8/20/11 at Citi Field

I was 14 years old when I started attending Mets games regularly in the spring of 1992. At the time, one of the Shea Stadium regulars that I got to know was a woman named Karen. She and I used to run into each other all the time, but lately we’ve been seeing each other less and less. Long story short: when I got off the train the other day at Citi Field, she was already waiting outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, and before I had a chance to say hello to her, she pulled out copies of my last two books and asked me to sign them. Here we are:

In case you’re not familiar with my books, that’s The Baseball on the left and Watching Baseball Smarter on the right.

The game was scheduled to begin at 4:10pm. Normally, there would’ve been batting practice, but because there’d been a really long rain delay the night before…

NOTHING — not at first, anyway, but at least there was a sign of life. The grounds crew was on the field. The batting cage and protective screens were set up. Everything was in place for BP; there just weren’t any players.

Fifteen minutes after the stadium opened, this was the scene:

In the photo above, do you see the fan wearing the navy blue shirt behind the dugout?

That was me.

Now, do you see the two guys walking across the left side of the infield? That was Rickie Weeks (also wearing navy blue) and a coach (wearing light gray). The coach had just finished hitting a few dozen fungos to him; the photo above was taken as they walked back toward the dugout with their bag of balls. When they reached the warning track, the coach pulled one out and tossed it to me.

One more thing about the photo above: did you notice the few players/coaches in center field? After I got the ball at the dugout, I jogged through the concourse and headed out there. Here I am making my way behind the batter’s eye:

Who took all these photos, you ask? Jona, of course. You’ll see a photo of us in a bit, but first let me show you what happened when I tried to enter the seats in deep right-center field:

That’s me on the left, being stopped by a “Hospitality Attendant” on the right.

Even though the game was still more than two hours away, and even though we were 14 light-years from home plate, she asked for my ticket. I told her that I didn’t have a ticket for that section. She told me that I wasn’t allowed to enter the seats. I explained that fans are normally allowed to go wherever they want during batting practice, except behind home plate and the dugouts.

“Batting practice,” I said politely, “isn’t technically taking place at the moment, but it’s early enough in the day that I should be able to go down there.”

The woman said that she had to find out what the rule was. Here she is walking toward some other Hospitality Attendants while a security guard waited with me:

The guard wasn’t sure what to do, so I followed the woman to see what was going on.

Ready for it?

Here goes:

The Hospitality Attendants discussed the matter and eventually concluded that I *should* in fact be allowed to enter the right-center field seats.

(Phew!)

The players and coaches were in the bullpen at that point, so I walked over and took a peek:

Chris Narveson was pitching, bullpen catcher Marcus Hanel was behind the plate, and manager Ron Roenicke was watching with bullpen coach Stan Kyles. I was the only fan there (and of course I was decked out in Brewers gear), so when they finished, I had no trouble getting Narveson to toss me the ball.

Then, as the stadium got a bit more crowded, I headed to the left field foul line when the rest of the pitching staff came out to throw:

Stan Kyles ended up tossing me a ball, which had a magic-marker streak through the sweet spot:

Many years ago, the Brewers used to mark their baseballs like this. Then there was a time when they didn’t mark them at all. Then they went to the marker streak. Then they started writing random crap on the balls (which made BP even more fun). And now they’re back to the streak. What next?!

The Brewers didn’t take BP, so the Mets pushed their own time slot back and started hitting at 2:30pm. That’s when I headed out to left-center field. In the following photo, the red arrow is pointing at me:

Batting practice was dead. During the 40 minutes that the Mets were hitting, only a handful of batted balls reached the seats, and I didn’t snag any. Meanwhile, lots of balls were tossed to kids in the front row. I could’ve easily snagged this one by reaching over their gloves…

…but pulled my own glove back at the last second to let them go for it.

In the photo above, do you see the fan wearing the Jason Pridie Twins jersey? That’s my friend (and jersey-God) Ben Weil. I’m telling you, he has more jerseys than anyone. Ever. In the history of history. Someday I’m going to blog about it so you can see for yourself.

