8/18/16 at Camden Yards

Let me start by pointing out the lump just below the neck of my shirt:

1_zack_opening_shot_for_video_08_18_16

This day was special because I was being filmed for my YouTube channel, and for the first time ever, it was done with microphone that I wore. There was a wire running up my shirt, and the mic itself was taped inside my shirt. That’s the lump.

As soon as I rushed inside the stadium, I headed down to the front row in left field. Just before I got there, some other guy picked up a ball in the front row, but as it turned out, he was an employee, so he tossed it to me, and yes, that counts. A few minutes later, I drifted to my right, jumped, and caught a J.J. Hardy homer near another fan. You can see how this played out in the video, but basically, it was someone I knew, so he congratulated me before I tossed the ball to the nearest kid.

Here’s what it looked like in left field:

2_zack_in_left_field_08_18_16

When the Astros started hitting, I switched caps . . .

3_zack_heading_to_right_field

. . . and headed to the Flag Court in right field. Soon after I got there, someone (maybe Colby Rasmus) launched a deep fly ball to my left. Here’s a screen shot of me running for it:

4_zack_running_for_ball9192

As you can see, I ran toward the back gate and out onto Eutaw Street. (That’s the open-air concourse beside the warehouse.) Once I reached the spot where I predicted the ball would land, I looked up and lost it briefly in the sun. By the time I spotted it, I realized it was falling a bit short so I lunged forward and tried to make a shoe-string catch. (My camera man didn’t make it out onto Eutaw Street quick enough to get a shot of this, so that’s why I’m describing it in great detail.) The ball tipped off the end of my glove and thankfully didn’t bounce too far away, though it hardly mattered because there wasn’t anyone else nearby going for it. When I picked up the ball, I was happy to discover that it had the Blue Jays’ “40th Season” commemorative logo on it. (The Astros had recently played in Toronto and gotten a bunch of those balls.) I’d already snagged a few over the course of the season, but hey, why not have another?

When right-handed batters took their cuts, I moved down into the seats in right-center field. That paid off as I got my hands on two more home run balls. Here I am catching the first one on the fly . . .

5_zack_catching_ball9193

. . . and here I am retrieving the second — another Blue Jays ball — in the seats:

6_zack_snagging_ball9194

That brought my total number of balls to five.

Back on the Flag Court, I caught two more home runs back to back. Here’s the second one streaking down toward me:

7_ball9196_in_mid_air

Here I am with those two baseballs:

8_zack_with_two_bp_home_run_balls

Here I am simultaneously flinching and catching my eighth ball of the day:

9_zack_flinching_and_catching_ball9197

Did you notice the guys at the table covering their heads? It’s kinda scary out there, even if you ARE paying attention — lots of bodies, hands, ricochets, deflections. That whole area seems like an injury waiting to happen, but it IS fun.

Over the course of the day, I gave away five baseballs. Here are screen shots of three of three of them:

10_zack_giving_ball9197_to_a_kid

That was it for BP.
Eight balls.
Solid.

Here I am showing my two Blue Jays balls:

11_zack_with_two_blue_jays_balls

Commemorative balls are keepers. Sorry not sorry!

In the video, you can see how sweaty I was. (At one point, I sweated off the microphone, and it had to be clipped to my shirt for the rest of the day.) Here’s a photo to provide further evidence:

12_sweaty_zack_with_caitlin

That’s Caitlin. She’s special.

I chugged two 20-ounce bottles of water and didn’t need to use the bathroom — that’s how dehydrated I’d gotten from running around for 75 minutes. My body absorbed all that liquid like it was nothing.

Shortly before game time, two Astros signed autographs along the foul line. First I missed out on Carlos Correa, and then I failed to get George Springer, pictured below:

13_zack_not_getting_george_springers_autograph

Oh well. It was cool just to be near them for a few moments.

Then I headed out to deep left-center field and said a quick hello to the Astros’ friendly bullpen catchers — Javier Bracamonte and Carlos Munoz. Here’s the latter waving at me:

14_carlos_munoz_waving

Then I turned my attention to (hopefully) catching a home run. Here I am on the Flag Court in the 1st inning:

15_zack_on_the_flag_court

For the first half of the game, I never left that spot, not even for right-handed batters. In the past, I would’ve wandered toward the 1st base side and attempted to snag a foul ball, but not this time. Why? Because three of the top ballhawks at Camden Yards — Alex Kopp, Grant Edrington, and Tim Anderson — all happened to be unable to attend this game. They normally hang out on the Flag Court during games, so I was determined to take advantage of their absence. That said, I did take a quick break at one point to grab a hot dog with a whole lot of delicious stuff on it, including chili, cheese sauce, and bacon:

16_bacon_cheese_hot_dog

(I might have to go vegan for the entire off-season.)

In the top of the 6th inning, hot dog still in hand, I headed back to left-center:

17_zack_heading_toward_the_astros_bullpen

Alex Bregman had hit a home run ball that ended up in the Astros’ bullpen. I was hoping to get it tossed up by one of the bullpen catchers. Here I am asking Bracamonte for it when he returned from playing catch with the outfielder between innings:

18_zack_asking_javier_bracamonte_for_the_alex_bregman_home_run_ball

“They want it,” he said, meaning I couldn’t have it.

Then I was recognized by a bunch of young fans who all wanted my autograph:

19_zack_signing_a_t_shirt

Here I am signing a glove . . .

