6/22/11 at Citi Field

I woke up in Boston with four hours of sleep, took a four-hour bus ride to New York City, took a cab to my apartment, dropped off all my stuff, and took the subway out to Citi Field — all on crutches.

By the time I entered the stadium for BP, I was truly exhausted and kinda wished I weren’t there.

Here’s what it looked like from right-center field:

Just after I took that photo, a kid recognized me and asked me to sign a baseball. His name is Kyle. He is with it:

Soon after I signed it, Kyle got one of the players to toss him a ball. And then I got one from this guy:

I didn’t know who he was at the time, so I looked him up when I got home. He’s a former minor leaguer named Eric Langill, and he just started working for the Mets as a bullpen catcher. (Dave Racaniello, the Mets’ longtime bullpen catcher, still has his job, and that’s a good thing because he’s super-friendly.)

When Oakland took the field, Kyle and his father changed into their eye-catching A’s gear:

“We got that from you,” said his father.

Soon after, I headed to straight-away right field and got a ball from the guy wearing yellow sleeves in the following photo:

It was a coach, but I’m not sure who. I think it was Gerald Perry, but it might’ve been Tye Waller.

Then I cautiously used my glove trick to snag a ball off the warning track, and I immediately handed it to the nearest kid. I hadn’t used the trick all season in New York and wasn’t sure what (if anything) the Mets’ response would be. Surprise, surprise — two minutes later, a pair of security guards walked down the stairs and approached me.

“You can’t do that here, Zack,” said one of them.

“Are you serious?” I asked rhetorically.

“I’m serious,” he said. “They already called it in and told us to come find you. They don’t want anything going down onto the field.”

:-(

Grant Balfour tossed me my 4th ball soon after, and then I headed to left field. It was dead out there as usual, but hey, I got a cool photo looking out/along the railing:

Before BP ended, I got one more ball tossed my way by…someone. I think it was Joey Devine, but for all I know, it could’ve been Graham Godfrey. Living on the east coast and following the Mets much more closely than the Yankees, the American League West feels like an alien division. You know what I mean? I rarely get to see those teams play, even on TV, and I don’t recognize many of the players.

After BP, I was so tired and my left foot was feeling so weak that when I saw this…

…I decided to go home. The game lasted 13 innings, and I didn’t watch any of it. I just needed to get away from the baseball world for a few hours.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 baseballs at this game (four pictured here because I gave one away)

• 459 balls in 56 games this season = 8.2 balls per game.

• 717 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 243 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 5,121 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.)

• 52 donors

• $6.94 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $34.70 raised at this game

• $3,185.46 raised this season

Finally, all four baseballs have traces of invisible ink on them. Three actually appear to be stamped, and the fourth has a random blotch. Check it out:

As for my next game, don’t ask. I was planning to take my mom to Camden Yards this weekend, but I still can’t walk without crutches, so there’s no point in being there. Along those lines, I might skip the entire Rockies series at Yankee Stadium because, to put it kindly, that place is tough enough under normal circumstances. The good news — no wait, the really awesomely GREAT news — is that I might be getting a free trip to the Home Run Derby in a few weeks. I can’t say anything else about it yet, but will hopefully have an update soon.

20 Comments

Hopefully you have success this time like you did last time at the derby, but don’t get your hopes up for another derby homer. :-)

I went last year in Anaheim and it was impossibly packed. During the derby itself, Ortiz hit one about 10 feet from me, but that was as close as one came. The experience was fun though!

Speechless.

“(Dave Racaniello, the Mets’ longtime bullpen catcher, still has his job, and that’s a good thing because he’s super-friendly.)”

I beg to differ, I went today and was nothing but friendly and Dave acknowledged me two separate times and never came through. And R.A. Dickey simply refused to throw me a ball. I don’t understand. So my consecutive ball streak ended and I went home with zero. And the security at Citi… WOW. Annoying is an understatement. I hate the Mets sometimes

CHASICLE-
I hear ya. Without a cross-aisle to run through, there’s basically no chance of catching a home run at a packed stadium.

LEIGH-
What?

CHRIS H-
Sorry to hear that. I don’t know what to say. “Rac” has always been great to me. He recognizes me from my days at Shea.

Dear Zack “5116″ Hample– did you sign that ball with black ink?

I think I spotted you right before you left, as I was considering ging home myself. Somehow, I stayed there for all 13 innings of the game. I only got one ball and that was from Bob Melvin. I finally got to my hotel at about 2 in the morning. Now I am headed to Phily for 1 Game on Friday and will be back in Oakland on Tuesday…

This should be its own subcategory itself: balls caught without seeing one inning of baseball

Zack – Thanks for signing Kyle’s ball – he was VERY excited! He ended up only getting 2 balls – 1 from Langill as well as 1 from Manny Acosta. He’s scored balls at each of the 9 games we’ve attended at Citifield with a total of 43 to date. His best day was on his 10th birthday where he beat his previous record of 9 balls to score 10! By the way – the A’s gear didn’t help! Next time we’ll have to get you to sign his copy of your book. Gail says hi, by the way. Oh, and for the ankle – get a homeopathic ointment called Traumeel and rub it on 3-4 times per day and at night after you rub it on, wrap some Saran Wrap around your ankle and pull a sock over it – it should speed up the healing. Blessings, Dr. Tom Kovacs <((<<<

Leaving the game before it even begins? Ouch! Worst part is, Mets fans can probably sympathize these days …
Didn’t mean to scare you yesterday with “months” talk about the ankle. My sprain was worse, best as I can tell, so what was 4-5 months for me may be 2 months for you. Hopefully less. And I never heard of the treatment Dr. Kovacs above suggests, but he’s a doctor, so he’s definitely got a, ahem, leg up on me. Give it a try.
Hope the rest re-energized you. After that great day in Boston, I’d hate to think you’re falling into a funk, and leaving all those lovely balls un-hawked.

hey zack! I just wanted you to know 2 things.
#1. I messed up my ankle and I cant walk.
#2. I backed you up a couple of thimes on this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MU8ncZgjZY&feature=related). ZACK FOREVER! p.s let me know when you come to busch stadium! i have ticket vouchers and would like to meet you (what are your dates in the book?) see ya later!

-Nick

p.s I am user “snackwell5″

Zack, Rest up and give your ankle a break. Ther are still plenty of balls to shag this season!

Hey Zack – let me know if you get to go to the HR Derby. I won a contest, too, and I’ll be there!

I’m going to Camden Yards saturday, heard it might be crowded. Too bad I won’t see you there.

JOE-
I simply signed it with what I was given.

NICHOLAS-
Well, at least you didn’t get shut out. Citi is a tough place. Sorry we didn’t run into each other, but I had to get out of there.

TOAST84-
So, the Home Run Derby would qualify in that category?

TOM-
You’re very welcome. It was nice meeting you guys and “hi” back to Gail. Thanks for the Traumeel recommendation. I looked it up and got some today for $30. Ouch! But hopefully it’ll help. I’m willing to pay/try anything.

SHANE-
I’d rather go to BP and then leave…than not go at all. And thanks for un-scaring me a little bit.

NICK-
1) That sucks.
2) Thanks so much. I really appreciate that.
I’m going to announce dates for my big road trip soon…

MIKE-
True. I’m officially taking a five-day break right now.

MEGGIE Z-
Well, I should be there. I’ve been told that I’ll be there. I just need to work out the details. Should know more next week. Which contest did you win?

KYLE-
I know. Man! It would’ve been great to be in Baltimore this weekend, but I need to stay home and rest.

I completely understand that you had to leave. I was tempted to, myself. My mom and sister left right before the rain let up.

It was a Jackie Robinson essay contest…MLB Breaking Barriers.

Zack, not for nothing but you are modest because one of the baseballs you got was snagged while security was busting your “chops”! It was like you had Spidey sense working overtime there! One of the security guard’s reaction was pure disbelief!

A couple weeks ago I also got yelled at for using the glove trick at citi. I got away with a ball out of it however, not sure if I will use it anytime in the near future

Langill is super friendly. I went to the game and we were talking for a couple of minutes. He tossed me a ball too. I’m from out of town and appreciated the kind gesture. I know he’s just a bullpen catcher but he really knows a lot about the game.

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