8/24/12 at Citi Field

When the stadium opened at 5:10pm, I headed straight for the 2nd deck in right field. I thought there’d be some action up there with left-handed batters like Ike Davis, Daniel Murphy, Mike Baxter, and Jordany Valdespin. Hell, maybe even Josh Thole or the switch-hitting Andres Torres would surprise me and crank one in my direction? Yeah, well, by the time I made it upstairs, I realized that most of the batters were right-handed. My strategy had completely backfired, but while I was there, I saw a ball land in the gap in right-center field. You can’t really see it in the following photo . . .

. . . so here’s a closer look:

Even though the glove trick is prohibited at Citi Field, I still considered going for it. If I got ejected, or if my glove got confiscated, so be it. I was frustrated beyond words at the lack of ballhawking opportunities, so I wanted to make something happen. Well, just as I was setting up the rubber band and Sharpie, I convinced Dave Racaniello, the team’s bullpen catcher, to throw me a ball. Wanna guess where it ended up? That’s right: in the gap. Wanna guess what Racaniello did? That’s right: he walked into the gap, tossed me one of the balls, and kept the other. Here’s a photo (taken by my friend Mateo) that shows me in the seats after I got the ball; Racaniello is walking away from me inside the gap:

That was the end of BP.

It was only 5:18pm.

There was absolutely nothing to do for the next 20 minutes except stand here in the shade and stare longingly at the field:

The Astros finally came out and started playing catch . . .

. . . but the only thing I got in foul territory was Justin Maxwell’s autograph on my ticket:

The action didn’t pick up until the second group of Astros hitters. I was in straight-away left field at that point, and I ended up catching three home runs on the fly. I had to jump for two of them because the balls carried several feet farther than I’d anticipated.

Take a look at the following photo:

See the two players in left field? Dallas Keuchel, the player on the left, threw me my 5th ball of the day, and as soon as I caught it, I handed it to the kid on the left (wearing the black and yellow cap). Several minutes earlier, I had given one of my home runs balls to the kid on the right (wearing the solid blue t-shirt).

Of the three balls that were still in my possession, two had different types of “practice” stamps. Check it out:

My 6th ball of the day was the most satisfying. The national anthem had been performed, the Mets were about to take the field, and I was heading up the steps toward the concourse, roughly 20 rows back on the 3rd base side. At the time, I was still wearing my Astros gear, so some random fan stopped me and asked how long it takes to get from the airport in Houston to the stadium. I could’ve simply told him that I didn’t know, or I could’ve made something up (“twenty-five minutes without traffic”), but instead, I decided to give him a semi-detailed explanation of why I was wearing Astros gear. Ten or twenty seconds later, I abruptly excused myself and bolted back down the steps. Why? Because Jordan Lyles, the Astros’ starting pitcher, was walking across the field from the bullpen (with his catcher and bullpen coach), and I noticed that he had a ball in his glove. I had to cut across two sections and then race down the remaining steps. Before I made it to the front row, Lyles approached the dugout and scanned the crowd for a worthy recipient. He spotted some fans down in front, and then he noticed me and lobbed the ball in my direction. I was roughly six rows back at the time, and the ball barely cleared the right hand of a gloveless man directly in front of me who jumped and reached for it. When I headed back up the steps, the guy who’d asked me about the airport was stunned. He’d seen the whole thing play out and said, “How did you DO that?!” I just shrugged and disappeared into the concourse.

Now, as I’d been mentioning all week, David Wright was STILL sitting on 199 career home runs, so I found my way into the left field seats and picked the spot that gave me the most room to run. When he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the 1st inning, this was the view to my right . . .

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

Obviously I wasn’t happy about sitting next to that railing, but man, let me tell you, if he’d hit that baseball anywhere near me, I would’ve run right THROUGH it.

I never got the chance.

