6/17/16 at Dodger Stadium

I had two big goals for this day at Dodger Stadium. Most importantly, I wanted to make a better YouTube video than the one I did here in 2012, and second, I wanted to snag at least 10 baseballs. I always hope to hit double digits, but on this particular occasion, I started the day with 90 lifetime balls at this stadium, so I was hoping to reach 100. I suppose that’s one of my longterm goals — to reach triple digits at every current stadium.

I got inside early with some friends who are season ticket holders and headed down near the left field foul pole:

1_zack_near_the_foul_pole_06_17_16

Did you notice all the players standing around in left field? Batting practice hadn’t started yet. That’s how early it was. Every day at Dodger Stadium, season ticket holders get inside THREE HOURS before game time. That’s just not fair. I mean, good for them (and for the Dodgers for being so fan-friendly), but it just makes me hate New York.

There wasn’t much action at first. I tried unsuccessfully to get a toss-up, and then Joc Pederson ignored my request to sign my 9,000th ball (which he had hit during BP four days earlier at Chase Field). Oh well. I’ll get him someday. Maybe. Possibly. Or not? No? Well, who needs him anyway!

After BP finally got underway, I snagged my first ball by running quite a distance through an empty row. Here I am taking off for it:

2_zack_running_for_ball9021

Look closely at the following screen shot, and you’ll see the ball rattling around in my row:

3_zack_running_for_ball9021

And then?
More dead time.

For the first hour, fans were confined to the left field side, which wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that the entire first group of Dodgers BP consisted of left-handed batters. Chase Utley? Adrian Gonzalez? I think they were hitting, along with Pederson and Corey Seager.

My videographer, Brandon Sloter, got a shot of Clayton Kershaw in the bullpen:

4_clayton_kershaw_bullpen_session

I moved back to the left field corner and waited. This was my view:

5_view_from_the_left_field_corner

Brandon rejoined me for the next group and got a decent shot of my second ball — a home run by Justin Turner. Here’s a four-part photo that shows how I got it:

6_zack_snagging_ball9022

Let me provide some commentary:

1) As soon as the ball was hit, I climbed back over a row and started moving into fair territory.

2) I took a quick peek at the ball, but didn’t need to keep looking at it. I knew where it was going to land, so I focused on getting to that spot as quickly as possible.

3) It looks like I was about to glove it, but in fact the ball was just beyond my reach, so I accidentally swatted it deeper into the section.

4) I climbed back over a couple of rows and grabbed it. Phew! Note the clock. It was still more than two and a half hours until game time.

A few minutes later, I had what should’ve been an easy, uncontested chance to snag another ball. Look where it landed:

7_ball_landing_near_me_in_a_totally_empty_spot

As you can see, there was no one else near it. All I was gonna have to do was scoot through that glorious cross-aisle and pick it up. Maybe walk up a couple of steps? Gosh, what a challenge, right? Well, actually . . . yeah. The ball took a RIDICULOUS deflection and landed one full section behind me. Here I am watching it and realizing that I needed to change directions:

8_zack_watching_unlucky_ricochet

Look where it landed:

9_ball_landing_near_another_fan

It plunked down right in the row where that kid happened to be chillin’. Bad luck for me meant good luck for him, so it really wasn’t that bad after all. I just think it’s interesting to have footage of an extremely unlucky bounce; ballhawks complain about stuff like that all time, so even though I didn’t end up getting the ball, it’s fun to actually have video evidence.

Here I am (one sneaker in the air) reaching for a ground ball:

10_zack_reaching_over_wall_06_17_16

I barely missed it. So many close calls.

For the Dodgers’ final group of BP, I moved to the left field pavilion. Here’s what it looked like from where Brandon was standing in the front row:

11_view_from_left_field_pavilion_06_17_16

I wasn’t up there with him. Instead I was camped out on a staircase down below:

12_zack_on_a_staircase_down_below

There are far more opportunities *in* the bleachers than down below (or down the foul lines), but I picked that spot because it’s different. It’s fun to scamper around in a mostly dead area directly behind an outfield wall. How many other stadiums are set up like that? The outfield configuration at the Oakland Coliseum used to resemble that, but now there’s nothing else like it in the majors.

