Category: Dailies

Bergino Baseball Clubhouse

Several months ago, when word was first spreading about my new book, I heard from a guy named Jay Goldberg, who offered to host a book event for me at a place called the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse.

I’d never heard of it, so I checked out the website and ran it past my publicist. I had no idea what to think. Who the hell was this guy? Was he planning to charge me to use his space? What did he hope to get out of it?

Long story short: Jay is awesome. He’s a retired sports agent and a diehard baseball fan. He hosts regular book events at his baseball-themed store — the Bergino Baseball Clubhouse — and he hosted one for me last night.

Here’s a look at the Clubhouse from the street. It’s located at 67 East 11th Street in New York City:

Here’s a better look at the entrance:

In the photo above, do you see the little table in the window on the right? I’m going to show you a close-up of that in just a bit, but for now, check out the interior of the Clubhouse:

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Normally there are baseball books on the bleacher benches, but Jay had moved them to make room for people to sit.

Here’s another photo of the interior:

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In the photo above, do you see what’s perched between the two green chairs?

Here’s a closer look:

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It’s a voice recorder/microphone (sitting on top of a game-used base from Shea Stadium). The plan for the evening was for Jay to ask me questions for half an hour, and then for me to continue the Q&A session with the audience — and best of all, the whole thing was going to be recorded as a podcast.

Okay, let’s go back to that table in the window. Look what was on it:

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Do you see the baseball on the lower right?

Jay has dozens of “novelty” baseballs for sale at the Clubhouse. Here are a few:

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By 7pm, the Clubhouse was starting to fill up…

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…and by the end of the evening, there were people standing in the doorway and spilling out onto the sidewalk. I didn’t invite that many friends because I’d heard that space was limited, but according to Jay, we still managed to draw a record crowd.

Jay was an excellent host. He asked me interesting questions and then allowed me answer them in great detail. In fact, we got to cover so much stuff that we used up the full hour-long time slot for the podcast, and then I still took more questions from the audience. It was a beautiful evening.

Then I signed some books:

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Sorry for the teeny photos, but they turned out really blurry, so this is all you get.

Jay and I got a photo together at the end of the event…

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…and then I went out for Thai food with a bunch of friends, including fellow ballhawk Rick Gold. I was hoping that Artie Laurain (a truly legendary ballhawk who’s featured on pages 277-278 of The Baseball) would make an appearance, but it turned out he wasn’t free.

If you want to listen to the podcast from last night’s event, click here. And if you want to talk baseball with a truly great guy, visit the Clubhouse in person and look for Jay. Tell him Zack Hample sent you.

I don’t have any other book events planned for New York City, but I have a big one scheduled at the Free Library of Philadelphia in July. I’m not planning an official book tour, but get this: I’ve been studying the MLB schedule and planning some trips (nothing’s set yet) and trying to swing it so that I’ll visit all 30 stadiums this season.

Finally, I was interviewed on NPR today on a show called “Here and Now.” The interview was taped, and I was told that it’s supposed to air tomorrow (March 24th) at 12:49pm ET. If it doesn’t air tomorrow, then it’ll probably air the next day at that same time. (Yay!)

