4/9/12 at Citi Field

The story of the day was the new “City Party Deck” in left field. This was my first look at it when I ran inside the stadium for batting practice:

Here’s a closer look from the left field corner:

In the previous photo, do you see the guy wearing the tan shorts and blue shirt? He’s standing a little more than one section away with his back facing the camera. For the last three years, that spot had been the front row, but now, as you can see, there’s an extra section down in front. Here’s another photo of it from left-center field:

When I first heard that the Mets were going to bring in the fences, I was ecstatic. More home runs would mean more baseballs, right?

Wrong.

It turns out that the new party deck is heavily guarded and nearly impossible to get into. For starters, it’s an all-you-can-eat section, so the tickets cost $100 apiece. In addition, there are ushers at each staircase who check tickets and distribute wristbands. And finally, starting at some undetermined time in the near future, this section is going to be used exclusively for groups of 25 or more.

Needless to say, fans without tickets for the party deck were not allowed to go down there during batting practice. Want to guess where 90 percent of the toss-ups from players now end up?

Riiiiiiiiiight . . . the party deck.

During the Mets’ portion of BP, I snagged a grand total of ZERO baseballs, and during the Nationals’ portion, I snagged one. It was thrown by a player that I couldn’t identify (possibly Brett Carroll), and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to a little girl who was sitting nearby with her father.

The party deck isn’t the only change to the outfield dimensions. The Mets also shortened the fence in right-center field — but not in any way that makes it better for fans. Here’s the new set-up out there:

That’s right, there’s a gigantic gap of dead space that the Mets could’ve used to add more rows. I mean, do you see the height of the new wall? It’s lower than the old wall. CONTINUE THE SLOPE DOWNWARD!!! PUT THE FANS CLOSER TO THE ACTION OR THROW A LITTLE STAIRCASE IN THE CORNER AND CREATE AN ADDITIONAL SECTION IN THAT AREA THAT LOOKS LIKE THIS!!! COME ON!!!

And by the way, those balls in the gap are off limits. Some kid tried to use a glove trick to snag one, and stadium security cut off his string.

Toward the end of BP, I headed over to the 3rd base dugout. Here’s what the party deck looked like from there:

Hmph.

For those of you who’ve never been to City Field, who are looking at all the empty seats in left-center field and wondering what I’m complaining about . . . try sitting there sometime. No one ever hits baseballs there because it’s 93 million miles from home plate.

Anyway, this was my view of the batting cage before BP ended:

In the photo above, do you see the ball that’s sitting on the grass just in front of the white tarp? I got Nationals 3rd base coach Bo Porter to toss it to me when everyone cleared the field . . . and it was a training ball.

Between BP and the game, I wandered out to right field and took a few more photos. Here’s a shot of the right-center field gap from afar . . .

. . . and here’s what the Mets did to “The Mo’s Zone”:

Last year, batters had to hit balls over the red “Modell’s” advertisement to get a home run — but balls never went there because they’d smack the overhang of the “Pepsi Porch.” Anyway, as you can see, there’s netting that covers the party area down below, but in case you missed it, take another look at the photo above and pay close attention to the space directly behind the orange padding atop the wall. There’s a narrow gap where baseballs can drop down, and wouldn’t you know it? An hour and a half later, Mets rookie outfielder Kirk Nieuwenhuis blasted his first major leaguer home run to right field, and that’s exactly where the ball ended up. It hit the “Modell’s” ad and shot straight down the netting and plunked down into that teeny space.

I sat in the normal left field seats for the first few innings. The highlight was getting asked for my autograph by this young fan:

His name is Jason, and he’s been leaving lots of comments on this blog as “skim.” He had snagged one ball during BP — and he was the one who’d gotten the string snipped off his glove.

In the 3rd inning, a friend of mine (who shall remain nameless) with a ticket for the party deck had to leave (in order to get home to his family), so he did his best to hook me up. In addition to giving me his ticket, he tore off his wristband and helped me wedge it under the velcro strap on my jacket so that it was secure and partially visible. And then I made my move. I didn’t go down to the party deck for the free food. In fact, by the time I made it down there, the food was no longer being served. I simply wanted to be there so I could take a few photos and be in a good spot to catch a home run. Is that so bad? Well, less than a minute after I got there, an usher said, “Excuse me, can I see your wristband?” Evidently, he had recognized me from earlier in the day (when I was roaming in the normal seats up above), and when he tugged on my sleeve, everything fell apart. He started ranting about how the tickets were non-transferable, and he told me to wait while he got security. Normally, I wouldn’t have waited. I would’ve taken off ASAP, but hell, I was THERE and still wanted to take photos because I didn’t know if I’d ever be back. This was the view to my left . . .

. . . and this was the view to my right:

OH MY GOD!!! I WANT TO BE THERE EVERY GAME!!!

Less than a minute later, the usher returned with a “security” guard who was a decade younger than me. He looked like a party deck ticket rep (or “event coordinator”) who’d just been hired, and he was like, “Uh, yeah, these tickets are non-transferable,” and that was the end of it. I didn’t feel like arguing. It wouldn’t have done any good. I just wanted to get as far away from the outfield as possible, so I headed over to see some friends behind the 3rd base dugout. That seemed like a good plan. I knew that the Mets were using commemorative baseballs to honor their 50th season, and dammit, I wanted one.

Inning after inning passed without any luck. I was sitting near the home-plate end of the Nationals’ dugout, so I needed the catcher to end up with the ball. That said, it didn’t help that Tom “Topping out at 87” Gorzelanny was pitching because everyone on the Mets kept putting the balls in play. But in the bottom of the 8th, when Henry Rodriguez and his 97-mph heat entered the game, I knew I was in business. Scott Hairston went down swinging to end the frame, and Nats catcher Jesus Flores hooked me up with this:

Here’s a closer look at it . . .

. . . and if you want an even closer look, click here. Snagging that ball was a glorious end to an otherwise frustrating day.

Lots of people have asked me what my goals/plans are for this season, and now I know. I simply want to snag all the commemorative balls. Baseballs from the Home Run Derby, All-Star Game, and World Series would be nice, but I’m not talking about those. I want to snag the ones that are unique to this season. You know what I mean? This year’s All-Star Ball, for example, will have a unique logo, but my point is . . . there’s an All-Star ball every year. There’s not, however, a Mets 50th anniversary ball every year. In addition to the Mets, the Orioles are using one for their 20th season at Camden Yards, the Dodgers are using one for their 50th season at Dodger Stadium, the Astros have one for their 50th anniversary, the Red Sox have one for the 100th season at Fenway Park, and the Marlins have one for their new stadium. I don’t care about snagging 1,000 balls or visiting all 30 stadiums in 2012. Been there. Done that. My mission is to snag commemorative balls — and to have a life away from baseball. Gotta keep things in perspective.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 3 balls at this game (2 pictured here because I gave 1 away)

• 26 balls in 3 games this season = 8.67 balls per game.

• 795 consecutive games with at least one ball

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

• 385 consecutive Mets home games with at least one ball

• 47 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least two balls

• 5,845 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 about my fundraiser, and click here to see the prizes that I’ll be giving away to donors.)

• 12 donors

• 79 cents pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $2.37 raised at this game

• $20.54 raised this season

• $19,177.54 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

39 comments

  1. Cartoon Bird

    Man, too bad about those changes! Just get back down to Camden. They made the right changes down there. You’ll love what they’ve done to the rightfield flag court.

  2. Skim

    It was very nice meeting you and not so nice that security had to take away my string. After the five minutes it took to untie the string from my “glove trick glove”, I said to the guard, “Enjoy, happy birthday.” I was tempted to say “go hang someone with it” but I decided against it. It doesn’t really matter because I’m not bringing the glove trick back to Citi Field unless they make “fishing” (as the guard referred to it as; “There’s no fishing in the gaps”) allowed there. I honestly think I would’ve gotten at least one toss-up from a Nationals player if I had a Nationals hat. With the new party deck, left field is going to be very difficult, so I’ll have to rethink my Citi Field strategy. Once again, nice meeting you and hope to see you again at Citi Field, assuming you want to revisit that garbage excuse for a stadium.

  3. mlblogssnaggingautographsandbaseballs

    Just like I said Zack, the new walls suck. It’s amazing how the mets can literally get nothing right. The only thing they’ve gotten right so far this year is the 50th anniversary commemorative. Unlike the one for the inaugural season at citi, its beautiful and appropriate.

    -Will

  4. paaoool123

    Are you going to go to Miami for a commemorative ball or wait for them to come to you? Their new ball park looks great.

  5. Clifford

    Sorry the Citi Field Nazis were jerks to you (again), Zack. I’m a Met fan from the womb to the tomb, but I vow to never go to Citi Field again until there are mjor management changes there. They treat there diehards like sh*t and then they wonder why nobody shows up smh.

  6. chrysleraspen08

    Your goal next season should be to get a baseball from every player that has not given you one yet, or try to get a ball from every player on an entire teams roster.

