In other news…
The Palm Beach Post recently ran a separate Griffey-related story about me. Check it out.
Gotta run. More later…
For the second day in a row, the Associated Press was waiting for me at the top of the stairs when Gate E opened at 5pm:
The photographer (David Zalubowski…standing on the right) took pics as I bolted up the stairs, and the writer (Pat Graham…wearing the white striped shirt) sprinted after me as I raced through the concourse and headed to the front row in left field.
Within the first few minutes of batting practice, Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa tossed me a ball, and I used my glove trick to snag another off the warning track.
As soon as there was a break in the action, I labeled the balls and scribbled down a few notes on my rosters. David kept taking photos and Pat looked on:
In the photo above, there are three important fans that need to be pointed out. The blond woman on the right is Deb Arguijo, the mother of Jameson Sutton who snagged Barry Bonds’ 762nd home run ball. The man to the left of Pat (in the dark cap and flowery shirt) is Danny Wood, the guy who caught Bonds’ 698th home run and robbed me of several BP balls two days earlier. And finally, the guy standing to the left of Danny (in the maroon cap) is Dan Sauvageau who once caught two home runs on a fly in one inning and turned down a request to be on “Good Morning America” because he was going on a golf trip the next day.
Give up? Here, let me zoom in a bit and show you:
That’s right, he took photos of me from the upper deck. It felt great (and a bit scary, too, I suppose) to know that everything I did was potentially being captured from so far away.
…and I successfully prevented him from snagging a single ball. Meanwhile, I made another attempt with my glove trick for a ball that was sitting halfway out on the warning track. I figured the ushers wouldn’t be too happy about it and might even stop me before I got it, but at the very least I wanted to give David another opportunity to take some photos. Well…sure enough, just after I flung my glove out onto the field, I heard someone shout, “Zack!!! Zack!!! Zack!!! Zack!!! Zack!!!” I thought it was another fan, warning me that an usher was coming over, but when I looked up I realized it was the head usher himself. Oy. I apologized profusely and thankfully didn’t get in trouble. He was super-nice. The fact is…there’s a rule throughout Coors Field (it’s even printed in the stadium A-to-Z guide) that ball-retrieving devices are not allowed, and he had to enforce it. The good news is that Indians pitcher Edward Mujica walked over and flipped me the ball. I looked up at David in the upper deck and gave a fist pump, and he gave one back. Success!
For some reason, there were a ton of lefties taking BP, and the balls just weren’t flying to left field. I only got one more ball during BP, and it was a line-drive homer that pretty much came right to me. Neither the evil fan on my left nor Danny on my right had a chance to interfere, and I made an easy one-handed catch at the wall.
After BP, David returned from the upper deck and took some photos of me holding up my four balls. As soon as he was done, I gave one of them away to a kid with a glove who had gotten shut out.
I took one last photo with Pat…
…and we parted ways. He felt he had everything he needed and wanted to get a head start on writing the story.
I headed to the right field foul line, immersed myself in the mob of fans, came six inches from catching a ball tossed by Garrett Atkins, and got Ryan Spilborghs’ autograph:
With two soft-tossing lefties on the mound–Jeff Francis for the Rockies and Aaron Laffey for the Indians–I figured all the right-handed batters would be pounding foul grounders down the third base line, so this is where I sat:
I didn’t snag anything, but it wasn’t because of the competition:
No…the reason I got blanked during the game is that there were only TWO foul grounders that headed in my direction. The first was scooped up by the third base coach (of course) and the second hooked a bit to my right and bounced too far away from the wall.
? 6 balls at this game
? 193 balls in 25 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.
? 521 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 124 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball
? 888 lifetime balls outside NYC
? 3,470 total balls
In case you’re wondering, the AP story should be hitting the national wire on Friday, June 27 (but you have to understand that I have no control over that). Meanwhile, the Palm Beach Post is putting together a front-page article about Ken Griffey Jr.’s 600th career home run, and since I was five stinkin’ feet away from catching it, they interviewed me. That piece is scheduled to run on June 22. And finally, since I have a few minutes to spare before heading back to Coors Field, I’m going to comb through all the comments on my last few entries and answer everyone’s questions. If you left a comment but didn’t actually ask a question, I won’t respond, only because I don’t have time (and I apologize for that), but know that I always read every comment.
I’ll leave you with one more photo…of a fan who loves the Rockies AND Indians:
Pat picked me up at my hotel at 2pm, took me out to lunch, and interviewed me extensively about my baseball collection. We had talked for an hour before I’d left for Denver, and by the end of the meal, he had more than 5,000 words of notes and quotes on his laptop.
We headed over to Gate E at 4:45pm. Pat had a press pass that gets him into just about any game in any sport in any stadium–but he didn’t have a ticket for this game at Coors, so he had to trek halfway around the stadium to the media entrance and then
rush back. He barely made it in time, and it’s a good thing because I snagged three home run balls within the first minute or two of batting practice. The first landed in the front row aisle all the way out in left-center field and rolled to an usher who was kind enough to step aside and let me grab it. The second (pictured here on the left) landed several rows deep in the bleachers near the foul line, and since the stands were still mostly empty, I had time to race up the steps from the aisle and cut through the section of metal benches. The third landed 15 rows deep and conveniently bounced right back to me.
As soon as I stopped running all over the place for balls, the Associated Press photographer showed up, but before long, he got a cool action shot of me lunging for (and catching) a ball tossed by Indians pitcher Scott Elarton. Over the next 20 minutes or so, I got two more balls thrown to me (one of which I gave to a kid with a glove) by David Dellucci and Edward Mujica, and that was IT for batting practice. It was incredibly frustrating. I came within five feet of at least half a dozen balls, both home runs and ground-rule doubles. I don’t know what was going on. I just seemed to be consistently out of position or a step too slow. Was it just bad luck? Was I losing my edge? I really can’t explain it. Then, on several occasions, when I left my spot briefly to try to get a ball thrown to me somewhere else, the batter ended up hitting a home run RIGHT to where I’d been standing. It was just one of those days, and the worst moment of all occurred late in BP. First check out the following photo (taken by my friend Robert Harmon…the guy from my Bonds 762 article), and then I’ll explain what happened:
Let me start by identifying everyone:
1) the AP photographer
2) an usher (note the tunnel that he’s standing in)
3) a guy named Dan who reads this blog and brought his copy of my book for me to sign
4) Zachary Ben Hample
5) Pat Graham
6) pure evil
There was a home run ball hit right at us that barely sailed over our heads. We jumped for it, or at least *I* jumped for it. I don’t even know if he’s athletic enough to get both feet off the ground at the same time, but anyway, after we missed the ball, there was a brief lull when we were both trying to figure out where it went. Suddenly we realized that it had landed in the tunnel directly behind us, and we started running. I didn’t take a pic of this tunnel, so you’ll have to settle for this cheap drawing. Basically, where the tunnel goes underneath the stands, the left half is blocked by a concrete wall, and the right half has an open door. The ball had rolled through the door, and I was running straight for the opening, about to zoom past this guy Doug when he realized he was about to get beat so he elbowed me from the right side and shoved me into the wall on the left as he kept running…and he ended up getting the ball. I couldn’t retaliate with a shove of my own because my every move was being witnessed and captured by the Associated Press (and anyway, using physical force against other fans is not my style), so I had to settle for giving him a piece of my mind. I pretty much told him that what he did was uncalled for and that that kind of behavior belongs at Yankee Stadium.
His response: “Oh grow up!!”
But enough of that. I have better things to talk about, like the fact that Pat was so nice that it was almost unbelievable. I got the sense that he would’ve been interested in me even if he weren’t writing about it for his job. I’m not saying he still would’ve hung out and taken notes for eight and a half hours, but he was just a GOOD guy. Some people in the media have gone out of their way to make me look bad and poke fun at what I do, but I knew that wasn’t the case with Pat. And then there were the little things he did for me…like, for
example…when he ran up to the press box after BP to drop something off, he returned with a cup of peanut M&M’s.
Before the game started, I snuck down to the Indians’ dugout and heard an usher tell another fan (who wasn’t as skilled in the art of sneaking) that the players don’t give out balls. Thirty seconds later, after the fan had walked back up the steps, Casey Blake tossed me my seventh ball of the day.
Generally speaking, a seven-ball day is great in the Bronx and lousy in Philadelphia. Overall, it’s about average for me–not enough to celebrate, but not bad enough that I can complain. That said, I was sooooooo frustrated to have snagged just seven balls by that point. If things had been a little better during BP, I could’ve easily had a dozen. I explained all of this to Pat during the game, and he never stopped taking notes. At one point, he pulled out a voice recorder and had me give a 90-second monologue about what I do and how I got into it. While I was halfway through, an Indians batter lost the grip on his bat and sent it flying in our direction. (It fell about 30 feet short.) I didn’t miss a beat and kept talking, but I must’ve been distracted because when I mentioned my ball total, I accidentally said “3473” instead of “3463.” Pat told me not to worry about it. The way he saw it…I would have that many balls by the time the piece ran. He told me that the audio clip would soon be on the AP web site along with a slide show from BP. (The photographer had to leave before BP ended, but he’ll be back again today with Pat. It was so much fun just to BE photographed. He was crouching in the aisle during BP, telling me to pose this way and that, getting pics of my glove…and of course all the fans were staring at me and probably wondering, “Who the hell is THAT guy?”)
I never went to my assigned seat during the game. Instead I worked the dugouts and tried to get a third-out ball tossed up. Once again, things just weren’t going my way, and in case you want to hear me complain a bit more, let me just say that Brad Hawpe hit a home run EXACTLY to the spot where my seat had been the night before.
Despite the fact that the attendance was only 28,146, the lower level was nearly full. There weren’t many aisle seats behind the dugout, so I ended up having to sit in Row 34. That’s not exactly the best place to be if you want a third-out ball, but I got lucky as the sixth inning came to a close. Hawpe hit a towering pop up to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, so I had time to bolt down the steps while the ball was in mid-air. I ended up getting it tossed to me, and when I turned around, there was a little kid (with a glove!) standing right behind me. It just so happened that I already had another ball in my pocket because I’d been planning to give it away, so I asked the kid if he’d snagged a ball yet, and when he said “no,” I pulled out the practice ball and handed it over. He thanked me and raced up the steps to show his family. The usher patted me on the back and several fans gave me high-fives, and meanwhile I got to keep the game-used ball so it was a win-win situation. By the way, this was the furthest back I’d ever been sitting before a successful attempt for a third-out ball. I challenge you–I dare you–to sit in the 30th row (in the ballpark of your choice) and try to snag one.
More frustration? Late in the game, I tried to move to a great spot for foul balls behind home plate and was stopped by an usher. Less than an inning later, a batter hit a high foul pop-up that landed on the staircase ***RIGHT*** where I wanted to sit (there were even a couple empty seats there), and no one even bothered to stand up and try to catch it. AARRGHH!!! Pat could’ve used his press pass to get me into any section in the stadium, but he wanted to see how I maneuvered on my own.
I tried going for an umpire ball after the game and ran into some bad luck there as well. Tim Tschida, it turned out, only had two extra balls and gave them both to kids in the first few rows. He actually stopped and told me he only had two…and get this…he apologized and then thanked me for asking.
Yeah, great, you’re welcome. Anytime.
Final score: Rockies 10, Indians 2.
? 8 balls at this game
? 187 balls in 24 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.
? 520 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 123 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball
? 882 lifetime balls outside NYC
? 3,464 total balls