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?
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:
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.
• 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
(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