Category: Uncategorized

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:


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:


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


. . . 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:


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 . . .


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


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:


Here I am with those two baseballs:


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


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:


That was it for BP.
Eight balls.

Here I am showing my 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:


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:


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:


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


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:


(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:


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:


“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:


Here I am signing a glove . . .


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


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):


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:


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:


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:


Here’s what it looked like:


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:


As I drifted back and tracked the ball . . .


. . . 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:


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:


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:


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


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:


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.


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


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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:


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


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:


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!


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:


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?


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:


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:


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


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


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


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


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:


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:


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


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:


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:


See the kid catching a baseball below?


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!


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


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

8/5/16 at Yankee Stadium

Let me start with three panorama photos. First, here’s what it looked like on the 3rd base side before the Indians started taking batting practice:


This was my view from the 2nd deck in right field during BP:


Here’s what BP looked like from the 100 Level seats:


Pretty cool, huh?

Anyway, my first ball of the day was a homer by a left-handed batter on the Yankees. Not sure who. My second ball was a homer by Starlin Castro that I caught on the fly, and my third was thrown by Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer after we briefly played catch. That was it! Tough day. It was crowded, and there just weren’t many opportunities.

I did, however, get to see R2-D2 rolling past on the warning track before the game:


There were also a bunch of Stormtroopers lined up on the 3rd base side:


Yup, it was Star Wars Night at Yankee Stadium. I had received an R2-D2 hat on the way in, and I decided to give it away in a Twitter contest along with one of my BP balls:


Fast-forward to the bottom of the 3rd inning. Josh Tomlin was pitching, Starlin Castro was hitting, the bases were loaded, and BAM!!! Watch this video and then take a look at these screen shots.


Castro sent a deep fly ball heading toward me out in right field. I knew right away that it was going to be a home run. I just wasn’t sure if it would have enough distance to reach my spot several rows back.

As it turned out, the ball did reach me . . . sort of. If the row in front of me had been empty, I would’ve been able to make an easy chest-high catch, but as you can see in the screen shot below, it was fairly crowded:


The fans in front of me reached up for the ball, and as I reached for it too, someone deflected it while simultaneously bumping my glove. Somehow this caused the ball to be bobbled straight up into the air above me. Here’s a blurry closeup from the previous screen shot — note the ball circled in red:


That’s me in the red shirt with the white circle on my chest — more on that shirt in a bit, but for now, look what happened next:


I know it’s hard to tell what was happening, so here’s another blurry closeup:


As you can see, the other red-shirted fan tried to snatch the ball away from me, but I don’t blame him. He only went for the ball until he realized that I had secured possession of it, at which point I twisted away from him and he backed off. (This all happened very fast.) Also, I should mention that I did briefly juggle the ball at first, in part because I was holding a mini-bag of Cracker Jacks in my right hand. Duh!

It should be clear to anyone with half a brain that this was a clean play all around, especially on my part. Therefore it *really* pissed me off to see negative garbage like this.

Anyway, here’s Starlin Castro being greeted at home plate by his teammates:


Remember that red shit I was wearing? I proudly “popped” it for the cameras:


Here’s a better look at it:


BARSTOOL SPORTS, BABY!!! They’ve been great to me over the past two seasons, so this was my way of paying them back. I had recently bought that shirt and decided to wear it semi-regularly until I caught a home run.

Here’s a closer look at the ball:


Here’s Castro on the jumbotron later in the game:


This was his first career grand slam, so I figured he might want the ball back . . . but nope! No one from the Yankees approached me about it, and I’m glad. This was the third lifetime grand slam that I had snagged, and I still had the other two baseballs at home, so my “granny collection,” if you will, would remain complete.

Here are two of my newer friends photographing/admiring the ball:


In the photo above, that’s Chris holding it. The young man with his mouth agape is named Martin.

After the game (which the Yankees won, 13-7), several other fans took photos of/with the ball, including the guy who had nearly snagged it himself:


Here are my three gland slam baseballs, by the way:


The ball on the left was hit by Robinson Cano on 9/28/09 at Yankee Stadium. The ball in the middle was hit by Carlos Beltran on 8/8/14 at Yankee Stadium. Someday I will catch a grand slam somewhere else. Mark my words.


