Results tagged ‘ bat imprint ’

9/15/09 at Camden Yards

The day got off to a GREAT start…

Camden Yards opened at 5pm. I was the first one in, of course, and when I ran out to the left field seats, I found a ball sitting in the front row in foul territory:

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As soon as I reached the foul pole and looked to my right, I discovered another ball…

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…and when I headed out toward left-center field, I saw this:

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Amazing. And then things got better.

During the next ten minutes (or so), I caught four home runs on the fly. I don’t know who hit any of them, but I can tell you that the last one impressed Jeremy Guthrie. He was shagging out in left field, just shy of the warning track, and had a perfect view.

Here’s how it played out (and FYI, all the photos of me were taken by my girlfriend Jona)…

As the home run was approaching, I drifted into the middle of a row to get in line with it, and then I realized that it was going to carry a few feet too far, so I stepped up onto a seat:

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At the very last second, I jumped up FROM the seat and made the catch high over my head, reaching back all the way. The following photo shows me at the peak of my jump with the ball already in my glove:

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Do you see the guy right in front of me with the dark blue shirt? He’s always out in the left field seats at Camden Yards, and Guthrie got all over him.

“Dude, you got posterized!!!” shouted Guthrie, who then reenacted the fan’s failed attempt to catch the ball:

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That other fan happens to be a nice guy and a talented ballhawk. I forget his name (because I just suck with names sometimes) but we’ve snagged together a bunch of times. He robbed me of a few homers earlier in the season, and this time I got the better of him. It happens.

Guthrie and I talked for a few minutes after that. He asked me how things were going with the charity, and I told him that this was probably the last Orioles game I’d be attending this season.

I ended up catching so many home runs during BP that I now can’t remember any of the details. It was truly insane. The following four-part photo shows me catching (or rather, ABOUT to catch) four different homers. In the bottom two photos, I’m wearing a dark blue Rays shirt:

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Everything was going my way. I happened to be in the right spot almost every time. Was it luck? Or skill? I suppose it was a combination of the two, but I really can’t explain it beyond that. I’d never experienced a batting practice like this in my life. Even the previous game (at which I finished BP with 17 balls and ended up with 22 by the end of the night) wasn’t this good.

Naturally, over the course of BP, there were some highs and lows and lulls.

There was running:

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There was pain:

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(The running needed work.)

And there was friendship:

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You know how you’ll run into a person several times over the course of a few months or years, and you never really connect or get to know them, but you can tell that it’s someone you could potentially be great friends with, and then eventually it all clicks into place and you finally have a solid conversation with them? Well, last night was THAT night for me and the guy pictured above in the orange shirt. His name is Adam. He’s a regular at Camden Yards, and he reads this blog.

Back to snagging…

For those keeping score at home (including Alan Schuster, who is kind enough to update my MyGameBalls.com profile for me), here’s a rundown of all the balls I got during the first 45 minutes:

1) easter egg
2) easter egg
3) easter egg
4) easter egg
5) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
6) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
7) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
8) Orioles homer; caught on the fly (“posterized”)
9) Orioles homer; grabbed it after it bounced
10) Orioles homer; caught on the fly
11) thrown by an unknown lefty pitcher on the Rays
12) B.J. Upton homer; caught on the fly
13) Rays homer; caught on the fly
14) Pat Burrell homer; caught on the fly

It was around this time that I realized I had a chance to snag 20 balls for a second consecutive game. Could it be done?!

Matt Garza threw me a ball from about 120 feet away. The ball was falling short, so I leaned waaaaay out and down below the left field wall to try to catch it…

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…but it tipped off the end of the my glove and settled on the warning track. Grant Balfour walked over and picked it up. I was afraid he’d recognize me from the previous day (when he gave me a ball during BP), and perhaps he did, but either way, I convinced him to toss it up.

Then I caught another home run on the fly in heavy traffic. One guy’s glove was RIGHT in my face, but I managed to hold on.

tom_foley_2009.jpgThen Tom Foley, the Rays’ third base coach, was walking through the outfield with a ball in one hand a fungo bat in the other.

“Coach!” I yelled, “Hit me a fungo!”

He looked up and threw me the ball instead. I was about five rows back, and the ball was falling short, so I climbed over a row while the ball was in mid-air and then reached way down over the next row to make a lunging catch.

