4/11/11 at Citi Field
The Mets are trying really hard to encourage people to buy season tickets. Yesterday, when I ran inside the stadium for batting practice, there was a fenced-off area ON THE FIELD for season ticket holders to hang out and snag baseballs. Check it out:
Of course, the Dodgers have been doing the same thing for years, and they provide a much bigger area to hang out, and you don’t even need to be a season ticket holder to be there. If the Mets want people to buy season tickets, they should let the fans take BP on the field, like the Pirates do. Granted, the Pirates have far fewer fans, but it could still be done. I would actually buy a full season ticket plan just for the opportunity to do that. (Are you listening, Mets? No, of course not. Whatever. Your loss.) And by the way, in the photo above, the fan standing in the fourth row is a good friend and very talented ballhawk named Greg Barasch.
Anyway, I began the day with a lifetime total of 4,699 baseballs, so the first ball I snagged was extra special. And here it is. It was thrown to me by Jason Isringhausen:
I don’t have all my ballhawking stats memorized — imagine that! — so I didn’t realize until I got home that this ball was also the 200th that I’d ever snagged at Citi Field.
My second ball of the day was tossed by Bobby Parnell in left-center field — nothing special about that one — but the next ball I caught literally made me gasp. Are you aware that the Rockies and Diamondbacks opened a joint Spring Training facility this year, and that there was a commemorative ball used during all the games there? I’d read about it in this outstanding article on BigLeagueBaseballs.com. I don’t count Spring Training (or minor league) balls in my collection. I haven’t even been to Spring Training since 1995, so I was hoping that some of these balls would make their way to major league stadiums. In any case, my third ball of the day was a home run that was hit by a right-handed batter on the Rockies. There were several fans near me (including Greg) so I jumped at the last second and caught it just above several other gloves. I didn’t look at the ball right away. I took a moment to trash-talk with Greg, and then…
OH. MAH. GAWD.
It had the logo! I was so happy to get to add it to my collection of commemorative balls. Here’s a closer look at it:
Is it just me or does the commemorative logo look better in the photo at the stadium than in the closeup shot? I hate to say this, but I think the logo actually wore off a bit in my backpack between the time that I snagged it and returned home six hours later. That’s never happened before, and it’s incredibly frustrating/puzzling that it happened now. As for the logo itself, note how the outline of the Rocky Mountains is formed by a snake. Rockies…Diamondbacks…get it? Very nice touch.
I caught another home run on the fly in left field, and once again, I have no idea who hit it. All I can tell you is that I drifted 20 feet to my right for an easy back-handed grab. Then, when several lefties started hitting, I moved to this spot in right field:
I wasn’t expecting to catch a home run there because there’s not much room to run. I was just hoping that one of the Rockies would toss a ball to me, but whaddaya know, someone did hit a homer right to me. (I mean right to me.) And yes, for the record, I caught that one on the fly too.
After BP, I took a photo of that section from the other side of the stadium. The spot where I caught the ball is directly above the “378” sign:
Now, you know how I’m trying to visit all 30 major league stadiums this season and taking pics with numbered signs along the way? Yesterday I thought it’d be fun to make faces that show how I feel about the various stadiums (so I might have to retake the photos from Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards). Here’s what I came up with for Citi Field…
…and here I am with my friend Ben Weil, who took that photo:
Ben attends lots of games and usually snags at least a ball or two. He’s really cool, so go say hi if you see him. He’s easy to spot because he has a few facial piercings and always wears a jersey of the visiting team.
I was in the perfect spot to snag a warm-up ball during pre-game throwing…
…but ended up losing a ball instead. Okay, I didn’t exactly “lose” it. The Rockies tossed their baseballs elsewhere, and I gave one of my own to the only kid who was standing near me and shouting at the players.
In the photo above, do you see the empty section in right-center field above the “Nikon” and “Geico” ads? There were only TWO fans in that entire section when the game started, so I headed out there. Granted, I was 8 million feet from home plate, but it was still exciting to sit in Home Run Land without any competition. This was the view to my left:
This was the view to my right:
And here’s what the section looked like behind me:
Wow and a half.
Unfortunately, over the next two innings, the section filled up just enough to make it worthless for my purposes, so I wandered all over the place. This was the first spot I went to…
…and it paid off (as I expected) when Carlos Beltran whiffed to end the 3rd inning. Rockies catcher Chris Iannetta took the ball with him as he jogged off the field, and he tossed it to me before disappearing into the dugout.
That’s when a security guard kicked me out of the section, or at least out of the seats directly behind the dugout. I had a seat in the 26th row of that section, but rather than heading back there, I moved here for the middle innings:
There were lots of left-handed batters. My plan was to catch a foul ball that one of them would hopefully slice in my direction, but there wasn’t any action.
The Mets played such a sloppy game (shocker) that lots of fans left early. I took advantage of the emptier seats by moving to left field. This was my view:
With one out in the top of the 8th, Troy Tulowitzki belted a line-driver homer to left field. It landed exactly one staircase to my left, and I couldn’t get there in time.
After the game, another friend and fellow ballhawk named Ryan Restivo pointed out a ball that was wedged underneath a padded railing in the Rockies’ dugout:
We were both shouting for it (okay, fine, I did most of the shouting), and when I asked the ballboy for it, the response was something along the lines of, “You have every baseball! Don’t you have enough?! I never forget a face.” (He said this in a particularly snotty tone of voice.) Then he picked up the ball, which turned out to have the commemorative Salt River Fields logo, and disappeared with it. Booooo!!!
On a happier note, Ryan brought his copy of The Baseball, and I signed it for him. Here we are with it:
• 43 balls in 6 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.
• 667 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 501 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 360 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball
• 4,705 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)
• 36 donors
• $5.74 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $34.44 raised at this game
• $246.82 raised this season
Finally, here’s a side-by-side photo of the five balls I kept — one in regular light and another in black light:
I love that the Salt River Fields ball has a faint invisible ink stamp beside the commemorative logo. The ball on the lower right is the one that Chris Iannetta tossed me during the game, and the ball on top (with the “practice” stamp under the MLB logo) is No. 4,700. That one doesn’t have an invisible ink stamp, and if you’ve read my entry called “Baseballs and black light,” you’ll know why.