Wednesday, December 03, 2008


I submitted a picture of all the baseballs I've snagged at games, and their stories, to Zack Hample's Baseball Snagging blog. Me and my balls are Photo #19 in this post over there. Thanks to my mom for taking the pic--three of those baseballs live at my parents' place so I recently had to tote the four from here to their place to get them all in one place. And thanks to Zack for letting his readers put their pics and stories on his site.

And now, the FULL version of my story of how I caught my six balls. I had wanted to do a post like this here anyway--Zack gave me the perfect excuse. Warning: Long nerdy baseball stuff ahead. Here we go:

I've been trying to catch balls at baseball games since I was a little kid. I've never managed to snag one in a game, but I am proud of the six Major League baseballs I've managed to acquire in batting practice. I should probably have more, since I go to so many games, always there when gates open, but I'm usually busy taking photos during BP.

#1, 8/1/89, Twins at Yankees, Yankee Stadium: I'm 13 years old, and my dad has taken me and two friends to the game. It happens to be glove day, but the three of us leave the free, crappy, plastic gloves with my dad as we stand with our real gloves down the right field line along the fence. Twins outfielder Randy Bush hits a rocket shot right at me. I reach out and snag the liner.

# 2, 6/15/03, Astros at Red Sox, Fenway Park: Incredibly, despite my efforts--all those balls that rolled around the right field corner at Fenway that were just barely out of my reach--I've gone 14 years without a snag. But on this Father's Day, again my dad is up at the seats, while me and one of the same friends that was with me for the Randy Bush ball are along the fence, just past Pesky's Pole. A left-handed Astro hits a hooking liner toward us. It takes one hop and I look it into my bare hands. Somewhere I have a picture of the stitch mark on the meaty part of my left palm below the index finger. I only know the Astro in question had a number starting with 1. I'll never be sure, but I've gone ahead and estimated it must have been Jose Vizcaino.

#3, 5/14/04, Red Sox at Blue Jays, (then) SkyDome: Brian Daubach hits a ball over the right field fence, where I'm standing. The ball hits a seated older woman and lands among the seats, where I grab it. I hear her saying "ow" as I'm about to retrieve it, so as I pick it up a row in front of her, I immediately hold it up for her to take. After BP, I give her a wave as I head to my seat and she mouths a "thank you." As I get to the walkway, the teenage boy she's with runs up behind me and gives me the ball. I ask "are you sure?" but he has quickly run away. Original post (no photo) here.

#4, 9/22/04, Orioles at Red Sox, Fenway Park: I'm along the fence between Canvas Alley and Pesky's Pole during Orioles' BP. David Newhan is the closest guy to me, and the college kids right next to me are all over him for a ball. He ignores them until the very end of BP, when he decides to flip a ball in their direction as he's running off. I reach up and make the grab to their dismay. They were quite obnoxious--I'm glad I beat them out for that one. Original post (no photo) here.

#5, 9/25/07, Athletics at Red Sox, Fenway Park: Since the Newhan ball, I've become big on taking photos for my blog--ball-chasing has taken a back seat. But going to Fenway so much, I know some tricks, and decided I'm going to spend BP going for balls. I plant myself in the right field bleachers while Big Papi's group is hitting. I'm 20 rows up, with not much competition between me and the people waiting up by the bullpen fence. Ortiz slams one into the section to my right. I had to guess which row it landed in, and I sprint down it. Fortunately, before anyone else gets too close, I spot the ball in the row above, and snag it. This David Ortiz batting practice home run ball is definitely on top of my list.

#6, 4/24/08, Angels at Red Sox, Fenway Park: It's Justin Masterson's major league debut. I know I'll be spending a lot of time photographing him as he comes out for pre-game warmups, so I figure I'll go for balls while waiting for him to emerge from the dugout. I'm near Pesky's Pole as Mike Lowell--still on the disabled list but well enough to take some cuts--loops one to the opposite field. It lands somewhat near me, but to my surprise, the two guys in front of me make no attempt to move for it. I bolt for it, jumping rows of seats. One more guy to beat, and he sees the look in my eye and my manic motions and kind of smiles as if to say, You want it more than me, go ahead.

In the picture (on Zack's site) the balls are placed in chronological order from left to right (with 2 and 3 reversed, my mistake) [note, 6/13/2016: I now believe the balls were in correct order, I probably confused myself since my dad's ball was at left in the #1 position] , except for the ball at far left, which is the one ball my dad has caught in his life--an in-game foul ball pitched by the Red Sox' Ray Culp and hit by Frank Baker at Yankee Stadium in 1971. It's cool to see the "Mississippi Mud" on it.

One thing I didn't realize until now is that my team (the Red Sox, or, whoever's playing the Yankees) won every game in which I caught a ball...until the most recent one. So I'm 5 and 1. The Red Sox have also gone at least to the ALCS in every year (and only those years) that I snagged a ball at Fenway, going back to '03.

I also got an NCAA baseball at Nebraska. It was an in-game home run, and Darrin Erstad was on the team at the time. It probably wasn't him who hit it. You know that blooper of the ball hit over a left field fence that breaks the window of a passing car? It was that field! In that spot. Ball went over my head and I ran into some trees and got it. It says "Big 8" on it, which is now the Big 12.

The near-misses:

Dave LaPoint hits a hard line drive right at my dad, and it smacks him in the palm and rolls away. I'm 7 years old and ducking down, though I look to see where the ball went, and never saw it. This was at Shea.

Some older kid at Fenway reaches right in front of me (I was probably 12) to catch a tossed ball and then brags, "I've gotten so many balls that way."

A Pirate player attempts to throw me a ball at Shea, but I'm pretty high up and he doesn't reach me. This was in the post 2000-era.

A few years ago, in the mezzanine at Shea, a foul ball hits off the facing of the upper deck and whizzes past me. If I'd turned the other way, I'd have had it.

In the Wrigley bleachers in the late 90s, a home run comes right at us. Gumby really throws the rest of us off by going for it and missing it. We'd later watch his blunder on ESPN.

At Shea Stadium, around the same time, Gumby screws me again when Trot Nixon throws ME a ball, but Gumby, in his Yankee outfit, gets it instead.

The classic: At Fenway, front row, Jim Rice hits one up over our heads, it hits the facade, bounces back, my Yankee fan friend's dad elbows a baby, gets the ball, has to give it to the baby, and on our way out, the baby's dad gives it back to my friend's dad, who gives it to his Yankee fan son.

The modern classic: At Camden Yards a few years ago, I "predict" where Papi will hit a home run, and am mere feet away from getting the ball when he does it. Full story/video here.

This past season: In BP, Vernon Wells hits a ball 1,000 miles an hour and I, in the Monster Seats, stick out my bare hand, which the ball slams off of and bounces to some other guy.

Also this season: A BP ball lands in the bleachers, and it's all mine...if it doesn't bounce over the fence and down below, which it does. While chasing it, I slam my knee into a seat, and it STILL HURTS. This was from the big comeback game in the '08 ALCS.

And many, many, many, more close calls. So I ended up with 6. So far.

Any ball I've gotten since April '04 was also mentioned here on this blog at the time, too. So if you read it at Zack's, then came here and read these stories, but STILL aren't satisfied, search my monthly archives to see the original tales of getting those balls.

I should also point out that I am against using animal hides for balls, and MLB should change this. But catching a ball that's already been purchased by the league doesn't contribute to the ball-making industry, which is why I'm okay with getting balls.

New ball updates:

7. Fenway, 4/26/09, Papi BP dong to CF, ESPN cameraman flips it to me.

8., 9., 10. (#10 was given away) Fenway, 6/7/09, BP HR ball hit by Michael Young, BP HR ball hit by Marlon Byrd, and another ball Byrd hit, thrown up by another Ranger, which I gave away. All Monster Seats.

11., 12. Fenway, 6/10/09, BP ball by Papi, tossed by Dice-K in CF, BP HR by Papi to CF.

13. Nationals Park, 6/25/09, BP HR by Tek, thrown up by Masterson, RF second deck.

14., 15. Fenway, 7/10/09, two balls in Royals' BP.

16. 7/22/2011, Fenway, BP ball hit by Mariners' Adam Kennedy

17. 9/13/2011, Fenway, BP homer hit by Blue Jay (white, lefty, I think) (My team now 10-3 in games in which I've gotten at least one ball.)

