5/23/06 at Shea Stadium

The game went 16 innings. I didn’t get home ’til 1:31am. It’s now 2:03am. I’m beyond tired, so let’s get right to it…

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After Gate C opened at 4:40pm, I got four quick balls in the RF Loge, and all of them were thrown. The first was from Alay Soler. The second was a homer that landed in the Mets bullpen, narrowly missing some random employee dude. The only reason why it missed him is that I shouted “Heads up!!!” He rewarded me by retrieving it and tossing it up. It was another 2005 All-Star Game ball. I love that the Mets are still using them in BP. Chad Bradford tossed me my third ball (another from the All-Star Game), and the fourth came from the bullpen catcher. I don’t know his name. Until recently, Dave Racaniello had the job, but I haven’t seen him since April.

Ball #5, another of the All-Star variety, was hit by Carlos Beltran. It was a foul homer that landed in the aisle and bounced toward the back of an empty section. I was the first one there, but some other fans were right behind. Figuring that the ball would probably be trickling down the steps, I started climbing over rows, right in the middle of the section, rather than taking the quicker route up the steps. It paid off.

By 5:40pm, I’d made my way down to the first row behind the Mets’ dugout. As BP was ending, I got Jose Valentin to throw me a(nother All-Star) ball. He fired it pretty hard from about 50 feet away. I reached a foot to my right and gloved it.

“I’m glad you caught that,” said the woman standing beside me.
“Me too.”

Less than a minute later, I asked Mets third base coach Manny Acta for a ball as he headed off the field.

“Another one?!” he said.

Damn. He finally recognized me. I knew the day would come. He’d thrown me 11 balls since 2003. But…that didn’t stop him from pulling a brand new All-Star ball out of his back pocket and lobbing it to me.

Sweet.

I had seven balls, and the Phillies were just starting BP. I started thinking about reaching double digits–and that’s when my luck ran out. The stadium was packed, and I just wasn’t getting the bounces. On two separate occasions, guys standing right next to me got balls…THAT THEY HAD DROPPED. One of the guys offered to sell me the ball for ten bucks.

The Field Level was dead, so I headed back up to the Loge in LF and managed to get a ball from Pat Burrell. He didn’t know which fan had yelled, so when he whirled to throw it, it could’ve gone to anyone. Thankfully, he paused just long enough to spot my tattered Phillies cap.

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That was it for batting practice. I got shut out at the dugout, and I was denied along the third base line before the game (though I did get Ryan Howard’s autograph on a Phillies ticket from 2005).

A particular security guard (who has often hassled me) spotted me in the first row and walked over. “So now you’re a movie star, huh?”

I couldn’t tell if he was being sarcastic, so all I said was, “Let’s not get carried away.”

I must’ve said the right thing because he gave me a nod and, for once, didn’t kick me out of the section.

After the national anthem, my real mission began: getting a foul ball. I’d gotten one at each of my last three games. One more would tie my personal record.

I started in the LF corner on the Field Level because my favorite sections in the Loge were sold out. In the top of the first, Bobby Abreu lofted a long fly nearby. I raced down the steps from the main aisle…the fans were bobbling it…and in the ensuing scrum, I somehow managed to grab some guy’s pizza instead of the ball which was still bouncing all over the place. I’d JUST missed it. I think it might’ve even touched my arm. I cursed all the way to the bathroom and washed my hands.

A few more balls were hit near-ish, but the aisle was too clogged for me to get there in time. After the third inning, when I’d figured most fans had found their seats, I headed up to the Loge and did my running-back-and-forth thing. (Third base side for lefties, first base side for righties.)

Before long, I had ANOTHER close call. Someone hit a foul tip–I forget who, and it doesn’t matter because I didn’t get it–that ricocheted like mad, right at my feet. Usually, I get these balls, but for some reason, it just wasn’t happening. I went all out, though, but all I ended up with was a skinned knee and a bloody thumb.

Despite the lack of foul balls, it was a great game.
The Mets fell behind, 2-0, in the top of the first and tied it in the fourth.
They fell behind, 6-2, in the fifth and trimmed the deficit to 6-5 in the sixth.
They were losing, 8-5, in the seventh…and I still didn’t have a game ball.

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I needed extra innings in a BIG way…so when Jose Reyes tied the game with a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth, I went bonkers.

In the top of the 10th, Jimmy Rollins floated a foul tip 10 feet over my head and to the right. I knew it was gonna hit the facade of the Press Level, so I weaved past a couple fans in the crowded aisle and darted to the spot where it had a chance of dropping down.

BANG!!!

The ball hit the metal and came down fast. I reached up through half a dozen hands and caught it precariously in the palm of my glove. Several people tried to grab it, but I got my bare hand on it just in time, and it was mine! Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh baby. It felt too good for words.

For the rest of the night, people were coming up to me and asking, “Hey, aren’t you the foul ball guy?” and “Weren’t you just on TV?”

One guy asked if he could have his picture taken with me. “Are you serious?” I asked. He was, so I made him wait ’til the third out before I reached into my bag and grabbed three balls with each hand for the photo. Good stuff. No autograph requests, though.

Phillies reliever Ryan Madson threw 105 pitches, the last of which yielded a walk-off job by Beltran.

Final score: Mets 9, Phillies 8.

I was hoping for the game to keep going. I wanted another foul ball. I wanted to reach double digits. But I’ll take it.

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STATS:

• 60 balls in 7 games this season = 8.6 balls per game.

• 434 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 60 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 4 consecutive games with at least one game ball

• 93 lifetime game balls

• 2,812 total balls…ties me with George Sisler for 43rd place on the all-time hits list. (If you have no idea what I mean by that, click here.)

Shea is draining. I might skip today’s game. I don’t know. I’ll see how I feel when I wake up.

(Meanwhile, the deadspin.com mentions keep coming…)

27 Comments

Did you see the new “Ballhawk” blog? I think it might be the guy who ripped you earlier

Yeah, I’ve seen it…interesting theory, but I’m gonna have to say, “I doubt it.” John and I have known each other for years (through emails) and gotten along just fine, so I doubt he’d suddenly turn on me. Anyway, I’ve moved on.

Hey Zack,

Last nights Jays game was pretty good, BP was only 45 minutes and I only had a chance to see the Rays but it was all good. I got a ball quickly from Travis Harper and decided to give it to my friend becuase he asked Harper for it and I was the one who got it. Anyway he said if he got another he’d give it to me. Anyway after 20 minutes he finally got a ball from who I think was Chad Harville. So that was it for then, cause most of the fould balls went off the seats into the field and the players wouldn’t give it to fans. Minutes later a homer went into the bullpen. I peeked around the corner and told my friend I can use the glove trick to retrive it. After 5 minutes of hoisting my glove into the bullpen and recieving many questions on what I was doing I caught the ball and sections around me went up with cheers and congrats. After I got the ball several people came up to me and asked me how I did it and I showed them (hope you don’t mind). But the thing I can’t forget is that your known in Canada. SOme guy came up to me and asked me if I was the ball guy and I told him no, however I did mention your blog to him. So it was an eventful day and I love the glove trick. 2 balls isn’t bad for me (4 in total now) and 1 that my friend got, so 3 balls last night.

Zack-

the new bullpen catcher’s name is BOB NATAL. i believe racaniello had some sort of surgery amd is recovering from that.

but sweet game.

im going 5/30 (Tues.) against arizona and i might go the night before 5/29 (Mon.) hope to see you there

Dude,

You’re driving me batty with getting all those All Star balls.

Hey, I’m headed to Ameriquest on Friday. 1st day of vacation from school (I’m a teacher, heck yeah!). So, it’s nothing but fun and snagging in the summer time.

Hey man Great game I was walking all over the park and I still couldent find you,

Total-6 balls

JIMMY-
Nice account of your day. Congrats on doubling your collection and on the successful use of the trick. I don’t mind that you’re telling people how to use it since you live in another country…no, but seriously, that’s fine, but the more people you tell, the more you’ll end up having to compete with. I’m glad to know that people there have heard about me. Thanks for letting me know.

JONELI-

Bob Natal? Not possible. I know who that is…the guy who used to be with the Marlins…or was it the Expos? But this other guy from yesterday was MUCH younger. He looked like he was fresh out of college. Are you SURE? I’ll be at Camden on the 30th (weather permitting), but I should see you on the 29th.

ROSENDA-

I thought of you as I was getting all those All-Star balls. Sorry, dude. Just wunna them thangs. Vacation! Nice!

ALBERT-

How’d you miss me? You knew where I was gonna be at every second of the day…no? Oh well, six balls is great. Congrats.

im very sure

i think the grocery man can back me up on that one

but it could have been a different catcher, but natal is the main one

Grocery Man, where art thou?

dude i saw you catch the foul tip off of jimmy rollins! congrats on the game!i knew that you would love the extra innings and i personally wanted it to go past 18 innings

WaitWaitWait, were you there?! Where were you sitting? I can’t imagine that my catch would’ve made it onto TV because it’s not a section that the cameras show too often.

Just got back from the Astros-Nationals game… I’ll post tomorrow if I get around to it…

http://twinslove.mlblogs.com

Cool. I’ll look for it. Hope you had a great night.

Hey Zack, were the “Dream Seats” above the grassy area in place, or were those just for the Yankees series. How about the on field boxes between the dugout and the plate?

The “Dream Seats” are still there. I hate them. The other on-field boxes are gone.

Hey Zack –

Read the first comment and I can assure you that it was not me that left the mean words. I know that you get your balls your way and I get mine my way. This week I am working on 4,700 TOTAL balls caught which includes all MLB games regular season, playoffs and World Series as well as Spring training workouts and games and minor league games.

Still looking for that elusive 100th Game Home Run as well.

Just an idea but maybe give your readers a little insight on who I am so they know that for us it’s not about I got more than you or whatever but it is fun to know that there are two guys with the same hobby that get there balls in different ways and just have a lot of fun talking about it!

Good job on the 9 balls too!

If I have a good homestand at Angel Stadium this week I am guessing that I will hit 4,700 total balls caught as well as 2,800 balls at MLB games. Maybe an outside chance I could get game HR # 100 as well!

One more thing, if anyone that reads your MLBlog is on the west coast and might be at the Angels game this Friday I am giving away one of those nice 2005 All Star Balls to the 1st person that finds me! …. hope ya don’t mind me sticking this in as well

http://theballhawk.mlblogs.com

John-

Thanks for checking in. You’re right…we each have our own way of collecting balls, so I’m really not concerned about all this.

I think the people who’ve been reading this blog already have a good idea of who you are. And since you’ve shared the link to your blog (which is fine), they know how to find you in case they want to know more.

Good luck reaching all your milestones!

Hey Zack … just out of curiosity how many Other balls have you caught? Minor league, spring training etc?

I’ve only been to about half a dozen spring training games…so…probably about 60 balls there.

As for the minors, I’ve only been to…hmm…I have no idea. Twenty games at the most, not counting the summer when I worked for the Boise Hawks. So maybe another 100 balls or so.

haha no im not crazy enough to fly to new york to watch a game, (only against teh red sox though :]) but i was watching the game on extra innings, and i saw you

Phew. I was gonna say…

But man, I can’t believe I made it onto TV in *that* section. I mean…the second deck behind home plate? How often do you see the people sitting there? Anyway, cool.

Zack do you know if there was a special/ commerative baseball used for the interleague games or the subway series at Shea this past month?

Hey, Nelson-

I’m not sure, but I don’t think so. Just plain old MLB balls, as far as I know.

Yo.

Bob Natal became a coach in the Mets minor league system this year and was called up to serve as their bullpen catcher when Dave Racaniello had to leave to have surgery. I have no idea if he is still doing the job right now. Given the situation it would not be crazy for the Mets to not have a definitive person in the position. I’m sure Zack would recongize Bob Natal. It is safe to assume it was someone else.

Bob Natal was born on November 13, 1965. There’s no way that the guy in the Mets bullpen is 40 years old. No way he’s 30. Possibly not even 25. So unless there’s more than one Bob Natal…

Hey Albert, you think you could email me some pics of the balls you snagged, or any pics you took of you/and the balls at the game? Also, how’d you miss Zack?

PS who tossed you the balls?

PPS you should update your blog with the outings you have.

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