6/16/12 at Citi Field

Citi Field used to open two and a half hours early. It didn’t matter what type of ticket you had. It didn’t matter what day of the week it was. If the game was scheduled to begin at 7:10pm, everyone got to enter at 4:40pm. Now, unfortunately, because the Mets have spent all their money on people like Oliver Perez and Bernie Madoff, they can’t afford to pay their security guards to arrive as early, so the stadium opens two hours before the first pitch. The only exception occurs on weekends, when FULL season ticket holders can enter two and a half hours early.

This was a weekend — a good ol’ fashioned Saturday night game on FOX — and I wasn’t able to gets my hands on a season ticket. As you might expect, and as you can see in the following photo, I wasn’t happy about it:

In the photo above, does the guy on the left look familiar? Here’s a hint: he was with me when I snagged 32 baseballs on 6/18/09 at Kauffman Stadium. Here’s another hint: he attended BallhawkFest on 7/23/11 at Camden Yards. The mystery man is Garrett Meyer, a 20-year-old fan from Kansas City, who began the day with a lifetime total of 568 baseballs. Here’s his profile on MyGameBalls.com. This was his first game ever at Citi Field and perhaps his only chance to see the Mets this year, so he VERY much wanted to snag a Mets 50th anniversary commemorative ball.

When we finally got to enter the stadium, we hurried out to the right field seats. I went to fair territory, Garrett hung out along the foul line, and guess which one of us snagged the first ball of the day? Here’s a hint:

That’s Frank Francisco in the photo above. He can be pretty nice if he doesn’t recognize you as someone who snags lots of baseballs, so Garrett had no trouble getting one from him. Unfortunately, though, the ball was not commemorative.

Look what I snagged five minutes later:

(Sorry, Garrett. Life is cruel.)

The ball pictured above was tossed by Mets rookie reliever Elvin Ramirez. Soon after I got it, I headed to left-center for the Mets’ final group of hitters. This was the view:

Given the fact that I was twelve miles from home plate, I knew that I wasn’t going to catch a home run ball. Instead, I was hoping that one of the batters would merely hit a deep fly ball in my direction. Do you see the two players standing in center field? The guy on the right is Miguel Batista. He’s always been nice, so I figured that if he had to run back in order to chase one down, I’d be able to get him to throw it to me. Two minutes later, that’s exactly what happened, and I’m happy to report that it was my 200th ball of the season.

Things picked up once the Reds took the field. During the first group of hitters, I snagged a home run that deflected to me off another fan’s glove, and during the second group, I made my best catch of the season. In order to describe what happened, I need to show you two photos. First, here’s what my view of the field looked like:

As you can see, I was standing several rows back, but more importantly, do you see the employee wearing green? She’s standing on a little platform that juts out from the regular seats. Here’s another photo that shows the platform from the side:

Okay, so, here’s what happened . . .

One of the many right-handed batters on the Reds launched a deep fly ball in my direction — I mean RIGHT in my direction. I knew that I was lined up perfectly, but I froze for a moment to determine just how far it was going to travel. As the ball reached its apex, I began drifting down the steps, and by the way, do you see the two large men in the photo above? They were both spilling out into the staircase, so I had to elude them, but anyway, after weaving in and out of the crowd, I made it all the way down to the platform. Then, as the ball was descending, I scooted forward and lunged as far as possible over the plexiglass, with the palm of my glove facing up. I didn’t think I was going to be able to reach the ball, but I figured, “Hell, now that I’m down here, I might as well stick my glove out,” and whaddaya know? I felt the ball hit the tip of my glove. For a moment, though, I didn’t know if I’d actually caught it. There were so many people reaching and so many bodies jostling that I couldn’t even see my glove — and then a scary thing happened: I began to tumble over backwards down the stairs. Thankfully, though, before gravity had its way with me, I reached out with my right hand and clumsily grabbed the plexiglass. I jammed my right thumb in the process, but hey, at least I didn’t break my neck.

Scroll back up for a moment and look at the first photo that shows the employee wearing green. So you see the little kid wearing the “DAVIS 29″ shirt? I gave him one of my baseballs.

