Every good Shea Stadium entry should start with the latest pics of Citi Field, so here’s one from the back of that ramp that extends out from the elevated subway station:
And here’s another from closer up:
On the left, you can see the support beams of what will eventually be the Jackie Robinson Rotunda. On the right, you can see the finished outer edge of the ballpark. And at the top center, there’s a plane taking off from LaGuardia Airport.
As for Shea, it was another tiresome day of begging thanks to a solid 90 minutes of BP during which there wasn’t a single ball hit into the Loge level. I got Orlando Hernandez to throw me his ball after warming up with Guillermo Mota, and 10 minutes later, I got “coach” Randy Niemann to toss one up after playing catch with Tom Glavine.
After I caught the second ball, Jorge Sosa glared at me from right field and asked how many balls I was up to. To hell with him, I thought. If he’d been friendly about my collection (as many players are), I would’ve started a conversation and shared my exact number, but instead I cupped my ear and pretended that I hadn’t heard him. Thankfully, Carlos Beltran didn’t recognize me and soon threw me a ball from over 100 feet away.
As the Mets’ portion of BP was ending, I ran down to the Field Level and found an open spot in the front row behind their dugout. Shawn Green and Rickey Henderson tossed balls to the section on my right, and at the last second, Sandy Alomar Sr. flipped me a ball–my fourth of the day–with a funny marking that I’d never seen before. You know how various forms and receipts have a little “X” at the bottom where you’re supposed to sign your name? Well, someone on the Mets had apparently made a joke about autograph collectors by drawing an “X” and a blank line on the sweet spot.
The Astros took BP for 50 minutes, and I got exactly ZERO baseballs during that time. Thanks, Shea Stadium. Thanks a lot for forcing me to stand in a worthless section near the foul pole while a dozen homers landed in the bleachers and nearly killed the little kids and their moronic parents who weren’t paying attention.
After BP, I got a ball from Astros hitting coach Sean Berry at the 3rd base dugout, and it had the famous Houston “H” on it. The Astros are stingy. They mark their balls. That’s pretty much all there is to it. (For the complete collection of marked balls, click here.)
Even though the attendance at this game was over 51,000, there wasn’t anyone else at the dugout trying to get the ball that Mark Loretta and Ty Wigginton were using to warm up before the first pitch. Loretta ended up with it and without my saying a word, he looked up and made eye contact with me and lobbed it into my glove. And that, my friends, was my sixth and final ball of the day.
I was up in the Loge during the game, going for foul balls behind the plate as usual. In the top of the first inning, one flew 10 feet over my head, and in the bottom of the frame, another came right at me but dropped five feet short. That’s how it went all night. Many close calls. No luck. I jogged out to the teeny patch of left field seats when Craig Biggio came up with the bases loaded in the sixth inning. I figured that if a future Hall of Famer was going to hit a grand slam, it was my duty as a baseball collector to catch it. What did he do? He hit a foul ball right to the spot where I’d been waiting all game and then lined softly to right field where Lastings Milledge made a diving catch to preserve a 5-2 Mets lead.
Milledge hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the sixth to extend the lead to 11-2. The Astros tacked on a run in the seventh, and that’s how it ended: Mets 11, Astros 3.
• 210 balls in 30 games this season = 7 balls per game.
• 485 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 317 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball
• 3,171 total balls…moves me ahead of Mike Tresh (3,169) and into a tie with Brian Roberts (3,171) for 1,416th place on the all-time at-bats list. Just kidding. I’ll stick to chasing Pete Rose for now…