Then a young kid behind me bobbled a home run ball, which I was able to snatch on one bounce. I immediately turned around and handed it to him. It was my 18th ball of the day.

Without warning, a ball smacked down into the seats one section to my right. I couldn’t tell where it had come from. I’d been watching the batter the whole time, and he hadn’t hit anything that reached the seats. Then I realized that Foley was standing on the foul line just behind 3rd base. He was hitting deep fungos toward left field so that the pitchers (who had nothing better to do) could try to rob home runs. The next fungo fell several feet short of the wall, and I lunged way out for it…

12_zack_getting_robbed_by_player.jpg

…but I got robbed by Brian Shouse. In the photo above, you can see the ball streaking into his black glove. You can also see Lance Cormier’s glove flying 30 feet in the air. He had thrown it up to try to hit the ball. (If I were a manager, I wouldn’t let my players goof around like that unless we had already clinched a playoff berth.)

Then I got my revenge. I think it was Balfour who tried to catch the next fungo, but the ball cleared the wall by three feet, and I was all over it:

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That was my 19th ball of the day!

And then I had my chance to snag No. 20. There was a home run hit half a section to my left, so I drifted over and made a leaping catch at the last second, right next to a man who’d been whining about all the balls I was catching (even though he’d already snagged quite a few balls himself). He also accused me of never giving balls to kids (even though I’d just given one to a kid two minutes earlier). In the following photo, you can see this clown standing behind me in the light blue shirt. As for me, this was my reaction after catching the ball and reaching TWENTY for the second straight day:

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Foley was still hitting fungos. One more of them reached the seats, and I caught it.

(?!?!?!?!?!)

There was one final home run ball hit to me during BP. Here I am tracking it:

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Here I am reaching up to make the catch:

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See the guy with the long hair and goatee? He must’ve weighed about 250 pounds, and then…

BAM!!!

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He slammed into me and nearly sent me tumbling headfirst over the railing, but guess what? I held onto the ball.

“AND ONE!!!” I yelled with a smile, indicating that he had fouled me.

Everyone else in the section laughed.

I had snagged 22 balls, including 11 home runs on the fly. Both of those totals were BP records for me.

Six of the 22 balls had interesting markings, smudges, scuffs, and grass stains:

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In the six-part photo above, the ball on the top left has a small bat imprint on it. I’m pretty sure the imprinted word (which appears here in reverse) is “SELECT.” This is the ball that Balfour tossed to me after Garza’s throw fell short. The ball on the lower right was my 20th of the day.

After batting practice, I raced to the 3rd base dugout and got my 23rd ball of the day tossed by Rays bullpen coach Bobby Ramos. (This ball broke my single-game Camden Yards record of 22, which I had set the day before.) Then, right before the game started, I got No. 24 from Evan Longoria. He was using the ball to play catch with Willy Aybar, and when they finished, he threw it to me as a knuckleball. It was such a great day that even Jona got a ball after BP. I was in the front row behind the Rays’ dugout, and she was half a dozen rows back with my camera. I asked George Hendrick, the Rays’ first base coach, for the ball, but he scanned the seats and spotted her and tossed it her way instead. D’oh! (I need an uglier girlfriend.)

I spent the game in the standing-room-only section in right field. Here’s a photo of me walking toward Jona during an inning break:

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I stayed out there for all the left-handed batters.

This is where I positioned myself for the righties:

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I did lots of running all night, even with my battered right ankle which by this point was stinging and badly bruised. But it was worth it. This was a good foul ball spot. I had empty rows on both sides. But, unfortunately, nothing came close.

Back in right field, there was some action in the bottom of the 7th inning. Luke Scott led off and smoked a 2-0 pitch deep and to my right. The ball was clearly going to land in the seats and NOT in the standing-room-only section, but I took off and ran for it anyway. There were so many empty seats that anything seemed possible.

The following photo is a screen shot that I took from MLB.com. The red arrow is pointing to me:

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Miraculously, the ball bounced all the way into the narrow walkway at the back of the section. As it began rattling around, there were two other guys closing in on it from the opposite direction, and I was sure, for an instant, that they were going to get there first…but then the ball hit the edge of one of those brick pillars and ricocheted in MY direction. The ball was heading right for my knee, and it nearly got past me. I barely had time to react as I bent down to simply try to stop it from getting away:

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And then, suddenly, I felt the ball in my right hand. Just like that! It bounced RIGHT into my hand. I kind of trapped it up against the wall and against my leg. I couldn’t believe it, but I *did* in fact have sole possession of the ball.

