June 26, 2003 — Shea Stadium
The Mets were taking batting practice, and I was standing in the corner spot of the Loge Level above the entrance to the left field bullpen.
Tsuyoshi Shinjo yanked a deep line drive in my direction. The ball had the perfect distance but didn’t hook enough and sailed a few feet to my left. I reached way over the railing for it…and the damn thing barely clipped the end of my glove and dropped into no man’s land below.
I looked for it in the bullpen but didn’t see it. That seemed odd. I couldn’t figure out where else it might have landed, but I couldn’t dwell on it. BP was still going on, so I turned my attention back toward the field…but I was so frustrated that I couldn’t put it out of my mind.
A couple minutes later, I realized that the ball couldn’t have landed in the bullpen because there’s a gap between it and the base of the stands, so I took another look behind the bullpen and spotted it! The ball was sitting on the pavement, up against a wall, just beyond the employees’ entrance to the picnic area.
It was right there, out in the open, in a semi-bustling spot, and no one noticed it! People were pushing carts and carrying boxes right past it.
This spot was (and still is) totally off limits to fans. The picnic area and bleachers have their own tickets and entrance. Even if you have a $150 box seat, security won’t let you in there–but that didn’t stop me from trying.
I exited the Loge and ran down several ramps to ground level and headed through the concourse. There was a security guard sitting on a stool at the entrance. I began the march of death and saw the ball sitting on the ground 15 feet beyond him. He was staring off into space, but I knew he’d snap to attention as soon as I approached, and I was desperately trying to come up with something to say, something like, “Excuse me, sir, I know I’m not allowed in there, but I was just hoping I could grab that baseball–“
No no no. He’d look up and spot it and tell me to get lost and keep it for himself. What else could I say? I want to take a picture? I need to use the bathroom? I want to go on a picnic?
I had no idea what I’d tell him when he looked up…but I kept walking slowly…and approached him…and he DIDN’T look up!!! I walked right past him and grabbed the ball before making a U-turn and escaping the area, completely unnoticed.
I’ll never forget it.