4/24/12 at Citi Field

I had four goals at this game:

1) Snag one of the new Marlins commemorative balls.
2) Talk to Heath Bell (whom I’ve known for years).
3) Catch a game home run ball on the party deck.
4) Take advantage of (and photograph) the free food.

The day got off to a good start when Jon Niese tossed me this within the first minute of batting practice:

As you can see in the photo above, I was the only person there, so in order to create a little excitement, Niese had thrown me the ball with a bit of flair. Rather than making eye contact and under-handing it, he turned his back and faced away from me and and made a no-look flip over his right shoulder. The ball didn’t quite have enough oomph on it, so I had to reach two feet over the railing to make the catch.

The way I got my 2nd ball was much more fun. Mets coach Tim Teufel was patrolling the outfield with a fungo bat, so when he wandered near me to retrieve a ball, I called out and asked him to hit me a fungo. (For those who don’t know, Teufel is a former player who was on the Mets’ championship team in 1986, so therefore he was one of my childhood heroes.) Teufel responded by attempting to hit one to me from about 50 feet away, but the ball fell short and thudded off the padded wall below. He then tried again. And again. But each time, instead of lofting a gentle pop-up in my direction, he accidentally hit a line drive into the wall. After his third attempt, he picked up the ball and threw it to me — and here it is:

Sweet!

Then the food service got underway. The first thing I got was a bag of peanuts:

I didn’t eat it. I tucked it in my backpack “for later” and ended up taking it home. Did I feel guilty? Hell no. I’d paid $100 for my ticket and was determined to get my money’s worth.

The Marlins took the field at around 5:30pm, and whaddaya know — Heath Bell was the closest player to me. You can see him in the following photo, following through on one of his throws:

When he got a bit closer, I said, “Mister Heath Bell, sir, welcome back to Citi Field.”

He didn’t look up, but I saw him smile and knew that he recognized my voice, so I added, “Happy twenty-twelve to you. It’s nice to see you again.”

Bell then looked up and gave me a mini salute.

I was wearing a teal Marlins cap with the old logo, and several minutes later (after he’d finished throwing), he called me out on it. He looked at me (from about 75 feet away), pointed at his cap, and then pointed at me and shrugged.

“I haven’t gotten the new hat yet!” I shouted. “It’s ugly!”

“Not as ugly as THAT!” he yelled, pointing again at the monstrosity on my head.

He had a point.

My 3rd ball of the day was tossed by Mike Dunn in left-center (all the way out near the Home Run Apple) and my 4th ball was thrown by Austin Kearns in straight-away left. Neither of these two balls had the Marlins commemorative logo.

Four days earlier, the party deck was virtually empty throughout BP. Yesterday, for some reason, there were dozens of people. This was the view to my right . . .

. . . and this was the view to my left:

In the photo above, do you see the guy holding the canvas bag? That bag contained peanuts, as well as popcorn and potato chips. In the party deck, the food isn’t sitting out for people to take; employees make regular sweeps through the section and hand it out.

Toward the end of BP, Heath Bell walked over to say a more formal hello. When he got really close, I reached down over the railing, and he jumped up to give me a high-five. He asked how I’ve been and what I’ve been up to. I told him a few quick things and mentioned that I was hoping to get one of the balls with the Marlins commemorative logo.

“Man, that’s all we use during BP at home,” he said, so I told him that I’m going to be at Marlins Park next month for the Rockies series.

And so on.

(HEATH BELL IS AWESOME, AND I LOVE HIM.)

That was it for BP. Four balls. All thrown by players and coaches. Not a single home run anywhere near me. Bleh.

I made it to the Marlins’ dugout at the end of BP and noticed that the basket of balls was left out on the warning track:

I zoomed in with my camera to see if there were any commemorative logos:

Nope.

Two photos above, did you notice the little kid with a glove? Well, I noticed him while I was standing there, so I asked him if he’d gotten a ball, and when he said no, I handed him one of mine. Moments later, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria poked his head out of the dugout, prompting everyone to start shouting at him for baseballs. He grabbed half a dozen from the basket and tossed them into the crowd. I snagged one.

Shortly before game time, there was a Jose Reyes media frenzy in front of the dugout, so I tried my best to phot0-bomb him. See how all the cameras are pointed at me (okay, fine, HIM) in my photo below?

It was Reyes’s first game at Citi Field after having left the Mets in the off-season, so that’s why everyone was going nuts.

At 6:30pm, hot food started being served on the party deck, but I didn’t make it out there until the game was about to begin. This was my view (and food) in the bottom of the 1st:

It’s kind of hard to tell in the photo above (because the cheese had been placed on the bottom portion of the bun for some unimaginable reason), but that *is* a cheeseburger on the left. It was as good as it looks, which is to say: not very. It was cafeteria-quality. The water was nice and cold, but the server removed the bottle cap (so that I wouldn’t fling it onto the field) (because that’s what kind of person I am). Really annoying, Mets. Really really REALLY annoying. And as for the chicken tenders on the right, those were pretty good, but for the hundred dollars that I’d spent, I expected the server not to run out of barbeque sauce.

Wanna see what else was annoying? Mr. Met blocking the cross-aisle . . .

. . . not that it mattered because Johan Santana and Josh Johnson were locked in a pitchers’ duel.

For the next round of my “free” meal, I got a hot dog:

It was okay. No real complaint. I actually think hot dogs are gross, but I simply had to eat one.

Just before the hot food stopped being served at 8:10pm, I got another cheeseburger:

Then I got another (bigger) bottle of water . . .

. . . and got excited when I saw this:

Pretzels!

I had such high hopes, but perhaps should have known better. Not only was the pretzel absurdly small . . .

. . . but it was SO BAD that I found it to be inedible. There was no salt. There was no flavor. And it was stale.

I was then offered a bag of popcorn . . .

. . . followed by a bag of potato chips:

I put both of them in my backpack with the peanuts.

Water number three . . .

. . . preceded a cookie. Here’s a closeup:

It was a chocolate cookie with white chocolate chips. Very tasty but too hard — and I know cookies. The absolute best cookie place in the world is in my neighborhood on the Upper West Side. No, I’m not talking about Insomnia Cookies (which is excellent, by the way). I’m talking about the life-changing cookies at Levain. Go there and get some. They’re not cheap, but they’re huge, and you will thank me. Your perception of cookies (and, if you’re religious, of heaven) will never be the same. But back to Citi Field . . . the servers ran out of cookies after one sweep through the party deck. They blamed it on the fact that that everyone took two or three, and fine, okay, I’ll admit that I had taken three, but so what? For one hundred dollars (and having to watch a team of fragile players that can’t hit), I expect to have an unlimited supply of sugar. I had been told that the party deck was “all you can eat,” but it wasn’t. Certain things were only served at certain times, and other items ran out. Lame!

There was also “free” beer, which somehow didn’t run out. Here’s the beer station in action:

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I’m not much of a drinker, and I have absolutely no interest in beer. Go ahead and make fun of me for “not being a man.” I don’t care. Peer pressure is for babies. I just don’t like it and never will. For me, free beer is about as appealing as free cod sperm or free raw shark heart. So in that sense, I didn’t get my money’s worth on the party deck.

Late in the game, I went to the top of the stairs to take a few photos from above. This was the view to my right:

This was the view to my left:

And here’s what it looked like directly below me:

The Mets ended up winning the game, 2-1, and look who I ran into on my way out:

In the photo above, that’s my friend Ben Weil on the right, giving his subtle critique of the stadium.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 balls at this game (three pictured here because I gave two away — forgot to mention that I gave one to a disabled kid’s mother before the game)

• 68 balls in 9 games this season = 7.56 balls per game.

• 801 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 388 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

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

• 5,887 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.)

• 18 donors

• $1.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $5.50 raised at this game

• $74.80 raised this season

• $19,231.80 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

One more photo . . .

Remember the commemorative ball that I got from Tim Teufel? Well, here’s a side-by-side comparison of the ball in regular light and black light:

You don’t see many baseballs with invisible ink stamps right on the logo.

And finally, in case you missed my tweet this morning, check out this nonsense about me on MSN. Yet again, the media have gone for the low-blow rather than doing a thoughtful, positive story that mentions my charity fundraiser. Thankfully (and not surprisingly) my publisher got it right when they posted this about me yesterday.

20 Comments

Awesome post! Did you notice the guy checking out the pretzel server? Pretty funny. I hate when they remove the caps from your bottle. It’s so bush league. I’m sure that in addition to preventing you from throwing it (who would throw a $4.50 bottle of water?) it also makes you drink it faster and go get another one. Ugh.
Anyway, very cool to read about you hanging out in this new section!
– Malcolm
http://theballparkguide.mlblogs.com/

Nice haul – Doesn’t match up to your legends seats post (food wise). Is that your 1st ball via owner? Me thinks so. PS-you were’nt super rude the other night, I know well enough not to bother you during BP.

Man…some of those comments on that article you linked to are outrageous!! It’s funny how some people truly do get off being d bags. I wonder how many of them actually do any charity work…..? You’re the man Zack, and I’m sure you already don’t care, but don’t let comments like that get to you. There’s a lot of useless people in the world, and clearly a handful of them troll the interwebz looking for something to spread their lameness….

Were there any kids on the party deck? Didn’t notice any, which makes it a bit odd (but still cool) that Mr. Met stoppd by. The Markins weren’t using their commemorative balls last Saturday in DC. We only got one because the Marlins BP catcher had it in his equipment bag.

Zack, I agree with you on the cookies from Levain. They’re incredible.

PS – live the composition of the photo with Ben. Nicely done, mystery photographer.

Going to go to any more of the marlins series games?

I think I saw you running for Infante’s homer tonight. Why weren’t you on the party deck? (if that was you)

Were you at the game tonihgt? i thought i saw you running for Infante’s homer. Did you get Wrights RECORD BREAKING homer?

I like how Heath said they use the commemorative balls during BP at home, too bad the gates don’t open till after they are done hitting, gotta hate teams that don’t open their stadiums to the fans early enough to see the home team take some BP

Now I wish I’d attempted to snag a ball at the Marlins’ opener a few weeks ago lol. Anyway, I’m glad I’m not the only non-drinker on here. I had free SunTrust seats at Turner Field with a full open bar and never had a drop. Free food will always suffice.
Good to see Ben make a cameo. Take care.

Zack, cool posting! I’m reading this while I’m in Japan waiting for my flight to Singapore. Chat when I get back

Z-man,

I actually think that $100 for those seats is a good deal…for drinkers especially. I could drink about that much in the beer alone. However, I don’t drink at ballgames as a rule. I had one beer in Milwaukee, because, well it is Milwaukee and I felt compelled to have one. I usually drink water. I love baseball and don’t want my mind altered watching it. It is the same reason I don’t mind going to games alone. I am there to watch baseball, not spend three hours socializing. I also don’t really eat much at games either. If I am really hungry, I might have a dog. In consideration of others, I no longer pile the onions on my dogs though. One exception to my food rule is the cookie dough pothole at the K. It is a cup of Sheridan’s vanilla custard with cookie dough and hot fudge. Awesome. I still harken back to all that food you ate when you had those Legends seats. That was literally several days worth of chow for the average human. Oh, and I have heard that part of the deal with taking the caps off the drinks is that when they are tossed on the ground and land on their ends they make for one heck of a tripping hazard.
Big Glove Bob

Cheese on the bottom bun makes sense from a culinary point of view. Quicker route to, and more flavor for the taste buds! I’m sure your sister would agree. And don’t let the negativity get in your head, brother. A lot of unfortunate and ugly people out there can only find a substitute for happiness in their lives by being hurtful and demeaning to those around them. Misery love company. Keep being your own exuberant self! It’s an excellent example to the world. Cheers, J.

I try not to read comments underneath vids. But I fail. So many haters, and the ones that say they aren’t jealous– they’re focusing on the balls. Maybe they can Sour Grapes away that you have a million balls and they never got one, but I think they’re (unconsciously) jealous of the fact that you’re doing what you want to do, and being successful at it, while so many people aren’t.

I have 9 snags from my local AAA team, none from MLB. Living right at the Federal Poverty Guideline, I haven’t been able to go to a MLB game in decades. You getting to go to them– that’s what I envy. But instead of hating, I use your blog to live vicariously. More power to ya!

^^agree^^

MALCOLM-
Ha, yeah, I noticed him. Kinda hard to miss.

CHRIS H-
This was my second ball from Loria, but he’s the only owner to hook me up. As for “bothering” me during BP, saying hello is not an intrusion. I just get annoyed when people recognize me and then try to have an hourlong conversation while I’m trying to do my thing.

BRIAN, KSLO69, and NSPO-
Thanks for the kind words. As a general life rule, I only read comments about myself on my own blog (and sometimes on Reddit because the haters there get downvoted into oblivion). If people want to say something directly to me, then I’m happy to listen, but otherwise I truly don’t even notice.

COOK & SON BATS-
No kids on the deck. Mister Met seems to swing by every game. Must be one of the “perks.” The mystery photographer, by the way, is me. I put my camera on top of my backpack and used the 10-second timer.

AARON-
Now I’m craving one, but I’m stuck at work on the east side. DAMN.

DOUBLE T-
I was there yesterday, and that’s it. No afternoon game for me today.

SKIM-
That was indeed me. I got a late start because I had to go up a couple steps and maneuver around one of those horrendous railings. I wasn’t on the party deck because all the party deck tickets were sold out.

PAAOOL123-
I was nowhere near Wright’s homer, unfortunately, but yes, I was at the game.

MARK MCCONVILLE-
Any team that doesn’t open at least two hours early deserves to lose every game. I just can’t being myself to root against the Marlins because . . . Heath Bell.

MATT H-
I think that part of the reason why I’m able to stay fit despite regularly overeating is that I don’t drink alcohol (or anything other than water, really). All those liquid calories don’t exist in my world. Of course, doing more than 100 crunches everyday doesn’t hurt.

MIKE-
Happy travels. Don’t eat the cod sperm. Talk soon.

BIG GLOVE BOB-
Cookie Dough Pothole? I want!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

NSPO-
How close are you to the nearest MLB stadium?

I’m guessing…total wholesale cost to the Mets for your meal…under $5.

TC here ,i finally caught a real gamer, going for 2 in a row tonight,my hat fell off ,cheap giveaway hat, i didnt know i was getting bald.call me Ubaldo Jimenez. ODOG breaks up the nats run streak.yes.i saw you on ESPN running .I Saw you on espn and the orioles fan too..i made it on baseball tonight,and i found the archive of it on espn ,com sweet did you make a triple burger ?a beer will mess your equalibrium ,..

The games were originally scleudhed for Florida, so they are Marlins’ home games. They shifted the site because they don’t draw in Florida. They’re a sad and poorly run franchise.

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