This was my reaction:

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It was my 9th career game home run ball (toss-ups excluded). I feel like that’s an embarrassingly low number, but in my own defense, I *have* snagged 124 foul balls and one ground-rule double.

It’s tough to catch balls in the standing-room-only section. The view from the back looks like this…

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…so you can’t even see the ball until it’s a third of the way to you.

The following photo shows where I ran to grab the Luke Scott home run ball:

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See what I mean? There’s not that much space back there.

Here’s the home run ball itself…

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…and here’s the video highlight on MLB.com. I hope it works. I always have trouble with streaming video on my laptop. If there’s anyone reading this who either taped the game or can somehow pull this clip off the internet and convert it into an .AVI or .MOV format, please let me know. I’d love to upload the clip to this page on my web site, which lists all of my game home runs.

Okay, so this seems like the best day ever, right? Well, unfortunately, I pissed it all away with one inexcusable error. In the bottom of the 8th, Matt Wieters hit a deep home run that was heading toward the center-field side of the standing-room-only section. I bolted about 40 feet to my right and, to put it simply (because it’s too painful to relive the details), I should’ve caught the ball and didn’t. Epic fail. No excuses. I was (and still am) stunned and humiliated, and I just hope that I get the chance to redeem myself someday. The few people who witnessed (or heard about) my meltdown tried to comfort me with words of wisdom. The worst thing that anyone said was, “Think how boring life would be if you were perfect.” (That asinine gem came from a female usher who then hugged me.) The best thing anyone said was, “Hey, it happened to Luis Castillo.” (That came from my friend Leon Feingold.) Ultimately, nothing will cheer me up. I’ll just have to get over it, in my own way, at my own pace, and focus better from this moment on…

SNAGGING STATS:

25_the_24_i_kept.jpg• 25 balls at this game (24 pictured here because I gave one away)

• 465 balls in 52 games this season = 8.94 balls per game.

• 621 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 178 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 117 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 6 lifetime games with at least 20 balls

• 9 lifetime game home runs

• 4 different stadiums with at least one game home run (Old Yankee, Shea, PETCO, and Camden)

• 4,285 total balls

• 1 gut-wrenching mistake

CHARITY STATS:

• 126 donors (it’s not too late to make a pledge)

• $25.26 pledged per ball

• $631.50 raised at this game

• $11,745.90 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball

9/8/08 at Citizens Bank Park

I knew this was going to be a good day. Not only had accuweather.com reported that there was a ZERO percent chance of rain, but 15 minutes before the stadium was set to open, this was the crowd waiting to enter:

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I’d never seen so few people waiting outside Citizens Bank Park, and even though there were dozens of fans lined up behind me by the time the stadium did open, batting practice was still emptier than usual.

Throughout this season, the Phillies have been starting BP several minutes after the gates open. It’s awful. I’ve always been the first fan to run inside, and every time I’ve reached the seats, there’s never been any action on the field. Well…on this fine day, perhaps because of all the September call-ups who needed to take their cuts, BP was already underway when I ran in, and the batter immediately launched a ball over my head into the seats. There was one other man already sitting in the middle of the section–a very old man who clearly worked at the stadium–and after I found the ball, Shane Victorino started yelling at me and insisting that I give it to him.

“I give balls to KIDS!!!” I shouted at him, to which he yelled, “Suuuure!!!”

Of course Shane Victorino would know whether or not I give balls away because, after all, he spends every second of every game following me around the stadium. What a punk. Maybe if he focused more on the field instead of the stands, he wouldn’t be playing for a second-place team.

nationals_ball1_09_08_08.jpg.jpgThirty seconds after I snagged that first ball, another home run flew over my head, landed several rows behind me, popped up into the air, and bounced back over me toward the empty-ish seats below. It was like an instant-replay of that ball on 8/30/08 at Angel Stadium that led to my rib injury. This time, however, I couldn’t make an attempt to catch it. It still hurt when I ran, hurt when I reached, and would’ve killed if I’d jumped, so I stood there and watched helplessly as the ball plunked down two rows away. Amazingly, the few fans IN that row took their time getting there, so I carefully climbed over the first row and reached under the second and grabbed the ball (pictured on the right) with half a second to spare.