The final group of BP featured four lefties, so I made the trek to the second deck in right field. (It really *is* a trek to get there. You have to go all the way to the concourse in foul territory in shallow right field, then take a long escalator to the top, then walk through the concourse toward fair territory, then proceed through a couple of zig-zagging ramps, then cross the wide open-air concession area, then head down a few steps toward a slightly lower platform-thingie, and finally make your way down into the seats. It’s soooo not worth it. I pretty much ran up there for the exercise.) Here’s what it looked like up there:

Not surprisingly, there was a grand total of ZERO home runs that reached the seats.

And then batting practice ended.

Right before the game started, I made my way down to the 3rd base dugout and got a warm-up ball from Jerry Hairston. Before leaving the section, I asked the nearest security guard if there were any kids that he wanted to give a ball to. He said yes, so I handed it over and watched from afar. Here’s how it played out:

In the photo above, the kid is holding up the ball so that the fan on the far right (wearing the yellow cap) could see it. I assumed that was his father, but regardless, it was a cute scene that left me felling warm-n-fuzzy. This was one of three balls that I gave away over the course of the day.

Jona and I had really good seats for the game. This was our view:

It was a good foul-ball spot, made even better by the empty space on both sides. This was the view to my left…

…and this was the view to my right:

I seriously thought I was gonna catch at least two foul balls there, but no, the only one that came close flew directly over my head and was bobbled/snagged by a fan who was sitting seven rows behind me.

At one point in the middle of the game, I spent a few minutes wandering and taking photos of the fancy club that was connected to our section. Here’s one…

…and here’s another:

By the time I made it back through this tunnel to the seats…

…something rather insane was happening. Have a look at the following photo and see if you can spot it:

Give up?

Here’s a closer look:

Do you see the smoke billowing up behind the Budweiser sign? Evidently, there was a huge fire right across the street at one of the chop shops. Check out this brief article about it on MLB.com. I was tempted to run up to the upper deck in left field and have a look — dozens of fans were converging there — but I didn’t want to leave my awesome foul-ball spot.

Instead, I took this photo with Jona:

See the bruise on my nose in the photo above? Three words: Nationals Park security (with “security” in humongous quotes). Click here if you missed that story from earlier in the week.

As for the game…

The Brewers had a 7-1 lead after six innings.
The Mets scored five in the seventh and three more in the eighth to take a 9-7 lead.
The Brewers then scored four in the ninth and held on for an 11-9 win.

That’s just a quick/cheap recap; being there and witnessing it in person was really exciting. The best part was hearing Francisco Rodriguez get booed mercilessly — and then watching him surrender the three go-ahead runs in the eighth. Of course, the Brewers’ rally in the ninth made him a winner.

After the final out, I got a ball from home plate umpire Alfonso Marquez, and when the Brewers walked in from the bullpen, I got another from Stan Kyles behind the dugout. I was surprised that he didn’t recognize me. Perhaps the fact that I’d removed my hat had something to do with it.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

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

• 811 balls in 95 games this season = 8.54 balls per game.

• 756 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 382 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 5,473 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.)

• 56 donors

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

• $42.72 raised at this game

• $5,774.32 raised this season

Finally, of the three balls that I kept, two have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the balls in regular light versus black light:

22 Comments

I seriously thought that was a baseball sitting in the tunnel. What an optical illusion!

Six with no BP. Very nice. I’m sick of all the ‘attendants/security/guards’ that have no clue or commen sense. Bravo to you, as I would have probably gone nuts and never been allowed near the section again. Much to learn from you, Sensei. Oh, and big props to Jona for…. well, for being Jona. Not like that. Look forward to your decision on the final six games. I checked out the schedule and thought Pit then NYM (all Cincy) or Oak/LAA then CHC/SD (26,586 avg att 2010 CHC/SD, not too bad since SD can pack 43K+).

Why are some MLB baseballs stamped with invisible ink?
http://yossif.mlblogs.com/ (The Rays Rant)

Zack, I love your facial expression in the “seriously guys what the h*ll” pic. It looks like you’re ready to kill that hospitality lady! haha

Did you go for the all you can eat special in those seats that you had? I did it a few months back and it was a pretty good deal. It was like $18 for unlimited food and sodas and stuff.

This game makes it hard to be a Mets fan day after day. Ugh.

** repost – I never know if you go back to look at the older posts / comments . .just trying to post on the current

Hey Zack
thanx for the reply on my Guthrie post earlier, was just shocked at someone who i was expecting to be very fan friendly was so snarky to little kids only asking for autographs ( it goes up one side and down the next on me since I am a adult ) just surprising after reading about your interactions with him — I noticed lately there has been alot of ” anti adult ball hawking ” and I have to admit I notice it every once and awhile myself azackt AT&T and Oakland, if everyone just used the same ” hawking etiquette” it would be fun for all – I personally just make sure that if im going for ” toss ups ” just to move around and let others get into ” my position ” once i get one .. There is no reason we all cant have fun …. are you still planning on being in the Bay Area Sep 2 and 3 ? — I was planning on going to the Oakland vs Mariner game Sept 2 in Oakland, would be great to take a minute and meet up

Hey Zack,

You are looking good in that replica 1973 KC Royals All-Star shirt!!!

Looking forward to your visit to the “K” in September.

Tom

Hey man,

I dont know if I already thanked you for helping me with my charity, Snagging Baseballs for Puppies, so thank you. It was great to meet you finally and we always have a seat reserved for you at Safeco Field.

Your friend,

Wayne

http://stock350i.mlblogs.com/
http://www.crowdrise.com/snaggingbaseballsforpuppies

hey zack just letting you no i see a baseball after the second club photo its on the ground looks like in a tunnel not sure if you seen it lol

tyler

Tyler, i’m pretty sure that’s a wad of tissue you see in the tunnel photo and not a baseball. : )

Check out this article about Mike Stanton. It mentioned hit 3rd deck homer at Citi a few weeks ago, the one that you “snagged.”
http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/08/23/2370631/must-see-bp-power-show-by-stanton.html
Steve

I don’t know if anybody heard this, but because of the earthquake in virginia fan could not enter the center field gate at nats park untill 6:40, 45 minutes before game time. did anybody go to this game?

“I’m telling you, he has more jerseys than anyone. Ever. In the history of history.”

In the history of history! I love it haha! Thanks! And I can’t wait till you blog about it. Your blogs entries are so entertaining that it would be better than anything I would probably do.

I don’t think Ben deserves a blog about his jerseys until he steps up and gets a 1983 Mariners Spike Owen jersey. I mean, how does he not have that already? I just don’t get it!

I’d love to know Ben’s most obscure jersey. You guys ever check out this website? It’s all about random sports jerseys that people spot. http://straightcashhomey.net/

Hey there Zack. Another entertaining entry! My favorites are the ones in which you must overcome some obstacle, or are thwarted in some way. Is that wrong? Anyway, I’m wondering if you are planning to attend MLB’s 200,000th game? I hope so! That would be a great blog, and imagine if you were to snag a gamer! Shazaam!!! Cheers, Jason.

…as you probably know, Elias is expecting it to fall in mid September.

When are you next going to citi field?

Did you talk to Heath about the tickets that I won when the Padres were in town?
-Matt

@PSU532- I check it out all the time. They want me to send pics of MY obscure jersey’s haha. And in terms of baseball- I have a few crazy ones, such as this Jason Pridie, a Scott Elarton, Jose Lima, Mitch Williams, a Deion Sanders, and probably some more. I don’t know what one considers obscure. Football…..I recently found that I somehow own 2, not just 1, but 2 Josh McCown’s.

Todd- I doubt you’ll ever find a real one!

EVERYONE-
Thanks for all the comments. I’m really pressed for time, so I’m just going to answer the ones with questions…

YOSSIF-
Click the link right above the black light photo, and you’ll see why.

PSU532-
Nah, I’m kinda grossed out by hot dogs at this point in my life, so I skipped the all-you-can-eat offer. As for the website that you mentioned…I’d never heard of it.

SPENCER-
Yes, I’m still planning to be in Oakland on September 2nd and then San Francisco on the 3rd. Hope to see you there.

NICK BADDERS-
I heard that Greg Barasch went there and then just left when things got delayed. Also, I think Mateo was there and got shut out.

KSLO69-
Nah, it’s not wrong. I think it’s natural. As for the 200,000th game, I hadn’t heard about that. Very cool.

SKIM-
Well, at this point, since my flight to Los Angeles tomorrow has been cancelled, I think I’ll go to Citi Field for the doubleheader.

MATT-
I saw this comment from you on a newer entry, so I answered you there.

On that picture when you left the club, was that a ball on the right or just garbage?

Garbage. Check out the top comment.

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