7/24/13 at Citi Field

Batting practice was great, but the rest of the day was better. Mets coach Tom Goodwin got things started by tossing me my first ball in left field, and several minutes later, I got Zack Wheeler to throw me another. I was pretty happy about that (mainly because he’s a fellow Zack) and took the following photo to capture the moment:

1_zack_wheeler_after_ball6839

My next two balls were home run by Juan Lagares that I caught on the fly, and when the Braves took the field, I got two quick toss-ups from Jason Heyward and Luis Avilan.

That’s when THIS happened:

2_leg_injury_07_24_13

Doesn’t look like much, right? Yeah, well, have a closer look:

3_leg_injury_closeup_07_24_13

That was the result of running carelessly through an empty row and slamming into an armrest, and since you’re probably wondering . . . no, I didn’t get the ball.

My seventh ball was an Evan Gattis homer that barely cleared my glove and landed behind me in an empty row. My eighth ball was another homer (not sure who hit it) that landed in the seats, and ball No. 9 was a deep line drive by Reed Johnson that I caught on the fly.

The stands were fairly crowded at that point . . .

4_ben_weil_during_bp

. . . and if you look closely, you can see my friend Ben Weil. In the photo above, he’s wearing the red jersey and tan shorts at the far end of my row.

My 10th ball was a Jason Heyward homer that landed several rows deep and ricocheted toward the back of the section. Ball No. 11 was a towering fly ball hit by Reed Johnson that I caught on the fly, and my final ball was a B.J. Upton homer that I caught after drifting 20 feet to my right and reaching above a gloveless middle-aged man. (In case you lost count, I snagged eight home run balls including five that I caught on the fly.)

I gave three of my balls away and met up with a friend who hooked me up with a ticket to the exclusive Hyundai Club:

5_hyundai_club_ticket

This friend wants to remain anonymous, and no, it’s not the same person who bought me tickets to the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. (There are lots of nice people out there who do lots of nice things for me; I’m always happy to name names and give credit, but some folks don’t want it.)

Here’s what it looked like inside the club . . .

6_hyundai_club_interior

. . . and to my delight, there was a whole lot of free food. Here’s some of it . . .

7_hyundai_club_food

. . . and here’s the first plate that I got:

8_hyundai_club_plate_of_food

In the photo above, starting at the top and going clockwise, you’re looking at (a) turkey with gravy, (b) cranberry sauce, (c) some sort of beef-like substance, (d) pasta with tomato sauce, (e) fried sweet plantains, and (f) fish with avocado.

Overall, the food was good, but not great. The plantains, for example, were excellent, but the beef was rubbery and the fish was okay — the type of thing you’d order at a place that doesn’t specialize in fish and then wonder why you’d ordered it in the first place. But it was free! And I was starving. So I was happy. Getting anything for free from the Mets is cause for celebration.

This was the view from the club’s outdoor seating area . . .

9_hyundai_club_view

. . . and as you can see below, there was a cross-aisle, which provided some room to chase foul balls:

10_hyundai_club_cross_aisle

Of course, there were none, and to make matters worse, Dan Uggla hit a home run *right* to the spot where I would’ve been sitting in left field. I could’ve predicted that because that’s the kind of luck I have. Sit in left field all season? No home runs. Sit behind the plate for ONE GAME to enjoy some free food? Bam! Home run.

But let’s not think about that. I’d rather talk about the food some more. (Based on some of the comments on my previous entry, it seems that you do too. To quote a reader named Liz, “How are we supposed to live our dream lives vicariously through you when there are no food pictures?” Well, Liz, it’s your lucky day.) Here’s a look at the grilling area . . .

11_hyundai_club_dogs_and_burgers

. . . and here’s what I got:

12_hyundai_club_another_plate_of_food

That’s a bacon-wrapped hot dog, which would’ve been better had the bun not been stale. I also had a pulled pork sandwich and a small burger — those buns were soft and fresh — which I dressed up with some nearby condiments:

13_hyundai_club_condiments

I grabbed a fist-sized portion of cotton candy . . .

14_hyundai_club_cotton_candy

. . . which was also stale. (It had been a while since I’d eaten cotton candy, but as far as I know, it’s not supposed to crunch when you bite into it.)

After that, I helped myself to a small portion of tortilla chips, cheese sauce, chili, and guacamole:

15_hyundai_club_chips_cheese_chili

I also ate more plantains:

16_hyundai_club_fried_sweet_plantains

As for the game, the following photo says it all:

17_mets_baseball_is_exciting

The Mets, as a whole, are not particularly exciting, but that didn’t matter to me. I entertained myself with dessert . . .

