Category: Uncategorized

2017 charity fundraiser prizes

What’s up, guys! It’s been a while since my last post because I’ve shifted my attention over to YouTube, so check me out there. More specifically, I just posted a new video announcing my 2017 fundraiser to benefit Pitch In For Baseball, a charity that provides baseball and softball equipment to children and communities all over the world. I’ve been raising money for them every season since 2009, and once again I’ll be giving away a bunch of baseball prizes to people who donate money. This year the best prize is a custom glove from Wilson Sporting Goods! Check out this video — you can see all the prizes and learn more about how to get involved:

Other prizes include an autograph of Hall-of-Fame pitcher Jim Palmer, baseball cards, bobbleheads, a signed copy of The Baseball, Cubs hats, various giveaway items from Citi Field and Yankee Stadium, and a commemorative ball from the 2017 World Baseball Classic signed by Team Israel pitcher/White Sox prospect Alex Katz.

Thanks and good luck to everyone who participates.

9/7/91 at Fenway Park

Let me start with a photo and then give you a little context:

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See that dweeb in the yellow shirt? That’s me at the age of 13. I don’t remember what my lifetime baseball total was at the start of the day, but I can tell you this: one month later I snagged my 18th ball at Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia, so I was still VERY new to this whole ballhawking thing.

Here’s another fun fact: prior to this game at Fenway, I’d only been to Shea and Yankee, so this was my first time visiting a major league stadium outside of New York City.

I managed to snag three baseballs during batting practice, mainly due to the fact that I got to enter the stadium extra early . . . thanks to these guys:

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In the photo above, that’s my dad on the left. The gentleman on the right — his longtime friend Harry Dickson — was super-connected in Massachusetts and knew everyone at the stadium. The fact that he was Michael Dukakis‘s father-in-law might’ve had something to do with that, but enough about politics. Harry got us inside early, arranged for us to hang out in a suite for the entire game, and even took me up to the press level.

Here I am getting to operate the electric portion of the Green Monster scoreboard DURING THE GAME:

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In the photo above, do you see the small boxlike thing at the bottom with square buttons on it? (It’s just to the left of my elbow.) That was the machine that controlled the scoreboard. When I saw the ump call a strike, I pushed a little “strike” button — and so on. No pressure. There were only 33,000 people in attendance.

Obviously I was excited to get to do that, but I hadn’t been to enough stadiums to fully grasp how excited I should’ve been. This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, but stupid 13-year-old me was like, “Cool, so this is what fans sometimes get to do at baseball games.”

I wish I’d taken a photo of the scoreboard-operating machine. I wish I’d photographed the inside of the suite or at least my view from it. (It was on the first base side.) Or any of the free/unlimited hot dogs I ate. Or my mom. Or the baseballs that I snagged. But I don’t think I owned a camera back then. Documenting things was a foreign concept. I was still four years away from starting a journal, 14 years away from blogging, and 17 years away from creating my YouTube channel. Therefore the only photos I have from the stadium are the ones my parents happened to take. Thankfully this was one of them:

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That’s me with Sherm Feller, the longtime public address announcer for the Red Sox. (I was all about the Mets back then and wore that cap everywhere.) He was nice enough to let me pose at the microphone:

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The game itself was WILD. It set a new record for the longest nine-inning game in history: four hours and six minutes, which was unheard of in the early 1990s. There was a ton of scoring, multiple lead changes, and the Red Sox ended up beating the Mariners 11-10.

Remember Mike Greenwell? Red Sox outfielder? No? Well, he went 3-for-5 with two doubles, a homer, and six RBIs. Wade Boggs, Jody Reed, Carlos Quintana, and Ellis Burks all had two hits apiece for Boston.

For the Mariners, catcher Dave Valle went 4-for-5 with a double and four RBIs. Ken Griffey Jr. only had one hit, but it was his 40th double of the season, and he knocked in a pair of runs. Jay Buhner and Alvin Davis each had two hits; Edgar Martinez, Harold Reynolds, and Tino Martinez each picked up one hit. Omar Vizquel went hitless and some tall, lanky scrub named Randy Johnson allowed seven runs in the first two innings. I wonder what became of him. He threw really hard and was supposed to be great.

My dad’s friend really hooked it up for us. Even our exit was memorable and photo-worthy:

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Either I *always* wore that shirt (quite possible) or my parents drove us directly to Shelter Island after the game. I say that because of this photo, taken on the ferry to the Island:

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But then . . . where was my Mets cap? And why wasn’t it closer to dusk? And why was I only holding one ball instead of all three? Maybe that photo doesn’t belong here, but I like it.

