There’s one spot outside Shea Stadium that provides a partial view of the field: the elevated subway station of the #7 train. When I reached this station yesterday, I took a peek at the field to make sure the screens were set up for batting practice. Two hours earlier, it had been raining and I had no idea what to expect. This is what I saw:
That’s right. No screens.
It was 3:30pm. I hadn’t yet bought a ticket. Shea wasn’t going to open for another 70 minutes, so I stood there and waited. My plan was simple. If I saw the grounds crew set up the screens before 4:40pm, I’d exit the subway, run over to the ticket windows, buy a cheap seat, and head inside. Otherwise I’d go home.
Finally, after nearly 40 minutes, I saw two groundskeepers slowly roll a big screen into place in shallow center field. I ran out and bought a ticket, but feared that BP might start late, and sure enough, it did. When I reached the seats, no one was hitting. Everything was set up, but the only action (if you can call it that) was half the team jogging in shallow right field:
Five minutes later, a few guys started throwing…
…and 10 minutes after that, Angel Pagan (standing in the distance to the right of the screen) threw me my first ball of the day.
My girlfriend Jona ended up making a VERY last-minute plan to join me for this game. She arrived at the stadium at around 5:10pm and found me in the right field Loge. After all the Mets pitchers made it clear that they were going to ignore me for the duration of BP, I asked Jona to ask for a ball, and of course the players immediately looked up at her. Before long, Pedro Feliciano (who throws approximately one ball into the seats per season) lobbed one in her direction. As the ball approached, a 300-pound guy wearing tight sweatpants (who had just given me a speech about how “real men don’t wear gloves”) tried to reach in front of us and grab it, so I reached in front of HIM, and thanks to the extra few inches that my glove provided, I was able to make the catch. Then, to make Feliciano happy, I made a whole production of handing the ball to Jona, and as soon as he looked away, she handed it back. It had a commemorative logo, and for an instant Shea felt a little less lame.
Hitting coach Howard Johnson tossed me my third ball of the day at the 1st base dugout after the Mets finished BP, and while the Pirates were taking their cuts, I snagged three more balls with the glove trick. The first was about five feet out from the wall along the left field foul line, so I ran down from the Loge and slipped into the corner spot and began by flinging my glove out to knock the ball closer:
Thankfully, the on-field security guard was about 80 feet away and had his back turned, but even if he’d seen me going for it, he might not have said anything. I hate to admit it, but Shea’s employees HAVE become nicer in recent years when it comes to the glove trick. Sometimes they’ll stop me from using it when I’m going for a ball that’s on the field, but usually they have no problem when I’m going for a ball that’s trapped in a dead area.
In the four-part pic below (starting on the top left and then going clockwise)…
1) I’m carefully lowering my glove from the Loge Level so that it fits between the metal beams behind the advertising board.
2) Pirates reliever Damaso Marte watches the glove drop over the ball.
3) Marte crouches to get a better view.
4) Marte inspects the glove as I pull it up with the ball tucked snugly inside.
Check it out:
There was a kid, maybe eight or nine years old, standing nearby as I reeled i
n the ball, and I was thinking of giving it to him until he said of my glove trick: “That’s so gay!”
As for the third ball I snagged with the glove trick, it was sitting on that sloped grassy area in front of the DreamSeats and I went for it as an usher looked on:
Once I had the ball in my bare hand, I turned around and shouted loud for the entire section to hear: “This ball is for the first kid I see who has a glove and HASN’T already gotten a ball today!” Incredibly, there wasn’t ONE kid anywhere near me who qualified, so I gave it to an usher instead–not the usher in the pic above, but rather a nice old man in the Loge who’d asked me for a ball once before so he could give one to his grandson.
I stayed in the Loge for the entire game and didn’t come close to a single foul ball, but at least the game itself was entertaining. The Mets won, 5-4, on a bases-loaded, walk-off single by David Wright in the bottom of the 11th, after which I got another (very rubbed up but otherwise pristine) commemorative ball from home plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.
? 7 balls at this game
? 94 balls in 9 games this season = 10.4 balls per game.
? 505 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 323 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,371 total balls