Then things went dead.

There was an entire 15-minute round of BP with left-handed hitters–Jimmy Rollins, Victorino, Chase Utley, and Ryan Howard–who didn’t hit a single ball into the left or center field seats. (Remember that at Citizens Bank Park, you’re trapped in left and center for the first hour.) I’d gotten off to such a good start, and now it was being wasted on a day when the seats were still deliciously empty:

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Halfway through the Phillies’ portion of BP (with Victorino still jawing at me), I drifted 20 feet to my right and caught a Jayson Werth home run on a fly. Then things slowed way down once again. I wanted to have a big day, but I wasn’t snagging balls in bunches. I did get lucky, though, right before the Phillies left the field. First I caught another home run on which nationals_ball2_09_08_08.jpg.jpg
the fans in front of me ducked, and then I caught a ball thrown by Kyle Kendrick that I totally didn’t deserve. He was aiming for a kid in the front row, but he didn’t put enough muscle into it. The ball fell a few feet short, landed ON the railing in front of the flower bed, bounced directly over the kid’s head, and sailed into my glove. I immediately walked down the steps and offered him the ball, but he wouldn’t take it. A woman sitting nearby asked me why. I explained that the kid preferred to try to catch a ball on his own rather than have one handed to him by someone else. She didn’t get it. Anyway, it’s a good thing (for me) that the kid didn’t want that ball because it was commemorative.

When the Marlins took the field and Logan Kensing started playing catch near the foul pole, he had a few extra balls with him and after a few minutes I got him to toss one to me. Five minutes later, I moved about 50 feet closer to home plate and got Andrew Miller to throw me another–my seventh ball of the day–when he finished warming up.

Normally, when the rest of the stadium opens, I head out to right field but because the Marlins had so many right-handed hitters, I decided to stay in left.

My eighth ball was a home run that landed near me, hit an empty seat, and bounced straight up in the air as fans converged from all sides. It seemed like they were all waiting for it to drop back down before they made their move. I, however, lunged and snatched it with my bare hand while it was still on the way up.

“Nice grab!” shouted a guy who apparently didn’t mind that he’d just been outsnagged.

A little while later, Paul Lo Duca threw a ball *AT* a fan who was taking his heckling a few steps too far. Lo Duca didn’t throw it THAT hard, however, and I don’t think he really meant to hit the guy because the ball smacked a seat five feet away from him and happened to roll right to me through a row of mostly empty seats. As soon as I picked it up, I handed it to the nearest kid and quickly got a chance to reach double digits. There was a deep fly ball hit in my direction which I happened to judge perfectly. (It doesn’t always work out that way.) I put my head down, ran up a few steps, looked back up and spotted the ball and then darted five feet to my right. As I reached out and made the one-handed catch, I got clothes-lined by a fan in the row behind me. I wasn’t mad because I realized it was an accident. He had a glove too and I assumed he’d just been reaching for the ball, albeit recklessly.

A bit earlier, someone had successfully reached in front of ME for a ball. It happens. It’s a competition. You win some. You lose some. And usually people are good-natured about it.

tpx_imprint_09_08_08.jpg.jpgToward the end of BP, I happened to reach in front of a guy’s face to catch yet another home run ball on a fly (pictured on the right with a faint “TPX” imprint), and guess what? He was thrilled. Why? Because he hadn’t seen the ball coming. He actually thanked me for saving his life. Unfortunately, several men sitting behind us didn’t see it that way. First they accused me of stealing the ball from him, and then one of them started cursing at me for having changed into Marlins gear. I tried to explain that he had misinterpreted the situation, and that’s when things got really nasty. The guy who’d been cursing then threatened me (“Don’t make me come over there,” etc.) and ended up reporting me to security, claiming that I had crashed into another fan and stolen a ball. I didn’t know this until a guard came over and told me that a “formal complaint” had been filed against me. He then asked to see my ticket, and he pretty much demanded that I apologize to everyone involved. Needless to say, my ticket never left my backpack and the word “sorry” never left my mouth. But do you know what DID happen? While all of this garbage was taking place, I snagged ANOTHER home run ball!!! Oh my God, it was beautiful. It landed several rows behind me and took a perfect bounce in my direction. So easy. It was my 12th ball of the day, and the rude fan was NOT happy after that (even though, as far as he knew, I only had two or three balls). He actually had the nerve to follow me out of the section as I made my way toward the dugout. Gimme a break.
 