I’m proud to say that 25 years later, I still have my ticket stub from this game, paper clipped to an index card with a few notes:

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That’s what I used to do with my tickets back in the day, at least for the games at which something special happened.

BTW, Mike Trout was one month old when this game was played. Thanks to Twitter user @BravesStats for pointing that out.

I might post more “Turn Back The Clock” entries this winter, but for now, check out the ones I’ve already done:

1) October 4, 1992 at Fulton County Stadium
2)
 June 11, 1993 at Candlestick Park
3) Game 5 of the 1993 World Series at Veterans Stadium
4)
August 24-25, 1995 at Anaheim Stadium
5)
 June 11, 1996 at Shea Stadium
6) July 1, 1998 at Three Rivers Stadium
7)
 July 2, 1998 at Cinergy Field
8) July 10, 1998 at Tiger Stadium
9) July 13, 1998 at County Stadium
10) July 14, 1998 at Busch Stadium
11) May 29, 1999 at the Kingdome
12) July 18, 1999 at the Astrodome
13) September 24-25, 1999 at the Metrodome
14) May 9-10, 2000 at Olympic Stadium
15)
 July 17-18, 2000 at Qualcomm Stadium

And hey, don’t miss the old stadium videos that I’ve recently posted on YouTube. I only have two there for now (Fulton County and Veterans), but I have four more on the way . . .

Zack Hample bobbleheads

Ten months ago, I received an email from someone at the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum who asked if I’d be interested in having a bobblehead done of myself.
Long story short: I was skeptical at first but ended up going for it, and now it actually exists! Check it out:

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How cool/ridiculous is that?!

Here are two more photos of it — front and back:

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Five hundred of these bobbleheads were made, and I received a dozen:

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My mom claimed one of them, and now I’m thinking about what to do with the rest. I’ll probably give some away in contests and keep a few for myself — but what about the other 488 that were made? They’re on sale at bobbleheadhall.com.

Here are more photos for you, starting with the front and back of the box:

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Here’s what each side panel looks like:

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In case you’re curious about the packaging, here you go:

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Want to see what the manufacturing/development process looked like? Here are some images I received of the first mold:

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Did you notice the error? Take a closer look at my glove, and you’ll see that it’s wrong-handed. (Is that actually a term?) In the mold above, that glove would fit properly on a right hand, but as you can see, it’s on the left hand. ¡¡NO BUENO!! Thankfully, though, everything at that point was still able to be tweaked.

Meanwhile check out the amazing facial detail:

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When the next round of images came my way, I was glad to see that the glove had been fixed:

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Here’s a closeup of the corrected glove:

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Eventually I saw what the bobblehead would look like with color:

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That’s when I noticed the stubble on its face:

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The stubble was good in theory — a nice, realistic detail as I’m often in need of a shave — but I didn’t love how it looked on the bobblehead. It just seemed dirty, so I asked if that could be removed.

The answer was yes. Take a look a the new smoother/sexier version:

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Here’s one more image for you — a screen shot during the design process, sent by the folks who were working on it:

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Many thanks to the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum. Several friends have joked, “NOW you’ve made it!” but in all seriousness, it’s truly an honor to have had this done.

This is actually not the first bobblehead that’s been made of me, but the first one was totally bizarre, and I wouldn’t have even known about it if not for my friends Ben and Jen. If you have a few minutes to spare, watch this hilarious/overly-dramatic YouTube video that they filmed a few years ago in Australia.

9/2/16 at Kauffman Stadium

As I mentioned in my last entry, I’ve been focusing more on YouTube lately. This season I got a ton of comments on my videos about how I should go back to Kauffman Stadium, and guess what?! I wasn’t filmed at this game. Sorry, everyone.

The reason I went to Kansas City is that I was hired to do a Watch With Zack game, and my client — a guy in his 40s named James — didn’t want to be filmed. What *did* he want? He told me just wanted to hang out and snag some baseballs with me and watch the game.

Here’s what it looked like on the drive to the stadium:

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We’d picked this date weeks in advance, so it was lucky that the weather turned out to be perfect.

This was our view as we sat around and waited for the stadium to open:

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In the photo above, do you see the fan with his glove on the ground? He was in the process of “stealthily” photographing me. People never think I’ll notice, but it’s actually quite obvious.

