6/7/16 at Yankee Stadium

Lots of people have asked me to do a ballhawking video at Yankee Stadium, and guess what? The wait is over! Unfortunately, though, as you’re about to see, the Yankees provided very little action. Here’s what it looked like from the left field seats at 5pm:

1_view_from_left_field_during_bp_06_07_16

For some reason, the Yankees finished batting practice much earlier than usual. I forgot to look at the clock when they started jogging off the field, but it couldn’t have been much past 5:03pm. That was a huge bummer.

During the three (or so) minutes that they *were* on the field, I hurried up to the left field bleachers, searching for a home run ball that had landed there:

2_zack_searching_unsuccessfully_for_an_easter_egg

I’m either reeeeeally dumb and somehow missed it or a security guard picked it up while I was en route. Let’s assume it was the latter, but regardless, I had a big ol’ goose egg when the Angels took the field:

3_angels_on_the_field

Whenever I see the Angels, I try to get in a quick “hello” with Mike Trout. Of course that’s damn-near impossible at Yankee Stadium, where you can’t get near the infield unless you have a super-expensive ticket. In fact, the photo above was taken from the closest spot I could get. The solution? Get his attention from afar. Here I am waving my hat . . .

4_zack_waving_at_mike_trout

. . . and here he is saluting me:

5_mike_trout_waving_back

That was nice. And that was it . . . or so I thought.

Ten minutes later, I got Albert Pujols to throw me a ball:

6_albert_pujols_throwing_ball8951

I drifted down the steps to catch it, and then I hurried back up to show the ball to the camera. Just then I heard someone shouting at Mike Trout, so I turned around and saw Trout standing behind 3rd base with a ball in his hand. He didn’t throw it to the guy who had called out. Instead he waited for me to move back over to the staircase, and he chucked it to me instead.

7_zack_catching_ball8952

THAT was nice. And okay, sorry for mentioning this yet again, but for all the people who’ve recently stumbled upon this blog and/or don’t know much about me, the quick backstory with Trout is that I caught his first career home run on 7/24/11 at Camden Yards and gave him the ball after the game, and he’s been really nice to me ever since.

Here are the two baseballs that I’d just gotten from a pair of future Hall of Famers:

8_balls8951_and_8952_pujols_trout

Most of my baseballs at Yankee Stadium are home runs during BP. There are many days when I never even try for toss-ups, so just keep that in mind. It’s not normally like this. What’s the big deal about getting a couple of balls thrown to me? Ha. Check this out — here’s Jered Weaver hooking me up (from well over 100 feet away) with my third ball of the day:

9_jered_weaver_throwing_ball9853

I had to climb down over a row to catch that one:

10_zack_catching_ball9853

Wait! There’s more! Here’s Jhoulys Chacin throwing me my fourth ball of the day:

11_jhoulys_chacin_throwing_ball8954

Moment later, coach Dino Ebel threw me a ball without my even asking. WTF was going on? Here I am catching it:

12_zack_catching_ball9855_thrown_by_dino_ebel

Sometimes I do everything right and it’s a huge struggle; other times it seems that baseballs just find me. That’s the only way I can explain it.

When the Angels started hitting, I headed to right field, and everything went wrong. I had easy opportunities to catch two home runs, but I misjudged them both, just barely, right off the bat, but that’s all it took. Basically I drifted down a couple of steps on each one when all I needed to do was hold my ground.  Stupid, stupid, stupid. Here I am missing one of them:

13_zack_missing_home_run_ball

Was the wind blowing out? Was it hotter than usual? I don’t know, man. All I can tell you is that I felt like an even bigger idiot than usual, given the fact that I was being filmed.

Thankfully things went better for me back in left field. Here I am jumping for and catching an Albert Pujols homer:

14_zack_catching_ball8956

I handed that ball to the nearest kid . . .

15_zack_giving_ball8956_to_a_kid

. . . and caught another home run a little while later. I’m not sure who hit this one, but in the following screen shot, you can clearly see it streaking into my glove:

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I gave that one to a kid too:

17_zack_giving_ball8957_to_a_kid

I didn’t catch any homers after that. It was just too crowded. Check out this screen shot of a cluster of fans going for a ball:

18_cluster_of_fans_going_for_ball

I can’t even count the number of guys — at least eight or nine. Maybe even ten? That’s just crazy. And this was a weeknight without a promotion.

