4/20/12 at Citi Field

I need to start by sharing some info that’s going to sound like an advertisement. Bear with me. Here goes:

Citi Field’s new party deck is meant for groups of 25 or more, but for a limited time, the Mets are selling individual tickets.

Why did I mention that? Because I got to spend the entire day there, and if I hadn’t mentioned it, you’d probably end up demanding an explanation. But enough about that. Here’s the first photo that I took at the start of batting practice:

See the wristband? An usher at the top of the stairs put that on me after checking my ticket and marking it with a Sharpie. While that was happening (and before I’d even taken my glove out of my backpack), I got Dillon Gee to throw me a ball. Let me try to explain how I actually caught it . . .

The usher was standing on my right, and as you can see above, the wristband is on my left wrist. That means I was reaching across my body with my left arm so that he could put it on me. Gee, meanwhile, tossed the ball to my left (presumably to avoid hitting the usher), so I reached across my body with my right arm (so that my arms were criss-crossed) and made a bare-handed, one-handed catch. Pretty wacky, huh? Unfortunately I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was my 800th consecutive game with at least one ball — a streak that dates back to September 10, 1993.

Five minutes later (with seemingly endless space on both sides), I made a running back-handed catch on a home run. I think it was hit by Scott Hairston, but I’m not sure.

With the exception of several party deck employees who kept offering me free beer . . .

. . . I had the entire place to myself. It was glorious. Of course, because David Wright and Jason Bay hit before the gates open and because the Mets have no other right-handed power hitters, I didn’t snag any more baseballs until the Giants took the field.

This was my view while the pitchers were playing catch:

After they finished, I got Jeremy Affeldt and Clay Hensley to toss me balls. (Hensley hadn’t seen me get the ball from Affeldt, but Affeldt did see me get the ball from Hensley. Haha!)

A little while later, Pablo Sandoval, batting from the right side, launched a home run into the front row of the regular seats up above. In the following photo, do you see the fan wearing the purple sweatshirt?

Sandoval’s homer bounced off his hands and ricocheted right to me. As soon as I snagged it, I tossed it back up to him and his (orange-shirted) kid.

My 6th ball of the day was a home run by Angel Pagan. That one landed near me (and thankfully didn’t bounce back onto the field) and I immediately tossed it up to a little kid.

Toward the end of BP, I got a ball from Giants coach Roberto Kelly, and the way he threw it to me was rather odd. After fielding a batted ball, he turned and faced the crowd and cocked his arm back. And then he paused. He seemed to be scanning the crowd in the front row of the regular seats — and he was clearly looking 50 feet to my left. Naturally, I started running in that direction, thinking that if the fans up above dropped the ball, I’d be in a good position to grab it. Two seconds later, while I was running at a pretty good pace, Kelly threw the ball toward the party deck, just far enough away from me that I was able to catch it. It’s like he was a quarterback and I was a wide receiver. But something didn’t seem right. There was little kid right above the spot where I’d made the catch, and I got the sense that Kelly didn’t intend for me to make the catch in the first place. But it’s not like I robbed the kid. The kid was 10 feet above me. If Kelly wanted him to have it, why didn’t he just throw it there in the first place? The old me would’ve kept the ball and shrugged it off; the new me tossed the ball up to the kid and shrugged THAT off. Kelly hadn’t seen me give the ball away, but Giants special assistant Shawon Dunston noticed, so when Kelly fielded the next ball, Dunston told him to hook me up. So yeah, in a weird little turn of events, I got two consecutive balls thrown to me by the same guy.

My view during the game was great . . .

. . . but the people around me? Not so much. Never in my life have I heard so much asinine chatter at a baseball game or seen so many drunk  “fans” NOT paying attention to the action on the field. The following photo pretty much sums it up:

The view to my right was much better . . .

. . . and several innings later, all that space was totally mine:

There were three home runs during the game, two of which landed on the party deck, but unfortunately the only thing I snagged was this:

Here’s a better look at it:

Not bad. I like the 50th anniversary logo, but if I were in charge of T-shirt design, I would’ve made the logo basketball-sized and done away with the word “Mets” — kinda like how the shirts looked in 2008.

Anyway, in the photo above, do you see the staircase in the background? Here’s a closer look at it:

There wasn’t anyone guarding it at any point in the day, but it was clearly off-limits, so I didn’t explore. Instead, I asked one of the supervisors what was down there.

“The pantry,” he said.

Ahh, yes, the pantry . . . for preparing all the free food that gets offered to everyone on the party deck throughout the game. I already have a party deck ticket for tomorrow’s game (it’s April 23rd as I sit here writing this, so I’m talking about the Marlins game on Tuesday the 24th), so I’ll photograph the food then and post the pics in my next entry. For now, I’ll leave you with one more shot from the party deck:

I wish that the deck weren’t so damn expensive and impossible to get into because I would buy a season ticket and sit there every game. Instead, I can only say that Citi Field is full of expensive/restricted areas; you either have to know people or have a lot of money to enjoy yourself. And that’s not how baseball should be.

On a slightly more positive note, I have a funny-but-annoying story to share — an exchange with a drunk/30-something-year-old female fan that happened soon after the Giants put the finishing touches on their 4-3 victory. Presumably, one of the guys that she was with had recognized me and told her to ask me for a ball. Here’s how it played out:

HER: Can I have a ball?
ME: No.
HER: Why not?
ME: I only give baseballs to little kids with gloves.
HER: I’ll give you a kiss on the cheek.
ME: No thanks.
HER: You knocked me over for a ball earlier.
ME: Now you’re making false accusations.

As soon as I said that, she turned and walked away.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 8 balls at this game (five pictured here because I gave three away)

• 63 balls in 8 games this season = 7.875 balls per game.

• 800 consecutive games with at least one ball!

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

• 387 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

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

• 5,882 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 17 donors

• $1.00 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $8.00 raised at this game

• $63.00 raised this season

• $19,220.00 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

I have a few more photos to share. First, here are the sweet spots of the five balls that I kept:

As you can see, they’re all stamped with the word “practice.”

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

Wait, I just thought of one more thing that needs to be shared — an article about me (written by my girlfriend!) that was recently published in a local paper called the West Side Spirit. Here it is on my website. She’s an aspiring writer, and this is the first time that she’s gotten paid to write something, so congrats to her.

19 Comments

The party deck looks amazing for ballhawking! Who got the 2 HR balls that landed in the party deck area? Did you come close to them?
-Quinn

Wait, didn’t you get kicked out of this area last time you were at Citi Field? In any case, this sounded like a wicked time!
- Malcolm
http://theballparkguide.mlblogs.com/

Ah, sometimes frustrating Citi can be fun…. for a price.

Real nice of the Mets to set up the beer the way they did – the first time one of their employees gets hit in the back of the head with a home run ball while pouring a beer they’ll realize they should have set it up like a normal bar with the taps between the bartender and the fans…unbelievable.

Zack-
Do you know of a location that has all the languages you can ask for a ball in and where that is located?
Thanks
Austin

Sorry also would the 2000 people a’s stadium be better than sold out AT&T?

I went to the A’s game yesterday at the Coliseumm and there were 25,000 people there, which is a lot for Oakland standards…. I caught a foul ball in the 4th inning. I bought a $40 seat first row and aisle next to the bullpen and I leaned halfway over the railing to take the ball on a bounce out of the ball boy’s hands. It was my best game in a long tine.

Oh, and austin gopitched to the colisseum… the tickets are cheaper and it is foul ball hevan.

For the A’s??????

QUINN-
Some old-ish guy got the first one (way out by the batter’s eye) by Angel Pagan. A 30-something-year-old drunk guy got the second one (near the beer area) by Kirk Nieuwenhuis. I was nowhere near the Pagan blast, and I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was sitting down for the other one because I assumed that there was no chance that he’d go oppo. I really felt like a moron after that.

MALCOLM-
Yeah, but this time I was legit.

CHRIS H-
Exactly.

BEN-
The employees nearly got drilled several times during BP. The female employees in particular were completely scared of the ball and constantly on high alert.

AUSTIN-
Are you asking if I have my list posted somewhere? If so, the answer is no. I’ve made a point of keeping that a secret. Also, 2,000 people at any stadium is going to be better than a full house . . . at any stadium.

NICK BADDERS-
Awesome! Congrats.

EVERYONE-
I’m planning to catch up on other comments (from older entries) later tonight or tomorrow.

Austin- Yeah, for sure go to the Oakland Coliseum over At&T Park if you want to snag balls. If you want to go for the game and experience, then At&T Park.

I know it’s a long shot but *maybe* you could talk to someone at Citi field to see if you could get a few discounted tickets (for various games throughout the season) on the “party deck” if you agree to not consume the food/drink. I guess it would be one of those “it couldn’t hurt to ask moments”. Oh and I like Shawon Dunston, he’s a pretty funny/cool guy. Glad he’s coaching here.

CONNOR-
I thought about that, but I doubt the Mets would go for it.

*go

Nick-
Do you know of any future A’s games you will be going to? At AT&t I’m going to see the Cardinals series sometime in the summer.
Austin

Austin- Yeah, I am going to Oakland May 11th vs the Tigers, June 20th, 21st against the Dodgers and 24th against the Giants, August 5th against the Blue Jays, and September 2nd vs the Red Sox. And I know I will be going to more games… as in deciding the day of. As soon as I decide about a game, I put it on my schedule on mygameballs.com, and you can access my profile by clicking on my name below. I also plan on going to a lot more of Stockton Ports games and a Giants game or two. I also might go to Ballhawk fest in July.

someone should definitely see if the Mets do a deal like that… if so id totally go.

How much $$ do the party deck seats cost?

I’ll give you a kiss? It’s 2012 lady, you’re going to have to bring more to the table then that.

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