7/25/06 at Shea Stadium
I got my corner spot in the right field Loge, and good things happened…
For the first two minutes of batting practice, I had the entire section to myself, and I asked Mike Pelfrey several times for a ball. Then some kid showed up and decided to stand right next to me. (Smart.) He shouted at Pelfrey. Pelfrey threw the next ball our way. I reached out and caught it.
Several minutes later, a ball trickled onto the warning track down below. Billy Wagner walked over, and I asked him for it. He looked up and tossed it to me. Easy. (The other kid ended up getting two balls, including one with my help, so don’t feel bad.)
The Loge was already filling up, and some guys in the next section started yelling for a ball. I kept paying attention to the batter so I didn’t notice that someone threw a ball to them until it sailed over their heads and whacked a seat. The ball ricocheted into my section. Everyone raced for it. I won.
Both the Wagner ball and random ball had “PRACTICE” stamped lightly on the sweet spot. Nothing extraordinary, but still noteworthy. (As you can see, I marked the balls with numbers so I’ll always remember how I got them.)
Five minutes later, Orlando Hernandez finished playing catch and tossed the ball to some fans in the Mezzanine level, 20 feet above me. The ball fell short and bounced off the concrete facade. A few fans in my section scrambled toward the spot where the ball was about to land, but just before they got there, I lunged over two rows of seats and caught it six inches off the ground. It was 4:58pm. I’d been inside Shea Stadium for 18 minutes, and I had four balls. At that pace, I would’ve had 23 by the end of batting practice–but it wasn’t meant to be.
I managed to get just one more ball in the final hour and 20 minutes of BP, but it was a fun one because I got to use the glove trick. The ball landed on that sloped grassy area in the right field corner.
I figured the ball was too far up for security to steal it and too far down for any of the nearby fans to have a chance, so I gave up my corner spot and ran downstairs. For the first time ever, no one was guarding the entrance to the precious Dream Seats. (Those are the new fancy seats on that intrusive platform.) I waltzed out onto the platform and peered over the edge, prompting an usher to hurry over and warn me not to go down there.
“I don’t need to,” I said as I started setting up my glove.
Thankfully, the usher didn’t recognize me, so he let me do my thing and skeptically cheered me on.
The ball was a bit too far out for me to simply lower the glove over it, so I gently swung the glove out and knocked the ball closer…and then it was showtime. The glove went over the ball. The ball (yet another one from the 2005 All-Star Game) went in the glove. Everyone in the section applauded. The usher shook my hand.
I ran all over the place for the rest of BP, but like I said: NOTHING. But you know what? I don’t even care because I got four great autographs right before the game.
The previous day, I’d brought several ticket stubs from Jose Reyes’ cycle. As I expected, he signed some autographs along the first base line after his pregame running, but it was such a mob scene that I couldn’t get near him despite being just one staircase to the left.
Last night, however, I happened to pick the right spot, and I got him. And since the people behind me were literally mashing me against the front row, I couldn’t get out of the way to let them in, so I just stayed there and got Reyes two more times. It was beautiful. He didn’t even look up. He just kept signing everything that people stuck in his face. Sadly, though, my Sharpie got a bit dry, so the third autograph looks like crap. Moments later, David Wright came over, and I got him to sign an even older ticket (with someone else’s black Sharpie). Hot diggity.
I went back up to the Loge for the start of the game. Carlos Zambrano was pitching for the Cubs, so I knew there’d be more foul balls than usual…and there were…but just not to me. For the first three innings, I stood in the runway between sections 4 and 6 for every left-handed batter. Then, at the start of the fourth, I grabbed an empty seat 15 feet away. Two batters later, Juan Pierre hit a foul ball **RIGHT** to the spot where I’d been standing. Dear God, just because Zambrano points toward the sky after every inning doesn’t mean that he should get all the love.
Zambrano worked seven so-so innings for his 11th win, and he HIT his fourth home run of the season–to the opposite field! The ball is juiced. I’m telling you. If you don’t believe me, all I can say is that Endy Chavez connected for a three-run shot that was estimated at 415 feet.
After the game, I got my sixth and final ball from home plate umpire Kerwin Danley as he left the field.
• 47,686 fans in attendance
• Competition Factor = 286,116.
• 115 balls in 15 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.
• 28 autographs on 22 ticket stubs this year
• 949 lifetime autographs on 792 ticket stubs
• 442 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 68 consecutive games with at least two balls