In the bottom of the 4th, Wright sent a deep fly ball down the right field line — but not THAT deep. Distance to the right field wall: 330 feet. Estimated distance of Wright’s fly ball: 338 feet. It wasn’t just a “wall-scraper.” It was also a pole-scraper. The umps initially ruled it a home run, then reviewed it on instant replay . . . and the call stood. If that ball had traveled a few inches less, it would’ve hit the top of the wall, and if it had sailed an inch or two to the right, it would’ve gone foul. Check out the following chart (courtesy of ESPN Home Run Tracker) that shows the path and landing spot of the home run:

In the image above, the blue dot represents the spot where it entered the stands, and the green dot indicates how far it would’ve traveled if hadn’t hit anything at all.

Unbelievable. And as if to add to my frustration, when the ball bounced back onto the field, the clueless Astros’ right fielder tossed it BACK into the stands in foul territory. I would’ve torn my hair out if I had any, and to make matters even worse, there was a group of middle-aged men sitting directly behind me who recognized me and made fun of me for not catching it. I moved to foul territory after that and watched the rest of the game from a spot near the 3rd base dugout.

After the game, which the Mets lost, 3-1, I got a ball from home plate umpire Brian O’Nora. Five minutes later, I photographed that ball from the back of the section as the field was being set up for a merengue concert:

This was the last time that I was gonna see Mateo for a while. He was getting ready to leave for college in Minnesota, so I made sure to get a photo with him — along with another friend named Greg who was there too. Here we are in the Brooklyn Dodgers shrine:

Mateo, I’m going to miss you. Have fun, kick some ass at Target Field, and keep in touch.


• 7 balls at this game (five pictured here because I gave two away)

• 470 balls in 59 games this season = 7.97 balls per game.

• 851 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 376 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 6,289 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.)

• 43 donors

• $2.36 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $16.52 raised at this game

• $1,109.20 raised this season

• $20,266.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009

Of the five balls that I kept, only one has an invisible ink stamp — but it’s a beauty. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light:

I think my black light flashlight needs new batteries. Oh, and one more thing: in case you’re wondering, the Astros didn’t have ANY commemorative balls with them, and evidently they’ve stopped bringing them on the road. Greg spent half the game near the Astros’ bullpen in right-center field and talked about it with Javier Bracamonte.


  1. Kyle o

    Hey Zack I was at the Yankees v tribe game yesterday it was packed with Yankee fans just like u said. But there was only 10 people in the bleachers and I was one of them!! So I got 2 tossups from Ichiro, a homer from Texirea (my first caught on the fly) . Then bp ended and tony sipp tossed me a ball on his way to the bullpen. Then I got a foul ball from the yanks first base coach. Then 2 balls from the Indians bullpen…

    Kyle, 11year old

  2. Joe

    Last night at the Phillies/Nats game at CBP, one of the homers that I caught on the fly, hit by a Nats RH in the final BP group, was a Shea Stadium commemorative ball from 2008. Pleasant surprise. Glad the Nationals have upgraded from the cheap plastic training balls they used to use.

  3. Skim

    I just read your entry from Lelacheur Park, and I have a couple of comments:

    1. It is extremely easy to snag balls at minor league games. I go to Long Island Ducks games occasionally (part of the Atlantic League). The only 2 foul balls in my collection of 100 have come from there.

    2. Going for balls before the game while the players are throwing on the visitors side is embarrassingly easy. I went to a Brooklyn Cyclones game and I ended up with 12 balls, including 5 from pre-game tossing, and 10 NY-Penn League balls. Nobody else was going for balls.

    3. The gates at the Brooklyn Cyclones game open an hour and a half early, so it’s possible to catch the tail end of the visiting team taking batting practice. They ended at around 5:45 at the game I went to.

    4. It helps to wear the hat of the major league team of the organization at NY-Penn League games.

    5. The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball is in it’s 15th year, and they are using cool commemorative baseballs during the games. They sometimes use them during pre game throwing also, but your best bet is a gamer. You should definitely go to an Atlantic League game. The closest to New York City would probably be the Bridgeport Bluefish, which is right off exit 27 on I-95. It’s extremely easy to get to. That being said, if you do attend one of their games, be sure to wear a neutral baseball shirt. Good luck.

