9/18/06 at Shea Stadium

the_year.jpgLet me start with a list of players and coaches who either turned down my requests for balls or flat-out ignored me: Chad Bradford, Billy Wagner, Aaron Heilman, Guillermo Mota (cursed at me), Roberto Hernandez, Oliver Perez, Dave Williams, Mike DiFelice, Tom Nieto, Lastings Milledge, Shawn Green, Willie Randolph, Sandy Alomar Sr., Manny Acta, Jerry Manuel, Rick Down, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Girardi, Yusmeiro Petit, Renyel Pinto, Reggie Abercrombie, Chris Aguila, Jeremy Hermida, Perry Hill, Bobby Meacham, and Jim Presley.

And now, the guys who DID toss me balls: Guy Conti, Orlando Hernandez, and Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.

The Conti ball was as simple as it gets. It was batting practice. I called down from the right field Loge. He tossed it up.


The El Duque ball was fun. He had just finished a bullpen session and had several balls in his glove. I asked politely if there was any chance that he could spare one.

“Which one do you want?” he said, placing them on the orange bench and pointing to each ball. “One, two, three, or four?”

It was hard to see the balls, not only because I was 30 feet up, but because I’d been to my eye doctor hours earlier and gotten some drops in my eyes (glaucoma test) that blurred my vision slightly for most of the afternoon. I was looking for commemorative logos, but all the balls pretty much looked the same. I couldn’t make up my mind. El Duque was getting impatient. I didn’t want to lose my chance. stupid_ball.jpg“Number one” seemed to have a hint of yellow in the stitching, which meant it was probably one of those stupid unmarked All-Star balls from 2004.

“Number four looks pretty good!” I shouted.

El Duque must’ve forgotten which was which because he promptly grabbed number one and fired it at me–and sure enough, it was one of THOSE balls.


As for the Loria ball…

I spotted him at the dugout after BP (he’s the one wearing sunglasses), and when I asked him for a ball, he looked around and shrugged and said, “There are none.” Actually, sir, there were three zipped bags full of balls right next to you. Just at that moment, a ballboy walked by with–what else–a ball in his hand. Loria practically grabbed it from him and tossed it to me. Brand new. I jeffrey_loria_autograph.jpgmean flawless. You couldn’t buy a more pristine ball. And then he signed an old Mets-Marlins ticket stub (upside down, of course) that I’d brought.

Five random things:

1) When I asked Girardi for a ball, he looked up and noticed a little kid (without a glove) sitting on my right. Girardi pointed at the kid to indicate that he was going to toss the ball to HIM, but then realized that the kid wouldn’t be able to catch it. “I’ll catch it for him,” I said. Girardi then tossed me the ball, and I handed it over. I don’t count that ball in my collection.

2) An autograph-collecting friend of mine happened to get a ball at the Marlins’ dugout as BP was winding down. It was a bit too scuffed for him to get signed, so he gave it to me. I don’t count that one either. I’m going to take it with me to Philadelphia tomorrow and give it away, most likely to an unsuspecting kid (WITH a glove) who’s actually paying attention and trying hard to get a ball, but just coming up a bit short.

3) As I was heading for the dugout at the end of BP, I heard a distant “Zack!” and turned around and spotted a father and son waving at me from the Loge. I didn’t recognize them. Was it the blurred vision? Or am I just a forgetful jerk? I don’t know. I paused for a moment and waved back and then continued on my way. And then I felt bad. I did, in fact, need to hurry to the dugout to get in position in the front row, but I could’ve taken a minute to go over and say hi. So…whoever you are…I apologize. It wasn’t an intentional diss. I get recognized 20 times a day at Shea (at the very least), so it’s sometimes hard to remember who I’ve actually met in person when there are so many others who randomly shout my name because they recognize me…from wherever.

4) “Congrats on seven-twenty-four,” said a young man as I made my way up the steps after BP. He was referring to Barry Bonds’ 724th career home run, which I caught on 8/16/06 at PETCO Park…but who was he and how did he know? I asked him how he’d heard about it. He said he’s been reading my blog regularly for about a year. Cool! His name is Greg, and he’s left a few comments as “skykid3000.”


