6/27/16 at Yankee Stadium

QUESTION: What happens when there’s a three-and-a-half-hour rain delay in the 9th inning on a weeknight . . . and THEN the game continues?

ANSWER: Read this blog entry.

I know this is supposed to be the place where I talk about my balls, but for once, I don’t want to dwell on that. I’ll tell you quickly that I snagged a dozen during the Yankees’ portion of batting practice — some in right field and others in left — including an Easter egg 15 minutes after the gates opened. It was one of those days. Everything was going right, and I didn’t bother taking any photos until the Rangers were hitting. Even then, I only took two during BP. This was my view from right field . . .

1_view_from_right_field_during_bp_06_27_16

. . . and here’s what the seats/crowd looked like on my right:

2_semi_crowded_seats_on_my_right

During the Rangers’ portion of BP, I snagged six more baseballs, including a pair of Prince Fielder homers in the right field bleachers. That brought my total for the day to 18, which might sound incredible, and okay, yes, it was pretty damn fun, but (a) I still wasn’t close to breaking my one-game record of 36, and (b) I had much more fun later on.

During the game, an older friend of mine came over to say hello and showed me that he, too, had a Wilson A2000 glove:

3_wilson_a2000_old_and_new

A bit later, I noticed a fantastic cup holder fail:

4_cup_holder_fail

These are the things I like to photograph — no disrespect to folks who lug fancy camera equipment and get scintillating action shots, but I’m more interested in the wacky and bizarre.

That said, here’s when it began to unfold:

5_here_comes_the_tarp

If you look closely at the photo above, you can see (in blurry yellow numbers on the facade of the upper deck) that it was 10:41pm. Why wasn’t the game over by then? Couldn’t this massive rain delay have been avoided altogether?

Uhh, yeah, it was totally unnecessary for two reasons:

1) The game was delayed for 21 minutes at the start by the threat of rain. Everyone was sitting around waiting and wondering, “WTF?”

2) After it HAD been raining steadily for quite some time, Aroldis Chapman walked the leadoff batter in the top of the 9th inning. The Yankees were clinging to a 6-5 lead, so manager Joe Girardi came out and talked to the umps, and whaddaya know? THAT’S when the game was finally delayed — such coincidental timing! Yankee fans defended Girardi and the umpires, arguing that it had to be delayed at that point because it was too wet and Chapman couldn’t grip the balls and someone could’ve gotten hurt and blah blah. Rangers fans thought it was total B.S., arguing that Girardi clearly hoped the game would never resume, thereby giving his team a cheap win.

This reminds me of a story from sleep-away camp when I was 12. There was a big tennis tournament, and I ended up in the finals against this snotty, hot-shot kid, who had teased me mercilessly all summer. He also happened to be the son of a famous sportscaster and, admittedly, was a more polished tennis player than me. Somehow I had a narrow lead late in the match, and guess what this kid did? He complained that it was too windy and tried to get the match postponed. I was like, “It’s windy on my side of the court too, bruh,” so we kept playing, and I won, and he cried, and it was the greatest moment of my young life. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it all these years later, it’s still one of the greatest moments. I hope he quit playing tennis as a result and still cries about it.

So yeah. While it WAS raining pretty hard in the top of the 9th inning, it wasn’t raining noticeably harder than it had been in, oh, let’s say . . . the bottom of the 8th.

I have no idea what Girardi said to the umps, or what it was like to be out there on that wet, squishy field, so I can only say that from my limited perspective as an outsider, it seemed strange for the game to be delayed at THAT moment, just as the Rangers had a hint of momentum.

Fast-forward to 11pm. It was still raining, and the radar looked bleak, but no official announcement had been made about the game. Naturally, most fans had left by that point, but I had decided to stick around.

I needed food, but there was only one concession stand open (Nathan’s), and there were only two options remaining: hot dogs and chicken tenders. Here’s what I picked:

6_chicken_tenders_because_there_wasnt_much_else_available

I wish that Sweetgreen, Fresh & Co., and Chopt would all open up concession stands at Yankee Stadium, and while we’re at it, Peacefood Cafe too.

This was my view as I ate:

7_tarp_covering_the_infield

Fast-forward again, this time to midnight. There STILL hadn’t been any announcement about the status of the game, but obviously there was a chance that it would resume. Otherwise the Yankees would’ve cut their losses on any remaining food at Nathan’s and kicked everyone out — and it wouldn’t have taken long. Look how empty the seats were at that point:

8_smattering_of_fans

I’m sure there were a bunch of people chillin’ in various clubs (Legends, Champions, Audi, Delta, etc.), but based on what I actually saw, I was practically drooling at the idea of how much fun I’d have if/when the game resumed. Until then, I decided to wander and take photos.

It was 12:24am when I made it to the left field seats:

9_no_one_in_left_field

It had stopped raining at that point, and the radar looked decent, but there were no groundskeepers in sight. They must’ve known something or maybe Girardi had locked them all in his office.

