7/1/13 at Citi Field

Under normal circumstances, I would’ve stayed home. The weather was miserable, and I knew there wouldn’t be batting practice, but this wasn’t a normal day. A special friend of mine was in town — someone I only get to see a few times a year — and he dropped by my family’s bookstore at around 11am. Here’s a photo of us:

1_heath_zack_argosy_07_01_13

My friend’s name is Heath. Really cool guy. Loves talking baseball.

This was his first visit to the store, which occupies a small building in Manhattan and has lots more stuff than just books. The photo above was taken in the autograph department on the sixth floor.

Remember when I had lunch with Heath last month in St. Louis? Remember when he told me that when he was much younger, he had thought about becoming a history teacher? Well, he really seemed to enjoy the store (which, by the way, is called Argosy). I gave him an extensive tour, which included a stop in the second-floor gallery, where we flipped through a bunch of 19th-century baseball prints.

We hung out in the store for about an hour and then headed out to lunch at a place called Burger Heaven. Our table was positioned across from a large mirror, so before our food came, I took the following photo:

2_heath_zack_lunch_07_01_13

Good times.

As for the food (since I’m sure everyone is wondering), Heath had a turkey burger, I had a tuna sandwich on a lightly-toasted “everything” bagel, and we shared a small side order of curly fries. Everything was going great until the end of the meal. That’s when the waitress handed us the check, and it occurred to me that I’d left my wallet in my backpack in the autograph department. Ohmygod, so embarrassing!! I often keep everything in my backpack (keys, phone, wallet, etc.) and take stuff out only when necessary, but damn, that’s a lousy excuse. In this case, I flat-out forgot, and I felt terrible. Heath was cool about it, though. He paid for the meal and poked fun at me, and I promised to pick up the tab next time, but you know what? In a way, he kinda owed me lunch. He had offered to pay for me in St. Louis, and I was like, “Thanks but save your money. BIGS is paying for all my food on the road, but if we meet up in New York, then I’ll be on my own, so how about you treat me then?” and he was like, “Alright, cool.” So you see? I did nothing wrong! But I still felt like an ass.

As always, I could write a chapter’s worth of stuff based on everything I talked about with Heath, but for now, I’ll just share one cool story that he told me: when he was in the lowest levels of the minor leagues, he pitched for a team that had a cramped/stuffy clubhouse, so whenever he arrived at the ballpark, he got changed quickly and sat around outside in the dugout. As a result, he got to see all the visiting teams take batting practice, and he paid close attention to the hitters’ tendencies. (At that level, there weren’t detailed scouting reports, so this was the best way to gain an advantage.) Pretty smart, huh? Every now and then, a teammate would approach him and say, “How come I can’t get that guy out with 97, but you get him out with 88?” and Heath would be like, “Are you able to hit the outside corner with your fastball?” and his teammate would say, “Well, no,” and Heath was like, “You can’t just throw your hardest down the middle and expect to blow guys away. This isn’t high school or college. You actually have to pitch.”

Heath is not just a baseball player; he’s a baseball fan and expert and has a unique perspective on things. He truly loves the game and knows SO MUCH about it. (We discussed the teams are likely to make or miss the playoffs and the reasons behind it. He told me some stuff I promised I’d never repeat — rumors, for example, about various players, and he also named a specific/underperforming team that’s known among MLB insiders to have terrible clubhouse chemistry.) Usually, whenever I talk baseball with someone, I’m the more knowledgeable one, but whenever I hang with Heath, I learn things.

We finished lunch at around 1pm, and I walked him to the subway. He’d found out earlier (when we were at the bookstore) that early BP was canceled, so before we parted ways, he offered to text me with an update on regular BP.

“I’m planning to be there regardless,” I said, “but sure, let me know.” And he did. At 3:24pm, I got a message from him that simply said, “No BP.”

With that in mind, I braced myself for an extra-dull day at Citi Field and showed up proudly wearing my Diamondbacks hat:

3_zack_outside_citi_field_07_01_13

There wasn’t much action when the stadium opened at 5:10pm:

4_view_before_ball6794

As you can see, two D’backs were playing catch along the left field foul line. The player closest to me was Randall Delgado, and I assumed that the other guy was Patrick Corbin. His jersey was covered with a warm-up shirt, and I stayed 20 (or so) rows back, so I obviously didn’t get a good look at his face. When they finished throwing, Delgado pulled a ball out of his back pocket and flipped it to a fan in the front row; Corbin chucked *his* ball all the way back to me. It was beautiful, and oh! I forgot to mention that before Heath headed into the subway, I reminded him about my consecutive games streak. I told him I’d gotten at least one ball at every game I’d attended since September of 1993 — “more than 900 games,” I said. I told him that because there probably wasn’t gonna be BP at Citi Field, I was nervous about getting shut out.

“You’ll catch a home run,” he said.

“During the game?! I can’t rely on that.”

“Why not? You got two in one night earlier this season.”

“Yeah, but I’ve been to 43 *other* games this season at which I haven’t gotten any.”

