5/16/11 at Citi Field
You might get sick of hearing about this, but I have to mention it one more time…
That’s right. CNN.
Yesterday morning, several hours before heading off to Citi Field, I was picked up by a car service and taken to the Time Warner Center. I was scheduled for a live/national TV interview, and while waiting in the “green room” beforehand, I saw several teasers for my segment on a small flat-screen TV. The photo above shows one of them. Here’s another:
(I built that baseball pyramid three years ago. Click here to see all the work that went into it.)
Here’s a photo of me in the green room…
…and here’s the view of Columbus Circle from the window:
Initially, I was told that my interview was going to air at 10:15am — that’s what I’d tweeted earlier that morning — but it ended up getting pushed back several minutes. Here I am waiting for it to start:
Carol Costello, the woman who was going to be interviewing me, was in Washington, D.C., so I expected to be filmed in a teeny studio with one of those fake city-skyline backdrops. But as you can see in the photo above, that wasn’t the case. I was actually going to be filmed inside the CNN newsroom. Check it out:
In the photo above, I was adjusting my earpiece while getting some last-minute details from one of the producers. The earpiece wasn’t particularly comfortable, and I was afraid that it was going to pop out, but it HAD to stay. That’s how I was going to hear Costello’s questions. Here’s a closer look at it, taken moments before the interview got underway:
In the photo above, do you see the big black thing below the red numbers. That’s where the camera was located, so that’s where I had to look. I wasn’t nervous, but doing the actual interview wasn’t easy. Listen here. Look there. Plug the book. Mention the charity. Don’t squint even though there are four extremely bright lights in your face. Et cetera.
The interview was quick. Really quick. I was told that it was going to last four to five minutes, but I think it ended up being less than two. I still haven’t seen it, so I have no idea how I looked or sounded, but I think it went pretty well. (If anyone happened to record it, please let me know. CNN is not going to send me a copy.)
I had a few hours at home in the early afternoon, and even though the weather sucked, I headed out to Citi Field. Here’s what the stadium looked like when I exited the subway:
Not surprisingly, the tarp was out, and there wasn’t batting practice:
Things were dead. Only a handful of players came out to throw, so it took 45 minutes to get my first ball of the day. It was tossed by Marlins closer Leo Nunez. Just before the game was supposed to start, I got another ball from Hanley Ramirez (who thankfully didn’t remember me from 5/13/11 at Nationals Park). Here’s a photo that shows Ramirez before he walked in and threw it to me:
As soon as I caught it, I handed it to the nearest kid, and then a minute later, I gave away my other ball as well. But hold on a second. In the photo above, do you see the groundskeepers working on the infield dirt? I didn’t think anything of it at the time because (a) the rain had pretty much stopped, (b) there’d been an announcement that the game was scheduled to begin on time, and (c) both starting pitchers had finished warming up.
While waiting for the elevator to take me up to the club level, I pulled out my ancient cell phone and pressed a button to illuminate the clock. It was 7:10pm. That’s when the game was supposed to start, so I raced up several flights of stairs. I hadn’t seen the field for at least five minutes — the elevator is tucked out of view in the concourse behind home plate — so I was surprised to see that the groundskeepers were still out there.
It was 7:11pm.
Still no players in sight.
And then 7:20.
While some of the groundskeepers were dumping countless bags of Turface onto the infield dirt, the others were raking it in and smoothing it out, but get this: after the entire infield appeared to be ready, the groundskeepers shoveled off the surface-layer dirt and carted it away. And then they dumped out even more bags of Turface. Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez and Mets manager Terry Collins both came out to have a look:
What the hell was going on? The tarp had been covering the field earlier. Why was there a problem? I’d never seen anything like this, and the most outrageous thing of all is that the Mets did not make an announcement about it! I understand that when the game was first delayed, no one knew when it was going to start, but Jesus Aitch, to leave the fans sitting around wondering and waiting without an explanation or any type of acknowledgment is inexcusable.
Finally, at 8pm, there was an announcement that the game was scheduled to begin at 8:30pm. Everyone booed, and rightly so. There still wasn’t an explanation or apology. Meanwhile, a light mist was falling, and the temperature was so cold that I could see my breath. In addition, both of my feet were clammy and semi-numb. (Evidently, I had stepped in a puddle earlier in the day.) Just before the game started, I took off my shoes and socks in an attempt to air them out. That didn’t work, so after I put my wet socks back on, I stuffed napkins inside both of my sneakers. That didn’t work either.
Anyway, this was my view during the game:
There were so many empty seats around me that I would’ve bet money on snagging at least one foul ball.
Unfortunately, there was only one foul ball hit anywhere near me all night, and would you believe that it landed right next to the only two fans in the section? It hit the seat next to a 60-something-year-old woman who was tucked cozily under a blanket. (She was there with another woman, also tucked in, who was a reading a book throughout the game.) As I ran over in an attempt to snag the ball, she casually reached down into the folded up portion of the seat and pulled it out. If the ball had ricocheted anywhere or landed in any other seat, I would’ve had it. And fine, yes, I know this wasn’t a milestone home run, but it was still incredibly frustrating. The woman saw the look of dismay on my face and offered the ball to me. Since I don’t count balls in my collection that are given to me by fans, I politely turned down her offer. Several innings later, when she and her companion got up to leave, she approached me with the ball in hand.
“Here,” she said, holding it out for me.
I thanked her profusely and once again turned down her offer.
“Please,” she insisted with a hint of forceful urgency, “if I take this ball home, my dog will eat it.”
I felt like I had no choice at that point, so I accepted the ball from her and gave it to a kid soon after. Somehow, I’d managed to give away more balls than I’d snagged, and for the record, NO, the ball that the woman gave me does NOT in any away figure into my collection. Other than describing it here, I’m treating it as if it never happened.
By the 11th inning, Citi Field was as empty as I’d ever seen it during a game:
I wished there were three of me so that I could’ve positioned myself in several different sections. It was foul ball heaven, or at least it should’ve been, but nothing else came anywhere near me. It was sad — really very extremely sad. There’ve been games when half a dozen foul balls have landed in the club level; if this had been one of them, I seriously would’ve gotten four or five.
The Marlins scored in the top of the 11th on a two-out single by Burke Badenhop. Did you hear me? BURKE BADENHOP!!! In case you’re not familiar with Burke Badenhop, he’s a relief pitcher. This was his second at-bat since 2009, and he was 1-for-23 in his career. That’s an .043 batting average. And that’s why baseball is amazing and awesome and heartbreaking all at once. In the bottom of the 11th, the Mets used Jon Niese as a pinch hitter with two outs. Did you hear me? JON NIESE!!! In case you’re not familiar with Jon Niese, he’s a starting pitcher. Entering this at-bat, he was 13-for-80 in his career. That’s a .163 batting average. What happened next, you ask? Niese worked the count to 3-2 and then blasted a 390-foot triple off center fielder Emilio Bonifacio’s glove. Then Jose Reyes stepped up to the plate with a chance to tie the game and be a hero…and he struck out.
Final score: Marlins 2, Mets 1.
I was down behind the Marlins’ dugout at that point and got Perry Hill, the team’s 1st base coach, to toss me one of the dirtiest baseballs I’ve ever seen at a major league stadium. Check it out:
I suspect that this was the infield warm-up ball for the entire game. How else could it have gotten so beat up?
While waiting for the relievers to walk in from the bullpen, I made eye contact with an on-field security supervisor who’s known me for a decade. He mouthed the word “three” and held up three fingers with an incredulous expression.
“Did you see me on CNN?” I asked.
He shook his head, and before he had a chance to answer, I sprung back into action. Brian Sanches was approaching with a ball tucked in his glove, so I called out to him and got him to toss it to me.
“You’re incredible,” mouthed the security guard, shaking his head with amusement and perhaps a bit of disbelief.
Moments later, Mike Stanton (and 3rd base coach Joey Espada) came out of the dugout to talk to a few fans:
I could’ve gotten Stanton’s autograph, but instead I asked for a handshake.
“It’s nice to meet you,” I said as I shook his massive hand.
“Nice to meet you too,” he said. He probably didn’t mean it, at least not as much as I’d meant it, but it was still cool to see him up close and have a brief/basic conversation.
I told him that I caught his 2nd career home run in Puerto Rico, but he was understandably distracted at that point, so it didn’t really register.
That was pretty much it. It was past midnight. The light mist was still falling. The few remaining security guards were aching to leave, so they walked me (and several other fans) up the steps, and I headed back to the subway.
One last thing…
• 281 balls in 32 games this season = 8.78 balls per game.
• 693 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 512 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 368 consecutive Mets games with at least one ball
• 30 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls
• 4,943 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 get involved.)
• 43 donors
• $6.62 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $26.48 raised at this game
• $1,860.22 raised this season