  4. Al

    I would bet snagging inside minor league balls is easy. As I mentioned in another entry I passed 1,000 this season and I don’t even go to the games. I just go during bp outside the stadium and collect all those balls. Theres no fan section it’s just all outside the park. I’ve had very little competition and the past few games I’ve been completely alone. Being alone I grab atleast 25 a day

  5. Mike

    Oh, and for Mateo, good luck in school. I’ve never met you, but I really enjoyed the interchange between you and I before the helicopter stunt part one. You brought a lot of good critical thinking to the discussion, and I was hoping you could have played a more active part. I would like to meet you someday.

  6. Big Glove Bob

    Zack, Where is Mateo going to school up here? If he is interested in booze, drugs, and whores I can give him all the tips he needs. My best advice to him is two fold. First, studying is WAY overrated and school is an afterthought and a pain in the ass. Second, when purchasing “favors” on University Avenue don’t forget to factor your insurance co-pay into the final price.

    Big Glove Bob

  7. Zack Hample

    If I were the commissioner, I’m make it mandatory for teams to use their commemorative balls at all times during BP.

    I’m a milestone repellant, so yeah, I can believe it.

    Very impressive. Congrats.

    Very cool. I’ve been hearing stories of these old commemoratives, but have yet to snag one THIS season. I got all the ’08 balls when they came out.

    Thanks for the tips, but I’m really only interested in major league baseball.

    25 per day is insane.

    Please do say hi to Guthrie for me if you get a chance. Also . . . I know I owe you a phone call. Maybe I’ll give you a ring from Yankee Stadium in about 16 hours.

    You’re such a wonderful role model. I predict that Mateo will answer all these comments soon . . .

  8. Big Glove Bob

    Zack- Hey, I do what I can to help the youth in any way I can. A couple a quotes I used in college may help Mateo out. 1. “Put out or get out”. 2. “Didn’t your parents teach you it isn’t polite to talk with your mouth full?”

  9. Mateo Fischer

    CHRIS- Thanks, I too will miss running into you and all of the other New York ballhawks for at least the school year; despite the competition it brings.
    MIKE- Thank you. It was fun treading in waters I never really, nor will I probably again. I wish I could attend the try for 1,000ft, but I wish you two the best of luck in it.
    BIG GLOVE BOB- I’ll be a Golden Gopher. I wanted a football program that was better than Macallester :)
    ZACK- Thank you for the nice send-off. I don’t know when my next game in New York will be due to the reasons I discussed with you and Greg, so even a Saturday game that evidently *did* have batting practice might not have topped this.

  10. Zack Hample

    I’m glad you’re here to make sure that things don’t stay G-rated.

    Batting practice?! Did someone say batting practice?! By the way, it rained like hell today here in NYC from about 12:30 to 1:30pm, but now it’s sunny, so the Yanks and Jays just might hit.

  11. Skim

    Do you need a ticket for the right field seats during batting practice? How about during the game? Yankee Stadium, I mean. That magical staircase seems to be getting a lot of action.

  12. Big Glove Bob

    Mateo- I am glad you did not choose Macalester. They are home to the most despicable liberal fruitcake professors in the area. You would have paid a fortune and been forced to commune with Prius driving, free trade loving, vegan, carbon neutral nutjobs. The “U” is liberal like all colleges tend to be, but nothing like Macalester. As a life long Minnesotan, I count many U grads as friends. It is a HUGE campus and the class sizes for undergrads tend to enormous. You are basically a number and will largely be taught by TA’s. The party life is rampant. I remember (and don’t remember) going to many drunken bashes at the U in my college days. They have also had a few good riots there. I think you should like it.
    Big Glove Bob

  13. James Lee (@esigs)

    This Wednesday, I got 3 commemorative balls at Nationals Park during the Nats portion of BP, 1 was the 2008 Shea Stadium, and 2 were the 2008 Nationals Park. I also had my glove confiscated while trying to get a ball from the visitor’s bullpen, with no warning. The security guy came over and pulled my string and told me to let it go. Fortunately, I got it back quickly after I talked to the head of security. Had no idea they don’t allow ball retrieving devices and they don’t give any warnings.

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