8/23/12 at Citi Field
This was a Thursday afternoon game. The Mets and Rockies had played until 10:25pm the night before. I knew there wasn’t going to be batting practice, but I *had* to be here; David Wright was still sitting on 199 career home runs, and I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to catch No. 200.
When the stadium opened at 11:10am, I headed out to right field and saw something weird. As you can see below (if you expand the photo by clicking it), there were five baseballs sitting on the grass along the foul line:
Half an hour later, the Mets pitchers came out and used those balls to play catch, but I was gone by that point. That’s because Jhoulys Chacin started playing catch in right-center field:
In the photo above, did you notice the white speck on the lower left? There were two more balls sitting there.
Several minutes later, I was spotted/approached by a man named Carl, who had emailed me several times over the past season. This was the first time that we’d met in person, and he asked if I’d pose for a photo with his kids, William and John. I said yes, of course, and this was the result:
Unfortunately we didn’t get to chat long. That’s because Chacin moved to the bullpen, and I took off for the seats in right-center. This was my view:
How’s THAT for ugly?
My view of the catcher (given the fact that I couldn’t see him) was even worse:
Thankfully the atrocious design didn’t stop me from getting this ball . . .
. . . from pitching coach Bo McLaughlin.
I headed to the seats along the left field foul line and got a couple Rockies to autograph my ticket:
In the photo above, the player standing in front of me is Matt Reynolds. His signature is on the right side of the ticket, and Adam Ottavino’s is next to it.
A little while later, I moved closer to home plate when Alex White and Drew Pomeranz started playing catch:
White ended up throwing me a ball — but not THAT ball. Here’s how it all went down . . .
1) Before he played catch, I noticed that he was getting photographed near the dugout with a ball in his hand, so I ran over, and when he finished, I asked him for it. He said he needed it to play catch.
2) When he finished playing catch, he threw the ball to someone else. I then called out to him and played dumb and said something along the lines of, “Any chance for the ball now?”
3) He must’ve felt bad because he ended up going into the dugout, disappearing briefly from sight, and reemerging with a ball that he threw to me. Here’s a photo of him (still in the dugout) just after he threw it:
I took that photo from the spot where I caught it, and just to be clear, he threw it FROM the dugout. His aim was perfect, and I thanked him as best I could from 90 (or whatever) feet away. Curses to Citi Field for being built/run in a way that keeps fans away from the field. Wanna go behind the dugout? Sorry, you need a ticket. Wanna go next to the dugout? Sorry, there’s a humongous photographers’ area that’s off limits (and never full). Wanna hang out down the left field line and try to scoop up a ground ball during batting practice? Sorry, there’s a wheelchair row down in front, which is blocked anyway by the tarp. Wanna go to left field and get close to the players? Sorry, there’s a party deck where tickets cost anywhere from $100 to $200 apiece, and which are only sold to groups of 25 or more. Wanna go to right-center and take a peek at the warning track? Sorry, there’s a huge gap behind the outfield wall (where the glove trick isn’t allowed) because the stadium was designed so badly that the fences had to be brought in. Wanna spend some time directly behind the right field fence? Sorry, that’s another group-only area called the Modell’s Clubhouse, and it’s covered with netting. Wanna hang out down the right field line and try to get an autograph of your favorite Mets players? Sorry, there’s another wheelchair aisle down in front, and your favorite Mets won’t sign because they’re rude. Wanna go behind the 1st base dugout? Sorry, you need a ticket for that area, even when you’re there two hours before game time and the team is 3 million games under .500 and there are 14 fans in the entire stadium. Wanna wander behind home plate and watch the movement of the pitches? Sorry, that’s a club area, and you have to be rich to sit there, but we’d be delighted to sell you a ticket in the 500 level for $13. You’ll be so high up that you’ll need an oxygen tank, and you won’t be able to see the ball, but look at the bright side: you’ll be THAT much closer to God.
Approximately one hour before game time, Rafael Betancourt and Matt Belisle played catch in left field. Check out the following photo and note the red oval that I’ve added:
In case you can’t tell, there were three balls sitting on the grass in that spot, and when Betancourt and Belisle finished throwing, they tossed their ball toward the others. More on that in a bit.
I got two more autographs on my ticket:
The signature that overlaps the date belongs to Josh Roenicke; the other one (on the upper left) was scribbled by Will Harris.
Here’s some more weirdness for you — check out the groundskeepers’ wonky method of whitening the foul line:
Here’s a closer look:
Twenty minutes before game time, the four baseballs were still sitting on the grass near the left field foul line:
When the Rockies’ position players came out to run and stretch and throw, they brought balls with them from the dugout, so the ones that were already sitting in the outfield were unneeded.
Five minutes before game time, Jerry Weinstein, the team’s “catching coach,” walked briskly toward the balls and ended up tossing them all into the crowd. I caught the first one, which I promptly handed to a little girl who was standing near me. The other two were tossed to kids.
I’ve always said that pitchers’ duels are more entertaining on TV, and that slugfests are better in person. Therefore, you can imagine how I felt (especially sitting in left-center and hoping for some home runs to fly my way) when the final score ended up being 1-0.
The lowlight was seeing THIS in the bottom of the 7th:
That’s a photo of Rex Brothers intentionally walking David Wright. I should specify that the Rockies were the team that scored The Run, so my attempt to catch a milestone was going to have to wait at least one more day.
• 463 balls in 58 games this season = 7.98 balls per game.
• 850 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 375 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 6,282 total balls
(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.)
• 43 donors
• $2.36 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $7.08 raised at this game
• $1,092.68 raised this season
• $20,249.68 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009