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!

6/17/16 at Dodger Stadium

I had two big goals for this day at Dodger Stadium. Most importantly, I wanted to make a better YouTube video than the one I did here in 2012, and second, I wanted to snag at least 10 baseballs. I always hope to hit double digits, but on this particular occasion, I started the day with 90 lifetime balls at this stadium, so I was hoping to reach 100. I suppose that’s one of my longterm goals — to reach triple digits at every current stadium.

I got inside early with some friends who are season ticket holders and headed down near the left field foul pole:


Did you notice all the players standing around in left field? Batting practice hadn’t started yet. That’s how early it was. Every day at Dodger Stadium, season ticket holders get inside THREE HOURS before game time. That’s just not fair. I mean, good for them (and for the Dodgers for being so fan-friendly), but it just makes me hate New York.

There wasn’t much action at first. I tried unsuccessfully to get a toss-up, and then Joc Pederson ignored my request to sign my 9,000th ball (which he had hit during BP four days earlier at Chase Field). Oh well. I’ll get him someday. Maybe. Possibly. Or not? No? Well, who needs him anyway!

After BP finally got underway, I snagged my first ball by running quite a distance through an empty row. Here I am taking off for it:


Look closely at the following screen shot, and you’ll see the ball rattling around in my row:


And then?
More dead time.

For the first hour, fans were confined to the left field side, which wouldn’t have been so bad except for the fact that the entire first group of Dodgers BP consisted of left-handed batters. Chase Utley? Adrian Gonzalez? I think they were hitting, along with Pederson and Corey Seager.

My videographer, Brandon Sloter, got a shot of Clayton Kershaw in the bullpen:


I moved back to the left field corner and waited. This was my view:


Brandon rejoined me for the next group and got a decent shot of my second ball — a home run by Justin Turner. Here’s a four-part photo that shows how I got it:


Let me provide some commentary:

1) As soon as the ball was hit, I climbed back over a row and started moving into fair territory.

2) I took a quick peek at the ball, but didn’t need to keep looking at it. I knew where it was going to land, so I focused on getting to that spot as quickly as possible.

3) It looks like I was about to glove it, but in fact the ball was just beyond my reach, so I accidentally swatted it deeper into the section.

4) I climbed back over a couple of rows and grabbed it. Phew! Note the clock. It was still more than two and a half hours until game time.

A few minutes later, I had what should’ve been an easy, uncontested chance to snag another ball. Look where it landed:


As you can see, there was no one else near it. All I was gonna have to do was scoot through that glorious cross-aisle and pick it up. Maybe walk up a couple of steps? Gosh, what a challenge, right? Well, actually . . . yeah. The ball took a RIDICULOUS deflection and landed one full section behind me. Here I am watching it and realizing that I needed to change directions:


Look where it landed:


It plunked down right in the row where that kid happened to be chillin’. Bad luck for me meant good luck for him, so it really wasn’t that bad after all. I just think it’s interesting to have footage of an extremely unlucky bounce; ballhawks complain about stuff like that all time, so even though I didn’t end up getting the ball, it’s fun to actually have video evidence.

Here I am (one sneaker in the air) reaching for a ground ball:


I barely missed it. So many close calls.

For the Dodgers’ final group of BP, I moved to the left field pavilion. Here’s what it looked like from where Brandon was standing in the front row:


I wasn’t up there with him. Instead I was camped out on a staircase down below:


There are far more opportunities *in* the bleachers than down below (or down the foul lines), but I picked that spot because it’s different. It’s fun to scamper around in a mostly dead area directly behind an outfield wall. How many other stadiums are set up like that? The outfield configuration at the Oakland Coliseum used to resemble that, but now there’s nothing else like it in the majors.

My staircase strategy paid off when a right-handed batter (not sure who) barely cleared the wall with a ground-rule double. Here I am chasing it down:


Back on the staircase, I handed the ball to the nearest/smallest kid:


That was one of five balls I gave away over the course of the day.

When the entire stadium opened at 5:10pm, I headed over to the right field pavilion:


FYI, that’s the “all-you-can-eat pavilion,” and you need a right field ticket to be there, even during batting practice.