 4 baseballs at this game

 533 balls in 69 games this season = 7.72 balls per game.

 1,235 consecutive games with at least one ball

 45 lifetime game home runs; click here for the complete list

 9,166 total balls


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

7/30/16 at Citi Field

It was a soggy but festive day in Queens:


In the image above, that’s my friend Ben Weil holding the Mike Piazza cutout. (Shout-out to Andrew in the black shirt and Ryan peeking over the back of my neck.) This was the day that Piazza, recently inducted into the Hall of Fame, was going to have his uniform number retired by the Mets during a big pre-game ceremony. That’s the only reason I was here. I normally avoid Citi Field when it rains, but I wanted to pay my respects to one of the greatest catchers in MLB history, and I also hoped to snag a game-used commemorative baseball.

First, though, my challenge was simply to get *a* baseball and keep my streak alive. I knew it would be tough when I ran inside and saw the tarp on the field:


Rockies pitcher Jon Gray was throwing an early bullpen session, so I headed over to right-center. I would’ve gotten a ball there if not for my “friend” Greg Barasch who flat-out robbed me, but whatever, I’m over it (or at least I want him to think I am).

A little while later, Greg pointed out a ball sitting in a weird place. Can you spot it in the following photo?


There was no chance to snag it, but it was fun to think about. I wonder how long it had been there.

Meanwhile it had started to rain again, and these guys didn’t seem to care:


That’s dedication. (Dedication? Is that the word? Sure, let’s go with that.)

Roughly 90 minutes before game time, I had a chance to snag a ball when several Rockies came out and played catch in shallow left field. I was dressed for success . . .


. . . but that didn’t help. No luck. No action. Nada. Zilch.

As it turned out, there were NO other opportunities to get a baseball before the ceremony. I tried my best to enjoy all the hoopla despite being stressed and paranoid. (FYI, it had been 23 years since I’d gotten shut out at a major league game.)

Here’s Piazza on the jumbotron:


Here he is standing at (or near) home plate:


Here’s his uniform number (31) being unveiled:


Sorry for the poor quality of that image, but it’s a zoomed-in screen shot from my iPhone. In other words, I did a little filming, and yes, there’s a selfie-style video on my YouTube channel! Keep reading and you’ll find a link near the bottom.

After the ceremony (which really was amazing), I photographed Ben with his wife Jen, holding up their Piazza signs:


Ben loves Piazza so much (and Jen is so chill and loves Ben so much) that at their wedding two years ago, all the groomsmen wore Piazza jerseys. Ben also has a new “31” tattoo, which you can see on his right shoulder in this photo. THAT is dedication.

Despite the bleak forecast, the rain held off enough for the grounds crew to take the tarp off the field. The game was delayed 38 minutes, but no one cared. Everyone was just thrilled that it was going to played at all. I was also glad to have one final opportunity before the game to get a toss-up in the right field corner. Here’s what it looked like out there:


It was an odd time for several pairs of Mets pitchers to be playing catch. Somehow I got Logan Verrett to throw me his ball when he finished. He nearly airmailed me, though, so I had to jump as high as possible in order to catch it. Then I handed it to the nearest/littlest kid.

It was 7:18pm.
Translation: Phew!

On the way to my seat, I saw some fans posing for photos with a life-size Mike Piazza cardboard cutout:


Speaking of my seat, check out the view:


I’m pretty sure this was the most expensive regular-season ticket I’ve ever bought. Don’t ask me how much it cost. I’m kind of ashamed, but it was nice to sit so close to the field for a change.

Look who was with me:


That’s Jen.

Ben, of course, was DYING to get a Piazza ball, but he didn’t care how he got it. He didn’t need to snag it himself. He just wanted to end up with one, so I told him that if I got two, he could have one. Therefore he decided to sit on his own near the Rockies’ on-deck circle (ballboys often toss balls there) and have Jen sit with me and try to help. It’s amazing how much attention a young, attractive woman will receive from the players. Seriously. It’s actually kind of scary, but in this case (because she’s so chill and loves Benny so much), she was willing to be used. How sweet.