18. 4/20/2012, Fenway. BP homer hit by Yankees' Derek Jeter to Monster Seats on Fenway's 100th birthday (10-4 team record)

19. & 20. 4/30/2012, Fenway. BP homer hit by Red Sox' Cody Ross to Monster Seats. Ball has Fenway 100th anniversary logo.  BP homer hit by unidentified Oakland Athletic to CF. Ball has Camden Yards 20th anniversary logo. (11-4 team record)

21. 5/30/2012, 5:11 p.m., Fenway. BP homer hit by David Ortiz to CF. Ball has Fenway 100th anniversary logo. (12-4 team record)

22. 7/16/2012, Fenway. BP homer hit possibly by Carl Crawford on Youk's return to Fenway as a White Sox. (13-4 team record)

23., 24., & 25. 9/13/2012, Fenway. Toss-up from Ichiro (now a Yankee). Camden Yards ball. BP homer by I think Andruw Jones. BP homer by, again, I think Andruw Jones. (13-5 team record)

Update 5/1/2016 12:41 a.m. Wow, I thought I'd been updating this list but I guess not! Tonight (4/30/16) I got a ball at Fenway in CF hit by some Yankee, not A-Rod or Gardner or Teixeira, I think a lefty, maybe Ellsbury, in my usual CF spot in my usual way: ball goes just over front row, I go right across third row and grab it off ground. Gave it to my friends' unborn baby, as they were at the game separately tonight. Besides this, I got a 2013 postseason ball, and I got a game ball hit by Middlebrooks (rolling up the screen and dropping down, with me sitting there JUST in case that would happen) in 2014. Oh and in the season ticket holder BP after 2013 I got two MLB balls. And I got one in ST this year. Besides all that there hasn't been much activity, mainly since I haven't been able to get to games as much since I've worked in the Newport area six days a week since late 2012. Anyway I'll have to go back and check some game posts for the other balls I got and enter them into this database. Side note: We're gonna be selling our house and I FINALLY got all these balls together in a box!

Update 6/5/2016 11:04 a.m. On 5/24/2016 I got a toss-up from Red Sox left fielder Chris Young, the ball he'd been warming up with before the top of the 2nd. He'd tossed one after the top-1 warm-ups, so I anticipated it and stood up and put my arms in the air. He nailed me from 100 feet away and I made the two-bare-handed catch of this rubbed-up had-been-game-ball. This was the Rockies game I took my Denver friend Amber to. Oh, and we're not selling our house after all.

Update 6/5/2016 2:47 p.m. Okay it's all coming back to me, I remember getting shut out for balls in 2013 UNTIL that playoff game. So I'll go back to posting these in regular list form. Starting now.

26., 27., & 28. 10/14/2013, Fenway. ALCS Game 2, the game where Papi hits the big homer that Torii went head-over-heels on. One of the all-time best moments at Fenway. Got a ball in BP. Then...another. Then... Post-season ball! These last three are talked about here.  (14-5 team record)

29. & 30. 11/12/2013, Fenway, STH BP. Not a game, but official MLB balls gotten at an MLB ballpark. Counts! Story here.

31. & 32. 4/29/2014, Fenway. BP ball and GAME BALL--my first ever! hit by Middlebrooks, rolled up screen and came down, I caught it. See here and here. (There never was a "part 2.")

33. 5/7/2014, Fenway. BP ball. 

34. 2/2016, JetBlue Park practice fields. HR ball, fought for it and won. Practice fields. It's an official MLB ball, I'm counting it. Later had it signed by Dwight Evans.

35. (Given Away) 4/30/2016, Fenway. BP ball, see story in update above.

36. 5/24/2016, Fenway. GAME BALL #2!!! See story in update above. The 36 (essentially) balls (to that point) are all pictured in a tweet here on 6/13/2016.

37. 9/12/2016, Fenway. Got there early, STH early entry, one of the only fans who went to CF as opposed to Monster. I went to the Mike Davison spot, which is even farther toward left these days now that the camera well is gone. Pitching coach Carl Willis is out there with his catcher's mitt. Hard-hit ball goes through his legs and out to the wall, right below me. I politely ask, he tosses it up. After that, since I was the only guy there and he was the only guy in the area down on the field, I wasn't gonna ask him for any others that came to him, and some did. Eventually a kid came over and I helped him get balls, introduced him to the world of Hample, etc. Fun time. A few HRs came into the bleachers, but I didn't get any more. Wow, only three games at Fenway this year so far. But I've gotten a ball at each one.

38. & 39. May 2017, Cooperstown NY. HR Derby of the Legends Classic at Doubleday Field. Caretaker of house where balls land hooks up my dad and I with one ball each. Story to be made full later. My dad gave me his but I only count the one she gave me.  (Edit 9/9/2017: changed my mind. I'm counting both.) MLB balls.

40. & 41. 8/18/2017, Fenway. Hanley Ramirez and Aaron Judge BP homers to CF. Story later.

42. 9/8/2017, Fenway. On my 42nd birthday, my 42nd ball. Thrown by Souza. Story on twitter here.

43. 3/29/2018, Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida (Opening Day). I'm the first one at the door. I run in, and after a quick stop to film the Rays' players who were greeting fans, I get to left field. As soon as I get the damn giveaway cowbell into my pocket, a Red Sox player launches one right at me. I have my glove (note: for years I didn't bring it, because I didn't want to have to lug it around all game, but as of last year, I'm a glove man) and I've got the ball in my sights. It's a little high so I LEAP....and it's JUST out of reach. It lands in the row behind me, rattles around, and I grab it. There's only one guy anywhere near me at that point and he says, "that was right at you." I thought JD had hit it, but he ended up hitting in the next group. Whoever it was, he hits right BEFORE Hanley in group one. Will find out who that was later. Had to be Mookie or Xander. My mom and Charlie would join me at this game later. I'd driven from RI, they were coming by bus from their place in Ft. Myers. (Rays finished hitting before gates opened, obv.)

44. & 45. 4/3/2018, Marlins Park, Miami, Florida. I go to RF, front row. I'm thinking of going to the upper deck. At one point one lands up there, and I'm thinking I could run up there, but I can't risk it since I don't know where the steps are. Some guy goes up and gets the ball! Finally I opt to go up there (don't ya know, the steps were RIGHT behind me), and it's getting late and I've got nothing. Hector Velazquez has been tossing balls to fans, and he finally spots me, alone except for one guy up there, and he mocks throwing a ball to me, since he doesn't have one. Then he gets two hit to him in a row (hit by someone in the last group, maybe Brock Holt or Sandy Leon), and I hold my glove up and yell. He tosses one but it's way high. It bounces off seats, starts plunking its way down the steep upper deck, and on the last bounce, it goes over the rail. Damnit. Did he see? Does he care? Will I get another shot? I look back at him, and he's smiling, and clearly wants to hit me up there! I hold up the glove again and this time it's right on target. I thank him. (He does some crazy soccer stuff with baseballs...) Then BP ends. Earlier I'd casually checked the rows for Easter eggs and found none. That one other guy probably got any that had been there. But I start walking up higher anyway, JUST in case somebody hit a moonshot. And boom! There was a ball in about the 10th row. ALL of BP had gone by and nobody thought to look up there. Quite a gash in that ball! Had to have been hit by a Marlin. Pic of both here.

46. & 47. 5/26/2018, Cooperstown NY. HR Derby of the Legends Classic at Doubleday Field. This year the owner of the house in LF where the balls land hooks my dad and me up with a ball each. My dad gives me his, and I count it.

48., 49., 50. 9/11/2018. Fenway Park. My classic CF spot, I get in for the early entry, nobody's around in CF except for a few other fans. Brandon Phillips (I think!) hits one over the front row and I grab it. Then a Blue Jay hits one, similar spot, then another. The third is my 50th ball! Mom and Charlie had gone to dinner while I was at BP. I got to our loge seats behind home plate and presented my mom with #48 and Charlie with #49. Here are the three balls in a pic from the ballpark that night.

51. 3/14/2019, Marchant Stadium, Lakeland, Florida (spring training). I get in at 10 am with an early entry ticket. About 30 people waiting in line. I parked on a side street for free. Nothing happening on the field. Tigers are on a back field, gathered around, getting a talk from Tony Clark. For a looong time. Everyone's just waiting around. There is a slope behind the scoreboard of the main field down to the back field that the Tigers are on. A section of it has unmowed grass. People have been milling about for an hour at this point, but still, I take a shot, walking along the slope, and....boom went the dynamite, a little white peeking out. Turns out it's an Official Minor League baseball. In the past I have seen minor league balls with the league name on them. But this is a catch-all, with league president Pat O'Conner's name on it. Finally the Tigers left that field, with Tony Clark and Dave Winfield along with them. The Red Sox came out and took BP. A very crowded berm led to stiff competition. A fun BP but I got nothing. I'm counting the MiLB ball. It's a big league game, and the ball was found between the big league park and the field where the actual team had been. After the game I drove on to Tampa to pick up Kim at the airport and we started our Ft. Myers vacation.

52. & 53. 3/20/2019, Hammond Stadium, Ft. Myers, Florida. Kim had already flown out, and I left this morning on the start of my drive back north. Got to the Twins' park, Hammond Stadium, when gates opened, for the Pirates-Twins game, knowing I'd leave the game early to get a head start on my drive. Left field has the berm, which is a pretty steep hill, and then a wide walkway behind it. You could only enter the berm from the LF corner and then in one other spot in LCF. So I pretty much had to make a choice, upper or lower. I went upper, and shortly after the Pirates started hitting, a righty in the first group launched one. I was in dead LF and it was to my left. I started trotting over, an, realizing I had pretty much no competition in that spot, put my glove up and looked it in. My first on-the-fly BP homer. (I only recently started bringing my glove to games....) No other action up there from then on. (The ushers were SO nice, except for one who warned me about "running around" and "knocking people over." It's so shitty knowing I'm in the 2% of humans who's *always* aware of my surroundings, and who's potentially *saving* people who *aren't* paying attention from potential concussions, and *I* get a talking-to. Anyway there was one guy shagging in CF who had tossed up two balls, and when he got another, late in BP, I asked him to toss it up, which he did. I thanked him. White guy, glasses.

54. 4/30/2019, Fenway Park. Had gone to home game 2 and gotten shut out, thanks in part to a line for the early entry that went down to Ipswich and turned the corner! Anyway, tonight, in my second Fenway game of 2019, an A's player hit one several rows up into section 35, close to 36. I ran all the way from the 34/35 stairway, turned left at the 35/36 stairway up the stairs, was the first guy to the scene, but...the ball was on the ground and I didn't see it. I actually had time to say out loud "I don't know where it is." At that moment I spotted it to my left and turned down a row, only to realize it was still rolling down, and I basically dove down to get it, fighting off another guy who was right there with me. I was going 100%, he was going 80%, it's that simple. He smiled and seemed okay with me getting it. I think it may have landed in 36 but bounced to 35, cuz I definitely looked right first as I went up the 35/36 stairway, before seeing it to my left. (Near misses: a HR went through the vents up on the back wall and down to Lansdowne! I saw the woman who got it down there. And at one point "Reserved Guy" caught one in front of me in the 34 corner, and another one was coming, and I stupidly said "here comes another one" as he was walking away! So he comes racing back along the row in front of me, and as I'm leaning out over my row, ball just about to hit my glove, his glove gets there. Two in a row, not even a "thanks for the heads up" for me....)

55. 5/2019, Doubleday Field. BP HR before HR Derby in RF, ball hits trees and drops down.

56. 7/26/2019, Fenway Park. Picked up ball that woman didn't want and her kids had each gotten one so I kept it.  (Update 10/10/21: Controversy! The tweet says I *did* give it up! I wanna say the tweet is right.)

57., 58., 59. 6/5/2021, Yankee Stadium. Zack and I first ones in. His friend Chris said cages set up but no Red Sox BP yet. Zack went to 3B dugout, I stayed in RF. Immediately ran through seats with one kid nearby, I asked "special ops" guy (Zack said they take all the Easter eggs) if he'd found any balls out there, he said no. Right then Red Sox 1B coach Tom Goodwin tosses a ball to the kid. He has another one and I hold my glove up. He airmails me, ball goes several rows behind me and ricochets to the left. The kid is the only other person nearby and knows that ball was for me so it's just me but I'm having trouble locating it. Finally I see it, and RIGHT next to it (in crook between seatback and ground) is another ball that had been there, probably from Yankees BP that the employee missed. Goodwin ball had practice stamp, other had brown dirt spots. End of BP, six balls in Yanks' bullpen. I decide to wait it out in the extreme heat that I'd been in since an hour before gates, first with Zack outside. Woman asks me if her shut-out kid can have a ball (she remembered me and Zack from the line outside), I tell her my two are spoken for, but I note that if I get one of the bullpen balls her kid can have it. She is waiting a long time too, but just before two employees arrive, she leaves! But I know what the husband and kid look like. Employee tosses ball up, I'm standing on a seat and despite having a glove on, I have to barehand it off to my right, just above Asian teen girl's hand. I ask if it was meant for her, she seems unconcerned, then offers a "trade for the ball in her hand already from earlier in BP. Then her boyfriend says he had caught that one and still wants it so we trade back...but that's when I remember the shut-out kid. I look up to bleachers and that dad is looking right at me and I make the signal, and the kid recognizes what's going on too, and I do some fancy footwork to get closer to him to toss it from closer, he's very excited. So three balls, one given away.

60. 6/27/2021, Fenway Park. Post-game, home batboy (not the redhead older dude any more, as he's gone to the visiting side!) with a bag full of MANY baseballs. He's flipping them over the screen. One kid really wants one and Kim really pushes the guy to toss one to him, and he does. Then we're walking away, and I'm like 10 rows up and turn around and kinda make eye contact with the guy and he gives me a look like, "if you really want one I'll throw it to you" and I'm pointing at Kim like it's for her, and he tosses one all the way to me, which I give to Kim as her karma ball for getting one for the little kid earlier. Kim's ball, but it pads my stats.

61. 10/10/2021, Fenway Park. ALDS Game 3, BP. Rays lefty out in CF, I'm in 36, purposely standing 10-12 rows back. He gets a ball and I hold up my arms, and he wings it right to me, I make the clean catch with my glove. Globe Life inaugural season ball!

62. 9/29/2022, (outside) Fenway Park. Waited on Lansdowne all day, and in the 8th inning, JD Martinez hits one out, and I jump into a hole to snag it! GAME home run ball!

63. 3/14/2023, Chase Field. On my drive to Vegas, I stopped to watch a World Baseball Classic game in Phoenix, Arizona. Mexico vs. Great Britain. A GB player in BP hits a homer to right field, I go over two rows behind me and make the snag. A nearby teenager may have had a chance at it, but saw me laid out over the bleachers and let me have it. Or I just beat him to it. Wish it had been a WBC ball but I'll take it! And count it...

64., 65., 66. 5/15/2023, Fenway Park. Three ball night! Full description here on twitter.

67. & 68. 6/1/2023, Fenway Park. Both balls shown here and story here on twitter.

69., 6/28/2023, Fenway Park. Tossed by a Marlin.

70. & 71., 7/7/2023, Fenway Park. Two balls from two A's.

72., 7/8/2023, Fenway Park. Thanks, Dustin Hughes.

Bonus sections:

College Baseballs:
1994-ish, U of Nebraska. HR ball, in game. Official Big Eight Baseball.

Minor League Baseballs:
A few at Pawtucket. More later. (Two in one game in 2015, one I gave to Amber in a different game, then one in 2017 at nearly midnight down the RF line with basically nobody left in the ballpark.)

Great stuff, Jere. My first baseball game ever was special for me, even though it was played in Yankee Stadium. It was in the late 50s (I think), and my parents, my brother and I were sitting on the rightfield line, in the first row (thanks, DAD!). I brought a bat with me and when the pinstriped ones came onto the field, Micky Mantle himself ran right towards us. I yelled out something like, "Hey Mickey, can you sign my bat? Well, he kept on going until all the people sitting near us yelled "Hey Mick, sign the kid's bat!" And ya know what? He came right over, took the bat and Magic Marker from my hands and did just that. I was overwhelmed and everybody stood and clapped. That's my first baseball memory...something I'll never forget. Yes, the writing has faded a little (so have I) but that bat will always make me think of my youth and my Dad...and the Mick.
Nice memory. My first game was also at Yankee Stadium....

Also note, this list doesn't include all the autographed balls I've bought online--Gedmans, old Red Sox team balls, etc.

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Location: Rhode Island, United States