5/11/09 at Citi Field

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?”

Oh dear.

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:


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.


12_the_nine_balls_i_kept.jpg• 10 balls at this game (nine pictured here because I gave one away)

• 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

I kinda rushed through this entry a bit. Perhaps you could tell. I’m super-busy, in part because I’m going back to Citi Field tonight…because I’m going to be filmed for a segment on FLYP, which is an “online rich media magazine.” I’m now 11 balls away from 4,000, and I’m still planning to snag the milestone at Dodger Stadium on May 18th. (FLYP is gonna try to have someone film me there as well.) When I said in my last entry that I was considering going to Philly and Yankee Stadium this week, I didn’t mean that I was actually planning to be at all those games. I *want* to snag No. 4,000 at Dodger Stadium, so if I have another typical snagging performance at Citi Field tonight, then I simply won’t attend any other games this week.Finally, I suppose I should mention that the Mets lost, 8-3, ending their seven-game winning streak. Santana suffered the loss despite NOT allowing an earned run, so he’s now 4-2 with a National League-leading 0.78 earned run average. Stats can be so silly at times.


  1. goisles

    Zack, similar to withholding taxes, you should start collecting your pledges on a quarterly basis, because at the rate you’re going, no one will have that kind of money at the end of the year!

    Btw, this just in from an AP interview with Lonn Trost of the Yankees on various issues at Yankee Stadium “He said no changes were planned to the policy preventing fans with tickets in other parts of the stadium from getting close to the field during batting practice. Seats in the first nine rows, called the Legends Suite, cost $500 to $2,625 and come with access to three restaurants and lounges. The area is separated from the rest of the lower deck by a concrete moat.

    ?There?s an area by the Legends Suite which is not an area that fans can get into,? Trost said. ?If you purchase a suite, do you want somebody in your suite? If you purchase a home, do you want somebody in your home??

    Can’t argue with the logic, except perhaps that it cuts across 125 years of baseball tradition.

  2. puckcollector@optonline.net

    What happens if you snag 11 balls tonight?

    And i’ll miss seeing you on Friday at YS (I think)

  3. Charlie

    Wow, only 11 more from 4,000. That is truly a milestone, Zack (Yeah, I’m jumping on the bandwagon now by finally commenting when you’re SO close to 4,000) and I’m probably jinxing you, so to use a quote from one of my favorite books, I’ll end this comment now.


  4. muddly17

    Zack, Great job on the season so far. For my high school graduation present, I am receiving tickets to the June 26th Cardinals-Twins game. My seats will be by the (visiting) Twins dugout. I would really love to snag a third out ball, being as I have never snagged a gamer. What tips can you (or anyone) give me for snagging a third out ball? Also, does anyone know where the umpires leave the field at Busch? If so could I please have some help there as well? Thank you and keep snaggin’ for a great cause.

  5. goislanders4

    i wish you could’ve gotten the final out ball. i was watching the game, and they did a close up on bobby parnells hand juggling a ball around in his hand. i was looking at it to see if i could see the commemorative logo, and i was amazed to see just a regular mlb logo. during the game, this is. i thought, oh i probably mistook it, but no. they did the same close up later, and parnell stopped juggling right as the regular mlb logo stopped in clear view of the camera. i was sure! it was a regular mlb logo! why is that? and i just looked at the photos from the game on mets.com and there is a picture of the new japanese reliever on the mets about to deliver a pitch. in the picture, the ball is tilted so yopu can see the spot where a commemorative/mlb logo would be, and you can see just a regular mlb logo. no commem. this was weird and kind of worried me.

  6. padreleigh

    Hi Zack…

    This question is a bit off topic. You may not even know the answer. I didn’t realize your father was as old as he is. I’m a pretty huge World War II history buff. I always have been. If you’re dad was born in 1926, then he would have turned 18 in 1944. Did he serve during WWII? If yes, do you know what his job/unit was? Just curious from a historical standpoint. Let me know via email if you want. Nice snagging day at the old ballpark by the way.


  7. nelmarti7@aol.com

    I have a question Zack your’e only 31 and have been to a total of 46 stadiums. Which 16 stadiums that have closed have you been to? I’ve been to all of the current 30 and 15 that have closed for a total of 45. When Target field opens in Minnesota next year it’ll be a total of 46 for me. For the record the 15 closed stadiums that I have been too are: 1.Kingdome, 2.Candlestick, 3. Milwaukee County, 4. Tiger Stadium. 5.Old Busch, 6. Cleveland Municipal, 7. Riverfront, 8. Three Rivers, 9.Olympic Stadium, 10.Baltimore Memorial, 11. RFK Washington, 12.Shea, 13. Old Yankee, 14.Fulton County and 15.The Vet. I didn’t start visiting other stadiums other than Shea and Yankee until 1988 when I went to see the Mets play the Phillies at the Vet. The Mets won 10-2 with Strawberry and McReynolds driving in all of the runs by each hitting a homerun and driving in 5 a piece.

  8. Txbaseballfan

    Great entry! I must say that I am jealous of the fact that you are able to go to games with your dad. I live in Texas & my dad lives in Arizona, so I don’t get that chance. That is something I have wanted to make happen for a LONG time, but it just hasn’t worked out. Enjoy those moments my friend, hopefully I will have my own to write about someday.

  9. xholdourownx@gmail.com

    Great entry. I like your dad’s idea for a brick. Jordan Schafer is horrible about being nice to fans. He was horrible at spring training and still horrible now in Atlanta.

