October 2005

FINAL STATS — 2005

The World Series is over, and my final ball-snagging stats are in.No flowery descriptions–just a bunch of categories and lists.

Ready?
Let’s do this…

2005 TOTALS:
• 43 games attended (including three without batting practice)
• 8 stadiums
• 321 balls
• 7.5 balls per game
• Most balls at one game: 17
• Fewest balls at one game: 3 (twice)
• 10 game balls
• 4.3 games per game ball
• (3.4 games per game ball if adjusted for all the games I had to leave early)

BALLS BY MONTH:
• April — 20
• May — 38
• June — 49
• July — 36
• August — 79
• September — 94
• October — 5

BALLS BY STADIUM:
• Shea — 199
• Yankee — 41
• Camden — 24
• Minute Maid — 19
• Citizens Bank — 17
• Great American — 8
• Fenway — 7
• RFK — 6

BALLS BY SOURCE:
• Thrown — 214
• Hit — 52
• Glove trick — 49
• Found — 6

BALLS BY PORTION OF THE DAY:
• Batting practice — 253
• Pregame (not during BP) — 37
• During games (not to be confused with “game balls”) — 23
• After games — 8

SHEA STADIUM:
• 26 games attended
• 199 balls
• 7.7 balls per game

YANKEE STADIUM:
• 7 games attended (and I was miserable at all of them)
• 41 balls
• 5.9 balls per game

STADIUMS OUTSIDE OF NYC:
• 10 games attended
• 81 balls
• 8.1 balls per game (I figured this one out without the calculator!)

RECORDS:
• 321 balls in one season
• 621 balls in two consecutive seasons
• 35 consecutive games with at least four balls (streak over…thanks a lot, Cincinnati)
• Most balls in one game at Yankee Stadium: 10

FIRST-TIME ACCOMPLISHMENTS:
• 10 or more balls in back-to-back games at two different stadiums
• 10 or more game balls in back-to-back seasons
• Using my mom to get a ball (It was my birthday so that makes it okay.)

MILESTONES:
• 80th lifetime game ball — foul tip by David Wright on 5/31/05 at Shea Stadium
• 2,500th ball — foul tip by Marlon Anderson on 6/7/05 at Shea Stadium
• 100th ball of the season — hit by Jose Offerman in BP on 6/28/05 at Shea Stadium
• 400th consecutive game with at least one ball — 7/1/05 at Shea Stadium
• 2,600th ball — thrown by Brad Hennessey on 8/16/05 at Great American Ballpark
• 40th Major League stadium with at least one ball — 8/17/05 at Minute Maid Park
• 200th ball of the season — BP homer by Hideki Matsui on 8/22/05 at Yankee Stadium
• 50th lifetime game with 10 or more balls — 8/30/05 at Shea Stadium
• 1,000th lifetime ML/Bud Selig ball — thrown by Rheal Cormier on 8/30/05 at Shea Stadium
• 2,700th ball — thrown by Mike DiFelice on 9/20/05 at Shea Stadium
• 50th consecutive game with at least three balls — 9/26/05 at Citizens Bank Park
• 80th consecutive non-NYC game with at least one ball — 9/26/05 at Citizens Bank Park
• 500th ball outside of NYC — thrown by Tim Hamulack on 9/26/05 at Citizens Bank Park
• 300th ball of the season — thrown by Garrett Atkins on 9/29/05 at Shea Stadium
• Record-breaking 301st ball of the season — thrown by Clint Barmes two minutes later
• 10th game ball of the season — foul ball by Marlon Anderson on 9/30/05 at Shea Stadium

OTHER ITEMS COLLECTED:
• Wes Helms’ batting gloves on 8/3/05 at Shea Stadium
• Ryan Speier’s glove on 9/29/05 at Shea Stadium
• 3 pairs of lineup cards from consecutive games, starting with 8/15/05 at Great American Ball Park when Randy Winn hit for the cycle.
• 61 autographs (not counting the managers’ signatures on the lineup cards) for an average of 1.4 autographs per game): Jeremy Accardo, Bob Apodaca, Tony Armas Jr., Clint Barmes (thrice), Heath Bell, Jose Capellan, Tim Corcoran, Rheal Cormier, Bob Costas, Jeff DaVanon, Trent Durrington (twice) Steve Finley, Julio Franco, Jeff Francoeur, Geoff Geary, Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace, Danny Graves, Yamid Haad, Brad Hawpe, Jim Hendry, Brad Hennessey, Tim Hudson, Mike Jacobs (twice), Ted Lilly, Esteban Loaiza, Davey Lopes, Noah Lowry, Ryan Madson, Charlie Manuel, Kaz Matsui, Seth McClung, Melvin Mora, Juan Padilla, Jake Peavy, Andy Pettitte (twice), Boog Powell (twice), Jose Reyes (twice), Freddy Sanchez, Jae Seo, Ryan Shealy, Ryan Speier (thrice), Brett Tomko, Steve Trachsel (twice), Derrick Turnbow, Daryle Ward, Chris Welsh, Brad Wilkerson, Preston Wilson, Eric Young, and Gregg Zaun

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LIFETIME TOTALS:
• 2,752 balls
• 89 game balls
• 507 balls outside of NYC
• 14 game balls outside of NYC
• 40 major league stadiums with at least one ball
• 746 players and coaches who’ve thrown balls to me (including 82 new ones this year)
• 606 games attended (scientific approximation…didn’t keep track early on cuz I’m thtupid)
• 54 games with 10 or more balls

CURRENT STREAKS:
• 427 total consecutive games with at least one ball
• 53 total consecutive games with at least three balls
• 290 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball
• 97 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least one ball
• 36 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least four balls
• 30 consecutive games at Yankee Stadium with at least two balls
• 80 consecutive games outside of NYC with at least one ball
• 75 consecutive games outside of NYC with at least two balls
• 8 consecutive seasons with at least 100 balls
• 7 consecutive post-season games with at least one ball
• 7 consecutive seasons with at least one game ball
• 7 consecutive seasons with at least one game in which I caught two game balls

TYPES OF BALLS:
• 1,107 major league
• 1,060 National League
• 523 American League
• 34 no-logo balls (awful)
• 13 from the 2000 World Series
• 5 from the 2000 All-Star Game
• 4 from “Serie de los Expos de Montreal
• 3 from the 2001 World Series
• 3 from the 2002 All-Star Game

NOTE: I caught the World Series and All-Star Game balls in subsequent years during BP.

BALLS BY YEAR (GAME BALLS IN PARENTHESES):
• 1990 —- 4
• 1991 —- 14
• 1992 —- 128 (9)
• 1993 —- 218 (14)
• 1994 —- 201 (6)
• 1995 —- 273 (8)
• 1996 —- 177 (5)
• 1997 —- 59
• 1998 —- 192
• 1999 —- 251 (7)
• 2000 —- 163 (6)
• 2001 —- 134 (5)
• 2002 —- 149 (5)
• 2003 —- 168 (4)
• 2004 —- 300 (10)
• 2005 —- 321 (10)

• Average season: 172 balls including 5.6 gamers

AVERAGE ATTENDANCE FOR GAMES I ATTENDED:
• 1990 —- n/a
• 1991 —- n/a
• 1992 —- n/a
• 1993 —- 25,061
• 1994 —- 25,044
• 1995 —- 21,111
• 1996 —- 19,675
• 1997 —- 21,409
• 1998 —- 26,949
• 1999 —- 30,116
• 2000 —- 29,524
• 2001 —- 26,678
• 2002 —- 34,421
• 2003 —- 28,407
• 2004 —- 28,094
• 2005 —- 34,075

• Average number of fans who get in my way every game: 26,965

That’s pretty much it, at least for now. I could go on and on and slice-n-dice my stats a thousand different ways, but it’s almost 7am. I should probably start thinking about going to bed.

Get your stats ready…

In a few more days, when the World Series ends and the 2005 season is officially over, I’m going to compile ALL my ball-snagging stats, so get ready for some numbers about this year, previous years, and my entire collection–plus various streaks, feats, records, averages and totals. When I post my big stats entry, feel free to share your own stats in the “comments” section. Hopefully, other people will do the same, and we’ll all discuss it in true geek fashion.

As for the Series, my original prediction was “Sox in seven.” But now, with a 2-0 lead, it looks like Ozzie and his boys are gonna wrap it up sooner than that. Of course, I don’t REALLY care who wins. All I’m thinking (and cursing) about is what it must’ve felt like for the fan who caught Podsednik’s walk-off homer.

Please tell me it wasn’t Shaun Dean.

Shaun Dean

I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve e-mailed me links to articles about Shaun Dean.

“Have you heard about this guy?!” Yes.
“Thought this might be of interest…” It is.
“Can you believe he just GAVE the balls away?!” Yup.
“What would you have done with the balls?” Dunno.

Shaun was obviously in a tough spot after his improbable catches. He must’ve felt some serious pressure to give the balls back to the Astros–and he did.

But why?

“For the sanctity of a sport played by multi-millionaires on the site formerly known as Enron Field?!”

That’s what my friend Ben said. Ben would’ve sold the balls and thinks that Shaun is a “chump” for not doing the same.

Lots of other people agree.
And lots of other people disagree.

If Shaun HAD sold them, he would’ve been raped by the national media and made to look like a selfish, money-hungry, unpatriotic jerk. (Yes, unpatriotic. This is our national pastime, after all.)

That’s not really fair, is it?
What’s wrong with trying to make a buck?
Or 100,000 of them?
Or more…

Remember Phil Ozersky? He was the 26-year-old research scientist who made $3 million by catching–and then selling–Mark McGwire’s 70th home run in 1998.

Can you blame him?

If Shaun had wanted to cash in, what would’ve been the big deal?
Why is it a big deal that he didn’t?
Some people are givers. Some people are takers. That’s what makes the world go ’round.

Just because YOU would’ve sold the balls doesn’t make HIM a chump.
And just because he gave them back doesn’t make him a hero.

I applaud his decision, not because it was “the right thing to do,” but because it was, indeed, HIS decision. Presumably, he did what made him feel good. End of story.

I want to give my official “congrats” to Shaun Dean for making two unbelievable catches and getting to live my dream. Have you seen his MLBlog yet? I mean, the guy had his own press conference.

The Puck Collector?!

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Last night, I got a last-minute invitation from a great friend to see a Rangers-Devils game at Madison Square Garden…so I gave up my plan to watch Game 2 of the ALCS…and headed uptown straight from work…and got there right before the 3rd period.
Before long, I found myself thinking about what it would take to catch a puck. (I’ve never caught a puck. This was only my second NHL game.) Then I realized I wasn’t sitting on the end of my row. What if a puck flipped up over the plexi-glass? I would’ve been boxed in and screwed.

I enjoyed the game. I really did, and it surprised me because I’ve always hated hockey–not because it’s hockey but because it interferes with the baseball season. I love the middle of summer, right after the NBA Finals and before the NFL pre-season, when baseball reigns supreme. I can flip on “SportsCenter” or ESPN Radio and instantly get my fix. But anyway, last night’s hockey was surprisingly entertaining, undoubtedly, in part, because I only had to watch the final 20 minutes and got to do so from a fancy-schmancy seat in the fourth row where I could actually follow the puck…which never did make it over the glass.

I imagine it would be tough to be a puck collector. How many pucks enter the stands? I don’t know. Not many, apparently.

I’ll stick to baseballs.

Thank you for attending tonight’s game. Please drive carefully and arrive home safely.

Boohoo
Well…
If the Yankees had won last night, I was really gonna try to get a ticket for Game 3 of the ALCS. But now, without any more baseball in New York City, it looks like my record season of snagging is done. (Thank God.)

Once the World Series is over and I’m absolutely sure that I won’t be going to any more games, I’ll start compiling all my stats.

Two other things…

1) In case you haven’t heard, a fan in Houston named Shaun Dean caught TWO home runs during Sunday’s 18-inning win over the Braves. Click here to see one of the many articles that’ve already been written about it, and click HERE to check out his brand new MLBlog. I am officially jealous.

2) MLB handed out awards for various MLBlogs, and mine received some love. Here’s the story.

That’s right, keep raining and keep losing. See if I care.

Rain_4Today’s Yankees-Angels ALDS game has been rained out, which is fine by me since I’ll be at work from 6pm to midnight.

The game has been rescheduled for tomorrow evening, but I already have other plans.

Therefore, my only chance of catching some playoff action–in person–lies with the Yanks’ ability to win the next two games and return to NYC next week for the ALCS.

Does this mean I’m now supposed to root for the Yankees?

I think not.

Post-season snagging?

I’m trying to find my way into Yankee Stadium for at least one playoff game. Could even be tomorrow, but that’s unlikely. One of my favorite people in the world is finally visiting NYC. He’s a HUGE baseball fan, and he’s never been to Yankee Stadium, and he has a source who might be able to come through with a few tickets, and blah blah. I’ve heard this story a million times, and it always has the same ending: someone more important gets the tickets. Someday, I hope to be the important one, or better yet, to be the guy who decides who gets the tickets so I can give them to myself. Anyway, if this “source” doesn’t come through, I might just call a ticket broker.

Or not.

