Taking batting practice at Citi Field

For the longest time, one of my baseball fantasies was getting to take batting practice on a major league field. You may recall that my dream came true at PNC Park in 2009, and as I hinted recently on Twitter, I got to do it again the other day at Citi Field.

This event was a perk for (a) full season ticket holders who (b) paid for their tickets in full by November. I don’t have season tickets, but I’m friends with a guy named Cory who does. Cory invited me to tag along as his guest and told me that I could bring someone, so I invited my friend Andrew. Here I am with Andrew outside the stadium:

Cory was stuck in traffic at that point, but he’d told me that everyone would be entering the “Stengel” gate on the left field side. This was the scene at around 9:45am:

Andrew and I filled out waivers . . .

. . . and just as the line started moving, Cory showed up.

We headed inside to the registration area . . .

. . . and eventually walked through this door:

From there, we headed through a concourse and ended up in the umpire tunnel:

Ten seconds later, we were here . . .

. . . and when I first stepped onto the field, I took the following photo:

You could say I was excited:

By the time I made it into the 3rd base dugout, I’d calmed down a bit:

Andrew, meanwhile (and in typical Andrew fashion), was totally chill about the whole experience:

There was a five-minute warm-up session when everyone got to play catch in the outfield:

Then we all reconvened near the dugout to get assigned a batting order. We were told that we’d be hitting in groups of 10, so when I was given No. 15, I ran back into the field. Here I am loving life and not wanting to be anywhere else in the entire universe:

We were told to stay off the infield grass, so this was as close as I got to home plate:

The field behind me was pretty crowded:

I fielded several balls at shortstop and took a photo of one of them:

Awful.

Brand new training balls are hard enough to hit for major leaguers. How the HELL was I supposed to go yard with garbage like this? Not all the balls were training balls, but nearly all of them were worn and scuffed. I wasn’t surprised, but it was still disappointing.

Eventually, when my group was called in to hit, I got in line near the cage:

If the Mets had provided better balls, I would’ve used one of the wood bats that were lying around, but instead I borrowed Cory’s nice/metal Easton. (Whatever. I don’t want to hear it.) The only problem at that point was finding a non-sucky helmet. Here I am trying to make a selection:

There were NO good helmets. The best one I could find (and by “best” I mean “least uncomfortable”) made me look ridiculous:

(Whatever. I don’t want to hear it.)

Now, about those wood bats:

Pretty cool, huh?

This was my view of the field from the area next to the cage:

Here I am in the cage:

In the photo above, did you notice the guy in the orange shirt? That’s Cory. As you can kind of see, he was standing right next to the cage with his camera. (I returned the favor by getting some close-up shots of him when he took his cuts.) Here I am about to unleash a mighty swing:

I was *dying* to go yard, and if I’d been given more than eight swings, I might’ve done it. Unlike the Pirates, who had set up a pitching machine for the BP session at PNC Park, the Mets had an actual human being pitching to everyone. That was nice, but the challenge was finding my timing. This pitcher threw the balls at different speeds to everyone based on how big/athletic they were. Little kids and klutzy-looking men got easy pitches, but when I stepped in the cage, he fired ‘em in there with a bit of velocity. I didn’t have trouble connecting, but unfortunately the best ball I hit ended up going to dead center. Here I am following through on it . . .

. . . and here I am watching it fly:

Andrew was in the outfield and estimated that it went about 380 feet. He said that if I’d pulled it, it definitely would’ve been a home run.

GAH!!!

By the way, did you notice my helmet in the previous photo? That’s right, it fell off my head. Wearing it was pointless. It kept falling off, and it provided no protection, but I was told that I had to wear it. What’s up with that? I’d signed my life away on that stupid waiver, so what if I got hurt? It would’ve been my problem, right? I hate rules.

After my turn in the cage, I headed back into the outfield and got my hands on an unusual ball. Here’s a double-photo of it:

Have you ever seen this particular type of ball, or do you know where it normally gets used?

(No, I didn’t steal the ball, though I did play catch with it for a while.)

Here’s what the field looked like from deep center:

Here I am messing with the center field wall . . .

. . . and here I am standing next to it:

Did you notice what I did to the wall? If you look closely at the bottom edge below the “08,” you can see that I wrote “ZH 6053″ in the dust — my initials and lifetime ball total. (I’m now up to 6,058, but remember, this event at Citi Field took place several days ago.) I wonder how long my harmless graffiti will remain there, and if I’ll be able to see it from the stands next time I’m at Citi Field.

Here I am pretending to rob a home run:

I seem to like posing with my arms up in the air . . .

. . . but can you blame me? Despite not hitting a home run, I was having SO MUCH FUN.

Here’s a photo of the seats along the left field foul line:

Here’s what it looked like from that spot when I faced home plate:

All the other fans were positioned shallower in the outfield, so Andrew and I had plenty of room to long-toss. Here he is from afar:

To my delight, there was a bonus round of BP. Here I am in the cage again:

Unfortunately, I only got four swings, and after I failed yet again to go yard, I was pretty bummed. The following photo says it all:

Everyone around me was like, “Hey, nice hitting!” and I was like, “Eh, not really, but thanks.” They didn’t get it. They thought I should’ve been happy to have ripped a few line drives. What a bunch of idiots.

