The day started off great and ended horribly. I mean really, REALLY horribly. Given what happened (which you’ll hear about soon), I feel stupid talking about snagging a bunch of worthless BP balls, but as they say, the show must go on, right?
When the stadium opened at 5:10pm, I ran out to the left field seats and got Pedro Beato to throw me my 1st ball of the day. I asked him for it in Spanish, and as you can see, the stamping on the ball was extremely worn out:
(BTW, if you’ve never heard anyone say Beato’s last name, know that it’s pronounced “bay-AHH-toe.”)
For a change, the Mets (read: Ronny Paulino and Nick Evans) actually hit some home runs, and I caught three of them on the fly. Here I am (pictured below in the white t-shirt) staring up at one of them:
Of the three home runs, the first and third were routine, but the second one required a bit of an effort. The ball was heading right at me, but I could tell that it was going to fall short, so I started drifting forward. In the photo above, do you see the rectangular piece of plexiglass above the railing at the bottom of the steps? Well, when this ball was hit, there wasn’t anyone standing there — but I didn’t want to be there either. I would’ve had to reach over it, so while the ball was in mid-air, I shuffled to the right. The ball kept coming, and it was falling even shorter than I initially expected. I didn’t think I was going to be able to catch it, but just in case, I reached down (and slightly to the left) as far as I possibly could over the railing — and yeah, I caught it. That one felt really good, and I got a thunderous round of applause from the on-field snaggers down below.
When the Pirates took the field, I thew on a bright yellow “CLEMENTE 21” t-shirt — very easy to spot in the following photos. Dusty Brown tossed me a ball in left-center field. Then I grabbed a home run ball (not sure who hit it) that landed several rows behind me. And then Chris Resop tossed me two more balls. Here I am catching the first ball from Resop…
…and here I am giving the second one to a kid:
In the photo above, do you see the fan standing on my right? He’s wearing the lighter yellow shirt. His name is Jose, and when he first saw me during the Mets’ portion of BP, he walked over and introduced himself and told me that he’s been reading this blog for four years. He’s a really nice guy, and I’m glad to say that he snagged a ball from the Pirates. (That’s why he was wearing yellow; he didn’t own any Pirates gear, so he took my advice and color-coordinated with regular clothes.)
The two baseballs from Resop gave me eight on the day, and by the way, all the photos of me were taken by Jona. Here’s an action shot that shows me climbing up on a seat to catch another home run on the fly:
The ball had just entered my glove when that photo was taken, and once again, I’m not sure who hit it. I can tell you, though, that I had to weave around a few people to reach the spot where it was going to land. Then, after I climbed on the seat, I jumped/lunged and made a back-handed catch over my head before landing/falling into the empty seats behind me. No one got hurt. No one was mad. I didn’t rob any kids. People cheered and gave me high-fives, so please don’t assume the worst.
My 10th ball of the day was another home run that sailed over my head and landed in the seats. Here I am moving back on it:
Toward the end of BP, a player on the warning track randomly flipped a ball deep into the crowd. I was in the 4th row, so I couldn’t even see the warning track. I just happened to see the ball fly up, and when I realized that it was heading toward me, I darted to my left and caught it right above some seated fans who hadn’t seen it coming. After that, I looked around for the youngest kid with a glove. It took a moment, but I soon spotted a little boy who was probably three or four years old. I handed him the ball, and in the following photo, you can see him holding it:
Disaster struck two minutes later…literally.