Yes, it’s playoff baseball–woo hoo–but this IS Yankee Stadium after all. I’m not dying to pay $300 (or whatever it ends up being) “just to get in the ballpark” and then have to sit in the second-to-last row in the upper deck behind the left field foul pole.

I like Manny. I’m sorry that his team is about to get swept, but if there’s one good thing that comes out of it, it’s that the tickets to a potential Yankees-White Sox ALCS will be much cheaper.

On another note…
Did anyone see that fan at Angel Stadium TRY to interfere with Garret Anderson in Game 1 of the ALDS? It truly boggles my mind. Who are these idiot losers who get to sit in the front row? And why are they all so lame that they can’t catch (or in this case even make contact with) balls hit right to them?

10/1/05 at Shea Stadium (blog version)

I took my friend Lia to Shea on Saturday.It was my 26th and final Mets game of the season.
It was her first time there…ever.

(This was the second time she’d ever joined me for a game. The first was on 6/15/05 at Yankee Stadium.)

We reached the ticket windows at 4:25pm, only 15 minutes before Gate C would be opening.

I tried to buy two seats in Loge section 5 row A–the ideal spot for foul tips–but the entire row was sold out.

I tried for section 4. That was sold out, too.

I gave up on the Loge and asked for two seats on the Field Level in the first row behind the main aisle, anywhere in the 250s (the night before, my dad and I were in box 254), but the closest available seats were in 264–about 50 feet further away from home plate. Not bad. Not great. I didn’t have time to request any other sections, so I bought ‘em. (NOTE: Remember 254.)

There were a few hundred people already lined up at the gate. Luckily, I spotted a familiar face near the front of the line and was able to sneak up there with Lia. That saved us at least five minutes, but it ended up not making a difference because the Mets weren’t taking batting practice. I have no idea why. Maybe they were content with the three runs they’d scored the night before and felt their hitting was good enough.

basketofballs.jpg

At least the batting cage was set up, along with all the protective screens. That, in addition to the basket of balls sitting on the warning track in front of the 3rd base dugout, meant the Rockies WOULD be hitting.

I put on my Rockies cap and headed over there. Hitting coach Duane Espy was playing catch with a(n overprivileged) little kid. When they finished, neither of them gave me the ball. A few minutes later, bullpen catcher Mark Strittmatter and some other random guy (with very little athletic ability) started throwing. No ball from them either. Finally, All-Star closer Brian Fuentes stepped out of the dugout and walked over to the basket.

“Hey, Brian,” I said. “Any chance you might be able to spare one ball?”

He tilted the bucket aside and took a quick peek at the basket. “Sorry,” he said, “we’re all out.”

Then he grabbed a ball and flipped it to me.

My new favorite player of all time (that would be Ryan Speier) popped out of the dugout and started signing autographs near the photographers’ box. I hopped over a few railings and got him to sign a ticket stub from September 29th–the game when he gave me his glove–and showed it to one of my autograph-collecting friends.

He shook his head. “You should’ve had him write ‘To Zack, enjoy the glove.’” Damn! Why hadn’t I thought of that?

Luckily, there wasn’t anything happening on the field, and there were only a handful of fans asking for his autograph, so he didn’t mind signing another one for me.

“That’s Z-A-C-K,” I told him before holding my breath, hoping that he wouldn’t somehow mess up.

Ryanspeierautograph

Perfect!

I told him that the picture we’d taken the other night hadn’t come out well, so we tried again.

Zackryanspeier2

Still not great, but it’ll do.

Several Mets pitchers were already playing catch in right field. Lia joined me for the trek around the stadium and up to the Loge, and within a few minutes, I made my request for the ball.

zacklogecornerspot1.jpg

Roberto Hernandez looked up and snapped, “How many balls do you NEED?!”

(Good thing the season was almost over. The entire team was starting to recognize me.)

One of the Mets’ strength/conditioning coaches obviously didn’t know what Hernandez was talking about because he fired a ball up to me. That was #2 on the day. I just needed ONE more to keep my three-per-game streak intact, but I really wanted to end up with at least four. I was pretty sure that this would be my last game of the year, and I didn’t want to end with a round number of balls. If I finished the day with three, my grand total would be stuck at 2,750 for the next six months. Two thousand, seven hundred and fifty. Yuck. Too perfect. I wanted a more random number so people wouldn’t think I was approximating.

The Rockies were already warming up in left field. I had to get over there fast, so I told Lia exactly where I’d be and took off. She caught up with me three minutes later. I’d been telling her all day that she could easily get a ball if she wanted one. All she had to do was…hmm…how can I paraphrase this and keep it clean…um…let’s say…use her womanliness to her advantage. She wasn’t interested, so I asked if I could use her to get a ball (kind of like how I’d used my mom on my birthday), but she wasn’t up for that either. What a waste of being pretty.

JoseacevedoI had to come up with something out of the ordinary because left field was dead. The Rockies weren’t hitting anything into the seats, and the only player anywhere near the foul line–Jose Acevedo–was only tossing balls to little kids. He’d made eye contact with Lia several times, but she never took advantage by moving to the front row.

Finally, I asked Jose if he wanted to play catch. He’d been ignoring me for half an hour, but as soon as I said that, he tossed a ball right to me. I was surprised. The front row was fairly crowded. Playing catch was a bit risky in terms of everyone’s physical safety, but that wasn’t my problem. I threw the ball back and Jose jumped out of the way and pointed toward home plate. Stupid me. I hadn’t waited to see where the batter hit the ball. I made the “my bad” gesture and pointed at the plate to convince him that I understood the situation and wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

We continued playing catch.

It wasn’t nearly as fun and intimate as the throwing I’d done with Heath Bell–at one point, Acevedo tossed the ball back and forth a few times with another fan–but it was still pretty cool. We only made a couple throws per minute because we waited for each pitch, and he had to chase after the balls that were hit down the line. During one of the pauses, I handed my camera to Lia and set it on movie mode. She ended up getting great footage (but no pictures) of several throws, including his final toss after he indicated that I could keep the ball. I wish I could somehow link the video into the blog, but I’m too dumb to know how to do that. Sorry.

Anyway, that was my third ball of the day. The streak was alive, but my grand total was now 2,750. I needed one more ball, and since I’d milked the Field Level for all it was worth, I went up to the Loge. (Lia stayed behind.) After about 10 minutes, Todd Greene threw me a ball. Phew. I’d asked him for it while he was still throwing and then kept my mouth shut. When he finished, I didn’t even have to shout his name again. He just looked right up at me, and when our eyes met, he chucked it.

I went back downstairs to kill the remaining few minutes of BP with Lia. Moments later, a home run plopped into the gap behind the left field wall.

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Normally, when balls land there, the cranky old bullpen security guard gets them. Occasionally, he’ll give one to a little kid, but he usually pockets them when he thinks no one’s watching. He must’ve been in the bathroom–or maybe he simply didn’t hear the ball land–because he didn’t come out to get it. I probably could’ve snagged it with my glove trick from the first row of the Loge, 25 feet above, but the ball was all the way out near the corner of the section which, for some some reason, gets closed off during the second half of batting practice. (In other words, my favorite corner spot in the Loge is off limits every day because the ONE security guard who patrols that section decided that that’s how it would be…as if Shea Stadium isn’t bad enough on its own.) Two minutes later, another home run barely cleared the wall and thumped to its resting place right down the line. I knew I’d have a chance to get it if it would only stay there…but the bullpen guard immediately made an appearance. As soon as he entered the gap, he found the first ball that was sitting all the way out near the corner–and then he left! Apparently, he only HEARD the second ball, and when he found the first one, he assumed that was it. Ha! I ran back up to the Loge and peeked over the railing at the ball down below. Here’s what I saw:

ball2752glovetricklocation.jpg

The ball (which you can’t actually see here) was several feet out from the base of the Loge, so I had to lean way out, over the railing and over the edge of the Dunkin Donuts advertisement pane. From there, I lowered my glove between the panel and the light fixture. It was such a tight squeeze that I had to wait for my glove to spin to just the right angle to fit it through. And once I got it down there, the ball was wedged between a hose and the back of the outfield wall. It took several minutes to swing my glove gently back and forth and knock the ball into a better position where the glove could then drop over it unobstructed. Eventually, after half a dozen unsuccessful attempts, I got the ball to stick in the glove and began to lift it back up slowly and steadily. I had to wait once again for just the right moment barmeshawpeapodaca.jpgto lift it through the space between the light and the panel…and finally got it all the way up. That was ball #5.

It was only 6:15pm, and the Rockies were already running off the field. BP was ending 10 minutes early. If I’d been on the Field Level, I probably would’ve had time to run to their dugout, but I was stuck in the Loge and probably missed at least one ball as a result. It was a good thing I’d bought Field Level seats because, with BP now over, I needed my ticket stub to get back in. (What an obnoxious rule.)

I got three more autographs right before the game: Clint Barmes (who’s incredibly nice), Brad Hawpe, and pitching coach Bob Apodaca.

After missing out on all the pregame warm-up balls, I found Lia at our seats.

zacklia.jpg

During the game, a left-handed hitter sliced a foul ball that landed on the warning track and bounced onto the sloped grassy area between the seats and the field. I could’ve easily gotten it with my glove trick, but security wouldn’t let me. I was told I’d be “arrested for throwing objects on the field.” Lovely.

An inning later, another lefty sliced one 50 feet to my right. It wasn’t a pop-up. It was just a soft line drive, so I didn’t have time to get there before it bounced off some guy’s hands and got gobbled up by a lucky fan who happened to be standing 20 feet ahead of me in the aisle. The guy who dropped it was sitting in box 252 row A, three feet from where I’d been sitting 24 hours earlier with my dad. Within the next few innings, foul tips landed in row A of both sections 4 and 5 in the Loge. I’m telling you, I seriously think I’m jinxed.

The game flew by, and I wasn’t really paying much attention. I was too busy enjoying Lia’s company and complaining about all the foul balls that I should’ve had.

I tried to get a ball from the ump after the game, but he didn’t give any away…and so, my fifth ball of the day–the one that I got with my glove trick–ended up being the final ball of my record-breaking season. Here it is (as seen from two different angles):

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I can live with “2752″ as my number for the next six months. I think 2751 or 2753 would’ve sounded better–I don’t like the double “two”–but I’ll take it.

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STATS:

• 321 balls in 43 games this season = 7.5 balls per game

• 427 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 53 consecutive games with at least three balls

• 2,752 total balls…moves me into 46th place on the all-time hits list ahead of Luke Appling (2,749). Next up is Vada Pinson (2,757).

I’ll provide a whole bunch of in-depth stats when I’m absolutely sure that my ball-snagging season is done. I don’t have any plans to attend the playoffs, but you never know.

As for the future of this blog…
Some of you have asked me to continue writing throughout the winter, and I appreciate that. Somehow, I’ve managed to blog every day since my first entry on April 21st, but the time has come for me to take a break. It won’t necessarily be a long break–I might wake up tomorrow and feel compelled to crank out another entry–but I simply can’t continue at this pace (because I’ll die). There are still plenty of things that I want to discuss. Just don’t freak out if I’m not doing it every day.

This has been an amazing season for me. Thanks for being a part of it.

More later…

10/1/05 at Shea Stadium (journal version)

When I finally get around to writing about yesterday’s Mets game in my personal journal, it’ll go something like this:

Lia came over at 2pm. We ordered in bacon cheeseburgers from Big Nick’s and watched the first few innings of the Red Sox-Yankees game and left for Shea (her first time there) at 3:30pm. For whatever reason, the Mets didn’t take BP. Balls: #1 —> tossed by Brian Fuentes at the 3B dugout. #2 —> thrown by a Mets strength coach in the RF Loge. #3 —> thrown by Jose Acevedo in the LF corner after we played catch for a couple minutes…Lia got a 30-second video of it on my digital camera! #4 —> thrown by Todd Greene in the LF Loge. #5 —> glove trick from the LF Loge. And that was it. Had some frustrating moments during the game that’re not worth writing about, but it was great to be with her and just sit in one spot and not really worry about it. 2,752 total balls (including a record-breaking 321 from this season)…not a bad number to last me through the winter. 427 consecutive games with at least one ball. 53 consecutive games with at least three. I got five autographs: Bob Apodaca, Clint Barmes, Brad Hawpe, and Ryan Speier twice. I got him to write “To Zack, Enjoy the glove” on a ticket from THE game, and I got my picture taken with him again. Anyway, my season is done. Thank god.

Tomorrow, I’ll write the blog version…

9/30/05 at Shea Stadium

My dad and I have gone to three games together in the last three years.
In June of 2003, we visited Fenway Park.
In June of 2005, we made the trip to Philadelphia.
Yesterday, we went to Shea–and started off in right field.

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The stadium was almost empty during batting practice, but that didn’t make a difference because there wasn’t a single ball hit into the seats…so it was another day of begging.

The first person I asked was Mets bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello.

“How many balls do you need?!” he shouted from 100 feet away.

“All of them!” I yelled.

“What for?!” he asked.

“For fun!”

He didn’t throw me the ball. That’s what happens when guys recognize me. He’d never recognized me before. Not good.

Luckily, Victor Zambrano didn’t recognize me, so I was able to talk him out of a ball 10 minutes later.

I got another from Jae Seo by asking him in Korean, and less than a minute after that, I got my third ball of the day from Gerald Williams by calling him by his nickname: “Ice.”

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Juan Padilla came over and signed autographs. So did Seo who was so careless that he signed my ticket stub upside down and smudged it slightly as he handed it back. Thanks.

It was great to have my dad there. Not only did he get to watch me in action–and keep me well fed throughout the night–but he helped make peace with numerous ushers and security guards who’ve…let’s say…been rather difficult over the years. I love having him on my side.

Just before we headed off to the 1st base dugout for the end of the Mets’ BP, a teenaged kid approached and asked, “Are you Zack?”

“Yes,” I said. “You must be George.”

I was right. Who else could it have been? We’d been corresponding through the comments section on this blog all week. He asked if I’d be at Shea. I told him I would, and he found me. Pretty simple.

I like being recognized (as long as it’s not a by player or coach). I like people in general, and for that reason, I think I’d be a nice celebrity. I don’t consider myself famous, but I did get recognized quite a bit after my book came out in 1999. For a few years, I had fans coming up to me at every game I attended, even on the west coast and in Canada. Some of them even asked for autographs, including one lady who had me sign her glove right under Mark McGwire’s signature. It was pretty wild. Occasionally, people would see me running all over the place and ask if I’d seen “that kid on TV who collects balls.”

“I am that kid,” I’d say.

Some people wouldn’t believe me. That’s why I started carrying the bathtub pic in my wallet, not that I really have to prove myself, but it was just fun to get all kinds of reactions.

Anyway…
At around 5:30pm, I headed to the dugout and my dad followed. When the Mets came off the field, I got three balls from Mets coaches within a one-minute span. The first was Jerry Manuel. Then Howard Johnson. Then Manny Acta (who’s now thrown me nine balls since 2003). These guys all came back to the dugout 30 seconds apart. I’d squeezed into the front row, right above the gap in the protective fence where I knew they’d all have to enter. George was impressed. So was my dad, but there really wasn’t anything fancy about it.

The Rockies had started BP, so I went to left field. Fifteen wasted minutes later, I ran up to the Loge and my dad came with me.

I asked J.D. Closser for balls several times, and he kept ignoring me. Finally, I was like, “C’mon, just one ball and I’ll shut up, whaddaya say?”

He looked up and said, “I say no.”

“Is there any way I can get a ball from you guys?”

“Yeah,” he said, “you can catch one.”

“But this stadium [is bad]!” I shouted. “There aren’t any balls hit up here!”

“That’s not my problem,” he said, and that was the end of it. I couldn’t tell if he was being playful or flat-out snotty, but at least he acknowledged my existence.

A home run barely cleared the left field wall and dropped into the gap 25 feet below. After five minutes, I was able to snag it with my glove trick. (If you don’t know what I mean by the “glove trick,” read my entry from April 26th.) Even better than the ball itself was that my dad had seen me get it. He was impressed. So was Jose Acevedo.

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That was the only ball I got during the entire Rockies’ BP. I made it to the 3rd base dugout just before all the players and coaches came off the field, and I got a ball–my eighth of the day–from Omar Quintanilla. Actually, I didn’t know who it was until my friend Adam (A.K.A. “The Grocery Man“) identified him for me. When I looked at the ball, I was shocked to discover that Quintanilla had already signed it. That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten a ball that was already signed. The only other balls I have that’re signed are #’s 1,000 and 2,000 by the players who gave them to me…and a random ball that Charlie Sheen briefly got a hold of. Long story.

Two side notes:
1) Adam caught two balls yesterday.
2) Quintanilla is now the fourth “Q” player to have tossed me a ball. The others are Paul Quantrill, Ruben Quevedo, and Robb Quinlan. (On an even less exciting note, he’s the third Omar on my list, joining Daal and Infante.)

Okay, make that three side notes…
3) George got one ball. Actually, he caught two but handed one over to a little kid that it had specifically been thrown to.

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I didn’t catch any more balls before the game, but I did get two autographs: Clint Barmes and Luis Gonzalez.

“That’s an interesting signature,” I said to Barmes.

“Yeah, I know it’s not pretty, but that’s just how I’ve always done it.”

“Yeah, well you’ve always been an idiot.” (Just kidding. I didn’t really say that.)

My dad and I had great seats in shallow left field. I’d strategically picked them. We were in the first row behind the main aisle and on the end of the row so I could jump up and start running in any direction. It’s essential to have range. You never want to be trapped in the middle of a row because the odds of a ball coming right to you are very slim.

You may recall from yesterday’s entry that I really wanted a ball from Todd Helton. Why? Just to have a tangible connection to a player that I already liked. Well, with the right-handed Kris Benson on the hill, the left-handed Helton was back in the lineup. I knew that my only chance to get a ball from him was to sneak down to the dugout every inning and hope that the Mets would make the 3rd out on the ground–and that Helton (playing 1st base) would end up with the ball and take it back to the dugout and toss it into the crowd.

With two outs in the bottom of the 1st, I left my poor old dad in his seat and headed over to the dugout. Mike Piazza flied out to center fielder Matt Holiday. No ball for me.

With two outs in the bottom of the 2nd, I left my dad again. Jose Reyes grounded out to Gonzalez, who fired to Helton. This was it! No, it wasn’t! Helton tossed the ball 10 feet to my right. I’d guessed wrong and picked the wrong staircase. No ball once again.

No problem. With two outs in the bottom of the 3rd, I went back to the same staircase where I’d been, thinking that Helton would remember where he’d tossed the ball the previous inning–and toss it toward me instead. But David Wright ruined everything by striking out. No ball.

By the bottom of the 4th, Adam and a few other guys I know had joined me and my dad along the 3rd base line. After the Mets made the first two outs, I told them that I needed a groundout to end the Toddheltoninning–and I headed off. When Benson came up with two outs, I feared I’d be getting another inning-ending strikeout, but Byung-Hyun Kim walked him on five pitches. That brought up Reyes, who ended up hitting a come-backer. I was already down the steps before Helton made the catch and therefore was able to get right up to the front. Helton took the ball with him as he jogged off the field and he flung it in my direction from about 40 feet out. The long throw gave everyone plenty of time to try to jostle me out of position, but I held my ground and reached WAY out over the dugout roof and made the catch. I was psyched! Todd Helton. Future Hall of Famer. It felt great to make the triumphant return to the seats. I felt great in general. I had a goal, made a plan, and executed it. My dad deserves some credit. He never made me feel guilty for leaving him every inning. In fact, he’d encouraged me to run off and do my thing.

Three outs later, Marlon Anderson led off the bottom of the 5th by slicing a soft foul ball in my direction. Before it reached the peak of its arc, I was already racing through the crowded aisle to get as close as possible to its landing spot. The ball was falling short and curving to the right. I was about 15 feet away when I saw it land in the runway that connects the seats to the concourse. I figured there HAD to be someone there. Someone had to be heading to the bathroom or returning from the souvenir stand with a Mr. Met bobblehead, but when I rounded the corner, I couldn’t believe my eyes. The runway was empty, and the ball was just sitting at the bottom! I was all over it, even more psyched than before. Last year, I’d gotten 10 game balls (not counting game-used balls that are thrown to me, like the one from Helton). This Marlon Anderson ball was my 10th gamer of this year…it was the first time that I’d reached double digits in game balls in back-to-back seasons.

I hurried back up the runway, made eye contact with my dad 30 feet down the aisle, and held up the ball. I can’t even describe how amazing it felt. He couldn’t believe it, and neither could I. When that ball left Marlon’s bat, there had to have been at least 100 fans sitting closer to the runway than me. Maybe 200. Of course, they weren’t all sitting near aisles and staircases, but still, there were dozens of people who could’ve gotten there first if they’d been a little more with it.

The rest of the game flew by. I was having so much fun that I didn’t even realize that there was only one out to go until Adam questioned why I hadn’t yet gone to the dugout.

“Meet me behind home plate!” I shouted at my dad as I took off.

Instead of battling the mob at the Mets’ dugout, I tried a new strategy. I went to the runway directly behind home plate to try to get a ball from the home plate umpire as he walked off the field. Whoever it was, he tossed THREE balls into the crowd, but I didn’t get any of them. The only noteworthy thing that happened there was that I tore my pants on a jagged piece of metal on a railing. (That’s Shea for you.) But whatever. I had a fun night and ended up with ten balls.

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STATS:

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• 316 balls in 42 games this season = 7.5238095238 balls per game

• 426 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 52 consecutive games with at least three balls

• 89 total game balls

• 2,747 total balls…moves me into 47th place on the all-time hits list ahead of Barry Bonds (2,742) and Al Oliver (2,743). Next up is Luke Appling (2,749).

(If you have no idea why I’ve been comparing baseballs to base hits, click here.)

Later today, I’ll be attending my last game of the season (unless someone out there has a ticket to the playoffs that they’d like to give me or sell for a reasonable price)…

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