6/15/16 at Angel Stadium

It had been three years since BIGS Sunflower Seeds sent me to Angel Stadium. Now I was back with my videographer, Brandon Sloter, to do a ballhawking video for my YouTube Channel. Here I am doing the opening shot in the parking lot:

1_zack_intro_for_video_06_15_16

(Guilford College in the houuuse!)

By the time the stadium opened, there was quite a crowd outside the gates:

2_devin_trone_outside_stadium

Do you recognize that guy in the photo above? (No, I’m not talking about Mike Trout high up on the wall in the background.) That’s my friend and fellow ballhawk Devin Trone. Whenever I attend games in Anaheim or Los Angeles, he’s there — same deal with Home Run Derbies and All-Star Games — so it was nice to catch up with him.

After making a quick stop near the left field foul pole . . .

4_zack_near_left_field_foul_pole

. . . I headed out to left-center field.

My indecision cost me a baseball.
This stadium drives me crazy.
Look at this challenging setup:

3_zack_in_left_center_field_06_15_16

Whether trying to catch a baseball or just watch the game, it’s awfully frustrating when the front row is 50 feet away from the field. Dead space in the outfield is the worst, and this stadium has a lot of it.

Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to snag my first baseball of the day. Here’s a four-part photo that shows how it played out:

5_zack_snagging_ball9012

Here are some details:

1) I was about eight rows back when I saw the ball get hit in my direction.

2) Judging that it was going to fall short, I ran down to the third row and started moving to my left. Note how the employee in the red shirt is standing there casually and ignoring the ball as it plunked down beside him.

3) The ball took a massive bounce over my head (see it against the sky?) and landed in the row where I’d initially been standing. Duh.

4) No one else was going for it, but I still rushed to get there and pick it up. Then I confirmed with one of the regulars that it had been hit by C.J. Cron.

Here’s the ball — No. 9,012 lifetime:

6_ball9012

I only had one more quasi-chance during the brief remaining portion of Angels BP. Take a look at the following screen shot and see if you can figure out what happened:

7_zack_not_snagging_this_ball

Basically a home run bounced past and barely missed that big blue thing. I was hoping it’d hit the rounded edge and deflect toward me, but no.

When the Twins took the field, I headed over to the 1st base side and got a ball thrown to me:

8_zack_catching_ball9013

I’m not sure who hooked me up, and in fact I struggled throughout BP to identify the players.

Brandon followed me out to the corner spot in right field. He doesn’t like being photographed, so I cropped him out of this shot which was sent to me by Matt Jackson — another friend and fellow ballhawk:

9_zack_being_filmed_photo_by_matt_jackson

Here I am lunging for a ground-rule double:

10_zack_lunging_for_a_ball

Cool action shot, right? Well, the ball bounced a foot beyond my reach.

Here I am getting a ball tossed by Ervin Santana:

11_ervin_santana_throwing_ball9014

I handed that one to this little fella, who had told me earlier that it was his very first Angels game:

12_zack_giving_ball9014_to_a_kid

I headed back to left-center field and continued to struggle with bounces. Here I am barely missing one after having drifted down the steps:

13_zack_not_catching_this_ball

I’m an idiot. All I had to do was NOT MOVE, and it would’ve been an easy chest-high catch.

Here I am getting my 4th ball of the day from the employee in left-center:

14_employee_throwing_ball9015

He’d already given baseballs to all the kids down in front, so by the end of BP, he must’ve figured it was time to chuck one to me. I gave that ball to a kid late in the game.

After BP, I met a father/son ballhawking duo named Boog and Jacob:

15_boog_zack_jacob

They are GREAT guys, and I’m not just saying that because they’d brought two of my books for me to sign. I really had a nice time hanging out with them. And by the way, I need to point out the fact that Boog is close to my age and has a son who’s . . . like, an actual grown-up! That’s just weird. I can’t imagine having a kid right now (hopefully someday) let alone one who’s old enough to grow facial hair. WTF. My dad was 51 when I was born. I wonder what it’s like to have a father who’s so young.

Anyway, look what I saw during the lull after BP:

16_zack_approaching_home_run_leaderboard

Obviously I had to walk over and check it out up close:

17_all_time_home_run_leaderboard

That’s* an* impressive* bunch* of* names.*

After a quick peek at the Big A . . .

18_big_a_from_ramps_to_upper_deck

. . . it was game time. My seat was behind the Twins’ dugout . . .

19_view_from_1st_base_side_06_15_16

. . . but I didn’t really want to stay there all night. I think it’s dumb to sit in foul territory when Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are in the starting lineup, so I decided to stay there until I got a 3rd-out ball, and then I’d think about heading elsewhere.

Thankfully it didn’t take long. When Trout grounded out to end the 1st inning, I headed down to the front row and got Twins 1st baseman Byung Ho Park to toss me the ball. Here I am (now fully decked out in Twins gear) reaching out for the catch:

20_zack_catching_ball9016

I often have a kid in mind before I catch a ball — someone that I already know I’m gonna give it to. That was the case with the Ervin Santana toss-up in right field, and I did the same thing here at the dugout, so when I walked back up the steps, I handed it to this guy:

21_zack_giving_ball9016_to_a_kid

Someone told me later that a game-used ball hit by Mike Trout — even a ball that resulted in an out — is worth hundreds of dollars. I suppose that’s true, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and I don’t care. Quite simply, it was fun to snag that ball after the 1st inning, and it also felt good to give it away to a young fan.