There was no one in the center field concourse:

10_center_field_concourse_empty

To further prove it, here’s what it looked like on my right:

11_center_field_concourse_empty

By 12:35am, it started drizzling again. Evidently that was more water than the tunnel in right-center field could handle:

12_wet_tunnel_in_right_field

There was one other fan in the right field concourse:

13_one_other_fan_in_the_outfield

I’m not sure what he was looking at — the beer menu? I guess he didn’t know that Nathan’s was the only game in town.

Here’s the Yankees’ bullpen:

14_no_one_in_the_bullpen

The right field seats were empty too, of course:

15_no_one_in_right_field

By 12:43am, the drizzle had turned into a steady rain, and guess what? I didn’t have an umbrella! I’d gotten completely soaked during the game — shoes, pants, shirt, and cap. My backpack was also horribly soggy. I had tried to fight the water for an inning or two but ended up accepting my fate, so the fact that I was now getting rained on once again didn’t matter. In fact I enjoyed being the only person/idiot walking through the seats.

The warning track was going to need to some serious help:

16_view_from_the_right_field_corner_06_27_16

These garlic fries weren’t in much better shape:

17_garlic_fries_and_watery_ketchup

A few minutes later, it began raining hard. These guys didn’t have umbrellas either:

18_police_officers_getting_rained_on

On a scale of FML to WHATEVER, how do you think this cop was feeling?

19_police_officer_getting_rained_on

At 12:50am, I heard someone yelling at me as I headed closer to the infield. It was a security guard in the concourse. He waved me up the steps and told me that I wasn’t allowed to walk through the seats.

Yes, really.

I wasn’t trying to go down into the Legends area. I was just walking through the normal seats. An hour earlier, I had actually been told by a supervisor on the 3rd base side that for the rest of the night, fans could sit anywhere in the 100 Level, but for some reason, the guard on the 1st base side felt the need to be all guard-y. He told me that if I wanted to enter another section, I had to walk though the concourse and then head down the steps.

By the way, here’s what it looked like from the concourse:

20_view_from_1st_base_concourse

This was the scene at 1:16am:

21_panorama_from_the_3rd_base_side

The rain delay had started more than two and a half hours earlier, and the Yankees still hadn’t made any announcements about it. What’s up with that? If they didn’t know anything, it would have been nice for them to say so, but then again, I was gonna stay regardless, so it really didn’t matter.

At 1:37am, after the rain had once again tapered off, the grounds crew (and umpire crew) walked out onto the field:

22_grounds_crew_finally_coming_back_out

I nearly danced a frickin’ jig when I saw them starting to remove the tarp:

23_grounds_crew_removing_the_tarp_06_27_16

Jon Daniels and Brian Cashman (the GMs of the Rangers and Yankees) met in foul territory to discuss the situation:

24_jon_daniels_and_brian_cashman

While the grounds crew worked to get the field ready, I caught up with Prince Fielder’s son Haven:

25_haven_fielder_and_zack

Haven and I have gotten to know each other over the past couple of seasons. Whenever I see him out on the field shagging baseballs during BP, he hooks me up, and when I saw him during this rain delay, he told me that he’s been watching my YouTube videos. What a fine young man! I hope he makes it to the major leagues someday.

I also spent some time with Prince’s wife, Chanel:

26_zack_and_chanel_fielder

She and I go way back to the 2015 All-Star Game. Do you remember this photo of us?

At 2:04am, the Yankees began playing catch in front of their dugout:

27_yankees_players_warming_up_at_204am

Starlin Castro ended up throwing me his warm-up ball, and several minutes later, just before the game finally resumed, right-fielder Aaron Hicks threw me HIS warm-up ball. There was literally no competition; I was the only person who asked him for it. That was my 20th ball of the day, and by the way, I’d already given away 12 of them to kids. (“Hey, d-bag, why do you need to point out how many balls you give away?! You should give them ALL away!”) (Anyway . . . )

Here’s what it looked like in right field during the top of the 9th inning:

28_no_one_in_right_field

OH. EM. GEE.

I wanted the Rangers to score one run and tie the game, and then I wanted it to last forever.

Kirby Yates was now pitching, if you can call it that. He struck out Shin-Soo Choo but then hit the next two batters to load the bases. That’s when I took the following photo:

29_view_from_foul_territory_06_27_16

I had moved into foul territory because Adrian Beltre had stepped to the plate. I had so much room to cover that I hardly knew what to do with myself. I figured I’d stand in foul territory for the righties in case they sliced a foul ball, and I’d run back out to right field and play straight-away for the lefties.

As it turned out, one of the righties did hit a foul ball to the 1st base side, but wouldn’t you know it — it landed all the way at the back of the 100 Level, right near a couple of fans who barely had to move. I ran three full sections for it, just because I could, but I knew I had no chance.

After falling behind in the count 0-2, Beltre ripped a line-drive single to left field, scoring two runs and putting the Rangers on top, 7-6. It was a stunning turn of events, punctuated by distant yet distinct cheering from the few remaining Rangers fans and family members.

Being in an empty stadium is a heckler’s dream. I had no desire to harass the players, but I couldn’t resist the urge to say SOMEthing, so when Prince Fielder was digging into the batters box, I decided to talk to Aaron Hicks. In a normal voice, I said, “Aaron, this is a very special moment for the two of us — alone together out here in right field.”

Heh.

I know he heard me. I just hope he was at least two percent amused. What would YOU have said to him? Or to anyone? It was so weird — totally surreal and peaceful, which are words not typically associated with Yankee Stadium. I was having THE BEST TIME, but now of course I wanted the Rangers to make two quick outs and for the Yankees to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th. Unfortunately Fielder was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, and Elvis Andrus hit a two-out, two-run single to increase the Rangers’ lead to 9-6.

Wow. But hey, that would just make it even more exciting when I caught a walk-off grand slam, right? That’s how I was looking at it.

Here’s what it looked like when Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the 9th:

30_camera_man_and_empty_right_field_seats

He ended up hitting a weak grounder to the shortstop and barely beating it out at 1st base — or did he? The ump called him safe, and the Rangers challenged because that’s what everyone needed at that moment: another reason for the game to be delayed. That’s when I realized I should film something for YouTube, so here you go. CLICK HERE to see a little selfie-style slice of life from Yankee Stadium at 2:38am.

Castro was ruled safe (woo-hoo!) and advanced to 2nd base on a groundout by Didi Gregorius. Chase Headley followed with a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate!

That’s when I took this photo of the right field bleachers:

31_right_field_bleachers_empty_06_27_16

I couldn’t actually see into the bleachers from down below; I had to reach my phone up high in order to get that shot.

My new BFF Aaron Hicks grounded into a fielder’s choice, so now there were runners on the corners for Jacoby Ellsbury. Can you imagine how insane it would’ve been if he’d hit a home run to right field? I was so ready for it, but instead he lined out to left field to end the game.

Womp-womp.

Here are the last two members of the Rangers’ bullpen walking across the field:

32_final_score

Part of me was disappointed that my moment of baseball bliss had ended so quickly. The other part of me was ecstatic that I’d gotten to experience it at all. Prior to this, the smallest crowd I’d ever had the pleasure of being part of was on June 3, 2002 at Coors Field. The Rockies were getting blown out, and there was a two-hour rain delay around the 7th inning. This is what it looked like when that game resumed. That was pretty good but nothing compared to this ridiculous night in the Bronx.

Even the streets were empty . . .

33_empty_street_after_the_game

. . . and for once, on my way to the subway, I wasn’t forced to inhale second-hand cigarette smoke.

Wait a minute, did I say subway? How about no. When I made it to the corner and saw a bunch of taxis waiting there, I treated myself to a quick and comfortable ride home — best $20 I’ve ever spent.

The next day, I was featured on the Gothamist website, and later on, when I made it back to the stadium, I heard something funny from a bunch of security guards. During the long rain delay, a call had gone out over the radio system about a fan who was wandering all by himself in the outfield seats. The guards knew it was me, and they were amused. I wasn’t in trouble. Security was keeping an eye on me, as they would have done with anybody in that situation, just because.

Thank you, Joe Girardi and Mother Nature, for an unforgettable night!

19 comments

  1. Chris

    Sorry to hear about Beltran being traded… ):
    My thoughts and prayer’s are with you and Alex Katz.

  2. Andy

    Nice post Zack. Why’d you include the picture of your pal Marlins Man that you took that game?

  3. everythingtwinsballhawk

    I attended the Twins/Indians game a couple of weeks ago that had a 2 hour rain delay in extra innings. The game resumed at 12:30 am and I got to have this same experience. As a ballhawk, it was literally paradise. I came really close to getting a foul ball. Unfortunately, just like for you, the Twins walked off in the bottom of the inning. I wish that game lasted 20 innings or something.

  4. Zack Hample

    EVERYTHING TWINS BALLHAWK-
    Sounds awesome. Sorry it ended when it did.

    JOSEPH KELLY-
    Why not? It’s not like there was constant work to be done. Anyway, miss/love you too. When can we hang?

    MARK GAUTHIER-
    Thanks! I’m glad to hear that.

  5. Dan Davies

    Zack – Have a question about Great American Ballpark – To get in to the early BP at 4:30 , is the ticket needed a $10 Reds HOF admission or is it the $20 Ballpark tour ticket that is also purchased at the Reds HOF. I haven’t found anything on their website about getting in at 4:30. Where do you have too go when you are in the HOF to do this?

  6. Zack Hample

    I’m actually not sure because other people usually buy the tickets for me at a discount with their season ticket holder cards. I would just go/call there and ask.

  7. SGraf15

    Very cool Zack!! Is there anyone on the Yankees who is consistently pretty good about tossing balls into the crowd? Thanks keep doing what you do man.

  8. Zachary

    Can you please send me game is baseball signed by you .? Im 9years old and I watch all your videos. Here’s my moms email Thank you Zachary

  9. Zack Hample

    Dear Zachary, I only give baseballs to kids at games, and I also send some directly to the charity Pitch In For Baseball. Sorry, but I get too many requests. Hope you understand.

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