5/5/11 at Citi Field

It was “Environmental Education Day” at Citi Field…

…and there was no batting practice.

This was my reaction upon entering the stadium:

Granted, it was a day game, and the Mets and Giants had just played the night before, but I’d been hopeful that there’d be BP.

I changed into my Giants gear when Barry Zito came out to play catch, but I wasn’t happy:

The fact that there wasn’t BP meant I had a whole day of begging ahead of me — and, as it turned out, a solid hour of being rejected. The following four-part photo shows me waving (unsuccessfully) and yelling (unsuccessfully) to get the players’ attention:

And hey, here are four more photos that show the same thing:

The day was off to a miserable start. There were lots of fans, many of whom were decked out in Giants gear, and I was genuinely concerned about getting shut out.

(By the way, Jona was with me and took all these photos.)

Finally, after working my way down to the corner spot just past the rolled up tarp, I was able to convince Ryan Vogelsong to throw me a ball. It was huge relief. Here I am reaching out and catching it:

Ten minutes later, Sergio Romo threw me a ball just shy of the left field foul pole, but it fell short. The following photo has arrows pointing to (a) the ball and (b) my glove as I reached far over the railing:

The ball missed my glove by a foot. Thankfully, Romo retrieved it and made a better toss the second time.

Half an hour before game time, I ran into one of my best friends:

I’ve blogged about him before, but in case you don’t recognize him, that’s Leon Feingold. Leon was there with one of his own friends named Chris Dickerson — no, not the Chris Dickerson who’s played in the major leagues for the last three seasons…the other Chris Dickerson who’s a professional opera singer.

Leon’s friend Chris was at this game because — get this — he’d recently discovered that Giants first baseman Aubrey Huff is his half-brother! (I’m hoping that I’ll wake up one day and learn that I’m related to major league royalty.) Here’s a photo that shows Chris (pictured below in the Huff jersey) and Pat Burrell pointing at each other; Aubrey Huff is swinging the bat just to the left of Burrell:

Huff had probably just told Burrell something like, “See the guy over there in the jersey? THAT’S my half-brother!” That’s probably why Burrell was pointing at him, and by the way, Chris got that jersey from Huff. He didn’t go out and buy it.

Two minutes later, after Leon and Chris had walked back up the steps a bit, Burrell was still looking over at us, so I pounded my glove and held it up and gave him a target. I didn’t expect anything to come of it — I was just being playful and standing way back in the 12th row — so I was shocked when Burrell pulled a ball out of his back pocket and threw it to me. Bam! Right on the money, and it was brand new. I immediately handed it to Chris and then posed for a photo with him and Leon:

For the record, Leon and Chris are both 6-foot-6, and in case you’re wondering, the “IBL” on Leon’s cap stands for Israel Baseball League. He pitched in that league a few years ago. Here’s his official bio.

My 4th ball of the day was thrown by Emmanuel Burriss shortly before the game started. Here’s a photo that was taken just after I caught it:

In the photo above, do you see the kid in the front row? He made a classic mistake: holding one ball while asking for another. It’s such a silly and unnecessary thing to do, and it should be so obvious NOT to do it. Don’t make that mistake. Hide your balls. (And while you’re at it, hide your kids, hide your wife.) I ended up giving that ball to a different kid just before the first pitch.

I sat in straight-away left field for the first couple innings and then (because that whole section was packed) moved behind the 3rd base dugout. This was my view:

In the photo above, check out where Giants 3rd base coach Tim Flannery is standing. He’s not exactly in the coach’s box. Know why? It’s because there was a runner on second; Flannery was “cheating” out of position so that he’d have more time to hold the runner or wave him home on a base hit to the outfield. This is the kind of stuff I wrote about in Watching Baseball Smarter (and it’s the kind of stuff that makes baseball awesome), so if you’ve never noticed details like that, you should seriously consider buying the book. It’ll make the sport much more interesting and fun.

Speaking of fun, that’s what Jona was having (at my expense) when she took the following photo:

My allergies were kicking in, and I needed to blow my nose, so she handed me a pink/flowery tissue — and then took my picture and insisted that I post it on the blog.

<sigh>

I’m happy to report, though, that I got a game-used ball from Burriss as he jogged off the field after the 5th inning. With one out and Jason Bay on first, Ike Davis grounded into a 3-6-4 double play. Yes, you read that right. Three-six-four. First baseman (Aubrey Huff) to shortstop (Mike Fontenot) to second baseman (Emmanuel Burriss). You don’t see that too often. Basically, what happened is that Davis hit a sharp grounder to Huff, who stepped on the bag and fired to second base, where Fontenot was covering. Bay got caught in a rundown between first and second; Burriss (who had gone to cover first) took the throw from Fontenot and tagged him out. (Did you follow all of that?) And I got the ball that was used on that play. Pretty cool, huh? Here I am with it:

At one point during the game, Miguel Tejada lost the grip on his bat and sent it flying into the front row right in front of me. I was in the 5th row and barely missed out on grabbing it. I raced down the steps toward it (while everyone else was ducking for cover) and actually did get a hand on the bat, but there was another guy who had grabbed it half a second before me. Even though I could’ve tugged it out of his hands (the other guy wasn’t Leon, after all), I decided to let him have it. That seemed like the right thing to do, although the incident left me feeling bummed for the rest of the day. I also missed a foul ball by three feet in the top of the 9th. I had moved back a bit and had lots of empty seats around me. Long story short: I darted down the steps and cut through a row for a high foul pop-up; I was the closest one to it when it landed, but it smacked the concrete and bounced 50 feet away. The day featured a bunch of mini-successes and two big failures. At least I managed to get a ball from home plate umpire Eric Cooper after the game, but of course I got dissed again by the last coach to walk in from the Giants’ bullpen:

He had two baseballs in his right hand and tossed them to kids. Can’t argue with that.

Final score: Mets 5, Giants 2.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 6 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave two away)

• 212 balls in 25 games this season = 8.48 balls per game.

• 686 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 509 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 365 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball (338 games at Shea Stadium and 27 at Citi Field)

• 4,874 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(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.)

• 41 donors

• $6.46 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $38.76 raised at this game

• $1,369.52 raised this season

Finally, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the four balls I kept; the image on the lower left shows them in regular light; the image on the lower right shows them in black light:

5 Comments

Zack….do you ever consciously bend your knees or scrunch yourself down to make yourself look shorter and the size of a kid? I’ve noticed in some of your pictures it looks like you’re doing that. Also, are you still changing the pitch of your voice to sound like a kid or have you given up on that?

Leigh

Yes, definitely, but I don’t even think about it anymore. It has become second nature.

I can’t change my voice for crap! LOL. I’m short enough already, but the grey hair is always a problem. Still snaggin though. My birthday was on 5/5 a couple days ago. 44 and still going strong.

hey zack, just bought your book “the baseball” today. loving it so far already on chapter 4.

LEIGH-
Happy birthday! If it’s not too late, I could buy you some “Just For Men” as a gift.

AIDAN2110-
Awesome. Glad to hear it. Thanks for letting me know.

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