James had taken care of our tickets, including a bonus pair for the “Early Bird BP Tour.” That got us an extra hour inside the stadium, but we were confined to the seats behind the dugout. Here’s what it looked like:

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Words can not describe how much I hate that netting. (Actually, wait, I’m a writer. I can describe anything, but you get the point.)

Here’s what it looked like on our left:

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What a waste of space! Stadium security could easily move those cruddy little flags one section over or, ya know, have their ushers spread out a bit and just let fans have the entire foul line.

At one point, a left-handed batter on the Royals sliced a foul ball into those seats. I vividly remembered, on previous visits, being allowed to chase after baseballs once they landed, so I hopped the flags and went over to retrieve it:

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Then I was informed by an usher that I’m not supposed to do that.

With James hanging out nearby, I was able to snag two more baseballs, both of which were tossed to other people. The first one from Cheslor Cuthbert sailed just above a girl’s head and rattled around in the seats, so I picked it up and handed it to her. The second ball was thrown by Jarrod Dyson to a grown man who dropped it. Given the fact that he dropped it because (a) he didn’t have a glove and (b) was already holding a ball in his hands that Dyson had *just* thrown to him, I kept it. Well, I offered it to James, and when he declined, then I kept it. And by the way, Dyson had chucked several balls into the seats in a matter of seconds. They weren’t intended for anyone in particular, so that’s why two of them sailed right to the same guy. He didn’t care. Everyone was cool with it.

When the entire stadium finally opened, James and I headed out to left field. Tigers BP was already underway, and it didn’t take us long to get more baseballs. James got a toss-up from John Hicks, and I snagged a pair of home run balls. I’m not sure who hit them, so all I can tell you is that I grabbed the first one off the ground and caught the second one on the fly. James didn’t mind that I was snagging most of the baseballs, but I wanted to see him get a few more on his own.

For the next group, we headed out to right-center field. Here he is in the orange shirt:

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For a few more minutes, there was lots of room behind us on the Pepsi Porch:

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I helped James snag a toss-up from Tyler Collins, and then we split up for a bit. He stayed in right-center . . .

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. . . and got Justin Verlander to throw him a ball, which he gave to a girl. I camped out in left field and didn’t get anything, which was no surprise. As you can see in the photo above, it was crowded.

Do you remember this photo from my previous trip to The K in 2015? I caught up with one of those kids . . . named J.T. And check it out — he’d brought his copies of all three of my books for me to sign:

9_zack_and_jt_with_three_books

It was nice seeing him again, and I’m glad to report that he snagged a bunch of baseballs.

After batting practice, James and I wandered around in search of something to eat. We decided to try some specialty hot dogs (his treat — very generous), so here’s what I got:

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I can’t even remember everything that was piled on top — blue cheese, bacon, clogged arteries, onions, pulled pork, a heart attack, more bacon, etc. (In case you’re wondering, I gained five pounds in the second half of the season. I truly ate like a maniac, and now I’m undoing the damage. #NoRegrets)

This was our view for the game:

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It was a great spot except for that STUPID NETTING. I actually suggested that we sit there, knowing that we’d have to deal with it.

Look who found me and hung out for an inning:

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That’s my good friend Garrett Meyer.

Oh, and I wasn’t done eating. Look what else I got:

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See what I mean? Maniac. And by the way, those are brownies in between the strawberries.

James came through in a big way after the 3rd inning, and I was really happy for him. He got a game-used ball (the ball that ended the inning) tossed by Jose Iglesias, so the numbers had evened out after all. He had snagged four baseballs at that point, and I had gotten five. Meanwhile, look how crowded it was as the 4th inning got underway:

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That’s what two consecutive World Series appearances will do.

In the photo above, did you notice what it says on the jumbotron? Now look at it down below:

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I was appalled by the all the “GET LOUD” instructions that kept playing/blasting. There were no fewer than *ten* in that half-inning! It was so gimmicky and intrusive, often happening between every pitch. The only other stadium where my eardrums get assaulted that frequently is Citi Field.

In the 5th inning, James and I headed out to left field. I’m always happy to be in the outfield, and he was glad to walk around and check out the view from a different angle:

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While we were out there, an autograph collector named Jason found me and had me inscribe a photo of us that had been taken last year:

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He requested that I write “I caught Mike Trout’s 1st career home run.” Just wanna be clear about that. I don’t make a habit of signing things in a braggy way.

James and I stayed in the outfield for the rest of the game and talked baseball and hung out with various people who came over to say hello to me. I was concerned that he’d get annoyed by all the distractions (I wanted to focus on him), but he was delighted to see me do my thing. He had such a pleasant, laid-back demeanor. You know how some people make you feel that no matter what you do, it’s not good enough? James was the opposite, and I really enjoyed being in *his* world for a day.