Brewers outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis was throwing a ball against the wall, so I walked over and asked him if he wanted to play catch. Even though I was the only fan out there, I didn’t expect him to do it. He used to play for the Mets, so I’d seen him a lot at Citi Field, and he never seemed to engage with fans during BP. I’m not sure if he was stand-offish or just super-focused on preparing for the games, but in any case, he was like a completely different person here in L.A. Without hesitating, he threw me the ball:


Then I threw it back:


Usually, when I play catch with guys on the field, they’ll let me make one or two throws and then end it. That wasn’t the case here. Nieuwenhuis and I played catch for three solid minutes, and you’ll see a good chunk of it in the video. He threw curveballs. I threw knuckleballs. And of course there were plenty of four-seamers. It was incredible to have an extended one-on-one interaction with a major league player inside a stadium. That doesn’t happen often.

Nieuwenhuis ultimately let me keep the ball — my fourth of the day — and I got another soon after from Jeremy Jeffress.

Once again, I had several close calls during the Brewers’ portion of BP. Here I am almost catching a deep fly ball behind the wall in right field:


This was my reaction after it hit the top of the wall:


If that ball had sailed two feet farther, it would’ve been an easy catch. And look! The same thing happened to me in left field during the final group of BP:


I wasn’t feeling good about either pavilion, so I headed briefly to the right field corner:


That spot turned out to be dead, so I hurried to the 1st base dugout just before BP ended. I hoped to get a ball from the Brewers when they cleared the field, but they sure didn’t make it easy for me. Look at this:


When teams finish hitting, they always dump the baseballs from the BP basket into an equipment bag — and they always do it on the warning track. Not today! The Brewers made the basket-to-bag transfer all the way out on the foul line, which meant I didn’t even have a chance to ask for a ball. Life is hard.

Just as I was getting ready to give up on that spot, Darnell Coles, the team’s hitting coach, walked over with two baseballs in his back pocket. He tossed one to a girl on my left and flipped the second one to me:


By the way, in case you’re wondering, he was heading through the seats to talk to someone he knew, who obviously didn’t have a ticket for the ultra-fancy section down in front.

Take another look at the photo of me in the right field corner. See the dude in the red t-shirt? His name is Jason, and we had a nice long chat near the dugout after BP. He lives in southern California and attends lots of games.

Shortly before game time, I got my seventh ball tossed up from the Brewers’ bullpen:


It came from pitching coach Derek Johnson.

I wandered a bit at the start of the game and eventually made my way to the outfield. Look how crowded it was:


Security at Dodger Stadium has changed quite a bit since my previous visit in 2013. It used to be impossible to move around. To get into the left field pavilion, you specifically needed a ticket for that area, and if you had a ticket there, you couldn’t go anywhere else. I used to buy two tickets for every game just so I’d be able to move around. To get into the lower level of the main part of the stadium, you needed a ticket there; you couldn’t even go downstairs from the 2nd deck. The rules were so restrictive that it was nearly suffocating. (Don’t get me started on the parking situation. That still needs an overhaul.)

What’s different now? The Dodgers have expanded the perimeter of the stadium so that there’s a concourse behind the pavilions:


Anyone with any ticket can walk all the way around the stadium . . . on the inside! If you want to go into the left field pavilion for BP or during the game, no one’s going to stop you, so I headed over there to say hey to my friend Devin Trone:


Remember him from Angel Stadium? I’d seen him there just two days earlier. I hoped to say hello to Bobby Crosby (aka “Dodgerfilms“), but he wasn’t there. I did, however, get a chance to catch up with my buddy Benny Amesquita.

One place where you have to show a ticket is the right field pavilion. As I mentioned earlier, that’s the all-you-can-eat area, so obviously it wouldn’t work if anyone could wander in there. Here’s what the main concession stand looks like:


Here’s the soft-drink area right around the corner:


As someone who pretty much *only* drinks water, I was happy to see these . . .


. . . but by the middle innings, most of them were empty. <WARNING — RANT COMING.> I tell ya, water drinkers get shafted. Why is it that the cheapest and most common liquid on the planet is often unavailable? I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been at picnics or luncheons, and EVERY other drink is available except for water. In one cooler, there’ll be six different kinds of beer. In another cooler, there’ll be Coke, Pepsi, Gatorade, and juice — maybe even chocolate milk for the kids — but no effin’ water! Why is it perceived as being weird to want to drink water? Open bar? Great! Give me a glass of ice water, please, and for the love of Abzu, don’t put any lemon in it! If I wanted lemonade, I’d order it. Just give me some plain-ass water, okay? I don’t need the sugar or the calories. My taste buds are mature enough not to need additional stimulation between bites. JUST. GIVE. ME. WATER. All you people out there who offer to buy me beers at games, thanks, you’re awesome and generous, but I’d rather drink water. Always. Do you hear that, Dodgers? I want to drink water. H2O. And yes, I’m aware that the soft drink machines provide water, but when I use those, the water comes out of the same spout that gets used for other stuff. I don’t want random soda molecules tainting my water. Does that make sense? This is a very serious and troubling issue. Replacing those water jugs should be your top priority — right up there with making sure that the bathrooms have toilet paper and that the home plate umpire has baseballs to put in play. Thanks for your cooperation. <END RANT.>

Here’s what I ate and drank:


In addition to the two hot dogs, I got nachos and cheese, peanuts, popcorn, and of course a cup of water . . . with Coca Cola logos on the side.

The all-you-can-eat pavilion should be called the “all-you-can-bear-to-eat-before-you-hate-yourself pavilion.” It’s not exactly high-quality fare, but I suppose it’s a worthwhile one-time experience.

Around the 7th inning, I exited the pavilion in search of ice cream. Heh. If I’m gonna have sugar, I’d rather make it count.

Check out this new/huge/snazzy concession area:


There was no ice cream there, so I had to walk all the way into foul territory to get some, but you know what? I was happy just to be allowed to walk into foul territory without showing my ticket. Accessibility, baby! That’s what up.

Look at this beautiful dessert:


Mm-hmm, yessir!

Here’s another nice thing about Dodger Stadium that I don’t recall seeing in the past:


Those seats behind the bullpen are open to everyone. You don’t need to show a ticket to be there. Just show up and grab an open spot. Outstanding.

You know what really sucked? Leaving the stadium in the 9th inning with the score tied, 2-2, because I had a flight to catch back home to New York City. Here’s what the stadium looked like as I headed toward the edge of the parking lot with Brandon:


We listened to the game on the way to the airport. Justin Turner won it with an RBI single in the bottom of the 10th.

As for my two goals that I mentioned at the top, I fell short of double digits, but I can live with that. It just means I’ll have to come back soon and snag my 100th lifetime Dodger Stadium ball. The video, however, is another story. Brandon is still working on it, so who knows how it’ll turn out? (My prediction: great!) Subscribe to my YouTube channel, and you’ll get an alert when I post it. I’ll also add a link here, so stay tuned.


36_the_two_baseballs_i_kept_06_17_16 7 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave five away)

 394 balls in 48 games this season = 8.21 balls per game.

• 97 balls in 12 lifetime games at Dodger Stadium = 8.08 balls per game.

1,214 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,027 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

6/16/16 at PETCO Park

My day started with good food and great company:


That’s Heath Bell and his son Reece.

(For those who are new to this blog, I became friendly with Heath in 2005. Now he lives in San Diego, and sometimes we hang out.)

After the meal, we drove to their new house, and they showed me all the massive renovations that are being done. One thing that didn’t need any work was the trampoline in the backyard, so of course I jumped around for a bit:


After spending half an hour there, we headed to their current/soon-to-be-former house. Here’s Heath with his other son Rhet:


The highlight of my day was playing catch out in the street:


I’m always happy to play baseball, but in this case, I was downright excited to throw with a former All-Star closer (who, by the way, still HAS IT). Here he is throwing a wicked knuckleball to me:


We were just getting loose at that point . . .


. . . but it wasn’t long before he dialed it up.

Despite being two years removed from his MLB career, he was recently clocked at 94 miles per hour! (He coaches youth baseball and throws/pitches BP all the time, and of course the weather is always good in San Diego, so his arm has stayed strong.) Why doesn’t he attempt a comeback? Because he’d rather be with his family. It’s that simple.