I headed out to left-center field after that. I was prepared to talk to the usher and show him my dugout ticket and ask nicely if I could sit in his section for a few innings — maybe even offer him a ball to give to the kid of his choice — but guess what? No one ever asked to see my ticket, so I picked this empty spot down in front:

22_view_from_left_center_field_06_15_16

It didn’t stay empty for long:

23_seats_more_crowded_in_left_center

Those guys in the front row ended up recognizing me and admitting that they, too, didn’t have tickets for that section.

People often ask me how I’m able to move around during games, so that’s how. In certain sections in certain stadiums, it’s simply not an issue. The ushers WERE closely guarding the dugout seats (one guy rudely denied me on the 3rd base side when I was hoping to say hello to Mike Trout before the game), but 430 feet from home plate in a section with a lousy view? No one cared, and that’s how it should be.

Late in the game, I headed out to right field and met the famous “TROUTNET” guy:

24_jonathan_and_zack_with_troutnets

His name is Jonathan, and you can check him out on Instagram. He was incredibly friendly, not just to me, but to everyone. He brings three TROUTNETs to every game and lends them to random people every inning so they can try to catch the outfielders’ warm-up balls. Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout take turns throwing balls into the crowd throughout the game, and they always aim for the TROUTNETs. How cool is that? (I also think it’s cool that Angel Stadium security allows Jonathan to bring these inside. I can assure you they would not be allowed in either stadium in New York.)

I gave it a shot for several innings and came really close at one point:

25_zack_using_troutnet

If you look closely at the screen shot above, you can see Jonathan filming himself making the catch. I said that Calhoun and Trout throw the balls to people with those nets, but sometimes their aim is a bit off.

This was my late-inning view from right-center field:

26_view_from_right_center_field_06_15_16

After the final out of the Angels’ 10-2 win (in which Trout scored three runs — aww yeah!), there was a whole lot of fire:

27_postgame_fire

Good times!

Here I am watching the flames:

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Just before heading out, a fan named Ivan asked me to sign his baseball with a gold marker:

29_ivan_with_signed_ball

I think that looks snazzy.

Here’s the last photo I took inside the stadium:

30_sprinklers_after_game_06_15_16

From a numbers standpoint, it was kind of a blah day. I’ve been averaging more than eight balls per game this season, so to “only” get five was a bummer, especially when I was being filmed and hoping to put on a good show. Angel Stadium is a difficult place to catch baseballs, but I still could’ve hit my average with a bit more luck and a less stupidity. If I had headed directly to straight-away left field upon entering, I would’ve gotten a home run that landed in the back bullpen and bounced into the seats. If the home run just beyond the outer edge of the seats had clipped the blue/rounded Sherwin Williams ad, it would have deflected to me. Then there was the ground-rule double in right field that eluded my glove by about a foot. There was also the ball that I misplayed back in left-center by drifting down the steps. And finally there were a few close calls with the TROUTNET late in the game. I don’t think I could’ve reached double digits (well, maybe I could’ve if I went for pre-game balls near the bullpens and/or along the right field foul line and then tried to get a ball after the game near the dugouts or bullpens), but I clearly underperformed. By saying all of this, I don’t mean to complain but rather demonstrate how there were a bunch of woulda/coulda/shoulda moments. That’s often the case, but there seemed to be more of them at this particular game. Oh well. It was still a fun day.

The video is still being edited. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and/or check back here for an update. I’ll add a link when it’s ready.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

31_the_two_baseballs_i_kept_06_15_16 5 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave three away)

 383 balls in 46 games this season = 8.33 balls per game.

• 44 balls in 7 lifetime games at Angel Stadium = 6.29 balls per game.

1,212 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,016 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.

• 13 donors for my fundraiser

• $113.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $455.08 raised this season

• $190,958.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

16 comments

  1. Chad

    I caught Luis Valbuena Home run Ball July 24 game against the Astros when Astros beat Angels 13-3!!!

  2. jack

    zack i will be in Minnesota on friday and Sunday if you can come that would be awesome ps the twins just played the braves white soxs just played the cubs

  3. Jonah Platt

    You know, it does my heart good to know that most of the names of angels players you mentioned Zack I probably saw in Triple-A.

  4. Jake Adams

    I believe the player who hooked you up in the picture from the Twins was Juan Centeno.

  5. Zack Hample

    JACK-
    Sorry, I can’t make it. I have other plans here in NYC.

    JONAH PLATT-
    Nice. :)

    JAKE ADAMS-
    Thanks for letting me know. Wanna take another look when the video is done and then confirm it for me?

  6. Chris Angelov

    I will,be at the phillies game on August 20th, is there a chance you will be there?

  7. Zack Hample

    Not sure. I’d say there’s a decent chance for both, but I don’t have anything booked at the moment. It would be nice to see you again.

  8. Timmy M

    Zack when r u gonna posta new vid on youtube, ps I was just at O.co Stadium and got 3 balls.

  9. D. Beaudreau

    You made my sons day, Bradley. You talked to his mom and then went down above the dugout in Anaheim You introduced yourself and signed a ball for Bradley. He was so excited. Certainly a huge fan. We love baseball. Thank you for the memory!

  10. Aaron

    Hi zack I was at your book store the other day and really liked it I really want to meat you one day at a yankees game or in new york city. I have watched all your you tube videos and will continue to. Please let me know the next time you will be at a yankees game I would love to meat you.
    Your fan Aaron

  11. Zack Hample

    Hey! Thanks for watching the vids and commenting. Not sure exactly when I’ll be at the stadium, but I should be there for a lot of weeknight games this year. Hopefully see you there.

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