6/13/16 at Chase Field

This was my first game of a five-day/five-stadium trip, which required even more planning than usual. It wasn’t just dealing with flights and hotels or having to coordinate with my videographer Brandon. The biggest challenge was making sure *not* to snag my 9,000th baseball before I made it out to Arizona. Seriously. I had to skip a couple of games that I normally would’ve attended, and I stayed in the outfield at other games when I would’ve preferred to work the dugouts. See how psycho I am about all of this? (But c’mon, admit it — you love it.)

I began this day with a lifetime total of of 8,994 baseballs. Here I am outside the stadium talking about it in the opening scene for the video:

1_zack_intro_for_youtube_video_06_13_16

FYI, Brandon is still editing the video, but he gave me all the raw footage so I could grab a bunch of screen shots for the blog. Here’s another that shows me entering the terrace of the Friday’s restaurant in deep left field:

2_zack_entering_fridays_terrace

That terrace is open to the public before the rest of the stadium opens. You don’t need a ticket for the game, and you don’t even need to buy any food, but you should show up hungry and spend money anyway to support the Diamondbacks because, in my opinion, they’re the most fan-friendly team in Major League Baseball.

In the following image, do you see the employee in the light blue shirt in left-center field?

3_zack_on_fridays_terrace

He was looking for home run balls that had landed in the bleachers, so naturally I called out to him and tried to get him to toss one up.

It worked!
Sort of.

Here he is tossing a ball . . .

4_employee_tossing_ball_from_below

. . . but unfortunately it fell short:

5_ball_thrown_short

He retrieved the ball and tossed it up again . . . with the same result. And it wasn’t even close. It fell short by at least five feet. Had it been 15 years since he’d thrown a baseball. Or was he afraid to throw it too hard and hurt me?

“I’m coming up there,” he said.

“I wanna see a throw!” I shouted.

I didn’t mean to be picky or demanding. I just thought it’d be more fun (and look better on video) to have him chuck it rather than hand it to me.

He made one more attempt and managed to reach me! After catching the ball and showing it to the camera, I handed it to a man for his daughter:

6_zack_giving_ball8995_to_fans

After that, all I got was the attention of several players and coaches. Here’s Patrick Corbin looking up at me . . .

7_zack_asking_for_a_ball

. . . and here’s Garvin Alston making a windmill gesture with his arm to indicate that he couldn’t throw it that far:

8_coach_garvin_alston_saying_he_cant_throw_it_that_far

Lame.

In the past, I’ve gotten lots of balls on the terrace, but now that I finally had a videographer here and just wanted ONE cool shot of a ball being thrown my way, no one was willing to hook me up.

Fifteen minutes before the gates opened, I exited Friday’s and got in line outside the gates with two of my local friends:

9_kenny_zack_tony

In the photo above, that’s Kenny on the left and Tony on the right. Great guys. It was nice to catch up with them for a bit.

Once I made it back inside the stadium for real, I used my glove trick to snag my second ball of the day from the left field bullpen:

10_zack_glove_trick_for_ball8996

Then I headed to right field and talked about the stadium along the way:

11_zack_left_center_field_concourse

The D’backs finished hitting by the time I made it over there, so I threw on my Dodgers cap and promptly got a toss-up from Scott Kazmir. Here I am reaching up for the grab:

12_zack_getting_ball8997_from_scott_kazmir

A few minutes later, I got Joe Blanton to throw me a ball:

13_zack_getting_ball8998_from_joe_blanton

That was my fourth of the day and No. 8,998 lifetime.

I picked a spot in straight-away right field and said to the camera, “Corey Seager is up right now. It would be really cool get number nine thousand hit from him, but I’m still two away right now, so it’s kind of unlikely.”

