8/22/06 at Shea Stadium

Right before I left for Shea, I posted a comment on my previous entry, saying that I wanted two things:

1) A ball from Albert Pujols.

2) Another commemorative Busch Stadium ball. (I got one on 6/14/06 at Citizens Bank Park.)


It was another huge crowd–49,661 to be exact–so I raced to my corner spot in the right field Loge at the start of batting practice.

Within the first few minutes, I got Chad Bradford to toss me a ball, but it fell short and bounced back down onto the warning track. Billy Wagner played the carom perfectly and tossed it back up almost immediately. The ball sailed five feet over my head and landed in the empty aisle. Easy.

Remember how I used the glove trick at my last Mets game? That’s how I got my second ball yesterday. Just like last time, the ball was 30 feet below, lying against a hose in the gap behind the outfield wall, and once again, it took a few minutes to knock it out into the open. The ball has a faint “practice” stamped next to ball2905practice.jpgthe sweet spot, and as you can see, I labeled it with a “2905” because it’s the 2,905th ball in my collection.

Moments later, I made an unsuccessful attempt to use the trick for another ball in the gap. It wasn’t my fault, though. Really. The ball was partially trapped in a small trash-filled rut, and there wasn’t enough room for the glove to fully lower on top of it. VERY frustrating. And a waste of five minutes.

At the end of BP, Dave Williams finished his bullpen session and tossed me the ball, and THAT one fell short, too. (The Mets pitching staff is in trouble.) Bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello tossed it back up, and I had my third ball of the day.

I’d been shouting at Pedro Martinez for a few minutes, but he hadn’t looked up. He was busy playing catch, and anyway, I hadn’t said anything special to really get his attention. As he headed off the field toward the bullpen, I tried once more: “What’s up Pedro from your favorite baseball collector!” He looked right up and smiled. I told him I’d caught Barry Bonds’ home run last week in San Diego.

“Oh yeah?!” he said excitedly.

“Yeah! Number seven-twenty-four!” I called. I told him a few quick details, and then he headed inside. Cool.


The stadium was PACKED by the time the Cardinals took the field. I hung out in the left field Loge and managed to get one more ball. (Shea is the only ballpark where batting practice is actually boring.) It was a foul homer hit by either Juan Encarnacion or Scott Rolen. They were quickly switching in and out of the cage, and by the time I caught it and looked back at the field, I wasn’t sure if the guy at the plate was the one who’d hit it. I made a pretty nice play on it, racing 30 or 40 feet to my right and catching the ball RIGHT in front of a young woman (pink shoes, legs crossed) who hadn’t seen it coming.

“Oooh! Baseball Collector! Thank you! You saved my life!”

“Think nothing of it, ma’am. Just give me your phone number, and we’ll call it even.”

Seriously though, the ball would’ve torn her face apart if I hadn’t been there. It was a line drive that was hit so hard that no one else in the section was able to move more than a few feet. Oh, and it was just a regular ball. No commemorative logo.

I should have gotten a fifth ball in the Loge, but Braden Looper recognized me–from LAST year when he was with the Mets. Someone had hit a shot to the left field corner. Looper walked over to pick it up. I shouted from above. He looked up and was about to throw it, then stopped and said, “How many balls do you HAVE?!” Unbelievable. I’ll tell you what I have, Braden: two reasons to boo you.

LarussaAs BP was winding down, I found a spot in the first row behind the Cardinals’ dugout, and two minutes later, Tony La Russa came in and tossed me a (regular) ball. Sweet! I’d never gotten one from him before. I was psyched to get to add his name to my list. Now I just needed one from Pujols…

Getting balls from first basemen is easy. You just need access to the seats behind the dugouts, and at Shea, that’s usually not a problem.

Carlos Beltran ended the bottom of the first with a ground out to second basemen Ronnie Belliard. Perfect. I darted down the steps as Belliard made the throw to Pujols at first. Pujols took the ball with him to the dugout…but tossed it to someone in the section on my left. Blah.

Chris Woodward was called out on strikes to end the second. Catcher Yadier Molina tossed the ball to a little kid in the section on my right. Blah squared.

Beltran ended the third inning with a grounder to shortstop Aaron Miles who stepped on second for a force play and ended up tossing the ball to that stupid section on my left. I was about to give up and just head back upstairs to the Loge for foul tips, but the view was so nice from the fourth row. I decided to give it one more inning.


Pujols slugged a three-run homer in the top of the fourth, then ended up with the third-out ball in the bottom of the frame after Woodward hit a weak tapper to starting pitcher Jeff Weaver. Pujols took the ball to the dugout and tossed it my way as soon as he crossed the foul line. His throw had a fairly high arc, giving other people time to jockey for position. I crouched down and timed it perfectly, half-leaping and half-diving at the ball2909pujols.jpglast second to get full extension and make the catch just beyond everyone else’s hands as I belly-flopped on the dugout roof. (I wish I had a personal photographer to capture these moments. Of course, that photographer would also have to find a way past stadium security.) I was ecstatic. Mission accomplished. I’ve always liked Pujols. Now I have an official excuse to root for him…and wouldn’t you know it, he hit a grand slam in the next inning to give him a career high seven RBIs.

The Mets still won. Carlos Delgado hit a granny of his own in the bottom of the fifth–his second long ball of the night and 400th of his career. Then, with the Mets trailing, 7-6, in the bottom of the ninth, Beltran jerked a two-run walk-off shot off Jason Isringhausen–another Mets reject–to send everyone home happy. Even Bill Clinton. Can you find him in this picture?




Competition Factor = 297,966.

• 157 balls in 21 games this season = 7.48 balls per game.

• 448 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 74 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 783 different players and coaches who have thrown balls to me

• 2,909 total balls…moves me past active hits leader Craig Biggio (2,907), and into 34th place on the all-time hits list. Next up is Al Simmons (2,927).

(If you’re wondering why I’m comparing balls to hits, click here.)


  1. dodgerdude511@aol.com

    woo first comment!!

    Good to have a story to tell the players, eh?

    I cant get balls from 1st basemen at Dodger Stadium, They have these expensive seats right behind the dugout that are extremely hard to get into… have thier own wall… and Nomar will only give balls to kids in those sections.

  2. thenetsguy@gmail.com

    gr8 game ya well isnt there an usher gaurding those ections? whats your tick l8r

  3. Thomas

    Boo! You passed Bidge… you’re just lucky he’s slumping(and has been for the 2nd half of the season… is that still a slump?).

    Congrats on the Pujols ball and for saving the life of the dame in distress…


  4. mlblogosphere@yahoo.com

    Zack, I have a suggestion for the Competition Factor. I think you need to add another variable. If you have Bill Clinton in your area like this (yeah, I found him in the picture), that should definitely increase the Competition Factor. I remember going to the first ever game at Jacobs Field, and because Clinton also attended, I had trouble getting my work done because of the security, closed elevators to clubhouse, etc. Granted, he was president then. But am sure there is security around him that makes moving around problematic, and I think that should be a Competition Factor variable, probably moving it into the 300,000s in this case. I would include a multiple of, say, 5x or 10x, whenever there is a Public Figure With Security to make ballpark maneuvering more difficult.



    da birthday boy

  5. senoroctubre@boston-redsox.net

    congrats zack, i guess 6 balls, yes pujols, but no commemorative is still pretty good. andi i can see clinton. ill let you know how my game will go this thursday

  6. dannyzhang312@hotmail.com

    Crazy game!! Great blog! I saw the highlights on tv last night and they showed Clinton yawning and not looking enthusiastic and I wondered whether Zack knew if he was there. And you knew!! Congrats on your day!

  7. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Hey Zack, it’s Greg from last night’s game. It’s cool to hear you recap what happened yesterday after seeing it first person at Shea. So I ended up with six balls as well. My final ball was from Yadier Molina, who flipped it to me after Braden Looper struck out Julio Franco to end the eighth inning. I was between the Cardinals’ dugout and home plate (near where the net begins) a couple rows back. When Franco struck out, I ran down to the front row, yelled “Yadier!” while holding up my glove. He looked at me, turned away to find the dugout steps, looked back to me, and tossed it right to me. Of course, I was wearing my fake Cardinals hat and red shirt, so that helped me a lot.

    I think you saw all the other ones I got during the game. Oh, and one the ball I got from Aaron Miles after his pre-game warm-up tosses was a Busch Stadium ball (my second this year). I wish you had gotten one also, but I know you have one already, so no big deal.

    By the way, did you ever get that Albert Pujols autograph? I know that idiot security guard was hounding you. What a ******* he was. That was totally uncalled for.

  8. Nick

    Official 3,000th Ball Countdown:
    91 to go.

    Estimated accomplishment date: April 20, 2007 at Shea Stadium from Pedro Martinez.

  9. senoroctubre@boston-redsox.net

    hey zack i was just reading all your old posts, and came across when you went to Israel last May. You translation for asking for a ball in Hebrew was perfect, and i should know, because i was born in Israel, and Hebrew is my first language. In addition to Youkilis, the Red Sox have the most Jewish players in the major leagues. Adam Stern, Gabe Kapler, and once relief pitcher who gets called up once in a while Craig Breslow in addition to Youkilis.

  10. jimmyjoejoejrchabadu@hotmail.com

    Congats on the balls and getting half of your goals. Gustavo Watch tonight, I’ll be watching for sure.

  11. Zack

    Wow, you must’ve been staying up late. Even on the west coast, it was after 2am when I posted this entry. I’m aware of how difficult Dodger Stadium is. I haven’t been there since 2000, but I’ve noticed the impossible dugout setup on TV.


    As usual, I had purchased a cheap seat way up top. There WERE ushers in the aisle, 15 rows behind the dugout, but they weren’t militant about guarding every staircase.


    I passed him a lot quicker than I expected, but he might now pass me. There could be some leap-frog action depending on how many games I go to and how well he does. I do like Bidge, by the way. I’ve been a fan for ages.


    Happy birthday! I had no idea. One day before Ripken. Cool. I’m aware that Competition Factor is, like many stats, flawed because it doesn’t account for other variables. It’s a good idea to factor in public figures, but I’m not sure I just want to multiply by some random number…five or ten or whatever. It seems rather arbitrary. I don’t know. What do other people think?


    Born in Israel? Whoa. What do you think about the current situation over there? I keep forgetting about Adam Stern. I knew about Kapler and Youkilis. Breslow, too? Huh. Now when Yankee fans demand to know why I root for the Sox, I’ll have another answer. Definitely let me know how you do on Thursday.


    Thanks. But I think we all need to give Clinton a break. He wasn’t jumping up and cheering, but he seemed to be watching the game intently. Also, the camera was probably on him ALL night…and come on, who doesn’t yawn at least once over the course of an entire game.


    I can’t believe the ball from Miles was a Busch ball.***** YOU!!!


    Congrats on your six snags and especially the ball from Yadier. It’s always great to get one during the game, even if it’s tossed. How many did you get in that LF Loge corner spot? I didn’t get Pujols’ autograph. Believe me, if I had, you would’ve already read about it and seen an image. That security guard is the worst. He needs to be put to sleep.


    Haha, the countdown has begun! April 20 might be a bit early, but yeah, it’s gonna be right around there. I’m planning to do it at Camden, though that could change.


    Gustavo watch, indeed…


    I’m going back to Shea tonight, and I may actually root for Mark Mulder. Goals for the day: get a Busch ball AND snag a foul ball during the game.

  12. jimmyjoejoejrchabadu@hotmail.com

    If you look at the pic you took at the dugout you can see a flash from another camera right across from you in the 2nd level . Looks like some1 was taking a pic of you or pujols who knows.

  13. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Thanks a lot, Zack. It was cool to keep running into you all over the place yesterday. Actually, after I got the Miles ball, by the time I saw you going back for a Pujols autograph, I hadn’t even realized the ball was a Busch ball. I didn’t think to look. I was just happy I had caught it. I didn’t inspect the ball until I got back to my “seat.”

    Yeah, the Molina ball was really cool. I didn’t really expect to get a ball under those circumstances. I was hoping to get one from the Cardinals’ ball boy, who was sitting about five feet to the left (next to the dugout), like on a foul dribbler, but it seemed unlikely that a fielder coming back to the dugout would even look my way. The catcher was the only one who would be anywhere close to me coming off the field, but luckily it worked out.

    Up in the LF Loge, I only got two balls, both incidentally from Shea security guards. The Cardinal pitchers weren’t throwing a lot up to that area. That’s annoying. But I’m happy with six overall, so it’s okay.

    Well good luck tonight on a Pujols auto. And I hope you get another Busch ball!

  14. Thomas

    Like I said Zack, Biggio is slumping bad.. bad enough to where he batted 6th last night(his first time batting lower than 2nd since 1990!).

    If Bidge does pass you back up, would he be the first person to pass you up, that you previously passed?


  15. Zoe

    I was *almost* there but I selflessly gave up my ticket. ARGH! I posted about it over at my place, and about Willie’s hilarious press conf. afterwards.

    How do you get to field level if you have loge tix–do you just stay after batting practice? And how do they let you do that?


  16. hinthorn1@comcast.net

    Great job! If you ever decide to swing by CHicago again let me know, I’d love to meet you. I’m going to KC in a few weeks, any suggestions for ball snagging?

  17. hugesportsfan2000@yahoo.com


    1 and 1/3 IP

    5 Runs

    6 Hits

    3 BB

    1 K

    2 HR

    THE CURSE LIVES!!!!!!!

  18. Nick

    Very nice night in Camden:

    It seems as though my snagging reflects the Twins play. Fun night. Entry tomorrow.

  19. Zack

    Clearly, that other person was taking a pic of ME.


    “Seat.” I know what you mean. You got two balls from the guards? Man, that would NEVER happen to me.


    Cool fact about the batting order. Biggio would, indeed, be the first player to pass me after being passed…and you know what? I bet it’s gonna happen.


    What was so funny about the press conference. Never mind…I’ll just check out your blog. As for getting into the Field Level, you can either stay there after BP or hang outside the security checkpoint late in the game and ask people for their ticket stubs as they’re walking out.


    Thanks. No plans for Chicago as of this moment, but that could always change. I’ll let you know. Someone else recently asked me about KC. I haven’t been there for years, so I don’t remember much. It’s a really simple ballpark, so just use all the basic strategies. Milk the visiting team for all it’s worth. I vaguely recall that it’s a good ballpark for getting foul tips during the game behind the plate, but I can’t remember any specifics about the layout.


    Why would you do something like that to me? That’s just cruel. I wish I’d seen Clinton snoozing. I’ve still only heard about it.


    Heh heh. Thanks for letting me know. I’ll be posting the next installment of The Gustavo Watch in just a little bit.

    THUE PLAYA-****** me? If he were a good guy, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.


    Cool. I was doing some scoreboard watching at Shea and thinking about you. Looking forward to the entry. Yours are always fun to read.


    I got home from Shea an hour ago, and it was a night to forget. I’ll be writing about it soon, although as you’ll see, there really isn’t much to say.

  20. trueplaya_202@hotmail.com

    its ok though gus will finish the year without loosign again

    but im going to the game friday jays/KC i know you already said you didnt know much about KC aside from reggie and someoen else ill haev to look up. if anyone else knows about hte royals let me know thanks

  21. zneufeld2@hotmail.com

    Sorry about the bad day. When pujols was signing the other day I hung out with his dominican friends then when he came so I went right up to him. The security tried to tell me no but the baseball was already in his hand. He gave me a nice sweet spot signature.After that I only saw him sign for my friend and thats it. He is probably the toughest auto in the mlb. Good luck your next game, zach

  22. Zack

    You are one lucky son of a bee, but I have to argue with you and say that Barry Bonds is the toughest auto around. After I caught his home run last week, some people told me I should try to get him to sign the ball, and I just laughed.

  23. zneufeld2@hotmail.com

    After thinking about you are right that bonds is tougher than pujols but he isnt #1. Here is my list of toughest in mlb. 1. griffey jr 2. bernie williams3.4. jorge posada5. barry bonds 6. albert pujols7. curt schilling 8. manny ramirez9.big papi10.possibly jason schmidt but there are probably others im not thinking of. Would love to see other lists.

  24. Zack

    Schmidt is pretty tough. I got him when he entered PETCO a couple weeks ago, but let’s just say that he wasn’t too pleasant about it. I know Manny’s high school coach, and he’s said that the guy hated signing autographs even in high school. Bernie and Jorge? Really? Curt Schilling was nice to me 12 years ago. I had seen him pitch a shutout in the ’93 World Series, and when I ran into him the next season at Shea, I asked him if he’d sign my ticket stub from that W.S. game if I mailed it to him. He said he would, and he did. Griffey…okay, I can see that. Interesting list. We all have our own stories and run-ins.

  25. zneufeld2@hotmail.com

    Thats awesome with schilling. Yea bernie and jorge look nice on tv but they really arent. Ive heard so many bad stories about them.

  26. ceetar@gmail.com

    Just found out about you. I’ve already got tickets to 15 Mets games this year, starting with opening day, so maybe i’ll see you. I’ve never managed to get a ball, maybe this year will be the year.

    I’ve never been to batting practice elsewhere, why is it most boring at Shea? And you mention access to the seats behind first base there, but I’m never able to get there once i’ve left field level after batting practice, you have some secret in I don’t know about?

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