Two games at two stadiums in one day?
Please excuse me for looking pissed off in the Citi Field photo above. The Mets had a single-admission doubleheader against the Rockies starting at 12:10pm, and let’s just say that I had to wake up much earlier than usual to get there before the gates opened. Meanwhile, the Yankees had a 7:05pm game against the Orioles, so it was going to be a long day of baseball. (By the way, the Mets and Yankees don’t often overlap like this; the last time I attended two games at two stadiums in one day was September 10, 2003.)
I expected Citi Field to open at 10:40am — 90 minutes before game time — and I expected there NOT to be batting practice. As it turned out, the stadium didn’t open until 11:10am, but the Rockies were hitting!
Here I am in the front row in left-center field:
Moments after I got there, Troy Tulowitzki hit a home run to straight-away left. The ball landed in the seats, and I managed to snag it during the subsequent scramble. Here I am climbing over a row of seats for it:
Tulo hit another home run soon after. That one pretty much came right to me. The only challenge was not searing my retinas as I looked up into the sun. The two-part photo below shows me shading my eyes (on the left) and then actually making the catch (on the right):
Soon after, I drifted 30 feet to my right and caught a Ty Wigginton homer on the fly. The red arrow below is pointing from that ball to my glove:
As soon as I made the grab, the man standing right behind me said that he was hoping to catch that ball for his son, pictured above in the dark blue shorts with white stripes. Because the man was polite, I tossed the ball to his kid.
Here’s a two-part photo that shows me (after losing the jacket and hoodie) trying to get in position for another home run ball.
I didn’t end up snagging that one because it fell short — the fan in the “WRIGHT” jersey caught it — but I was glad to have judged the flight of the ball perfectly. In the left-hand photo above, I was already climbing forward over a row of seats, long before the ball arrived.
Toward the end of batting practice, I caught one more home run on the fly. I don’t know who hit it. I think it was a lefty, and therefore I’m guessing it was Carlos Gonzalez, but in any case, here’s another two-part photo that shows how it played out:
In the left-hand photo above, I’m racing past two younger fans who must not have thought that the ball was going to reach the seats — more on them in a moment — and in the photo on the right, I’m reaching out for the snag.
After BP, Matt Reynolds and Huston Street played catch in deep left field. Reynolds ended up with the ball and tossed it to me:
In case you’ve lost count, that was my 5th ball of the day.
Now, remember those young fans I pointed out two photos ago? Here I am with them:
They recognized me from this blog, and we all hung out and talked for a while. That’s Eli on the left and Ben on the right. They each snagged one ball and later got a few autographs.
If you look closely at the photo above, you can kinda/almost/barely see that the ball I’m holding doesn’t have a standard MLB logo. Here’s a closer look at it:
It was another one of those Salt River Fields balls. (You can read more about these balls here on BigLeagueBaseballs.com.)
Shortly before Game 1 started, Ian Stewart and Troy Tulowitzki played catch in shallow left field. I waved to get Tulo’s attention as they were finishing up…
…and he threw me the ball before jogging back to the dugout.
Here’s a random photo that simply MUST be shared. It shows the thickest/strongest man I’ve ever seen in person:
Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but damn, I’m glad he wasn’t out in the left field seats during BP.
I couldn’t decide where to sit during the game. My preference is always to stay in the outfield and go for home runs, but the left field seats were a bit too crowded to make it worthwhile. I hung out behind the Rockies’ dugout for the first few innings and got a 3rd-out ball from Jason Giambi after Daniel Murphy grounded out to Greg Reynolds to end the bottom of the 3rd. That was cool. I once caught a home run that Giambi hit, but this was the first time that he’d actually tossed one to me.
This is where I sat for the second half of the game:
As you can see, there were empty seats all around me, but nothing came my way.
The game itself was exciting. The Mets took a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the 4th. The Rockies then scored in three straight innings to pull ahead, 6-2. The Mets scored three runs in the bottom of the 9th to chase closer Huston Street and narrow the deficit to 6-5. Three batters later, they loaded the bases with two outs. David Wright stepped to the plate and worked a full count and blasted a deep fly ball to right field…which Seth Smith caught on the warning track to end the game. That ball would’ve been 10 rows deep at Yankee Stadium, but here in Queens, batters actually have to earn it.