5) Another Greg (a.k.a. “gregorybarasch” — pictured here with his cup trick outside GATE C) left a comment on my last entry and said he got 11 balls at THIS game. It’s true. He put me to shame. He did have a few extra tricks up his sleeve that made it impossible for me to compete with him, but that doesn’t take away from his monster day. It’s all about outsmarting the competition and coming up with an edge. And he did it. Congrats. Although it’ll make me cringe, I look forward to hearing the details.

In terms of foul balls, the game was unbelievably frustrating. I don’t even want to write about it. That’s how bad it was. All I can say is that there’s a certain beer vendor and usher that I wish I’d never have to see again. But the night was still a success. A HUGE success. Steve Trachsel pitched brilliantly and Jose Valentin slugged two homers as the Mets clinched the NL East with a 4-0 victory, ending the Braves’ steak of 14 consecutive division titles.


After the first out in the top of the ninth, I had headed back down to the Field Level and squeezed my way through the crowd toward the front row behind the middle of the Mets’ dugout. After the on-field celebration, most of the Mets exited the field at the first-base end of the dugout, and one of the players flung his hat into the crowd. “Oh MAN!” I thought. I’d actually been thinking of going to that side. But then a few of the players veered from the pack and headed straight toward me. Woodward was one of them, and as he approached, I took off my hat and made a flinging gesture, which obviously worked chris_woodwards_cap.jpgbecause he took of his hat and flipped it high in the air. Everyone else reached up. I jumped up and reached out, barely snatching it above a dozen hands before belly-flopping on the dugout roof. I was psyched, as if you can’t tell from the picture. I’ve been to 630 games in my life, and this is my first cap ever. It was sweaty and stinky and had Woodward‘s No. 4 written on the inside with a thick black marker. Awesome.

So yeah, I only got three balls, but who cares? Do you care? I don’t.


Competition Factor = 140,187.

• 185 balls in 26 games this season = 7.1 balls per game.

• 453 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 4 consecutive games with at least three balls!

• 2,937 total balls

Remember the talk show that I mentioned in my last entry? Well, it fell through, and that’s a shame because it was Letterman. But there’s something else with CBS that’s still in the works…


  1. boodleheimer1@aol.com

    Zeee –

    Pulled off the ol’ hat trick, eh? Good. You’re on your way to having a player’s complete regalia. Because, see, since you’ve already collected a glove and a bat, all you need to round out the deal are a uniform top, tee shirt, pants, socks and spiked shoes. Go for ’em, dude.

  2. jessliese@gmail.com

    Heard you ran into Kip on the train last night – wish I’d been there to say hi as well!

  3. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Thanks a lot for the kind words in the entry about me. And thanks for being so nice and so cool to me at Shea. It was fun talking outside Gate C and chatting/signalling inside the ballpark during BP. Yeah, so 11 balls: three crappy no-logo balls, seven regular balls, and one game-used ball. Here’s a “quick” rundown:

    BALL #1: Tossed by Billy Wagner within 30 seconds after I reached the Field Level corner spot in right field. He fielded a ground ball five feet from the foul line, I called his name, and he flipped it to me.

    BALL #2: Two minutes later, a slicing line drive/pop-up was hit near my area. I ran over and caught it after it took two weird bounces off a seat and a step (I think you saw this one).

    BALL #3: A ball was sitting about four feet out on the little grassy area in foul territory along the stands. I walked up a few rows, set up my cup trick and reeled it in within 30 seconds.

    BALL #4: After Kelly Stinnett finished catching with either Oliver Perez or El Duque, I asked him for the ball and he tossed it to me. Then I headed over to the left field Loge.

    BALL #5: Some Mets batter hit a ball out to the area in left field where all the Marlins pitchers were warming up. One of them tossed it about 15 feet to my left but it fell back onto the field. It was tossed around for a minute and was touched by about four different players until Randy Messenger looked up to the Loge and saw my bright teal “uniform” and hat and threw it right to me.

    BALL #6: Tossed by Taylor Tankersley who also spotted my outfit.

    BALL #7: Thrown by a Marlins pitcher wearing a black windbreaker who I later figured out was Anibal Sanchez. (Cool, I got a ball from a dude who pitched a no-hitter!)

    BALL #8: After Matt Treanor and Paul Hoover finished catching in the outfield, Treanor threw me the ball. At this point, I was being heckled by a bunch of guys whose best strategy for getting a ball involved yelling at the players, not knowing players’ names, not having gloves, and trying to buy a ball from me (and for only a dollar at that, not that I would have sold it anyway). It was time to move. So I went downstairs and …

    BALL #9: … at 6:35, when the Marlins finished BP, Taylor Tankersley shoveled a ball to me that I’d been watching like a hawk ever since Wes Helms misplayed a grounder that one of the coaches hit to him. It rolled about thirty feet deep into the outfield and was sitting just beyond the edge of the warning track in foul territory. I’ve never gotten a ball like that (a player using his glove to sweep it up and shovel it to me all in one motion).

    BALL #10: A few Marlins position players were catching in front of the dugout. After Miguel Cabrera finished up, he tossed his ball right to me (thanks again, teal Little League uniform).

    BALL #11: Shawn Green ended the sixth inning(?) with a double play. I rushed down to the Marlins dugout and my timing and location were absolutely perfect (I guess that was the case all day). Mike Jacobs flipped the ball right to me.

    Everything went right all day long. I got every bounce, I was in perfect position every single time (except for the Shawn Green ball, but that was my height’s fault, not mine), and I was just unbelievably lucky. And this has helped me realize just how good your single-game record of 19 balls is. I couldn’t do anything wrong, but I was still eight balls away from that? That’s unbelievable. How do you do that!?

    I guess by “a few extra tricks up my sleeve” you mean the outfit, the youth (which always helps), the cup trick, etc.?

    And again, thanks for making yesterday a lot of fun and I’m sorry if I prevented you from getting a couple balls that you may have had a chance at. Better luck next time.

    By the way, what was it that Guillermo Mota yelled at you? I saw it happen, but I couldn’t hear what he said. Can you give me some PG13-Rated details?

    Oh, and too bad about the Letterman thing. Hope the “other thing” (which I’m not allowed to mention) works out for you!

  4. senoroctubre@boston-redsox.net

    all right for the Mets! 3 is mediocre but at least you got a cap and got to witness the clinch! spledid and im always waiting for my red sox to make an impossible run at the wild card

  5. boodleheimer1@aol.com

    DIANE –


    But – er – um – (don’t wanna be sexist) but – uh – what do you know about the cup?

  6. mlblogosphere@yahoo.com

    “…the Mets clinched the NL East with a 4-0 victory—the first time any team other than the Braves has won the division since 1990”

    It’s semantics, but since you referred to “the division”, just for the record the Braves were realigned to the NL East in 1994, so other teams finished first instead of the Mets in the East since 1990 — Phils in ’93, Pirates from ’90-92, etc.

  7. bergin42@msn.com

    hey guys..last night was probably the best night of the year for me, and if i sound a bit cocky and over excited..i earned it..its been a long **** time since i had a good day..well lets start Brewers Cardinals last night..i ran down to the corner spot by the dugout and was sharing it with one of those jerks who sell all their autographs..well my goal was to get edmonds and he wasnt at bp..i managed to get belliard on a chrome card and aaron miles, well i thought another bad day,but wait albert pujols gets out of the cage and walks right towards me in my cheap cardinal hat and signed my omlb (not on the sweet spot) but i dont care ITS ALBERT FREAKIN PUJOLS! he signed about 10 more of balls and pics he made a few comments about all the old guys who were going to run off and putt the balls and pics on ebay..i was so psyced..after everyone went in the clubhouse i went to the bullpen and had gary bennet sign a card before he loosened up anthony reyes.shortly after i ran to the tarp area by the cardinals side and got david eckstein and so taguchi to sign cards, shortly after i got SCOTT ROLEN on the sweetspot of a ball! The whole night and all today i savored the flavor because i doubt that i will ever have a day like that again..ohh yea the brewers won by a walkoff single!

  8. skykid3000@yahoo.com

    Just one minor thing Zack i’m actually 22 :-P But the Babyface i have easily gets me some of the Kiddie Promotion items on occasion.

    But anyway good going on getting Woodward’s Cap, I left about 15 Minutes after they clinched and missed when Wright and all the rest went on the field after but still it was a great night.

  9. thechuckster8@aol.com

    Woodward usually signs right before the game when he starts, so I would bring the hat and a silver marker to future games in hopes of getting it signed. The only problem is that he doesn’t start much.

  10. Zack

    Thanks! Congrats on being #1.


    It’s not “sooo cool.” It’s “soooooooo cool.”


    Ooh. Ouch. Easy on the Rosie bashing. She’s my pal. (Okay, not really, but I still have fond memories of being on her show.)


    It WAS fun. But it didn’t feel that way until the end of the night. Bummer about Letterman, yes, but like I said, I got some other stuff in the works that’ll help relieve the anguish.


    Don’t know about the t-shirt (?!), but getting a jersey would be a-MAZ-ing.


    Excellent point.


    Yeah, w’sup with that? You better have a goood excuse for not being there.


    You’re welcome, and congrats again. Thanks for the long rundown. Very impressive. The day I snagged 19 balls, six of them were hit during batting practice, and the ballpark was not NEARLY as crowded. It’s incredible how many extra balls you can get when the seats are mostly empty. Oh, and yeah, I was talking about your youth and the uniform. Those guys in the LF Loge were dopes. When I asked Guillermo for that ball, he said something along the lines of, “Shoot, you already got one. Gosh darn.”


    True. The three balls were the least important part of the night.


    D’oh! Thanks for pointing out my mistake. I just fixed it with a simple rewrite.


    Wow. That is QUITE a day. Congrats, and thanks for taking the time to tell us all about it. I came so close to Pujols a few weeks ago at Shea, but I was chased from the section by an evil security guard who has a special set of rules just for me.


    I’m really sorry about that. I didn’t think you were 14 or anything. I figured you were still in college…maybe 19 or 20…but still, I shouldn’t have used the word “kid.” No disrespect intended. I’ve since changed the word to “young man.” Hope that’s cool, and thanks for saying something.


    Great advice. I had no idea. Thank you.

  11. joneli24@yahoo.com

    in all honesty…who does care about that you only got 3 balls? you got a hat, not just any hat, a hat from a mets player on the day they clinched their first division title since 1988, the game they broke atlanta’s 14-year streak of titles. so the hat is very impressive.

    gregory-very impressive. a nice selection of players/coaches to add to your list of people to toss you balls.

    also, by the picture zack took, i now remember you at the phillies game(?) i dont remember. i think that it was.

    congrats to both of you on big games, and more importantly for the mets on the division!

  12. zneufeld2@hotmail.com

    Nice with woody. He always signs coming in and out of the stadium so you should wait after 1 game and get it signed. I was watching todays game and there were alot of empty seats so I was wondering if you are going to any other games this week? Bergin42- Very nice with pujols. I got him this year right before zack missed him. Me and a friend asked him in spanish and he gave us an a. pujols every letter of the last name its beautiful on the sweet spot. What did your sig look like? Congrats with rolen he signed a few at shea but I didnt get him. Im going to saturdays and mondays games vs washington I hope to see you there zack. All my best, zach

  13. Zack

    Guillermo said the version of those words that would get bleeped here.


    Well said. I hadn’t thought about the coolness of the context of the hat until you put it all in perspective. Good question about Loria. I forgot to mention in the actual entry that he IS the first owner to toss me a ball.


