5/19/11 at Citi Field

Two weeks ago, before the start of a 1:10pm Mets game, there were a zillion kids in the stands for “Environmental Education Day.” Remember? It was awful. No batting practice. Very few players. Lots of noise and stress.

Well, today was “Weather Education Day” at Citi Field, and it was more crowded than ever. This is what it looked like when I entered the stadium at 11:10am:

Jona was with me once again and took some photos. Here I am waiting for my first ball of the day:

It was thrown by Nationals bullpen coach Jim Lett, and in the following photo, you can see the ball sailing toward me:

It’s always a huge relief to get my first ball out of the way, even more so when there’s no batting practice, so I was feeling pretty good at that point.

Several minutes later, four Nationals pitchers came out to play catch, and I moved to the seats in straight-away left field:

I ended up getting Drew Storen to throw me a ball — and then things went dead. For the next hour, there wasn’t a single player on the field. The only entertainment (if you can call it that) was the Weather “Education” program. This included a video montage of cars driving in snow and a name-that-tune game with weather-related songs (“In the Summertime” by Mungo Jerry, “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen, “The Tide is High” by Blondie, et cetera). It was truly painful.

Shortly before game time, I had the whole front row to myself just past 3rd base…

…and got Roger Bernadina to toss me my 3rd ball of the day. In the photo above, Benadina is all the way over on the left. He and Danny Espinosa were playing catch.

The ball had an unusual stain on the sweet spot:

Any idea what might’ve caused that?

Speaking of stains, look what I found when I ran to the bathroom:

Here’s a closer look:

It was a dollar! Oh yeah, baby! Big excitement at Citi Field! And hey, did you notice the orange-and-blue (and also black-and-white) floor? Yay for team colors! (And yay for not getting arrested for whipping out my camera in the bathroom.)

Umm, anyway, this was my view during the game:

I picked that spot because the entire row on my left was empty…

…and look! Here I am running through it for a foul ball:

I didn’t snag that ball, but I’m glad to say that I did chase after it with solid ballhawking fundamentals; while everyone around me was looking up at the ball, I was focusing on my path to the spot where I predicted it was going to land.

With one out in the bottom of the 1st inning, I did manage to snag a foul ball off the bat of Josh Thole. As you’ll see in a moment, there were lots of empty seats around me, so when the ball was slashed to my right, I bolted in that direction. Thankfully, it took a lucky bounce off a seat and plopped down into the row right behind me. Beyond that, there was nothing fancy about it. Here I am holding it up right after snagging it:

Here’s a screen shot from the Nationals’ MASN broadcast that was taken at that very moment:

Here’s another screen shot (sent by a friend who happened to record the game) that shows me back in my seat, positioned just behind Jona:

The reason why I was wearing Nationals gear is that I planned to make an attempt to snag a 3rd-out ball behind the dugout. I just wanted to wait until the Mets had a righty at bat with two outs — that way I wouldn’t miss a foul ball opportunity — and in the bottom of the 4th inning, I got my chance. With two outs, Ruben Tejada lined out to right fielder Jayson Werth, who jogged in with the ball and tossed it to me. The following photo was taken just as I squeezed it with my glove:

In the photo above, I didn’t draw red arrows because there’s too much stuff going on, so in case you can’t see me, I’m leaning out over the dugout roof. My black jacket is on, and my red Nationals shirt is poking out in the back. Werth, meanwhile, is heading toward me on the far left.

Given the fact that this was a school day, there were very few kids in the stands, but I still gave away two baseballs over the course of the game.

Speaking of the game, I first noticed that Mets starter Dillon Gee had a no-hitter after the 3rd inning. His no-no lasted through the 4th…and then through the 5th. In the 50-year history of the New York Mets, no pitcher has ever thrown a no-hitter, so this was potentially a VERY big deal. Well, with two outs in the 6th and the right-handed Livan Hernandez stepping to the plate, I pulled out my camera and took this photo of the scoreboard:

On the very next pitch, Hernandez lined a sharp single up the middle.

(My fault?)

After the 6th inning, the Mets’ roving cameraman entered my section to film a trivia-related segment with a fan sitting several rows below me. Naturally, I moved down and sat right behind the fan…

…and got myself on the Jumbotron…

…just for the hell of it. And yes, I changed out of my Nationals gear. I didn’t want to disrespect the segment or my fellow New Yorkers.

The Mets ended up winning the game, 1-0. Gee improved to 3-0 with a 3.44 ERA. Francisco Rodriguez nailed down his 14th save and lowered his ERA to 0.79. But the best number of all is that after the final out, I got my 6th ball of the day from home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

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

• 287 balls in 33 games this season = 8.7 balls per game.

• 694 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 369 consecutive Mets games with at least one ball

• 132 lifetime foul balls during games (not counting balls that were tossed into the crowd)

• 4,949 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 get involved.)

• 45 donors

• $6.73 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $40.38 raised at this game

• $1,931.51 raised this season

One more thing: black light time! Here’s another look at the four balls I kept. The image on the left shows them in regular light, and the image on the right shows them in black light:

See the ball with the crystal-clear “466” stamp? That was the Josh Thole foul ball. Hot damn.

9 Comments

6 with no BP? That’s my high WITH BP. You da man.
 
-Avi M
 
2131 and Beyond: The games. The news. The experiences. The Orioles.
 

Hi Zack!
I am a teenager from Oakland, California and was wondering if you would be comming out to any A’s or Giants games this season. The A’s have a SCHEDULED double header against the Angels on the 16th of July, and You get one ticket, admission to both games at 1:05 and TBA, and I might be able to get my hand on some great seats near the bullpen and in within 30-50 yards of the bleachers. Let me know what you think.

So…5 foul balls so far this month? Not too shabby…
-Todd

Thanks for the kind words on my charity. Glad to see that you are still doing well, and that milestone looks to be right on the horizon. Keep it up!

Zac

I would guess tobacco juice for the stain. Now that you have that blacklight, do yourself a favor and don’t turn it on when you are in a hotel room.
Bob

By the by, did you see that Happy got Fielder’s 200th the other week?

I need some help. I am going to a Rangers game and I am wondering if any of the Rangers speak in different languages. How can I ask them for a ball in their language.]? Thanks

AVI-
Shux.

NICHOLAS-
Thanks for the ticket offer. I’m gonna try hard to get out to the Bay Area this season, but I don’t think I’ll be there until September.

TODD-
Well, when you phrase it like THAT…

ZAC-
Thanks. The weather has really killed me this week, but I’ll get there.

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Ha, good advice, but I might just have to take the black light to Toronto. As for Happy, yeah, I saw that. The man is amazing.

HARRISONG-
It’s easy. Look at the team’s roster on ESPN.com. Every player’s birthplace is listed. If any player is from another country, do some research and find out what language is spoken there. Then ask him for a ball in that language. If you’re asking how to actually say the various phrases in other languages, check out my YouTube videos. I’ve said the phrases in several interviews.

Hahahaha Zack, I think you have a new goal at ballgames: photobomb every camera that you see, especially the jumbotron ones. And maybe hold up all the baseballs you’ve snagged so far that day too.

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