The Baseball — media update

It’s been a busy two weeks since The Baseball was published…

First of all, the book got a brief mention in the April issue of Maximand whaddaya know, my name was spelled wrong. Check it out (on the 4th page of the “baseball preview” article):
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At least Maxim didn’t misspell the title of my book. Impossible, you say? Well, it actually happened in 2007.
In other media news…
Do you remember the ESPN.com reporter named Patrick Hruby who joined me on 8/10/09 at Camden Yards? A few weeks after that game, he wrote THE best article that’s ever been written about me. Well, four days ago, he wrote up a big Q&A interview that we did about my new book. Here’s a screen shot of the first part of the interview:
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Click here to read the interview in its entirety, and BTW, that photo of me was taken on 6/18/08 at Coors Field for this Associated Press story. And then it was used again here three months later. Funny how certain media gets recycled and then re-recycled.
Maxim and ESPN were certainly the biggest media outlets to mention The Baseball, but without a doubt, the best review was published by The New York Journal of Books. Here’s a screen shot of the first half…
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…and here’s the link to the whole thing, which you should definitely read. This is the most flattering review I’ve ever seen, and let me tell you, it feels great to finally have people responding favorably to something I was pretty much secretly working on for a year and a half. It feels more than great. There really aren’t words.
The Kansas City Star also published a great review. Here’s a screen shot of the first half…
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…and here’s the link to the whole thing. Kauffman Stadium is truly a gem, and I’m happy to report that I’ll probably be there this season for a couple games.
Fredericksburg.com, the website for a newspaper in Virginia called The Free Lance-Star, published a review yesterday. Here’s a screen shot of the first part of it…
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…and here’s the link to the whole thing.
Ready for more?
A “literary baseball magazine” called Spitball also reviewed my book, and what they said wasn’t entirely flattering. Here’s a screen shot of the first part of the article…
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…and here’s the link to the whole thing.
The worst/shortest review appeared on a website called MyCentralJersey.com. (Now I have a legitimate reason to talk trash about New Jersey.) The woman who wrote the column reviewed several books. Here’s what she said about mine…
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…and here’s the link, just in case you want to leave a comment there and tell this woman how wrong she is. (I’m not offended by what she wrote. I actually think it’s kind of funny.)
Want to see the most random/unofficial review out there? It was written by some guy in the forum on a website called Game Used Universe. Here’s a screen shot…
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…and here’s the link if you want to read the rest of it. My favorite thing about this particular review (which you’ll see if you click the link) is that the guy praised the “great index.” You may recall that I compiled the index myself, so this is an awesome (and unexpected) compliment.
Now, onto some blogs…
My friend and fellow ballhawk Avi Miller blogged about my book (along with some Orioles ticket info) a couple weeks ago. Here’s a screen shot of the first part of his entry…
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…and here’s the link to the whole thing. I would recommend reading Avi’s blog in general. The young man knows everything about the Orioles and Camden Yards, and he’s a really good guy in general. The ballhawking community needs more people like him.
Another friend and fellow ballhawk (and former Watch With Zack client) named Mateo Fischer also blogged about The Baseball. Here’s a screen shot of the first part…
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…and here’s the link to his VERY long blog entry. I can’t even imagine how much time and effort went into this review. (Thanks, Mateo!) (Oh, and by the way, this is the game that we attended together.)
Another friend (who’s definitely not a ballhawk) blogged about The Baseball on the day it came out. Her name is Dorkys Ramos. She’s a magazine writer, and her blog is always beautifully written. Here’s a screen shot…
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…and here’s the link to the complete entry.
The Baseball also got a nice write-up on a blog called “The View From Arizona.” Here’s a screen shot of the first part of it…
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…and here’s the link to the full entry.
One last thing — and this isn’t exactly “media,” but I feel compelled to share it nonetheless. It’s a photograph of my second cousin Sam with a copy of the book. Check it out:
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Last night in Brooklyn

I despise bars. I really truly hate them and do my best to avoid them, but every now and then I’ll make an exception and head out to Barcade in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s basically a bar combined with a video game arcade, and best of all, the games are classics from the 1980s.

I went to Barcade last night for the first time in several years. It was the very first time I’d ever seen it in daylight. Here’s a look at the place from the outside:

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Here’s the interior. Note the red arrow:
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The arrow is pointing to a big chalkboard, which serves as the bar’s high-score list. Here’s a closer look at it. Note the high scorer on Arkanoid.
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As you can see, my high score has stood for five years, and I’m pretty sure that it’ll be there for as long as Barcade is in business. According to Twin Galaxies, no one else in the world has ever scored that high on the game. That said, I was still kinda bummed last night, as you can see by the look on my face below…
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…because the control knob on the Arkanoid machine was all screwed up. It just wasn’t calibrated properly. I won’t go into the specifics, but trust me. It was bad. (Okay, here’s one example: whenever I loosened my grip on the knob, the paddle would drift an inch or two to the left.) I struggled just to break 1 million points. Normally I score at least 1.4 million, so it was pretty frustrating.
My mood improved when a cute girl from some random birthday party offered me a gigantic piece of this Nintendo cake:
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An hour later, my mood got even better when I headed to a nearby bar and found $67 sitting on the floor. It was the biggest lump sum that I’d ever found. Years ago, I found $40 on two separate occasions (once in a diner and once at Shea Stadium). I also once found $25 floating in a pool at Disney World. I’ve also found several $20 bills here and there (including two last month, one of which I tweeted about). But as for last night…the bar was packed. Everyone was standing around and drinking and talking, and I noticed some bills on the floor near some people’s feet. If I’d seen these people drop the money, I would’ve been the first person to hand it back to them, but the bills were already there and people were shifting around, so there was no way to tell who might’ve dropped it. I even waited 10 seconds to see if anyone was frantically checking their wallet or pockets, but everyone was oblivious, so I went for it. There were two $1 bills on their own, sitting a couple feet apart from each other, and then there was a rolled up wad with a $20 bill on the outside. It turned out that the wad contained three $20 bills and a $5 bill, and wow, all I can say is that I was pretty gosh-darn psyched. I was tempted to spend half the money on a taxi (it was 2am and I was exhausted), but I had an advanced copy of a baseball book with me that I wanted/needed to read, so I took the slow/cheap way home. (The subway.) I might blog about this book within the next few days (I’ll be blogging about other stuff in the meantime), so stay tuned. It’s a very cool story, but I need to get permission to share certain details…

Brazil and Ireland unite!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I want to share a recent (and VERY random) email exchange that’s connected to Ireland.

First of all, do you remember when I traveled to Ireland in December 2008? Click here, here, here, and here to see all four of my blog entries from that trip.
Now check out this email I received on February 8, 2011:
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Hi Zach,


I’m Alex Andreoni from an independent rock band from Brazil called SANTAREM (www.santarem.art.br)


We would like to use one of your Dublin photos as the cover of our next CD (called “No Place To Hide”), that will be released by brazilian record label Die Hard Records.


We’d like to have your permission… of couse we will mention your name as the photographer in the CD sleeve.


Do you give us your permission?


See the attatched unfinished cover art


Thank you very much

Alex Andreoni

Sao Paulo/ Brazil

 

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I combed through my Ireland entries and found the photo that Alex wanted to use. It was in my Day 2 entry. Here it is:

 

 

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I wrote back to Alex and told him that “it would be an honor” to have my photo appear on the cover of his CD. I also requested that my name be spelled correctly (why do people spell it “zach” when it says “zack” twice in my email address?) and asked if I could share his version of the photo on my blog. This was his reply:

 

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Thank you very much Zack !!!


Sorry for writing your name wrong… I’m sure it will be ok on the cover credits…


We’re doing some little adjustments on the CD cover art and then we send you the final result. Of course you can publish on your blog (Final CD art, my e-mail, whatever you want etc.)


Thanks again…


We’ll keep in touch.

Alex

 

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After reading Alex’s warm note, I forgave him for the misspelling and waited eagerly to see the finished product.

 

But wait!

 

He emailed me again the following day with another request:

 

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Hi Zack,

Hello again.

Our designer (who’s working on the CD Cover art) asked me that you could have that Dublin photo with a higher resolution (the original one) than the photo that is in your blog.

Do you have a bigger file (more pixels file) for that photo?

Thanks again…

Alex

Sao Paulo / Brazil

 

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Sure enough, I did have a larger version of the photo, and when I sent it to Alex, I got another friendly reply:

 

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Hi Zack,


Thank you very much again…


this 1600 px photo is better than that 1000 px photo, I’m sure we’ll have a great final result. As soon as our desiner finish the art (maybe 3 or 4 days)  we send it to you.


Alex

 

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That last email was sent on February 11, 2011. Fast-forward 33 days. (That brings us to yesterday.) I finally received the much-awaited follow-up email from Alex, and it contained the final artwork for his band’s CD. Check it out:

 

 

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How cool is that?!

 

Here’s a side-by-side comparison with my original photo:

 

 

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Ta-daaa!

 

I know this was totally random, but I still wanted to share it. Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Baseballs and black light

I’m going to start by showing you something really cool, and then I’m going to explain it…

Check out this photo that I took of some baseballs under a black light:

Do you see the “1297” on the left side of the photo? Do you see the other faint numbers that appear to be illuminated? That’s invisible ink. It only appears under ultraviolet light.

Let me show you a couple more pics…

Remember when I caught Barry Bonds’ 724th career home run on 8/16/06 at PETCO Park?

Here’s a side-by-side photo of that ball. The image on the left shows it in normal light; the image on the right shows it under a black light:

I learned about the invisible ink while doing research for my new book — and then I got to see the ink being stamped on the balls when I visited the Rawlings baseball factory in Costa Rica.

There are 350 employees at the factory who do nothing but stitch baseballs all day — by hand. Every employee has a stamp with a unique serial number. When the balls are done being stitched, they get stamped with invisible ink. That way, if an inspector finds a “correctable flaw” on a ball (for example, a stitch that’s not quite tight enough), he can examine it under a black light, mark down the serial number, and send it back to the person who stitched it. It’s basically an extra method of quality control.

Even though every ball gets stamped with the ink, you won’t always see it on the balls you get a hold of — that is, if you bother to go out and get yourself a black light. That’s because every ball gets wiped with a cleaning solvent at the factory. The purpose of the solvent isn’t to remove the invisible ink. Rawlings doesn’t care about that. The solvent is used to remove excess wax or oil that might’ve found its way onto the cowhide cover, and in the process, the invisible ink is often rubbed off.

Now, how about some more photos? Here are some balls in regular light…

…and here they are under a black light:

For an extra cool effect, download the previous two photos so you can open them both at once and flip back and forth.

I was absolutely stunned when I shined a black light on my baseballs for the first time and saw all these little serial numbers appear out of nowhere. I had snagged thousands of balls over the course of two decades, and I thought I knew everything about them, and then I discovered this whole secret element to my collection. It was like…I don’t know…not to get overly dramatic or anything, but it’s like I’d stumbled into an alternate reality. Of all the things I learned while doing research, this was definitely my favorite.

More pics?

Let’s take a look at the two commemorative balls that Heath Bell gave me on 7/23/09 at Citizens Bank Park. Here they are in regular light…

…and here they are under a black light:

As you can see, there’s a very faint invisible ink stamp on the World Baseball Classic ball — just to the left of where it says “official ball.”

Here’s a closer look at the brighter stamp on the right:

I’m not sure what it says or how to decipher it.

B08I?

Is that a period after the 8?

You know what? It doesn’t even matter. It’s just awesome. Let’s leave it at that.

Here’s one more photo for you:

I like the stamp on the lower left that simply says “6-11.”

See the one just to the upper right of it that says “036I”? That’s a 2008 All-Star Game ball, in case you were wondering.

That’s pretty much it, but let me just say quickly (for those who don’t know) that my new book is called The Baseball, and if you’re interested in checking it out, here it is on Amazon. Chapter 7 is called “The Rawlings Method,” and there’s a TON of info about the entire manufacturing process — stuff that some people might find hard to believe.

Twitter action

Just thought it’d be fun to share all the tweets that people have been posting about me since my new book came out yesterday. The newer ones are on top, so you might want to skip to the bottom and scroll up. And by the way, this is a gigantic screen shot, so you won’t actually be able to click the links. Enjoy!
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THANK YOU to everyone who has already picked up a copy of the book. Extra thanks to my friend Avi (“2131andBeyond“) for being as enthusiastic about the book as anyone in the world, and to my future friend A.J. (“oriolefan0321“) for his incredibly kind tweets.

Snagging baseballs for charity — 2011

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As you may already know, I’ve been raising money since 2009 for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Each season, I’ve been asking folks to pledge a little bit of money for every baseball that I snag at Major League stadiums — and the money has really added up. With everyone’s help, we’ve raised more than $12,000 for this great cause.

Let’s keep it going. Let’s make 2011 the biggest year yet. Opening Day is just a few weeks away. It’s officially that time, and I need your help once again. Check out this charity page on my website. There’s lots of info there about what I’m doing and how it’ll work and why Pitch In For Baseball is so awesome. Even MLB recognizes the awesomeness.

Finally, if you need extra motivation to get involved, I’m going to give away a few baseball prizes at the end of the season — but only the people who make pledges will be in the running. Details coming soon.

Again, CLICK HERE to learn more about my charity drive. Even if you don’t actually donate anything, I still want to thank you for being a part of it from the sidelines. It’s nice just to get to share this on my blog and let everyone know what I’m doing.