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

2016 Home Run Derby

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

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


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


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


Look who else I saw walking down the street:

4_clayton_kershaw_walking_around copy

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

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


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


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

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


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

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


It was a Futures Game ball:


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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

That’s when the National League started taking BP:


Here’s what it looked like on my right:


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


Does anyone know who that is?

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

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

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


He delivered:


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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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


. . . and ended up here:


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


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


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

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


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


Before long, the staircase was packed:


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

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


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


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


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


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

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


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


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


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

And that was it.


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

Here are the six balls I kept:


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


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

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

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

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

1,224 consecutive games with at least one ball

 84 different commemorative balls

 9,110 total balls


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

Behind the scenes at Yankee Stadium

People often ask what I got in exchange for snagging and returning Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th hit. You can find the full answer on the FAQ page on my website, but basically, this behind-the-scenes tour was part of the package. It wasn’t the Yankees’ idea. I specifically asked for it, and I waited 13 months to actually do it.

Here’s what it looked like outside the stadium at 2:30pm:


The Yankees were “on the road” at Citi Field, so things were fairly peaceful here.

I headed over to the fancy lobby at Gate 2:


That’s where I met Eddie Fastook, the Executive Director of Team Security. Remember him from this photo last season? He’s the main guy I dealt with on the night I snagged the ball.

As we got started together on this one-on-one tour, he told me we were going to visit several places where I wouldn’t be allowed to take photos. That was a bummer, but hey, he makes the rules, and I was excited just to be here.

We took an elevator down to the “000” level. That’s the area below the stands where fans basically never get to go. Here’s a photo of it that I took last year. We jumped into a golf-cart type of vehicle and headed up a ramp to the spot where the team buses pull in. As you can see, that area was being power-washed:


One of the Yankees’ buses (soon to be departing for Citi Field) was waiting right behind us:


Then we drove here:


I got out and took a few photos from the warning track:


I thought of my 17-year-old self on the field at Angel Stadium and wished the younger me could’ve somehow been here with the current me.

Our next stop was the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field:


That was pretty sweet, but it was nothing compared to what I saw next. Eddie drove us back through the concourse, and we stopped outside the Yankees’ clubhouse! I’d never been in there before, and evidently the Yankees no longer allow fans to see it on official/group tours. I wasn’t allowed to take photo of the entrance, but basically, it was a hallway with oil paintings of celebratory moments from recently history, such as players running toward the mound to jump on top of each other after winning the World Series. There were probably a dozen of these paintings, none bigger than about three feet tall, and on the right, there was an open doorway to one-person office.

Before long, we ended up here:


For those of you who aren’t too familiar with Yankees lore, that’s a very very very VERY very famous quote on the dark blue sign.

Did you notice the stairs in the previous photo? Here’s where they led:


That’s Eddie walking ahead of me. When I caught up with him and looked to my left, I saw the Yankees’ batting cages:


I asked if I could take some cuts. The answer was no, only because of “liability” issues. What a pain. I don’t blame Eddie or the Yankees for that. That’s just the world being dumb. All I could think was, “I PLAYED COLLEGE BASEBALL, AND I’M STILL IN GREAT SHAPE, AND I’M NOT GONNA GET HURT, AND I WON’T SUE THE YANKEES, OKAY? SO JUST LET ME HIT!!!” But anyway . . .

When facing the cages and then looking to my left, here’s what I saw:


Here’s a close-up of the bats:


Turning to the left again (so that I was facing away from the cages), here’s what I saw:


Those doors lead right to the dugout, so basically, when a DH needs to get loose before his at-bats (or anyone wants to take a few swings for any reason), he can do it easily. And when it rains and the tarp is on the field and I’m cursing the universe for the lack of BP . . . there *is* BP. It just takes place here where fans can’t see it.

Unfortunately I wasn’t allowed to take pics of the video room, but I did get to take a peek inside. It’s located close enough to the dugout that when a certain door is left open, the coaches can shout and ask about a close play without having to call. (This would be done for instant replay/challenge purposes.)

The room itself is probably only 10 feet wide and 20 feet long — kind of a sleek but ordinary conference room with no windows, several computers, and a bunch of big TVs. Eddie told me that the players know how to use all that stuff, so without having to ask for help, they’ll often go down in there right after they’ve batted and study replays from every imaginable angle to see what they did right or wrong.

The next stop was the dugout:


Eddie had to go deal with something else for about 10 minutes, so he left me there all alone. That was fun. He told me I could step out onto the warning track, but asked me not to stray too far or walk on the grass. Obviously I honored his request. It was just nice that he trusted me.

Here’s a panorama from the top step of the dugout:


Here’s a selfie:


I filmed for a couple of minutes, thinking I’d post it later on YouTube, but eh. I don’t want to post stuff just for the sake of posting stuff. I’d rather upload videos less frequently and have them all be amazing. Maybe that’ll change someday if the demand for my videos increases a whole lot.

The bat/helmet racks were empty:


Did you notice that one thing on the bulletin board? Here’s a closer look:


That’s, uhh . . . pretty strict and specific. And it should be.

Here’s the last photo I took before Eddie came and got me:


Our next stop was the locker room. I wasn’t allowed to take photos, so once again, I’ll do my best to describe it. (There aren’t many photos of it online. Here’s a teeny one that’ll give you an idea of what it looks like.) The room, roughly 40 feet wide and 80 feet long, was shaped like a puffed-out rectangle, with lockers lining the curved edges on both sides. Of course the lockers aren’t really “lockers” in the traditional sense. They’re about four feet wide and made of wood, and they have shelves and cabinet doors and a tall empty space for clothes on hangers. There’s only one little portion in each locker that actually locks, but the place is guarded 24 hours a day and also monitored with cameras, so even though most of the players’ stuff is out in the open, no one is going to mess with anything. There are big TVs mounted high up near the ceiling above a huge “NY” logo on the carpeting in the center. Eddie told me that some of the players are so superstitious that they won’t ever step on the white portion of that lettering. (Gimme a break with that hocus-pocus.) The famous facade of the upper deck has been recreated in miniature form in the locker room, lining both walls above the lockers and highlighted with snazzy, rich blue lighting.

Eddie and I were standing near a small fridge with bottled waters. He offered one to me, and he drank one too as we talked about various stuff — mostly how the players and media interact. We had walked in though the front portion of the room, which is the only place that the media can enter. At far end of the room, there’s a sign that says something like, “No media beyond this point.” While all players are required to be available for the media (anywhere from 50 to 125 reporters on a normal day), the veterans prefer to have their lockers near the back so that they can easily duck into the off-limits area if they need some time to themselves. I heard that Mariano Rivera used to have the locker just past the midpoint of the room on the left side, where there happens to be an elevator-sized concrete pillar that shielded him. Oh, and on night games, the media is allowed in there from 3:20 to 4:20pm. After the game, they have to wait 10 minutes, and then they get to be in there again for another hour. Eddie told me that Rogers Centre has one of the biggest lockers rooms; Wrigley and Fenway, not surprisingly, have the smallest. The Fenway locker room, I was told, has exposed pipes all over the place along with dripping water. And it smells bad. Maybe THAT’S the curse of the Bambino.

Speaking of old Yankee greats, in a hallway just outside the locker room, there’s a large portion of navy blue/padded wall with an “NY” logo in the middle. Many players have signed the wall with silver markers — like, probably 150 or so — and only the Hall of Famers get to sign it in the middle near the logo. Derek Jeter has already signed it just to the left of the logo, so if he ever happens to get inducted, he’ll be invited to sign it again in the center. Players like Goose Gossage and Oscar Gamble have signed that wall, along with guys like Scott Kamieniecki and Kevin Maas. It’s a pretty cool slice of Yankees history.

The final stop on the tour was the weight room — maybe 30 feet wide and 50 feet long? I don’t know. I wasn’t taking mental notes. I could be way off, so let’s put it this way: it was bigger and nicer than any fitness room I’ve ever seen in a hotel. There were treadmills and various machines along with free weights in every possible increment. The most interesting thing was a TV mounted high on the wall that listed the names of a bunch of pitchers along with different exercises and dates. Other than that, it was just an ordinary (though nice) weight room. Of course I was still fascinated because it was the Yankees’ weight room.

That’s it! The whole tour lasted a little more than an hour. Many thanks to Eddie for showing me around and continuing to be so nice.

6/27/16 at Yankee Stadium

QUESTION: What happens when there’s a three-and-a-half-hour rain delay in the 9th inning on a weeknight . . . and THEN the game continues?

ANSWER: Read this blog entry.

I know this is supposed to be the place where I talk about my balls, but for once, I don’t want to dwell on that. I’ll tell you quickly that I snagged a dozen during the Yankees’ portion of batting practice — some in right field and others in left — including an Easter egg 15 minutes after the gates opened. It was one of those days. Everything was going right, and I didn’t bother taking any photos until the Rangers were hitting. Even then, I only took two during BP. This was my view from right field . . .


. . . and here’s what the seats/crowd looked like on my right:


During the Rangers’ portion of BP, I snagged six more baseballs, including a pair of Prince Fielder homers in the right field bleachers. That brought my total for the day to 18, which might sound incredible, and okay, yes, it was pretty damn fun, but (a) I still wasn’t close to breaking my one-game record of 36, and (b) I had much more fun later on.

During the game, an older friend of mine came over to say hello and showed me that he, too, had a Wilson A2000 glove:


A bit later, I noticed a fantastic cup holder fail:


These are the things I like to photograph — no disrespect to folks who lug fancy camera equipment and get scintillating action shots, but I’m more interested in the wacky and bizarre.

That said, here’s when it began to unfold:


If you look closely at the photo above, you can see (in blurry yellow numbers on the facade of the upper deck) that it was 10:41pm. Why wasn’t the game over by then? Couldn’t this massive rain delay have been avoided altogether?

Uhh, yeah, it was totally unnecessary for two reasons:

1) The game was delayed for 21 minutes at the start by the threat of rain. Everyone was sitting around waiting and wondering, “WTF?”

2) After it HAD been raining steadily for quite some time, Aroldis Chapman walked the leadoff batter in the top of the 9th inning. The Yankees were clinging to a 6-5 lead, so manager Joe Girardi came out and talked to the umps, and whaddaya know? THAT’S when the game was finally delayed — such coincidental timing! Yankee fans defended Girardi and the umpires, arguing that it had to be delayed at that point because it was too wet and Chapman couldn’t grip the balls and someone could’ve gotten hurt and blah blah. Rangers fans thought it was total B.S., arguing that Girardi clearly hoped the game would never resume, thereby giving his team a cheap win.

This reminds me of a story from sleep-away camp when I was 12. There was a big tennis tournament, and I ended up in the finals against this snotty, hot-shot kid, who had teased me mercilessly all summer. He also happened to be the son of a famous sportscaster and, admittedly, was a more polished tennis player than me. Somehow I had a narrow lead late in the match, and guess what this kid did? He complained that it was too windy and tried to get the match postponed. I was like, “It’s windy on my side of the court too, bruh,” so we kept playing, and I won, and he cried, and it was the greatest moment of my young life. In fact, now that I’m thinking about it all these years later, it’s still one of the greatest moments. I hope he quit playing tennis as a result and still cries about it.

So yeah. While it WAS raining pretty hard in the top of the 9th inning, it wasn’t raining noticeably harder than it had been in, oh, let’s say . . . the bottom of the 8th.

I have no idea what Girardi said to the umps, or what it was like to be out there on that wet, squishy field, so I can only say that from my limited perspective as an outsider, it seemed strange for the game to be delayed at THAT moment, just as the Rangers had a hint of momentum.

Fast-forward to 11pm. It was still raining, and the radar looked bleak, but no official announcement had been made about the game. Naturally, most fans had left by that point, but I had decided to stick around.

I needed food, but there was only one concession stand open (Nathan’s), and there were only two options remaining: hot dogs and chicken tenders. Here’s what I picked:


I wish that Sweetgreen, Fresh & Co., and Chopt would all open up concession stands at Yankee Stadium, and while we’re at it, Peacefood Cafe too.

This was my view as I ate:


Fast-forward again, this time to midnight. There STILL hadn’t been any announcement about the status of the game, but obviously there was a chance that it would resume. Otherwise the Yankees would’ve cut their losses on any remaining food at Nathan’s and kicked everyone out — and it wouldn’t have taken long. Look how empty the seats were at that point:


I’m sure there were a bunch of people chillin’ in various clubs (Legends, Champions, Audi, Delta, etc.), but based on what I actually saw, I was practically drooling at the idea of how much fun I’d have if/when the game resumed. Until then, I decided to wander and take photos.

It was 12:24am when I made it to the left field seats:


It had stopped raining at that point, and the radar looked decent, but there were no groundskeepers in sight. They must’ve known something or maybe Girardi had locked them all in his office.

There was no one in the center field concourse:


To further prove it, here’s what it looked like on my right:


By 12:35am, it started drizzling again. Evidently that was more water than the tunnel in right-center field could handle:


There was one other fan in the right field concourse:


I’m not sure what he was looking at — the beer menu? I guess he didn’t know that Nathan’s was the only game in town.

Here’s the Yankees’ bullpen:


The right field seats were empty too, of course:


By 12:43am, the drizzle had turned into a steady rain, and guess what? I didn’t have an umbrella! I’d gotten completely soaked during the game — shoes, pants, shirt, and cap. My backpack was also horribly soggy. I had tried to fight the water for an inning or two but ended up accepting my fate, so the fact that I was now getting rained on once again didn’t matter. In fact I enjoyed being the only person/idiot walking through the seats.

The warning track was going to need to some serious help:


These garlic fries weren’t in much better shape:


A few minutes later, it began raining hard. These guys didn’t have umbrellas either:


On a scale of FML to WHATEVER, how do you think this cop was feeling?


At 12:50am, I heard someone yelling at me as I headed closer to the infield. It was a security guard in the concourse. He waved me up the steps and told me that I wasn’t allowed to walk through the seats.

Yes, really.

I wasn’t trying to go down into the Legends area. I was just walking through the normal seats. An hour earlier, I had actually been told by a supervisor on the 3rd base side that for the rest of the night, fans could sit anywhere in the 100 Level, but for some reason, the guard on the 1st base side felt the need to be all guard-y. He told me that if I wanted to enter another section, I had to walk though the concourse and then head down the steps.

By the way, here’s what it looked like from the concourse:


This was the scene at 1:16am:


The rain delay had started more than two and a half hours earlier, and the Yankees still hadn’t made any announcements about it. What’s up with that? If they didn’t know anything, it would have been nice for them to say so, but then again, I was gonna stay regardless, so it really didn’t matter.

At 1:37am, after the rain had once again tapered off, the grounds crew (and umpire crew) walked out onto the field:


I nearly danced a frickin’ jig when I saw them starting to remove the tarp:


Jon Daniels and Brian Cashman (the GMs of the Rangers and Yankees) met in foul territory to discuss the situation:


While the grounds crew worked to get the field ready, I caught up with Prince Fielder’s son Haven:


Haven and I have gotten to know each other over the past couple of seasons. Whenever I see him out on the field shagging baseballs during BP, he hooks me up, and when I saw him during this rain delay, he told me that he’s been watching my YouTube videos. What a fine young man! I hope he makes it to the major leagues someday.

I also spent some time with Prince’s wife, Chanel:


She and I go way back to the 2015 All-Star Game. Do you remember this photo of us?

At 2:04am, the Yankees began playing catch in front of their dugout:


Starlin Castro ended up throwing me his warm-up ball, and several minutes later, just before the game finally resumed, right-fielder Aaron Hicks threw me HIS warm-up ball. There was literally no competition; I was the only person who asked him for it. That was my 20th ball of the day, and by the way, I’d already given away 12 of them to kids. (“Hey, d-bag, why do you need to point out how many balls you give away?! You should give them ALL away!”) (Anyway . . . )

Here’s what it looked like in right field during the top of the 9th inning:



I wanted the Rangers to score one run and tie the game, and then I wanted it to last forever.

Kirby Yates was now pitching, if you can call it that. He struck out Shin-Soo Choo but then hit the next two batters to load the bases. That’s when I took the following photo:


I had moved into foul territory because Adrian Beltre had stepped to the plate. I had so much room to cover that I hardly knew what to do with myself. I figured I’d stand in foul territory for the righties in case they sliced a foul ball, and I’d run back out to right field and play straight-away for the lefties.

As it turned out, one of the righties did hit a foul ball to the 1st base side, but wouldn’t you know it — it landed all the way at the back of the 100 Level, right near a couple of fans who barely had to move. I ran three full sections for it, just because I could, but I knew I had no chance.

After falling behind in the count 0-2, Beltre ripped a line-drive single to left field, scoring two runs and putting the Rangers on top, 7-6. It was a stunning turn of events, punctuated by distant yet distinct cheering from the few remaining Rangers fans and family members.

Being in an empty stadium is a heckler’s dream. I had no desire to harass the players, but I couldn’t resist the urge to say SOMEthing, so when Prince Fielder was digging into the batters box, I decided to talk to Aaron Hicks. In a normal voice, I said, “Aaron, this is a very special moment for the two of us — alone together out here in right field.”


I know he heard me. I just hope he was at least two percent amused. What would YOU have said to him? Or to anyone? It was so weird — totally surreal and peaceful, which are words not typically associated with Yankee Stadium. I was having THE BEST TIME, but now of course I wanted the Rangers to make two quick outs and for the Yankees to tie the game in the bottom of the 9th. Unfortunately Fielder was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, and Elvis Andrus hit a two-out, two-run single to increase the Rangers’ lead to 9-6.

Wow. But hey, that would just make it even more exciting when I caught a walk-off grand slam, right? That’s how I was looking at it.

Here’s what it looked like when Starlin Castro led off the bottom of the 9th:


He ended up hitting a weak grounder to the shortstop and barely beating it out at 1st base — or did he? The ump called him safe, and the Rangers challenged because that’s what everyone needed at that moment: another reason for the game to be delayed. That’s when I realized I should film something for YouTube, so here you go. CLICK HERE to see a little selfie-style slice of life from Yankee Stadium at 2:38am.

Castro was ruled safe (woo-hoo!) and advanced to 2nd base on a groundout by Didi Gregorius. Chase Headley followed with a walk, bringing the tying run to the plate!

That’s when I took this photo of the right field bleachers:


I couldn’t actually see into the bleachers from down below; I had to reach my phone up high in order to get that shot.

My new BFF Aaron Hicks grounded into a fielder’s choice, so now there were runners on the corners for Jacoby Ellsbury. Can you imagine how insane it would’ve been if he’d hit a home run to right field? I was so ready for it, but instead he lined out to left field to end the game.


Here are the last two members of the Rangers’ bullpen walking across the field:


Part of me was disappointed that my moment of baseball bliss had ended so quickly. The other part of me was ecstatic that I’d gotten to experience it at all. Prior to this, the smallest crowd I’d ever had the pleasure of being part of was on June 3, 2002 at Coors Field. The Rockies were getting blown out, and there was a two-hour rain delay around the 7th inning. This is what it looked like when that game resumed. That was pretty good but nothing compared to this ridiculous night in the Bronx.

Even the streets were empty . . .


. . . and for once, on my way to the subway, I wasn’t forced to inhale second-hand cigarette smoke.

Wait a minute, did I say subway? How about no. When I made it to the corner and saw a bunch of taxis waiting there, I treated myself to a quick and comfortable ride home — best $20 I’ve ever spent.

The next day, I was featured on the Gothamist website, and later on, when I made it back to the stadium, I heard something funny from a bunch of security guards. During the long rain delay, a call had gone out over the radio system about a fan who was wandering all by himself in the outfield seats. The guards knew it was me, and they were amused. I wasn’t in trouble. Security was keeping an eye on me, as they would have done with anybody in that situation, just because.

Thank you, Joe Girardi and Mother Nature, for an unforgettable night!