When BP ended, I gave a quick recap for the video:

19_zack_with_five_baseballs_06_07_16

Then I wandered to several different spots to point some stuff out:

20_zack_pointing_stuff_out

In the four-part image above, how many of the places/things can you name or identify? You probably won’t guess what I was talking about in No. 4, but rather than explaining it here, I’ll just let you see it in the video. I predict you will be amused.

Here’s another four-parter for you:

21_tom_gregorio_throwing_ball8958

That happened right before the game. Angels bullpen catcher Tom Gregorio threw me a ball from the bullpen. After catching it, I handed it to a kid and got a handshake from his appreciative father.

My videographer is a friend (who constantly tries to troll me) from San Diego named Brandon. He does great work but sometimes drives me crazy. This was one of those times. As we settled into our seats for the game, I told him that right fielder Carlos Beltran throws his warm-up ball into the crowd before every inning and that he seems to hook me up every other day, usually in the middle innings. The point was: “I know you wanna to go take photos at some point from the upper deck for your precious Instagram, but I’m paying you lots of money to film me, so DON’T MISS IT, BRUH.”

He seemed to be on it. Here’s a shot he got of Beltran tossing a ball before the first pitch:

22_carlos_beltran_throwing_warm_up_ball

Here’s Beltran throwing one closer to me before the 2nd inning:

23_fans_battling_for_a_different_warm_up_ball

Brandon was still with me in the 3rd when I gave a couple of baseballs to some kids in the bleachers:

24_zack_giving_baseballs_away

By the way, the woman up above in the green shirt is named Tina. She’s basically the queen of the bleachers — hardly ever misses a game — and is really cool with me. She knows that whenever she needs a ball for a little kid, she can ask. Normally I hate being asked for baseballs, but I make an exception for her because she’s golden.

Anyway, so far, so good, right? Brandon was with me and getting good shots of various stuff . . . right?!

Ha. Yeah. Not so much. He took off in the 4th inning and returned in the 6th, and guess what happened in between? Yup. Carlos Beltran threw me a warm-up ball, and it was beautiful. I jumped as high as I could and caught it in a thick crowd of grown-ups and promptly handed it to a very little kid and got cheered by the whole section. And Brandon missed it. Fabulous. But oh! Hey! He got a shot of Beltran’s late-inning replacement, Aaron Hicks, throwing HIS warm-up ball into the crowd:

25_aaron_hicks_throwing_warm_up_ball

Unreal.

It’s still a solid video, but I’m bummed not to have gotten the Beltran ball in there, mainly because that’s become such a big part of my Yankee Stadium experience. At very least, it would’ve been nice to have that footage for myself. This was the 35th ball I’ve ever gotten from Beltran — easily more than anyone else has ever thrown to me (although my friend Alex Katz, currently pitching in the White Sox’s minor league system, vows to break that record someday).

I should mention that the Yankees beat the Angels, 6-3, behind a surprisingly solid performance by starter Michael Pineda. There were three home runs in the game hit by Kole Calhoun, Carlos Beltran, and Starlin Castro. I caught none of them. Mike Trout (my favorite player now that Heath Bell has retired) went 0-for-3 with a walk. Bleh.

And now, as promised, here’s the video. Enjoy!

BALLHAWKING STATS:

 9 baseballs at this game

 326 balls in 39 games this season = 8.36 balls per game.

• 1,369 balls in 194 lifetime games at Yankee Stadium = 7.06 balls per game.

1,205 consecutive games with at least one ball

8,959 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

You’re still here? Well then. Here’s a bonus photo for you of the grounds crew rolling out the tarp after the game:

26_tarp_coming_out_after_game

On a final note, it was fun but stressful to do a video here. I go to Yankee Stadium so often that I felt comfortable, but I also put a lot of pressure on myself to get everything right. I’m a perfectionist. What can I say?

Thanks for reading (and watching).

6 comments

  1. David

    Hey Zack, I’m going to the stadium this Friday so I was wondering what exact time do the gates open and what time do the Yankees start to practice, thanks

  2. David

    Oh cool, I’m gonna be there too, do you think if he hits a Homerun to right field you can catch it?

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