9/20/12 at Citi Field

The good thing about this game was that it wasn’t originally on the schedule; it was a make-up game of the rainout that had taken place two days earlier, so there were VERY few fans in attendance. The bad thing about it was that the Mets decided at the last second to open the gates half an hour later than usual, and let me tell you, there were lots of pissed-off fans.

As soon as I ran inside and reached the left field corner, I got a ball tossed to me by a Phillies player that I didn’t recognize. Then, as I walked through the front row toward my normal spot in straight-away left field, I caught a line-drive homer on the fly, and moments after I reached my spot, I bolted down the steps and lunged over the railing to catch another. I had no idea who hit either ball, so I asked my friend Greg Barasch. He had seen the Phillies play a bunch of times in recent weeks and was certain that the second homer was hit by Erik Kratz.

My 4th ball of the day was my favorite. Here it is:

Looks like every other ball, right? Yeah, well, do you see the player standing just to the right of it? That’s Juan Pierre, and that’s who threw it to me. I’ve always liked him, and this was the first time I’d ever gotten a ball from him. I know he has a weak arm and a “slugging” percentage well below .400, but I don’t care. I love how he plays the game, and I enjoy looking at his career stats. He has more than 2,000 hits, along with a .297 batting average and nearly 600 stolen bases. Give him one more full season, and he’ll have 100 triples. Those are some impressive numbers.

After BP, I wandered a bit and practically drooled over all the empty seats. Here’s what it looked like ten minutes before the first pitch:

I considered sitting in the 2nd deck in right field. Then I considered staying in right-center. Then I thought about moving to the left field foul line and attempting to catch one foul ball per inning, but ultimately I decided to sit in straight-away left.

Jeremy Hefner, the Mets’ starting pitcher, arguably had the worst start in major league history. He surrendered singles to the first six batters, then walked the next guy to force in a run, and got pulled from the game. But wait! It gets worse. You see, when Hefner walked off the mound, he was losing, 4-0, and the bases were loaded. Yeah. One hit batsman and three singles later, his line was complete: seven batters faced, seven earned runs allowed, and zero outs recorded. Ouch.

Here’s what the scoreboard looked like with two outs in the top of the 1st inning:

Wow.

This was my view during the first few innings:

Look how empty it was around the 7th inning stretch:

In the photo above, that’s me standing on the left with a t-shirt that I’d snagged during the launch. (Would that shirt make a good charity prize?)

I had more room than EVER to run for baseballs, but of course there was nothing to run for. That’s the story of my life, it seems, and if I’d been sitting in foul territory . . . man, I don’t even want to think about how many foul balls I would’ve had.

When the bottom of the 9th inning got underway, I took another photo of the scoreboard:

Ohhh, Mets.
I used to love you.
I used to feel bad when you lost.
Now I just want your balls.

With two outs remaining in the game, I moved to the 3rd base side . . .

. . . and would have snagged a foul ball if not for Greg. He basically appeared out of nowhere *just* before the ball was hit, sat four rows below me, and happened to intercept a lucky ricochet that was heading in my direction. The funny/sad thing about it is that he didn’t even know that I was sitting there until he snagged the ball and I (playfully) whacked the top of his head and shoved him from behind. He was like, “What?! WTF are you doing here?!” and I was like, “WTF are YOU doing here?!”

After the final out, I got a ball thrown to me by Jesus Tiamo, the Phillies’ bullpen catcher. I ended up giving that ball to a little kid on the way out, and then Greg and I rode the No. 7 train together back to Manhattan. I still like him even though he robs me from time to time.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 5 balls at this game (four pictured here because I gave one away)

• 564 balls in 70 games this season = 8.06 balls per game.

• 548 lifetime balls in 70 games at Citi Field = 7.83 balls per game.

• 862 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 387 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 6,383 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.)

• 45 donors

• $2.72 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $13.60 raised at this game

• $1,534.08 raised this season

• $20,691.08 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

7 Comments

first!

Wow, look at all that empty space to run. Hope its like that tomorrow. Looking forward to the KC entries, Zack.
(By the way, to anyone at the Met game tonight – were the Pirates using any Astros commemorative balls in BP today? Thanks.)
– Chris

http://ballhawker.wordpress.com/

The empty stadium looks amazing! Last saturday i was about 2 miles and 1 decision away from going to kauffman stadium. I would’ve seen you there, but instead i headed back to Minnesota. I was at a game at kauffman a week before hand when they played the Angels.
-Paul

http://apieceofthegame.mlblogs.com

Hey Zack , I have a theory—the rudeness of a stadium`s security is inversely proportional to the success of the home team. Think about it , losing team = drunken dissatisfied fans = hard crowd to control. You were definitely set-up at Nationals Park too , those guys were on the lookout for you and were out to cause trouble by the sounds of it. You are definitely a hard-to-miss guy with a high profile so you are bound to rub some people up the wrong way [ so to speak ]. Keep it up , the world needs characters. In Australia we would call it the Tall Poppy Syndrome . Luck in the future ! Go Zack !!

Way to get back in the saddle, Zack. I agree with the people on this blog, you were set up at Nats park

You go Greg! :-)

CHRIS-
Silly Pirates. No commemoratives. :-(

PAUL-
I almost attended the Angels series. Too bad we barely missed each other.

RAY BURTON-
Tall Poppy Syndrome? Ha . . . I like it. But as for your theory about the home team’s success, how would you explain Yankee Stadium? To be fair, though, the employees there aren’t rude. Some are actually quite nice, but the majority of them are just robotic and strict.

MIKE-
Hmph.

BEN WEIL-
Eh?

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