7/25/07 at Shea Stadium

Billy Wagner tossed me a ball within the first few minutes of batting practice, but his aim was off. I was in the corner spot of the right field Loge, and the ball sailed over my head and landed in the Mets’ bullpen. Wagner didn’t even apologize or look for another ball–at least not at first, but eventually he wandered into the bullpen, and when I shouted down and asked him for another chance, he walked over to the ball and threw it right to me. Once I labeled the ball with a “3110” and made a separate note of how I’d snagged it, I walked along the front row and peeked down into the narrow, cluttered gap behind the outfield wall. I always do that in case there’s a loose ball lying around and usually it doesn’t do me any good, but this time my eyes lit up…

ball_3111_on_platform.jpg

There was a small wooden platform surrounding the foul pole, and for whatever reason, there was a ball resting on top of it. I set up my glove trick and let out all the string (to make sure it wasn’t tangled) before lowering it. Then I leaned way out to get my dangling glove over the lower portion of the foul pole and dropped it carefully over the ball, which turned out to be damp and heavy. misstamped_logo.jpgIt also smelled like mold, and in addition to that, its logo was mis-stamped and printed so high that it barely overlapped the stitching. Autograph collectors hate balls like that. I love them.

mets_bullpen.jpg

Twenty minutes later Orlando Hernandez finished his bullpen session and started throwing balls at one of the metal poles that supports the protective screen. Bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello joined him and began chucking balls as well. Most of their throws missed the pole and hit the short picket fence, but one ball glanced off the pole and ricocheted onto the concrete surface at the back corner of bullpen. When their target practice concluded, pitching coach Rick Peterson retrieved the one loose ball, and I called down and got him to toss it up to me.

The rest of Mets BP was dead, but I did get to meet a guy named Gavriel who’s been reading my blog since 2005. One of the Mets photographers happened to come around and ask if we wanted our pic gavriel_zack.jpgtaken for mets.com. I said “no thanks,” knowing that it was just a ploy to get us to go to the site and spend money, but Gavriel was up for it. I made faces behind his back, and the pic you see here on the left was the result. (Check out my snazzy All-Star Game t-shirt, courtesy of Brad.) Later on, I met another blog reader named Andre.

When the Pirates took the field, I raced to the left field Loge because a Japanese pitcher named Masumi Kuwata was playing catch in front of the warning track. I knew his name, I had a glove, I was wearing a Masumi_kuwataPirates cap, and I spoke his language. It was basically an automatic ball, and as soon as he threw it to me, the man on my left turned and said, “How about a ball for my son? It’s his 11th birthday.”

I haaaaate it when people ask me for a ball when they haven’t even made an attempt to get one for themselves. All I could think was, “How about you and your son learn the players’ names, bring gloves, wear Pirates caps, learn to speak Japanese, and stop wasting the corner spot?”

Instead, I told them that they needed to speak up and ask the players for a ball, and that if they weren’t able to get one on their own, I’d try to get one for them…and whaddaya know…within a few minutes they got one of the Pirates pitchers to toss one up. Funny how that works.

I used my glove trick again toward the end of BP, and I got my sixth ball from Jack Wilson before the game at the Pirates’ dugout. I was the ONLY fan there with a glove, and I was the ONLY person who x_balls.jpgeven stood up and asked for the ball, and yet everyone around me complained when I got it. (Sometimes I’m embarrassed to be a New Yorker.) All three balls I got from the Pirates had an “X” marked on the sweet spot.

I was hoping for a quick game because I had to leave Shea by 9:30pm because I had to get to a party in Manhattan. But no. Both teams loaded the bases in the first inning, and I was en route to being screwed. It didn’t really matter because Tom Glavine was only going for his 299th career win, but it still would’ve been nice to be there for the final out.

I came close to a few foul balls, but the only thing I got during the game was a nice view of Citi Field rising up in the background…

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…and as soon as Glavine completed his six-inning performance, I had to leave…

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The following afternoon, I heard that the Mets had won.

dave_winfield.jpg

STATS:

• 154 balls in 22 games this season = 7 balls per game.

• 477 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 2 consecutive games with at least six balls

• 3,115 total balls…moves me ahead of Dave Winfield (3,110) and into 19th place on the all-time hits list. Next up is Tony Gwynn (3,141).

12 Comments

yo zack,

Got back tonight from a nearly 2 week vacation. Went all the way down to North Carolina (durham) for a family wedding and saw 4 baseball games in 4 different ballparks.

Very interesting vacation. Saw RFK last week (Nats vs Astros). Environment is very close to being a minor league atmosphere, especially in the concourse area. Still great to see the place after seeing it on TV.

This week I saw the O’s/Devil Rays on wednesday (at Camden Yards), Phillies/Nationals on thursday (Citizen’s Bank Park), and Mets/Nationals (Shea Stadium) Friday night. Whew. Did all of that with my family and they didn’t complain too much. Camden is always amazing. Citizen’s Bank was very polished- made me think about how beautiful Citi Field is probably going to be. But I actually still love Shea and will appreciate it til it’s gone.

As you can tell by now, I saw quite a bit of the Nationals and got more respect for em. They play hard and got quite a few talented players. Next year when they get the new stadium- that will put them on the upswing if you ask me. The NL East is going to be a bit hairy in a couple of years don’t you think?

By the way, nice job with the balls wednesday. Don’t feel guilty about people asking you for balls. Maybe if it’s just a little 10 year old kid or something but honestly with all the work you put into it, it’s pretty understandable that you just can’t satisfy all the father/son combos out there who want a baseball. Plus, like you said- they didn’t put in the effort to speak japanese in their request.

Goddamnit. I tried to get Kuwata’s autograph three days straight when the Pirates came to Seattle. I even had an old baseball card of his from a few years ago when he was still playing for Yomiuri, and I was wearing a Pirates #18 shirt and standing with a bunch of crazy Japanese fans who were also calling out to him in Japanese, and he still didn’t come over to us. He signed before all three games, but he’d just stand in one place, so the only way to get him was to elbow and punch people out of your way to get up to him, if you happened to be in the wrong place, as I was all three times.

On the other hand, I ended up getting Jason Bay’s autograph instead. He has to be one of the nicest guys in the entire universe, or the most patient, or something.

-deanna

Zack,

Congrats on passing Winfield!

I went to Angel vs. Tiger game last night. I got 3 autos plus one snagged ball. I am kind of embarrassed of how I got the ball. I didn’t really plan it, I was trying to get some Tiger autographs since there are so many all-stars in that team. Someone hit a ball flying over right foul ball about 30 rows up. I didn’t even bother chasing it. There were like 5 ppl sprinting to the ball. I was hoping a ball will come nearby so I can use the glove trick. Suddenly, someone looked like a police officer (that uniform looked too fancy to be security guard) called my over, POINTED to the ball. The ball was like 20 rows down. I picked it up and thanked him. I loved gravity, too. It is the first ball I got with “practice” on the sweetspot. It is pretty cool. Else I would have given it to a friend.

Oh yeah, I was at the wrong place when Justin Verlander was signing. However, things started to get better after that. I got Carlos Guillen signed on my ball. It wasn’t on sweetspot even if I used my grip. (He flipped the ball) Luckily, Maggio Ordonez started to sign near the first base side. I sprinted over just as he walked to us fans. I couldn’t believe some kid have him signed on an Angel cap. (He might win MVP this year) I was reaching out my hand. Some kid handed Magglio a ball without a pen. I quickly handed over my pen (Maybe you know this already, lending pen guarantees getting auto from the player. I haven’t met a player who borrowed my pen without signing my ball.) It ended up I was the last person got signed, on sweetspot using my grip. What happened was that some kid dropped his ticket stub in front of Magglio. He saw it and got pissed then walked away. I was shocked.

Here is a pic of what I got. http://www.freewebs.com/sammywu/IMG%5F0827.JPG

About the Pirate pitcher Kuwata, I had his signed my first glove-trick-retrieved-ball. He is a superstar in Japan and was the #1 pitcher in Japan baseball for a long time. I highly recommend watching his video clips on youtube on how an old guy like him coming over to US and facing all the struggles. (He got injured during spring training) At the end of clip it showed he got his #18 jersey (his trademark number in Japan) with pirates. I almost cried watching it, even I don’t understand a word of Japanese.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=GVgX_Dd9jBk&mode=related&search=

http://youtube.com/watch?v=fPH7BdPZNok&mode=related&search=

Great game Zack! The Pirates seem very nice, I even got a ball from Ian Snell, after he had seen me get 3 others, and after he acknowledged it.

Scott Proctor *****!! But at least A-Rod didn’t hit 500.

Im off for a 4 day vacation on the Jersey shore(Long Beach Island to be exact.)

hey zach

where are the best snagging spots in minute maid park?

Oh my God, I can’t believe you got that ball! The night before, I was at Shea, and after the game ended, I checked the dead space behind the RF wall (as I always do before I leave the stadium) and — I SAW THIS BALL. So I tried to go up to the Loge to get it (the stadium was almost completely empty at this point), and I was stopped from going up the double ramp! It was so annoying! Whatever.

Also, your Jack Wilson ball — I got the same exact ball the day before. And the crowd behind the dugout grumbled about it even though nonody else had asked for it (not to mention, had a glove, had a Pirates hat, or even knew Wilson’s first name). Funny.

Zack:
Nice job at Shea! That ball was in a hard spot. That is amazing you snagged it. Congrats Zack!

Keep up the great work!

Chris

QUICK EDGE-
Good to hear from you again. Sounds like you had a great trip. I’m torn about Shea and RFK. They’re both so dumpy, but when they’re gone, it’ll be the end of an era. All the new ballparks are perfect and clean and spacious, and it gets old after a while. I think the Nationals are still a few years away (at least) from competing, but you’re right that they’re soon going to be on the way up.

DEANNA-

Sorry you missed out on Kuwata. That’s supremely frustrating. I didn’t know that Bay is such a nice guy. I wonder how I can use this info to my advantage…

SAMMY-

That’s pretty funny how you got that ball. Of course, if I were one of the five people chasing after it, I would’ve been so ticked off. Congrats on the Magglio autograph. I’ve noticed that lending a marker (or pen) does help, but I didn’t realize it was a guarantee. Nice Kuwata videos. It was hard for me to get through them because of the no-English factor.

PUCK COLLECTOR-

That’s surprising that Snell would still give you a ball after seeing you get a few. Have a great vacation.

ANNE-

During BP, there are lots of balls that land in the left field seats, but that whole section gets ridiculously crowded. Right field is probably better although there aren’t as many balls that land there. You could also hang out in the first row along the foul lines where the wall is low. (You should read my Minute Maid entries from 2005 if you haven’t done so already.)

GREG-

Mwahaha! Interesting, though, that the ball had been there since the previous day. Interesting too about Jack Wilson. I didn’t mention it in the entry, but I got blanked at both dugouts after both teams finished BP. If not for that, I would’ve tied your eight.

CHRIS-

Thanks very much!

yes indeed my name is andre

Yeah, I got nothing at the Pirates dugout either. Nobody had a ball as they came off the field, and the Japanese media clogged up the area where the ballboys were dumping the balls into the bags. And I didn’t bother going to the Mets dugout.

thanks zach

ANDRE-
Cool.

GREG-****** that media. (Although they DID write about me in “Sportiva.”)

ANNE-

Yup.

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