Things didn’t go as planned. In the first three innings, DJ LeMahieu ended up with two of the 3rd-out balls and seemed to taunt me as he threw them to other fans, and Greg, that lucky son-of-a-bee, managed to get a Piazza ball from Mark Reynolds.

In the 4th inning, rookie phenom Trevor Story hurt himself diving for a ball. It looked awkward, and I felt bad to see him leave the game:


At the time, I had no idea that it would turn out to be a season-ending injury — a huge loss for the Rockies, their fans, and all of Major League Baseball. Hopefully he’ll come back strong next year.

The 4th inning ended with a strikeout, which got tossed right over my head. I had no luck in the 5th inning either and was really starting to worry that I wouldn’t get one of the special balls. There was, however, one thing that gave me hope. Early in the game, I noticed that Rockies 1st base coach Eric Young was inspecting the infield warm-up ball each inning. He threw most of these balls into the crowd, but before he did, he let people know whether or not there was a special logo. Most of these balls were regular, so I didn’t ask for one. I figured I’d save my request in case he actually indicated that he had what I was hoping for. During the 6th inning, when he walked past me down below in the dugout, I called out and said, “E.Y., I’m dying to get one of those special balls.” I didn’t think he had one at that moment; I just wanted him to be on the lookout for me, so you can imagine how stunned I was when he pulled a ball out of his back pocket and flipped it up onto the dugout roof. Was it commemorative? Take a look for yourself:



Obviously I don’t love Mike Piazza as much as Ben does (I don’t think Mrs. Piazza even loves him like that), but I’ve been a huge fan since meeting him at Bucky Dent’s Baseball School in the early 1990s. I was also excited to snag this ball because it would complement the one I’d gotten on 9/29/13 at Citi Field when the Mets inducted Piazza into their own Hall of Fame. Check it out:


By the 7th inning, there were lots of empty seats, as you can see in the background of this photo:


It had been raining the whole night, and the Mets were losing, and of course all the Mike Piazza stuff was done. Many people had actually left right after the pre-game ceremony.

Ben’s enthusiasm never wavered, and at one point, Jen and I spotted him on the jumbotron:


She reacted by excitedly yelling, “THAT’S MY HUSBAND!!! THAT’S MY HUSBAND!!!” That probably confused everyone sitting around us. Heh.

Here’s a panorama from my seat behind the dugout:


Toward the end of the game, DJ LeMahieu looked up at me from the dugout and said, “How many baseballs today?”

I was like, “Wait, what? You know who I am?”

“Yeah, how many?” he asked without even a hint of a smile.

Some players who recognize me think my collection is cool, and they’re glad to add to it. Other guys just seem put off by the whole thing. That was the vibe I got from LeMahieu, which would explain why he’d taunted me earlier. Guess I won’t be rooting for him anymore.

After the game, which the Rockies won by the score of 7-2, I filmed a closing scene by the dugout:


I had failed to get an extra Piazza ball for Ben, but that didn’t end up mattering because Greg came through!


Check out Ben’s reaction after receiving one of these baseballs from Greg:


He wasn’t acting or posing. He was truly overjoyed, and I was glad to share this special night with him.

Here’s the last photo I took before heading home:


That feels super-lonely, no? Anyway, thanks for reading, and if you still want more, here’s the video.


 2 baseballs at this game

 517 balls in 66 games this season = 7.83 balls per game.

1,315 balls in 180 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 7.31 balls per game.

1,232 consecutive games with at least one ball

 86 different commemorative balls

 9,150 total balls


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

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

• $668.85 raised this season

• $191,172.51 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

7/21/16 at FirstEnergy Park

Let me start by saying this:


Who’s Alex Katz? He’s a guy I met several years ago at Citi Field. We were both trying to catch baseballs in the left field seats, and after crossing paths at several other games, we became friendly. It turns out that he’s an amazing baseball player — a left-handed pitcher, to be specific, who was drafted last year out of St. John’s by the Chicago White Sox. Three months and two rookie ball teams later, he wrapped up his first pro season with a 2.20 ERA and solid numbers across the board. He began this season with a Class A team called the Kannapolis Intimidators, which, in case you don’t know or are too lazy to look it up, is based in North Carolina. That’s quite a distance from my home in New York City, so when Alex told me that he’d be playing in Lakewood, New Jersey for a few days, I made a point of going to see him.