Here I am catching one of Heath’s faster throws, which he estimated at 85 to 90mph:


This was my reaction:


You might think you throw hard, so let me just say that if you can’t actually HEAR the ball cutting through the air, your arm is crap. (To be fair, my arm is crap.)

I don’t usually worry about my safety when playing catch, but this was indeed one of those rare times. The only other example that comes to mind is when I threw with a 6-foot-6 monster / former minor league pitcher named Leon Feingold in a small gymnasium with baseball-colored walls. There’s almost something non-human about how the ball explodes out of a professional pitcher’s hand.

I was hoping that Heath and Reece would join me at PETCO, but the young man had an All-Star Game to play in, so Heath had the audacity to choose that instead. Here were are together in the street:


He told me we could catch up again at the MLB All-Star Game if I made it back out to San Diego, but at that point, I wasn’t sure about my plans.

As for PETCO Park, look at this nonsense:


What’s wrong with that, you ask? Here’s what it used to look like. There used to be a ton of open space. Now it’s a huge two-tiered party deck, the lower portion of which is completely inaccessible to fans with normal tickets. As a result, this was as close as I could get to the field for the first half-hour:


Oh look! Someone took my picture from afar:


Did you notice the barricades in the previous two photos? All they seemed to do was get in people’s way and piss off the usher who had to keep fixing them. Here’s what I’m talking about:


Just so you know, I was NOT the person who kept knocking them down. The culprit was a drunk, aggressive man who charged forward whenever a player tossed a ball into the crowd, but still, what a dopey setup.

I always used to snag a few baseballs during that half-hour chunk of time in the area formerly known as “The Beach,” but not surprisingly, I got a grand total of ZERO on the party deck. Even though I live on the other side of the country, I’m extremely bummed about this change to the stadium.

Here’s how I got my first ball of the day:


That’s Nationals bullpen coach Dan Firova throwing it to me, and check it out — I threw it right back:


We played catch for a solid minute or two, and then he let me keep the ball.

After that, I got miked up for a TV interview on ABC News:


The guy doing the miking/filming is named Steve Smith. Is it even worth mentioning that he’s extremely friendly and laid-back, or is everyone in San Diego born that way? Steve and I have a mutual friend, and we’ve done several segments together in the past. Here he is getting another shot of me:


A little while later, when the Nationals were playing catch along the left field foul line, one of their throws sailed high and landed in the seats. I retrieved that ball and handed it to a little kid.

Over the years, I had averaged more than 10 balls per game at PETCO, but I didn’t come close to that number on this particular day. The seats were crowded, and there just wasn’t much action. Here’s what it looked like from left field:


This was the view to my right:


The last time I visited PETCO, those first two rows weren’t there. See that red thing draped over the dark blue concrete ledge? THAT is where the outfield wall used to be. The extra seats, however, didn’t help me one bit, though I’m sure I’d get some extra baseballs if I spent several days here.

During the middle group of Nationals BP, I headed out to right field and didn’t get anything there. Once again, it was crowded, and there wasn’t much action, so I gave up on that area and hurried to the 2nd deck in left field. I managed to get one ball there during the final group, thrown by coach Nilson Robledo.

Let’s talk about the 2nd deck for a moment, shall we? Click here to see what it USED TO look like. (Did you click that link? I’m not messing around here. You need to do that.) See all that lovely space? Yeah. Here’s what it looks like now:


Here’s another photo, taken down in front:



There are so many seats crammed into that spot that it’s impossible to move, not just for baseballs, but like . . . at all. Is it against the rules now to get up and use the bathroom?

After wandering all around the 2nd deck and imagining where balls would land during the Home Run Derby, I said goodbye to Steve and caught up with these guys:


That’s Leigh Barratt (aka “Padre Leigh”) on the left and Rick Gold on the right — two good friends and talented ballhawks.

Ready to see my dinner?


YEEEEOW!!! I was good for the rest of the night after eating that.

This was my view from right field during the game:


There’s standing room built right into the cross-aisle. I love that spot.

Do you remember this guy from my previous visits to San Diego?


His name is Ismael, and he’s *always* there. He has only missed a handful of games since the stadium opened in 2004.

