Coming into this Sunday Night Baseball game I knew two things: There would be a ton of ballhawks, and I needed to get two baseballs. The ballhawks thing I knew because a ton of other ballhawks had told me in advance that they were going to be at this game, and the baseball thing was because I was sitting at 98 baseballs snagged at Citi Field, and I need to get to 100 for my own stupid self-satisfaction and so I would never feel obligated to come back to Citi Field for the stadium itself ever again.
A weird thing happened when I got to the gates. First of all, the people waiting in line were in two giant lines, even though I knew there would be 5 or 6 lines opening, but secondly, I didn’t see any ballhawks when I got there to jump in line with. It took me a while to figure the situation out, but when I realized it was the weekend, I figured the other ballhawks had gotten season tickets and were already inside. Eventually I saw Chris Hernandez, and we started our own line. I figured all the ballhawks would already be in left field, so I headed directly for right field instead:
When I got there, I quickly got on the board with a toss-up from Dillon Gee in the right field corner:
Then, being at 99 baseballs for my “career” at Citi Field, I headed to left field and tried to make my 100th an on-the-fly snag:
When I got over there, I found out that Ben Weil, Zack Hample, and Greg Barasch (pictured in the blue)had indeed gotten in early and had snagged over 20 combined baseballs in this time.
I eventually moved to a new spot in left where this was the view in front of me:
The guy in the first picture is Zack, and if you can see the two talking to each other in the second picture, those are Ben and Greg (left to right). The reason they’re talking is a ball had just been hit between them that I believe hit both of them/their gloves before being caught by Ben. It was one of the crazier catches I’ve seen at the ballpark.
After about fifteen minutes of going for only hit baseballs, I gave up and decided to take my 100th Citi Field ball any way it came. That didn’t change the fact that I didn’t get a ball the rest of BP. A fear I had conveyed to Chris right at the beginning of batting practice after I had snagged the first ball.
Despite this, I stuck with my original plan and played foul balls during the game, away from other ballhawk competition:
Surprise, surprise, I didn’t get any action. So as the ninth inning rolled around, I headed to the umpire in search of my ticket to never having to go to Citi Field evah again.
I tried to stay as far away from the security as possible, and try to get the umpire as one-on-one as possible by going on the outfield side of the tunnel. In retrospect, it probably wasn’t the best idea, since it prevented me from getting directly to the visiting dugout if I failed to get a ball from the umpire; thus limiting my opportunities for a ball after the game. Thankfully, though, I got my ball from the umpire and didn’t have to live this awful hypothetical scenario:
I figured as a tribute to the baseball gods for allowing me that last baseball, I gave the one I had gotten from Dillon Gee at the beginning of batting practice away to the kid with the glove in the following picture. And his dad thanked me about 25,764 times as a result:
After that, I caught up with the three ballhawks who had gotten in early, as well as Jen, Ben’s girlfriend. As we exited the stadium, Jen was nice enough to take a picture of the four of us ballhawks:
Although I probably should have been the one taking the picture since even Jen—who doesn’t actively ballhawk—outsnagged me 4 balls to 2. But I had one goal on the day: to snag two baseballs, so I left the stadium with the smile you see in the picture. Ben and Jen headed off to the Mets team store while I rode the train with Greg and Zack. Most of which consisted of me getting ridiculed for my all-star selections, since I really haven’t been paying attention to stats and stuff this season. And then I spent the second night of my week staying over at Greg’s, even though he had to get up at about 4:30 in the morning to head off on a Florida-Atlanta trip. And by “get up”, I mean after a half-hour of sleep since we both stayed up until 4:00 since Greg had yet to pack and things for his trip when we got home from the game.
- 2 Baseballs at this Game (1 in this picture because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 525 and 526 for my lifetime:
- 80 Balls in 18 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 27,296 Fans= 54,592 Competition Factor
- 81 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 100 Balls (yay!) in 38 Games at Citi Field= 2.63 Balls Per Game (Boo!)
- 38 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:06-12:23= 11 Hours 47 Minutes
First of all, here is a Before The Gates Open video detailing my journey to and subsequent time at Citi Field’s Jackie Robinson Rotunda:
Oh, how there are some things that I did not miss at all about New York:
At the top of my baseball portion of this list was probably Citi Field. That said, I planned to attend five games there this week starting with this game. Why would I put myself through this madness? I was at 86 career baseballs snagged at Citi Field and wanted to get to 100 baseballs there so I would never have feel the obligation to go to Citi Field ever again. That way if I ever returned to Citi Field, it would more-or-less be on my own terms and not because I felt obligated to go there. So let’s get right into the entry, shall we?
For the first few groups of BP, I stood out here:
If you can’t tell, the guy in the white shirt and blue hat is Zack Hample. Normally I would like to be on the staircase he is on in that picture, but he took that spot, and to stand behind him is just asking to get robbed. Plus it wouldn’t make sense to bunch up if we had space to spread out. However, the reason I took this picture is Zack somehow managed to rob me from there. More specifically, I managed to absolutely botch a ball. As I explained in a Before The Gates Open video–which I’ll put up on this entry later on next week when I have access to the footage and time to edit it. (I’ll announce when I’ve put it up on Twitter)–this was my first time bringing my 14-or-so-inch lefty glove to a game, so by the time the the gates opened, it was still a little new to me. Anyway, I got Tom Goodwin to toss me a ball, but I somehow had the ball tip off the top of my glove and into the seats behind me. I ran back to where the ball landed, but it wasn’t there. Just then I saw Zack running in my peripheral vision and a ball hit in the seats all at the same time. What had happened was the ball had bounced off a seat and fallen a couple of rows down, where I couldn’t see it but Zack could. He ran over to pick it up and while he was over on my side of the section, a Mets righty hit a ball right next to him, which he also picked up. So had I not completely botched the ball, I probably would have had two quick baseballs. Those would be the only two baseballs I would see anywhere near me in left field. Although, those were Zack’s first two baseballs of the game, and this was the 900th consecutive game in a row that he had snagged a baseball at. So I can kind of say that I was responsible for a 900 games in a row with at least 1 ball.
Center field, though, was another story. I decided at the beginning of a new BP group that I would head over there and try my luck with getting toss-ups. I quickly got Dillon Gee to toss me my first ball of the day:
I then headed back to left field for the beginning of Reds BP. This time on the other side of Zack:
(I realize this picture is during Mets BP, but you get the picture–literally–here.) But when I realized most of the Reds power hitters were lefties and Mat Latos was not going to toss anything up any time soon, I headed back out to the center field.
In center field I moved down to the corner spot at the bottom left of the section (bottom right if you’re looking at it from home plate). And while I was trying to get a ball from whoever the player was ( I remember he was a 6-foot-6 lefty or something like that, but I don’t feel like looking up the actual name of the player.) I heard the people next to me moving around and the player look up in the sky. As it was already on its descent, I looked up and saw the ball everyone was looking at, and saw that it was coming essentially right at me. I then quickly got my glove up, hopped a bit, and caught the ball:
I found out later from the people behind me that it was Jay Bruce who hit the ball. This was nice in that it had a redemptive quality to it for messing up the easy Goodwin catch. It also assured me that there was indeed hope for this giant lefty glove. However, I must say that two annoying things about the glove are when I have to label the baseball, because I still do write right-handed, and when I’m taking a picture of the baseball, because I still feel the need to have the ball on the left side of the frame and that requires that I cross my arms while taking the picture.
Anyway, this ball would be my last of batting practice. Since the Reds good hitters are pretty much–besides Brandon Phillips and Todd Frazier–are left-handed, I headed up to a place I hadn’t been in a while, the Pepsi Porch in right field:
Here’s the view of the field from where I was standing:
And now of the scoreboard:
The reason I took so many pictures from up there that didn’t really have to do with ballhawking is that I didn’t know when the next time I was going to be on the Pepsi Porch was. Maybe never. Like I said, I hadn’t been up there in a long time. And there’s a reason for that. To get up onto the Pepsi Porch, you have to go into foul ground, take and escalator up two or three stories, go across a bridge, go down some steps, and then you’re at the *back* of the section. Simply put: you better have a very good reason to go up there if you’re wasting that much time in just getting there.
