This was my ninth game in nine days, and I had to face some serious competition during batting practice. See the guy waving in the photo below?
That’s my friend and fellow ballhawk Greg Barasch. He’s really good at snagging baseballs and has the stats to back it up. Entering the day, he had a lifetime total of 1,006.
The Mets’ portion of BP was beyond lame — not really all that surprising considering the team hadn’t hit a single home run for nine consecutive games. Still, it was incredibly frustrating to have so many empty seats and so few opportunities to chase baseballs. I only managed to snag two before the Mets cleared the field, and they were both thrown. The first came from a ballboy who had the name “Victor” on the back of his jersey, and the second was tossed by Dillon Gee. Here are those guys in the outfield:
When the Pirates’ pitchers finished playing catch along the left field foul line, I got Jose Veras to throw me a ball by asking for it in Spanish. I thought he was going to give me the ball that was tucked in his back pocket, but instead he walked over to an equipment bag and hooked me up with one of the many balls that was sitting beside it. Here he is moments later:
I only got one more ball during BP. I’m glad to report that it was a homer that I caught on the fly), but I’m sorry to say that I don’t know who hit it. I was in left field. It was a righty. Greg caught a couple homers that were hit by the same guy. We think it might’ve been Brandon Wood, but we’re not sure.
After BP, I raced to the seats behind the Pirates’ dugout and got two baseballs within a 30-second span. The first one came from bench coach Jeff Banister, and the second one was tossed by this guy:
I don’t know his name, but I’ve seen him before. He’s some sort of equipment manager, and he’s always been nice about giving balls away.
In addition to Greg, my friend Ben Weil was also at this game. He’s the guy who has a HUGE collection of jerseys, and his Pirates outfit was simply brilliant. Check it out:
(Ben, you are the man.)
We sat down on the 3rd base side and killed some time before the game started. At one point, just for the hell of it, I photographed a couple of the balls that I’d snagged during BP:
When the game got underway, I picked an empty patch of seats and hoped for a foul ball. This was my view in the top of the 1st inning:
Those seats filled in somewhat over the course of the game, but my row remained empty. That said, no luck. There wasn’t a single foul ball that landed within 50 feet of me.
Here’s a random photo of a photo for you. I have to share it. Just because:
Is it just me, or is that one of the more awkward/amusing major league head shots of all time? Here, have a closer look:
Yes, yes, I know, Cedeno is IN the Major Leagues, and I’m not, so he gets the last laugh. Fine. You win, Cedeno.
As for the game itself, Mets starter R.A. Dickey pitched great for seven innings — he struck out a career high 10 batters — but then it all fell apart in the 8th. The Mets were winning, 1-0, at that point, and they ended up losing, 5-1.
After the final out, I got a ball from home plate umpire Doug Eddings (or “DDINGS” as the scoreboard mistakenly said shortly before the first pitch). Two minutes later at the Pirates’ dugout, I got a ball from one of the relievers who waked in from the bullpen. I think it was Chris Resop, but I’m not sure. I gave that ball to the nearest kid as soon as I snagged it. Then, a minute after that, with the stadium virtually empty, two more Pirates coaches walked across the field. Here they are approaching:
The guy on the right was cradling his glove. Although I couldn’t tell if there was a ball tucked inside of it, I decided to ask him for a ball just in case. But who was it?! When he got a little bit closer, I was able to see his uniform number. It was 86. Who the hell wears a number that high?! I subtly took a peek at my Pirates roster. Yes, of course — it was bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade. Perfect! Just before he reached the warning track, I made a polite request, and sure enough, he pulled a ball from his glove and flipped it to me. That was my 9th ball of the day, and I gave that one away to a kid as well.
Before heading out, I got a group photo with Ben and Greg and another friend named Ryan Restivo. Here we all are:
That’s me on the left. Rather than wearing my yellow “Clemente” t-shirt for a second straight day, I decided to change my look and wear that yellow “Barbados” shirt instead. Ben finished the night with two baseballs. I’m pretty sure that Greg (who has yet to update his MyGameBalls.com profile) ended up with five, and I think Ryan got seven. Impressive numbers all around. Citi Field is NOT an easy place to ballhawk.
Now, I know that some of you people stop reading as soon as you see the stats, but there’s something extra special that I’m going to share in a moment, so please keep scrolling down…
• 373 balls in 43 games this season = 8.67 balls per game.
• 704 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 518 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 371 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball
• 230 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 5,035 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.)
• 47 donors
• $6.84 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $61.56 raised at this game
• $2,551.32 raised this season
Now that the stats are done, I have two more things to share. For starters, four of the seven balls have traces of invisible ink, but on the two of the balls, it’s a smear and not a stamp. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the balls in regular light versus black light:
(For more info on the baseball/invisible ink phenomenon, click here.)
Okay, here’s the extra special thing I mentioned above…
Do you remember when I was interviewed by an MLB.com reporter on 5/27/11 at Rogers Centre? Well, as I mentioned yesterday on Twitter, that article about me is now online. But there’s something that I didn’t mention on Twitter: the article is part of a contest. I don’t know all the details, but evidently I’m one of three New York baseball fans who are in the running, and you can actually vote to help me win. Below is a screen shot of the first part of the article. I’ve drawn red arrows to show you where to vote:
Here’s the link to the article. That’s what you’ll need to click to get started.
In order to vote, you need to have an MLB.com account — and if you don’t have one, you can create one for free. If possible, tell your friends about this, and hey, while you’re at it, leave a comment on the MLB.com article. Can’t hurt, right? I need all the help I can get. If I win, I’ll get to be the “Fan Voice” for a game on the MLB Network. How cool is that?! And if you vote, you’ll be entered into a drawing to win a ticket to the 2012 All-Star Game in Kansas City.
By the way, the other two people in the running are both diehard Yankee fans. One of them, a 38-year-old named Spencer Lewis, has watched every pitch of every Yankee game since 1995. The other fan, a 13-year-old named Michael Peralta, can mimic every Yankee player’s batting stance. Who knows how many people these guys are getting to vote for them, so I need you to vote for me. Let’s do this!