I worked my way down to the dugout after the final out…
…but didn’t get any more baseballs. I ended up snagging seven at this game and keeping six of them. Here’s a two-part photo that shows the balls in regular light vs. black light:
At the start of the day, my plan had been to leave Citi Field no later than 3:30pm. Even staying that late would’ve been pushing it, but of course this first game lasted 3 hours and 23 minutes, and since it didn’t start until 12:10pm (and since there was no way I was going to leave during that exciting ninth inning), I ended up being way behind schedule. Still, I stopped to sign a ball for a fan named Stuart…
…before rushing to the No. 7 train:
In the photo above, do you see the man standing on the left with the green Mets bag? That’s a very good friend of mine named George Amores. He and I met way back in 1992 because we both attended lots of games at Shea and Yankee Stadiums; I was there, of course, to snag baseballs, and he was there to get autographs. Here’s a photo of us (taken yesterday, not in 1992) on the train:
George peeled off after a few stops. I stayed on until Grand Central, then transferred to the No. 4 train and rode that uptown to 161st Street. Here I am (carrying the backpack in the photo below) on the subway platform at Yankee Stadium:
Here I am (looking pissed off once again, but actually loving life) waiting for the gates to open.
When I left Citi Field, I only had something like 78 minutes until the gates were going to open in the Bronx, and I arrived with less than 10 minutes to spare. Thankfully, my friend Ben Weil (facing me in the photo above…with his left arm bent up) was holding a spot for me at the front of the line.
As soon as the gates opened, we raced out to right field. Ben slowed down near the foul pole to look for balls in the seats. (There were none.) I kept running to the section near the bullpen, and when I got there, one of the security guards unexpectedly handed me a ball. That might sound like a cheap way to get one, but I decided long ago to count balls that are given to me by stadium employees. Fans? No way, and I’ve rejected plenty of those. But anyone who works for a team (and therefore isn’t allowed to keep baseballs)? Absolutely.
Moments later, thanks to my request in Spanish, I convinced one of the Yankees’ Latino players to toss me a ball that had rolled onto the warning track. Here I am about to catch it:
I think it was Ivan Nova who tossed me that ball, but I’m not sure.
Anyway, enough with the charity balls and easy toss-ups. Ready to see some action shots? The following photo sequence shows me catching an A-Rod homer on the fly, and although it took place in a mostly-empty section during batting practice, it was still pretty special.
This is where I was standing when he hit it:
Here I am moving to my right:
Here I am getting ready to jump for it:
Here I am in mid-air:
In the photo above, I wasn’t at the top of my leap. I was still on the way up. The following photo shows how high I got:
Here’s a closer look at my glove from the previous photo. Note the ball peeking through the webbing of the pocket:
When I first made the catch, I didn’t really think I’d jumped that high. I figured I’d gotten about one foot off the ground, but when I saw this photo later, I was like…damn. If you look back at the photo in which I’m moving to my right, you can see that the back of the seats are thigh-high — kinda just below the bottom of my butt. And if you look back at the photo where I’m at the top of my leap, you can see the differential. (Not bad for a 33-year-old white guy, eh?)
Anyway, because I had to reach out and make a fully extended back-handed catch, I ended up twirling 180 degrees in mid-air. Here I am facing completely away from the field on my way down:
Moments later, I caught a Nick Swisher homer on the fly. I was in the last row and nearly got robbed by some guy in the bleachers:
I caught another Swisher homer (my fifth ball of the day at Yankee Stadium). Then I changed into my bright orange Orioles shirt and headed over to the left field side. On the way, I ran into a friendly security supervisor that I’ve known for years. I gave him a high-five, pulled a brand new baseball out of my backpack, handed it to him, and said, “Give this to the kid of your choice.”
Once I reached the left field seats, Kevin Gregg and Mike Gonzalez tossed me balls within one minute of each other. Here I am about to catch the one from Gonzalez:
As I’ve mentioned before, I keep detailed stats for all the balls I’ve snagged. I don’t have all my stats memorized, so when I got home, I realized that the ball from Gonzalez was the 4,400th that I’d snagged since my consecutive games streak began. (For those who don’t know, I’ve gotten at least one ball at every game I’ve attended since September 10, 1993.) (There’s something about September 10th and years ending in the number 3. I better make sure to attend a game on September 10, 2013 — assuming the world doesn’t end.)
My eighth ball of the day (not counting Citi Field for the moment) was a home run hit by Vladimir Guerrero. It carried into the last row, and I out-scrambled a few other fans for it:
(My friend Ben is actually here right now as I’m writing this. He just said, “I’m pretty sure it was only me that you out-scrambled.”)
During a quick break in the action soon after, I gave away another baseball, this time to a young girl who’d wandered over with her father. Here he is taking a photo of us:
Before he took the photo, I pointed out the logo of the ball to the girl and suggested that she hold it so that it was facing the camera. Details! Details!
