The worst thing about my dad is that he’s not *really* a baseball fan. He follows the sport by reading about it sporadically in The New York Times sports section, and he’ll watch a few games on TV here and there, but that’s about it. Still, he goes with me to the occasional game, and this was one of them.
As we rode out to Citi Field on the No. 7 train, I showed him the Braves roster that I had printed. The roster didn’t say “Braves” on it, and I hadn’t told him who the Mets were playing.
“Which team is this?” he asked in all seriousness as he began looking at it. Then he spotted Derek Lowe’s name and said, “Is he with Boston? Are we seeing Boston?”
But hey, at least my dad knew that Lowe WAS with Boston at one point…right?
My dad looked at the rest of the roster and pointed out all the other players he had heard of. There were three: Chipper Jones, Jeff Francoeur, and Casey Kotchman (because Casey’s father Tom managed the Boise Hawks when I worked for them in 1995).
Garret Anderson and his 2,377 career hits? Nah.
Then my dad and I made a list of all the major league ballparks he’d been to, and we came up with ten: Shea, Yankee, Fenway, Veterans, Fulton County, Candlestick, Bank One, the new Comiskey, Citizens Bank…and Sportsman’s Park…he thinks. That’s where the St. Louis Browns played in the first half of the 20th century, and he remembers seeing the one-armed Pete Gray.
As our train approached Citi Field, my dad said, “It’s weird for me to be out here and see this. It doesn’t feel like New York.”
(Amen to that.)
One thing that was really cool to see, however, was that the Mets had finally marked the spots in the parking lot where the bases at Shea Stadium used to be. (Big thanks to my friend Gary for giving me a heads-up about this.) Here I am with my dad near home plate…
…and here’s a closer look it:
Here’s first base…
…and here’s where the mound used to be:
It gave me chills to toe the “rubber” and think about the fact that I was standing in the very same place as Dwight Gooden and Tom Seaver and Heath Bell and so many other legendary Mets pitchers.
Then, of course, I had to go through the motions of making a full windup and delivery:
We headed back to Citi and my dad noticed the “Fan Walk” bricks:
If he had a brick, he said it would read as follows:
I CAN’T BELIEVE I PAID FOR THIS
His reaction to the stadium itself was simple: “That’s a big mother.”
We took a peek inside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, and he gave a mixed review.
On Robinson: “Too bad he wasn’t a Met. They borrowed history ’cause they got nothing else.”
On the rotunda itself: “It has a 19th century look and modern look. I like it.”
So there you have it, and if anyone knows about the 19th century…well, my dad isn’t THAT old, but he was born in 1926.
As for batting practice, there was a little more competition than usual because three guys from my blog–Greg, Gary, and Donnie–were all there. Between the four of us, we basically had left field covered, and yet we still managed to stay out of each other’s way for the most part.
My first ball was thrown by Livan Hernandez in left-center field, and my second ball was a Gary Sheffield homer that rattled around in the seats and caused an all-out scramble. I happened to beat out a guy named Tony for that one. Tony recognized me from this blog, and soon after he asked if we could take a picture together:
My dad and I both had cameras, and he followed me around during BP and snapped a bunch of pics.
My third ball was tossed by pitcher Sean Green in right-center, and then my dad got a photo of me shortly before I snagged ball No. 4. Jose Reyes hit a home run that landed in the Mets’ bullpen, and after waiting patiently at the side railing for about five minutes…
…I got Mike Pelfrey to toss it up.
The Braves took the field (so I changed into my Braves gear) and used my glove trick to pluck two balls off the warning track in left field. Here I am going for the second one:
Omar Infante threw me my 7th ball of the day. I had to lean WAY over the railing for that one, which was a bit scary considering the wall in left field is like half a mile high.
My eighth and final ball of BP was a home run hit by a righty on the Braves. It bounced off some fans’ hands, plopped down into the front row, and I snatched it as other people were about to reach for it. As soon as I looked up, I noticed that there was a little girl standing right in front of me–with a glove!!–so I asked her if she’d gotten a ball yet, and when she said no, I handed it over. Even though I was decked out in Braves gear, everyone in the section cheered like hell, which was nice, and then I explained that I’m not even a Braves fan.
It might sound like BP was hoppin’ but it actually wasn’t that great. I was out of position a few times and missed one or two homers. There were a couple balls sitting against the outfield wall at one point that I somehow didn’t see, so I lost some glove trick opportunities. There was a homer that I jumped as high as I possibly could for, only to have it tip off the VERY end of my glove. I even ran out to right field for about 20 minutes and got nothing there. So…there were dead periods and frustrating moments and stupid mistakes, and yet I *still* came away with eight balls. That just goes to show that any ballpark that opens two and a half hours early is gonna be pretty good.
Greg and Donnie and Gary each got a bunch of balls. Donnie has his own blog, so you can read about his snagging there, and as for the other two guys, I’ll let them leave comments here with the details of how they did…if they want.
For the rest of the day, everywhere I went…there they were. Pre-game throwing? See below. That’s Greg in the orange/gray jacket and Gary with the yellow shirt:
It turned out that no one got the pre-game ball (because Jordan Schafer needs a lesson on how to be fan-friendly).
I wandered with my dad for the first inning, and then we grabbed a couple seats behind the Braves’ dugout. This was our view:
In the middle of the 2nd inning, Braves 1st base coach Glenn Hubbard tossed me the infield warmup ball. Then, after Johan Santana grounded out to end the bottom of the 3rd, Kotchman tossed me the actual game-used ball on his way in. (That one was commemorative.) There was one other fan who made an attempt to catch that ball, and it happened to be a kid with a glove. I asked him if he’d already gotten a ball, and to my surprise he said yes…so I kept it. If he had said no, I would’ve pulled out a non-commemorative BP ball from my backpack and handed that one to him. Anyway, just like that, on what felt like a decent-but-not-all-that-great-snagging-day, I still ended up with double digits.
The great part was simply being with my dad and sharing this experience. The man is FUN, and as an 83-year-old who can move (and even jog) all over the place, he’s a true inspiration, hopefully not just to me but to us all.
• 169 balls in 21 games this season = 8.05 balls per game.
• 590 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 472 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 342 consecutive Mets games with at least one ball
• 3,989 total balls
• 104 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $20.70 pledged per ball
• $207.00 raised at this game
• $3,498.30 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball