The game was thrilling; the snagging was not.
I arrived at Shea at 4:43pm–three minutes after the stadium opened–and bought a $10 ticket and raced inside to the left field foul line.
I managed to get ONE ball during the entire Mets’ portion of batting practice, and it was thrown by Nick Evans from more than 100 feet away:
Earlier this season, I’d gotten Evans to throw me a ball by announcing that I was “going deep” and then bolting up the steps. I didn’t think it’d work a second time, but I tried it anyway, and to my surprise he threw the ball in my direction. The first time he did this, he’d waited for me to reach the cross-aisle and then made a perfect throw that hit me on the run. This time, however, he launched the ball 10 feet over my head before I’d made it up half a dozen rows. Luckily, there were only a handful of fans scattered along the front row and none of them bothered to run for the ball after it landed. The ball was commemorative, and the logo was so scuffed and worn that I couldn’t read any of it:
If this had been my first Mets commemorative ball, I would’ve been pissed, but I’ve gotten enough that I actually thought this one was kinda cool.
At around 5:25pm, I exited the stadium and headed to the bleacher entrance and was lucky enough to run into my friend Gail (aka “Clif’s mom”) who introduced me to a woman who happened to have an extra ticket. This other woman wouldn’t let me pay her for it. She gave it to me for free, and in exchange I had to catch a ball for her.
I didn’t give her the next ball I snagged because it was commemorative AND brand new. For some reason, the Cubs were using it, and I got Michael Wuertz to toss it to me. Check it out:
The bleachers were still gloriously empty five minutes later…
…and they remained fairly empty throughout BP.
With powerful righties like Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Mark DeRosa all taking cuts, you’d think that I would’ve snagged about 40 balls. But no. I only got ONE more ball–a regular ball–and it was tossed to me by Jeff Samardzija. I know he’s supposed to be the future stud of the world, but still…what a disappointment. I can’t explain it. Batting practice was just dead.
I gave the regular ball to the lady who’d given me the ticket and then (since the bleachers are general admission) claimed a spot in the front row out in left-center.
This was the view to my left in the top of the first inning…
…and this was the view straight ahead about an hour later:
And I sat through it with Gail and Clif because a) I really wanted to catch a home run and b) the game was THAT important/good.
Enough about me. Let’s talk about the game…
The Mets basically HAD to win in order to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they DID win after coming back from a three-run, seventh-inning deficit. Pedro Martinez pitched for the last time at Shea and struck out a season-high nine batters. Jose Reyes scored a pair of runs and stole three bases. And then there was that game-tying, Houdini-like slide by Ryan Church with two outs in the bottom of the eighth. I didn’t get a great view of it from my spot nearly 400 feet from the plate. All I could tell was that the ball beat him by like 10 feet and yet he somehow managed to elude the catcher and reach back with his hand…and that the ump called him safe. It was unreal.
There weren’t many fans left at that point…
…but that just made the whole thing more special. It was OUR little private game. OUR Amazin’ Mets. OUR soggy/dumpy stadium. OUR walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.
Final score: Mets 7, Cubs 6.
(Hooray for meaningful baseball games in late-September.)
? 3 balls at this game
? 531 balls in 70 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.
? 566 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 336 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball
? 3,808 total balls