  7. Donny in Houston

    New year, new goal. Sounds like a plan. Citi Field and the new Yankee Stadium are on my short list of away ballparks this year. I’ll be in NYC at the end of June through Independence Day so hopefully I’ll have a chance to get one of the Mets commemoratives, but seeing what a pain in the butt that stadium is, I’m not holding my breath.

    -Donny

  8. Cook & Son Bats

    Nothing like a massive retrofit to a three year old stadium to undo terrible planning. Kudos, gents! As for that commem baseball, however, the Mets (or Rawlings or whoever) deserve some real kudos for that. I think it is the best looking of the bunch this season. I definitely need to get my hands on 1-3 of those…maybe this weekend…hmmm…

  9. nybisons

    That sucks about the wall. I’m hoping to get a Mets commerative ball when I go to 2 games in July. I’m happy that Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his first MLB HR. I love watching him play in Buffalo.
    -Quinn

  10. Mark McConville

    I was at Citi saturday and let me tell you, it was horrible. I got there an hour before the gates opened and was one of the first in line at the gates, when they let the season ticket holders in i walked in with them even though i had a regular ticket and they didnt say anything. I had the entire left field seats to myself for the first half hour. sounds good dso far right? well no Met hit one into the seats the entire time, and no one threw anything into the stands. I had one chance at getting a ball when the braves started hitting, i ran 3 sections over and the ball landed ten feet from me, in my row and then bounced away from me right to a women who picked it up. Then it got crowded and almost every toss up went into the party deck. I was decked out in red braves gear, and asking for balls politely and got ignored by everyone including Livan Hernandez who is usually good with throwin balls to fans. During the game there were no home run chances cuz they either landed in the bullpen, the gap in right center or bounced back on the field. Very frustrating day and i know Citi is gonna be alot more of pain this year then it was last year

  11. Lisankie

    Nice entry. At opening day in Baltimore this year I got one of the commemorative balls from the pitchers warming up.

  12. Section 36

    If you’re going to move fences in just so people hit more home runs, they should at least make it look like they’re not just moving the fences in so people hit more home runs. That just looks pathetic.

  13. kslo69

    Wayne, It’s a common problem now. Chavez Ravine was one of the last places you could still see a game w/o taking a second mortgage (latin; deathgrip), but I’m sure that will change with the $2B pricetag.

  14. Mateo Fischer

    Is it just me, or has Citi Field gotten worse each year it’s been in existence? I actually bought a 6 game ticket package, which was 50% above the advertised price, thinking Citi Field would compete with Nationals Park in terms of snagging appeal. Now all I can say is: “Dear Nationals,
    Please don’t call up Bryce Harper or enjoy even mild success until, oh I don’t know, 2015?”
    -Mateo
    http://mateofischer.mlblogs.com

  15. Big Glove Bob

    Zack,

    The goal seems cool. I am thinking about traveling to Miller to see the Astros play the Brewers in a couple of weeks. Only thing is I have 5
    games coming up in KC and it says that the Astros are using the commemoratives at home. So, it would be a long shot and I don’t know if it is worth the 10 hour round trip. Citi Field looks awful from a snagging standpoint.
    Big Glove Bob

  16. connor

    I can understand them telling someone not to “fish”, but cutting the string? That’s just cruel. I have to say (not meaning to brag or anything) but the stadium people here in SF are simply more humane (I think that’s probably the word for it) and the NY teams could probably take a hint from them (Giants sold out every game last year). Time for the Mets to realize that they’re nothing without the fans.

  17. connor

    Oh, and if you’re going to a Dodger game, you should stop up here (8 hour drive/1 hour flight) and do another Coliseum/AT&T park double header!

  18. Skim

    connor- I agree. If they’re going to have a gap that’s empty, the least they can do is allow retrieving devices. Plus, I didn’t know that the rules said no fishing, so I sent an email to the Mets yesterday asking where it says that.

  19. randy kiser

    picked up four tickets last night for the braves vs dbacks in june in atlanta. my wife worked her magic and got them for $6.00 each down first base line field level. any braves ball hawks on here

  20. Zack Hample

    EVERYONE-
    Wow! Thanks for all the comments. Really cool to see that so many people are enjoying the blog (and concerned about Citi Field).

    CHRIS H-
    How’d your day turn out?

    CARTOON BIRD-
    Wait, are you series? The flag court is different? Damn, gotta tune into the Yanks/O’s game tonight and see what’s up.

    SKIM-
    Nice meeting you too. Sorry you had such a rough time.

    WAYNE-
    I’m tempted to move out to Seattle and hang out with you at Safeco.

    BEN WEIL-
    I’d love to take some trips with you, but I don’t think I can do it this season. I’m afraid that I’m pretty much stuck in New York.

    WILL-
    I would argue otherwise. The new commemorative ball lacks the years. It should say “1962-2012.” Then it would be perfect. I mean, the Yankees had no problem squeezing in the years on their 100th anniversary ball:

    PAAOOOL123-
    I’m going to Miami next month. Perhaps I’ll snag one of those commemorative balls beforehand?

    CLIFFORD-
    That’s pretty harsh, but you’re certainly not alone in feeling that way.

    CHRYSLERASPEN08-
    That sounds like more of a hassle than it’s worth.

    DONNY-
    Just get one from the Mets when they go to Houston. That sounds much easier.

    COOK & SON BATS-
    I wish you great success in your commemorative effort.

    QUINN-
    It’s a great feeling to watch a guy when he’s young and unknown . . . and then see him succeed at the major league level.

    MARK MCCONVILLE-
    That sounds horrendous.

    NICHOLAS BADDERS-
    I love it.

    LISANKE-
    Nicely done.

    PSU532-
    Cool. And no. I hadn’t heard about them. Livin’ the dream . . .

    SECTION 36-
    I assume you’re referring to the gap in right-center? I actually like how the new party deck looks. I think the design is beautiful. I just don’t like how it’s being run.

    MATEO-
    It’s not just you. 2009 and 2010 were pretty much the same, but of course in 2009 there were commemoraitive balls to be snagged, so yes, it really has gotten worse every year. Maybe the gates will open 90 minutes early in 2013?

    BIG GLOVE BOB-
    Aww, hell, just go. If you have the time and money (and no one in your family is putting negative energy on your hobby), there’s no reason NOT to attend baseball games.

    MATT-
    You are correct. I’m avoiding seeing all the logos until I actually snag the baseballs themselves. That makes it much more exciting.

    CONNOR-
    The Giants know how to treat their fans. That whole city is exquisite. You have no idea how much I’d love to make it back (especially to Oakland), but there’s virtually no chance that it’ll happen this season.

    ETHAN-
    Yes, indeed.

    DOUBLE T-
    Haha, nice!

    RANDY KISER-
    Enjoy. Wish I could be there with you.

  21. Double T

    Thought you might get a kick out of that-
    Has anyone been to the Negro Baseball Hall of Fame in Kansas City?
    Is it worth it?

  22. kslo69

    Hey Zack, can I bug you with a rulings question? If so, about Rule #7.08 (a), “Any runner is out when he runs more than three feet away from his baseline to avoid being tagged unless his action is to avoid interference with a fielder fielding a batted ball. A runner’s baseline is established when the tag attempt occurs and is a straight line from the runner to the base he is attempting to reach safely.” Regarding the first sentence, I assume that would also include the runner avoiding interference with a catcher trying to corral a passed ball. Do you agree with this? And then regarding the second sentence, it seems to state that until a defender has gained control of the baseball and is ready to attempt a tag, no basepaths exist as far as penalties are concerned. Do you agree with that statement? Thanks for your input. On a different note, did you see Rays @ Tigers yesterday? One of the best April games I’ve seen. Sheer Epicosity!

  23. gedmaniac

    ” the Red Sox have one for the 100th season at Fenway Park”

    Ahhh, but last year was the 100th season, my good man…. (sorry, I couldn’t help it)

    -Jere80

  24. Zack Hample

    DOUBLE T-
    Never been there.

    KSLO69-
    With a passed ball, there wouldn’t be a tag . . . unless the runner was on 3rd, and the catcher was chasing the ball down the 3rd base line. Right? But yeah, I guess the rule would apply in that case. I’m really not sure, though. I do consider myself an expert, but I don’t know EVERYthing. As for controling the baseball, I never thought of that, but it does make sense. Meanwhile, I didn’t see the Rays and Tigers, but I heard about it.

    JERE80-
    Oh jeez. You’re right. I’ll correct it. Soon. Ish.

  25. kslo69

    Thanks Zack. that was exactly the situation i was talking about. my son had a scrimmage the other day and the opposing coach called 2 of our runners out because they avoided stepping on the back of the catcher as he was sprawled across the 3rd baseline! from now on I’ll keep my rulebook in my backpack, right next to my copy of “Watching”.

  26. JonMadden

    A slow first day back on the job. Too bad. I snagged 5 on my first game (big deal for me). I hope the rest of your season goes better :)

  27. Zack Hample

    KSLO69-
    Yikes! You’re welcome.

    JON MADDEN-
    Given the fact that I’m pretty much gonna be limited to Citi Field and Yankee Stadium this season, I don’t expect things to improve a whole lot.

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