And hey, whaddaya know? Seager ended up hitting a home run right to me. Here I am reaching up for the catch. Look closely and you can see the ball streaking toward my glove:

14_zack_catching_ball8999_corey_seager_home_run

That was No. 8,999. The next ball was going to be THE ball, and I wanted to make sure to identify the player who hit or threw it. Of course I was so hyped up about everything else that when the moment arrived, all I could think about was the ball itself. Here’s where I was standing when . . . someone connected and sent a home run flying in my direction:

15_zack_starting_position_for_ball9000

I could tell right away that it was going to fall short, so I scooted down the steps and turned left:

16_zack_midpoint_on_ball9000

Then I drifted through an empty row and reached out for the catch. Once again, you can see the ball streaking down toward me:

17_zack_catching_ball9000

I didn’t realize it at the time, but the kid in front of me made a valiant effort and barely came up short. In fact the ball might have tipped the end of his glove. Normally, whenever I catch a ball near a kid, I’ll hand it right over, even in situations like this when I’m behind the kid and he wouldn’t have caught it anyway, but sorry, I wasn’t about to give away my 9,000th ball. That said, if you know the kid pictured above (you can see more of him in the video), tell him I’m looking for him, or if you ARE that kid, get in touch with me. Send me a photo of yourself from the game wearing that light green shirt — I need proof that it’s really you — and I’ll send you two baseballs.

Anyway, here I am holding up the ball right after catching it:

18_zack_showing_ball9000

A different kid on the staircase gave me a fist-bump:

19_zack_getting_fist_bump_from_kid_after_ball9000

Then I took a moment to admire the ball:

20_zack_looking_at_ball9000

Here’s a closeup:

21_ball9000_bp_homer_by_joc_pederson

I wasn’t sure who had hit it, but I’d gotten a good look at his batting stance. He was holding the bat vertically and had a pronounced leg-kick, and when he came up again (right after Seager), I took a couple of crappy photos:

22_joc_pederson_batting_stance

I asked some Dodgers fans nearby, and they said it was Joc Pederson.

Yes!! Of course!! Duh. That should’ve been obvious, but whatever, I was just glad to have gotten the ball and that Brandon had gotten it on video and that I now knew who had hit it. Mission accomplished.

I headed back to left field for the next group of hitters, but wasn’t satisfied with my location. Here I am looking back at the elevated concourse in left-center:

23_zack_eyeing_left_center_field_concourse

That suddenly felt like the place to be, so I headed up there:

24_zack_left_center_field_concourse

It was dead.

I walked down a few steps onto the balcony and peered over the edge:

25_zack_leaning_out_over_balcony

I wanted to make something happen, but there just weren’t any opportunities. And then, suddenly, as if sent by the planets above, a Diamondbacks employee appeared out of nowhere and handed me a baseball:

26_zack_getting_ball9001_from_diamondbacks_employee

Here’s exactly what’s happening in the four-part photo above:

1) The hand-off, along with a “welcome to Chase Field” greeting. I wasn’t kidding when I said this is the most fan-friendly team.

2) Pointing out the Diamondbacks logo on his shirt to confirm that he really did work there. I don’t accept/count balls that are offered to me by other fans, but I’ve always counted balls that come from stadium employees.

3) Thanks and a hearty handshake.

4) “Hey, I’ll take it.” There’ve been so many employees (mostly at Shea Stadium in the 1990s) who’ve tried to prevent me from getting baseballs that when I’m shown a little love, I gladly accept it. I consider it payback.

Here’s a zoomed-in/blurry screen shot that shows me using the glove trick for my eighth ball:

27_zack_glove_trick_for_ball9002

That happened along the left field foul line, and I handed it to the closest fan.

Then I headed back to straight-away left field. Look how crowded it was:

28_left_field_bleachers_during_bp

Yes, hello, I see you standing there on the benches.

29_left_field_bleachers_during_bp

Congrats for making it onto my blog.

It was nearly impossible to catch home runs out there. Here I am getting robbed by one of the regulars:

30_zack_getting_robbed

Here I am flinching on another home run:

31_zack_flinching_on_deflection

I was fearful of a deflection, and sure enough that’s exactly what happened, but thankfully it went away from me. See the guy wearing the backwards gray and black cap? The ball whizzed right past his face. He’s lucky he didn’t end up with a black eye or a few loose teeth.

Toward the end of BP, I headed back to the left-center field concourse:

32_zack_back_on_the_concourse

I had a hunch that someone might launch a ball up there, and anyway, it was too damn crowded down below.

Several minutes later, it happened. I think it was Kiké Hernandez who connected. Check it out:

33_zack_catching_ball9003

That was my ninth ball of the day, and I handed it to a kid who had just walked past me:

34_zack_giving_ball9003_to_a_kid

People often ask if I get recognized a lot at games. The answer is yes, and for some reason, it happened more than usual here in Arizona. At one point, a group of half a dozen kids approached me while I was rushing from the left field bleachers up to the concourse. I explained that I was busy and asked if they could find me after BP. They said yeah, and I don’t know what happened next — whether they told all their friends or if word somehow spread or if people just spotted me, but when the players finally jogged off the field, I ended up doing an impromptu meet-and-greet with dozens of fans. It sounds ridiculous, but I’m telling you that’s what happened. See for yourself:

35_zack_signing_autographs_after_bp

Somehow every kid already had a baseball, and they all wanted me to sign them. I also signed tickets, hats, a book, and other random objects. And everyone wanted a selfie. And then there were group photo requests. And lots of questions about my baseball collection, my schedule, my next YouTube video, my favorite stadiums, etc. Aside from the fact that I was starving and needed to pee, I was glad to hang out with everyone. I can see how it would be a burden for *actual* celebrities to receive that kind of attention ALL the time, but for me, it only happens at baseball stadiums. Seventeen years ago, it definitely went to my head when people recognized me. Now I’m just glad I can make kids happy by giving them a few moments of my time. It’s a weird but lovely feeling.

Here’s what I had for dinner:

36_chinese_food_and_candy_apple

Can someone estimate the calories for me? I hope it was at least 2,000, but that’s probably pushing it.

I was hoping that Joc Pederson would sign autographs before the game, but no, only Corey Seager did:

37_corey_seager_signing_autographs

As I explained in the video later on, “I don’t really go for autographs much anymore, but I have gotten every thousandth ball signed by the player who hit or threw it.” That said, I need Joc, so if anyone has advice or any connection to him, please let me know.

Also, I should mention that I’ve gotten every thousandth ball at a different stadium. Ready for the complete list? Here goes:

Ball No. 1,000 — thrown by Pedro Borbon Jr. on 6/11/96 at Shea Stadium
Ball No. 2,000 — thrown by Joe Roa on 5/24/03 at Olympic Stadium
Ball No. 3,000 — snagged with the glove trick on 5/7/07 at old Yankee Stadium
Ball No. 4,000 — thrown by Livan Hernandez on 5/18/09 at Dodger Stadium
Ball No. 5,000 — BP homer by Alex Rios on 5/28/11 at Rogers Centre
Ball No. 6,000 — tossed by Brad Lidge on 6/8/12 at Fenway Park
Ball No. 7,000 — BP homer by Anthony Rendon on 8/27/13 at Nationals Park
Ball No. 8,000 — Gerardo Parra game foul ball on 5/15/15 at Citi Field
Ball No. 9,000 — Joc Pederson BP homer on 6/13/16 at Chase Field

If there’s one thing I learned from that list, it’s that I need to scrounge up some photos and screen shots (from a video I filmed on an old palmcorder) and blog about Olympic Stadium.

Before the game started here in Phoenix, the roof opened:

38_roof_open_pregame

Ahh, how pleasant.

I was excited because we had tickets in a GREAT spot:

39_home_run_aisle

Did you notice the guy in the “Marino” jersey on the right? That’s who I gave the ball to on the Friday’s terrace — quite a coincidence.

During the game, I spent a lot of time chatting with this guy:

40_friendly_fan_with_sign

His name is Keith, and he has a season ticket there — and he’s very friendly. Two months earlier, he made the news by catching two Paul Goldschmidt homers in one game. Here’s an article about it.

That row/aisle is meant for disabled fans and their guests, but if there are unsold tickets after a certain point, they get released for sale to the general public.

Check out my view of the field from that spot:

41_view_from_right_field_during_game

There was a boisterous group of fans at the swimming pool:

42_people_in_the_pool

BROSEIDON was overseeing the merriment:

43_broseidon

Lots of the people there were in costumes:

44_people_in_costumes_in_the_pool

Here’s a group photo of them:

45_group_photo_in_the_pool

“Protect this pool.” Heh.

