The weirdest way I ever got a ball

June 26, 2003 — Shea Stadium

The Mets were taking batting practice, and I was standing in the corner spot of the Loge Level above the entrance to the left field bullpen.

LFfoulpole.jpg

Tsuyoshi Shinjo yanked a deep line drive in my direction. The ball had the perfect distance but didn’t hook enough and shinjo.jpgsailed a few feet to my left. I reached way over the railing for it…and the damn thing barely clipped the end of my glove and dropped into no man’s land below.

I looked for it in the bullpen but didn’t see it. That seemed odd. I couldn’t figure out where else it might have landed, but I couldn’t dwell on it. BP was still going on, so I turned my attention back toward the field…but I was so frustrated that I couldn’t put it out of my mind.

A couple minutes later, I realized that the ball couldn’t have landed in the bullpen because there’s a gap between it and the base of the stands, so I took another look behind the bullpen and spotted it! The ball was sitting on the pavement, up against a wall, just beyond the employees’ entrance to the picnic area.

behindLFbullpen.jpg

It was right there, out in the open, in a semi-bustling spot, and no one noticed it! People were pushing carts and carrying boxes right past it.

This spot was (and still is) totally off limits to fans. The picnic area and bleachers have their own tickets and entrance. Even if you have a $150 box seat, security won’t let you in there–but that didn’t stop me from trying.

I exited the Loge and ran down several ramps to ground level and headed through the concourse. There was a security guard sitting on a stool at the entrance. I began the march of death and saw the ball sitting on the ground 15 feet beyond him. He was staring off into space, but I knew he’d snap to attention as soon as I approached, and I was desperately trying to come up with something to say, something like, “Excuse me, sir, I know I’m not allowed in there, but I was just hoping I could grab that baseball–“

No no no. He’d look up and spot it and tell me to get lost and keep it for himself. What else could I say? I want to take a picture? I need to use the bathroom? I want to go on a picnic?

I had no idea what I’d tell him when he looked up…but I kept walking slowly…and approached him…and he DIDN’T look up!!! I walked right past him and grabbed the ball before making a U-turn and escaping the area, completely unnoticed.

Ball #2,067.
I’ll never forget it.

19 Comments

zack

I just Went to Wrigly a couple of days ago and cought 34 baseballs, and i didn’t even buy a ticket. All i do is stand on wavland Ave(sometimes addison) during Batting practice.The wind was blowing out, and balls were flying. I might just start collecting. By the way one person who was chasing home run balls claims to have 4000 in his collection. he says he has been collecting on wavland for 20 years.

Lastly,i had a few questions for you

1. what is the most balls you have cought in a single game?

2. what is the best park to collect baseballs? i think its wrigley, you can collect without paying.

Gonna start collecting

Zack, I just totally love your story telling ways. Your recollection of this particular day makes me feel like I was right there with you experiencing the moment. The way you set the tone is exciting and gets me all anxious to read on and find out how it turns out. You are a great painter with words.
George

ebuckets…you got 34 balls in one day?

Sorry if i wasn’t clear, i went with my brother to get the baseballs. i got around 20 myself. But i get to keep all the baseballs we collect.

its crazy running down those balls, they go everywhere.

Another great story to hear Zack.
One question for you is, can you name any players/coaches on the Astros who are friendly in the autograph/giving baseballs way?

Z,

What do you think will happen with BP for the this weekend. The Rangers/Twins play Sat. at 12:20 PM (national Fox game), and then at 1:05 PM on Sunday. I figure one of those days they may not do BP, do you think they’d skip both?

Adding to drosenda’s comment… Do you think the Orioles will take BP on Saturday? It is a 4:35 game time… they will play at 7:05 the night before. I am going to the saturday game.

Good luck at the Twins game drosenda… go twins

EBUCKETS-
That’s amazing that you (and your brother) got so many balls in one day. Wasn’t there lots of competition out on Waveland Avenue from THE Ballhawks? I’ve heard that there are a couple guys with around 4,000 balls, but I do things differently from them…for example, as far as I know, they count minor league and spring training balls in their collection, but I don’t count them in mine. However, they don’t count balls that are thrown, but I do. Stuff like that. The beauty of collecting balls—or anything—is that there’s an infinite number of ways to do it. If you’re going to collect balls outside Wrigley, you better hurry because the team is planning to build up the bleachers in the very near future. Before you know it, there won’t be many homers that reach the street. To answer your questions, my one-game record is 19 balls. I did that last year at Shea Stadium. Best ballparks for balls are: Turner Field, Miller Park, and Camden Yards. There’s something great to be said about snagging for free, but I’d rather buy a ticket and be able to use all my strategies and tricks inside the ballpark.

GEORGE-

You are too kind. Thank you.

GROCERY MAN-

I would’ve asked that if you hadn’t.

DODGERS-

The only time I ever got anything from the Astros was when I was in Houston last week. Willy Taveras, Adam Everett, Eric Bruntlett, and Mike Lamb all threw me balls. Dan Wheeler’s also been nice to me, but that might only be because he recognizes me from his days with the Mets. On the road, I’ve found that the Astros are incredibly stingy with their baseballs. I can’t tell you anything about who signs autographs. Perhaps George and the Grocery Man know more about that.

DROSENDA-

There’s a night game on Friday? If so, I would guess that there wouldn’t be BP on Saturday, but that the teams WOULD do it on Sunday. It’s been so long since I’ve gone to a day game that I’m not even sure at this point…but I can tell you that I heard Michael Kay and Jim Kaat (Yankees announcers) talking yesterday about how there was no BP before the 1:05pm game against Toronto. What a disaster it would’ve been to be there.

DOPPY-

I think there will be BP before the 4:35pm game. That’s not THAT much earlier than a 7:05 game. Guys could still go out drinking on Friday night and get back at 5am and sleep ’til noon and make it to the ballpark an hour or two later. Right? I predict you’ll be fine…but I’m not sure. Let me know, will ya?

Yeh, I’m also going tonight to the Nats-Cards game at RFK… we’ll see how that turns out too. I’m excited, RFK and Camden, it’s nice to go two different parks in two days…

DODGERS-
The Astros overall from what I can remember aren’t that good for autographs. All you can do is ask and be patient. Vizcaino is a nice guy as is Ausmus. Ensberg isn’t friendly and will just turn a deaf ear. Mind you I consider the fact that I am in New York and players react somewhat negatively to New Yorkers. Hope this helps.

George

LOVEG30@AOL.COM
Thanks for so much for the help.

Over the years these are Astros autographs I’ve gotten…

-Morgan Ensberg (When he was a rookie and no one knew who this guy was…)

-Jose Vizcaino

-Billy Wagner (When he was an Astro)

-Orlando Merced

-Roy Oswalt (When he was a young starter and before everyone knew who he was…)

-Carlos Hernandez

-Lance Berkman

GUYS THAT I WANT…

-Phil Garner

-Craig Biggio

-Jeff Bagwell (I’ve seen him sign so many times at our ballpark)

Mr. LOVEG30 or Zack:

What about Brad Lidge and Cecil Cooper?

Are they nice?

Sorry for the questions…

DOPPY-
One of my co-workers went to that game at RFK, too. Interesting ballpark, but a tough place for balls, eh?

GEORGE-

Thanks yet again for being a reliable fountain of information.

DODGERS-

You’re lucky to have gotten some of those guys to sign when they were young. I got A-Rod THREE time in one day inside Yankee Stadium right after he came up to the majors in ’95. I think he’s pretty much impossible now. Don’t apologize for asking questions. That’s why this “comment” feature is here. Lidge has always seemed pretty nice from a distance, but I’ve never had any contact with him? Can’t tell you a think about C.C. Sorry.

DODGERS-
Very impressed that you got those guys early in their careers, thats the way to do it. Brad Lidge has always been pretty cool with the fans, but I can’t say the same for Cecil Cooper. He was very tough as a player and as a coach in the minor leagues you were lucky to get him. He has eased up a little and signs from time to time, but you would have a better chance at getting Bagwell who is just simply a class act. I would love for Bagwell to come back for one more season and end his career on a high note. Hope this helps and keep us posted on your successes, always glad to help when I can.

George

The A-ROD signing THREE autographs for you is really amazing. It happened to me too, when Josh Beckett came up in the big leagues, and it was like his third week and they played at Dodger Stadium. He just pops up and signs a couple things for me. So, all the other fans ask him for an autograph, and surprisingly, he just comes up and SITS ON THE DUGOUT. The usher asks him to go back and that she would pass all the items to him, but he told the usher that “he wanted to see the Marlins fans”. Yup, that was like four years ago, and now, he is a really rude guy…

DODGERS-
Wow, Beckett is a rude guy now, but what really burns me is the idiotic usher. I am so glad Beckett denied her request. Why is it that ushers have some sort of power trip? They need to get over themselves and help people who really can’t find their seats.

George

Beckett’s always been nice to me. Two years ago, he gave me some sunflower seeds.

I once saw Paul Quantrill snap at a security guard (in Detroit) who was trying to boss him around. It was great.

Ushers have this thing where they think that without them, the stadiums wouldn’t function properly. They enjoy making sure that fans don’t get foul balls, they don’t get autographs, and they don’t get game used equipment from players. Most of them don’t even enjoy baseball, so its miserable for them to head out to the ballgame. So, I guess that explains why, they are so grump and bossy, because they have nothing better to do…

I’ve encountered some genuinely nice ushers over the years, but yeah, everything you said sounds about right. It always seems that larger cities have ruder/stricter stadium employees, but I suppose that’s to be expected. You just have to roll with it; the alternative is to stay away and let them win.

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