Okay, let me get a couple of things out of the way before I get into the entry itself:
1. This entry will start with my account of Zack Hample’s attempt at catching a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet in the air. That link in the last sentence will take you to Zack’s account of the event.
2. Since the documentation of the helicopter stunt itself has been pounded into the dirt. (My friend Chris Hernandez–who was there–also did a write-up of the event on his blog.) I myself did a general highlight video for the event, that I’m pretty proud of and I’ll leave here for you to watch:
Anyways, because of this over-documentation of the event itself, what I’m going to write about mostly in this entry is I’m going to focus on the behind-the-scenes stuff, the things no one really took the time to write about. Because while Zack was the reason we were all there and this was taking place, and the world saw this event as pretty much Zack’s day, there was so much more to it than just that…
Let us begin where the entry from the last day/game left off. After having unintentionally fallen asleep writing a blog entry on my laptop, I awoke at about 5:17 in the morning to the sound of water running and a light coming from the light in my hotel room’s bathroom. It was at that point that I got mad at myself because I realized I had fallen asleep. This anger with myself turned into slight panic as I realized the running water came from the fact that my roommate for the night who I had not yet met, Andrew Gonsalves, had already woken up after getting to the hotel room after midnight and was readying himself to get out of the room for the stunt.
I was disappointed/mad about falling asleep by accident for two main reasons. The first is that when I woke up, my phone was completely uncharged. Zack had written an entry the previous morning saying to follow me on Twitter for updates on the ball drop, and I felt guilty to not live up to this expectation of the people who were checking my account out for this reason. However, this guilt turned into apathy as I left my phone charging in the dugout while I filmed the event. The second reason was that while I had never met Andrew in person, I had read his blog (which is linked to the initial mention of his full, now-clickable, name) for a while and really enjoy. The main reason I enjoy it is that most of the topics he writes feel like they could be things that I would have examined from the exact same angle (were my medium of mass-communication not essentially limited to baseball) but examined/argued and written in a way that is better than anything I could have ever done. So while we did say hello to each other, we didn’t really get to talk since we were both being semi-rushed by Zack in the next room over, Andrew left pretty soon after we introduced ourselves and I was left in the room packing all of my things into my backpack for the day, since we were not going to be coming back to the hotel. I don’t think I ever really did talk to Andrew much the whole day, but oh well; what can you do?
Oh, and when Zack opened the door between our two rooms to tell us to get ready, I also got to meet Zack’s girlfriend Hayley for the first time in person. Although, I had called Zack about 30 hours before that to talk about how everything about me finding a place to sleep was going to happen, but then Zack put Hayley through speaker-phone, so the conversation moved from hotel rooms to the three of us discussing the pros and cons of an iPhone and Galaxy3, so I guess I had kind of sort of gotten to know her more so than, say Andrew, where the conversation was pretty uni-directional.
When the four of us convened in the hotel lobby to checkout, we realized we were missing two of our group members. Those group member were Ben Weil and his girlfriend Jen (both of who, if you have followed this blog in the past, you may know I have met in the past). So after he was done checking out of his room, Zack went ahead and picked up the car. As he arrived in his 5-seater station wagon, we (Andrew, Haley, and I) saw he had picked up Ben and Jen on the way. Now I realized I’ve just been mentioning names and not really counting them up, but if you have been, there were a total of six of us headed to the stadium in a car that seats five people. So what I had offered in either the phone call I mentioned earlier on in an email to Zack is that I go in the trunk. And that’s exactly what I did. Here is a picture Ben took of me right before he closed the trunk door on me:
Believe it or not, this was my second ride in the trunk of a car. The first one being a ride in an overcrowded car this past school year to a Pizza Hut. This ride was more enjoyable, though, since I was in an open-air trunk where I could still talk to the people in the backseat.
Despite the fact that we were cutting the 6:00 time that had been set for arrival to the ballpark very close, we decided to go to a Dunkin Donuts, where I believe I was the only one in the car who didn’t get anything. There was a pretty long discussion as to exactly what kind of creamer certain people wanted in their coffee and who would pay, so we knew we were going to be a little late to the ballpark. But in approaching the ballpark, Zack took a very close look at the flag poles around Lowell as the car passed them. The lower flags were completely still, but he was troubled by the ones higher up, since they were fluttering ever so slightly.
As we passed the front of the stadium on our way into the parking garage, I saw Mike Davison, but I also saw Chris Hernadez. I knew in advance that he was planning to be there, but it’s always nice to see Chris at events, especially now that I’m out of New York and living in Washington. And he would turn out to save a semi-expensive bus ride, which is always nice.
We proceeded to park in the garage, where we then got out, saw everyone else who was going to be there for the stunt (BIGS representatives I mentioned in the vlog that’s embedded in my last entry, paramedics, ball-dropper, etc.), readied ourselves in our respective ways, Andrew and Zack played catch:
And then Ben and I, who had both offered to play catch with Zack–but Andrew already had his glove on–played catch with each other until we could down the other line:
That specific picture would be Ben having just thrown me a pop-up that I was tracking. (Or maybe it was the other way around? The ball is in just the perfect spot, and our reactions to the ball are pretty much the exact same enough for the picture to be interpreted either way.
We then got in the dugout and watched Zack attempt to catch a baseball from the first of two heights he was scheduled to go at. The ultimate goal was to catch one from over 1,000 feet, but this first warm-up height was to be 550 ft. The warm-up height started to feel anything but once Zack passed about his fifth attempt. Most of us thought he was going to catch the ball from this height pretty easily, but it eventually took him I think eight tries to get it. I say “most of us” because although I have it on tape being explained that the helicopter was at 550 feet right before the first attempt, a bunch of people in the dugout thought Zack had just caught the 1,000 foot ball.
Once the people who understood the situation talked it through with the people who didn’t, everyone got a little worried. The helicopter had looked *really* high in the sky for the first attempt, so to essentially take that and double it seemed like a ludicrous feat. However, once the helicopter ascended to its final height, it didn’t look like double the height at all. In the moment we thought it was because the chopper had moved further away from us in the dugout and closer to the absolute center of the field, but it probably had more to do with the fact that the helicopter was hovering more around 650 ft on the first attempt.
Anyway, I’m going to assume you actually read/watched the material I provided at the beginning, so you know that Zack did indeed catch the ball. Blahbity-blah-blah. Many people have said it before; you don’t need to hear it again from me. What you might not know is that in this picture that I took from Zack’s blog entry:
is that it was actually one of Ben’s three attempt to jump over the railing. He tried twice to jump the dugout railing right as Zack started walking back in from the outfield. He the cleared the people to his sides out of his way and yelled, “You see?” as he jumped the railing and chased after Zack for an embrace—referring to the fact that he was indeed able to make the jump. As he jump-hugged Zack, his girlfriend Jen said something that I couldn’t hear word-for-word over the sound of the helicopter blades cutting through the air, but was along the lines of, “See? I told you Zack is Ben’s real girlfriend.” It was hilarious because we were all thinking something along those lines as Ben chased after Zack for a hug, but Jen or Hayley were the perfect people to say it out loud.
Then when everyone was around Zack for his interviews with for the BIGS camera as well as the member of SABR who was there to get information as a part of a bigger story on people (mostly players up until Zack) who had tried catching baseballs dropped from crazy-high places, Chris and I had the same idea to go out into the outfield and take a look at the grounds crew fixing up the holes made by the falling baseballs. I filmed it to put in the video you saw at the beginning of the entry, but I also took a couple of pictures of Chris for his entry:
After that I was completely bored from filming the whole day to that point, so I decided to play catch with essentially everyone who had a glove. First I played catch with Andrew. Here he is tossing me the baseball:
We played for a considerable time, but when Zack was finally done with all of the stuff he had to do, he, Chris, and I played a three-way cutoff version of catch. Let me explain. So here I am throwing the ball to Zack:
And then here is Zack after having received one of my throws to him and relaying it to Chris:
So it was essentially Monkey in the Middle, but with us actually throwing to Zack. A fun little anecdote about this is Zack was so looking forward to play catch that while he was supposed to be sending a message or something to ESPN about the event, he actually said, “You know what, ESPN can wait. We can do that later. I need to play some catch first.”
Somewhere in the whole aftermath of the catch itself, we also got a group picture:
I’ll tell a little story about it, but first I’ll label the people left-to-right:
1. Nick- Paramedic number 1.
2. Mike Davison- Previously mentioned, who was nothing but nice to me for my whole stay in Lowell.
3. One of the police officers who was blocking off the walking path behind the outfield wall of the stadium.
4. Matt- Paramedic number 2.
5. Bob- The helicopter pilot.
6. Andrew- My roommate for all of five “awake minutes.”
7. Hayley- Zack’s girlfriend.
8. Ben Weil– I don’t know if I linked his name before, but I did just now.
9. Jen- Ben’s girlfriend who accompanied him to a Taylor Swift concert later that night.
10. Zack Hample- The only reason most of us would ever go to Lowell, MA.
11. Logan- The BIGS Seeds representative who I later gave my SD card to have some of my footage at their disposal for the video they made of the event. (I would like to use this as an excuse for why all of my stuff about the event is so late, but he returned the card to me later that day.)
12. Casper- The person in the helicopter responsible for dropping the baseballs.
13. Chris Hernandez- A very nice person who offered me a last-minute place to stay for the night so that I wouldn’t have to pay for a bus back to New York the next morning.
14. Me- Surprisingly not behind the camera for once on the day.
Anyway, the sort-of-funny thing about the picture is that Logan instructed all of us to clear the path so the BIGS logo would be completely visible, but he ended up–as you can see in the picture–being the one who partially blocked it.
After that we realized that none of us had eaten yet that day, so everyone who had gone in Zack’s car in the morning, Chris, and Mike went to a diner that Zack had eaten at during his first stay in Lowell last year. Here we all are eating what I think is technically considered brunch:
We all were willing to pay, but Zack surprised us all and picked up the entire group’s tab himself. After Ben was done with his plate, Ben decided to try to draw a baseball with the ketchup. That turned out well, but he then tried to write the word “PRACTICE” on it before realizing he didn’t have enough space on the ketchup ball. This, however, gave Jen an idea, which she got on right away. Here is a picture of the end product:
It may look nice from that picture, but trust me when I say that the picture does it very little justice. It looked amazing in person when you thought about the fact that she did it with a ketchup bottle. The potatoes were also not on the plate, she set up everything you see besides the ketchup-ed plate after the fact just for the picture.
But after that we all went our separate ways. Zack’s car headed back with its five people to New York, Mike headed off to his home town in the land of the Patriot, and Chris and I went to a Starbucks to try to write our respective entries/get some sleep in the car before we then went to the Lowell Spinners game that night. (Which, you guessed it, will be the next entry up on here.)
So after spending a full day’s worth of buses, trains, and being part of discussions surrounding the logistics of dropping a baseball from 1,000 feet in the air:
it was time to go to my first Lowell Spinners game ever with Mike Davison–who is in this next picture. If you don’t already know, the reason I was in Lowell because Zack Hample was going to attempt to catch a baseball dropped from 1,000 in the air. As you can probably tell from the date in the title of this entry, that already happened, so if you want to read Zack’s account of the event, here’s the link to that. Well anyway, while an idea as insane as trying to catch a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet above ground could only come from Zack, Mike was the logistical mastermind behind the whole stunt itself and making an insane idea a little more feasible and a lot more safe.
So if you watched the video at the beginning of the entry, you will have seen that I ended the video saying we were off to the Lowell Spinners game. Right after that, Mike and I walked from the parking garage to behind the outfield wall. Here is my view as we made our way such:
With the game starting at 7:05 and the stadium itself not opening until 6:00, we decided we would walk around the stadium on the walkway that is right behind the outfield wall and try to get any baseballs that managed to fly out during BP. While I have been right behind the outfield wall at minor league stadiums before, this one felt weird because the walkway was *right* against the outfield wall. So there was really no shot at snagging a baseball on said walkway. The walkway was actually elevated to be at more or less the base of the outfield wall. (I say more or less because while it is a good ten feet above the foresty stuff that is even further out from the outfield wall, Mike, who is 6’5″ had his eyes at the level of the the outfield ground. More on that in a bit.) Anyway, from the walkway, this was my view of the outfield wall:
We walked back and forth on the walkway a few times before we decided to scour the bushes/foresty part below the walkway to see if any baseballs had already been hit there earlier in BP. I found this:
I’m glad that I don’t keep track of minor league stats because ballhawking for me at minor league stadiums feels like such a casual thing that I could have made a serious case for counting this ball. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the foresty area is between the walkway that goes behind the outfield wall and the Merrimack River; so the river is what you see in the background of that last picture.
