5/30/07 at Shea Stadium

Being recognized by a Major League Baseball player should be a joyous event–but when it happens to me, it’s not.

I had my corner spot in the right field Loge, and I was all set for a big day when Dave Racaniello, the Mets bullpen catcher, spotted me and shouted, “What’s the count up to?!”

Normally, this isn’t a big deal. He’s recognized me for years and often asks about my collection, but this time he was standing next to three pitchers: Aaron Heilman, Scott Schoeneweis, and Joe Smith.

“I forget!” I shouted, trying to end the conversation as quickly as possible so the players wouldn’t catch on.

Racaniello smiled and then kinda shrugged while looking at the other guys as if to say, “They don’t know what we’re talking about.”

Then Heilman turned around and demanded, “How many thousands?!”

zack_loge.jpg

I was busted. Right field was ruined. No one on the Mets threw anything my way, and of course since Shea was designed by monkeys who thought it was a good idea not to have more than 17 seats in fair territory, no one hit a single ball to me either.

I ran to the left field side. Dead. Maybe even worse than right field. John Maine–the King of Quiet–was the only player shagging down below. Not only had I never seen him throw a ball into the crowd, but I’d never even seen him acknowledge anyone. What’s his deal? Is he just a shy country boy from Fredericksburg, Virginia? Or has he already blossomed into a stand-offish egomaniacal superstar athlete in the Big City?

I waited for a ball to be hit into the left field corner, and then I made a polite request for it.

Nothing.

I waited for another and asked him again.

Same result.

john_maine_from_above.jpg

Fine. If he was going to be annoyingly quiet, I was going to be annoyingly verbal. I used every clever (and not-so-clever) line I could possibly think of, knowing he could hear everything I was saying and hoping it would finally break him. I wish I had a recording of myself. It probably would’ve sounded something like this: “Hey, John, whaddaya say, how about a ball up here for the cheap seats? C’mon, I need your help. These guys in the cage aren’t pulling anything. I’m desperate up here. Just one ball…just one ball and then I’ll shut up. It would be a real honor to get a ball from you. I mean that. Seriously, is there any possible way to get a ball from you? Even a dirty ball? I’ll take the worst ball you got. I’ll take a ball that belongs in the Minor Leagues. Anything. Just one ball. I won’t tell anyone, I swear.”

He never looked up at me, but when he fielded the next ball, he took a quick peek at it before throwing it back toward the bucket. Success! Clearly, he was inspecting it to see if it was dirty enough to give away.

crappy_but_wonderful_ball.jpg

Maine continued to ignore me for the next 10 minutes, but then he had to satisfy my request because three consecutive balls were hit into the corner. He walked over slowly, picked them all up, inspected each one, fired two of them back in, and finally looked up. By that point, there were a few other fans in the section who were also trying to get a ball, so I jumped up and down and waved my arms like a complete tool, but it worked because his eyes met mine, and he tossed me the ball. It was dirty and worn and I didn’t care.

That was the only ball I got during the 55 minutes of Mets batting practice. (Citi Field, please hurry.) I wanted to run down to the Field Level and try to get a ball at the Mets’ dugout as they left the field, but I knew I’d lose my corner spot, so I stayed there and preyed on the the Giants.

During the next 45 minutes, I got a brand new ball from Steve Kline and mostly-new balls from Matt Cain and Jack Taschner. There was nothing fancy about how I got any of these balls except for the fact that Cain threw his as a half-decent knuckler.

tim_lincecum_autograph.jpg

I didn’t get a ball at the Giants’ dugout after BP, but I did get Tim Lincecum’s extraordinarily ugly signature on my ticket.

It’s a good thing I’d bought a seat in right field because security was checking tickets at game time–and not just because of Barry Bonds. They often check tickets out there, depending on who’s working the section.

