This was a Watch With Zack game with a 13-year-old named Jeremy, who took the subway to Shea Stadium with me nice and early…
…and his mother Cathy, who showed up a bit later.
When Gate C opened at 4:40pm, Jeremy and I raced out to the seats along the right field foul line, and I set him up in the corner spot:
The Mets wasted the first 10 minutes by stretching and running, and then when they finally began to pair off and play catch, I gave Jeremy (who had, up until that point, snagged two lifetime baseballs) an important piece of advice: when a ball was tossed to him, he needed to reach out for it as far as possible to prevent anyone else from stealing it.
Mets bullpen coach Guy Conti happened to walk by a few moments later, and I noticed that he had a couple balls in his back pocket. I identified him for Jeremy and told him to ask for a ball, which he did–but not quite loud enough, so Conti kept walking.
“Guy!” I said a bit more forcefully, prompting him to stop and look over. “Is there any chance you could spare a ball for my friend?”
Conti looked at Jeremy, noticed his glove, and then asked him to take off his cap. “Lemme see your hair,” he said.
Jeremy obliged and revealed the thick red mane that lay beneath.
“You got great hair,” said Conti as he reached into his pocket. “You get a ball for that.”
Conti then flipped a ball to Jeremy who reached over the railing and made the catch look easy.
“I wish I had hair like that,” said Conti as he walked off.
“Let’s see the ball,” I said to Jeremy, and when he took it out of his glove and turned it over, I told him how lucky he was. It was a BRAND NEW commemorative ball.
Jeremy was nice enough to let me catch the next ball so my streak wouldn’t end. Al Reyes tossed it in our direction after he finished playing catch, and it too was commemorative (though quite worn).
I helped Jeremy get another (commemorative) ball from Brian Stokes, and after he got it signed by Duaner Sanchez, we headed to the left field corner. I quickly changed into my Phillies gear (yuck) and lent Jeremy an extra Phillies cap I happened to own. Of course the cap wouldn’t have helped if the Mets logo on his shirt were still showing, so he put on his sweatshirt (even though it was still about 84 degrees with 110 percent humidity).
That’s when Jeremy’s mother arrived, and while they were talking briefly in the concourse, I got a Nationals commemorative ball from J.C. Romero. The Phillies had just completed a three-game series with the Nats and must’ve somehow gotten hold of some of their baseballs.
Jeremy and I went up to the Loge Level and Scott Eyre tossed a ball to him…but Eyre’s aim was off, and the ball sailed a few feet over his outstretched glove. I happened to get lucky and catch it because I’d been standing right behind him. There were a dozen other fans nearby, so it’s not like I could’ve stepped aside and let Jeremy scramble for it in the seats. If I hadn’t made the snag, neither of us would’ve gotten it, but everything worked out in the end because I convinced Adam Eaton to toss another one to Jeremy, and THIS time the throw was right on the money.
Jeremy and I each had three balls. Snagging equilibrium had been achieved:
Unfortunately (because a crowded Shea Stadium is a baseball collector’s nightmare) we didn’t snag anything else during the remaining portion of BP.
As for the game, Jeremy and Cathy and I grabbed some empty seats along the third base line and stayed there for more than an hour. That was Jeremy’s choice, and I don’t blame him. The view was excellent, and our chances of catching a foul ball were pretty good as well, but around the fourth inning, he decided it was time to head back up to the Loge. I took him to the best tunnels for both righties and lefties and showed him how far up he could crouch without blocking the view of the fans sitting behind him…
…and then stood back with Cathy and hoped that something would fly his way.
Nothing did. And there was nothing I could do about it. But I’m pretty sure he still had fun running and sneaking around. I think Cathy enjoyed herself too. At the very least, this was a new way to “watch” a game for both of them.
When the Phillies took a 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth, I moved down behind the dugout with Jeremy and encouraged him to grab an empty seat in the second row:
Brad Lidge then worked into and out of trouble and closed the door on his 34th save. Game over. No more balls for us. Not a good night for Mets fans, but still a pretty good one for me and Jeremy. That’s one nice thing about snagging baseballs. Even when the team you’re rooting for sucks, you can still walk out of the stadium with a smile. (Aww.)
? 426 balls in 57 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.
? 553 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 333 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball
? 13 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls
? 3,703 total balls