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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
• 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
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…)