I took a surprise trip to a certain ballpark a little while ago, so I thought I’d start with a Before the Gates Open video:
Note: Steve Carlton is *NOT* dead; I was thinking of Robin Roberts when I said it. They’re both Phillies great pitchers. How am I supposed to differentiate between them?
First off, here is the link to the entry I mentioned in the video: Blast From The Baseball Past. Now, onto the story of why I was even at this game:
See, my neighbor whom you saw in the video, Greg Barasch was discussing has taken a few trips to “the bank” (I actually have no clue if that’s what it’s dubbed; I just threw that in myself), and was discussing another this week. I was in Washington, so my accompaniment of him was dependent on what day of the week he went i.e. I didn’t want to go Monday and have to sacrifice my final two games at Nationals Park for two games in Citi Field. When he announced he was going on Wednesday, though, I jumped at the opportunity.
So…. that’s the story. Let’s get to the snagging.
When I entered the seating area, I was absolutely shocked by the fact that Citizens Bank Park has no hand railings in the seats:
Interestingly enough, I was the first one in the stadium to snag a ball:
When I got in the seating area, Cliff Lee and Kyle Kendrick were talking. When a ball rolled to the wall, Kendrick ran over to grab it. When he did, I asked him for the ball and he tossed it up to me.
Then, a ball got hit towards a gloveless man and his kid. “Shockingly”, the ball bounced off his hands and into the flower bed in front of the section. I didn’t want to step in because the ball was, in fact, RIGHT in front of the man. After a few seconds, though, Greg dropped in and pulled the ball out along with a few weeds.
If you don’t know, fans are confined to left field for the first hour of the gates being open at Citizens Bank Park. Since the Phillies had recently converted to being a minor league team, the only legitimate righty hitter was Carlos Ruiz. He hit a ball pretty much right at me, so I stepped down a stair (to make sure no one could jump in front of me), jumped up, and caught the ball the ball on the fly:
Even with the balls I had caught on the fly in Washington, this was still exhilarating.
After that, I snagged the first ball I probably wouldn’t have snagged had there been hand rails. Michael Martinez hit a ball a section to my right, after hitting in the seats and initially deflecting away from me, I tracked it down and picked it up over here:
I then asked around for a kid in the section with a glove who had not yet gotten a ball. I came to this kid and gave it away to him:
Then came time for the Reds to hit.
I nearly got Johnny Cueto to throw me a ball while he was warming up, but he threw the ball to Greg instead (which put him ahead of me, 4-3. I would never tie him again.) After I got rejected by Cueto, I headed back to the spot where I caught the Ruiz homer. It was closer to center field, so I knew I wouldn’t get that many home runs, but I had more room to run for balls. Then a Reds hitter hit a ball right in the same spot as Ruiz. I did the same exact thing as on the Ruiz ball: step a step down, ready myself and raise my glove/jump slightly at the last second. However, this time, there was someone in front of me contesting for the ball. In addition to this, Jose Arredondo threw up his glove at the ball. It *just* missed the ball, so for at least half a second, I was completely convinced the ball was going to hit me in the face. Instead, this happened:
It was quite a great catch if I do say so myself. I had to deal with the glove of the kid in front of me, the glove of Arrendondo flying in the air, and then the part I didn’t mention: the kid was backing into me, so just as I made the catch, he fell and I had to catch him before he got a face-full of concrete.
Then Brandon Phillips’ group came up. I don’t know if you know this, but despite the measly 13 home runs Phillips had coming into the game, he hits far and plentiful bombs in batting practice. So does at least one other guy in his group. I should’ve probably had four or five of them had I known they would have gone so far into the stands. Instead, I snagged hit by one of those Reds righties and gave it to this kid in the bright orange:
(His dad in the blue had the ball as I took the picture.)
See what I mean? It certainly wasn’t a Yankee Stadium crowd, but there’s no way to get to the section just to my right. I should also mention that it was around this time, I ran into a row, a kid ran right after me, so our feet got tangled, and I fell straight into the ground. I’m usually very good at making it so my legs just graze seats and such, but since my legs couldn’t move at all while I was falling, it smacked right into the metal arm rest. It never showed a bruise, but my leg hurt for a week after that every time I leg past about 35 degrees.
During the gam, this was my view:
See that guy in the row right in front of me in the gray? I’ll get back to him in a minute.
As for the game, the Reds ended up winning the game 3-2 behind a strong pitching performance from Bronson Arroyo. As for my snagging attempts during the game, they had a common theme: Jay Bruce-related heartbreak. EVERY inning, Jay Bruce would warm up with the Reds bullpen catcher. most of said innings, I yelled my lungs out trying to get his attention. There was NO way he didn’t hear me. Even the Phillies fans were helping me; yet I came back to my seat empty-handed every time.
Between-inning toss-ups, though, were the least of my woes. In the top of the eighth inning, Jay Bruce launched a ball to my left. I ran as far as I could to my left, but I could tell it was a. headed to the second deck and b. I couldn’t even get in line with the ball. Then it hit this electronic scoreboard strip:
From there it bounced to my “new” left (I had turned around, since the ball was now behind me.), so I ran/limped as fast as I could after the ball in mid-air. Here is a diagram of the path of the ball after that:
To clarify, the ball bounced off of the guy in the red’s hands and bounced right past me (I was right next to him at this point). I saw the ball, so I just went down to thhe ground as soon as I could expecting it to bounced off the guy just out of the frame with the beer’s chest and fall down. After looking everywhere down there- all of which took place over the course of maybe two seconds- I couldn’t see it. Turns out, it had hit the guy’s head instead and bounced over a place that absolutely infuriated me:
Why? Here’s a hint: I have a red backpack.
That’s right, the ball bounced *right* to the seat I had been sitting in. Had I never run after the ball at all, I would have had my first ever home run ball. Here’s the highlight of the home run if you wish:
You can only see the ball bouncing off the scoreboard, though. Which is good since I would have driven myself insane watching the play had I been able to see what happened,
Remember the guy in gray? he was the one who leaned backwards in his chair and picked up the ball that rolled within inches of my backpack. He said it was really easy; not it an in-your-face manner, but just to let me know, since i had been going for balls all night and was the only one to even react to the Bruce home run as it was hit.
Thankfully, the game didn’t end on a negative note. At the end of the game, I headed over to the Reds/ Phillies bullpen area and got the Reds’ bullpen coach, Juan Lopez to throw me a ball from the other end of the bullpen. It was a pretty good job of aiming the ball from so far away:
After my sixth and final ball of the game, I met up with Greg, who had snagged 9 Balls, behind the Reds dugout. Interestingly, nine is the only number of balls he had ever failed to snag in a game before…or maybe I’m confusing this with another number:
And then we took the drive home to New York together while talking about a range of ballhawk-related subjects:
- 6 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 387- 392 for my lifetime:
- 49 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 11:41- 12:45= 13 Hours 4 Minutes
Since this was my first game of 2012 at Citi Field, let’s count all the things the Mets changed from 2011 that I thought would make Citi Field awesome, but ended up angering me.
1. They advertised people being able to buy a six game plan for as low as $9 a ticket.
I was ecstatic to see this because I usually buy my tickets from Stubhub, and Stubhub’s fees on each ticket are $11 plus whatever the ticket itself costs. However, when I bought the tickets, the fees the Mets added to the tickets bumped up the price of the plan from $54 to $89, so around $15 a ticket.
Now this wouldn’t have been a big deal on its own, but check out the ticket I bought at this game:
That’s right, I bought this ticket for only $10. Nowadays, the Mets sell tickets to people with valid student IDs for only $10, but they made sure to wait until AFTER the beginning of the season to publicize this fact. So in essence, what I did in buying the plan was waste $30 and make it so I *had* to attend those games or sell them on Stubhub if any plans got in the way, whereas I could choose not to go if I were constantly buying tickets the day of the game as I did here. For the record, I will probably not be able to attend four of those games that I bought, so in all likelihood, I wasted a lot more than $30 on the Mets.
2. They put up a section in Left Field that was closer to the field:
It should be obvious why I thought this was going to make Citi Field a much better place to snag baseballs. Closer to the field= more baseballs that make it into the seats. In addition, I didn’t account for how this would improve the ballhawking in the regular seating above the new section. As fellow ballhawk and neighbor Greg Barasch put it, “We would be in the place we normally are now, but it would be completely empty.” It makes sense, doesn’t it? Other fans see a section closer to the field than they are and they crowd it. In response to Greg’s comment, I jokingly said, “Yeah, but you know the Mets are going to find a way to mess this up, right?” Well, the Mets did.
Unlike my fantasized LF, there were ushers checking tickets, even during batting practice. So all the section does is act as like a perpetual season ticket holder section the Mets had last year. If you don’t remember what that was or have started reading this blog since then, it was a section on the field where season ticket holders could experience batting practice from the field. What this did was keep most toss ups from being thrown to the people in the upper part of the bleachers. So if there are any people in that section, they are a lot more likely to get a ball thrown to them simply because of their proximity to the field and thus any player who would throw a ball into the stands.
That ball, as I later discovered, is lopsided. If you hold the ball in the center, the right side of the ball has more mass than the left does. I don’t know if this will show up well in a photo, but do you see how the following picture has the ball slanted? That is because this particular ball cannot possibly sit on its middle due to the size differential between the sides. Weird, right?:
I stayed in the LF seats for a couple of minutes after that, but all the Mets in the cage were lefties, so I knew nothing was coming my way on the fly.
That brought me to the CF section, which also brings us to:
4. The Mets were going to move the fences in CF.
I thought this was going to mean they would also put in some extra seats as to make it possible for us ballhawks to catch baseballs that otherwise we would not have been able to reach. Instead this was the result:
The bottom concrete part is where the seating area ends and the orange is the top of the new wall. That means the Mets moved the fence closer, but the seats stayed the same. What did this create? A gap, and a rather large one too:
This is GREAT for using the glove trick or another retrieval device, but as it is well-documented, such devices are absolutely NOT allowed at Citi Field. That means myself and other people with devices are forced to drool over balls like the one in the picture above.
I was however, the only person in the section, so I was bound to get at least one ball there, right? Well, the Mets’ bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello went to throw a ball against the wall and I thought he was going to throw it to me, so I made a motion to catch it. As he released the ball he spotted me and tossed me a second ball he had with him. However, this was a half-hearted throw and landed a few feet short, making me lean into the gap for a catch:
I then moved over to RF, but I quickly left because R. A. Dickey was manning that portion of the outfield. He was an absolute jerk last year after being so nice in his first year with the Mets, and it was clearly the “2011 R. A.” rather than the “2010 R. A.” In addition, RF brings up… drumroll:
5. The Mets moved in the fences in RF.
Again, I thought they would add some general seating there and this would mean RF would actually be a feasible place to catch a baseball. Instead, this is what they did:
Similar to CF, the Mets added no new seating open to the public. Instead, they added a picnic-like area. The reason I say “a feasbible place to catch a baseball” is because as it is now, only the juts at the sides of the section can have a Home Run hit to them due to the overhang of the second deck. If the seating were to extend to the orange line, though, there would be a few rows of running room and some mild hope of catching a ball there. In addition to not living up to my child-like fantasy, the addition actually made that section worse. As it was last year, any ball that hit the angular wall would ricochet to the ground under the red “Modell’s” sign. This allowed experienced ballhawks to stay right above said sign and just ask whichever player picked up the ball from right above their head.
I *was* behind Zack Hample, but that’s not why I didn’t get a ball until the Reds started throwing. No, the reason for my drought was the Mets seem to not be physically able to hit a ball past the Party Deck if unless they pull it right down the foul line.
This was about the most interesting part of the rest of the Mets’ batting practice:
Has anyone ever seen a dot like that on the batting cage for the pitcher to aim at? Is this done all the time and I am just that oblivious to such details? What’s up with it? Should I stop asking so many rhetorical questions?
Anyway, I then moved over to foul ground when the Reds pitchers started throwing and lined up behind this throwing pair:
However, I had no idea what either of their names were, so when Johnny Cueto finished his throwing, I didn’t hesitate at all to wave my arms in the air and ask for a ball. I figured he would walk a little closer and throw me the ball, but he stopped right where he was and threw it a long way to me. The next picture shows how far away he was when he released the ball. The arrow on the left is where Cueto is now and the arrow on the right is where he was when he threw me the ball:
Not surprisingly, Cueto overthrew me, but the only fan behind me was on his phone and didn’t even notice the ball until it clanged off a seat right in front of him and caromed back closer to me.
Here is a picture of the ball with Cueto in the background once I got back to the LF seats:
After that, myself and the other ballhawk in attendance, Mark McConville had the treat of getting completely humiliated while Zack caught baseballs while on his cellphone:
He was getting interviewed by a Sirius XM radio station and they wanted to get him on the air live while he was snagging baseballs. That was one of two or three baseballs he managed to get players to toss him without using words.
I, on the other hand, got this:
It wasn’t all happy, though. That was the second ball that landed in that row. The first one was a ball hit to my left. I had a fancyish camera at this game and wanted to make use of it, so me, being the idiot that I am, tried to get a picture of the ball as I caught it. The action of holding the camera threw me off-balance and caused me to not only miss what would have been an easy catch, but also hit the metal armrest of a seat. This left what is a bruise that is half an inch deep, an inch tall, and three inches wide. I won’t show it for the more sqeamish people, but here is a link to the picture for those who want to see it, or you can read Zack’s account of the game, within which he details the bruise/cut (Oh, and before I get too side-tracked, that is the other ballhawk, Mark, going up to the front of the section in Reds gear.)
After I hit the armrest, my head was slowly lowering, so all I could see was some glove in the row behind me catch the ball. On the very next pitch or the pitch right after that, the same hitter hit a ball in the same row but even further to my left and I hobbled over there and picked up the ball. I guess Karma was feeling bad for me. This injury esentially fudged up my plan of going over to RF and asking a Reds player over there for a ball, because it was painful to put any significant pressure on the leg, and that was it for batting practice. The Reds hitters hit very little into the stands and their pitchers were throwing very little as well.
Oh well, at least it was a beautiful afternoon:
Also, see the usher in green, who I have further emphasized by putting an arrow over his head, in that last picture? Towards the end of batting practice, I gave him a ball that I told him to give to a kid of his choice.
One thing I do like about the Mets is that they have the lineups on the scoreboard even before the game begins. Here they are:
If you can’t tell, the Reds had 7 righties and the Mets had 6 lefties. Considering the Reds hadn’t faced a left-handed pitcher in almost a month at this point and were unlikely to hit a Home Run against one of the best left-handed pitchers in the National League, I sat in, you guessed it. Left Field.
My plan *was* to sit in the foul territory along the third base line, but with the limp I had, ushers were already checking tickets by the time I got to those seats and I decided to play Home Run balls in Left Field. I felt pretty good about that when, a few inning into the game, this was the view to my left:
That said, you may or may not have noticed in that last picture, but this was what the section I was planning to sit in looked like:
Thankfully nothing was hit there, but it was absolute torture watching the section be that empty.
Long story short, neither the Reds nor the Mets hit anything close to my section. I’m pretty sure I spent more time studying for an AP Macroeconomics test I had the next morning than I did paying attention to the game. This is saying a lot considering I wasn’t really invested in the test given it was going to be on the one year anniversary of my dad’s death, on which day I attempted to go to a Mets game. Then again, I guess I can’t complain about anything that happened this game considering most of fellow seniors were at prom right as I took that last picture. The one bright spot in the game is what I believe to be one of the few things the Mets managed to get right, and it is this:
I like that they have the spray chart for the hitters. Then again, it’s something that I, as a high school senior, can and have done on a daily basis, so it’s not that impressive. I’m sorry, am I being too negative? I just really don’t like that the Mets have messed up almost every “improvement” they have tried to make. I thoroughly enjoyed watching not one, but two Home Runs be hit by the Reds that would not have been Home Runs with the old dimensions.
Remember I mention I had a fancyish camera this game? Well one of the things said camera can do is take panoramic photographs, so I took one towards the beginning of the game and one towards the end of the game:
After the game, I headed out to the bullpens in CF and asked Reds bullpen catcher, Mike Stefanski, and even though not only the only fan wearing Reds gear, but the only fan there period, he completely ignore my request. I then got to think about how big of an idiot I was for banging my thigh against seat while I hopped/limped all the way from CF to the train station behind Home Plate.
- 4 Balls at this game (3 in this picture because I gave that one away to the usher)
Numbers 252-255 in my “collection”:
- 33 Balls in 7 Games= 4.71 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 7 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 7 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 4 Balls x 22,659 Fans= 90,636 Competition Factor (or an example of why this statistic is flawed)
- 76 balls obtained in 29 games = 2.62 Balls Per Game
- 29 straight Games at Citi Field with at least 1 Ball
- Time at Game 4: 13- 10:16= 6 hours 3 minutes