When I was 17 years old, I hit a fungo (yes, with a metal bat) over the 370 marker at a minor league stadium (and yes, I was standing at home plate). That was half my life ago. Back then, I thought I was going to end up playing in the major leagues. Now I just want to hit *a* ball out of a major league park. Just one. Even with a metal bat. Just so I can say that I did it. I know I CAN do it, but I want to actually do it. I’m still in good physical shape, but I realize that my time is limited.

Anyway, here’s a photo that I took inside the dugout . . .

. . . and here’s a photo that shows the area down below:

No one else was down there, so I spent a couple minutes looking around and taking photos of stuff like this . . .

. . . and this . . .

. . . and this:

I wonder what would’ve happened if I’d yanked down on that lever.

Even though I wasn’t gonna get to hit again, I wandered back to the batting cage. Check out this little kid who was at bat:

One of R.A. Dickey’s bats was lying around:

By the end of the whole BP experience, I was very thirsty and VERY appreciative of this:

There were bottled waters (Yay!) on the left and Gatorades (Eww!) on the right.

It was nearly time to leave so I got Andrew to take a couple last-minute photos of me. Here’s one . . .

. . . and here’s another:

What an awesome day, and if not for my friend Cory, I never would’ve gotten to do it. Here I am with him:

The End.

15 Comments

Hitting in a real MLB park must be amazing. Sorry you didn’t go deep. All Sox fans dream of “taking a shot at the Monster,” but I always feel like even if I got the chance, I’m screwed because I bat lefty. In the dream scenario where I’m taking BP at Fenway, I ask the pitcher to stand way in foul territory on the third base side, so I can pull one off or over the Monster. (I almost wrote “into the screen.” I’m officially an old person.)

Enjoyed your BP experience at Citi Fields. I got to take BP at AT&T park in 2010 and I got 8 pitches and I wish I had hit better. It was a fan HR derby and each AB was shown on the Park’s big screen. Truly a thrill!!! I am hoping to possibly do the same thing in July at AT&T. My buddy is going for sure and he might be able to squeeze me in. I am going to GPS home plate with my latest GPS system so when I really get into Tweeting in August, I can tweet the approximate distance of every splash HR. McCoveyCoveDAVE!!!

With that bat you shown, it got me to remember I grabbed a HR pitched by R.A. DIckey last July 8th and Nate Schierholtz hit it into McCovey Cove. In this Giants video, I think the guest announcer Bob Costas called me the “happy paddler”. I learned that holding a sign is a valuable tool for the ballhawk as it let’s the ballhawk communicate with all the fans. Now I have signs for every left handed hitter that comes to the plate. Here is the Dickey pitching the HR. BTW, I love what Dickey is doing this year!!!
http://sanfrancisco.giants.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=16778495&c_id=sf

I’ve been on a few minor league fields, have been on the warning track of a few major leagues, and have been on the grass at New Yankee Stadium, but getting to “actually” go on a major league field is something I’m dying to do and, by your account of it, sounds like an extremely fun experience.
-Mateo
http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

Looked like you had some fun. Good luck on your big event. I am going to be at the All Star Game and events next week. Getting jazzed up. My goal is to get a HRD toss up and an ASG toss up and possibly gamer. I am going to be in the 4th row right behind the NL dugout so I hope that a 3rd out gamer will have Big Glove Bob’s name on it. I can’t imagine that with the seats being so expensive that there will be a lot of snot nosed kids running down the stairs to steal what should rightfully be mine.
Anyone else going to be in KC for the festivities?
Big Glove Bob

I’ve got to take BP at PETCO twice in a similar full season ticket holder perk. It is alot of fun to hit on major league filed isn’t it? They made us us wood bats. Loved to hear that echo of the ball off the bat in a big, empty stadium. One of the best sounds you’ll ever hear.

The closest I came to this experience was walking on the warning track. I was on the left field warning track twice in Philly. Also, I walked from foul pole to foul pole at the Yankees AA stadium. Once, I was on the dirt behind homeplate in Philadelphia.

What an incredible experience. Thanks for sharing all the pictures. Mike Baxter’s bat! Hometown hero who was injured saving Johan’s no-hitter. I would have used his and been thrilled to make contact with the ball. I’ll be looking for your graffiti On tv next Mets home game.

Zack, on a completely unrelated note the weather for tomorrow is good, low winds and clear skies predicted. I left a message on your answering machine. I will see you tomorrow in Lowell.

PS I would have kept the ball.

You’ve had quite the resume for a baseball fan so far. Cool stuff.

I love the R.A. Dickey bat. Don’t worry you will definitley hit one out of a major league ballpark someday.
-Danny

My first guess on the ball was that it’s a presidential first pitch ball maybe? With a blank panel for a signature. After a google search, first American is an insurance company. I guess it’s a promo ball…

Zack- How are you going to let us know if you catch the ball? Please update twitter (or your blog) quickly so we can see if you caught the ball! Good luck!

Did anyone go deep? How long did the whole thing last?

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