Here’s an equally diehard fan, who really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really really REALLY likes Wil Myers:


She shrieks (like, for real) whenever Myers steps to the plate, and yes, you can pretty much hear it no matter where you are in the stadium.

As the innings rolled by, I didn’t expect to snag any more baseballs, and you know what? That was fine. I was enjoying hanging out in right field with the PETCO Park regulars — almost taking a “night off” from the normal grind, if you will.

My attitude changed with two outs in the top of the 6th. That’s when Anthony Rendon hit a home run to left-center field, which appeared to ricochet out of the seats and drop down into the gap beside the bullpen. I waited for a moment to figure out what had happened. Several fans were peering down over the wall, so the ball had to be there.

And . . . ?

No one had a ball retriever, and I didn’t see the ball get tossed up. That’s when I decided to run over.

If an usher had asked to see my ticket in left-center field, that would’ve been the end of it for me. There wouldn’t have been any way around that, but this wasn’t New York. The Padres were in last place, and the stadium was half-empty, and no one noticed or cared when I headed down into that section. Here’s what I saw:



I asked a father and son sitting near me if that was the Rendon home run ball, and they said yeah. (For my own peace of mind, I just had to make sure.)

My goal was simple: use the glove trick to reel it in.

Some ballhawks count home run balls that are tossed to them, but I don’t. I only count mine if I get them unassisted. That means I either have to catch them on the fly or grab them in the seats or . . . that’s right, use the glove trick. In all my years of doing this, I had successfully used the trick twice for game balls — once for a David Justice ground-rule double at SkyDome in 2000 and another time for a Justin Upton homer at Citi Field in 2014. I also used the trick unsuccessfully on 9/10/11 at Comerica Park. That’s when I accidentally knocked a Joe Mauer homer off a platform into the bullpen; I ended up getting the ball tossed to me by a security guard, which effectively nullified it. Yes, I’m still pissed about it. Yes, this self-imposed rule is completely arbitrary. Yes, I’m going to get on with the story of the Rendon homer.

I set up my device and waited until the moment felt right. That turned out to be when someone started heading over from the Padres’ bullpen. I think it was Griffin Benedict, the bullpen catcher, but anyway, I basically had to get my glove down over the ball before he got there and picked it up, but unfortunately the ball was a bit too far out. Still, he was intrigued enough by the device that he stood there and watched me swing it out in an attempt to move the ball closer. It seemed like he was going to let me get it . . . until he started kicking dirt on it in order to bury it! Thankfully he was only joking, and he did ultimately let me get it. Here I am with the ball in my glove:


Here’s the ball itself — my 43rd lifetime game home run:


Stadium security had a brief word with me after that, but it was nothing serious. They didn’t confiscate the ball. They didn’t eject me. They just asked me not to do it again, which was surprising given how many times I had used the trick at this stadium in the past, including this ball in the very same spot while a security guard spectated.

Here’s the father and son who had confirmed that the ball was THE ball:


Their names are Tom (on the left) and Braden (on the right). Nice guys. And hello, photo-bombers in the back. I see you. You want to be in the photo? How about some closeups so everyone can see just how beautiful you are:


I should mention that by snagging the Rendon home run ball, I helped raise an additional $123.77 for the charity Pitch In For Baseball. This season, all of my game home run balls are supporting the cause and helping kids play ball. Here’s more info about my fundraiser in case you’d like to get involved.

Back in right field, I caught up with my buddy Franklin:


He’s one of the friendliest stadium employees I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting (and he knows a TON about baseball).

Did you notice the All-Star logo on his shirt? Hmm . . .

With one out remaining in the game, I photographed the new party deck in right-center:


It looks snazzy, but I can’t help feeling sad about what used to be there.

Here’s what the right field cross-aisle looks like:


Let’s hope that never gets filled in with additional seating.

Final score: Nationals 8, Padres 5.


34_the_three_baseballs_i_kept_06_16_16 4 baseballs at this game (three pictured here because I gave one away)

 387 balls in 47 games this season = 8.23 balls per game.

• 146 balls in 14 lifetime games at PETCO Park = 10.43 balls per game.

