5/7/11 at Citi Field
Citi Field normally opens two hours before game time, but on weekends, season ticket holders can get inside an extra half-hour early. Got it? Well, this was a Saturday, I got my hands on a pair of season tickets, and I was psyched:
There were hundreds of fans waiting to get in the stadium, and when the gates opened at 4:40pm, Jona and I were two of just a handful of folks who got to enter.
Where were all the season ticket holders, you ask? Duh, in their barricaded ball-grabbing area on the left field warning track. Check out the photo that Jona took of them (and me!) from afar:
As you can see, I pretty much had the left field seats to myself, and I took advantage by getting Jason Isringhausen to throw me my 1st ball of the day.
My 2nd ball was a home run by a right-handed batter on the Mets, possibly David Wright. It landed in the seats, and I narrowly beat out another guy for it. The following two-part photo, with arrows pointing at me, shows how it played out:
The other guy kicked the ball away from me just as I was about to reach down and grab it — a pretty slick move that nearly worked, but the ball ended up rolling down the steps away from him.
Other than the small cluster of fans pictured above (who were already there when the stadium opened), I had NO competition.
I felt good. Strong. Ready for a monster day:
On 4/26/11 at Rangers Ballpark, I had the outfield seats to myself and ended up snagging 24 balls. Then, the following day, with a similar lack of competition, I hauled in 22 more. Did I put up similar numbers at Citi Field?
The second group of hitters featured mostly lefties, and I couldn’t figure out where to go. Here I am being indecisive:
I could decide whether to (a) stay in left field and beg for toss-ups, (b) go to right field (where the overhang of the second deck prevents most home runs from reaching the seats) and beg for toss-ups, or (c) go to right-center (which is approximately 26.2 miles from home plate) and beg for toss-ups.
I went with Option B, and as soon as I got there, one of the Mets’ lefties (probably Ike Davis) hit a BOMB onto the bridge. Wanna guess who snagged that ball? That’s right…Jona. Here’s a photo that she took of it:
All of my running/stressing had netted me two baseballs; Jona simply followed me from section to section and ended up getting one without trying. Life is cruel sometimes. And if you’re wondering why she didn’t leave the ball sitting there for me, it’s because there were a few other people scampering toward it. I was 100 feet away at the time and yelled at her to grab it. It was her 5th lifetime ball, and hey, did you know that she has her own profile on MyGameBalls.com?
Ryota Igarashi threw me my 3rd ball of the day in straight-away right field. Then I moved over to Death Valley in right-center and got Scott Hairston to toss me another. The following photo shows the ball in mid-air:
Did you notice how empty the stadium is?
Moments later, while standing innocently in the 4th row, a left-handed batter launched a deep fly ball in my direction.
“HEADS UP!!!” shouted a couple players in the outfield, as if I needed to be warned. I was all over it, and the ball came right to me — like, perfectly, right-on-the-money/didn’t-have-to-move-an-inch to me. The following three-part photo shows me (1) lifting my glove into position, (2) getting ready to catch the ball, and (3) squeezing it in the pocket of my glove:
That ball had a really cool logo that was half worn off:
Did you notice the dark gray clouds in the photo above (and also in the photo of Jona’s hand holding the ball)? Luckily it didn’t rain, although fate did deliver a nasty blow: one minute after I caught the home run, another ball landed in my totally empty section, took an idiotic bounce off a seat, and ricocheted back onto the field. It was painful, I tell you. Painful!
I quickly took notes between pitches…
…and then got another ball from an unlikely source: a security supervisor named Kim.
Kim and I have known each other for years, and if you’ve been keeping up with my blog this season, then you’ll probably remember her from 4/21/11 at Citi Field. That was the day I caught Mike Nickeas’s first (and so far only) major league home run; Kim was the one who accompanied me down to the clubhouse to meet him after the game. (That entry is a must read, by the way, so if you have’t seen it, check it out immediately. Click here. You can do it. It’ll open in a new window, and when you’re done, you can close it and keep reading this.)
Anyway, a home run landed on the batter’s eye, and since fans aren’t allowed to hop the railing, Kim climbed over and retrieved it. The following three-part photo shows how that ball ended up in my possession:
In the photo on the upper left, I was pleading with Kim and making my case for why she should give me the ball. I said something like, “C’mon, there aren’t ANY other fans here, no kids or anything.” In the middle photo above, Kim was just about to unleash a throw in my direction, and in the photo on the upper right, I made a jumping catch.
Then I hurried up the steps to thank her…
…and we got a photo together.
Words can not describe how awesome Kim is. Come to think of it, most of the supervisors and guards (aka “hospitality attendants”) have been really friendly to me this season. I think that’s because (a) I’ve completely stopped using the glove trick at Citi Field, (b) they’ve seen me give lots of baseballs away to kids, (c) they appreciated how I handled things after catching the Nickeas homer, and (d) word is spreading about my charitable efforts for Pitch In For Baseball. When I first thanked Kim for tossing me the ball, she said something like, “Hey, it’s for the charity.”
That ball itself isn’t going to the charity — I ended up giving it away to a kid after BP — but because of all the people who’ve pledged money for each ball I snag this season, it raised $6.46 for the charity. That might not sound like a lot, but when you consider that I’m averaging more than eight balls per game, and that this was my 27th game of the season, you can see how the money really adds up. Click here to make a pledge. It only takes 30 seconds. Even one or two pennies per ball will help make a difference.
At 5:10pm, the stadium opened to everyone, and not surprisingly, my day of ballhawking (along with the Mets’ bats) went dead. I didn’t snag anything else until the Dodgers took the field, and even then, things were rough. It was so bad, in fact, that I didn’t even bother trying for a while. I just picked out a seat in the middle of a row and got comfy:
The Dodgers weren’t throwing many balls into the crowd. Matt Kemp didn’t even look up or acknowledge anyone, not even little kids who were politely calling out to him. Chad Billingsley ignored everyone else too. Tony Gwynn Jr. acted as if he were deaf, and Hong-Chih Kuo pretended not to speak any English. (Oh wait. But no, seriously…) The whole team was particularly un-fan-friendly and stand-offish. The Dodgers have often behaved this way in the past, not so much in the Joe Torre era, so if you’re planning road trips to see various stadiums, and if you don’t care which visiting team you see, I would suggest avoiding them.
I managed to get a ball from Kenley Jansen — he’s too young to have developed an attitude — and that was it for BP. Can you believe that? I snagged six balls in the first half-hour and then only got ONE more in the next 75 minutes. (The ball that Jona snagged does not count in my collection. She didn’t want it, so she gave it to me, and I ended up giving that one away too.)
Right after BP, I found myself behind the 3rd base dugout and got another rookie, Russell Mitchell, to toss me a ball. I was about six rows back, and he lobbed it right over everyone else in front of me. It was beautiful. In the following photo, the arrow on the left is pointing at him, the arrow on the right is pointing at me, and the red circle is surrounding the ball:
By the way, since I know everyone is going ask, I got my tickets from a season ticket holder and diehard Mets fan named Cory. Over the past few years, he and I had met a couple times after games on the subway and kept in touch. He always has extra tickets, often in various parts of the stadium, and he sells them very cheap, so if you’re looking for tickets (and don’t feel like paying those crazy fees on StubHub), check out his website and drop him a line at Amazin@AmazinTix.com.
This was my view for most of the game:
That’s not where Cory’s regular tickets are located, but you know me…I can’t sit still, and I have friends all over the stadium, and I like to move around. It was a good spot for a foul ball, but on this particular night (because both starters were topping out in the high 80s), there wasn’t much action. Andre Ethier, who had extended his hitting streak to 30 games the day before, went 0-for-4 with a walk, and the Mets won, 4-2.
• 228 balls in 27 games this season = 8.4 balls per game.
• 688 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 511 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 367 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball (338 games at Shea Stadium and 27 at Citi Field)
• 4,890 total balls
(As I mentioned already, I’m raising money 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)
• $51.68 raised at this game
• $1,472.88 raised this season