8/24/12 at Citi Field
When the stadium opened at 5:10pm, I headed straight for the 2nd deck in right field. I thought there’d be some action up there with left-handed batters like Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Mike Baxter, and Jordany Valdespin. Hell, maybe even Josh Thole or the switch-hitting Andres Torres would surprise me and crank one in my direction? Yeah, well, by the time I made it upstairs, I realized that most of the batters were right-handed. My strategy had completely backfired, but while I was there, I saw a ball land in the gap in right-center field. You can’t really see it in the following photo . . .
. . . so here’s a closer look:
Even though the glove trick is prohibited at Citi Field, I still considered going for it. If I got ejected, or if my glove got confiscated, so be it. I was frustrated beyond words at the lack of ballhawking opportunities, so I wanted to make something happen. Well, just as I was setting up the rubber band and Sharpie, I convinced Dave Racaniello, the team’s bullpen catcher, to throw me a ball. Wanna guess where it ended up? That’s right: in the gap. Wanna guess what Racaniello did? That’s right: he walked into the gap, tossed me one of the balls, and kept the other. Here’s a photo (taken by my friend Mateo) that shows me in the seats after I got the ball; Racaniello is walking away from me inside the gap:
That was the end of BP.
It was only 5:18pm.
There was absolutely nothing to do for the next 20 minutes except stand here in the shade and stare longingly at the field:
The Astros finally came out and started playing catch . . .
. . . but the only thing I got in foul territory was Justin Maxwell’s autograph on my ticket:
The action didn’t pick up until the second group of Astros hitters. I was in straight-away left field at that point, and I ended up catching three home runs on the fly. I had to jump for two of them because the balls carried several feet farther than I’d anticipated.
Take a look at the following photo:
See the two players in left field? Dallas Keuchel, the player on the left, threw me my 5th ball of the day, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the kid on the left (wearing the black and yellow cap). Several minutes earlier, I had given one of my home runs balls to the kid on the right (wearing the solid blue t-shirt).
Of the three balls that were still in my possession, two had different types of “practice” stamps. Check it out:
My 6th ball of the day was the most satisfying. The national anthem had been performed, the Mets were about to take the field, and I was heading up the steps toward the concourse, roughly 20 rows back on the 3rd base side. At the time, I was still wearing my Astros gear, so some random fan stopped me and asked how long it takes to get from the airport in Houston to the stadium. I could’ve simply told him that I didn’t know, or I could’ve made something up (“twenty-five minutes without traffic”), but instead, I decided to give him a semi-detailed explanation of why I was wearing Astros gear. Ten or twenty seconds later, I abruptly excused myself and bolted back down the steps. Why? Because Jordan Lyles, the Astros’ starting pitcher, was walking across the field from the bullpen (with his catcher and bullpen coach), and I noticed that he had a ball in his glove. I had to cut across two sections and then race down the remaining steps. Before I made it to the front row, Lyles approached the dugout and scanned the crowd for a worthy recipient. He spotted some fans down in front, and then he noticed me and lobbed the ball in my direction. I was roughly six rows back at the time, and the ball barely cleared the right hand of a gloveless man directly in front of me who jumped and reached for it. When I headed back up the steps, the guy who’d asked me about the airport was stunned. He’d seen the whole thing play out and said, “How did you DO that?!” I just shrugged and disappeared into the concourse.
Now, as I’d been mentioning all week, David Wright was STILL sitting on 199 career home runs, so I found my way into the left field seats and picked the spot that gave me the most room to run. When he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning, this was the view to my right . . .
. . . and this was the view to my left:
Obviously I wasn’t happy about sitting next to that railing, but man, let me tell you, if he’d hit that baseball anywhere near me, I would’ve run right THROUGH it.
I never got the chance.
In the bottom of the 4th, Wright sent a deep fly ball down the right field line — but not THAT deep. Distance to the right field wall: 330 feet. Estimated distance of Wright’s fly ball: 338 feet. It wasn’t just a “wall-scraper.” It was also a pole-scraper. The umps initially ruled it a home run, then reviewed it on instant replay . . . and the call stood. If that ball had traveled a few inches less, it would’ve hit the top of the wall, and if it had sailed an inch or two to the right, it would’ve gone foul. Check out the following chart (courtesy of ESPN Home Run Tracker) that shows the path and landing spot of the home run:
In the image above, the blue dot represents the spot where it entered the stands, and the green dot indicates how far it would’ve traveled if hadn’t hit anything at all.
Unbelievable. And as if to add to my frustration, when the ball bounced back onto the field, the clueless Astros’ right fielder tossed it BACK into the stands in foul territory. I would’ve torn my hair out if I had any, and to make matters even worse, there was a group of middle-aged men sitting directly behind me who recognized me and made fun of me for not catching it. I moved to foul territory after that and watched the rest of the game from a spot near the 3rd base dugout.
After the game, which the Mets lost, 3-1, I got a ball from home plate umpire Brian O’Nora. Five minutes later, I photographed that ball from the back of the section as the field was being set up for a merengue concert:
This was the last time that I was gonna see Mateo for a while. He was getting ready to leave for college in Minnesota, so I made sure to get a photo with him — along with another friend named Greg who was there too. Here we are in the Brooklyn Dodgers shrine:
Mateo, I’m going to miss you. Have fun, kick some ass at Target Field, and keep in touch.
• 470 balls in 59 games this season = 7.97 balls per game.
• 851 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 376 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 6,289 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)
• $16.52 raised at this game
• $1,109.20 raised this season
• $20,266.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Of the five balls that I kept, only one has an invisible ink stamp — but it’s a beauty. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light:
I think my black light flashlight needs new batteries. Oh, and one more thing: in case you’re wondering, the Astros didn’t have ANY commemorative balls with them, and evidently they’ve stopped bringing them on the road. Greg spent half the game near the Astros’ bullpen in right-center field and talked about it with Javier Bracamonte.