1,213 consecutive games with at least one ball

 43 lifetime game home run balls (not counting balls that were thrown to me); click here for the complete list

 9,020 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

6/15/16 at Angel Stadium

It had been three years since BIGS Sunflower Seeds sent me to Angel Stadium. Now I was back with my videographer, Brandon Sloter, to do a ballhawking video for my YouTube Channel. Here I am doing the opening shot in the parking lot:


(Guilford College in the houuuse!)

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


Do you recognize that guy in the photo above? (No, I’m not talking about Mike Trout high up on the wall in the background.) That’s my friend and fellow ballhawk Devin Trone. Whenever I attend games in Anaheim or Los Angeles, he’s there — same deal with Home Run Derbies and All-Star Games — so it was nice to catch up with him.

After making a quick stop near the left field foul pole . . .


. . . I headed out to left-center field.

My indecision cost me a baseball.
This stadium drives me crazy.
Look at this challenging setup:


Whether trying to catch a baseball or just watch the game, it’s awfully frustrating when the front row is 50 feet away from the field. Dead space in the outfield is the worst, and this stadium has a lot of it.

Thankfully it didn’t take long for me to snag my first baseball of the day. Here’s a four-part photo that shows how it played out:


Here are some details:

1) I was about eight rows back when I saw the ball get hit in my direction.

2) Judging that it was going to fall short, I ran down to the third row and started moving to my left. Note how the employee in the red shirt is standing there casually and ignoring the ball as it plunked down beside him.

3) The ball took a massive bounce over my head (see it against the sky?) and landed in the row where I’d initially been standing. Duh.

4) No one else was going for it, but I still rushed to get there and pick it up. Then I confirmed with one of the regulars that it had been hit by C.J. Cron.

Here’s the ball — No. 9,012 lifetime:


I only had one more quasi-chance during the brief remaining portion of Angels BP. Take a look at the following screen shot and see if you can figure out what happened:


Basically a home run bounced past and barely missed that big blue thing. I was hoping it’d hit the rounded edge and deflect toward me, but no.

When the Twins took the field, I headed over to the 1st base side and got a ball thrown to me:


I’m not sure who hooked me up, and in fact I struggled throughout BP to identify the players.

Brandon followed me out to the corner spot in right field. He doesn’t like being photographed, so I cropped him out of this shot which was sent to me by Matt Jackson — another friend and fellow ballhawk:


Here I am lunging for a ground-rule double:


Cool action shot, right? Well, the ball bounced a foot beyond my reach.

Here I am getting a ball tossed by Ervin Santana:


I handed that one to this little fella, who had told me earlier that it was his very first Angels game:


I headed back to left-center field and continued to struggle with bounces. Here I am barely missing one after having drifted down the steps:


I’m an idiot. All I had to do was NOT MOVE, and it would’ve been an easy chest-high catch.

Here I am getting my 4th ball of the day from the employee in left-center:


He’d already given baseballs to all the kids down in front, so by the end of BP, he must’ve figured it was time to chuck one to me. I gave that ball to a kid late in the game.

After BP, I met a father/son ballhawking duo named Boog and Jacob:


They are GREAT guys, and I’m not just saying that because they’d brought two of my books for me to sign. I really had a nice time hanging out with them. And by the way, I need to point out the fact that Boog is close to my age and has a son who’s . . . like, an actual grown-up! That’s just weird. I can’t imagine having a kid right now (hopefully someday) let alone one who’s old enough to grow facial hair. WTF. My dad was 51 when I was born. I wonder what it’s like to have a father who’s so young.

Anyway, look what I saw during the lull after BP:


Obviously I had to walk over and check it out up close:


That’s* an* impressive* bunch* of* names.*

After a quick peek at the Big A . . .


. . . it was game time. My seat was behind the Twins’ dugout . . .


. . . but I didn’t really want to stay there all night. I think it’s dumb to sit in foul territory when Mike Trout and Albert Pujols are in the starting lineup, so I decided to stay there until I got a 3rd-out ball, and then I’d think about heading elsewhere.