The drive took about an hour and a half:


Parking was cheap . . .


. . . and the stadium was teeny:


It had been several years since I’d attended a minor league game, and I’d forgotten just how laid-back and fun the atmosphere is. Before the stadium officially opened, I asked one of the ticket people if there was a bathroom I could use. Two minutes later, I was standing inside the team’s front office/reception area:


It was, indeed, THAT easy. No attitude. Just friendly people who genuinely wanted me to have a good time.

I should mention that I’d driven down from New York with a videographer — not Brandon (who normally films me) or Jeff (who had joined me in San Diego for the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game), but a new guy named Josh. Here he is setting up his camera:


We moved closer to the stadium for the opening shot. Then I picked up our comp (and rather large) tickets, courtesy of Alex:


In the photo above, those are Alex’s parents, Adrian and Gary. I can’t even begin to imagine how proud they must be of their son.

FirstEnergy Park doesn’t open to the general public until one hour before game time, but because I was hanging with a player’s family, I received VIP treatment and got inside an extra half-hour early. This was the result:


That ball was thrown to me by The Man himself — Alex Katz. Here he is waving to me:


I had lots of room to run on a grassy berm. This was my view to the left . . .


. . . and to the right:


Unfortunately, though, no one could hit worth a damn, and BP ended five minutes later, so the ball from Alex was the only one I got. (I don’t count minor league games/balls in my stats, so whatever.)

After BP, I wandered over to the 3rd base dugout and caught up with these guys:


The man on the left is named Scott, and he was super-friendly. He had recognized me outside the stadium and actually given me a brand-new South Atlantic League ball, just to be nice and make me feel welcome. He and I ran into each other throughout the day, and I truly appreciated his kindness.

While the BlueClaws took infield/outfield practice, I got some waves and hellos from a bunch of kids on the warning track:


Some of them recognized me from YouTube and were excited to see me here with a cameraman, so that felt good.

A little while later, I caught up with Alex outside the clubhouse:


He had actually poked his head out to have a quick word with his family, so I seized the moment and grabbed a photo with him.

I’m only going to post three screen shots from the video in this blog entry. Here’s the first:


That’s what I had for dinner — chicken teriyaki. It was VERY good, so if you ever find yourself at this stadium, look for it. There’s a little stand on the 1st base side.

Here’s what I had for dessert — Oreo churros:


Ohhhh yes. I stayed nice and full after that for the rest of the game.

Here’s what the right field berm looks like:


Everything was calm and relaxing out there, as you can see:


Here’s the batter’s eye:


If there had been more than a few minutes of batting practice (and if anyone had any power), that walkway would’ve been useful because I could’ve used it to run back and forth from left field to right field.

This was my view for the first half of the game:


I was sitting right in front of Alex’s parents. (There’s a shot of them in the video.) At that point I was wearing my glove more for protection than because I actually expected to snag any baseballs, but look, it happened!


Did you notice the ballboy giving me a thumbs-up in the background? He tossed me that ball because he recognized me. I think his name is Paul. (I hope I’m remembering that correctly. I sometimes suck with names.)

Here’s a selfie with Alex’s parents and two of Alex’s friends:


In the photo above, the guy with the sunglasses on his head is named Randy. The guy wearing the light blue cap is named Steve, and if he looks familiar, that’s because he’s been working for the Mets forever.

Here’s the second screen shot:


I think that’s self-explanatory.

In the middle innings, I moved near the Intimidators’ bullpen down the left field line:


Did you notice Alex (No. 10) warming up the left fielder? He’s a reliever, so I kept waiting and hoping that he’d get in the game.

This was my view with an inning or two remaining:


Alex didn’t get to pitch, and to make matters worse, his team lost. On the positive side, there was an on-field Pokémon GO promotion after the game, so I got to hang out with him on the warning track:


We decided to do a little interview for the video. Here’s the final screen shot as proof:


After saying goodbye to him, I wandered into center field:


That’s where I did the closing shot for the video, and on the way out, I took a panorama in the concourse behind home plate:


Do you remember Scott from the photo after BP near the 3rd base dugout? Here’s a photo of the trunk of his car:


He’s a photographer and yeah . . . also an autograph collector.

