When the gates opened at 5:10pm, I ran like hell to the right field seats and got Ronny Cedeno to throw me my 1st ball of the day.
Less than a minute later, Frank Francisco and Ramon Ramirez walked by. I was hoping they wouldn’t notice me — Francisco knows me and refuses to give me baseballs — but of course they happened to look right at me, and there was nowhere to hide. All I could do was give them each a subtle nod and hope that they’d leave me alone.
Ramirez fielded a ball soon after, and I didn’t bother asking for it. I mean, there was no WAY that he was gonna give it to me, so I just stood there and kept my mouth shut. Well, wouldn’t you know it . . . he turned around and looked at me, but I still didn’t say anything. I just shrugged. And then he threw it to me. So weird. Here’s the ball:
In the photo above, Ramirez is standing on the warning track with his right arm cocked back.
I should mention that as soon as I caught the ball that he threw me, I asked him if he wanted to play catch. He didn’t say anything, so I shouted, “C’mon, I wanna show you my knuckleball!” Francisco responded by flapping his glove at me, so I fired a decent knuckler to him. He then turned away as if he were going to throw the ball back to the bucket, which gave me a sinking feeling in my gut. What was I thinking?! Throwing back a commemorative baseball?! And to Frank Francisco of all people?! Thankfully, though, he was only messing around tossed it back to me.
Just as I was cutting through the seats toward right-center, a left-handed batter hooked a line-drive into the seats, right where I’d been standing in the fifth row. I was convinced that the ball was going to bounce back onto the field — and it nearly did. Instead, it ricocheted down into the front row, and since I was still the only fan in the section, I had time to take this photo before I grabbed it:
Then I ran to the left field seats — and here, let me actually show you what that route looks like . . .
I started by running across the “Shea Bridge” in deep right-center:
Then I headed behind the batter’s eye and passed through this concession area . . .
. . . before approaching the left field concourse:
In the photo above, in order to get down into the seats, I turn left between the blue garbage can and the escalator.
As far as right-field-to-left-field routes go, this one actually isn’t bad. Kauffman Stadium is the best because there’s a walkway directly behind the batter’s eye. Camden Yards, which I love in absolutely every other way, is tough because the path isn’t direct and leads through a picnic area, which is sometimes blocked off, which makes it a real pain in the ass, but I digress. Here’s where I ended up . . .
. . . and soon after the Phillies started hitting, I caught a Hunter Pence homer on the fly.
Chad Qualls threw me my 5th ball of the day. Lots of other fans had been shouting at him (including several kids down below on the Party Deck), but he made a point of walking closer and pointing right at me. As he let the ball fly, he said (loud enough for the entire section to hear), “You’re the only one who said please!”
Halfway through the Phillies’ portion of BP, there was an entire group of left-handed batters, so I headed back to right field. Wanna guess how many balls I got?
If you said “none,” step right up and claim your prize — and now let me show you why. This was my view of the field straight ahead:
Not terrible, right? But not great either. I’d always rather be positioned straight-away or in the gaps than down the lines, but here’s why I had to choose that spot (and why it’s so lame). This was the view to my left . . .
. . . and this was the view to my right:
There’s absolutely nowhere to go at Citi Field if you want to catch a home run by a left-handed batter. In the photo above, did you notice the overhang of the second deck? You can see it just above the Budweiser ad. The second deck prevents most home runs from reaching the seats on the lower level.
After BP, I got my 6th ball of the day at the 3rd base dugout from Phillies coach Mick Billmeyer.
Before the game started, I headed out here . . .
. . . and left the section one ball lighter. Not only didn’t I get anything tossed up by the players, but as I was heading up the steps, I saw an adorable little boy who was sitting with his mother. He was wearing a glove, so I pulled out the cleanest ball I had and handed it to him. They were both thrilled and stunned.
Then I headed here . . .
. . . and once again left the section with a slightly lighter backpack. This time I gave a ball to a security guard to give to the kid of his choice. (That’s a double-whammy giveaway; it makes the guard happy *and* it makes a kid happy.)
This was my view for the first seven innings of the game:
Lately I’ve been spending most of my time in the outfield, but because of the timing of my upcoming 6,000th ball, I wanted to pad my numbers. I figured that sitting beside the dugout and shouting for 3rd-out balls was a good way to make it happen, but during the first half of the game, the only thing I snagged was this:
After the 7th inning, when the Phillies were jogging off the field, I got first baseman Ty Wigginton to throw me ball. Unfortunately he’d pulled a switcheroo and tossed me the clean, non-commemorative infield warmup ball, but hey, I was glad to be slightly closer to my milestone.
Half an inning later, this happened:
There was an announcement which mentioned something about hail and 60mph wind gusts, but I wasn’t paying much attention, and none of that stuff happened. Instead, it just rained a whole lot, and when the game resumed after a 64-minute delay, the stadium was as empty as I’d ever seen it. Here’s a photo that I took during the bottom of the 8th inning . . .
. . . and here’s another shot that shows the left field seats:
The Mets were winning, 6-3, at that point, and it was a weeknight, and there were only six outs remaining when the grounds crew rushed to cover the field with the tarp, and the crowd had been kinda lame in the first place, so yeah, Citi Field ended up looking deserted. It was incredible. Everyone was allowed to enter the 100-level seats (that’s how it is just about everywhere else ALL the time), and everything was super-laid-back. I didn’t get any foul balls out of it, but still had a great time.
I forgot to mention that just before play resumed, I got Placido Polanco to throw me his warm-up ball near the dugout, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the nearest kid.
After the final out of the Mets’ 6-3 victory, I got my 9th ball of the day from home plate umpire Mark Carlson. Two minutes later, when the Phillies relievers walked in from the bullpen, I got another from Jose Contreras.
• 161 balls in 21 games this season = 7.67 balls per game.
• 813 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 338 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 4 consecutive games games with 10 or more balls
• 5,980 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.)
• 30 donors
• $1.72 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $17.20 raised at this game
• $276.92 raised this season
• $19,433.92 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Wait, there’s more! Of the seven balls that I kept, three have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light: