Ah, Labor Day. A perfect day for a trip to the ballpark! And I was taking my wife with me to watch the Angels take on the Mariners in this AL West showdown. Also in attendance was Zack Hample–ballhawk extraordinaire–and as I stood in line in the fifth of five lines I noticed him a few lines over.
Zack had been speaking with a columnist from the OC Register but took a moment out of his media day to pose for a photo with me and sign my copy of The Baseball that he’d published earlier in the year (photo courtesy of Zack’s blog–and Brandon Sloter). We chatted about strategy and we’d end up running into each other throughout the day. And you can read Zack’s entry about this game on his blog. I ran in and quickly made it out to the right field seats. The gates had opened at 4:02pm and at 4:04pm I got my first ball of the day from Bobby Cassevah. A simple toss-up to get me on the board. Not five minutes later I scored my second baseball of the day by asking Hisanori Takahashi for one that he had fielded–I guess my Japanese is still passable. That ball had a practice logo on it.
That was it for the Angels… they just didn’t have anyone hitting much out. I could tell Zack was a little frustrated–but he passed the time by talking to his reporter colleague and attempting to use his famous glove trick from atop the 18 ft. right field wall. A couple of us warned him that security didn’t like devices… but I guess he could always plead ignorance if they tried to stop him. I think he managed to get two baseballs before security asked him to step into the concourse–he was back a few minutes later–sans glove trick.
I, meanwhile, snagged the 365th ball of my life off the bat of Kyle Seager, who hit a homer into the second row of the seats. I was in the third row to the left of where the ball would land and Zack, apparently, had been standing in the second row to the right of where the ball was headed. We converged as the ball descended and I reached out and caught the ball in the the second row as Zack came zooming in from the right and his glove knocked into my hat and glasses. Luckily, I held onto the ball and Zack checked on me to 1) make sure I’d caught it, and 2) to see if I was OK. I was fine. Now I can say I got hit in the head by Zack Hample…
My next ball was hit by an M’s players that I couldn’t identify–it was a standard ball, as were all the baseballs I’d snagged at this point, and I ended up giving it away to a small boy. And that was it for BP. I had been hoping to catch one off the bat of Ichiro but it just wasn’t in the cards. And I’d spent a few minutes down by the RF foul pole… as you can see here:
That photo is courtesy of the OC Register… Zack and I are in M’s caps. But I came up empty there and at the Mariner dugout.
Next up, Angels warm-up tosses over on the LF line. Michelle took this photo as I headed down to the field once the Angels came out to stretch.
I was in the second row and got Maicer Izturis to toss me my fifth ball of the day–another standard Selig ball.
I sat with Michelle down the first baseline a bit as the game got underway and headed toward the dugout whenever the Angels had two outs on ’em, hoping I could get a third out toss from Adam Kennedy, the M’s first baseman for the day.
I saw Zack get one in the first inning–he had no competition, and he moves pretty quick! In all seriousness, there is a reason that dude has snagged as many balls as he has–he’s good. He’s fast, he plans well to find the right place to be, and he’s skilled. I’ve met Zack twice now (the last time was on 9/2/08 at Dodger Stadium) and he’s made some pretty impressive snags that I’ve gotten to see in person.
On another third out try I leaped for a ball that Zack grabbed and I sort of fell into him a bit… no one fell down and I was glad that he could grab a gamer in Anaheim. I got my shot later on in the bottom of the sixth inning. Maicer Izturis grounded out to Adam Kennedy at first and Kennedy stepped on first, then headed to the dugout. I was five rows back in the aisle and he tossed the ball my way. It went just over my head and to the right but got bobbled by a fan behind me and the ball dribbled back to the aisle where I nabbed the game-used commemorative for my sixth on the day!
I wasn’t going to catch Zack (who’d end the night with eleven baseballs) but I was going to come away with a respectable number. The game was winding to a 7-3 Halos victory powered by Mark Trumbo and the heart of the order and by the end of the evening the Angels had advanced to within 2 1/2 games of Texas in the American League West.
After the final out I got my seventh and final ball of the day from Jason Vargas before he retreated into the clubhouse. Michelle and I chatted with Zack for a moment in the seating bowl, Brandon took a picture of us… and then he and I went our separate ways. It had been a pretty darn good holiday weekend.