6/5/07 at Shea Stadium

welcome_to_shea.jpg

I wasn’t planning to attend this game. Not only was it supposed to rain, but the geezerly pitching matchup of Glavine vs. Moyer wasn’t likely to produce many foul balls. The rain, however, stayed away and I realized I could use the matchup to my advantage. It gave me the perfect opportunity to wander around the stadium and take photographs from every angle without worrying about what I might be missing–but first there were batting practice balls to be snagged.

I started off in the right field Loge and had the entire section to myself. Of course there wasn’t a single ball hit up there, but I did get two thrown to me. The first came from Billy Wagner whose first attempt fell short. The second was FIRED at me by Guillermo Mota. My internal radar gun clocked it at 64 mph.

LF_foul_line.jpg

I sensed that right field was dead so I went downstairs and ran around the stadium to the left field foul line. Of course I wasn’t allowed into the blue seats to scoop up all the grounders that rolled by, and the only ball that landed in the seats flew 30 feet over my head–but I got Ben Johnson to throw me my third ball of the day, and I convinced Mets first base coach Howard Johnson to toss me another.

Guillermo_motaJust before the Mets finished BP, I ran back around the stadium and found an empty spot in the first row behind their dugout. Bench coach Jerry Manuel tossed me a ball on his way in, and 15 seconds later, Mota threw me another. Ha! It was a personal victory because Mota had been rude to me during the first three years of his forgettable career. Less than a minute later, bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello headed toward the dugout with a whole bag of balls.

“Dave!” I shouted. “You blew my cover the other day. Now it’s payback time.”

practice_balls_06_05_07.jpg

He rolled his eyes and reached into the bag and flipped me a ball–my seventh of the day. (Six of the seven had “practice” stamped onto the sweet spot.) None of the fans at the dugout seemed to care that I’d just snagged three balls. They were all waiting for autographs and feeling pretty good about life since David Wright had just been signing.

I ran back to the left field foul line. The Phillies were about to finish playing catch, and I was about to put in an early request for a ball when the only two players in front of me abruptly stopped throwing. Jayson Werth ended up with the ball, and he was all the way out in shallow center field near the screen and bucket. I didn’t think there was much of a chance that he’d throw me the ball from 150 feet away, but I had nothing to lose so I shouted his name. He looked up. I waved my arms. He launched the ball in my direction. Perfect throw.

“Whoa!” shouted a man several rows behind me. “That was one helluva catch!”

“No, it wasn’t,” I said. “The ball came right to me.”

He was confused.

100th_ball_of_2007.jpg

I ran back upstairs and went to the left field Loge. Of course there wasn’t a single ball hit into the seats, but I did get one thrown to me by Antonio Alfonseca. It was my ninth ball of the day, and five minutes later, I realized it was my 100th of the season.

I was hoping to get one more ball and reach double digits, but the rest of BP was a complete waste. Alfonseca stayed in left field, and he was pretty much alone out there, so I couldn’t even ask anyone else for a ball. Toward the end of BP, I ran back downstairs and headed to the Phillies’ dugout, and when all the players and coaches headed in, I got my 10th ball of the day from Adam Eaton. Seconds later, another ball trickled toward me on the dugout roof. I lunged for it, grabbed it with my glove, and handed it to a little kid on my left. Years ago, I would’ve kept it, but now…I don’t know. It just seemed like the obvious thing to do.

cole_hamels.jpg

Cole Hamels was signing autographs just past the 3rd base end of the dugout. As I climbed the railings to get over there, several fans asked me who he was. Are you kidding?! I wasn’t sure I’d get there in time. I expected him to bolt after 30 cole_hamels_autographs.jpgseconds, but he stuck around long enough for me to get him on my ticket. Then I went to the back of the line and took off my hat (to change my appearance) and got him again on a Phillies ticket from last season.

I nearly got Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins to sign before the game. Just missed them. Whatever. I had a bag full of balls and new comfortable sneakers, the weather was perfect, my digital camera battery was fully charged, and my photographic mission was set to begin.

First order of business: Taking pics of the construction of Citi Field

citi_field_construction.jpg

The photo on the upper left shows Citi Field’s left field foul line, with left and center field in the distance. See the gray metal beams right in the middle of the photo that are sloping gently downward? I’ll be catching lots of home runs there. The photo on the upper right shows Citi Field’s left field foul line behind Shea’s bleachers. The photo on the lower right shows the left field foul line curving around home plate and out to the right field foul line off in the distance. The photo on the bottom left shows the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, which will serve as the main entrance behind the plate.

I photographed the foul poles, the bullpens, and the fans from above…

upper_deck_wandering.jpg

As I wandered through the upper deck, I was flagged down by two good friends–Jon Braunstein and Mike Miles–who happened to be sitting there. They’re pictured above in the photo on the lower right. You might remember Mike from 9/20/06 at Citizens Bank Park.

I’d never been to the right field corner of the upper deck. Never. Not once in over 370 games at Shea Stadium. Cool view. I had no idea you could see the water from up there…

upper_deck_water_view.jpg

There was more water to be seen–if you count the scummy puddle in the concourse of the upper deck…

shea_funky_and_relaxing.jpg

If that puddle had been on the Field Level, where lots of high-paying season ticket holders walk past, it would’ve been mopped up within two minutes and blocked by orange cones in the interim. But in the outer reaches of the upper deck? Not a priority. How did that puddle even get there? Did the wall take a leak? It doesn’t matter. That’s just the beauty AND horror of Shea Stadium. The horror is that it’s falling apart, and that there’s garbage all over the place as well as puddles and chipped paint and exposed pipes and dangling wires and crooked railings and missing chains and jagged metal edges and narrow aisles and bathroom doors that were brilliantly designed to swing open into the concourses and terrible seats half a mile from home plate and random nooks and crannies and other unimaginable hazards. Look at the pic up above on the upper left. What the **** is that? There was a small room at the back corner of the upper deck with a ferocious black unit in the middle that was growling and clanking. The room was wide open. There was no security. There was no reality. I had to wander inside and take a peek, and at that moment, I wondered why a swat team of security guards is put in place to keep kids out of the Field Level seats while NO ONE bothers to guard other places in the stadium. And THAT, is the beauty of Shea, a beauty that will disappear when Citi Field is hatched in 2009. Shea is cavernous. If you want to bring your laptop to the game and chill out in a patch of empty seats, or sneak down to the front row of the upper deck and dangle your feet over the edge, no one’s gonna say anything. There were 43,078 fans at the game last night, and look how empty the stadium was in certain places…

shea_desolate.jpg

It wasn’t just empty. It was downright desolate. There’s so much wasted space at Shea. You know why all those green seats were empty? Because any sucker that sits there would have this as their view:

mezzanine_back_row.jpg

You can’t see the scoreboard. You can’t see the Diamond Vision screen. You can’t see the right field corner. You can’t see the pitch speed or the batter’s stats or the number of balls and strikes and outs. You can’t even follow the arc of a fly ball. It’s absurd, but it’s awesome. Ballparks aren’t designed like this anymore. Every inch of Citi Field will be carefully painted and paved and designed with a specific purpose, not to mention guarded by Flushing’s Finest. With all those fans at last night’s game, there were still 13,000 empty seats and plenty of places to hide. In less than two years, a crowd that size will leave fewer than 2,000 seats empty. But there won’t be any empty seats because every game will be sold out. You want intimacy? You want better sight lines? Fine, take it, but remember what’ll be dying with it.

STATS:

carew_henderson.jpg

• 102 balls in 13 games this season = 7.8 balls per game.

• 10 consecutive seasons with at least 100 balls

• 66 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 468 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 3,063 total balls…moves me ahead of Rod Carew (3,053) and Rickey Henderson (3,055) and into 20th place on the all-time hits list. Next up is Dave Winfield (3,110).

• 33 days until the Home Run Derby

42 comments

  1. ceetar@gmail.com

    Well, there are pluses and minus with every new place. I don’t think anyone’s going to lament the loss of the back row mezzanine. Sure many of us have fun stories from when we sat there, and even though the seats are crappy, there is sort of a fan comradery under the awning like that.

    Sometimes it’s nice to be able to walk to the outfield section concourses just for the emptiness, even if you’re not claustraphobic. It’s a different experience(Although, i guess you could just go see Devil Ray games for the same experiece..haha)

    The 10k missing fans is the only thing that still bothers me. A lot of the home field advantage, the wildness, the craziness and the excitement comes from that last 10k to get tickets.

  2. utahsteeler17@yahoo.com

    Hi Zack, I’ve been reading your site for about a year now, and have enjoyed your love of baseball and stories. I have never in my life got a ball, even at minor league games, but I went on vacation to Denver this past weekend, used your tips, and got my first ball ever at batting practice. It was an official Major League Ball and it is now proudly displayed in a case in my living room! Thanks for the tips on here, it paid off so nice for me.

  3. cubs0110@aol.com

    congrats as always Zack!

    One thing I’ve been meaning to ask you…

    There is a long cord going from the scoreboard to the upper deck in right field…

    that can’t possibly be the power cord, could it?

  4. cubs0110@aol.com

    utahsteeler:

    Congrats!

    Any story on how you got it? I’m heading out to Denver this summer, and *hope* to get a few for having a Cubs jersey on at a Cubs road game. heheheh

  5. Zack

    CEETAR-
    Good point about the camradery. And the Devil Rays. And the last people to get tickets. Good points all around.

    UTAH STEELER-

    Hey! Thanks for finally leaving a comment after all this time, and congrats on finally snagging your first ball. I’m so glad to hear that this blog helped out out.

    CUBS-

    I’ve noticed that cord and wondered the same thing. I hope it’s not the power cord, but because it’s Shea, it wouldn’t surprise me if it is.

  6. psu532@yahoo.com

    Zack, glad to see that the steroid-free Mota is a lot nicer. He definitely needs to win the fans back. Last year he was amazing, but he definitely ruffled some feathers with his 50 game suspension.

    Zack, no plans to go to the Yankees/Pirates game on Saturday, aka the first stop on the Roger Clemens world tour?

  7. bcimons19@yahoo.com

    zack im in computer class rite now/ good entry. i mite go 2 bat day on sunday. love the sentimental stuff. gonna miss that about yankee. so many good memories. and im gonna miss shea. i was at my first game there. stupid rich people. they ruin the good touchy feelly warm hearted ballparks of the 1900’s

  8. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    I snagged 5 balls at Shea last night, but it was a disappointing 5 because I could have had 8 or 10 and because Antonio Alfonseca made me give away a ball that I made a great catch on (and if I hadn’t caught it, no one would have), but I’m still counting it. Also, Guillermo Mota tossed me a ball from about 150 feet away and threw it really hard, just like he did to you! He actually took a full crow-hop! What’s with that? (Whatever, as long as he’s throwing it to me, I don’t care; I can catch.)

  9. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Oh, and by the way, Aaron Heilman reaffirmed my opinion of him as a total ****. He had the chance of a lifetime to throw me a ball. Here’s what happened: It’s 4:45. The stadium has been open for five minutes. I’m in the RF field level corner spot. All the other pichters are running or in center field. A ball trickles down the line and ends up maybe 12 feet in front of me. Heilman comes over. I shout “Aaron.” He looks up. I shout “Can you please toss me that ball?” He looks down, picks up the ball, makes eye contact with me … and fires the ball back into the net behind second base. It was unbelievable. If he didn’t throw me this ball, he’ll never throw me one. What is his deal?

  10. allmarsh@aol.com

    Z,

    You captured parts of Shea that most don’t see! Thanks for the great pictures!

    Each game that passes, I am filled with as much excitement as sadness towards the future!

    And for Yankee stadium, tear that $hithole down!!

    C U ROUND!

    M

  11. keekernd@verizon.net

    Zack,

    Those stamped “practice” balls are almost certainly from the Diamondbacks. When Arizona was in Philadelphia 10 days ago, those were the only balls that they were using. When the Diamondbacks went to New York for their next series, a bucket of Arizona balls must have gotten into the Mets’ possession during the changeover in BP.

    By the way, what games are next on your schedule?

    Joe (Phillies Guy)

  12. joneli24@yahoo.com

    so yea, i can apparantly post again from school again…

    anyway, zack i emailed you. if you didnt get it ill post it here

    for everyone: i went to the mets/dbacks game 6/3 and got 4 balls. #1 from glavine fielded BP grounder. #2 from mota, i was the only one who realized he had the ball he was about ready to fire it to the 2B area and then turned and tossed it (very lightly) to me. #3 from billy wagner on a very similar play to #1…and #4 was from lee tinsley on a ball lying around near the dugout

    so im headed to the yankees/pirates game friday night. my first yankees game since 05 which was also against pittsburgh

    greg-yea, heilmans a big **** sometimes. but i have gotten his auto 3x and i got him to toss me a ball last year on 6/17 versus baltimore. he threw it to me in RF and it was short and landed on the grassy triangle and actually went up and got it for me and apologized…so i dont know what his deal is

    and cole hamels is absolutely an awesome guy

  13. johnmcrae1@hotmail.com

    Zack,

    Sounds like pretty much every aspect of the new Mets park is going to curtail your abilities. I’m sure you’ll find ways around the new impediments, though.

    Zack & Anyone Else,

    What’s a good site to check a pitcher’s velocity? I notice that’s a factor in your foul ball decision making process and I was wondering if that was something you just picked up on from being a knowledgeable fan or if there was a resource for those obscure hurlers out there. Thanks!

  14. Zack

    PSU-
    Yankee Stadium will be a zoo this weekend, and I want no part of it. Perhaps Mota has lost his ‘roid rage.

    BCIMONS-

    Thanks, and good luck on Sunday if you go. That’s probably going to be a sellout, you know. My first game ever was Bat Day at Yankee Stadium in 1984.

    GREG-

    That’s lame beyond words about Heilman. I was glad to see HIM get the loss last night, although I would’ve preferred for the Mets to win. And what’s with Alfonseca? What were the circumstances surrounding that ball that he made you give away? Did he throw it? Or was it hit? If it was hit, he’s got NO business telling you what to do with it…unless maybe he tossed you a ball early on and said at the time that if you got another one later, you’d have to give it away. But I doubt that’s what happened. Congrats on the five, but I understand your frustration.

    ALLMARSH-

    Thanks, and you’re welcome. I wonder when the last time you worked the upper deck was.

    KEENER-

    I think there are numerous teams that stamp “practice” on the balls. It’s possible that the D’Backs left a few at Shea, but I’m pretty sure the Mets have their own stamping system going on. I have a couple games in the works for next week. I’m still finalizing the details, so as soon as I have it all set, I’ll let you (and everyone) know in my next entry.

    JONELI-

    Hey! Welcome back to the message board. I’m glad you’re able to post here again. I just got your email a little while ago, and I was getting ready to write back, so I guess I’ll just answer you here…Congrats on the four balls. Mota apparently HAS become nice, and Billy Wagner has always been nice. Yankee Stadium on a Friday night. Oof! I did that recently, and it was difficult. Hope it goes well for you, and I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.

  15. jimmyjoejoejrchabadu@hotmail.com

    I hate those practice stamps because if the balls in a good condition I use them for signatures and the last time I saw the Chi Sox they had em on almost every single ball, 4 out of the 5 I got had them on the sweet spot.

  16. bcimons19@yahoo.com

    well i want to go so bad to bat day, but i dont think i’ll get there 2 hours early, so i mte not get abll. but i mite have a little league playoff game, so i mite not b able to go

  17. Zack

    JOHN-
    I didn’t see your comment until I’d posted my last one. The best thing about Citi Field (from MY collecting standpoint) is that there will be a wide span of seats in left field, which will be great for catching home runs. Other than that? I expect there to be wider aisles and concourses and fewer railings, making it easier to move from one section to the next. Mobility is key. As for pitchers’ velocity, I have no idea of a site out there that lists that kind of info. I just kinda KNOW how fast guys pitch because I watch so many games on TV. But I don’t know every pitcher’s velocity. When the younger relievers on visiting teams come into the game, I don’t always know what to expect.

    JIMMY-

    I hear ya. If I got my autographs on balls (instead of tickets), those “practice” stamps would seriously annoy me.

    BCIMONS-

    Personally, I’m much rather go to a Little League playoff game than Bat Day at Yankee Stadium…especially if I were getting to play.

  18. cubs0110@aol.com

    Same here Zack.

    I would rather be playing in a playoff baseball game, than go to a MLB one.

  19. cubs0110@aol.com

    One question.

    What is your technique to sneaking down by the dugouts, or at least the area that you are most likely to get a foul ball?

    So far, the only time I got down there is when someone gave me their ticket stub when the Cubs were losing 9-0. haha

  20. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Okay, here’s what happened with Alfonseca. Early in Phillies BP (after all the pitchers finished their throwing in left field), I was up in the Loge, near the foul pole, but slightly in fair territory (the corner spot was occupied by a fat guy without a glove). A ball was hit into the corner and Alfonseca picked it up. I yelled down to him asking for the ball (nicely) and he looked away tossed it to Francisco Rosario. Rosario had seen me asked and threw it to me. Alfonseca saw this happen. About 15 minutes later, another ball rolled into the corner. Rosario picked it up and tossed it to Alfonseca. Alfonseca lobbed it up three feet to my right in front of the foul pole net. I made a huge reach and grabbed it (if I hadn’t, it would have hit the pole and dropped down into the trash filled rut behind the wall). Alfonseca yelled something up to me and pointed at a woman (with no glove) three feet to the right of the pole. I naively pointed to myself as if to say “Me?” He pointed to the woman again and I handed it over to her. The annoying thing was that she was actually kinda reluctant to take it! She didn’t say anything to that extent, but she wasn’t eager to take it from my hand. Whatever. Antonio Alfonseca: you ****. Go have a beer with Aaron Heilman. Anyway, after all this happened, I thought to myself that I should have let it drop and used my cup-trick. But I couldn’t have predicted that what happened would have happened. So I decided to count the ball anyway.

  21. Zack

    The best way to get into any section is get someone’s ticket stub as they’re leaving the game with a few innings to spare. After that, the best way is to become friendly with the ushers and security guards. Security is different in every ballpark. At some places, like Shea, you can pretty much just walk down to the seats behind the dugout if you act like you know where you’re going, but at other places, like Yankee, EVERY single staircase leading down to the seats is guarded, and there’s no way to sneak down. So it all depends.

  22. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Has anything like this happened to you? Recently? Did/would you count the ball?

  23. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    I didn’t really make this clear before, but the woman didn’t even reach up for the ball. In fact, she actually shied away from it. And even if she had reached for, she wouldn’t have been able to come anywhere close to it. Either Alfonseca has some really bad aim or he was just trying to hit the foul pole and didn’t expect me to be able to reach it. It was very weird.

  24. cubs0110@aol.com

    Greg, you should have just told him to throw another one if he wanted her to have one!

  25. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Cubs: That idea did cross my mind at the time, but I just wanted the whole thing to be over. The first thought I had when he told me to hand it over was to just run back into the concourse and disappear (into the field level or something), but again I just wanted it to be over. And more importantly, I didn’t want Alfonseca to remember me.

  26. Zack

    GREG-
    That type of thing has happened to me plenty of times over the years, and yeah, I would count the ball. My new attitude is that I don’t have to keep the ball to count it. If I make the snag, that’s good enough. I think you made a good choice by giving the ball away. You don’t want the security guards to remember you either.

    CUBS-

    I agree that the player (in this case, Alfonseca) should get another ball rather than ordering a fan to give one away. That’s garbage.

  27. dilbert195@aol.com

    Zack,
    I recently discovered your blog, and I think it is awesome. Ever since I started reading I have now been trying to snag balls at every game I attend. I used to think it was so hard, but after reading about how many you get ive been able to get a few here and there. Along with my newly found hobby of snagging baseballs I am an avid collector of autographed memorabilia. I notice that you get a lot of ticket stubs signed, but not many are from Yankee stadium. Since I am a Yankee fan I was wondering if you had any tips on how to get some autographs at the house that Ruth built. Is there any particular spot? Since I don’t have field level tickets (and security always blocks off the good areas) I have found it hard to get close to the players. Any tips you could give would be great. Keep up the good work, and maybe I will run into you one of these days at the stadium.

    -chris

  28. Zack

    Thanks so much. I’m glad to hear that I’ve helped you snag a few balls. Lots of people have been telling me that recently, and it always makes me smile. I’m not an expert when it comes to collecting autographs, but I can tell you a couple things about Yankee Stadium. Right before the game, a Yankee or two will often sign just past the tarp in shallow right field, just where the low wall juts out near the foul line. As for the visitors, a few guys will usually sign along the foul line in shallow left field. If security won’t let you down there, just use an unguarded staircase a little farther out toward the outfield and then cut through the seats when you get near the front row. I’m not sure about the best places to get autographs outside Yankee Stadium, so hopefully the REAL autograph collectors who read this blog will be able to help you out with some advice.

  29. psu532@yahoo.com

    Zack, I’m a Mets fan, but I also go to my fair share of Yankees games. You’re dead on about autographs inside of the stadium. There’s always a Yankee or two (usually Cano or one of the relievers) signing basically right where the right field ballboy sits.

    As far as autographs outside of the stadium, they’re few and far between. There’s a gated off players lot, and a gated off walkway, but the walkway is probably about 100 feet wide, so the players usually walk right in the middle of it, so they’re not even close to the fans. All of the fans will scream their names as they walk from the lot to the entrance, but they usually just wave.

  30. pigpen147@comcast.net

    Zack, Nice job as always at shea. Any chance you will be at Camden on Wednesday? I’ll be there when the gates open. I’m thinking of going to right field to start. You think that’s good? Thanks

  31. bcimons19@yahoo.com

    yeah i know, but i hate my coaches, and they stick me out in center, which is important, but i dont want to be out there, and every one else in the putfield cant catch for their life!!!

    and my team stinks so i think we’ll lose

  32. redsox342445@yahoo.com

    bcsimons-i have been in that situation before, last year i had tickets to see the sox (my favorite team) in seattle and my all star team advanced to the next round and i had to choose. i ultimatly chose the baseball games that i got to play in.. but if the rest of your team is awful that means that you will definitly stand out as a good player to everyone in the crowd…and you never know the outcome of a game…anything can happen in baseball. but the descion is ultimatly yours and you should do what you feel is best.

  33. cubs0110@aol.com

    Zack, where do you think I should sit against the Giants at Wrigley? I was thinking of sitting just right of straight away center…..but I really don’t know.

    I can’t sit in dead right because those are reserved “bleacher box” seats.

    thanks

  34. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    I may or may not be going down to Baltimore for the Thursday game next week against the Nats. I wanted to go Wednesday, but I can’t.

  35. bcimons19@yahoo.com

    yeah i know ill stand out. i know that i should go to the little league game, but its bat day. i feel like no matter what choice i make, ill regret it.

    hey greg, if you go to see the nats, there is an infielder named Nook Logan. my dad went to a game there last week, and everyone told him NOT to call Him Nuke(like the bomb), but Nuuck, with the u sounding like uck.

    i hope that helps, if u dont get confused by what i just wrote, cuz im certainly am

  36. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Cool, thanks. So you mean pronouce it so that it rhymes with “puck”?

  37. gregorybarasch@yahoo.com

    Oh I see what you mean. It’s pronounced so that it rhymes with “look”? (I think)

  38. Zack

    PSU-
    Yes! That gated entrance is the most obnoxious thing ever. Glad to hear the rest of my advice was accurate.

    PIGPEN-

    Thanks, and as a matter of fact…yes. I’ll be talking about it in my next entry for sure.

    BCIMONS-

    Yeah, center field is kinda lame until high school. Before that level, just about everyone bats right-handed and pulls the ball to left.

    CUBS-

    I see that you reposted the question on my newest entry, so I answered it there.

    ZOE-

    You got it. Thanks for checking ’em out.

    GREG-

    What I said to “cubs” goes double for you.

  39. jrice60@optonline.net

    Zack:
    I’m a fan of your posts! Took my son to Shea last week for Brooklyn Little League Day. I agree with you about the stadium, bowl shapes are not right for baseball. Can’t wait for the new park.

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