8/1/11 at Citi Field

I attended this game with two relatives from Louisiana — my half-brother Henry and his 13-year-old son Armand. Here we are outside the stadium:

Take a closer look at Henry’s cap in the photo above. Do you recognize the logo? Here’s a hint: he’d gotten the cap six days earlier.

This was the second major league game that Armand had ever been to, or at least that he could remember. The other one took place on 5/18/09 at Dodger Stadium — the day that I snagged my 4,000th ball. Armand hadn’t brought a glove that day, and he didn’t bring one to Citi Field either. He doesn’t care about snagging baseballs. (What a weirdo.) He just wanted to hang out and see me in action.

For a change, I headed directly to right field when the stadium opened, and it paid off immediately. As I entered the seats, I noticed that a security supervisor was in the process of retrieving a ball from the front row. I asked him for it, and despite the fact that he recognized me (as THAT guy who gets a ton of baseballs), he tossed it to me. Very kind of him.

Moments later, I asked D.J. Carrasco for a ball, and since I was the still the only fan in the section, I figured it was going to be the easiest snag ever. Carrasco had never given one to me, and I couldn’t remember ever talking to him, so his response surprised me.

“You probably already got four in your bag,” he said with a smile.

“What? I just got here!” I protested. (Great comeback, huh?)

“But you’ve gotten lots of balls before,” he said.

“Wait, you recognize me?”

“Man, I see you here all the time,” he said, and the conversation went from there. Here’s a photo of him looking at me:

I told Carrasco that I’d only been to about 20 games this season at Citi Field, but that this was my 79th game of the year. He asked me what I do. I told him that I’m a baseball writer. He asked what I write. I mentioned my books. He asked about the books, and when I told him about The Baseball, we ended up discussing baseballs for two solid minutes. The most interesting thing he said (and I haven’t yet had a chance to verify this) was that baseballs in Japan are factory-sealed in individual packages and opened shortly before game time. That way, he explained, the atmospheric conditions don’t have a big impact, and all the balls are uniform.

Henry and Armand, meanwhile, were sitting several rows behind me…

…and at one point, while Carrasco was in mid-sentence, a ball landed near me in the seats. I hadn’t seen it coming, but I realized soon after I snagged it that it was a homer by a left-handed batter. Not sure who.

Toward the end of our conversation, Carrasco said that Japanese baseballs don’t have any logos on them — or maybe he said that the logos are smaller. I couldn’t quite hear everything that he was saying, but anyway, he told me that he wishes that Major League Baseball would get rid of the logos on the balls.

“Oh,” I said, “because the ink on the ball makes it easier for hitters to pick up the spin.”

“Right,” he replied.

It was SUCH an awesome conversation, and as a result, I will be rooting for Mister Carrasco for the rest of his career. (If you play fantasy baseball, you should pick him up because he now basically has the opposite of the Hample Jinx.)

Just before the Marlins started hitting, I ran over to the left field side. Henry and Armand ran too, and for one of them (who shall remain nameless), it was the first exercise that he’d gotten in years. Here they are catching their collective breath in the seats:

Burke Badenhop threw me my 3rd ball of the day, and then I went on somewhat of a homer-snagging rampage. First I caught a John Buck homer on the fly and gave the ball to the nearest kid. Then I caught a Mike Stanton homer on the fly and gave that one to the fan who’d jumped and missed it right in front of me. After that, I grabbed a Hanley Ramirez homer that landed in an empty row in left-center. That one had a gigantic scuff on it:

The home run of the day (if not the decade) was hit by Stanton. (Who else?) I don’t think I’ve ever seen a ball hit that far, and considering the fact that I was at the old Yankee Stadium when Josh Hamilton was putting on a display in the 2008 Home Run Derby, that’s saying something. Yesterday I was standing near the 384-foot sign (but even farther toward center) when Stanton blasted a MEGA-TOWERING drive that must’ve flown 75 feet over my head. Maybe more. And no, I’m not exaggerating. It sailed waaay over the second deck, and that’s also saying something; last year, when Mark Reynolds hit one deep into the second deck in that direction, everyone was oohing and ahhing about it for weeks. This ball that Stanton hit put the Reynolds homer to shame. Granted, Reynolds hit his homer during an actual game, but still, it could be argued that Stanton’s was even more impressive because he had to generate his own power off the slower BP pitch. In any case, the ball landed way up in the third deck, and when it disappeared from sight, I kept staring up for two reasons. First, I was simply in awe and had to mentally process what had just taken place, and second, I was hoping that the ball would bounce back down. Guess what? It did. There was easily a two-second delay before the ball came back into view, and when it did, I realized that it was going to land in my row. I just had to shuffle 10 or 15 feet to my right, and then it was just like catching a pop-up. The ball plummeted straight down, and I made the easy grab. How effin’ cool is that?!

Soon after, I caught a line-drive homer hit by Gaby Sanchez. Henry and Armand had a great view of my hop-back-over-a-row-while-the-ball-is-in-mid-air maneuver for that one. Most batting practices at Citi Field are dead, so it was nice to actually get to make some plays in front of my family.

After BP, I got my 9th ball of the day from a ballboy in front of the Marlins’ dugout — and then I got the sorriest looking double-cheeseburger known to mankind:

That’s what it looked like when I unwrapped it. Yes, it was very tasty. But still. C’mon.

A funny thing happened before the game. Hanley Ramirez and Emilio Bonifacio were playing catch in front of the dugout. One of the throws got loose and bounced away from Ramirez. Leo Nunez happened to be standing nearby and retrieved the ball, but before he tossed it back to his teammate, he made a bunch of mock-wimpy throwing motions, as if to say, “This is how YOU throw the ball.” Check it out:

Eh, I guess the photo doesn’t capture the hilarity of the moment, so take my word for it. It was really entertaining, and Nunez kept him waiting for the ball for five to ten seconds.

Henry and Armand and I sat on the 3rd base side during the game. I took the following photo from our seats, but rather than facing my camera toward home plate, I turned toward the outfield. Why? Because I knew then that I’d have to show you where the Mike Stanton BP homer landed:

I don’t care if Stanton strikes out 200 times next year before the All-Star break. That man NEEDS to participate in the Home Run Derby. Same with Adam Dunn. And Wily Mo Pena. And Mark Reynolds. Hell, let *me* pick the guys. (Ricky Weeks? P’shaw!) It’ll be the best Derby of all time. Prince Fielder will be in it, but he’ll have to bat right-handed.

The game was very exciting — and ultimately depressing…for people who still root for the Mets. Lucas Duda, a rookie outfielder, hit a two-out, two-run homer in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game, 3-3. Citi Field was genuinely rockin’ when that happened, but Mike Stanton quieted everyone down with a grand slam in the top of the 10th. Final score: Marlins 7, Mets 3.

After the game, I got my 10th ball of the day from home plate umpire Mike DiMuro.

Mateo Fischer was at this game, and although he didn’t put up big numbers during BP, he did snag a foul ball during the middle innings. (Congrats, Mateo!) Here he is photographing it after the game…

…and here I am with Armand and Henry:

As I sit here typing this, I’m at a hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida. Pardon me while I run off to Tropicana Field (for the first time in 11 years)…

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 10 baseballs at this game (eight pictured here because I gave two away)

• 659 balls in 79 games this season = 8.34 balls per game.

• 740 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 533 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball

• 379 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 161 lifetime games with at least ten balls

• 5,321 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

(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.)

• 56 donors

• $7.12 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $71.20 raised at this game

• $4,692.08 raised this season

Finally, of the eight balls that I kept, only one has an invisible ink stamp. Here’s a side-by-side look at the ball in regular light versus black light:

8 comments

  1. Chris

    Zack! At the Trop! You are a Bautista homer magnet sir! Jays are sweeping this series – I am calling it now. Pls keep a look out for random stubs from tonight (Aug 2) if it is not too big of a deal? Thanks! Chris

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