Top of the 1st inning. Bonds was due to bat fourth. Would he even get to hit? I was hoping he wouldn’t because the sun was in my eyes…

sun_in_my_eyes.jpg

…but at least the narrow aisle was clear on both sides. Randy Winn led off by flying out to right field, and Kevin Frandsen followed with a pop out to second. Rich Aurilia then got his view_to_my_left.jpgview_to_my_right.jpg4-for-4 performance started with an infield single. Bonds time. The count went to 1-1, and he creamed the next pitch…for a single to center. Fabulous.

Right field was worthless aside from Bonds. The only other guys batting left-handed were Endy Chavez, Carlos Delgado (okay, not totally worthless), and the two starting pitchers: Barry Zito and Tom Glavine. There was no point in staying out there when Bonds wasn’t up, so I ran to the seats behind the plate and went for foul balls. Had a few close calls, but…nothing.

I was back in right field when Aurilia singled to lead off the top of the 3rd. Bonds then grounded into a routine 3-5-3 double play. Gotta love that shift.

Two innings later, Aurilia did the worst thing imaginable: he hit a double. That left first base open, and Bonds was intentionally walked.

In the 7th, Bonds ended his night by grounding out to Delgado. I ended my night by getting nothing at the Giants’ dugout. Final score: Giants 3, Mets 0.

STATS:

• 91 balls in 12 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.

• 467 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 3,052 total balls

• 38 days until I’ll be at the Home Run Derby…

29 comments

  1. ceetar@gmail.com

    What are you going to do once all the Mets recognize you? Hope for a lot of changes? heh.

    anyway, since you move all over the stadium I thought I’d share what happened to be at thursdays game.

    we went for batting practice, and then stayed on the field level for the game. Around the 5th inning we moved to the sections behind the Mets dugout, right in front of the aisle. In the middle of the 8th, I noticed a group of 8 leave in the 4th box from the field, so I figured, why not move up and watch from up close, be near the dugout when the game ended and all? Apparently this was such a grave offense they had to kick us out.

    A security guy comes down and sits across from us and asks for our tickets. I tell him we don’t have any, and he doesn’t understand how. I keep telling him we’ll just leave, he responds by asking again for my ticket over and over again. Eventually I just give him my ticket, figuring he just wants to kick us out of the seats, but no. My friend never produces one. So eventually he asks us to get up, and obviously at the top of the aisle are 10 more security guards, and they start ‘escorting’ us into the concourses, keep responding to everything we say with ‘this way please’ lead us to gate D, forcefully push us out and tell the guy standing there not to let us back in. Oh, and he kept my ticket.

  2. mike.los@lhsc.on.ca

    Zacker:

    It’s nice to be recognized but at the same time, snagging balls is serious business, and one has to keep a low profile lurking in the weeds… I’m with you on this one.

    You may have to consider plastic surgery just for the baseball season.

    Also, a day without deodorant will keep the baseball vultures away from your perch.

  3. psu532@yahoo.com

    Zack, you seriously need to look into the Bobby Valentine moustache! hahaha

    http://www.augustasports.com/images/headlines/061199/mets_valentine.jpg

    ceeter, i don’t get why they’re so rude at shea. it’s easier to sneak down at yankee stadium! maybe 5 years ago, i had loge seats at shea, but wanted to go down to the field level because my aunt knew the expos ballboy, and she wanted to say hi to him, and they wouldn’t let us down there with 2 outs in the 9th OR after the game ended! i couldn’t believe it!

    Zack, I was just busting your chops about getting Cole’s daughter’s number. I’m actually your age, believe it or not. haha

    I got a ticket to the Mets game yesterday at the box office. I was in an upper box (712B) right behind home plate (in section 4). Not bad for $9, but no foul balls came up our way at all. Oh well. There’s always next time.

  4. padreleigh@hotmail.com

    Zack,
    Mike Cameron hits career homer number 200 on the road in PITTSBURGH. UHHH!! So much for catching that one. The paper said he got it back from the fan. Wonder what the fan got in trade? That Cameron jersey would have looked good on my wall. There’s always Bonds in August.

  5. tswechtenberg@gmail.com

    “Fame lost its appeal for me when I went into a public restroom and an autograph seeker handed me a pen and paper under the stall door.”
    Marlo Thomas

    you might have to start wearing a disguise man.

  6. dliebers@gmail.com

    Nice to meet you at the players lot. Its too bad your being recognized… but at some point with the press credentials, your books, and tv spots, do you ever think to yourself “I’ve made it in baseball, time to stop with the balls?” Or perhaps that hasn’t even crossed your mind :D

  7. Brady

    Dang it!!! The battles with this stupid ******** thing begins again! ******* S! that’s the word I wanted. NOT *****! I SAID “THAT SUC.KS!”

  8. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Not sure which game I’m going to next week either. I have a busy week and the weather looks really ugly. But I’ll definitely be there for one of the games.

  9. cubs0110@aol.com

    Zack, bad news….

    I just missed a Jacque Jones homerun by a row…..

    It was empty too!

    I failed! ARGH.

    Speaking of the wrigley bleachers, are there any other bleachers in the country that cost $42?????

  10. mbeck13ecw@yahoo.com

    You are such a *** Zack, who collects baseballs at major league games? oh yea kids do and they get excited about it too stop taking away balls from them *******.

  11. mbeck13ecw@yahoo.com

    I met John Maine at a bar, and he is a very nice guy. He took pictures with fans and signed plenty of autographs so stop talking **** about players who don’t toss balls.

    P.S.

    Get a Life

  12. jimmyjoejoejrchabadu@hotmail.com

    Nice day?

    Well anyway my day was eventful.

    I never really like watching the White Soxs since I had trouble getting anything from them in the past, but today was different.

    Started off my talking to David Aardsma, I asked if there was a chance I could get a ball and he said we’ll see, after he was done tossing he picked up a ball and threw it to my friend and then said oops. But my friend gave it to me and then after Aardsma tossed me a ball and I returned the first one to my friend. The second one was total luck, I was in the outfield and caught a homer because it fell short and hit the netting covering the bullpen and rolled right into my glove. The next one came when I was basically alone in center field and Danks the super rook tossed me one, the next was a homerun that went 3 rows behind me and closer to 2 ppl who didn’t even budge to walk towards it so I casually picked it up. Last one was by Dewon Day. But this was interesting I walked over to right field where McDougal, Jenks and Thorton were talking and McDougal probably saw me snag a few looked at me talked to the others pointed at me and then covered their mouths, so I got out of there and ended up with 5 balls and 7 ticket stubs that I can reedem for a slice of pizza.

  13. tswechtenberg@gmail.com

    hey mbeck…speaking of getting a life, is yours so empty that you need to fill your lonely hours trashing bloggers. and if collecting balls is strictly for kids, why are you reading a blog about snagging at all?

  14. Zack

    CEETAR-
    I love it when the Mets make lots of roster moves in the off-season for that very reason…but I was really sad when they traded Heath Bell. That’s really disgusting how you were treated at Shea. I know how it feels. Believe me. I’ve received plenty of abuse from the ushers and security guards over the years.

    MIKE.LOS-

    I like the deodorant idea. Not sure if my friends would.

    PSU-

    Nice mustaches, but I hope it doesn’t come down to that for me. I didn’t realize you were my age…or maybe I just forgot. As for the upper deck, the view is pretty spectacular, but it’s terrible for foul balls. I’ve only seen a few go up there in my entire life.

    PADRE LEIGH-

    I know! I thought of you as soon as I saw it. I was actually watching it live on TV from the headquarters of minorleaguebaseball.com. I’ll bet the fan gave it up way too easily.

    TSWECHTENBERG-

    I like you.

    DLIEBERS-

    Nice (re-)meeting you as well. I don’t really know where I’m going with the whole collecting thing. I never did it to get any type of notoriety. I just did it because it was fun, and since it’s still fun, I guess I’ll keep going. But at the same time, yeah, I’ve thought about giving it up entirely and going in a whole new direction. I’m just not quite sure what that direction would be.

    BRADY-

    You amuse me.

    RED DILLINGHAM SOX-

    I work. And I save/spend my money wisely. Going to games in NYC is cheap. Less than $20 per game on average, and even a trip like the one I took to St. Louis cost less than $1,000 altogether, which is really not that much for a vacation. As for the Home Run Derby, someone else is covering my expenses.

    GREG-

    Gotcha. Just keep me posted.

    CUBS-

    Oh noooo! I’m sorry to hear that. I wonder how much the Fenway bleachers cost.

    MBECK-

    Sorry you feel that way. But thanks for setting the record straight on John Maine.

    JIMMY-

    Wow, very impressive. Congrats on all the action, and thanks for taking the time to share it with everyone. (That’s a lot of pizza. I hope you don’t eat it all at once.)

  15. Brady

    You are such a **** Zack, who collects baseballs at major league games? oh yea kids do and they get excited about it too stop taking away balls from them ****.

    Posted by: mbeck13ecw@yahoo.com | June 1, 2007 11:20 PM

    Nice. Stupid is as stupid does, I always said. MBeck, do you realize how 1. immature that was and 2. how little a difference any of your stupid comments make in the world? Congratulations! You say collecting balls at games is for little kids, yet last time I checked cussing people out and making fun of them over the internet wasn’t exactly mature or adult-like. Think before you speak (or type) next time…it’ll prevent you from looking like a fool.

    -Brady

    http://www.birdsonablog.mlblogs.com

  16. psu532@yahoo.com

    Zack, nice SNY appearance on those 2 shows this morning….

    I guess they are going to air your fair or foul scene on a later date?

  17. Zack

    BRADY-
    Thanks for your support.

    PSU-

    I missed “Kids Clubhouse” this morning because I was…um…sleeping. Saw “Mets Weekly” and liked how it turned out. Not sure about the Fair Ball Quiz. There are always things that get filmed which don’t make the final cut.

  18. mstadlen@aol.com

    zack-

    its 5:18 and i turn on the tv

    SNY is on

    when the commercial ends i see you and that ill puppet.

    bravo

    very engaging segment, keep up the good work.

  19. cubs0110@aol.com

    Hey Zack, Where did you sit in Petco against the Giants? I think I might get to go to Petco Park for a Padres/Giants game, and would like to sit where you sat, for the best chance at a barroid ball… lol.

  20. Zack

    BRADY-
    Nod.

    MSTADLEN-

    Awesome. Thanks so much.

    ZOE-

    Thank you for feeling my pain.

    CUBS-

    I was standing in the aisle in straight-away right field. The ushers are nice and let people stay there.

  21. mauermaniac7@yahoo.com

    Hey Zack
    You are like my hero!

    I’m a HUGE Twins fan, but unfortunately i dont get 2 very many games because i live 5 hours from the Dome!

    I’m going 2 this sundays Twins/Nationals game and i was wondering if you had any advice on snagging balls at the dome (good seats, where 2 stand in B.P,friendly Twins or national players, etc.)

    Thanx ur fan,

    Shane

  22. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Okay, so it looks like I’m going to Shea on Wednesday. Tommorow’s weather looks awful and I’m busy on Thursay. That leaves Wednesday. Will you be there?

  23. Zack

    SHANE-
    Sorry for the delayed reply. I didn’t see your comment until now. Left field at the Dome is the best place to be for BP. The first two rows are roped off, so if you stay in the third row and stay on your toes, you can hop the rope and pounce on all the balls that barely make it over the wall. I don’t remember too much else about the place because I only went to two games there in 1999. I’m not too familiar with this year’s Nationals (and I’m not familiar at all with the Twins). Ray King is good about throwing balls into the crowd. Ryan Zimmerman and Brian Schneider aren’t. Manny Acta is awesome. Wish I could tell you more. Good luck! Let me know how it goes.

    GREG-

    Um. Well, by now, you know the answer.

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