After scavenging a little more, we decided to head back up to the walkway level, since we had no clue which hitters were up. My first solution to this was I found an area to look into the field through a fence just foul of the foul pole:
The good news was I could see the hitter perfectly. The bad news was I was completely out of position here to snag any baseballs. The solution we eventually came up with was there were holes at the base of the wall in left-center field, so Mike being more than tall enough to see into the stadium through them, he watched to see if there were any decent lefty hitters in the group. If there weren’t we would go into the foresty area (and yes I realize “foresty” isn’t actually a real word) in left field and hope something would fly over the wall. Nothing did. There was actually another guy down there with his two kids. He said that it was one of, if not THE worst BP he had ever seen. He reiterated several times that baseballs usually start to hit off the walls in bunches, and then baseballs start making their way over the wall and walkway. When there was even one lefty with potential to hit a ball over the wall in the group, though, we headed over to right field because there was actually a grassy area at field level that provided room to run for baseballs. However, my first “real” baseball came when we were headed over to this grass area. We were half-way there when I saw something hit into the foresty area out of the corner of my eye. I knew exactly where it had landed, so I went a couple yards down the hill and picked the ball up. I then looked up at the wall and realized how crazy this baseball had been:
Where the ball had landed meant it had to have traveled through a gap between ads that was less than three feet wide. How about that?
I also managed to snag another hit baseball when we got to the grassy area in right field:
I saw the ball the whole way as it became visible over the top of the wall, and so I ran right behind the spot I thought the ball was going to land–since I figured I had no chance to catch it on the fly through the trees–and fielded it like a ground ball.
I waited for a little while longer, but pretty much right after I got this ball, it was time for Mike and I to head to the gate and get in the stadium. Here was the scene at the main gate from across the street. (Can you find Mike?
He kind of photo-bombed me in that I was just taking a picture of the scene at the gates and he posed for the picture across the street.)
After that, we saw something that Mike insisted I include in this entry, and I can only describe as Minor League Baseball at its finest:
If you are in the majority of people who have no clue what’s going on here, the Spinners arranged to have midget wrestling going on outside the gates. Although I will say that it is not even close to the weirdest promotional stunt Mike has ever witnessed at a baseball game. I don’t think I’ll share that one with you, though.
Although we had been *on* the field earlier in the day, it was still nice to see the concourse once we got into the stadium:
It is definitely on the higher end for minor league stadiums at that level of play:
And do you see the pressbox in the background of the right part of the picture? Well there were a couple cool things to be seen on the portion of the concourse that went behind there. The first of which was the former Lowell Spinners who had made it up to the Major Leagues at one point or another. Recognize any names?
And then there was also a view inside the pressbox from the concourse:
This may not seem particularly exciting, but I love the fact that you can just look in there without having to get a special ticket right behind home plate. (I’m looking at you, MLB stadiums.)
As you can probably tell from these pictures, BP had ended by the time we got into the stadium. So instead of going after baseballs, I nonchalantly got a couple of Spinners players to sign the MiLB baseballs I had snagged outside of the stadium:
Do I have any clue who it was that signed the baseballs? No, none. But you never know, so I thought it would be a good idea to get them just in case.
As for the game, this was the view from my ticketed (complementary) seat:
But instead I headed up to the cross-aisle (concourse), and went back and forth the whole game playing foul balls. As it seems every time I play foul balls anywhere, my best opportunity came in the first inning when I had foul ball tracked, but it was headed straight at a man. I waited for the ball to deflect off of him, but to my surprise, he caught it on the fly in a hand that had a cast over it.
It was a Friday fireworks game, so there were a ton more people than usual and the concourse was much more clogged than it usually is. As a result of this and Brian Scalabrine doing several odd-jobs throughout the course of the game, I didn’t get a foul ball the whole game. But I did have a great view of the Lowell sunset:
And then for the first time in a long time, I actually left the game early. It wasn’t my decision to do so, but I was more than okay with it given the logic behind it. Mike said he should probably head out because we both had to get up the next morning at 5:00, so it was probably a good idea for us to head out and into bed. As we entered the Spinners’ garage, I got a picture of the scoreboard from where we would be entering the next morning:
I was actually staying at the Radisson with Zack and the rest of his friends he was bringing up from New York at the Radisson, so Mike was nice enough to drive me over there despite me being awful with my iPhone’s GPS from never having used it before and getting us lost a couple times. I’d say we got to the hotel at 10:30 where Mike dropped me off and headed out to get some sleep. Zack and his car of people weren’t getting in until after midnight, but we were thankfully able to get the reservation changed over successfully whilst they were on the road so I was able to check in. I tried to stay awake and greet them, but I unintentionally fell asleep while on the computer and woke up at 5:17 the next morning only to prepare my self immediately to hopefully document a person catching a baseball dropped from 1,000 feet for the first time in the history of humanity.