    I appreciate the bonus advice about Woody. I’m having second thoughts, though, about getting the hat signed. I generally like to leave equipment in its original condition, which would mean NOT getting it signed. So I don’t know. I’ll probably hold off on going for him this year, and anyway, there’s only one or two more Mets games that I might go to. Friday is a possibility, but it’s doubtful. I suppose I might go on Monday, depending on how many balls I’m up to for the season, so you might see me then. I’ll know more by Friday. As for this week, I’ll be in Philly tomorrow and probably in Baltimore on Thursday.


    I’m going to be running around like a madman for the next few days (with a TV crew in hot pursuit). I probably won’t get to blog about Philly until Friday.

  14. bergin42@msn.com

    z neufeld- the sig was pretty nice he wouldnt sign sweetspot but it is nice like you said the a and looks like an l and then pujols all the letters and very legable..rolen signed sweetspot and it is a pretty nice unique autograph..ronny belliards is just horrible tho

  15. skykid3000@yahoo.com

    Oh no don’t worry about it i knew you didn’t mean it as disrespect.

    BTW, Me and my Brother have been considering going to PNC Park next year around June are there any places around Pittsburgh that you can recommend prior to gametime in case i go there?

  16. dodgerdude511@aol.com

    ***** about Letterman.

    So, find any connections for playoff tix??

    I think if you contact some of the film crews that have used you before, you could strike some kind of deal.

  17. senoroctubre@boston-redsox.net

    about my ducks game, no pucks caught.

    but…….because it was the preseason opener, the big guns of the team didn’t play, and for those of you that know hockey i got autographed pucks from Teemu Selanne, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, Andy McDonald, and Chris Kunitz. The other 15 members of the season team autographed my tickets and jersey

  18. jessliese@gmail.com

    Yeah, my excuse was, I didn’t know Kip was going until I got a text message at around 8:30 saying “Valentin just hit his second homer”.


  19. pmowl87@aol.com

    The day of the game didn’t start out too good. The weather people were calling for thunderstorms, and when I called To Confirm BP the recording said their was not going to be BP on the feild. Because of this my dad wouldent take me early when the gates opened. I ended up getting their aroung 5:50. When I got in I saw the cubs taking BP I was pissed, and the seats were starting to fill up. I didn’t get any balls in BP,but ended up getting five balls

    Ball #1_ A Cubs personal tossed me a ball while he was putting the BP balls into the team bag

    Ball #2_Thrown to me by coach Chris Dubee in the bullpen before the game

    Ball #3_Thrown to me by Ronny Cedeno after his pre game throwing

    When the game started I snuck down to the 4th row behind the Cubs Dugout and got two game used balls

    Ball #4_Henry Blanco tossed me the ball after catching the last out of the 2nd (bottom) inning

    Ball #5_Coach Gary Mathews tossed me a ball at the end of the top 7th_Jamie Moyer tossed it to him when he got the last out

    Even though I didn’t get there when gates opened i still had a good night

  20. julesmowen@yahoo.com

    hey z,
    hope things goes great in philly tonight and tomorrow at camden. can’t wait to read about what happens – i’m sure there’ll be lots to blog about. happy snagging,


  21. Zack

    SKY KID-
    Thanks for letting me know that all is well. As for Pittsburgh, I really can’t recommend any places to go because I’ve only been to PNC Park for one game, and that was five years ago.


    No connections. Zip. Zero. Zilch. Zabibby. (Okay, I made up that last one.)


    I know nothing about hockey, but congrats anyway on the autographs.


    That’s just inexcusable. (On his part.)


    I don’t blame you for being pissed, but wow! Five balls despite arriving so late? That’s quite an accomplishment. Thanks for the rundown on how you got ’em all. And thanks for the “good luck” wishes. It must’ve worked because I had a biiiiig night.


    Hi. “Great” is an understatement. Much to blog about, yes. Thanks for checking in. Hope to see you again soon. In the meantime, give my regards to Joya-oh-Boya.


    Philly was a huge success, and I might be able to blog about it later today because I’m NOT going to Baltimore. One of the guys in the film crew called the Orioles and was told that there won’t be batting practice, so we’re now thinking about heading down on Friday instead. It’s not definite, but it’s better than 50-50.

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