5/31/06 at Shea Stadium
The bottom of the second inning ended with a flyout to Diamondbacks center fielder Eric Byrnes. While the ball was in midair, I raced past the ushers and down the steps to the 3rd base dugout. I squeezed into the first row. I was the only fan with either a Diamondbacks hat or a glove. Byrnes approached on my left, ball in hand. I shouted his name. He instantly spotted me and underhanded the ball to me. As I reached out for it, the man on my left stood up and snatched it right in front of my glove. It was THAT kind of night. At least I only paid $5 to get in.
Thirteen minutes after Shea had opened for batting practice, Carlos Beltran lined a home run into the right field Loge level. That’s my spot. Normally, it’s empty for the first 45 minutes. Normally, I can waltz over and pick up such a ball. But on this day–because the Mets are in 1st place and because Pedro Martinez was facing the undefeated Brandon Webb–there were already a dozen other fans in the section. No ball for me.
Later, on the left field side, I had the Loge to myself while Orlando Hernandez was standing down below. Of course, no one hit a single ball his way. Ten minutes later, two kids showed up out of nowhere, and the batter hit the next ball into the corner. I shouted at El Duque. The kids shouted, too. They didn’t even have gloves. Guess who got the ball.
Right before the game, I went down to the Diamondbacks’ dugout to try to get a ball from the players who were doing some last-minute throwing. Just before they finished, a security guard recognized me and made me leave. (Dear Mets management: this is getting old.)
In the first inning, I wanted to grab one of the few empty seats behind the main aisle on the 3rd base side, but I held off because people were still arriving. Two minutes later, Chad Tracy fouled a high, lazy pop-up that landed RIGHT in the aisle where I would’ve been sitting. No one else even stood up to catch it, so I watched from the concourse behind home plate as the ball smacked the concrete and bounced deep into the seats.
In the 10th inning, I was back up in the Loge, hiding at the wrong end of my favorite section from an usher who’d kicked me out last time I was there. I wanted to slip into one of the empty seats at the end of the row, but the usher was standing nearby in the runway. I stayed out of sight and was plotting my move when Endy Chavez hit a foul tip to the EXACT seat where I wanted to be.
There were so many frustrating moments that on several occasions, I was tempted to leave and go home. The reason why I stayed is that I wanted to witness the much hyped pitchers’ duel. (Contrary to popular belief, I actually do enjoy watching baseball.) And what a duel it was.
Final score in 13 innings:
Mets 1, Diamondbacks 0
Did I get shut out? Hell no, but it was a slow day. Back when I was in the RF Loge, Billy Wagner threw me a ball from the warning track, and Steve Trachsel tossed one from the bullpen. Then, when the Mets finished BP, I got three balls at their dugout within a 30-second span. Jerry Manuel tossed me the first one (pictured here with the strange markings), and I got the other two so fast that I instantly forgot who gave me the second one. The third came from some BP assistant-type guy who’s not listed on the roster. I managed to snag one more ball–my sixth of the day–during the entire Diamondbacks’ batting practice. I was up in the Loge in left field and got it thrown by Luis Vizcaino. Ooh.
My best snagging took place during the seventh-inning T-Shirt launch. YEAH BABY!!!
• 73 balls in 9 games this season = 8.1 balls per game.
• 436 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 62 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 2,825 total balls