Zack Hample Baseball Drop
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.)