5/14/07 at Shea Stadium

The day got off to a better start than my last trip to Shea. This time, as soon as the gates opened for batting practice, I raced inside and managed to get my spot in the right field Loge.


Aaron Sele tossed me my first ball of the day from the Mets’ bullpen, but his throw was too weak and the ball fell short. He didn’t bother to get it until after he finished throwing. His second throw also fell short, and on the way down, the ball clipped a random protruding piece of metal and bounced far away, so he grabbed another ball and finally threw it far enough. That ball happened to be from the Arizona Fall League. At first, I was upset that it was a “fake” minor league ball that’d been made in China, and I wasn’t sure whether or not I should count it in my collection, but I thought about it for a minute and had a change of heart. I realized it was kinda cool. It was the first time I’d ever gotten a minor league ball at a major league stadium, and I decided to count it. After all, the ball WAS used by a major league player, and I’d counted a bunch of cheap Training Balls last year under the same circumstances.


Sele, by the way, is the only player on the Mets who hasn’t shaved his head. All the other guys shaved theirs last week to show some solidarity after a few rough games. It was surprisingly difficult to tell them apart from 25 feet above.


Mets bullpen coach Guy Conti (who’s easily recognizable because he’s 143 years old) tossed me my second ball, also from the bullpen, and Ramon Castro threw me my third from about 150 feet out in right-center field. The seats were still pretty empty, so he had no trouble hearing me. I’d moved back a bit before yelling in case he threw it short. That way, it would’ve still had a chance to reach the seats, but it didn’t matter because he was right on target. (Note to Mr. Sele: THAT’S how it’s done.)

Mets first base coach Howard Johnson had been roaming the outfield with a fungo bat, so naturally, when he ended up grabbing a batted ball, I shouted, “Hojo! Hit me a fungo!” First he waved. (Yeah, hi.) Then he hit it. Right over my head and into the mostly empty seats. I sprinted through the aisle and watched it take a few crazy bounces that made no difference. I knew it was mine, and I was all over it before anyone else had a chance to blink.


Toward the end of Mets batting practice, I went back down to the Field Level and managed to find one open spot in the front row behind the 1st base dugout. At 5:40pm, when all the Mets started heading toward me, I spotted a ball behind the 1st base screen and pointed it out to Ruben Gotay and asked him for it in Spanish. He veered off his path, picked up the ball, and tossed it to me on his way in. It was an All-Star Game ball from 2005. The Mets had been using those during BP last year. This one must’ve somehow stuck around all season–and it showed.

The Cubs had already begun BP, so I switched from my Mets cap into my Cubs cap and jogged out to the left field seats. Almost immediately (and from 10 rows back), I got Scott Eyre to throw me a ball from 100 feet out in left field. That was my sixth of the day.

Soon after, I was up in the left field Loge, trying to figure out a way to get Will Ohman to throw me a ball. The genius fans down below were yelling at him–typical stuff like “The Cubs suck!!!” and “You belong in the minors!!!”–and he was yelling right back and pointing at his hecklers and laughing and making quite a scene. Even though he was having fun, I knew that an extra polite approach would work best, so I waited for a quiet moment and shouted his name.

Will_ohmanHe turned around and looked up and yelled “What!”

“By any chance,” I shouted back, “could you pleeeeez toss a ball up this way?”

“Maybe,” he yelled, “just because you said ‘please’.”

Moments later, he fielded a batted ball, turned back around, took a few steps toward me, and tossed it up.

I had seven balls when batting practice ended, and I’d worked my way down to the front row behind the Cubs’ dugout on the 3rd base side. When all the players and coaches left the field, I got a ball from Tim Buss, the team’s strength and conditioning coordinator. He seemed a bit surprised that I knew his name, and I’m not sure why; he’s listed with the other staff members, right below the coaches on the Cubs’ web site.

Tim played catch with Matt Murton before the game along the left field foul line. I’d snuck down to the first row of those fancy blue seats, and as the guys were finishing, an usher who didn’t recognize me said I had to leave the section. I pretended to be confused about the rules…for…the…sole…purpose…of…stalling…for…10…seconds…and it worked because the matt_murton_autograph.jpgthrowing quickly ended and Murton tossed me the ball. Then he came over and signed autographs, and I got him on my ticket.

I just needed one more ball to reach double digits, but it never happened. I went back up to the Loge and went for foul balls behind the plate, but there was hardly any action. Shawn Green hit a soft foul pop-up to my right that was heading straight into my glove when some bare-handed fool cut me off at the last second and lunged for the ball and knocked it into the seats below.


The Mets played like a bunch of Little Leaguers and fell behind, 4-0, after two innings. I wandered down to the Field Level and spent an inning and a half with a friend, then went back upstairs as the Mets launched their comeback. In the bottom of the 4th, David Wright flicked a ball over the fence down the right field line to trim the deficit to 4-2, and two innings later, the Mets tied it up on an RBI double by Paul Lo Duca and a sac fly by Damion Easley.

The game stayed tied until the bottom of the 9th. After two quick outs, Jose Reyes singled to center and stole his second base of the night. Endy Chavez and Carlos Beltran drew back-to-back walks to load the bases, and the count went full on Carlos Delgado. With the whole stadium holding its collective breath, what did Delgado do? Foul ball. Next pitch?! Another foul ball. NEXT PITCH?! Fastball upstairs. Ball four. The ever-dramatic walk-off walk.


Final score: Zack 9, Mets 5, Cubs 4.


• 62 balls in 7 games this season = 8.9 balls per game.

• 462 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 2,701 balls since the streak began, the 2,700th coming from Tim Buss

• 3,023 total balls…moves me ahead of Rafael Palmeiro* (3,020) and into a tie for 22nd place on the all-time hits list with Lou Brock (3,023).

• 7 days until St. Louis


  1. alex@santantonio.net

    FYI, Went to the braves @ Nationals game last night. During BP got 4 balls, 1 Nats and 3 Braves.

    ALL of the balls were the new 2007 “Official Training Ball” practice balls from China. This year they have blue lettering and look more like game balls, but still training.

  2. zneufeld2@hotmail.com

    Walk off walks arent that bad I was at 1 2 years ago when piazza got walked I think against milwaukee.Good to see you got your first autograph. Also did you see tino martinez at the game? All my best, zach

  3. joneli24@yahoo.com

    let me start by saying nice day.

    second, thats really really weird that u got that arizona fall ball tonight, cause i was out playing in my yard and found a ball buried under woodchips and leaves and it was an official southern league ball, and immediately i asked myself “i wonder if zack has ever been tossed a minor league ball at a game? and i wonder whether he’d count it or not.” kinda spooky. anyway, i would have done the same thing with counting it.

    third, i have reworked that trip down to camden/citizens bank with my dad. originally we were gonna go to the o’s/yanks game on either wed/thurs and to the phils/mets game on saturday. but i was loking on the schedule and the mets/phils have a doubleheader on friday, and have a 3:55 game on saturday. of course they wouldnt do BP either day, so i kinda got screwed by that.

    so i have re-worked it so that im gonna go to the phils/reds game on wednesday and thurday night. and go to the o’s/angels game on friday night.

    i dont know when my next NY game is gonna be tho. i have tickets for sunday June 3 versus arizona (mets) but i dont know if ill get a chance to go before then. im planning on going to one of the mets/phils game June6-8 and hopefully a yankees game soon after that.

    but im having like massive auto/snagging withdrawls now, and im loosing it

  4. dannyzhang312@hotmail.com

    As usual, terrific! And the head shaving? Haha, got a good chuckle out of that. Btw, wanted to ask you what the most expensive/cheapest ticket you ever paid was?

  5. Charlie

    someone told me last year they bought a $1 ticket behind homeplate in Arizona. Is there any truth to that?

  6. bigdaddymoser@yahoo.com

    sgc, Reyes did cut his hair. He had a prior commitment on Saturday, so his haircut was delayed. The last two Mets to get their haircut were Aaron Sele and Carlos Gomez (his first game was Mother’s Day, and his hair was cut about 60 mins before gametime.

  7. cubs0110@aol.com

    when I was watching that game I had a sense that you were there!

    heh, that’s good ol will ohman…

    though he’s never tossed me a ball, I did meet him walking on the sidewalk by wrigley, and he signed the free shirt that we got that day… pretty cool guy, not a very good pitcher.

  8. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    How was the usher presense in the Loge during the game? I ask because on Sunday, there were two empty seats on the aisle in Section 4 or 6 and this really old usher was unbelievably nice to me. He actually asked me if I wanted to sit in one of the seats! I couldn’t believe it! But of course, to even things out, I had gotten kicked out of another seat earlier, so whatever.

  9. Zack

    Thanks for noticing.

    ALEX-******! I really want to get one of those new Training Balls, but I haven’t been able to. So the Braves were using them too? Interesting…


    Yep, I saw Tino. All the collectors were buzzing about him.


    Wait wait wait…are you going to be at the Phillies game on June 27? If so, we might be seeing each other.


    I once paid $100 for a ticket at Jacobs Field, back when it was still selling out every day. I’d just flown in from NYC for the game, and I didn’t have a seat, and I *had* to get in, so I overpaid bigtime. I’ve paid as little as $5 for tickets at Shea, but I’ve heard of other ballparks selling seats for $2. Maybe even $1. I forget.


    As Big Daddy Moser said, Reyes HAS shaved it.


    My all-time record for most balls in one day happened to be at Shea, and that number was 19.


    Sele cut his hair? When I saw him on Monday, it was all still there.


    Ohman is awesome. There’s something about left-handed relievers. Scott Eyre is also a trip. Same with C.J. Wilson. And the list goes on.


    The ushers had been moved to different posts, so the guys that I’d made friends with were no longer in places where they could help. Overall the presence was so-so. I got hassled by one guy, but others let me go wherever I wanted.


    If you’ve sent me an email in the last few days, I’ll get to it soon. Things’ve been really busy…

  10. ramones18@cox.net

    Nice game Zack. I was watching it on tv and wondering if u were there. I dig the intensity of the walk-off walk as well.

    And it definetely makes sense to put that asterisk next to Palmeiro. Meanwhile my Red Sox continue to hold their lead as the Yankees fall.

  11. sgc90ace@yahoo.com

    i didnt kno if u did this or not but do u kno in citizens bank park the right feild seats next to the bullpen when the phills r done warming up they will throw some balls up…idk if u ever got one like that (also some kid got a ball thrown up signed by the whole bullpen…but he was like 5)

  12. bigdaddymoser@yahoo.com

    My fault, I heard Sele did get his hair cut. According to this article, I guess it hasn’t happened yet.

    Aaron Sele begged off for a couple of days, saying he was to pose for a family picture soon. “If they want to go fight with my wife, they can,” Sele said about the amateur barbers.

  13. buckeyekid16@ameritech.net

    quick question, where do you keep your balls throughout the game?

  14. bigdaddymoser@yahoo.com

    Anyone ever been to Coors Field? Is it easy to get balls there?

  15. Zack

    Thanks. Unfortunately, I think we’re all about to discover that many more asterisks are needed.


    In Philly, I’ve gotten some balls from the bullpens during BP, but never during pre-game or mid-game warmups. Crazy about the kid getting a signed ball.


    That’s a funny quote, and yeah, I’ve been to Coors. The snagging situation is pretty good, as I recall. It’s been five years since I went to two games there, and BP was rained out at one of those games. Waaah!


    I bring a backpack.

  16. cubs0110@aol.com

    Hey, I’m going to 2 cubs-sox games this weekend.

    Being a very popular series, I doubt I’ll get any balls, but I’ll show up early and try my best….

    I’ll have to talk to Will Ohman about why he gave you a ball and not me! (I ALWAYS say please, and I think he’s starting to recognize me, from all the times I ask him… haha)

  17. Zack

    Oh man (not to be confused with Ohman), those games WILL be packed. But hey, someone’s gotta snag a few balls. Might as well be you.

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