7/20/11 at Citi Field

As if ballhawking isn’t already tough enough at Citi Field, this was the scene when the gates opened at 5:10pm:

In the photo above, the people on the warning track and in the left field seats are season ticket holders.

From what I’ve heard, every season ticket holder doesn’t get to do this every day; it’s just a one-time perk that each season ticket holder gets to do over the course of the season. In other words, there are often dozens of fans on the warning track and in the stands when I first enter the stadium, but there are different fans every day. Does that make sense? The Mets are doing everything they possibly can to keep their season ticket holders happy, and in the process, they’re making certain things, shall I say, more challenging for everyone else.

That said, batting practice was as slow as I can remember — not just at Citi Field, but anywhere. I didn’t snag a single ball during the 20 minutes that the Mets were on the field, and I only got *one* during the Cardinals’ portion of BP — a toss-up from Trever Miller in left-center field. I took the following photo after I got that ball; Miller is standing on the right:

Yup, that’s all there is to say about batting practice.

And now let me say this…

Yesterday afternoon, just before leaving for Citi Field, I mentioned on Twitter that I was considering leaving after BP. It’s never my preference to do that, but there are times when I’m so busy that I truly can’t be at the stadium for five hours (plus the hour of travel each way on the subway). Yesterday was one of those times. I had so much other stuff to do that I had to make a choice: go to batting practice and then leave *OR* don’t go at all. Obviously, I chose the first option, but guess what? I pretty much had to stay past BP. Why? Because the last time I’d gone to a game and didn’t snag at least two baseballs was at the 2007 All-Star Game. Yesterday, when BP ended, I had a personal 258-game streak on the line, and I needed one more ball to extend it. As busy as I was, there was NO WAY that I was going to leave the stadium and willingly end the streak.

Right before the game, several Cardinals came out to play catch in shallow left field, and when they finished, I got David Freese’s attention and got him to throw me a ball.

PHEW!!!

I immediately handed the ball to a little kid in the front row. Here he is looking at it with his dad:

Then I turned my attention back to the field and got another ball from Daniel Descalso.

I was still tempted to leave at that point, but hell, the game was about to start, and I ran into some friends who had really good seats, so I decided to stay and hang out with them. This was our view:

In the photo above, the pitcher is R.A. Dickey. Check out the following close-up photo of his knuckleball grip that one of my friends took with a super-fancy camera:

Until last night, I don’t think I ever realized how lame my camera is.

One of the highlights of the game, beyond getting a 3rd-out ball tossed to me by Skip Schumaker after the 4th inning, was seeing a fan run out onto the field and elude stadium security for a solid minute. Here’s a low-quality screen shot from a video that I filmed. The arrow is pointing at the fan:

Here’s a photo that I took when the fan was being led off the field:

I don’t condone this sort of behavior. I think it’s incredibly disrespectful to the Great Game of Baseball, but I have to admit that I find it rather entertaining. This fan in particular was young and agile and put on quite a show. The only reason why the guards caught him is that he surrendered.

Late in the game, a well-dressed/gloveless young man in the front row behind the Cardinals’ dugout got a 3rd-out ball tossed to him. Several fans near him asked to see the ball, so he passed it down the row. When the ball was returned to him, a kid in the sixth row asked to see it, so the man tossed it to him. Naturally, the kid wanted to keep the ball, and when the man asked for it back, everyone started booing.

“This is the first one I ever got!!” he protested, but it was no use. The more he waved at the kid to toss the ball back, the more the kid cradled it and pouted at the thought of giving it up. (This kid was roughly 12 years old and had a glove.) This made the crowd boo even louder and then, predictably, everyone started chanting, “GIVE IT TO THE KID!!! GIVE IT TO THE KID!!!”

When the man first got the ball, he should’ve held onto it. Tossing it deeper into the crowd? Well, that’s just stupid. He should’ve assumed that the kid would want to keep it — that’s just human nature — but I still felt bad for him. It was *his* ball, after all, and he’d played by all the rules (including paying $250 for his front-row seat) in the process of snagging it.

Meanwhile, the kid’s parents did nothing to help calm things down. In my opinion (and despite the fact that their son was disappointed), they should’ve said, “That’s not your ball. The man is showing it to you. Now give it back.” But no such words were spoken because his parents weren’t parenting.

When I was a kid, I tried *unsuccessfully* to catch a ball for six solid years — ages 6 to 12 — and I survived. When I was nine years old, I once asked to see a foul ball that a grown man had caught near me in the stands at Shea Stadium, and after I looked it over, I gave it back. (I didn’t even want it because I hadn’t caught it on my own.) No one booed or protested on my behalf, but that was the 1980s. Life was a little grittier back then, I suppose, and kids weren’t pampered every second of their lives.

In any case, as things were about to spiral out of control, I pulled a baseball out of my backpack and waved my arms to get the kid’s attention. He didn’t see me, so I shouted “HEY!!!” at him a couple times. Finally, when he looked at me (from about four rows back), I shouted, “Give the man his ball and take this one!” The kid then made a horrendously wimpy throw that nearly hit a woman in the back of the head (two rows short of where the man was standing) and caught the replacement ball that I tossed to him. The whole section erupted in cheers, but I felt terrible. I didn’t give that ball away for the kid; I gave it away for the man who was getting bullied by an entire section of misguided fans.

For the record, I’m totally in favor of kids getting baseballs, but I don’t believe it’s their god-given right, nor do I feel that grown-ups who catch baseballs should be attacked for wanting to keep them. If you want a baseball, try putting in some effort, and if you end up failing, deal with it and move on — or go buy one from the gift shop. Damn.

Anyway, like it even matters, the Mets won the game, 6-5, on an Angel Pagan walk-off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning. Then, less than a minute later, I got a ball from home plate umpire Todd Tichenor.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 baseballs at this game (three pictured here because I gave two away)

• 593 balls in 73 games this season = 8.12 balls per game.

• 734 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 378 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 259 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 40 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls

• 5,255 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.)

• 56 donors

• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $35.60 raised at this game

• $4,222.16 raised this season

23 Comments

I’ve been catching up reading your blog, and I just read this 15 minutes after you posted it :) very random, i know

yo that ball u got from Miller, i asked him for it like 30 seconds before you did and he didnt even look at me, then u asked and he turned and threw it to you, i was like “wow trevor miller, really?” ended up breaking my streak of games with at least one ball because i didnt get any, should’ve had 2 other balls on the fly but i ran down the wrong row twice, it was just a rough day for me

That third out ball situation reminded me of that kid at the diamondbacks game who gave the ball to the pouting little kid. By the way, what do you think about that? Have you heard about it.

They never showed the guy that ran onto the field on T.V. All they showed the entire time was Reyes. So I’m glad I got to see a little bit of what happened, here on your blog.
-Matt

I don’t know about you, but watching BP from a corral on the warning track does not seem like much of a perk to me. Kids are a pain in the ass. I don’t get the sense of entitlement that so many have. Kids have zero attention span. I have given plenty of balls to kids and for one minute it holds their attention and is the best thing to ever happen to them and by the end of the game the ball is resting at their feet in a mess of peanut shells and discarded cups. I just don’t understand the whole give the ball to the kid BS. It is social pressure, no more-no less. Same thing at Twins games when fans are hounded to throw back home run balls from the away team.
I hope your friend Ben had a good time here. It has been on the hot side.
Do you have any plans yet to go to the All Star game next year in KC? I love KC and wild horses will not keep me away.

Big Glove Bob

Amen to that little rant about the man. I just started snagging this year, and I’m 19. I’m getting a little sass from people even now! The way I see it is for me it’s a hobby, and all the kids want is a souvenir; like you said, give them 10 bucks and let them run wild in the gift shop.

what it do Zack.TC checking in,What would Matsuis 500th have been worth?the A S are in NY friday..YOU WERE A DOLLAR LATE AND A DAY SHORT. .GODZILLA GOIN AFTER YOGI .later Homer. Grow your hair and a goatee and i ll donate to your charity.

Nice batch of Power-Blogging Zack – I agree with you and BGBob, this social pressure BS about ‘give-it-to-the-kid’ is getting beyond annoying. Fans, ushers, announcers, all of you, give it a rest. Looking forward to your West Coast swing. I’ll be seeing you in Oak and SF and I have extra printouts of tix so you can get down to the closer visitor dugout sections in case the ushers give you a hard time. T-

NOT Yogi but EddieMurray ith 504. i didnt know Sheffield was done at 500 exactly ..they are tied. I caught 7 of those when he was a Padre

Hey Zack, I was wondering how the cardinals are in BP ball tossing wise for you at Citi since I am a fan here at Busch Stadium. I also found this article to be interesting: http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball/professional/article_e621fc50-aa2d-11e0-8ad3-001a4bcf6878.html . Anyways just wanted to say hi and look forward to your visit to St. Louis. BTW: long time reader but first time commenter.

I’m commenting to agree with the commentors. The best thing I head was at a game yesterday- a ballboy gave a ball to the smallest kid, and a fan yelled “He has his whole life to get a ball!” I could not agree more!!! That kid will know nothing about that ball a day, if not an hour after he gets it. I can tell you about every actual foul ball I’ve ever gotten. We keep stats on the balls we get. It’s so much more meaningful to us. Ugh!!!

Big Glove Bob- What the hell is going on in this state of yours?!?!? My LORD!!!! Today was better, but Tuesday and Wednesday were miserable. I was sweating, from sitting. I’m almost happy to leave!! Minnesota is a BEAUTIFUL stadium though. It easily cracked my top 10, but ballhawking here- NOT easy. Especially with the partition. But definitely get there the next few days if you can- the Tigers have Angels commemorative balls.

Oh, and in agreement with you Zack, yeah, kids are so friggin pampered these days. When I’m not allowed to play dodgeball, or STEAL THE BACON with them because “it’s too dangerous,” I knew that it was time to leave that job.

What an awesome idea for a blog! Loving it. You have definitely beaten my record of… let’s see… one ball… :)

Zack,

Great seeing you in Baltimore last week. You still move around pretty good despite the ankle issue. That game represented the 4th time in the last 2 years that I snagged a ball BEFORE the gates opened. The O’s has some early fielding practice and I got Nick Markakis’ attention and he threw a ball to me from centerfield that I caught on Eutauw street. This was at 2:30pm. 2 1/2 hours prior to gates opening.

Hope to see u soon.

I am against the “give the ball to the kid” crap. I’ve been to over 200 games and have seen kids get 10-12 balls a game, and then someone get pressured to give them one. It’s crap. I’ve given a ton of balls (roughly every other ball I’ve given to someone). But the sense that only kids deserve balls and adults have to give them to kids…horrible. I hate the entitlement that kids deserve things. Kids are entitled to learn the lessons that you scrap for things and earn them…not have everything handed to them.

Hey Zack, check this out – happened yesterday at a Diamondbacks/Brewers game. I’m not even going to tell you about it, watch the clip yourself. What an AWESOME kid. Goodness pays off.
http://wgna.com/this-is-why-i-love-major-league-baseball-video/

That kid you saw that wanted to keep that other guys ball, what a baby, and shame on his parents.

Maybe you should start keeping a cheepie, China-made ball in your backpack, specifically for little brats like that. 12 years old and acting like that?! Sickening.

Count me in amongst those tired of the “give it to the kid” nonsense. If it’s your choice, cool; when you’re being badgered on behalf of a whiny brat by a bunch of chanting holier-than-thous who’d never give *their* baseball away … only thing more annoying is the “toss-the-homer-back” nutballs.

Enjoyed “The Ball” tremendously, but am really enjoying your blog. Hope our paths cross if you ever make a game down Florida way …

One thing I want to ask you is, how often does security ask you be at your seats for bp?

iv been to only two games in my life, the first like 10 years ago CWS vs jays, and I went to one last year, I arrived like 10 minuets before the game starts and there were ushers at ever entrance to the seats. I defiantly want to go again this year and I want to also catch bp.

Another thing is how do you move around during the game, I understand if you have seats in the lower bowl you can move up a few rows down but I see that you sometimes buy cheap tickets but then sit behind the dugout?! I always feel guilty about moving up haha and im pretty sure that the ushers were there all game when i went (it was one of the most attended games also, ceremony + bobble head + sunday day game)

Thanks Zack, keep it up!!

Totally agree. I was called a douche bag by a grown woman because I got to a ball before she did. If she had been nice to me I would’ve given it to her. I had 3 already. I attend six games a season and each game is a treat. I rarely get any balls thrown to me but he women and kids do which is fine with me. I have given balls to kids who come up empty after BP. Oh well, I was backed up by another fan who said I was in the right not that whiny female.

I bet your excited for your long road trip to all the stadiums, so you can be away from Citi for a while.

zack when are you going to pittsburgh

Zack, the two games you went to happened to be games the Cardinals lost, right? Please don’t ever go to another Cardinals game again…
Just kidding. I’m looking forward to hopefully meeting you when you stop by St. Louis. I may not attend the game, but I’ll at least look for you outside the stadium before.
As for the kid (and the fans in the section), that’s just ridiculous. I don’t think I was that selfish when I was twelve…I hope.

Everybody is talking about that kid at the Dbacks/Brewers game, but if you watch the video, the usher actually tells him to cough up the ball… he wasn’t doing it out of the kindness of his heart!

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