8/20/05 at Shea Stadium

That’s right. I went to Shea yesterday.

Normally, I avoid weekend games because they’re crowded–this one ended up being the Mets’ eighth sellout of the season–but the Nationals were in town, and I wanted to try to get a few more of their commemorative balls. (I got two on 7/5/05 at RFK Stadium.)

As soon as I ran in for batting practice and headed toward the right field seats, I saw an usher walking up the steps with a ball in his hand. Incredibly, it wasn’t anyone that I recognized, so I asked him for it, and he handed it to me. I don’t count balls that fans give me, but since so many employees have gone out of their way to prevent me from getting balls over the years, I’ve decided that if I ever happen to receive a little charity from one of them, it should count.

I heard someone shout my name, someone I didn’t recognize. Turns out it was a 17-year-old from Seattle named Lars who recognized me from this blog and from my web site. He and I started corresponding three years ago but never met. Recently, he’d e-mailed me to ask for some ball-snagging advice for a few east coast ballparks (including Shea) he planned to visit. And there he was. Very cool.

I got Kris Benson to toss me a ball in the right field corner, and I headed to the LF Loge Level soon after. Within 10 minutes, Danny Graves and Chris Woodward threw me balls. I like Woodward. He’s nice. I like to think that I’d be Cal Ripken or Derek Jeter if I were a major leaguer, but realistically, I’d be Chris Woodward.

Moments later, someone on the Mets hit a home run that barely cleared the fence and landed in the gap 30 feet below. I quickly rigged my glove with the rubber band and magic marker and started to lower it–but I’d forgotten to untangle the string after my previous game in Houston, so I had to lift it back up and pick out all the knots.

A security guard walked down the steps and asked me what I was doing. There was no denying it. I fessed up and pleaded for a chance to try to get the ball.

logegap2.jpg

“There’s a ball down there?”

I nodded.

He peered over the edge incredulously. “I don’t think it’s possible,” he said, “but good luck.”

I started lowering my glove again through the narrow space between the concrete and the advertisement board’s metal support beams (which you can see in this photograph). It was barely wide enough for my glove, but it fit, and I lowered it all the way down. I got the glove to drop over the ball and hoped that the rubber band was tight enough to hold the ball in place all the way back up. I lifted the glove slowly and steadily. Five feet…ten feet…fifteen feet…twenty feet…twenty-five feet…and that’s when it got tricky. The space right behind the board was extremely narrow, and my glove was spinning around. (That’s what things dangling by long pieces of string tend to do.) I was afraid the glove would hit something and knock the ball loose…so I let the glove dangle in place for a full minute until it stopped spinning, and then I carefully lifted it through all the protruding metal parts.

I had the ball. Number five on the day. The security guard congratulated me and shook my hand. So did the other fans. It felt great.

I ran to the 1st base dugout and worked my way down to the front row just as the Mets were coming off the field after batting practice. Coach Manny Acta threw me a ball.

The Nationals had started BP, so I ran out to shallow left field and got a ball from Hector Carrasco. NOT a commemorative ball. I was disappointed…a rare emotion after getting a ball. Fifteen minutes later, I saw a ball lying on the edge of the outfield grass, just beyond 3rd base, so I hurried over and asked Christian Guzman for it in Spanish and he tossed it to me. More disappointment.

bradwilkerson.jpgarmaswilkersonwilson.jpg

I returned to the LF corner. No balls.
I ran to the Nationals’ dugout after BP. No balls.

Then I got three autographs, including two on tickets from RFK: Tony Armas Jr., Brad Wilkerson, and Preston Wilson.

I went back to the Nationals’ dugout right before the game. No balls.

It was 7:05pm. I had to be at work in 55 minutes. This was another one of those days where I’d bought a $14 ticket just for batting practice. It would’ve been nice to stick around and watch Pedro pitch the top of the 1st, but I had to go. I ran into Lars on the way out. He and his parents combined for eight balls, and he’d caught four or five of them. (Congrats, Lars!)

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It was weird, as always, to see so many people arriving for the game while I was leaving. As I made my way toward the #7 train, a scalper asked me if I needed tickets.

STATS:

CPB = 1.75. (Now THAT’S more like it.)

• 198 balls in 29 games this season = 6.8 balls per game.

• 413 consecutive games with at least one ball.

• 39 consecutive games with at least three balls.

• 2,629 total balls.

15 comments

  1. drosenda@msn.com

    Zack, Did you ask Crisitan Guzman why he had 1 good year for my Twins, then turned into a head case? Man, what a disappointment he was for MN.

  2. loveg30@aol.com

    Zack, Excellent blog as usual. Drosenda, Guzman is a scrub and should never come back to the states after this season. He got very lucky he did some damage this afternoon against my Mets. Besides, the Twins made the right choice and are so way better off without him. Go Nick Punto, LOL!!!!
    George

  3. doppychico89@yahoo.com

    On the topic of the Twins… they just claimed Soriano off of waivers, does anyone think the Rangers will waive him to the Twins? He would really jump start their offense and maybe help them reach the playoffs.

  4. thegroceryman1@yahoo.com

    A few things-

    1) Holy frucking ****! That picture…thats what it looks like outside a stadium close to game time? Wow. Looks so weird seeing that many people there.

    2) Christian Guzman was never ever good.

    3) I doubt the Twins and Rangers will make a deal. It’ll be interesting to watch though.

    4) Chris Woodward is indeed very nice. He’s thrown me multiple balls this year.

    Zack props on getting 8 on a sellout night.