“Well,” he said, “if you still need one at the end of the night, let me know.”

I figured I wasn’t going to need his help, but it was great to know that he was looking out for me. Anyway, now that you know all of this, I can tell you that after I got the ball along the left field foul line, I sent him the following text: “I got a ball from Corbin, so the streak is intact.”

His response was brief: “Cool.”

Corbin and Delgado signed autographs before heading inside. I could’ve gotten them both, but decided just to get Corbin. Here’s his signature on my ticket:

5_patrick_corbin_autograph

A little while later, several Mets began throwing along the right field foul line:

6_view_before_ball6795

In the photo above, that’s Josh Edgin on the edge of the grass and David Aardsma farther out. I didn’t expect to get the ball because there are always more fans on the home team’s side, but somehow, I ended up getting Aardsma to toss it to me.

I chatted with a bunch of fans and employees before the game (including a young man named Harry, who likes this blog and asked to take a photo with me) and ended up here:

7_view_from_left_field_07_01_13

I liked my chances of catching a home run. The pitching matchup (Wade Miley vs. Shaun Marcum) was favorable, and the seats weren’t crowded. Paul Goldschmidt kinda proved me right by going yard in the top of the 1st inning, but the ball landed in left-center field (in the section closest to the batter’s eye).

Here’s a random photo of someone/something that caught my eye in the middle innings:

8_fan_wearing_diamondbacks_mask

Eventually, my friend Ben Weil (who always seems to make ridiculous faces in photos) dropped by:

9_ben_weil_07_01_13

In the top of the 6th inning, he pointed out something special on the scoreboard. Can you spot it in the following photo?

10_didi_gregorius_on_scoreboard

Did you see the player note? I snagged that home run ball and gave it back to Didi after the game.

With one out in the bottom of the 7th and runners on 1st and 2nd base, Heath Bell entered the game:

11_heath_bell_entering_the_game

Here he is on the scoreboard:

12_heath_bell_scoreboard

Four pitches later, Josh Satin grounded into a fielder’s choice, and three pitches after that, John Buck hit a foul pop-up to end the inning — very cool to see my friend pitching well against his former team.

Something scary happened in the bottom of the 8th: Gerardo Parra dove for a ball and landed VERY awkwardly on the warning track in right-center. From where I was sitting, it appeared that he landed and slid on his face. I don’t know how else to describe it, but it was ugly! This was the scene moments later:

13_gerardo_parra_injury

Parra was slow to get up . . .

14_gerardo_parra_injury

. . . but at least he *did* get up:

15_gerardo_parra_injury

In the photo above, you can see that he’s holding a bottle of water against his forehead. He ended up coming out of the game, but appeared not to be seriously injured.

In the top of the 13th inning, I came VERY close to catching a Cody Ross home run. Click here for the highlight, and you’ll see me running across an entire section. The quick version of what happened is that I started in the 7th row, and the ball landed in the 2nd row, one section to my right. There just wasn’t enough time for me to get there, and it ended up rolling near two fans in the front row. I was frustrated as hell, but hey, at least the D’backs were winning.

So much for that.

I moved behind the 3rd base dugout in the bottom of the 13th:

16_view_in_bottom_of_13th_inning

I got there just in time to see Andrew Brown hit a two-out, two-strike, two-run, walk-off single off Josh Collmenter.

Final score: Mets 5, Diamondbacks 4.

I’d been looking forward to saying goodnight to Heath, but because the D’backs lost, all the players made a beeline for the clubhouse — a sudden/disappointing end to an otherwise great day.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

17_the_two_baseballs_i_kept• 2 balls at this game (pictured on the right)

• 336 balls in 45 games this season = 7.47 balls per game.

• 599 balls in 77 lifetime games at Citi Field = 7.78 balls per game.

• 917 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 442 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 22 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, PNC Park, Camden Yards, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, Rogers Centre, Miller Park, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Target Field, and Nationals Park

• 6,795 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(For every stadium this season at which I snag a game-used ball, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball.)

• 30 donors for my fundraiser

• $1.88 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $3.76 raised at this game

• $631.68 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $11,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $33,037.68 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

25 Comments

Tough luck with the homer

Your friend Ben seems like a nice guy but tries way too hard.

CONNOR HOOPMAN-
With the exception of one day, that’s been the story of my year.

MIKE-
Care to elaborate? From my perspective, he’s one of the nicest, kindest, warmest, funnest, and most generous people I’ve ever known. There’s something about Ben that simply makes me happy; it’s impossible for me to have a bad time when I’m with him.

Great entry again Zack, these meetings with Heath are great fun to read. Don’t forget to pick up the tab next time:) Have you seen “The Chair of Broken Dreams” yet? A truly classy and creative monument to greatness!

PS, I’m guessing “Angels”.

Thanks. Glad you enjoy them. Chair of Broken Dreams? Nope, never heard of it.