Thankfully it didn’t take long. When Trout grounded out to end the 1st inning, I headed down to the front row and got Twins 1st baseman Byung Ho Park to toss me the ball. Here I am (now fully decked out in Twins gear) reaching out for the catch:


I often have a kid in mind before I catch a ball — someone that I already know I’m gonna give it to. That was the case with the Ervin Santana toss-up in right field, and I did the same thing here at the dugout, so when I walked back up the steps, I handed it to this guy:


Someone told me later that a game-used ball hit by Mike Trout — even a ball that resulted in an out — is worth hundreds of dollars. I suppose that’s true, but it didn’t occur to me at the time, and I don’t care. Quite simply, it was fun to snag that ball after the 1st inning, and it also felt good to give it away to a young fan.

I headed out to left-center field after that. I was prepared to talk to the usher and show him my dugout ticket and ask nicely if I could sit in his section for a few innings — maybe even offer him a ball to give to the kid of his choice — but guess what? No one ever asked to see my ticket, so I picked this empty spot down in front:


It didn’t stay empty for long:


Those guys in the front row ended up recognizing me and admitting that they, too, didn’t have tickets for that section.

People often ask me how I’m able to move around during games, so that’s how. In certain sections in certain stadiums, it’s simply not an issue. The ushers WERE closely guarding the dugout seats (one guy rudely denied me on the 3rd base side when I was hoping to say hello to Mike Trout before the game), but 430 feet from home plate in a section with a lousy view? No one cared, and that’s how it should be.

Late in the game, I headed out to right field and met the famous “TROUTNET” guy:


His name is Jonathan, and you can check him out on Instagram. He was incredibly friendly, not just to me, but to everyone. He brings three TROUTNETs to every game and lends them to random people every inning so they can try to catch the outfielders’ warm-up balls. Kole Calhoun and Mike Trout take turns throwing balls into the crowd throughout the game, and they always aim for the TROUTNETs. How cool is that? (I also think it’s cool that Angel Stadium security allows Jonathan to bring these inside. I can assure you they would not be allowed in either stadium in New York.)

I gave it a shot for several innings and came really close at one point:


If you look closely at the screen shot above, you can see Jonathan filming himself making the catch. I said that Calhoun and Trout throw the balls to people with those nets, but sometimes their aim is a bit off.

This was my late-inning view from right-center field:


After the final out of the Angels’ 10-2 win (in which Trout scored three runs — aww yeah!), there was a whole lot of fire:


Good times!

Here I am watching the flames:


Just before heading out, a fan named Ivan asked me to sign his baseball with a gold marker:


I think that looks snazzy.

Here’s the last photo I took inside the stadium:


From a numbers standpoint, it was kind of a blah day. I’ve been averaging more than eight balls per game this season, so to “only” get five was a bummer, especially when I was being filmed and hoping to put on a good show. Angel Stadium is a difficult place to catch baseballs, but I still could’ve hit my average with a bit more luck and a less stupidity. If I had headed directly to straight-away left field upon entering, I would’ve gotten a home run that landed in the back bullpen and bounced into the seats. If the home run just beyond the outer edge of the seats had clipped the blue/rounded Sherwin Williams ad, it would have deflected to me. Then there was the ground-rule double in right field that eluded my glove by about a foot. There was also the ball that I misplayed back in left-center by drifting down the steps. And finally there were a few close calls with the TROUTNET late in the game. I don’t think I could’ve reached double digits (well, maybe I could’ve if I went for pre-game balls near the bullpens and/or along the right field foul line and then tried to get a ball after the game near the dugouts or bullpens), but I clearly underperformed. By saying all of this, I don’t mean to complain but rather demonstrate how there were a bunch of woulda/coulda/shoulda moments. That’s often the case, but there seemed to be more of them at this particular game. Oh well. It was still a fun day.

The video is still being edited. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and/or check back here for an update. I’ll add a link when it’s ready.


31_the_two_baseballs_i_kept_06_15_16 5 baseballs at this game (two pictured here because I gave three away)

 383 balls in 46 games this season = 8.33 balls per game.

• 44 balls in 7 lifetime games at Angel Stadium = 6.29 balls per game.

1,212 consecutive games with at least one ball

 9,016 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.

• 13 donors for my fundraiser

• $113.77 pledged per game home run ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $455.08 raised this season

• $190,958.74 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009