  5. Zack

    DROSENDA-
    No dental floss. No 44 feet. So you got me there. But did you have to work around/through a bunch of protruding metal poles? I said nothing to Guzman other than: “Christian! Da me la bola, por favor!”

    GEORGE-

    Thanks for the kind words as usual, but I actually wasn’t too happy with this entry. I had to rush to finish it before leaving for work, and I ended up leaving out lots of details, like the fact that I ran into a seat and bruised my knee so badly that I could barely walk later that night.

    DANTV-

    It was pretty funny. (Normally, scalpers are more likely to make me cry than laugh.)

    DOPPY-

    I treat trade rumors as pure entertainment until anything actually happens.

    GROCERY MAN-

    That’s not the typical pregame picture. Remember, this WAS a sellout, but yes, there are normally hundreds of people swarming the gates around the first pitch. Pretty crazy, hunh? I disagree about Guzman, but I agree with the Twins-Rangers statement. Word to Woodward. And yes, eight balls at a sellout…I was pretty happy about that. If I’d known the crowd was going to be so big, I might not’ve even gone.

    CHRISTIAN GUZMAN-

    Your 20 triples in 2000 were more impressive than all the home runs in the American League combined. I don’t care what these people say. I like you. I think you need to steal a few more bases and learn some plate discipline, but you’re still young. Actually, you’re younger than me, and that makes me mad, but whatever. Even the great Mark McGwire batted .201 one year. You’ll bounce back. Just hang in there and hit a few more triples for me.

  6. thegroceryman1@yahoo.com

    Cristian Guzman –

    Your 20 triples in 2000 were a product of you being fast and hitting in a stadium with astro turf. Your on base percentage that year was under .300. That shouldnt surprise anyone as your lifetime OBP is under 300 as well. For those new to the game, that’s horrible. Lifetime batting average? .259. Slugging? .372. Couple the 372 SLG with a .296 OBP and you get a lifetime OPS of .668.

    6-6-8

    THAT IS NOWHERE NEAR OR AROUND OR IN THE SAME CAFETERIA AS BEING GOOD. NOT EVEN THE SAME OFFICE BUILDING.

    You’re 27. That is not old, however you have shown absolutely 0 signs of learning any plate discipline.

    You got a big multi year contract worth millions and millions of dollars this winter. Maybe Joe McEwing should give Jim Bowden a call this winter. Even better, maybe Jamey Carroll should ask for a raise. Perhaps Ricky Gutierrez isn’t doing anything.

    Oh snap, Tim Bogar is hitting up my cell. I gotta go.

    Enjoy the triples. And congrats on the 6 errors in 8 games last week. Very slick.

  7. loveg30@aol.com

    THEGROCERYMAN, please shut up!!! Guzman was good, if not decent at one point. 20 triples means something. So what if he is a product of being fast and hits in a stadium with astro turf. Does that mean we should put him on a wheelchair and have him play on concrete? He is blessed with speed, we should take it away from him? Fine, then lets take it away from Jose Reyes too. Back in 2000 he could play, but we are in 2005 and live in a world of “what have you done lately.” Though I am disgusted by Guzman, I am going to have to agree with Zack this time and also say that he will bounce back this season. THEGROCERYMAN, you sound like a fantasy baseball player churning out all those stats. Pardon me while I puke. Please, don’t bring up the money thing, we all know everyone in the sport is grossly overpaid regardless of performance. Ricky Gutierrez and Tim Bogar happen to be friends of mine, so don’t throw their names around, PUNK!!! LOL!!!!
    George

  8. thegroceryman1@yahoo.com

    I AM a fantasy baseball player.

    Statistics are a reflection of a players performance. I dont know what else to tell you. A line of .247/.299/.388 in 2000 is just not what should be labeled “good”.

    Jose Reyes? I dont really like him either. However there’s still hope since he is indeed young.

    I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on this one.

    That’s pretty cool that you know those guys. What is Bogar up to these days?

  9. josh_aj_goreham@hotmail.com

    Yeah, Woodward is a good guy.. He gave me his autograph, and got a picture with him last year when he played for Toronto. He’s good off the field, but he wasn’t the best for Toronto when he played there, but I noticed he got the game winning hit the other night.. good for him..

  10. loveg30@aol.com

    THEGROCERYMAN, Tim Bogar is currently managing the Lexington Legends which is the Class A affiliate of the Houston Astros. Though stats are very important in all sports, it doesn’t measure a players heart. The bottom line is does the team win. Not a made up team like in fantasy baseball. I knew you would run off stats and thats not the how we should root or judge players. I agree to disagree as well, but fantasy sports is one of the worst things ever created simply because it has a gamblers mentality which is another one of my pet peeves.

  11. Zack

    GROCERY MAN and GEORGE-
    The two of you are cracking me up! I love it!

    JOSH-

    That game-winner was a big moment in a season full of letdowns for the Mets, and just a week or three earlier, he hit a walk-off homer. You should’ve seen his face as he was rounding the bases. He looked like a little kid. It was great.

  12. thegroceryman1@yahoo.com

    I totally disagree with you about fantasy. I wouldnt know half as much as I do about the game without fantasy baseball. A fantasy team obviously isnt a “real” team…but it’s YOUR team. A team you assembled, made up of guys you think are going to do well. And I dont have a gamblers mentality at all, so I dunno what to say about that.

    I was going to say more about stats and Guzman, but I’ll just end it here.

    I hope to see Bogar resurface at the major league level some day.

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