Check out this panorama I took late in the game from deeeeeeeep right field:

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Did you know that the upper fountains at Kauffman Stadium are THAT wide? Now you do.

Here’s the scoreboard with two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning:

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Crazy game. Lots of scoring. Two lead changes right at the end. Good stuff.

Earlier in the evening, James and I noticed that the players all had yellow/ribbons on their uniforms. That was done for childhood cancer awareness. The umpires were also wearing stuff to support the cause, and Garrett, that lucky son of a bee, got a wristband from one of them:

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After the game, James spotted a ball here in the bullpen:

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(I took that photo a few minutes after the fact, so the ball was no longer there.)

He didn’t feel the need to snag it, so he let me call out to the groundskeepers and make the play.

Final score: Tigers 7, Zack 6, Royals 6, James 4. Hooray for crooked numbers!

Here’s one more photo of the fountains before we headed out:

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Here’s something that caught my eye as we approached the exit:

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That looks like some freaky animal footprint, no?

Here’s the stadium as seen from the parking lot:

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I gave away two of my baseballs over the course of the day. (I would’ve given them all to James, but he was content with the ones he’d snagged, and by the way, he gave away two of his own.)

Here are the four balls I kept (logos on the left; sweet spots on the right):

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The Tigers have marked their baseballs for years. They used to draw a streak over the logo, but now they mark the sweet spot instead. (If you want to see my entire collection of marked balls, click here.)

Early the next morning, I was awakened by some serious . . . shaking. The entire building felt like it was rocking back and forth. My first thought was that the upstairs neighbors were being rude and should control their kids, but then it occurred to me that I was on the top floor. Was their some major construction outside? It was very strange and ended within a minute, so I went back to sleep. Turns out it was an earthquake that could be felt all the way from Oklahoma!! That’s the first one I’ve ever experienced.

Several hours later, I saw this in an airport vending machine:

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Way to keep it classy, Kay-Cee! (I kid, I kid. Classiness is overrated.)

Overall I had a great time. MANY thanks to James for bringing me out and also for sending this incredibly kind email three days later:

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James and I are still in touch, and he’s considering being in a video next year. Who else wants that to happen? Leave a comment and let him know.

Oh, and finally, click here to see my Watch With Zack stats — kinda cool to see how the numbers have stacked up over the years.

The future of my blog . . .

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything on here, and I want to say that it’s YouTube’s fault. Sort of. I started my YouTube channel in 2008, but never took it seriously until this season. Now it’s consuming me, just like this blog did when I started THAT in 2005.

This season I’ve attended 111 Major League Baseball games and blogged about 33 of them. Many of those entries have covered games at which I was filmed for YouTube, and most of the images I posted were screen shots from the videos. See where I’m going with this? Back in 2005, the blog was my only outlet for chronicling my baseball adventures. Now it suddenly feels redundant, and I’m not nearly as motivated to work on it.

It’s also a numbers game. At this point, when I post a new entry, it gets a few hundred clicks on the first day. My videos, meanwhile, are consistently getting 20,000 to 50,000 views on the first day — and I don’t get paid for blogging.

Given how long it takes to produce a blog entry (sometimes more than five hours just to select/edit/label/upload all the images), it doesn’t make sense to keep blogging with the same intensity as before. I could spend this entire offseason catching up on the blog, but there are so many other things I’d rather do with my free time. I need to overhaul my horrendously ugly website. I want to learn how to edit video. I’ve been told that I should have a public page on Facebook and that I should get on Snapchat, so those are things that deserve my attention. I want to get back to exercising regularly and doing my weird music thing (maybe I’ll blog about THAT) and spend more time with my friends and family — not sit alone in my apartment and grab screen shots from a three-month-old video so that I can piece together a blog entry.

I do still plan to blog about some games, but chances are they won’t be games that I was filmed at. The point is, don’t give up on this blog because I’m not giving up on it. I just won’t be blogging as often, and my focus will shift a bit.

Let me leave you with two links for now. First, here’s a collection of hundreds of blog entries from all 52 of the MLB stadiums that I’ve visited. There’s gotta be stuff here that you’ve never seen, so while you’re waiting for me to post my next entry, check out some old ones. Second, here’s my YouTube channel. I’m guessing you’re already familiar with my videos, but now there’s no excuse. Watch them. They’re good. And I promise I’ll blog again soon(ish).

8/18/16 at Camden Yards

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

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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:

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

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. . . 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:

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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 . . .

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

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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:

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Here I am with those two baseballs:

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

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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:

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That was it for BP.
Eight balls.
Solid.

Here I am showing my two Blue Jays balls:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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(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:

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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:

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“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:

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Here I am signing a glove . . .

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

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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):

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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

8/17/16 at Citizens Bank Park

Lots of people on YouTube have asked me for a “cameraman face reveal,” so here you go — sort of:

1_caitlin_and_jeff_walking_to_stadium

The guy in the photo above is not my main videographer. The main dude, Brandon, lives in San Diego and wasn’t available to join me here in Philadelphia, so I brought my friend Jeff instead. (He’s the one who filmed me last month at the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game in San Diego.)

The other person in that photo is my girlfriend, Caitlin. I was hoping to include her in the video, but she didn’t feel like being on camera, so unfortunately that’s all you’ll get to see of her. We didn’t even sit together during the game. As planned, she ended up meeting a couple of friends (shout-out to Danielle from L.A.) and hanging with them while I did my video stuff.

By the time the stadium opened at 5:05pm, there was a loooooong line of fans waiting to enter:

2_line_wrapping_around_the_stadium

Why such a long line? Because this was the only open gate until 5:35pm, and only two of the many metal detectors were being used. (Dear Phillies: what’s up with that?) It was also crowded because the Dodgers were in town. And because it was summer. And the weather was perfect. Oh, and because Chase Utley was back for a few days. And because baseball is awesome.

Within the first few minutes of BP, I chased down a home run ball that landed in left-center field. Jeff got a shot of me retrieving it in the seats, so you’ll see that in the video. A minute or two after that, I climbed up onto a seat to catch another home run. Here’s a screen shot:

3_zack_catching_ball9185

As it turned out, the climbing was unnecessary, but at the time, I anticipated one or more fans converging on that spot. Therefore, as soon as the ball was hit, I decided to elevate (if possible), so even though I had plenty of space as the ball descended, I just went with it.

Look how crowded it got in left field:

4_left_field_crowded_07_17_16

I only got to see one group of Phillies BP (because they started hitting half an hour before the stadium opened). Then the Dodgers only had two groups (most teams have three), and to make matters worse, while their mostly-left-handed first group hit bombs to right field, everyone was still trapped in left. That’s just how things work at Citizens Bank Park. On weekdays, the left field gate opens two hours early, and the rest of the stadium opens 30 minutes after that. As a result of all of this, I finished BP with just two baseballs — way below average. That was a huge bummer. I always want to put on a good show in my videos, and with this one in particular, I had extra motivation because SeatGeek was sponsoring this video. Basically they had hooked me up with a pair of Diamond Club tickets behind home plate in exchange for my doing a little promo for them.

After BP, I gave a tour of the Diamond Club for the video. Then, shortly before game time, I headed out to the concourse in deep right-center to try to get a ball from the Dodgers’ bullpen. That failed. Here’s a screen shot of starting pitcher Scott Kazmir dropping the ball back in the bag:

5_scott_kazmir_dissing_everyone

Even though 9 out of 10 pitchers toss their pre-game warm-up balls into the crowd (or hand them to coaches who tosses ’em up), I can’t be annoyed at Kazmir. He’s thrown me three baseballs over the years, most recently on 6/13/16 at Chase Field, so I guess he was just super-focused here in Philly.

I’ve shown the Diamond Club in previous blog entries, and you’ll get a good look at the layout in my video, so for now, I’ll just show you the view that I had for left-handed batters:

6_view_behind_home_plate_08_17_16

That’s not an ideal spot/angle for foul balls, but it’s pretty damn good, and wouldn’t you know it — Jeff was filming me when I got my first chance at one in the bottom of the 1st inning. Kazmir was pitching, and Tommy Joseph was at bat. The ball sailed 10 feet over my head, struck a railing, and deflected down toward me. Here I am awkwardly attempting to catch it:

7_ball9188_ricocheting_at_me

The good news is that it didn’t hit me in the face. The bad news is that I completely missed it, and as it bounced past me, I had to deal with several obstacles:

8_zack_chasing_ball9186

When you watch the video (which I will link to at the end of this entry), pay close to attention to how I expertly avoided bumping into the woman in the light blue shirt. (She worked there, so she was simply trying not to get hit by the ball.) This is a prime example of how I *don’t* knock people over, even when it’s crowded and they get right in my way and I really want the ball.