Someone on the Pirates hit another home run, and I could tell right away that the ball was going to sail 10 feet over my head. If the seats had been emptier, I would’ve drifted back and caught it, but it was so crowded that I couldn’t move. Here I am trapped on the staircase:
One or two seconds before Jona took that photo, I got a sinking feeling in my gut that the ball was heading right at her. I felt so helpless. There was truly nothing I could do, and I was frozen in terror as the ball disappeared behind me into the crowd. I heard an eerie thump. Then I heard Jona cry out in pain. And then I saw her collapsing in between the rows. I was more scared than ever because I didn’t know where the ball had hit her. A little while back, I’d written a gruesome chapter called “Death by Baseball” for my new book, so I was imagining a worst-case scenario. Thankfully, and I mean THANKFULLY, the ball didn’t hit her in the face or on the head. Instead, it nailed her at the bottom of her right ribcage — not exactly a fun place to get hit, but at least it wasn’t life-threatening. Or…at least that’s what I thought. The Citi Field medical personnel, however, were anticipating a worst-case scenario. After rushing over and checking her pulse and testing her blood pressure, they suggested that she rush to the hospital and get checked for internal injuries, such as a cracked rib or a “lacerated liver” or a “punctured lung.” (WTF?!?!) Jona doesn’t have health insurance, so refused treatment at first. We signed a bunch of papers, and that seemed to be the end of it.
Half an hour later, Jona began feeling nauseous, and she was in a ton of pain, so I flagged down a security supervisor, and he summoned the EMS crew for a second time. There was a whole discussion at that point about what to do, and ultimately, we decided not to take any chances. The EMS people brought a wheelchair and took Jona to the first aid room. (Big thanks to my friend Ben Weil, who was there for all of this and helped out in several ways.) Then, after she got examined briefly by a doctor, they took us downstairs to a waiting ambulance. Much to Jona’s initial dismay (and ultimate eye rolling), I took lots of photos of the whole ordeal, but I’m only going to share one here:
It was the first time I’d ever been in an ambulance. (My assessment: kinda cool, kinda freaky, and VERY expensive.) We were rushed, sirens blaring, to the emergency room at New York Hospital Queens, where Jona underwent a series of tests and x-rays. It was there that I used her iPhone to tweet about what was going on. She was feeling better by that point, so we were both able to laugh about it (although she tried not to laugh too hard because it hurt). After spending more than two hours in the hospital, all the tests came back negative. No major internal injuries! No fractures. No lacerated this. No punctured that. It was all good.
Many thanks to all the people who tweeted replies. It was great to read them (even the ones that poked fun at me) and know that so many people cared. @Mannywood3 was the first to respond with, “ow that hurts hope she otay.” Three minutes later, @AHerr44 tweeted, “hope she is alright!” and two minutes after that, @Poulos wrote, “If only she knew someone who could have stepped in front of her and snagged the ball. Damn.” The replies kept coming. My friend Linda (@gel_17) simply said, “Poor dear!” and another friend/ballhawk named Tim (@sportsnickelTim) said, “Tell the truth, Zack. Did you make her wait til after BP ended to go to the hospital?” (No, Timothy, I didn’t make her do anything. The timing just worked out that way.) Ten minutes after my initial tweet, @taintedidealist wrote, “oh goodness! Here’s hoping it is just a bruise,” and five minutes after that, @MLBwayneMLB said, “Dude, I hope she’s okay.” My friend Mike (@michaelwmiles; the guy who was with me on 4/29/11 and 4/30/11 at Minute Maid Park) said, “Hope she’s ok. Send her our best.” My snarky friend Leigh (@Padreleigh) asked, “Video of the BP HR beaning of Jona?” and NuzJunky said, “hope Jona feels better. We love her pics!” And so on.
Jona IS feeling much better. Thank you again for all the Twitter love (and in some cases heckling). In case you want to follow me, I’m @zack_hample. I know I haven’t done a good job of replying to emails and tweets and blog comments recently, but I want to you know that I read everything and will respond when I find some free time. Lately, I’ve been going to baseball games almost every day — I pretty much have to if I’m gonna snag 1,000 balls this season — so it’s taking a near full-time effort just to keep up with this blog.
• 364 balls in 42 games this season = 8.6666666667 balls per game.
• 703 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 517 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 370 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball
• 150 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 5,026 total balls
• 1 pissed off Jona
(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.)
• 47 donors
• $6.84 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $75.24 raised at this game
• $2,489.76 raised this season
One more thing for now: three of the nine balls have distinct invisible ink stamps. The six-part photo below shows them in regular light versus black light:
If you have no idea what the invisible ink and the black light is all about, click here.