20_zack_signing_a_glove

. . . and check this out — one kid asked me to sigh his cap near Cal Ripken Jr.’s autograph:

21_zack_hample_autograph_beside_cal_ripken_jr

While this was taking place, J.J. Hardy homered, and three batters later, Manny Machado followed with a blast of his own. The whole time, I was getting more and more antsy about not being on the Flag Court, but kids kept asking me to sign stuff and take selfies, and it was hard to break free. Realizing that Chris Davis was due to bat next, I finally insisted that I had to go, and AS I WAS HEADING BACK TO THE FLAG COURT, Davis hit a home run that landed right near the spot where I’d been standing all night. He hit it on the second pitch of the at-bat. Look how close I was (and look at my dismayed reaction — hands on head):

22_zack_horrified_after_missing_a_chris_davis_home_run

If I had walked away from the bullpen 15 seconds sooner, or if Davis had waited until the third pitch of the at-bat, rather than the second, to unleash that blast, I would’ve caught it. Here’s my buddy Doug Hakey explaining where it landed and how it ricocheted up against the warehouse:

23_doug_hakey_describing_where_the_ball_landed_and_bounced

It was a line drive that touched down roughly 20 feet behind the spot where I’d been standing all night, meaning I only would’ve had to back up about 10 feet in order to reach and/or jump and catch it.

I felt like absolute crap. You can see it below on my face. I wasn’t acting. It was like I’d gotten kicked in the gut:

24_zack_shocked_and_upset

In the video, I went off on a rant about how pissed I was. I thought about editing it out and pretending like it was no big deal, but that’s stupid. It might not be a big deal to 99.9999999999 percent of the people on this planet, but it was a big deal to me (in part because of this), and I decided to share the true emotional aspect of the moment.

Adding to my frustration, a crowd formed as an Orioles employee marked the spot on the pavement where the ball had landed:

25_marking_the_pavement_for_chris_davis_home_run_landing_spot

Here’s what it looked like:

26_marked_pavement_for_chris_davis_homer

I felt absolutely deflated, but what was I supposed to do? Go cry in the bathroom? Leave the game three innings early and drive back home to New York? Hell no! I’ve found that the best remedy for ballhawking heartbreak is to get back out there and keep doing it. So that’s what I did. And amazingly, I got another chance. With no outs in the top of the 7th inning, Astros rookie 1st baseman A.J. Reed crushed a home run in my direction, and best of all, my camera man managed to capture the tail end of it. Here’s a screen shot of the ball in mid-air:

27_ball_in_mid_air_aj_reed_home_run

As I drifted back and tracked the ball . . .

28_zack_tracking_aj_reed_homer

. . . I didn’t merely hope or think that I was going to catch it. I *knew* I was going to catch it — and voila! Here’s the ball streaking into my glove:

29_zack_catching_ball9198

This was my reaction:

30_zack_after_catching_ball9198 copy

That’s Doug on the left, graciously congratulating me with a high-five. (No, I didn’t leave him hanging.)

I didn’t celebrate or go crazy, but let me tell you, it felt gooooooood.

Here’s a closer look at the ball — my eighth game home run ball of the season:

31_ball9198_aj_reed_home_run

Whenever I catch a homer, I think it’s fun to get a photo of the jumbotron, listing the homer when that player comes back up to bat . . . like this:

32_aj_reed_home_run_on_jumbotron

The Orioles won 13-5 and slugged six home runs.

33_orioles_players_on_field_after_game

The Astros also went yard twice, so it was great night to be in the outfield. Here I am doing the closing shot for the video before driving back to New York:

34_zack_closing_shot_on_flag_court

Normally I post my blog entries before the videos, but this time I did things backwards, so in case you still haven’t seen the video, click here.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

35_the_four_balls_i_kept_08_18_16 9 baseballs at this game (four pictured here because I gave five away)

 565 balls in 75 games this season = 7.53 balls per game.

 1,241 consecutive games with at least one ball

 46 lifetime game home run balls (not counting toss-ups)

 9,198 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.

• 16 donors for my fundraiser

• $135.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $1,086,16 raised this season

• $191,589.82 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

22 comments

  1. Nick H

    Thank you so much for the info on Seatgeek, my dad & I went to a game yesterday for only $12 total, & sat in CF at Nats Park. Great catch on the Reed Hr ball!!!!!!! 1 more bit of help, I called up to a guy at the game yesterday, he was definitely a coach, and wore either 66 or 68, he was wearing his jersey so I called the name on the back of his jersey & he tossed it to me. He then walked off someplace, & I forgot his name. Do you have any idea who it was?

  2. Zack Hample

    NICK H-
    You’re very welcome! Glad to hear that. Sorry to say, though, that I don’t know who you’re talking about. Thanks for the congrats on the HRs.

    MARK_0139-
    I’ve never had an issue with it there. Good luck.

  3. Mark_0139

    what is that book that you posted about on twitter? interested in buying it. i assume it is for sale?

  4. Aidan

    Hello Zack my name is Aidan and I’ve been watching your videos for the whole season and I was wondering if I can have a Yankee Stadium commemorative ball because I’ve grown up a Yankee fan if you can it will be greatly appreciated

  5. Zack Hample

    MARK_0139-
    I’ll check it out if/when I ever catch up on my own work.

    MARK GAUTHIER-
    No, *you* look at it.

    AIDAN-
    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.

  6. Aidan

    Oh P.S. If your in Philadelphia come to a Lehigh Valley Ironpigs game there is lots of ball opportunities and the food is to die for

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