The ball bounced off the back of the seats. The guys sitting there attempted to snag it, but they missed it, and I was right there to scoop it up:

9_zack_about_to_scoop_up_ball9186

That felt great. Even though it was a low-numbers day, I got a gamer in the section where SeatGeek had hooked it up for me.

Take a look at the ball — there were some patchy pine tar stains on the logo:

10_ball9188_tommy_joseph_foul_ball_with_pine_tar_stains

Here’s a panorama photo that I took behind the plate:

11_panorama_behind_home_plate_07_17_16

Did you notice the girl standing on the left wearing the white jersey? Several innings later, she caught a foul ball that deflected down from high above, outreaching a grown man in the process:

12_fans_reaching_for_a_foul_ball_07_17_16

It was a sweet grab, and I congratulated her on it. She told me that she plays softball and that it was no big deal. Her name is Lexi, and she actually recognized me from YouTube.

Ready to see what I ate? The food in the Diamond Club is not free, but it’s good!

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That’s a bacon cheeseburger with grilled onions, potato chips, potato salad, and pasta salad. For dessert, I had vanilla and chocolate ice cream with chocolate sprinkles and caramel sauce:

14_ice_cream_with_caramel_sauce_and_sprinkles

Fast-forward to the bottom of the 8th inning. The Dodgers were winning, 7-2, but more importantly for my game-within-the-game purposes, I got another chance to snag a foul ball. Jesse Chavez pitched it. Carlos Ruiz hit it. Here’s how it went down . . .

Once again, this ball sailed over my head and ricocheted down from above. Can you spot the ball in the following screen shot?

16_zack_snagging_ball9187

In case you missed it, look just below the top/flat portion of the railing. There’s a guy in a black t-shirt who barely reacted when the ball headed toward him. It bounced gently off his hand, plopped onto his back, and ended up behind him on his seat. Neither of us knew exactly where it was at that moment:

17_zack_snagging_ball9187

He might have felt it and assumed it was on his chair. I couldn’t see it anywhere else, so I figured it had to be there and ran over:

18_zack_snagging_ball9187

We both spotted it simultaneously and reached for it as it was rolling toward the edge:

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The ball dropped to the ground, and we both bent down for it:

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I was a teeny bit quicker, and as he reached for it, I was able to grab it:

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Somehow this guy found me later on Twitter and accused me of “stealing” the ball from him. Maybe he got pissed when I celebrated?

22_zack_excited_to_get_the_ball

Seriously, though, he didn’t seem the least bit bothered at the time, and anyway, there’s no rule that grants ownership just because a ball happens to land on your seat. Fans regularly scramble for baseballs, sometimes to the point of engaging in aggressive Tug Of War matches. I never get involved with crap like that, and as you can see, there’s video evidence to prove that I didn’t “steal” this one. (I should travel with a videographer all the time, huh? It would certainly help disprove false accusations.)

Here are the two foul balls that I snagged — my 18th lifetime game at which I’d gotten two or more:

23_two_foul_balls_during_game_07_17_16

Soon after that, I spotted a pair of little kids with gloves sitting nearby, so I gave them my batting practice balls. Here I am handing one over:

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With two outs in the bottom of the 9th, I moved here:

25_view_from_3rd_base_dugout_07_17_16

When the game ended, I got my fifth ball of the day from home plate umpire Chris Conroy. Here he is flinging it to me:

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One minute later, Josh Fields, who had pitched the 9th inning, tossed me the game-ending ball — an Aaron Altherr strikeout. Fields is wearing No. 46 in the following screen shot:

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See the kid catching a baseball below?

28_kid_catching_toss_up_from_zack_hample

That ball was thrown by . . . me! It was the ball I’d just gotten from the umpire.

What started as a lame day with only two baseballs in the first few minutes of BP turned out to be a really fun night. Many thanks once again to SeatGeek. (If you use this link to sign up and use the promo code ZACK, you’ll get $20 back on your first order.) Now check out my video to see the full promo I did for them along with various shots inside the Diamond Club and footage of all six baseballs I snagged. Thanks for reading/watching!

BALLHAWKING STATS:

29_the_three_balls_i_kept_08_17_16 6 baseballs at this game (three pictured here because I gave three away)

 556 balls in 74 games this season = 7.51 balls per game.

 1,240 consecutive games with at least one ball

 171 lifetime foul balls during games (not counting toss-ups)

 18 lifetime games with two or more foul balls during the game (not counting toss-ups)

 9,189 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.

• 15 donors for my fundraiser

• $133.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $936.39 raised this season

• $191,440.05 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009