I was really looking forward to this game. For a couple of reasons; the Los Angeles Angels were in town for a three game series and I absolutely love to watch Bobby Abreu play baseball, and Zack Hample made the trip out from New York to come to Safeco Field. This is his tenth stadium he has visted this season. If you don’t know who Zack Hample or Bobby Abreu are then I will graciously enlighten you. Bobby Abreu is the Angels DH and left fielder. He is also a career .296 hitter with 277 home runs and a bunch of RBI’s. He’s also know for his plate discipline.
Zack Hample is the author of three books that I have read cover to cover. (One of them twice!) He wrote How to Snag Baseballs at Major League Stadiums, Watching Baseball Smarter, and The Baseball. You don’t really need to buy his first book because the other two books have brief chapters of how to snag your own baseball at a game but the second two are a must buy. Watching Baseball Smarter is my favorite because it’s like Zack pulled the curtain back on Major League baseball games. Have you ever wondered what is said on the mound between the catcher and the pitcher? Or why all the infielders come in sometimes to catch the conversation between the catcher and the pitcher? And why does the umpire join them as well? Why does the base coaches never stand in the designated box that they’re supposed to stand in? Zack goes in depth of the who, what, whys and hows of the game and answers just about every question you’ve ever dreamt up. Its amazing. And his third book, The Baseball is basically about the eveolution of the baseball. How it came to be what it is today. He even made it inside the Rawlings factory. The media isn’t allowed there but somehow Zack Hample made it in.
That’s Zack Hample posing next to his infamous pyramid of baseballs. Pretty amazing, huh.
Those are his books. So check them out. They’re totally worth it. Even if you’re not a geeky baseball nut like me you should at least check them out so you’ll have a better understanding about the game.
So that’s why today’s game was going to be so awesome. My two favorite people under one …er..open or closed dome. (Safeco Field joke)
I arrived at the stadium around 1pm and I wandered for quite a bit. But on the centerfield side of the stadium you can peer into the stadium and kind of watch batting practice. I found it odd that the Angels, well some of them, were out hitting baseballs at 1pm. So I stuck around and watched. I thought to myself, “Wouldn’t it be cool if a baseball was hit to me while I was standing here outside the stadium?” And sure enough. I don’t know who hit it but it was launched and I watched it in the entire way. It smacked off the pavement and bounced in my direction. Unfortunatly, it clanged off some stair railings and then bounced off the brick wall beside me. Some Roots Sports guy was walking around and he almost got hit by the ball. I quickly perked up thinking I have a chance to get the ball from him. All I had to do was ask. And he hooked me up with it. Time check; 2:45pm. The gates were set to open at 4:40pm. Wow. I managed to get a baseball OUTSIDE the stadium nearly two hours before the gates opened.
In the picture above you can see the Root Sports guy yapping on his cellphone after he hooked me up with a baseball.
And here you can see the baseball as it kind of got stuck underneath the gate. It felt really good to snag that baseball and I actually hung around trying to find more. Usually the cardinal rule when it comes to baseball players and hitting BP home runs is that they get into a groove and launch maybe one or two more. But maybe this one was just extra special.
When Zack finally arrived at the stadium it was about 4:30pm. Since his leg is all busted up from spraining his ankle a couple of weeks ago, him, myself, Josh and his girlfriend were all permitted to enter the stadium via the handicap gate. I felt bad for Zack because he couldn’t move like he wanted to, and I could tell it was very frustrating. Plus the pain he must be in. But I give him his props because he is one dedicated dude. He’s not just shagging baseballs for himself. He’s doing it for the charity foundation he is involved in. It’s called Pitch in for Baseball. Just go to www.ZackHample.com and you’ll find out all you need to know. Once inside it was kind of every man for himself at that point. We all hung around the centerfield area for a while, and Josh got Greg Halman to toss him one but at the same time someone launched a deep drive that nearly made it over the fence. Josh nearly got drilled so he didn’t end up getting the toss up from Halman. I didn’t see the baseball either but neither of us really expected it because the Mariners rarely go deep with any BP home runs into the center field area.
After the staircase was open we ran down into the third base area to find any loose baseballs. There were a couple but I got beat out by some kid. So I took my routine spot at the third base protective fence. It was easy pickins’ down there too once the Angels came out onto the field and started taking some cuts in the cage. I had to sprawl way out but I caught a slow roller that made it just passed the fence and into my glove. I didn’t hang around the area too much longer because BP was about to end plus there were a lot of kids that were starting to wander around me. I didn’t want someone to get hurt because I either missed a baseball or because I moved for one and someones’ kid was underneath my feet. It happens. So I moved up to the foul pole area.
I caught another one up there on the fly. It was hit directly at me so I had a pretty good bead on it. I didn’t really have to move to my right or my left but I bashed my knee pretty good on the fencing when I leaned over the railing to make the beautiful catch.
After that I quickly made my way down to the dugout to see if I could get any toss ups from the Angels pitching staff but it was slim pickins’ down there. Lots of kids, and a few Angels fans. Plus I really wasn’t in a good position to catch anything. After BP ended we all huddled up for some photo opportunities with Zack.
I know. I probably could have smiled more. But I wanted to look tough. From left to right; Ginny, Josh, Zack, Max and me. Between the five of us we snagged nearly 20 baseballs. And of course Zack outsnagged us all. But that goes without saying. He’s been at this for like, 20 years.
We stood out in the bullpen for the majority of the game and it nearly paid off. I almost caught a Vernon Wells home run. The ball carried deep into the bullpen, and I thought it was going to land on the grassy part. But it didn’t. It landed on the dirt mound and took a wicked hop towards the fans. Of course nobody had a glove on so it got passed everyone. I had a shot at it too but I misplayed that bounce so badly I ended up taking a bad route to the baseball. Once the baseball squirts loose it doesn’t last long before someone gets it.
The Mariners lost the series opener 6-3 thanks to Vernon Wells hitting TWO home runs.
Game; June 13th 2011 Los Angeles Angels vs Seattle Mariners
Snagging Baseballs for Puppies has raised; $65.50 this season.
Snagging Baseballs for Relief in Japan has raised; $27.50 this