    Did anyone else think it was weird that the plaque says ‘pitchers plate’?

    Good luck with #4,000

  10. zackhample

    I had a respectable game last night at Citi Field, and I’ll be posting an entry about it this evening, I hope.

    Mister Trost is obviously a robot that was programmed badly. As for the charity…my snagging pace will definitely be slowing down. There’s no way I can maintain this. I *do* have a book to write this year, after all.


    I would have stopped snagging before I got that many.

    Nice! Thank you. I’m not worried about being jinxed, though.

    Thanks very much.

    Not sure about the umps. Just pay attention and see where they enter the field right before the game. As for a third out ball, just make sure you get down to the front row ASAP when the third-out is recorded. After a couple innings, fans catch on and you’ll have lotsa competition.

    That’s very strange about the non-commemorative ball, but until I see the footage myself, I have no comment.

    Off-topic comments are always welcomed. I asked my dad about this, and here’s what he said:


    Without informing my parents, I tried to enlist in the Royal Canadian Air Force when I was 15, because the war was on, and I was impressed when I saw the RCAF cadets marching in a newsreel at a movie theatre. But after Pearl Harbor happened on Dec. 7, 1941 I received an official letter from them which said, in part:

    “We no longer accept applications from United States citizens since we are in hostilities with the common enemy.”

    Shattered to be rejected because I wanted to be part of helping to defeat the fascist forces of Germany, Italy and Japan, in 1943 I enlisted at 17 in the U.S. Navy and volunteered for Submarine Service, after seeing Cary Grant as a sub officer in the movie ?Destination Tokyo.? (I was heavily influenced by both the media and the massive national pro-war propaganda.) I passed the entrance tests and was trained at the Submarine Schoo9l at New London, CT. (Where a 19-year-old named Yogi Berra played on the base baseball team.) My first billing was aboard a WWI sub – the US S-20 ? which I reported to in the middle of a very cold, snowy January at Casco Bay, Portland Maine.

    I later served aboard the conventional Diesel-powered submarines Pike and Spikefish (nuclear subs were not yet part of the underwater navy) and finally aboard a captured German U-Boat, the U 530 ? which we took on a War Bond cruise to the Gulf of Mexico. I was discharged in the summer of 1946.


    Wow, very cool…and can I ask how old YOU are? My 16 bonus stadiums are: Shea, Yankee (old), Veterans, Fulton County, Candlestick, Three Rivers, Riverfront, Tiger, County, Busch (old), Kingdome, Astrodome, Olympic, Jack Murphy, RFK, and Champion Stadium. That last one is where the Rays played a few regular season games last year. Normally it’s a spring training ballpark, but the games WERE official when I was there, so I decided to count it in my total.

    Distance sucks.

    I guess they didn’t want to say “rubber.” What a bunch of babies.

  11. lastnightsshift@yahoo.com

    Interestingly enough, Tom Kotchman is the manager of the Pioneer League Team (Angels Rookie team) in Orem, Utah, where I go to some of my minor league games. I didn’t realize that he ever worked anywhere else, because it seems like he’s part of the family here.

    Toms son, Casey played AAA just north of here in AAA for the Salt Lake Bee’s, the Angels minor league team.

    Everybody loves Tom, around here, so I’m glad you’ve got nothing but good to say too. As for Casey, the Angels traded him for Tex last year.

    FINALLY………………… You never did tell me if you were in Cooperstown last weekend.


  12. jerseyboy

    The entry was clearly rushed. No heart. Like the Mets in September. Just kidding. Not about the Mets though. Your dad’s idea for a brick is AMAZING!!! I wish I would have got one that said that. I have a brick in Indianapolis for the Colts with a little code on it “FTB.” Now, if anyone is a football fan, they know Colts fans would hate the Patriots. You should be able to figure out FTB pretty easily.


  13. nelmarti7@aol.com

    I’m sorry I took so long to reply to your question about how old I am Zack. I had forgotten that I had posted a comment on this site. I’m 50. I just got back from Minnesota a few days ago after going on my latest roadtrip. I got to see Target Field as I told you I would and I can tell you that they did a great job with the place. I viewed the playing field from all angles and I can tell you that except for a few bad views in the left field bleachers which was to be expected when you build the stands so close to the field the rest of the views were outstanding unlike Citifield which has horrible or non-existent views from all areas. It didn’t have a kiddie zone like Citifield or a Steak N Shake or 3 large HDTV screens but who cares. The views were so much better they didn’t need three screens. I went to the furthest most points of the left field and right field upper decks to see if I could see the entire field and was pleasantly surprised that I could unlike Citifield where the foul lines disappear just past third leaving you to wonder whats happening if a ball gets hit down the lines and goes into the corner. One thing that they did have was a cellphone charging station courtesy of Best Buy which is a great idea. I walked around the outside of the place and everywhere you looked there were large baseball card blow-ups of past twins and statues of Twin greats Harmon Killebrew and Rod Carew. Clearly they did their homework in bulding this place unlike the Mets where you will find no statues of Tom Seaver or other Mets greats. And to think they bult a superior ballpark than the Mets for 300 million less.

  14. zackhample

    Sorry for the super-delayed reply to your comment. Anyway, no, I didn’t make it to Cooperstown. :-)

    Haha, nice. As it turns out, the Mets are planning to add some more bricks outside Citi Field, so there’s still time for you to make it happen.

    The last line of your comment really nails it. The Twins really got it right with Target Field. Maybe the Mets will learn a few things in time for their next stadium.

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