Look how crowded it was at the end of BP:

There was NO room to run, and yet I somehow managed to catch one more homer. I had to move back a couple steps and drift slightly to my left and jump at the last second. As soon as I caught it, the guy behind me grabbed my glove and tried to yank the ball out. I yanked my glove much harder and broke free of his grasp, and let me tell you, I was really pissed off.

After batting practice, I took photos with a couple of fans who recognized me:

In the two-part photo above, I’m with Melissa on the left and Andrew (who first contacted me through my YouTube channel) on the right.

In my previous entry, do you remember my rant about all the ill-conceived sideshows (for lack of a better term) that take place at Citi Field? Well, here’s photographic evidence of another:

It was “Greek Heritage Night.” Those girls were part of a “Greek dance troupe” that performed near one of the concession areas during the game.

What.
The.
Hell.

This was my view for the first half of the game . . .

. . . and here’s where I sat (with Garrett) for the last few innings:

(Dear Mets: the dugout roof needs some help. I know that it’d cost a bit of money, but I suggest hiring someone to paint it, rather than pasting down those cheap panels. Seriously. Come on.)

When Aroldis Chapman entered the game in the bottom of the 9th, I decided to chart the velocity of each of his pitches. He threw four sliders, ranging from 86 to 87 miles per hour, and his other 17 pitches were fastballs, ranging from 95 to 99. Not too shabby, but it would’ve been nice to see him hit triple digits.

After the game, which the Reds won, 4-1, Garrett and I briefly went our separate ways. He had already snagged a commemorative ball — a 3rd-out toss-up in the middle innings — so when he failed to get one from the home plate umpire, it wasn’t a disaster. Meanwhile, look what I got at the dugout:

Not only did Reds 1st base coach Billy Hatcher toss me a commemorative ball, but Dusty Baker gave me the lineup cards. Here’s a closer look at them:

I’ve gotten lots of lineup cards over the years, so for the most part, I know how to make sense of them. The lefties’ names, for example, are printed in red. The circled numbers indicate which batters made the final outs of various innings. And so on. But there are certain things on these cards that I can’t figure out. Do you see the relief pitchers listed in the right-hand columns? I assume that the handwriting next to their names indicates how they each might be used. Doesn’t that makes sense? The “CL” next to Chapman’s name probably means “closer.” I suppose that “SIT” and “SU” next to Marshall’s name means “situational” and “set-up,” respectively. But what does the “S” stand for? What about “LMS” next to Sam LeCure’s name or “VS” next to Arredondo’s? Does it say “MI” next to Hoover for “middle innings”? Meanwhile, why does it say “Dusty’s +” on the upper right? I like that he signed the card “Johnnie B. Baker Jr.” I didn’t know until I looked him on Wikipedia that that’s his real/full name.

Check out the back of the card:

That chart shows when these guys pitched, how many innings they worked, and how many pitches they threw. Look at Tim Byrdak’s line. On June 12th, he threw 17 pitches in two-thirds of an inning, then didn’t pitch on June 13th (when R.A. Dickey tossed a complete-game one-hitter), then worked a 12-pitch inning on June 14th, and had another day off on June 15th. Pretty cool, huh? And hey . . . Jon Rauch’s name is spelled wrong. Haha! He deserves it for being mean.

Keep scrolling past the stats for more photos . . .

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 6 balls at this game (five pictured here because I gave one away)

• 204 balls in 27 games this season = 7.56 balls per game.

• 819 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 344 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 9 consecutive seasons with 200 or more balls

• 6,023 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.)

• 34 donors

• $1.89 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $11.34 raised at this game

• $385.56 raised this season

• $19,542.66 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Of the five balls that I kept, only one has an invisible ink stamp. Here’s a side-by-side comparison that shows it in regular light versus black light:

Finally, here’s a photo of my two commemorative balls, for which Garrett gets all the credit:

We were hanging out at my place, and he suggested that it’d look cool to get a shot of the balls with the New York City skyline in the background. (Good call, Garrett! You da man.) Good things always seem to happen when he’s around.

13 Comments

Nice Joey Voto wristband in the picture with the line up cards!

how do you get lineup cards… just ask? Do managers usually give them away? Also, are planning to visit the Coliseum this year? One more, how can you recognize players standing 100 ft away wearing nameless warm up jerseys?

