March 2006

The “glove trick”

Throughout this season (and beyond), you’re gonna hear me talking a lot about the “glove trick.” Some of you already know about this, but for those who don’t, here’s the story…

When I was eight, I saw a fan on TV using a fishing pole to lower an empty soup can over a ball that was sitting beyond his reach on the field below. The can descended…slowly…slowly…until it dropped over the ball, and when the guy lifted it, the ball was gone. Poof! Just like that. I couldn’t believe it, and the memory stuck.

Six years later, I started attending games regularly and began to drool over all the balls that rolled into the left field corner during batting practice at Yankee Stadium. I tried to make my own can, but it was clunky and rarely worked when I practiced with it at home. I brought it to one game in 1992, but BP was wiped out by a last-minute thunderstorm, and I gave up on the idea.

The following season, inspiration struck. Instead of a can with sharp edges and three-pound dumbbells tied to the top, all I needed was my glove, a rubber band, a Sharpie, and some string. I practiced in my room, and the thing worked. It was easy to set up and didn’t require materials that might be confiscated. I started getting more baseballs than ever. Fans always asked how I did it. Players often came over for a look. This is what they all wanted to know:

1) The materials. Tie the string to the handle of your glove and keep it tucked away in the palm when you’re not using it. It’s a bit uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it.

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2) Hook the band under the flap on the outside of your glove’s pocket. (If there’s no flap, you have two choices: improvise or get a new glove.)

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3) Stretch the band over the tip of your glove and prop the glove open with the Sharpie. (Without the Sharpie, the glove won’t stay open. Normal pens don’t work as well because they’re thin and sometimes slip through the spaces between the fingers. When you have everything set up, the space between the band and the tip of the glove needs to be slightly smaller than the ball.)

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4) Lower your glove over the ball. (At this point, you’ll be dangling the glove by the string. I’m just holding the glove itself so I could take a decent pic. Anyway, the glove’s weight forces the band to stretch around the ball. But first make sure that the band is not too tight or the ball won’t go in, or too loose or the ball won’t stay in. This takes practice.

Alliance’s Size 117B rubber bands work best for me.)

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5) It’s a delicate operation. Lift the glove slowly so the ball doesn’t fall out. (This is the view from below, complete with the ceiling light in the hallway outside my apartment. Notice how the band has stretched back to hold the ball in place.)

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A few years ago, Rick Reilly named this trick the “ZackTrap” in a story for Sports Illustrated, and Rosie O’Donnell had me perform it live on her show. Good times, yes, but I’ve also gotten a few lectures along the way from stadium security. Some ballparks don’t allow these kinds of contraptions, others have no problem with them, and a few have policies that fall somewhere in the middle. (For example, when I visited Oakland in 1999, security allowed the fans to fish for balls behind the outfield walls, but wouldn’t let us pluck them off the field.) It’s hard to keep track of the rules, especially when they vary from one usher to the next, so be careful and respectful and ask for permission first. Oh, and don’t tell anyone how the trick works. It’s a secret.

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Mets pre-season workout

A friend just gave me two tickets to a special Mets pre-season workout at Shea.
I didn’t even hear about this thing until a few days ago, probably because it’s (supposed to be) limited to season ticket holders. Heh heh.

Preseasonworkout

As you can see, it’s on Sunday, April 2nd. The gates open at 11:30am. That means I should be at Shea by 11am. That means I have to leave my place at 10am. That means I have to wake up by 9:30am. I consider 9:30am to be the middle of the night. But whatever. On Monday, I’ll be sleeping LATE and skipping work and watching baseball all day on TV.

Sleep aside, my big issue is this:

If I snag a few balls at this workout thing, should I count them in my collection?

What do YOU think?
I’m thinking no, the logic being that it’s pre-season and not even a game.

It occurred to me that if I snag a few and don’t count them, then I can keep one with me at all times during the regular season…for emergencies…like that time last year when Ron Villone tossed me a ball and then made me give it away to that dopey little kid when all the fans protested. That was just terrible. But if I’d had an extra ball with me, I could’ve given THAT one away and kept the one that I deserved. Get it?

In other news, I just learned that the Mets have already sold 2 million tickets for 2006. Good for them. Bad for me. Let’s do the math…2 million…that’s six zeroes…divided by 81 home games…equals…24,691 fans per game. Too many. Damn free-agent acquisitions.

Oh, and that second ticket is for Lia.

MLBlogosphere

Have you seen the new official/communal MLBlog? It’s called “MLBlogosphere,” and I was featured on it yesterday.

If you have any questions or comments about MLBlogs or want to learn more about your fellow bloggers, this is the place to go.

Bad dream

Had another snagging nightmare last night. I used to have them all the time back in 1992 and 1993 when I went to games almost every night. Nowadays? Not so much. But last night, it was bad…

I was on my way to the new Shea Stadium. It was drizzling, and I was running late. The skies did clear up at the last second, but I couldn’t find my way into the ballpark. Every gate was the wrong gate. The gates were closed when I knew they should’ve been open, or they were designated for employees and media personnel. I saw an entrance way up some steps. Not just ordinary steps, but museum steps. Government building steps. A sea of steps. When I reached the top, I was stopped by a HUGE bouncer-type guy in front of the glass doors. He wouldn’t let me in and sent me back down and around the side of another building to where I could enter. I couldn’t find the place he’d been talking about. I asked some people for directions. No one knew anything. Just then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a thick line of fans streaming into the ballpark. Hundreds of people were getting in ahead of me. I panicked. I didn’t know where I’d put my ticket. Turned out it was hiding in a seldom-used pocket, and I made it in, but then I couldn’t find the field level because the stadium was like a mall, with a gigantic concourse and stores and staircases and escalators and balconies and signs that seemed to lead nowhere. I saw one that said “Field Level” and had an arrow pointing to the left. I went left, but there were three choices of where to go, so I ran down an escalator, weaving in and out of the fans and shoppers who were just standing on it like they had nowhere to be. At the bottom, the space opened up to a lounge-type bathroom with leather couches in the middle and urinals against the walls. Dead end. I raced back up the escalator, and the concourse was completely different. No more “Field Level” sign, and I was trapped in a toy store. I made my way out and continued to sprint all over the place, back and forth through the concourse looking for signs, up and down stairs, in and out of stores, without any indication that I was even in a baseball stadium. Finally, I managed to find a runway and make it to the seats. I realized that I’d forgotten my hat of the visiting team. Batting practice was already well underway, and the stadium was crowded. I made my way down the left field foul line, once again struggling to move past all the people who were just standing around as if placed there by God to block me. I didn’t catch a single ball for at least an hour. It was dead. I was hatless, and the players were ignoring me. But then, right at the end of BP, a ball landed in my section, and a bunch of people scurried for it, and I saw the ball trickle out from below the pile-on, and I snatched it. Immediately, the whole section and then the whole stadium started to boo, accusing me of stealing it from a little kid. There weren’t even any little kids around me, so I decided to keep it. I looked down at the ball, and it was made of cloth. It was one of those mushy “ragballs” that gym teachers make kids use so they won’t kill themselves. I was stressing over whether or not to count this ball in my collection…

…and then I woke up.

Planning my season

I just combed through the Mets and Yankees schedules and penciled all the games that I might attend onto my calendar. (I never buy tickets in advance.)

Know this:
I’m not doing any day games.
I’m avoiding major promotions.
I’m not setting foot inside Yankee Stadium on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
I’m hoping to avoid Shea on weekends, too.
I’m not going to Yankees-Red Sox games.
I’m not going to Mets-Yankees games.
I’m (probably) not going to games during the first two weeks of the season.

What am I left with?

39 Mets games and 17 Yankees games.

I don’t like Yankee Stadium, and that’s an understatement. Of the 17 games I’ve selected, I might end up going to three.

PlannerOf the 39 Mets games, it’ll probably be raining for half a dozen, and if it’s wet, I’m not going. Of the 33 games remaining, I’ll probably have to work during another half dozen. Maybe more. So let’s say I’m down to 25. For at least five of them, I’ll probably have a much better offer (i.e., some lovin’), so that leaves 20. Then there’s my writing group, the NYC Scrabble Club, family gatherings, video game competitions, and various personal endeavors and activities not suitable for publication on MLBlogs. Some days, I might just NOT feel like going. I marked all six Mets games from September 18-23. Am I actually planning to go to six games in six days? Let me think about that. No.

So what does this mean, that I’m only going to 10 games this year? No, I’ll find my way to more than that. I know I’ll be going to Philly at least once by the end of May. I definitely want to go to Camden, maybe even twice, because that place is fuuuuun; if I could design my own ball-snagging playground, it would look something like that. I might go to one game at Fenway, but only if my friend Jules is still living in Boston in a few months. And then, at some point, I’ll be going to San Diego for at least two games, hopefully three, and possibly four. I’d do four games in four days at a new ballpark, but that much baseball in New York City is just unnecessary.

There’s a chance I’ll catch my 3,000th ball this year, but that’s not my goal. My goal is to have a life. If I can do that AND snag another 248 balls, great. If not, the milestone can wait ’til next season, or even 2008.

In order to catch 248 balls, I’d have to attend about 35 or 40 games, and I really don’t think that’s gonna happen. Then again, it might. At the very least, I’d like to add another 100 balls to my collection and keep my triple-digits streak alive; I’ve caught at least 100 balls every year since 1998.

Anyway…
It’s 2:38am, and I need to go bed.

Home Run No. 715

A friend just informed me that I’ve been mentioned in an article on deadspin.com.

Here’s the link.

I no longer “read it for the articles.”

PlayboySorry I haven’t written in such a long time. I get so busy with baseball during the season that I end up using these colder months to catch up on everything else. But anyway…
Two days ago, a fellow blogger made a comment about something he saw on my web site.

Let me summaraize, and then I’ll ask a question…

1. “Playboy” wrote a nasty little review of my first book in their August 2000 issue.

2. The last line, in case you’re too lazy to click the link above and read it for yourself, says, “Something tells us we’ll never see a book on another subject from this guy.”

3. I’ve always wanted to prove that statement wrong.

So here’s the question: Does a baseball book NOT about collecting balls qualify as another subject? Or do I have to write something that has absolutely nothing to do with the sport?

And for the record, I’ve never used a net. Idiots.

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