Here’s another cool photo of a ball I didn’t catch. Someone on the Orioles hit a home run that was heading for the fence that separates the stands from the bullpen. While the ball was in mid-air, I raced a full section to my left, then jumped and reached over the railing and tried to pull it back. Check it out:
Unfortunately it was just beyond my reach, but I made up for it by catching a Mark Reynolds homer on the fly. Here I am climbing back over a row of seats while tracking the ball:
That was my 9th ball of the day. I was looking forward to reaching double digits, hoping I would break my own “new Yankee Stadium” record of 11, and really really hoping to break Alex K‘s new Yankee Stadium record of 12.
Here I am out-scrambling Ben once again (he’s laughing right now in a very good-natured way) for my 10th ball of the day:
It was another home run. I don’t know who hit it. Possibly Robert Andino. Sorry for the blurry photo, but it’s all I got. Special thanks to my photographer who was with me all day and got lots of incredible shots — like this one:
(Ben just said, “Special thanks to Ben who failed to out-scramble me for any ball on this particular day…I love this photo because it just describes us so well. It shows my disappointment and you feeling bad for me.”)
Ball No. 11 was another homer, hit by the same guy (Andino?) who’d connected on the previous one. Here I am climbing forward over a row of seats as the ball was descending…
…and here I am about to catch it:
Ben had been in that spot all day, and nothing was hit to him. The moment he left (to try to get a ball tossed to him in the front row), a ball landed right here. You can see him in the photo above, eyeing me with dismay. Life is funny sometimes.
Speaking of funny, check out the following two-part photo. It shows me catching my 12th ball of the day — a home run hit by (I think) Cesar Izturis:
In the left-hand photo above, look at my wimpy right arm, and in the right-hand photo above, look at the guy standing in front of me. He’s like, “Ayyy! Don’t hurt me!”
(This was the 12th home run I’d snagged all day — four at Citi Field and eight at Yankee Stadium. Of these 12 homers, I caught nine on the fly — three at Citi and six at Yankee.)
As soon as I caught that ball, I tossed it to a kid in the front row. It was the fourth ball I’d given away on this fine day (the third at Yankee Stadium), and five seconds later, I realized that it was my record-breaking ball. I was tempted to ask the kid if I could give him a different ball instead, but that seemed like a lame thing to do. My only option, therefore, was to snag another ball — and I got one after BP from Orioles bullpen catcher Ronnie Deck. I had raced over to the dugout as soon as BP ended and got him to toss it to me (over the partition) as he was dumping the balls from the basket to a zippered equipment bag. Here I am posing with it:
As for Ben…don’t ask.
(“You just saved me from writing my own blog,” he just said. “I’m gonna post this on my Facebook.”)
The only thing he got was a battered leg. Here he is showing me his multitude of scrapes and bruises:
My facial expression says it all, and by the way, that’s Mateo looking on in the burgundy sweatshirt. He snagged two baseballs at this game.
Shortly before the game started, I snagged my 14th ball of the day. Cesar Izturis tossed it to me after warming up in front of the dugout. Here I am about to make the catch:
This is where I sat (and sometimes stood) during the game:
The section was much more crowded than I’d expected, but what could I do? It’s impossible to move anywhere at Yankee Stadium, so I was stuck there all night.
As for the game, it was another good one. The Orioles scored two runs in the 3rd, one run in the 4th, and two more in the 5th to take a 5-0 lead. The Yankees then methodically chipped away, scoring one in the 5th, two in the 6th, and one in the 7th to make it a 5-4 game. Jorge Posada led off the bottom of the 9th with a homer off Kevin Gregg. Mariano Rivera shut down the O’s with a seven-pitch effort in the top of the 10th. Nick Swisher hit a game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the frame. Poor Orioles.
After the game, in an attempt to break my all-time (new or old) Yankee Stadium record of 14 balls, I tried unsuccessfully to get the attention of the players and coaches in the Orioles’ bullpen:
Here’s a post-game look at the famous intersection of 161st Street and River Avenue:
Ready for two games’ worth of stats rolled into one? (I don’t know how else to do it.)
• 67 balls in 9 games this season = 7.4 balls per game.
• 670 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 504 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 361 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball
• 143 consecutive Yankees home games with at least one ball
• 136 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
• 4,729 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)
• 36 donors
• $5.74 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $120.54 raised at these two games
• $384.58 raised this season
And hey, here’s a two-part photo of the 11 balls I kept from Yankee Stadium. Once again, the image on the left shows the balls in regular light, and the image on the right shows them in black light: