Apparently two weeks was long enough a hiatus from Oriole Park at Camden Yards, because two weeks to the day, I was back there:
The four front people would be:
1. Oliver Francies– A semi-regular who I met because he goes to UND, which is a rival in various sports to UMN.
3. Garrett Meyer– A Kansas City ballhawk, who I hadn’t seen since a game that I didn’t even enter the gates for in June of last year.
4. Avi Miller– With whom I was staying for this Rockies series, and general encyclopedia of all things Orioles.
Going in, I knew I was going to have some competition, but I also wanted to take advantage of the lack of usual competition. Alex Kopp was off on a vacation in Miami, and Tim Anderson wasn’t getting to the game until about 5:30. So when I got in, I first didn’t find any easter eggs, but secondly had the following arrangement of ballhawks surrounding me. Grant was to my left:
Avi was in front of me:
And Garrett was to my right:
To begin BP, JJ Hardy hit two home runs over my head. Both of which I should have caught on the fly, and both of which I misjudged. Thankfully I go the second one, but right after I took this picture:
I turned to Avi and said, “This could be a looong day for me.” It was shortly after that Hardy hit another home run near me. It was headed to my left and to Avi’s row. So when he went into that row, I went in the row below him and jumped up for the catch right in front of his glove:
Avi then headed out shortly after that and spent the rest of BP drinking his sorrows away for free. (I’m half-joking about that. I’ll leave it to your imagination what half I’m talking about.) I then snagged two baseballs which I apparently forgot to take pictures of.(I came to the realization of this just seconds before I typed those last two sentences.) The first was an Alexi Casilla home run that I ran a section to my right to catch. I also caught this one right in front of a teenager and got grief from a middle aged season ticket holder for doing so even though I had already gotten a ball. (I just ignored him, because I knew the kid was a regular who had no problem getting baseballs on his own. For the record, he would go on to get two baseballs before I got a single other baseball.) My second ball came when I headed down the line for the Rockies warming up. I yelled Charlie when the throwing group of Charlie Blackmon and Culberson were done throwing. Culberson ended up with the ball, so I waved to him. And I don’t know who the ball was intended for, because while I had waved right before he tossed the ball, his throw was tailing towards Garrett for what seemed to be an easy catch. I really don’t know what happened next to him, but Garrett had the ball tip off his glove, and so since it bounced to me, I picked the ball up. Weird. And also, I had no clue at the time, I had no clue that this was my 200th ball of the season. Something I had only done once before.
My next ball came out in the center field section of seating. When a number 35 came to the wall to retrieve a ball, I quickly checked my roster and got Chad Bettis to toss me a ball. I then gave the ball to a kid I had slipped past to get into the first row:
That was my fifth baseball of the day. My sixth was by far my favorite of the game…and with no game balls this year, I’d say it ranks pretty high up my favorite snags of this year. (Which is kinda sad now that I think of it.) For whatever reason, I was the only ballhawk on the flag court when Todd Helton launched a ball to the extreme right of the flag court. In fact, it was even off of the flag court. Because as I ran after the ball, I had to reach over the railing that divides the flag court from section 98 at OPACY. So had I not caught the ball, it would have landed in the seats:
This would be my sixth and final ball of BP. After BP, I went to the Orioles bullpen.
Now usually Rick Adair is the one who comes to the Orioles bullpen and tosses all of the baseballs in there to the crowd, but this game it was someone different. As he watched whoever the starting pitcher was warming up outside the bullpen, Grant and I figured out that Rick Adair had taken a leave of absence, and this other coach was Scott McGregor. While neither Grant nor I got a ball tossed to us, McGregor tossed a ball to a kid to my right. Unfortunately, two grown ups stood up, and after go the ball took two convenient bounces to me, I picked it up and gave it to a kid to my left who actually had a glove on:
That would be my seventh and final ball of the day. For the game I hung out with Tim, Avi, and Grant out in the flag court. I would have a picture, but Avi blocked Tim out of the picture on the first take and then disappeared from frame on the second picture. And while we had a couple close calls, none of us got a home run out there during the game.
- 7 Balls at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 643-649 for my “lifetime”:
- 203 Balls in 47 Games= 4.26 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 31,438 Fans=220,066 Competition Factor
- 109 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 14 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 11 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 4-5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 6-7 Balls
- 74 Balls in 18 Games at OPACY= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 18 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- 8 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at OPACY
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at OPACY
- 4 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at OPACY
- 2 straight Games with at least 5 Balls at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 1:28-11:17= 9 Hours 49 Minutes
Welcome to the entry of quite possibly my worst batting practice performance ever. So I’ll try to keep this entry brief and not make something out of nothing.
When I arrived from Alex Kopp‘s house where I had spent the night, there was already a couple people in line, but thanks to cool people I knew like Tim Anderson and Rick Gold being at the front of the line, I also got to be at the front of the line. As a result of me being essentially the first one in the gates, I found two easter eggs in left field, and actually probably should have gotten three or four, but when I got in, a person cleaning in the seats asked me if I wanted to come and get a ball with him in first base foul ground. I probably should have told him no, but I figured that if I could get an extra baseball out of it, my journey would be worth it.
Well when we got over there, someone had already gotten the baseball and I saw ballhawks pick up two easter eggs in the time that I stopped and talked to this guy that I probably would have otherwise had. But anyway, when I had my two baseballs to start the day, I was thinking about big numbers for this game. I would then go on to not snag a ball fro the rest of batting practice–hence the lack of pictures from this game. It didn’t look like it was going to be that tough a day either. This was the view of the seats in left field when I got back after making the journey for the potential third easter egg, which besides having Alex and Tim in it, didn’t look that bad:
And it wasn’t just me either. Between myself, Alex, Tim, and Rick, we combined for a total of two hit baseballs snagged during BP and no toss-ups. It was just for whatever reason a tough BP. I almost got a ball from Dane De La Rosa, but when he asked me if I had already gotten a ball that day, I replied honestly and said yes. He then kept looking for someone to give the ball to before tossing it back into the ball bucket in center field. I’m thinking I should have replied with a clever response that reflected the fact that I still hadn’t gotten a ball during BP yet, but his question caught me so off-guard that I couldn’t think of anything besides just telling him what he wanted to hear.
After batting practice, I saw a ball inside of where the grounds crew stays during the games, below the right-center field seats, so I camped out there hoping to ask whoever entered there first for the ball. I didn’t take a picture in my time there, but I found out that someone else did while exploring the hashtag “opacy” on Instagram, so here I am waiting right above the spot where the ball was for someone to retrieve it:
I waited there for a solid half-hour as the grounds crew people were just starting to fix up the field post-batting practice when I got there. I watched and got ready every time a groundskeeper crossed in front of me on the warning track, bu none ever actually went inside the gate. Then, a couple people who I didn’t recognize as members of the grounds crew passed by me and into the gate. I was so surprised that they would be entering the area that I didn’t even ask them to go get the ball. What I did do was sit on the edge of my seat and be prepared for when one of them would come back out. When one of the guys came back out, I immediately saw that he had the ball in his hand and asked him before anyone else could get to him. He then tossed it to me for my third and final ball of the day:
I would then give that ball away to an usher at the top of the section and instructed him to give it away to the first kid with a glove he saw. I like to do this because it’s a win-win for myself and the usher. I get to show the usher that I am human and like to see kids go home happy with a baseball, and it lets the usher look like the hero for being the one to give the baseball to the kid and see his/her face light up when he/she gets the ball.
And that was it. I wouldn’t snag another ball for the rest of the game. I would sit out in the flag court pretty much the whole game with Alex and Tim–who managed to get a Mike Trout home run ball tossed up to him–but nothing would be hit up there.
- 3 Baseballs at this Game
Numbers 559-561 for my career:
- 115 Balls in 28 Games= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 3 Ball x 22,834 Fans=68,502 Competition Factor
- 90 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 50 Balls in 13 Games at OPACY= 3.85 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at OPACY
- Time Spent On Game 4:08-10:39= 6 Hours 31 Minute
Age as of November, 30, 2012: 20 (January, 25th, 2012)
Home Stadium: PNC Park
Home City: Pittsburgh, PA
Throws: Left (It’s really more of a “catches right” thing, because obviously one does not throw a ton while ballhawking, but no one says “catches right”, so yeah. Zac is actually one of the very few ballhawks who is left handed. The only other one who comes to mind is Alex Kopp.)
Total Baseballs as of November, 30, 2012: 434
In only his fourth year of ballhawking/snagging baseballs, we can see that Zac is on the steady upwards climb in terms of his ballhawking — still not having a season where he hasn’t improved his per-game average from the previous season. This is comes at no surprise to anyone who knows of Zac’s work ethic.
Yes, it’s very top heavy. Some may use this as a criticism of Zac, but what naysayers fail to recognize is that getting 37 or 29 baseballs from the same person requires something admirable in one shape or from. Getting that many baseballs from one person requires 1. A dedication to ballhawking long enough so that you could get that many baseballs from one player or coach without him recognizing you. or Zac’s approach: 2. Foster a good relationship with him so that he’ll toss you that many baseballs. Zac has his charity initiative (which you can read about if you click this sentence), so he brought it up with both Heberto “Herbie” Andrade and Euclides Rojas, and they feel as though they are doing good by tossing him baseballs — which they *are*. This might seem cheap, but Zac had to start the charity in the first place, and can you really look negatively on a person for starting a charity? At that point, I think you are just looking for reasons to dislike a person. In addition, he also fosters the relationship between Andrade and Rojas by speaking to them in Spanish. Learning Spanish, of course, not being something you just learn in a day.
Top-5 Locations of Snags:
The ballpark all of these snags should come as no surprise, since PNC Park is by far the park Zac has attended the most in his career as a ballhawk. However, the location of the balls he snags within PNC Park is very odd. Of the eight ballhawks on mygameballs.com who list PNC Park as their home stadium and have snagged more than 5 baseballs in 2012, Zac is the only one whose highest “snag location” isn’t the left field bleachers. While this makes sense, since left field is the place where the season ticket holders are restricted to in the first half-hour of the gates opening, it means that once the rest of the stadium opens, Zac –more so than anyone else — takes advantage of this fact and flees the left field bleachers. As one reader put it:
” … Zac [plays] a completely different strategy than all of the other PNC regulars. For God knows what reason, all of the other regulars seem to battle it out for BP homers in the LF bleachers. Those seats seem to get fairly packed out there. Meanwhile, every single game I’ve seen him at Zac ends up in the handicapped seating area (or seats right behind it) in the RF foul corner. I am 100% on board with this strategy. There is almost no competition, or very little. And it gives you great access to the visiting team’s pitchers — which actually results in a lot of the “competition” being autograph collectors. [Down] the RF line, you can scoop up foul grounders over the short fence. There is very little foul territory and it is very easy (and frequent) for foul balls to hop into the crowd. I have no clue why more [people] don’t go down there…”
Breakdown of baseballs year-by-year:
From this we can see that he has a pretty steady ratio of hit balls to thrown balls. While people — like with the people who threw him the most baseballs — might see the surplus of thrown balls when compared to hit balls as a negative, this again is not necessarily the case. Sure, hit balls may be worth more to some people, but they aren’t objectively harder to obtain or anything like that. Zac’s style has just lent itself more to snagging thrown balls. Along with going elsewhere besides the left field bleachers when the stadium opens-up, Zac also does his homework when it comes to the players so as to increase his odds of tossing out a nugget that gets a ball tossed to him. Additionally, he has one of the main attributes of a hit-ball ballhawk down: speed. So it’s not completely the case that he is unskilled at getting hit baseballs, but his ballhawking just doesn’t pan-out that way as to snag a ton of hit balls.
I’ve pretty much covered this. I could do something further on this with another ballhawk in future profiles (if I do others), but Zac has snagged a total of 10 baseballs outside of PNC Park, so it would be pretty redundant to do it here.
Those aren’t bad highs for a career 3.12 Balls Per Game; not bad at all. If you want to check them out, the links to his blog entries on those games, they can be found 1. Here, 2. Here, 3. Here, 4. Here, and 5. Here.
Finally, if you want to check-out Zac’s blog in general, it is: