It feels wrong to call this a Watch With Zack game, but technically it was. My “client” for the day was an old college friend named John. He lives in Florida. We hadn’t seen each other for 11 years. He flew up for the day to attend this game with me — and I do mean DAY. He didn’t even bring a bag or a change of clothes, and no matter how many times I told him that he didn’t need to pay me, he still wrote me a check at the end. What a schmuck.
In any case, his goal for the day (beyond hanging out and catching up) was simple. All he wanted to do was follow me around and watch me do my thing and take one of my baseballs home with him.
Here we are outside the stadium:
In the photo above, John is the guy on the left. He’s 6-foot-2 and played football in college, so don’t mess with him. As for me, if you look closely, you can see the ASO brace on my left ankle. It’s been 47 days since I sprained it, and my foot still hurts every time I take a step — but to hell with the pain. There were baseballs to be snagged.
When I ran inside for batting practice (yes, I’m now able to run), I immediately got a ball tossed to me by Mets 3rd base coach Chip Hale. He and a couple of teenage kids were shagging in left field.
Then I spotted this ball sitting in the front row:
Moments after grabbing it, Ronny Paulino launched a home run into the empty seats behind me. I grabbed that one too and then got another ball tossed up by a player that I couldn’t identify. I think it was Lucas Duda, but I’m not sure. Paulino then blasted a line drive homer that landed near the foul pole. I ran over and grabbed that ball and then got another thrown by Jason Pridie.
I looked at the clock. It was 1:49pm. I’d been inside the stadium for nine minutes and already had six baseballs. How, you ask? Well, Citi Field normally opens two hours before the first pitch, but on weekends, season ticket holders get inside an extra half-hour early. This was a Saturday game, and I’d gotten a pair of season tickets from a friend (and diehard Mets fan) named Cory. He always has extras, often in various parts of the stadium, and he sells them very cheap, so check out his website and drop him a line at Amazin@AmazinTix.com. He might be able to hook you up.
My 7th ball of the day happened to be my 300th lifetime ball at Citi Field. It was another homer by Paulino, and I caught it on the fly. Then Angel Pagan cranked a homer into the second deck. Normally there would’ve been fans up there, but on this fine day, I was able to run upstairs and snag it a minute later. Remember the kids with Chip Hale that I mentioned earlier? Well, one of them tossed me my 9th ball of the day — a homer that bounced back onto the field — and then I snagged a longball off the bat of Nick Evans. That one landed in the seats.
I headed over to right field, and John came with me. The seats were starting to fill up at that point, but I still managed to get a ball from Tim Byrdak. Here’s a photo of him that I took soon after:
John and I ran back to left field after that. He hadn’t brought a glove. He made no effort to snag any baseballs on his own. I was worried that he might be bored, but he assured me that he couldn’t have been happier. Every time I asked him if he was doing okay, he responded like this:
In the photo above, do you see the guy standing one section to the right? That’s my friend Rick Gold, a veteran ballhawk and member of the 1,000-ball club.
Toward the end of BP, the seats in straight-away left field got pretty crowded…
…but I still snagged two more baseballs. The first was tossed by Juan Perez, and the second was thrown in left-center by Danys Baez.
Here’s a look at the seats and field from deeeeeeep left-center:
Those seats usually aren’t too crowded during BP, but there’s a reason for that. It takes a 400-plus-foot blast just to reach the front row, so there aren’t too many balls that land there.
When BP ended, I had a total of 13 balls, and I got one more from this guy at the 3rd base dugout:
Does anyone know who that is? I have no idea. All I can tell you is that I got him to hook me up by asking for a dirty ball. (That’s a strategy that I discussed on page 236 of The Baseball.) Here’s a look at it:
John and I had great seats for the game, but this was the only thing that I snagged there:
As for the game itself, if I told you that Cole Hamels faced Jon Niese and that the final score was 11-2, you’d probably think that the Phillies won. And you’d be wrong. And that’s the beauty of baseball. The offensively-challenged Mets busted out with 15 hits, including two home runs, and demolished their (current) arch rivals.
After the game, I met up with someone who might look familiar:
That’s my ex-girlfriend (and current great friend) Lia. I had no idea that she was planning to attend this game, but she knew I was gonna be there because of this tweet that I’d posted the night before. As you can see in the photo above, she and I are holding a total of 12 baseballs. Those were all the balls that I had in my possession at that point because I gave two away during the game.
I waited until I was outside the stadium to look at my new t-shirt, and here’s my critique: the front is nice and simple, but the back is too advertisement-y. Have a look for yourself:
When John and I got back to my place, I let him take the baseball of his choice. And then another. I would’ve given him more, but he was content with two. I hope that another decade won’t pass before we see each other again.
• 579 balls in 70 games this season = 8.27 balls per game.
• 731 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 27 consecutive Watch With Zack games with at least two balls; click here for a separate page of Watch With Zack stats and records
• 5,241 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 get involved.)
• 56 donors
• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $99.68 raised at this game
• $4,122.48 raised this season
Finally, of the ten balls that I kept, eight have the word “practice” stamped onto the sweet spot…
…and six have invisible ink stamps:
That is all.