Hey Zack,
To answer your question from a few weeks ago, you had two of the five stadiums that I haven’t been to right: Marlins Park and Target Field…the other three: the Oakland Coliseum, Minute Maid Park, and Petco Park (I’ll be in San Diego August 3-4 for Yankees-Padres, so four to go after that!) Sorry for the late response was just in Pittsburgh for a few games (PNC is unbelievable; second time I’ve been), Citi Field for the Cards, and Yankee Stadium last week. Possibly going to Philly sometime soon, and have already been to Fenway, Camden, Arlington (tour in March), and the Bronx this year as well. Do you know what Yankee or Met upcoming games you will be at? I’m assuming its pretty much whenever you are free. I’ll be at Yankee Stadium 7/11, 7/27, 8/9, and 9/21
-Tim

Hey, Tim. Thanks for the list of ballparks. You’re everywhere! I definitely won’t be at the first two Yankee games you mentioned in July. August 9th is a possibility, but I might be at Dodger Stadium that day — or somewhere else on the west coast. I have no idea. Mentally, I’m totally done with Yankee Stadium this season, but unfortunately I’ll be there for a few more games at some point.

Hey Zack, are you going to be in the west coast in July? Read The Baseball; great book.

Thanks! But no. I probably won’t be on the west coast until August and/or September.

…YOU & HEATH BELL…NICE!

…by the way, we (Jill & I) saw a “HISTORY GAME” last night!!! Homer Bailey’s 2nd NO-NO…

You were there?! Wow . . . awesome. I’m officially envious, although I didn’t have such a bad night myself. Just wait ’til you see my next entry.

Better not pull that ” I left my wallet at home ” crap when you get over here. We deport people for doing that. Heath Bell seems like a nice bloke. Bet he has some Australian in him.

“I left my wallet in the other hemisphere. Really sorry about that.”

That was about the damn near sweetest thing anyone has ever said about me. Thanks Zack! I always thought I was kind of an ass haha. Well, you’re not so bad yourself. I definitely wish I would have come to hang sooner at this game, but Citi Field has been so awful my last few trips, I keep finding myself hostage to trying to get a ball. You are definitely one of the coolest, funnest people to hang out with also, which is why I enjoy going to games with you so much, even when I know I sacrifice the joy of snagging many, many baseballs around you!

Did Heath make a purchase at Argosy? I would be interested to know what his favorite thing was there. @Mike, no love for Ben? Never met him, but I already like him!

Give it a search.

BEN WEIL-
Bromance! But seriously, thanks for all your kind words. Glad we’re in agreement here. Looking forward to seeing you on Friday.

LIZ MERRY-
Nope, no purchase. He did seem to enjoy the old bibles, especially one of them that weighed about 20 pounds. We joked about taking it on the subway to do some reading on the way to Citi Field. Of course, he also liked all the baseball stuff in the store, and he got a kick out of some of the oldest things. I showed him a book from the early 1700s as well as a small, original map from the 1600s. We have stuff much older than that, but these two items were just sitting out and didn’t require me to dig around in a storage room.

KSLO69-
I might just do that . . .

Chiming in late…

Zack, sorry for spelling you name wrong a couple of posts back. If it means anything, I work with a Zach and misspelled his name wrong for years because I read this blog.

As for Ben, he is really a nice guy. My daughter and I hung out with him at Petco awhile back and you can just tell he is really a quality, funny, genuine guy. I don’t want to get in the way of your bromance, but I wanted everyone to know that he really is cool. In fact, on our way out of Petco (after some umpire balls of course) I asked if he would watch my daughter in the concourse when I used the restroom. I couldn’t believe I was asking a “stranger” to do that, but you could just tell he was so cool. Why he doesn’t have his own blog we’ll never know…

David!!! I was thinking about you guys like 2 days ago! I was trying to plan a trip to the west coast later this year, and thinking if I’d be able to squeeze Petco in, and I started to think about the last time I was there, and I thought about you guys, and was wondering what was going on with you. I don’t always read all the comments on the blog, so it’s very possible I overlooked seeing some recent past comments from you, or of course different people comment with the same name, so it’s not always easy to know who’s who.
How’s everything going? I take it you guys are still going to games and ballhawking? If I remember correctly, last time I saw you, you had only ballhawked at a couple of games at that point, but had gotten 7 in one as your best. Have you topped that yet? Damn, I wish I had an adorable little girl to use for my ballhawking! So great to hear from you, and thanks so much for your really kind words. I really enjoyed hanging out with you guys in San Diego too, and it made my experience there so much better and obviously gave me a memory I haven’t yet forgotten.
P.S. I’ve tried blogging, but it takes so much time and effort haha. Zack knows that better than anyone. I always find myself running to get to games on time as it is, showing up at 5:08pm for games when gates open at 5:10pm, and lately not even being able to stay for the whole game sometimes. I would love to start blogging again, but I just struggle to find the time.

when are you coming to Marlins park? Don’t forget about us in the South!

DAVID-
You are forgiven. Thanks on Ben’s behalf for the kind words.

STACY-
July 29th. See you there?

yo zacky wad up. Hahaha just kidding man. I want you to keep writing as many blogs as possible so I have something fun to do in my life. Thank you.

Umm . . . you’re welcome.

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