My staircase strategy paid off when a right-handed batter (not sure who) barely cleared the wall with a ground-rule double. Here I am chasing it down:

13_zack_running_for_ball9023

Back on the staircase, I handed the ball to the nearest/smallest kid:

14_zack_giving_ball9023_to_a_kid

That was one of five balls I gave away over the course of the day.

When the entire stadium opened at 5:10pm, I headed over to the right field pavilion:

15_zack_right_field_pavilion_06_17_16

FYI, that’s the “all-you-can-eat pavilion,” and you need a right field ticket to be there, even during batting practice.

Brewers outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis was throwing a ball against the wall, so I walked over and asked him if he wanted to play catch. Even though I was the only fan out there, I didn’t expect him to do it. He used to play for the Mets, so I’d seen him a lot at Citi Field, and he never seemed to engage with fans during BP. I’m not sure if he was stand-offish or just super-focused on preparing for the games, but in any case, he was like a completely different person here in L.A. Without hesitating, he threw me the ball:

16_zack_playing_catch_with_kirk_nieuwenhuis

Then I threw it back:

17_zack_playing_catch_with_kirk_nieuwenhuis

Usually, when I play catch with guys on the field, they’ll let me make one or two throws and then end it. That wasn’t the case here. Nieuwenhuis and I played catch for three solid minutes, and you’ll see a good chunk of it in the video. He threw curveballs. I threw knuckleballs. And of course there were plenty of four-seamers. It was incredible to have an extended one-on-one interaction with a major league player inside a stadium. That doesn’t happen often.

Nieuwenhuis ultimately let me keep the ball — my fourth of the day — and I got another soon after from Jeremy Jeffress.

Once again, I had several close calls during the Brewers’ portion of BP. Here I am almost catching a deep fly ball behind the wall in right field:

18_zack_close_call_on_a_deep_fly_ball_in_right_field

This was my reaction after it hit the top of the wall:

19_zack_reaction_to_bad_luck

If that ball had sailed two feet farther, it would’ve been an easy catch. And look! The same thing happened to me in left field during the final group of BP:

20_zack_close_call_on_a_deep_fly_ball_in_left_field

I wasn’t feeling good about either pavilion, so I headed briefly to the right field corner:

21_zack_near_the_right_field_corner_06_17_16

That spot turned out to be dead, so I hurried to the 1st base dugout just before BP ended. I hoped to get a ball from the Brewers when they cleared the field, but they sure didn’t make it easy for me. Look at this:

22_zack_near_dugout_after_bp_06_17_16

When teams finish hitting, they always dump the baseballs from the BP basket into an equipment bag — and they always do it on the warning track. Not today! The Brewers made the basket-to-bag transfer all the way out on the foul line, which meant I didn’t even have a chance to ask for a ball. Life is hard.

Just as I was getting ready to give up on that spot, Darnell Coles, the team’s hitting coach, walked over with two baseballs in his back pocket. He tossed one to a girl on my left and flipped the second one to me:

23_darnell_coles_tossing_ball9026

By the way, in case you’re wondering, he was heading through the seats to talk to someone he knew, who obviously didn’t have a ticket for the ultra-fancy section down in front.

Take another look at the photo of me in the right field corner. See the dude in the red t-shirt? His name is Jason, and we had a nice long chat near the dugout after BP. He lives in southern California and attends lots of games.

Shortly before game time, I got my seventh ball tossed up from the Brewers’ bullpen:

24_zack_catching_ball9027

It came from pitching coach Derek Johnson.

I wandered a bit at the start of the game and eventually made my way to the outfield. Look how crowded it was:

25_so_crowded_during_the_game

Security at Dodger Stadium has changed quite a bit since my previous visit in 2013. It used to be impossible to move around. To get into the left field pavilion, you specifically needed a ticket for that area, and if you had a ticket there, you couldn’t go anywhere else. I used to buy two tickets for every game just so I’d be able to move around. To get into the lower level of the main part of the stadium, you needed a ticket there; you couldn’t even go downstairs from the 2nd deck. The rules were so restrictive that it was nearly suffocating. (Don’t get me started on the parking situation. That still needs an overhaul.)

What’s different now? The Dodgers have expanded the perimeter of the stadium so that there’s a concourse behind the pavilions:

27_wandering_behind_the_bleachers

Anyone with any ticket can walk all the way around the stadium . . . on the inside! If you want to go into the left field pavilion for BP or during the game, no one’s going to stop you, so I headed over there to say hey to my friend Devin Trone:

26_devin_trone_in_left_field_06_17_16

Remember him from Angel Stadium? I’d seen him there just two days earlier. I hoped to say hello to Bobby Crosby (aka “Dodgerfilms“), but he wasn’t there. I did, however, get a chance to catch up with my buddy Benny Amesquita.

One place where you have to show a ticket is the right field pavilion. As I mentioned earlier, that’s the all-you-can-eat area, so obviously it wouldn’t work if anyone could wander in there. Here’s what the main concession stand looks like:

28_all_you_can_eat_concession_stand

Here’s the soft-drink area right around the corner:

29_all_you_can_eat_soft_drinks

As someone who pretty much *only* drinks water, I was happy to see these . . .

30_empty_water_jugs

. . . but by the middle innings, most of them were empty. <WARNING — RANT COMING.> I tell ya, water drinkers get shafted. Why is it that the cheapest and most common liquid on the planet is often unavailable? I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been at picnics or luncheons, and EVERY other drink is available except for water. In one cooler, there’ll be six different kinds of beer. In another cooler, there’ll be Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, and juice — maybe even chocolate milk for the kids — but no effin’ water! Why is it perceived as being weird to want to drink water? Open bar? Great! Give me a glass of ice water, please, and for the love of Abzu, don’t put any lemon in it! If I wanted lemonade, I’d order it. Just give me some plain-ass water, okay? I don’t need the sugar or the calories. My taste buds are mature enough not to need additional stimulation between bites. JUST. GIVE. ME. WATER. All you people out there who offer to buy me beers at games, thanks, you’re awesome and generous, but I’d rather drink water. Always. Do you hear that, Dodgers? I want to drink water. H2O. And yes, I’m aware that the soft drink machines provide water, but when I use those, the water comes out of the same spout that gets used for other stuff. I don’t want random soda molecules tainting my water. Does that make sense? This is a very serious and troubling issue. Replacing those water jugs should be your top priority — right up there with making sure that the bathrooms have toilet paper and that the home plate umpire has baseballs to put in play. Thanks for your cooperation. <END RANT.>

Here’s what I ate and drank:

31_food_from_the_all_you_can_eat_pavilion

In addition to the two hot dogs, I got nachos and cheese, peanuts, popcorn, and of course a cup of water . . . with Coca Cola logos on the side.

The all-you-can-eat pavilion should be called the “all-you-can-bear-to-eat-before-you-hate-yourself pavilion.” It’s not exactly high-quality fare, but I suppose it’s a worthwhile one-time experience.

Around the 7th inning, I exited the pavilion in search of ice cream. Heh. If I’m gonna have sugar, I’d rather make it count.

Check out this new/huge/snazzy concession area:

32_new_concession_area_at_dodger_stadium

There was no ice cream there, so I had to walk all the way into foul territory to get some, but you know what? I was happy just to be allowed to walk into foul territory without showing my ticket. Accessibility, baby! That’s what up.

Look at this beautiful dessert:

33_chocolate_ice_cream_06_17_16

Mm-hmm, yessir!

Here’s another nice thing about Dodger Stadium that I don’t recall seeing in the past:

34_seats_overlooking_the_bullpen

Those seats behind the bullpen are open to everyone. You don’t need to show a ticket to be there. Just show up and grab an open spot. Outstanding.

You know what really sucked? Leaving the stadium in the 9th inning with the score tied, 2-2, because I had a flight to catch back home to New York City. Here’s what the stadium looked like as I headed toward the edge of the parking lot with Brandon:

35_stadium_from_afar_game_still_going

We listened to the game on the way to the airport. Justin Turner won it with an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th.

As for my two goals that I mentioned at the top, I fell short of double digits, but I can live with that. It just means I’ll have to come back soon and snag my 100th lifetime Dodger Stadium ball. The video, however, is another story. Brandon is still working on it, so who knows how it’ll turn out? (My prediction: great!) Subscribe to my YouTube channel, and you’ll get an alert when I post it. I’ll also add a link here, so stay tuned.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

36_the_two_baseballs_i_kept_06_17_16 7 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave five away)

 394 balls in 48 games this season = 8.21 balls per game.

• 97 balls in 12 lifetime games at Dodger Stadium = 8.08 balls per game.

1,214 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,027 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.

• 14 donors for my fundraiser

• $123.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $618.85 raised this season

• $191,122.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

16 comments

  1. Chris

    Well done Zack! Looking forward to seeing the vid! Oh and btw if you are going to be in the Bronx on August 5th I bought a pair of champion suites tickets and I can try to bring you down.

  2. Zack Hample

    CHRIS-
    Thanks very much! I appreciate the offer, but I think that if I make it to that game, I’d actually rather sit in the outfield and try to catch a home run.

    EVERYTHING TWINS BALLHAWK-
    No. I just assume that the whole situation is much more of a mess than we’ll ever know.

  3. Chris Angelov

    Could you tell.me when you wil be visiting citizens bank park? Great blog entry today

  4. Chris

    I get what you’re saying! That just happened to me at Camden yards. I moved to home plate to try to get a ball from an umpire, and waddya know! A homer is hit DIRECTLY to my seat. If you change you’re mind let me know! Goodluck!

  5. Zack Hample

    CHRIS-
    Thanks very much, but right now I have no plans to be in Philly. I’m hoping to make it there at least once this season.

    CHRIS-
    Ugh! That’s the worst. It has happened to me a few times. I’ll let you know . . .

  6. Aaron

    Bobby doesn’t come because he’s “boycotting” games I believe. In case you didn’t know, he and Steve Mears had a very rough incident.

  7. jere80

    Mostly-water drinker here. In addition to us getting the shaft, coffee-drinkers get all the advantages! I go to a diner, and everybody orders coffee but me, and they’re all bombarded with offers of refills the whole meal. Meanwhile I have to ASK for a water refill, and if I want, say, a second orange juice, I have to pay for it, they don’t just come around and keep refilling my glass. And it doesn’t even seem like coffee-drinkers WANT coffee, they NEED it. They’re addicted. And everybody just happily feeds their addiction. Coffee may be inexpensive, but it cant be cheaper than plain water. Therefore water should be as available if not more. I was also thinking of making signs to secretly put around ballparks that read, “This way to the free water fountain! Don’t pay 5 bucks for a drink when there’s an endless supply RIGHT HERE.” Because you know the teams never advertise the free water that they’re probably mandated to supply, because that would take money right out of their pockets.

  8. Zack Hample

    AARON-
    You know . . . I think I heard about the boycott at some point., but I forget who told me. That’s a real shame.

    JERE80-
    Ha! I love everything you’ve said, and I agree about coffee. Basically I’d rather be naturally tired than artificially energized (or vice versa, like when I wish I could fall asleep on planes but choose not to take a pill — eff that). And the worst is when coffee drinkers use their addiction as an excuse to treat me badly. “I haven’t had my coffee, so therefore I’m allowed to behave like a despicable person.” Eff that even harder. Come back and visit soon, and let’s chug some water like real men!

  9. andrewbchen

    Hey Zack! My names Andrew and I’m 13 years old and I live in California. I’m gonna be at Dodger stadium this week to watch them play the Phillies. Do you by any chance know how early they let fans in who have regular tickets? I’d really like to know because I am trying to get my first baseball from the game. Also if there are any tips that you could give me to try to get a ball at Dodger stadium that would be awesome. Thanks!

  10. Dennis Sanchez

    Do you know if you attend a BobbleHead night at Dodger Stadium and sit in the All You Can Eat Pavillion will you be able to get a bobblehead because I’ve heard that you don’t have access to the actual stadium if you sit in the AYCE pavilions???

  11. Dennis Sanchez

    Ok good to know and thanks for replying. I’m flying in this July for Dodgers vs Giants Series for the first time but wanted to also go to the Twins game couple days before just for a Kershaw Bobblehead and wanted to try out the AYCE section for that game.

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