After batting practice I headed down to the Reds dugout to try to get a ball from the person packing up the BP balls up, but the funniest thing happened. Instead of heading into the dugout when he pack the baseballs up, he went into the area right behind home plate and dumped the whole bag of baseballs on him:
I don’t know the exact story, but that guy in the stands managed to snag I’d say between 10 and 15 baseballs in the span of a second. It was something pretty ridiculous that I’ve never seen before.
As for the rest of the game, I snagged a ball after the game at the umpire’s tunnel which I then gave away to a Vietnam Veteran I saw with a glove, but that wasn’t the story of the game. All of us ballhawk-type people met up at the dugout after the game, and posed with the prize of the game:
Left to right that would be:
4. Aaron (Who also goes by the nickname Howie)
And sorry for the picture being out of focus. Whoever took the picture didn’t understand that the iPhone needs a second to focus the picture. But anyway, what we are all pointing to is the Marlon Byrd home run Mark had snagged earlier in the game. Mark has snagged one more home run than I have (so two). And both have come when I was in attendance and the ball got pulled to a section in left field. I’d say it is one or two sections from the foul pole. Congratulations, Mark, on that. Both were nice plays. The only negative thing about the home run is that had Mark snagged one more ball in BP, the home run would have been his 100th ball snagged ever. I think he’ll take the home run snag, though. Although, it is a personal observation of mine that one’s 100th ball likes to be the first ball of a game. Myself and a bunch of other ballhawks it seems leave a game stuck on 99 baseballs and can’t get that 100th ball until the next game.
Our family had just moved to Washington–I stayed for an extra week to say goodbye to people in New York–so I headed back on the train with Zack to sleep one last night in a pretty vacant apartment with my step-brother who had a flight that he had to leave for at 3 o’clock in the morning. Suffice to say I didn’t get much sleep in preparation for the game the following day.
- 3 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 69 Balls in 15 Games= 4.60 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 23,038 Fans= 69,114 Competition Factor
- 77 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 4 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 34 Games at Citi Field= 2.62 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Citi Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:13-12:02= 8 Hours 49 Minutes
‘Twas the week before college, and action was dead. So I went to dear Citi. What’s wrong with my head?
I travelled with my neighbor, Greg Barasch, on the subway to the game. There began the motif of this game: fun people, bad baseball.
When we got to the gates, he went ahead and bought a student ticket for himself and Zack Hample. Meanwhile, I met a kid by the name of Michael who told me he had read this blog. I stupidly didn’t get a picture of all four of us before the gates opened, but I wanted to include Michael in the entry somehow, so….yeah. After that I got some free pudding the outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
After I got in the gates, it didn’t take me long to miss my first ball of the day:
I had gone down to the first row to ask Josh Edgin for a ball. Just as I was leaning down, to cup my hands and yell at him, I saw a ball get hit to my right. Just to my right was the guy in blue in the last picture. I figured he would still be trying to get the ball from Edgin, so I hopped into the row behind him and got right to the spot I thought the ball was going. As I was tracking the ball, I saw him and his glove starting to reach up. He missed the ball, but deflected oh so slightly so that the ball that previously would have gone into the pocket of my glove hit the side of my glove and bounced two rows behind me. Greg had an eye out for this ball, so when it landed in the seats, he was already running for the ball and grabbed it.
When the gates opened, Greg and I took the left field seats and Zack took the seats in upper right field. That meant until Zack showed up in the section, I had this view of the “action” (if you can call Mets-Astros BP action):
Meanwhile, Zack had moved from right field to center field and got Dave Raceniello to toss him a ball:
That meant I was the only one not on the board yet.
I figured I would just go ask for a toss-up in center field:
There, I got my first look at the Mets’ All-Star game logo:
I don’t know what I think of the logo, but I can tell you with 90% certainty that unless I miraculously don’t have to pay for my ticket, I’m not going to the All-Star Game at Citi Field. I definitely don’t want to pay an extra-expensive ticket just to go to an extra-packed Citi Field. That and I kind of want my first All-Star Game to be at Target Field. Sure it’s a pretty bad stadium for snagging balls, but at least through two games, it actually feels like home in the same way that Nationals Park sort of does. I don’t know why, but I can only maybe say this for Yankee Stadium and definitely can’t for Citi Field.
Anyway, I don’t think you’re here to hear me talk about future plans. You’re here for the snagging (or lack thereof):
While I was in the center field seating, a ball got hit to Brandon Barnes (an Astros outfielder). I didn’t know his name, so I just gave him a generic request and he loft the ball to me as is shown by the arrow. It was a pretty good throw.
Then began the “nothingness”. First of all, if you don’t know, the Astros are a team of a bunch of guys who have maybe been in the major leagues for a year. On top of that, almost all of them had their warm-up jerseys on. Basically, they were indistinguishable from each other, so I had no clue who was who. The next thing is I made the mistake of standing behind this guy:
In standing behind Zack, I was banking on the fact that balls would be hit over his head enough that I could judge them well enough to make a jumping catch. That didn’t happen. Instead, Zack went on to catch three balls on the fly that I most definitely would have had if he weren’t there, but you can read about all that and more in his account of the game: 8/24/12 at Citi Field. By the way, I’ll do this for anyone, not just him. If you are a ballhawk who has a blog, and you go to the same game as me, just let me know and I will always feature it regardless of whether it comes out before or after my entry (as long as I remember to do it and it’s PG).
As for the game, I stayed out in left field because, as was the case with the previous, oh I don’t know, six Mets games, David Wright was sitting on 199 career home runs. Oh, and he hit it this game, but it was quite possibly the cheapest home run in the history of Citi Field:
Had it been either a foot lower or a foot further to the right, it wouldn’t have been a home run. To make matters even more frustrating, it was tossed up by the uniformed Astros right fielder to a fan who didn’t even catch it on the fly, yet got whisked away by security. You know what though, I’m happy for the fan. I’m just frustrated that I didn’t get it. In my ideal world, everyone in the stadium would get David Wright’s 200th home run, but obviously that’s not possible. The home run was so close it actually had to be reviewed by the umpires. When the umpires came back out and waved him through, I was honestly contemplating leaving the game right there.
Even though Greg had called me during the game to tell me the Astros didn’t have ANY commemorative baseballs (pretty much my only reason for scheduling this game), I had made the plan to go to the bullpens after the game, so I did:
There, I yelled out to the Astros bullpen catcher Javier Bracamonte for a ball, but he said something back in Spanish, shrugged, and walked away. On the bright side, this was my 50th game in a row with at least 1 Ball.
I then hopped over to the area behind the visitors dugout, because Zack and Greg were waiting for me. After much confusion, due to the post-game Merengue concert, we finally saw each other and headed to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda where I took pictures like this:
The reason we were in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda is Zack (shown by the left arrow) wanted to make sure a glove he had lost a few days earlier hadn’t shown up in the Mets’ Lost and Found. While we were there, we asked the guy designated by the second arrow to take a picture of all three of us since I would be leaving for Minnesota in two days:
First, the reason I am pointing at their two baseballs with a face like that is they both got balls at the end of the game and I didn’t. Second, the reason I took a bunch of pictures of the rotunda is that may very well have been my last game at Citi Field. If you’ve noticed, I go to a lot of Nationals games. Well that’s because my step-dad lives there. If you’ve ever noticed it, married couples don’t usually lives cities apart….so, there is a chance that by the time I get back from Minnesota next summer, I will be returning to Washington D.C. and not New York.
If that is the case, it’s been a blast being a part of the New York ballhawking scene for these couple of years. I have befriended so many people throughout the process (including a neighbor I had never talked to before) that it’s amazing. Although I may not have been in love with the stadiums, it was the people in the stands that I had the pleasure of conversing and competing with that made the experience even tolerable. Sure, I’ll also miss being in quite possibly the best city in the world, but this is a baseball blog, so I thank everyone out there that made that aspect of New York life so special. (If I indeed am moving. If I’m not moving, then keep making it special. Pretty please?)
Speaking of special people, after we left the rotunda, Zack, myself, and Greg all rode back on the train together, talking about things from nail biting to corner spots.
- 1 Ball at this game (I completely forgot to take a picture before I left for Minnesota)
- It was number 392 of my life.
- 170 Balls in 41 Games= 4.15 Balls Per Game
- 1 Ball x 25,513 Fans= C’mon can’t *you* do that math?
- 50 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 86 Balls at Citi Field in 33 Games= 2.61 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 1 Ball (It’s a wonder how I haven’t been shutout there.)
- Time Spent On Game 3:45- 10:56= 7 Hours 11 Minutes