By the time Gate C opened at 4:40pm, the line of fans waiting to get in was longer than I’d ever seen it. (This photo, by the way, only shows the first part of half the line. There were just as many people behind me, snaking off into the distance in the opposite direction.)
During the entire Mets’ portion of batting practice, I managed to snag ONE ball. I was in the Loge Level in right field and got Luis Ayala (who didn’t recognize me because he was recently traded to the Mets) to toss it up after he finished playing catch. The ball was commemorative, which made me feel good for about 1.6 seconds, and then I went back to being annoyed that my day was off to such a slow start.
At least I got to have a funny conversation with Mets bullpen coach Guy Conti. A bit earlier, when I was standing along the right field foul line on the Field Level, I got his attention by asking if he wanted to play catch.
“I need to warm up my arm,” I said.
“So do a lot of these guys,” he replied while giving a little nod toward the pitchers. Then he asked, “When does school start back up?”
“I wouldn’t know anything about that,” I said, “because I graduated from college almost eight years ago.”
Conti couldn’t believe it. “You look so young!” he shouted.
“Good,” I said.
“It IS good,” he continued. “Feliciano is always trying to get young girls, but he looks so old. I keep telling him he’s got no chance.”
“No chance at all,” I said, and we both laughed.
Despite the fact that there was an enormous crowd waiting for autographs behind the Mets’ dugout, I was able to work my way into the front row just before the whole team came off the field, and I got a ball tossed to me by Mets bench coach Sandy Alomar Sr.
Jona (my girlfriend, in case you’re new to this blog) was with me again, and for the second day in a row we were able to get tickets for the picnic area. Once that section opened, I ran out there and immediately grabbed a home run ball, hit by some righty on the Astros, that clanged off the metal flooring.
Fifteen minutes later, I used my glove trick to snag a ball that had dropped into the gap between the bleachers and the outfield wall, and two minutes after that I got Michael Bourn to toss me another.
Ready for the funny photo of the day? It’s actually not THAT funny without an explanation, so let me first tell you what happened…
During the final round of BP, another unidentifiable Astros righty launched a deep fly ball 50 feet to my right, at which point I ran through the aisle and jumped as high as I could and made a backhand catch with people all around me. It WAS a nice catch, but considering the fact that most of the other fans were flinching, and that I played college ball, and that I’m still relatively young and fit…I’m sorry but it wasn’t THAT incredible. None of the grown-ups were wearing gloves. None of the kids even saw the ball coming. And there was lots of luck involved. If the ball had traveled six inches farther, my white-boy-vertical-leap wouldn’t have been enough, so after everyone was done oohing and ahhing and I was walking back to my spot in the middle of the section, Jona happened to capture me with a funny/telling facial expression:
It’s like I was thinking, “People. Please. That was easy. You’re all fools for thinking otherwise. I had it all the way. Now step aside.”
One minute before BP ended, I used my glove trick to snag another ball which I promptly handed to a little girl on my right who (of course) was wearing a glove and hadn’t yet snagged one on her own.
Jona and I stayed in the bleachers for the game. At least I think there was a game. I heard later that it was pretty good–that the Mets won, 3-0, behind another strong outing by Johan Santana. I didn’t know it at the time because this was my view during most of it:
Seriously, the kids were out of control–or rather the “parents” were out of control for allowing their kids to eat sugar all night and get hyper and run around the aisle nonstop and stand right in front of people who were there, ostensibly, to watch baseball.
? 7 balls at this game (five of which were marked with an “H” by the Houston Astros, one of which I gave away)
? 339 balls in 47 games this season = 7.2 balls per game.
? 543 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 330 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,616 total balls