With all due respect to the many people in Philadelphia who I’m sure are wonderful human beings, I have to say (and not just because of this incident) that Phillies fans are the second worst in baseball–a very distant second behind Yankees fans and only slightly worse than Dodgers fans.

Hanley Ramirez tossed me my 13th ball of the day at the 3rd base dugout after finishing his pre-game throwing.

Ryan Howard threw me my 14th ball as he jogged off the field in the middle of the fourth inning. I was sitting behind the Phillies’ dugout, solely for the purpose of snagging a third-out ball, and Mark Hendrickson helped my cause by making contact on a 1-2 pitch from Joe Blanton and grounding out to Chase Utley to end the frame. There were a million little kids running down to the front row after every inning, and on this occasion, Howard lobbed the ball right to me over all of their heads, so I didn’t feel guilty. (I do, at times, feel a bit old and out-of-place when playing the dugouts, so when I do it, I take extra care to be respectful to those sitting around me. Ask Shane Victorino.)

Although the Marlins never held the lead and only tied the score once early on, it was still a good game with lots of drama. The Phillies took an 8-6 lead into the top of the ninth, and I headed back to the seats behind their dugout (after having wandered for much of the night). Brad Lidge allowed a double and a single to put runners on the corners with one out, but he then struck out the next two batters–Wes Helms and Jorge Cantu–on six pitches to notch his 35th save.

As soon as the final out was recorded, someone on the Phillies unexpectedly flipped a ball onto the dugout roof from down below. I was already in the front row at that point, so I gloved it before anyone around me even knew what had happened, and then, about 45 seconds later, I got Lidge to toss me the game-ending ball on his way in.

Five hundred?
Here I come…

STATS:

the_15_balls_i_kept_09_08_08.jpg? 16 balls at this game (new personal record at Citizens Bank Park, beating my old record of 14 which I set the day CBS was with me)

? 442 balls in 58 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

? 165 balls in 16 lifetime games at Citizens Bank Park = 10.3 balls per game.

? 554 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 139 consecutive games outside NYC with at least one ball

? 91 lifetime games with at least 10
balls

? 36 lifetime games outside NYC with at least 10 balls

? 18 double-digit games this year (extends my personal record)

? 3,719 total balls

8/12/08 at PNC Park

This was the second game I’d ever attended at PNC Park. The first was seven years ago, and I don’t remember much. I know I snagged seven balls that day, but I didn’t have a blog or a digital camera back then so it’s almost like it never happened.

Anyway, THIS day started with four crappy hours of sleep and continued with a seven-hour drive from New York City, a confusing check-in at the Holiday Inn Not-Express, and an interminable wait for a taxi to the stadium. By the time I made it there, half a dozen people were already waiting on line at the center field gate so my picture-taking was going to have to wait one more day.

PNC Park opens two hours early for season ticket holders and 90 minutes early for everyone else. Long story short: I was stressed out of my skull but ended up getting inside two hours early. This is what it looked like in the left field bleachers:

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I used the glove trick to snag my first ball of the day in straight-away left field as Ian Snell was coming over to retrieve it. He was amused.

My second ball was a home run that I caught on a fly after ranging 30 feet to my left through a long, narrow row between the benches. If my friend Brian (aka “puckcollector” in the comments section) hadn’t told me to bring sunglasses, there’s no way I would’ve caught this ball. The sun was absolutely brutal. I had to look right at it whenever a ball was hit in the air, so I’m officially passing along Brian’s advice to all of you: BRING SUNGLASSES if you’re going to PNC Park. Trust me.

Due to a combination of stupidity, bad luck, and quirky architectural design, I still only had those two baseballs when the rest of the stadium opened at 5:30pm. (An example of the bad luck: I was BP_from_RF_08_12_08.jpgscooting through the second row, about to make an easy basket catch on a line drive home run, when a man in the front row who had lost the ball in the sun darted to the side in a last-second attempt to duck out of the way, but he ended up ducking right into it and getting in my way as the ball slammed off his shoulder and plopped back onto the field.) I ran out to the right field seats, thinking it might be better there…but no, it was a total waste of time. The wall was too high. It would’ve been tough to use the glove trick, only because the ushers and security guards would’ve had a chance to stop me. The section was too steep. There were too many tunnels and railings. There was no room to run. And it started getting crowded.

C_balls.jpgI went back to left field, changed into my Reds shirt and Reds cap, and snagged three more balls during the remaining half of BP (all of which were marked with a “C” on the sweet spot). The first was tossed by a player that I couldn’t identify, the second was a deep home run that I caught on a fly in that open area behind the benches, and the third came via the glove trick near the foul pole. Not bad, not great. It could’ve been worse, but I also could’ve hit double digits by this point if I’d REALLY been on my game.

As for that open area behind the bleachers…here I am standing there:

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It was a great spot except for one thing: it was well over 400 feet from home plate so there weren’t too many guys who could reach me.

One problem with the bleachers at PNC is that the wall measures 383 feet from home plate in straight-away left field. That’s kinda far. Another problem stems from the fact that fans in any stadium always cram into the first few rows; the bleachers here only HAVE a few rows–a mere half-dozen in one spot–so despite the low attendance at this game, that whole section still got uncomfortably crowded toward the end of BP:

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Batting practice ended at 6pm–about 20 minutes earlier than usual–so I lost a few more snagging opportunities. It just wasn’t a good day, and I was kicking myself for not going to see the Mets in D.C. instead.

Just before the game started, I snuck down to the Reds’ dugout (which is on the first base side at PNC) and got my sixth ball of the day tossed by some guy I’d never heard of. Adam Rosales? I hadn’t even noticed his name when I printed the team’s roster the night before. Seriously, who is he? Who were half the players in the game? I thought I was watching minor league baseball.

I moved to the seats behind the third base dugout and ran down to the front row when Javier Valentin lined out to end the top of the first inning. Doug Mientkiewicz caught the ball and flipped it to me on his way in. Check out the bat imprint on it:

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crabby usher, which was especially frustrating because the Reds must’ve tossed 20 balls to the people in the front row throughout the game. No joke. Not only did every third-out ball get tossed into the crowd, but 1st base coach Billy Hatcher gave away the infield warm-up ball every inning as well. And there were other balls that got tossed up…foul balls from the ball boy, random balls from the players and coaches. It was crazy. And yeah…I had to stay 10 to 15 rows back and watch helplessly as all of this was taking place.

As for the game itself…whatever. I mean, it WAS Major League Baseball (at least that’s what I was told), but there really wasn’t much to get excited about. Two lousy teams. No superstars. Unenthusiastic fans. Terrible cheese steak (with no cheese). What is there to say? I actually missed Shea and Yankee Stadium. (Did I really just say that?) Edinson Volquez pitched well and earned his 14th win. Mike Lincoln also pitched well and earned his ninth hold. Valentin and Brandon Phillips hit home runs. Rosales and Chris Dickerson picked up their first major league hits. Corey Patterson went 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .194. Home plate umpire Jerry Meals called a great game.

???

I’m at a loss.

STATS:

? 7 balls at this game

? 308 balls in 43 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.

? 539 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 130 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

? 3,585 total balls

4/29/08 at Shea Stadium

There’s one spot outside Shea Stadium that provides a partial view of the field: the elevated subway station of the #7 train. When I reached this station yesterday, I took a peek at the field to make sure the screens were set up for batting practice. Two hours earlier, it had been raining and I had no idea what to expect. This is what I saw:

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That’s right. No screens.

It was 3:30pm. I hadn’t yet bought a ticket. Shea wasn’t going to open for another 70 minutes, so I stood there and waited. My plan was simple. If I saw the grounds crew set up the screens before 4:40pm, I’d exit the subway, run over to the ticket windows, buy a cheap seat, and head inside. Otherwise I’d go home.

Finally, after nearly 40 minutes, I saw two groundskeepers slowly roll a big screen into place in shallow center field. I ran out and bought a ticket, but feared that BP might start late, and sure enough, it did. When I reached the seats, no one was hitting. Everything was set up, but the only action (if you can call it that) was half the team jogging in shallow right field:

batting_practice_delayed.jpg

Fabulous.

Five minutes later, a few guys started throwing…

mets_playing_catch.jpg

…and 10 minutes after that, Angel Pagan (standing in the distance to the right of the screen) threw me my first ball of the day.

Because Shea is so lame, I only managed to catch one other ball during the entire Mets’ portion of BP, and it was a ball I shouldn’t even have gotten. Let me explain…

My girlfriend Jona ended up making a VERY last-minute plan to join me for this game. She arrived at the stadium at around 5:10pm and found me in the right field Loge. After all the Mets pitchers made it clear that they were going to ignore me for the duration of BP, I asked Jona to ask for a ball, and of course the players immediately looked up at her. Before long, Pedro Feliciano (who throws approximately one ball into the seats per season) lobbed one in commemorative1.jpgher direction. As the ball approached, a 300-pound guy wearing tight sweatpants (who had just given me a speech about how “real men don’t wear gloves”) tried to reach in front of us and grab it, so I reached in front of HIM, and thanks to the extra few inches that my glove provided, I was able to make the catch. Then, to make Feliciano happy, I made a whole production of handing the ball to Jona, and as soon as he looked away, she handed it back. It had a commemorative logo, and for an instant Shea felt a little less lame.

Hitting coach Howard Johnson tossed me my third ball of the day at the 1st base dugout after the Mets finished BP, and while the Pirates were taking their cuts, I snagged three more balls with the glove trick. The first was about five feet out from the wall along the left field foul line, so I ran down from the Loge and slipped into the corner spot and began by flinging my glove out to knock the ball closer:

zack_field_level_glove_trick.jpg

Thankfully, the on-field security guard was about 80 feet away and had his back turned, but even if he’d seen me going for it, he might not have said anything. I hate to admit it, but Shea’s employees HAVE become nicer in recent years when it comes to the glove trick. Sometimes they’ll stop me from using it when I’m going for a ball that’s on the field, but usually they have no problem when I’m going for a ball that’s trapped in a dead area.

damaso_marte.jpgIn the four-part pic below (starting on the top left and then going clockwise)…

1) I’m carefully lowering my glove from the Loge Level so that it fits between the metal beams behind the advertising board.

2) Pirates reliever Damaso Marte watches the glove drop over the ball.

3) Marte crouches to get a better view.

4) Marte inspects the glove as I pull it up with the ball tucked snugly inside.

Check it out:

zack_loge_glove_trick.jpg

There was a kid, maybe eight or nine years old, standing nearby as I reeled i
n the ball, and I was thinking of giving it to him until he said of my glove trick: “That’s so gay!”

bat_imprint.jpgWhen I took a good look at the ball, I realized I wouldn’t have given it to him anyway (I would’ve given him a different ball) because there was something special on it: a bat imprint. I’d only snagged a handful of these imprinted balls in my life, and you can see four of them here on my web site. The imprint on the ball I snagged yesterday (seen here on the right) was the same as the ball on the lower right (at the link I provided above), which I recognized as the TPX logo. TPX is a type of bat made by Louisville Slugger. For some reason I can’t find this logo on a bat, but here it is on a golf club.

As for the third ball I snagged with the glove trick, it was sitting on that sloped grassy area in front of the DreamSeats and I went for it as an usher looked on:

zack_grassy_area_glove_trick.jpg

Once I had the ball in my bare hand, I turned around and shouted loud for the entire section to hear: “This ball is for the first kid I see who has a glove and HASN’T already gotten a ball today!” Incredibly, there wasn’t ONE kid anywhere near me who qualified, so I gave it to an usher instead–not the usher in the pic above, but rather a nice old man in the Loge who’d asked me for a ball once before so he could give one to his grandson.

I stayed in the Loge for the entire game and didn’t come close to a single foul ball, but at least the game itself was entertaining. The Mets won, 5-4, on a bases-loaded, walk-off single by commemorative2.jpgDavid Wright in the bottom of the 11th, after which I got another (very rubbed up but otherwise pristine) commemorative ball from home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.

STATS:

? 7 balls at this game

? 94 balls in 9 games this season = 10.4 balls per game.

? 505 consecutive games with at least one ball

? 323 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball

? 3,371 total balls

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