Nice. I managed to get one today without BP. Toss-up from Miguel Cairo right before the game started. Earlier the Reds pitchers were tossing and left a sock in the outfield filled with three balls. And they left it there. And nobody would toss me one. Staring at them on the ground was way too aggravating (Im sure this type of ting has happened to you before). Still looking for that elusive 50th anniv. ball! How do you get down by the dugout if you have left field seats? Connections?

Lineup cards! So cool! The “+” on Dusty’s is a mystery, as are the LMS, S, etc.

Heading to Citi FIeld in a few hours. My plan is to hang in centerfield the whole time. I have a glove trick to only use when there is a ball directly underneath so that security doesn’t steal my string again. And I have an orange orioles shirt to get tossups.

NICK-
Thank you, sir. I got it last year in D.C. and now I wear it every time I see the Reds.

BEN-
All I do is ask, and usually I get ignored. That’s just how it goes. There’s almost no chance that I’ll make it back to Oakland this year. (If someone feels like paying for my flight and hotel, that’s another story.) As for recognizing players, I don’t know. Sometimes I can. Sometimes I can’t. I have 20/15 vision with my contacts in, so I can see details from pretty far away.

CHRIS H-
Nice job avoiding the shutout. I know a *lot* of people at Citi Field, including fans, guards, and supervisors. There are a few employees who still hate me (for having caught too many baseballs in the 1990s and refusing to give any away when they demanded it), but most people there are cool with me, and some have told me straight up that whenever I see them, I’m always welcome in their sections. In addition to that, I have a few tricks up my sleeve.

LIZ MERRY-
Mysteries can be fun . . .

SKIM-
Good luck. Let me know how it goes.

Great post. Just wondering if you know what happened to that guy in Pittsburgh “counting baseballs” is the name of his blog? He updated almost everyday up until 4-28-12?

Paul

Nice, the line up cards look pretty cool and the Joey Votto wristband also looks cool. I recently got a fathers day wristband from Buffalo Bisons Cacther Lucas May. It is pretty cool. I actually have a couple quick stories/things to tell you.
1. I have snagged 88 Triple-A baseballs at Coca-Cola Field and 4 at Frontier Field this year.
2. Ushers recognize me as the kid who catches a lot of baseballs and switches shirts and hats, but there cool with it and very friendly.
Okay, know to a couple crazy stories:
I was at a Bisons game on a rainy night and Was doing my usual thing. I came to the game late because I came to the game with a friend who didn’t want to go early, so we got there in the Bot. 1. While, right when I got in, I rushed over to the 3rd base dugout and got a third out ball. I then got a foul ball. I then got my 3rd ball of the day in the Bot. 2 at the 3rd base dugout. There is an 50 something year old man with his daughter who is there every game and his daughter gets a couple of baseballs a game. It just so happens that I got all the baseballs by the dugout that day, so when I got my 2nd of the day, and turned to go up the stairs, he said, “You have to give other kids a chance! What do you already have 5 today? You just have to let the othe kids get them!”. Another guy I have never seen before with his little kid also said,” Yay, give them a chance buddy!”. I just ignored them and continued on my way. I went back there next inning and a usher who has been nice to me and encourages me to get baseballs said,” let me see your ticket! Because you can’t go down into that section unless you have a ticket there!”. I was a little furious because obivoisly, the 50 something year old season ticket holder man must have told the usher about me. plus, this was a MiLB game and people sit wherever they want to and never get kicked out. My friend and I showed the ticket to the usher and it just so happened to be right on the dugout first row one section over because my friends moms work had season tickets there. I didn’t mind going down there because the 9th hitter was hitting with 1 strike on him with 2 outs, so I as hoping for a strikeout. I ran down to the seats and the guy struck out, so what do ya know, I got it. The season ticket holder and random guy with his kid were Mad. My friend and I came back next inning to the section we weren’t supposed to be in and the batter once again, had 2 strikes. I told my friend to wait over by where the catcher comes in. The random guy with his son who seemed to be more interested with walking up and down the stairs had his wife come over and stand over by my friend to make sure he didn’t get the ball. The random guy then said, “If you or your friend go for that ball, we are going to punch you in the back. “I was thinking, what the hell? A 40 something year old man just threatened to punch a couple of 12 year olds. There was a fly ball then and I got up to try and get it. The season ticket holder, said”You’re such a jerk man! Give other kids a chance!”. The random guy said,” I’m gonna punch you!”. I was scared so I didn’t call out for the ball and what do ya think happened? The little kid got it while looking in the opposite direction. The game then got cancelled and postponed.