As for the video, CLICK HERE to watch it. Not surprisingly, I’ve gotten a ton of comments from people asking/telling me to attend minor league games in various places. I appreciate that, and while I *did* have fun at this game, I just want you to keep this in mind. Perhaps I’ll go watch Alex play somewhere else next year. In the meantime, I’m happy to report that he was recently promoted to the Winston-Salem Dash and made history in his first appearance, ending Francisco Mejia’s 50-game hitting streak. I’m rooting like crazy for Alex, and I hope you do too. If you see him, tell him that Zack in New York says hi.

2016 All-Star Game

It was a beautiful day in San Diego, and thanks to this sign on the sidewalk, I knew I was heading in the right direction:


There were actually lots of signs advertising/pointing to different events:


I decided to start by checking out FanFest, but before I got there, I was distracted by this:


I knew that in just a few hours, there’d be thousands of fans crammed against the barricades, cheering all the players rolling past in the parade. For now, though, things were calm, so I took advantage by doing something silly — and you can see it in my YouTube video. That’s right! Deal with it — a little teaser to leave you hungry and wanting more. The same videographer who captured all the action the day before at the Home Run Derby was with me again.

FanFest took place at a huge convention center located several blocks from the stadium. Here’s what it looked like outside:


Here I am inside posing near a huge baseball:


Did you notice my snazzy new shirt? I mentioned it in my last entry about the Derby — a new purchase that nearly put me in debt.

FanFest had countless things to see and do. Here I am talking about it:


One of those things was a baseball talk led by John Smoltz:


The topic was preventing pitching injuries. I would have loved to stay and hear the rest of it, but time was limited.

By the way, a funny thing happened in the video during the talk. After I commented about how a Hall of Famer was sitting just 30 feet away, a kid recognized me (“Are you Zack Hample?”) and asked for an autograph and selfie. The timing was so perfect that you might be tempted to accuse me of staging it, but that’s truly how it happened. I’ve been getting recognized a lot lately; I usually choose not to include footage of it in the videos, but every now and then I’ll make an exception.

Let’s get one thing straight, though — this is who everyone *really* wanted to see:


That’s Padres 1st baseman Wil Myers. He had participated in the Home Run Derby the day before, and in just a few hours, he’d be the starting cleanup hitter for the National League. Of course the line to meet him had already been cut off at that point, so I wasn’t able to get a photo with him. That’s when I knew it was time to leave.

As I approached the stadium, I walked along a street that was set up with all kinds of fun stuff:


It was nearly empty because everyone in downtown San Diego was camped out along the parade route. Here’s what it looked like right across from the stadium:


Several players were about to roll up in their trucks:


Here’s Jose Altuve waving to the crowd:


Here’s Ian Desmond looking dapper as hell:


Here’s Manny Machado before getting out:


Many more players were still due to arrive, but after 10 minutes there, I’d had enough. Some people make a whole day of the red carpet parade, arriving early to claim the best spots and then sticking around for the whole thing. I can’t deal with that. I don’t like being trapped with big crowds, and my attention span is limited.

As I walked away from the parade route, I found myself crossing the street behind the truck that had transported Mookie Betts:


FYI, you’ll find a link to the video toward the end of this entry, so keep scrolling/reading. Right now I’m just providing a few extra details and photos.

The stadium opened half an hour earlier than it had the day before, and the employees in left field were, to put it lightly, unprepared. One woman demanded to know what I was doing inside the stadium, and less than a minute later, a male guard stopped my cameraman and insisted that the gates hadn’t yet opened.

“Then how could we be here?!” I asked. It was the dumbest situation, and as other fans started trickling in, the employees realized what was up.

Once again, I decided to hang out in left-center field for BP. This was my view:


That spot had worked well for me the day before, but for whatever reason, it was DEAD at the All-Star Game. Look how crowded it got:


Dozens of fans all around me got baseballs — a combination of home runs and toss-ups — but I just couldn’t make anything happen.

Finally I got a toss-up from this random kid in center field:


Do you remember the commemorative baseballs I had snagged the day before? I got a bunch of Futures Game balls and All-Star Game balls, but no Home Run Derby balls. Therefore I was *extremely* happy to get this from the kid in center field:


That was the only ball I got during the American League’s portion of BP. Then both leagues took turns posing for team photos:


My cameraman (not Brandon but a different friend named Jeff) went up to the 2nd deck to get some shots from above. Here he is waving at me:


He succeeded in getting the shots. I, however, failed to snag any more baseballs, so in case you’ve somehow lost count, I finished BP with one.

I grabbed some food (a fried chicken sandwich, if you must know) and then headed off on a mission: to find my buddy Heath Bell. He had texted to say that he was in Suite 33, but evidently there were two levels of suites, and neither of us knew exactly where I needed to go.

While wandering around and trying to figure it out, I stopped to pose for a photo with more oversized baseballs:


I just can’t resist. I have a history of doing that. See? Oh look, here’s more evidence from the past.

After asking twice for help/directions, I finally made it up to the terrace level. Here I am discussing the beautiful stadium design:


Most stadiums, by the way, require fans to have suite-level tickets just to get anywhere near the suites, but here at PETCO, there was enough other stuff on this level that it was open to everyone.

When I found Suite 33, Heath welcomed me inside. Here’s what it looked like:


Here I am with the man himself:


During that particular portion of the conversation, he was telling the camera that if I ran out onto the field, he would throw me a ball from the suite. What a guy! (How do I know him? Watch the video. You’ll get an explanation.)

Here I am with his son Reece:


I only stayed for a few minutes and then headed upstairs for the pre-game ceremony. Click the following photo (a high-res panorama) to enjoy the true splendor:


Did you notice all the people on the balconies of the building behind the light tower? Here’s a closer look:


Just after the national anthem concluded, six U.S. Thunderbirds performed an incredible flyover at 600 miles per hour! I knew it was coming, but still wasn’t prepared and was actually startled. Thankfully Jeff was ready with his camera and got a really cool shot:


Here’s where I hung out during the game:


PETCO Park has standing room build into the cross-aisle in right field; somehow, despite waiting until game time to head down there, I found a spot.

Here’s Mike Trout on the jumbotron in the bottom (yes, the BOTTOM) of the 1st inning:


Why was the American League batting in the bottom of the inning at a National League stadium? I was confused until my friend Brent explained it. Basically the All-Star Game took place in Cincinnati last season. Next year it’ll be played in Miami, and in 2018 it’ll happen in Washington D.C. — all National League ballparks. To compensate for that, the American League was the “home” team here at PETCO. Very strange.

Did you notice the “fun fact” about Trout below his photo on the jumbotron? He’s the first player ever to win consecutive All-Star Game MVP honors. #GOAT

Here’s what the cross-aisle looked like on my right:


I was hoping to catch a home run, and man, let me tell ya, if anyone had hit a ball near me, I would’ve had a great shot.

Here’s who I spent most of the game with:


That’s Brent on the left. Remember him from this photo on 9/24/14 at PETCO Park? That’s when we first met. He’s a great guy and super knowledgeable about baseball. The man in the red hat is an even older friend. His name is Ismael, and if you’ve been reading this blog for a very long time, you might remember this photo of him from when he put me on the phone with Heath Bell on 8/31/08 at PETCO Park.

There were three home runs during the game, but unfortunately they all went to left field. Therefore my only chances came on warm-up balls thrown by outfielders. Here I am reaching for one:


I didn’t snag it.

Here I am late in the game — just a random candid moment:


Here are the fireworks that went off after the home team won, 4-2:


Eric Hosmer won the MVP. (He went 2-for-3 with a homer and 2 RBIs.) Here’s the award ceremony from afar:


Here’s Hoz on the jumbotron:


I like Rob Manfred’s face — not specifically in the photo above, but in general. Is that a weird thing to say? I just think he looks friendly.

And now, finally, here’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: the video! Click here to watch it, and don’t forget to subscribe to my YouTube channel. I have lots more stuff on the way.


39_2016_home_run_derby 1 baseball at this game (pictured here)

 478 balls in 59 games this season = 8.10 balls per game.

157 balls in 16 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 9.81 balls per game.

 25 balls in 5 lifetime Home Run Derbies = 5 balls per game.

1,225 consecutive games with at least one ball

 85 different commemorative balls

 9,111 total balls


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