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.
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.
• 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
(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