The season ticket holder has know been has been all over me, and 2 fellow ballhawks in Buffalo, Austin who is a season ticket holder and 12y/o and Danny who you meet In Toronto and Clevland. He has been bothering Danny the most like saying,”I’m gonna get you kicked out of my section so you can never get a ball again!”. Danny told him to shut up and that silenced him. The season ticket holder is being a jerk. I went to the Bisons game yesterday and got 2 balls and the season ticket holders daughter got 2 also. I bet she has more than me maybe.

I also have a shortier story:
Yesterday, after I got a foul ball behind the dugout, 2 little kids approached me and were staring at me as I wrote the # 132 on the ball. I looked at them and a 7 year old girl said,”So you’re the kid who gets a lot of baseballs and changes clothes.”. I said,” Yes I am.”. And fellow ballhawk Austin Jankowiak said,” I do it to”, as he was with me. The 7 tear old girl with a 5 year old brother said,” Can we have a baseball?”. I said no because I didnt give them to kiss without gloves. She said, “Come on its his birthday!”. Austin told the kid,” Tell me your birthday in 5 seconds.”. The kid started saying random stuff and Austin said yep, no baseball for you. The 7 year old girl said,” it was actually his birthday yesterday.”. Austin replied with asking the kid when his birthday was again and he said,” I don’t know when my b-day is. I think it is 4th of flag day.”. I had no clue what that meant and we said, ” yeah, no baseballs for liars”. The boy said,”Meannnnnnie!” to Austin and the girl said,”were telling our parents!”.

I seriously have no clue what to do anymore. Do you have any advice on what I should do? I just can’t handle all this crazy stuff happening to me at a game. Also, have you had anything similar to this happen to you before? Thanks, and sorry for the huge, huge comment, but I just thought I let you hear about this crazy stories.
Thanks,
-Quinn

This was a perfectly nice day. I really wish I could have COME IN instead of simply arriving at the ballpark. I actually stumbled upon this fact after, but to that point, I had actually gone to Citi Field more times where I didn’t enter the stadium than when I did this season. Also, for the record, I had the “rooftop baseball picture” idea before Garrett. In fact, I think it may have been in the exact opposite direction that his was taken in.
-Mateo

http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

Also, I just realized how sad it is that Garrett got a commemorative ball before I did. Then again, he and I had gone to the same number of games at Citi Field at that point.
-Mateo

http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

PAUL-
His name is Erik Jabs. He had a kid. ‘Nuff said.

QUINN-
I just answered a long comment from Danny about this very same issue on my newest entry (from 6/18/12). Grown men have NO RIGHT to threaten kids with violence, but you have to realize that what you guys are doing IS going to piss people off. If you attend lots of games and always hang out in the same spot and always snag multiple baseballs, people are going to resent it. I would suggest changing your strategy and avoiding that section. Why not go for foul balls or home runs? No one can argue if you catch a batted ball. I don’t know what to say. It sounds like a mess. I don’t have these kinds of problems because I move around to different sections at different stadiums, and I never spend TOO much time at the dugouts. When I was at Fenway recently, I snagged several balls behind the 3rd base dugout, which was kind of okay because everyone saw me give one to a kid and because it was my first (and probably last) game there of the year. If I went to Fenway every day, there’s no way that I could get away with doing that. Even though I didn’t rob any kids, people would have an absolute fit, and it would be hard to blame them. If, however, someone threatened me with physical violence, that would be another story. There used to be a guy at Shea Stadium who called security on me every time he saw me standing in the tunnel near his seat. It was the perfect foul ball spot, and security actually let me stand there, but if someone actually complained, then I had to leave. It was that simple. Good luck dealing with all of this. There’s really no good solution.

MATEO-
You’ve only been there ONCE this year? Wow, I had no idea.

I do go for foul balls every game and just last game on 6/17 I stood in left field the whole game and no HRs can but I did a foul ball in the 9th inning. It is a horrible mess but stadium security and ushers actually like us and we are friends with them. Thanks for answering,
-Quinn

LMS means Long Middle Situation, VS means volatile situations, S is for long save situation

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