2016 Home Run Derby

This was the sixth time I’d ever been to the Home Run Derby, and it was the first time that I brought a videographer, so yeah, prepare yourself for some YouTube action.

I arrived at PETCO Park way too early and took a seat on the ground, leaning against the gates. This was my view (looking back out at the street):

1_all_star_barricades

Inside the stadium, there was a countdown clock for the All-Star Game:

2_countdown_to_the_all_star_game

Yup, I had lots of time to kill, but that was fine. I made some phone calls, listened to music, ate a sandwich, read the news, ignored social media, and photographed Mark Melancon standing around:

3_mark_melancon_standing_around

Look who else I saw walking down the street:

4_clayton_kershaw_walking_around copy

That was Clayton Kershaw. No one noticed him (or rather, no one approached him) and I’m sure he loved it.

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

5_crowd_outside_gates_07_11_16

Here I am (on the left) with several ballhawk buddies — Boog, Leigh, and Boog’s son, Jacob:

6_zack_boog_leigh_jacob

Jacob had grown quite a mustache since I’d first met him on 6/15/16 at Angel Stadium.

When PETCO finally opened, I caught up briefly with my friend Devin for the third time in a month. Here he is:

7_devin_trone_in_left_field_07_11_16

Devin attends every Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. I think I might need to start doing that too.

Did you notice that batting practice hadn’t yet begun? By the time the American League started hitting, the stadium was already getting crowded. I had decided to focus on getting toss-ups during BP, and things got off to a good start. Here I am (wearing a Blue Jays cap) getting a ball from Edwin Encarnacion:

8_edwin_encarnacion_tossing_ball9101

It was a Futures Game ball:

9_futures_game_ball_07_11_16

Allow me to quote myself from the video: “I actually don’t count balls from the Futures Game itself, but if I get one at the Derby or the All-Star Game, then that does go in my official Major League Baseball collection, so I’m pretty psyched to have gotten this one.”

Leigh caught one soon after, and we compared. His was brand new and mine (already protected in a ziploc bag) was mud-rubbed:

10_comparing_balls_with_leigh

A few minutes later, I jumped and caught a toss-up from Dellin Betances:

11_zack_catching_ball9102

That was also a Futures Game ball, and I handed it to this kid:

12_zack_giving_ball9102_to_a_young_fan_07_11_16

As it got more crowded, it seemed there were half a dozen arms/gloves reaching for every ball:

13_fans_reaching_for_balls_07_11_16

My third ball was thrown by Marco Estrada. It was another Futures Game ball, and I’m sorry to say this, but I was kind of annoyed. Poor me . . . I know. But seriously, I wanted a Home Run Derby ball, and I was hoping to get one during BP so that I wouldn’t feel extra pressure to catch one during the Derby itself.

Here’s Zach Britton throwing me my fourth ball of the day:

14_zach_britton_throwing_ball9104

That ball and the one I got right after from Aaron Sanchez were both All-Star Game balls! Check it out:

15_all_star_game_balls_07_11_16

My sixth ball was tossed by a player’s kid — not sure who. And guess what? It was another All-Star Game ball.

That’s when the National League started taking BP:

16_view_from_left_center_field_07_11_16

Here’s what it looked like on my right:

17_front_row_crowded_07_11_16

My seventh ball — another of the All-Star Game variety — was thrown by a guy with “MACKAY” on his jersey:

18_hipolito_and_mackay

Does anyone know who that is?

Meanwhile, where were the Home Run Derby balls? Those are usually the easiest ones to get at these midsummer events, and All-Star balls are the toughest. Last year in Cincinnati, there were no All-Star balls during BP, and as a result, I never got one. The same thing happened at the 2007 All-Star Game in San Francisco, and I’m still bummed about it.

Even though Todd Frazier plays in the American League, his kid was roaming the outfield during National League BP, and he threw me my next two balls. Those were both All-Star balls, and I gave them both away.

Toward the end of BP, Clayton Kershaw walked over to say hello to someone, so I reached out for a fist-bump:

19_clayton_kershaw_walking_over

He delivered:

20_zack_getting_a_fist_bump_from_clayton_kershaw

As he walked past, he looked up at me . . .

21_clayton_kershaw_recognizing_zack

. . . and then said, “Hey, you’re the guy that gets all the balls.”

(His voice is a bit faint in the video, but you can definitely hear him if you pay close attention.)

“That’s me!” I replied, resisting the urge to thank him for the three balls he’d thrown to me over the years.

That was the end of our exchange — short and sweet.

There were lots and lots and lots of Cubs players in San Diego. Here they are posing with Harold Reynolds:

22_harold_reynolds_posing_with_cubs

In the photo above, from left to right, the Cubs are Kris Bryant, Jake Arrieta, Ben Zobrist, Addison Russell, Anthony Rizzo, Jon Lester, and Dexter Fowler.

Here’s Zobrist tossing me my 10th and final ball of BP:

23_ben_zobrist_tossing_ball9110

That was another All-Star ball, and I handed it to the littlest kid behind me:

24_zack_giving_ball9110_to_a_kid

After BP, I wandered through the center field concourse . . .

25_center_field_concourse_07_11_16

. . . and ended up here:

26_zack_and_budweiser_ladies

I grabbed some food and ate while Fall Out Boy performed two songs. This was my view from the “Park at the Park” in deeeeeeep right-center field:

27_concert_from_deep_center_field

Just before the Derby got underway, I stopped by a merchandise tent and bought an All-Star Game t-shirt (which cost so much that I’m truly ashamed of myself). You’ll see the shirt in my next entry/video, so for now, I just want to show a minor goof in the tent’s display case. See if you can spot it:

28_selig_ball_on_display_two_years_after_manfred_took_over

Post your answers and guesses in the comments section. I’ll reveal it there if no one gets it right.

Here’s the spot that I picked for the Derby:

29_view_from_the_second_deck_07_11_16

It would’ve been nice to have more space, but then again, it would’ve been nice if that staircase had stayed empty. Here’s what the section looked like on my left:

30_view_from_the_second_deck_07_11_16

Before long, the staircase was packed:

31_crowded_staircase_during_derby_07_11_16

I truly had no room to maneuver, so I knew fairly early that I didn’t have a great shot at catching a home run. The good news, however, was that five of the eight participants were right-handed, and after the first round, all three of the lefties were eliminated.

The MLB Network had an entire suite/balcony on my right. How many people can you identify in the following photo?

32_mlb_network_bigwigs_on_my_right

Giancarlo Stanton put on an absolute display during the Derby, but everyone was launching baseballs all around me. I kept coming close, but just didn’t have luck on my side. My videographer (not Brandon — a different friend named Jeff) did a great job of capturing the action and the excitement of being right in the thick of it. Here are four screen shots of fans holding up baseballs:

33_fans_snagging_home_run_derby_balls

In the four-part image above, did you notice me on the lower right? I was sooooo close to that ball, and look at it! It was one of those new crimson balls:

34_guy_with_purple_home_run_ball

You know who else nearly caught a home run? Charlie Sheen. Here he is enjoying the attention from the crowd down below:

35_charlie_sheen_in_the_house

Stanton and Mark Trumbo hit some COLOSSAL home runs that sailed completely over the seating area of the 2nd deck and landed in a packed standing-room section up above. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even in the back half of the 2nd deck, I was positioned too shallow. One of Stanton’s shots was estimated at 497 feet; one of Trumbo’s hit the jumbotron!

The final round featured Stanton versus Todd Frazier. This was my view:

36_view_from_middle_of_the_section

Jeff took a photo of me from below as I joked with a guy about who had the better angle to reach for a ball:

37_zack_joking_with_fans

Here’s a screen shot of me buried in the crowd:

38_zack_buried_in_the_crowd

There really wasn’t any other place worth hanging out — at least not where I was allowed to go.

And that was it.

39_zack_bummed_after_derby

Stanton won the whole thing with grand total of 61 home runs! It was an epic performance. Simply being there was exciting, and of course I was glad to have snagged a bunch of commemorative BP balls, but I couldn’t help feeling bummed about not catching anything during the Derby. I feel like I did everything right. I picked a good spot in the best section. I just didn’t have much range, and like I said, I didn’t have good luck. It happens.

Here are the six balls I kept:

40_the_six_balls_i_kept_07_11_16

Time for me to start thinking about the 2017 Home Run Derby in Miami, but in the meantime, here’s the video from this one. Enjoy!

BALLHAWKING STATS:

 10 baseballs at this game (six pictured here because I gave four away)

 477 balls in 58 games this season = 8.22 balls per game.

156 balls in 15 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 10.4 balls per game.

 39 balls in six lifetime Home Run Derbies = 6.5 balls per game.

1,224 consecutive games with at least one ball

 84 different commemorative balls

 9,110 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

20 comments

  1. Jack Stegner

    Dear Mr. Hample I’m 12 years old I’m a huge fan I watch every one of your videos I live in Colorado and met the ballhawks there I started ball hawking just because of you will you please send me some baseballs thank you so much for your time good luck

    Jack

  2. Zack Hample

    Dear Jack, I just did you the favor of editing your comment and removing your address. You should not post that information on the internet. Ever. Unless you’re actually purchasing something from a secure website. Thanks for watching my videos, but 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.

  3. Tyler

    Selig ball. How far do you think the jays are going to get this year? Also when was the last time you got an A- Rod , Fielder, Texiera, and Ortiz ball?

  4. Tony

    Hi Zach I’m 11 years old and I caught 4 balls at a minor league game 2 days after I went to a met game and got a toss up from Steven matz ,Travis d’arno,and after the game I got a ball from a mysterious guy on field…did you get a ball at fort bragg

  5. jere80

    That would be John Mackay, catcher for Palomar College in San Marcos, California, north of San Diego. He was a bullpen catcher for the world team at the Futures Game. Couldn’t you tell it was him from the remnant of a removed mole on his neck? Jeez.

  6. jere80

    Also wanted to point out, because I’m awesome, I guess, that there is one more person in the group Cubs shot. See the little legs shielded by Arrieta’s legs? That’s his son, Cooper. In the video interview Reynolds did with them, he mentions that Rizzo was playing catch with a fan–you??

  7. Raymond

    hey Zack, any world series predictions for this year? P.S hope too see you at Rogers Centre sometime soon
    Raymond

  8. Zack Hample

    JACK-
    Yup.

    TYLER-
    I’m bad at predictions, but I’d be surprised if they don’t reach the postseason. Beyond that, who knows? I’ve never caught a Fielder home run (during a game), but I’ve gotten balls from the other three. Ortiz’s 467th HR was April 10, 2015. A-Rod’s 3,000th hit was June 19, 2015. Teixeira’s final MLB HR (as of now) was August 3, 2016.

    TONY-
    Congrats on the baseballs. As for Fort Bragg, yes, I got some baseballs there. I wish I hadn’t gone. Here’s my blog entry about it:
    http://zackhample.mlblogs.com/2016/07/06/my-experience-at-the-fort-bragg-baseball-game/

    JERE80-
    You are undeniably awesome. Thanks for all this info. Unfortunately, no, I was not the fan playing catch with Rizzo. I wonder if John Mackay now belongs on my official list of players and coaches who have thrown baseballs to me.

    RYAMOND-
    Nope, no predictions. Do you have any? I hope to make it to Toronto soon, but I’m not sure if it’ll happen this season.

  9. zackhampleisawesome

    Hey Zack, great post as always. I saw you wearing your Blue Jays hat in the photo. Did you bring all of your team hats for the Derby and All-Star Game? Also, any advice for ballhawking at minor league stadiums? My local ballpark only opens an hour early so there is no batting practice. Also I was at Rogers Centre last Friday the 12th and almost got a ball at the end of the game. Best of luck moving forward! (By the way, I have a copy of your first book and read it nonstop.)
    Drew

  10. Zack Hample

    Thanks! I brought a few different hats with me, just in case. I don’t go to minor league games much, but you might have better luck catching balls outside the stadium, if it’s a really small place. The lack of BP sure makes it tough.

  11. zackhampleisawesome

    Thanks for responding! Just wondering, if you could choose who threw/hit and how you got your 10,000th ball, what would you choose? Also, are there any gloves that you would recommend using for the glove trick? Visited Guilford College this past weekend. Awesome!

  12. Zack Hample

    You’re welcome. I would choose to catch a walk-off grand slam hit by Mike Trout. Bigger gloves work better for the trick . . . and that’s cool about Guilford!

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