18_hyundai_club_ice_cream

. . . followed by more dessert:

19_hyundai_club_more_dessert

The muffins were bland, the mini-tarts were somewhere between forgettable and decent, and the oatmeal raisin cookie was very good.

While I was stuffing myself silly, Ben was lurking behind the Braves’ dugout. Here’s a photo of Jason Heyward tossing him a ball after the 7th inning:

20_jason_heyward_tossing_a_ball_to_ben

That was Ben’s seventh of the day.

Unfortunately, the most memorable part of the game was Tim Hudson’s injury in the bottom of the 8th. Basically, he ran over to cover to 1st base, kept his foot on the bag a split-second too long, and had his ankle spiked/trampled by Eric Young Jr. It was so gruesome that the whole stadium (or at least the fans near the TVs) gasped when the slow-motion replay was shown. As the swarm of players, coaches, trainers, and umpires gathered around Hudson, I took lots and lots and lots of photos. Look what I happened to capture in one of them:

21_tim_hudson_injury

As you can (kinda) see, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had taken the ball from Hudson and flipped it to home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. Obviously, though, the situation was much more important than the ball. Here’s another photo that shows the activity on the field:

22_tim_hudson_injury

Young stayed near Hudson the entire time, and the two men shook hands before Hudson was carted off:

23_tim_hudson_injury

It was extremely touching to see that type of sportsmanship and camaraderie.

After a long delay, the cart drove off . . .

24_tim_hudson_injury

. . . and the game resumed. I learned later that Hudson suffered a fractured ankle and will not pitch again this year. Given his age (38) and the fact that he’ll be a free agent after this season, I wonder if he’ll ever pitch again in the major leagues.

I feel so bad for him and the Braves. Never mind the fact that he’s tossed me several baseballs over the years. I’ve always liked him as a player, and based on everything I’ve heard about him, he seems to be a really good guy.

That said, life/baseball goes on, huh?

With the Braves holding an 8-2 lead, I moved near the dugout in the bottom of the 9th . . .

25_view_in_9th_inning_07_24_13

. . . and got the lineup cards from Fredi Gonzalez after the final out:

26_zack_lineup_cards_07_24_13

That kind of makes up for the Uggla homer that I missed . . . but not really. If you want a closer look at the those lineup cards, click here.

On my way out of the stadium, I met up with my friend and returned the ticket. (That was part of the deal.) And then I headed home on the No. 7 train.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

27_the_nine_balls_i_kept_07_24_13• 12 balls at this game (nine pictured here because I gave three away)

• 390 balls in 52 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.

• 635 balls at 82 lifetime games at Citi Field = 7.74 balls per game.

• 924 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 449 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 33 lifetime lineup cards (or pairs of lineup cards); click here to see my whole collection

• 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

• 6,849 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)

• $22.56 raised at this game

• $733.08 raised this season through my fundraiser

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

• $33,139.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Wait, there’s more! Four of the nine balls that I kept have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light:

28_black_light_07_24_13

On a final note, my next game will be at Marlins Park on Monday, July 29th. The following day, I’ll be at Tropicana Field, and after that, I’ll be hitting up Turner Field for two games on July 31st and August 1st. This trip will be part of my BIGS Baseball Adventure, speaking of which . . . the folks at BIGS are running a contest and giving out free t-shirts and sunflower seeds. To win, all you need to do is write a paragraph (or so) about your favorite ballhawking story. I’m not on Facebook, but evidently there’s more info there. Here’s the link.

19 Comments

As I was watching the Hudson injury, I couldn’t help but wonder why the Mets drove Hudson all the way around the freaking field on the warning track like it was a parade when he was in some serious pain. You’d think an injury like that would allow them cause to hurry it up and drive across the field, but noooooo…. not the Mets’ precious grass.
Yeah, it’s a small thing but man… The Mets just suck.

Zack,

Ill be at the game Tuesday in Tampa as well. What time do you plan on getting to the Trop at? Also if you want I can show you a place where you can park for free that way you wouldn’t have to pay for that.

That’s very sad about Tim Hudson. I like to root for good guys named “Tim.” And Hudson has always seemed like a real good guy (well, at least since he left the A’s). That’s pretty cool that you got the Braves line-up card from the game Hudson was hurt. That’s a fairly historic game and a cool memento of the event.

As for the Hyundai Club, you’ll never find me there. Too bad to hear that the Mets have a Hyundai Club. Not a fan. See if you can figure out why: http://www.ocregister.com/news/lee-222906-hyundai-cook.html
-Todd

GARRETT MEYER-
Your comment cracked me up, but I think every team would do the same thing. No? Did Brandom McCarthy get carted across the grass after he was hit in the head? Driving Huddy around the warning track probably only added 20 or 30 seconds — probably not a big deal in a non-life-threatening situation.

MICHAEL-
Nice! The stadium won’t open until 5:30pm, right? If so, I’ll probably aim to get there at around 4:30pm or maybe 4:45. I won’t be driving. I’ll be taking a cab, so no worries there.

TODD-
Whoa. That is truly sickening. Any relation to the Cook in that article?

Nice game Zack! Glad to see your enjoying Citi Field hahaha. Also nice job getting the line up cards

My cousin (dad’s brother’s son).

CHICUBS99-
Every now and then, it happens.

COOK & SON-
?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Zack,

It should open at around that time but I’m honestly not sure if they have changed the gate times this season or no. I’ve only been able to get to like 2 games there this year and they’ve been on the weekends so I’m not sure what the weekday hate opening times are. I hope they don’t confine you to the concourse for the first 30 minutes like they’ve done in years past though

The Trop…. that’s one fugly place! Plus you’ll get to “enjoy” the ushers whistling every time a HR ball reaches the seat during BP… At least you’ll get to see Heath Bell on Tuesday! And for all your dislike of the Mets, how do you end up going to their game in Florida???

At least the Trop is cool inside , rather than sitting in a blast furnace in other stadiums ( or is it stadiii ?)

Legends Seats blow these away, food wise at least. That 1st dessert picture’s got my mouth-a-waterin’.
– Chris

Atta boy! Bacon wrapped hot dogs! Why have I never thought of that? Mmmm, fried plaintains. I might have put a little of that ice cream on them. Did you really eat all that dessert? Youdaman! Thank you for the food pix (and the shoutout!) Now, on to the Hudson injury. As gut wrenching as it was, the reaction of Eric Young, wiping tears away when he finally returned to the dugout, and the subsequent tweets between Mrs. Hudson and him show the total class of both players. They are inspirational and the kind of people we should all strive to emulate. I met the Hudson family at breakfast in Peachtree City the morning after Tim had pounded my Mets several years ago. My sister and late Mom, both rabid Braves fans, could barely contain themselves. We waited until they were leaving the restaurant, then my sister went over to say hello and they could not have been nicer. Lovely family, adorable kids. Truly hope this is not the end of his career.

I love that buffet.

I miss Marlins Park. I’ll be watching the game Monday to see if AW interviews you again. Are you going to do BP from the Clevelander again, or wander the rest of the park?

Plantains? (insert Fernando Rodney WBC joke here)

Z-Man, even though I outweigh you by 100 pounds I could not even dream of eating that much food in a two day span, much less a game. Believe it or not I don’t eat much. When I graduated high school I had a 29 inch waist. I was 167 pounds 6 years ago. Then I got put on some meds that slow my metabolism down to nothing and next thing you know I am weighing in at 275 even though I don’t eat a ton. I do drink an awful lot of beer though. I am slated to lose 5 pounds though in my upcoming penis reduction surgery so that is a start.

Big Glove Bob

How can one possibly compete with all those little kids for a third out ball? I know it takes persistence (being there for every inning), but I’m having a hell of a time getting decent chances. I usually try to match the visiting teams colors with another t-shirt; does a real team jersey/shirt really help solve this? It was insane in that one picture with Ben, and I can’t believe a player threw it to a grown man with SO many kids around.

@BG Bob – That is a very drastic move to lose 5 pounds!

MICHAEL-
Well, I guess we’ll find out soon. Looking forward to seeing you.

JAMES LEE-
I like fugly stadiums because they’re interesting. As for the Mets, ucchh, I know. That game happened to fit best with my schedule, so whatever. The good thing about seeing the Mets on the road is that I recognize *everyone* and have a fairly easy time getting tossups as a result.

RAY BURTON-
I don’t mind hot weather, and in fact I prefer it. I’m in Miami now, and I’ve been cold most of the day because everything is air-conditioned including this dumb hotel room. I can *not* make it warm/normal in here, and it’s painful.

CHRIS-
True. The Legends area is so much better.

LIZ MERRY-
Yeah, I really ate all of that. I have issues. Very cool story about meeting the Hudsons.

THE CUB DEN-
It’s okay.

KELLY T-
Sorry for not responding earlier. I got a sneak peek at the Clevelander early, but spent the rest of the night elsewhere. No word from AW.

JARED-
???

BIG GLOVE BOB-
I believe it. I’ve had two meals with Heath Bell, so I can tell you that he does *not* eat a lot, and yet he’s quite a large man. As for the surgery, good luck and send pics.

RYAN-
Actual shirts and jerseys help more than simply color-coordinating. Also, it’s not just about being in the front row. Some players prefer to toss balls several (and occasionally many) rows deep, so you have to predict that. As for Ben, many other kids in his section had already gotten baseballs prior to that, so I suppose his time had come?

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