I would have loved to join them, but the pool area is reserved for private parties. Oh, and it costs about $3,500 per game, and it’s sold out for the rest of the season. Who wants to join me out there next year? C’mon! We can pick a date as soon as the 2017 schedule comes out and all chip in and thrash around for home run balls in the water.

Did you know that there’s a locker room with showers next to the pool?

46_tunnel_to_locker_room

Pretty cool spot.

Here I am late in the game, hoping for a home run ball:

47_zack_in_home_run_aisle

All those red chairs are reserved for pool people. I guess the D’backs need to provide actual seats in case those people want to sit down? Of course none of those folks ever left the pool area (except to go to the locker room), so I had all that open space to my right for the entire game.

There were three home runs — two to right-center (by Goldschmidt and Seager) and one to left-center (by Jake Lamb, who is extremely underrated). That was it. No action for me.

Late in the game, a friend and his wife gave me their dugout tickets on their way out, and look where I was able to go:

48_tunnel_to_a_close_up_spot

That tunnel led right up to the Diamondbacks’ on-deck circle:

49_view_from_up_up_close_on_the_3rd_base_side

Here’s what it looked like on my left:

50_jody_jackson_on_my_left

In the photo above, do you see the woman with blonde hair facing away from the camera? Her name is Jody Jackson. She’s a reporter/anchor for FOX Sports Arizona, and I’ve gotten to know her over the past few seasons. Do you remember this photo of her that I took behind the scenes on 8/13/13 at Chase Field? No? Well, clearly you should comb through my archives and read my old entries, but anyway, it was nice to get in a quick hello with her.

It was also nice to have a shot at getting a ball from home plate umpire Carlos Torres after the final out of the Diamondbacks’ 3-2 victory, but let me just mention something first. I don’t wear an umpire hat to get attention from the umpires. I wear it because I think it looks sharp, and since I don’t have a favorite team, it’s a good way to stay neutral while showing my love for the sport. That said, check out Torres’s reaction when he spotted me:

51_funny_look_from_umpire_carlos_torres

Tee-hee!

I don’t think my hat made a difference. He probably would’ve given me a ball regardless. Here I am catching his gentle toss before he disappeared down the steps:

52_ball9004_tossed_by_umpire

That was my 10th ball of the day. I’d given away four of them, so here are the six I still had left:

53_the_six_balls_i_kept

Finally, here’s something I always do but rarely show — my ballhawking notes from the game:

54_notes_06_13_16

I can write much neater when I try. These are just quick scribbles to help me remember all the balls that I snagged.

On a final note, please subscribe to my YouTube channel and stay tuned for the Chase Field video. It’s coming soon, and it’s gonna be amazing.

***UPDATE***
Here’s the video.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

 10 baseballs at this game

 371 balls in 44 games this season = 8.43 balls per game.

• 94 balls in 10 lifetime games at Chase Field = 9.4 balls per game.

1,210 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,004 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

8 comments

  1. raytheaustralian

    Hey Zack , nice job for 9,000. Congratulations. How big will no 10,000 be ? At this rate of about 12-18 mths per 1,000 balls then maybe the playoffs next year. Should be interesting.

  2. therealsammyd

    Hey Zack,

    Heading to New York this week, gonna catch the Yanks-O’s on the 21st. Any chance you’re going to that? Would love to meet you.

  3. sanjaysridhar

    Fantastic job on 9,000! Odd thing happened at Turner Field about a week ago. Jose Fernandez was shagging in the outfield and tossed me the ball. It was a Selig ball though. Any thoughts?

  4. Zack Hample

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    Thanks! There’s definitely a chance of getting No. 10,000 next year, if I maintain this blistering pace.

    THE REAL SAMMY D-
    I don’t think I’ll be there that day, but I won’t know until the last minute.

    SANJAYSRIDHAR-
    Thank you. That’s amazing to see a Selig ball THIS long after he left the commissioner’s office. I guess the Braves or Marlins have some extra Selig balls that they’re still trying to get rid of.

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