rogers center later this season where would you recommend I would sit to catch as many baseballs.

    Thanks
    Matt lehmann

  4. Skim

    Your night last night at Yankee reminds me of my night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards four summers ago. I got 8 baseballs before the game, but then things couldn’t get any worse.

    The first batter of the game, Dustin Ackley, fouled a ball off straight to where I was standing in the aisle. It nicked the top of my glove and rolled straight through the tunnel into the concourse, where it hit a fan’s foot. As I approached, he bent down and picked it up.

    In the second inning (or something like that), I went out to the flag court *just* for Nick Markakis’ at bat, and of course he hit a home run straight to me. Except, I misjudged it, so it flew about five feet over my head. I ran back to try to pick it up, and as I bent down, not only did someone else pick it up but I got a good bit of beer spilled on my head. How awkward must it have been for me to walk back to where my mom was standing, reeking of beer?!?

    Later in the game, I headed back to the flag court, where a long foul ball was fielded by the right fielder and thrown up onto the flag court. It bounced, and I ran over to field it and as I approached, some guy ran into me relatively hard, hard enough that I was unable to even make a play on the ball. This was 2012, when the Orioles were using the OPaCY commemorative baseballs.

    Naturally, I headed over to the walkway right above the visitor’s bullpen to sulk for the rest of the night, where I ended up getting three toss-ups to put my count at 11 for the night, which at the time was my MLB game high. I’ll never forget what could have been, though.

    Also, I haven’t been to an MLB game since June 17th of last year at Yankee Stadium (you were there too – it was two days before the A-Rod milestone). I will hopefully be at Citi Field sometime in the next month, so I hope to run into you there at some point.

  5. Big Glove Bob

    What the heck happened last night? Did you lose out on two balls? A deflection off the kisser and then that walk off by Didi G? In my thimble sized ballhawking “career” I suffered a similar fate a few times.

    BGB

  6. Zack Hample

    GAEL-
    Thanks so much! I appreciate your support and kind words.

    ISMAEL-
    Greetings. I support your idea for Ichiro.

    MATT-
    That’s a complicated answer. There are so many places that good/bad for different reasons. I suggest your read my Rogers Centre blog entries for ideas, tips, strategies, stories, photos, etc. You can find them here: http://zackhample.com/baseball_collection/lists/blog_entries.htm

    SKIM-
    Ouch. That sounds rough. All we can do is get back out there and hope for better luck.

    BGB-
    Yup, on the first one, a fan in front of me jumped up and deflected it with his bare hand. On the second, the guy on my right absolutely plowed into me. Those both would have been routine catches otherwise.

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