Just another day at Citi Field . . .
. . . for a meaningless September game against the Pirates. And hey, look who showed up:
In the photo above, that’s Nick Pelescak on the left and his brother Bryan on the right. They’d made the trip from Pittsburgh, and if they look familiar, that’s because I hung out with them three years ago when (thanks to my friend Erik Jabs) I got to take batting practice at PNC Park.
My 1st ball of the day was a knuckler thrown by Mets pitcher Jeremy Hefner. Here’s the ball (with Hefner standing just to the right of it):
This was the only ball I snagged during the Mets’ portion of BP. Why? Because they finished hitting at 5:17pm — SEVEN minutes after the stadium had opened. Not cool.
My 2nd ball of the day *should* have been a toss-up in right field, but I suffered an epic fail, which, had it been caught on film, would’ve been played on the ballhawk blooper reel forever.
You probably want to know what happened, right? Well, let me start by saying that I knew it was going to be a tough snag because of the sun. Look how brutal my visibility was:
Despite the challenging conditions, I was hopeful when one of the Pirates turned and threw me a ball from more than 100 feet away. After a moment of staring RIGHT into the sun, I realized that the ball was heading five or ten feet to my left. Now, it just so happened that there was another fan standing five feet to the left of THAT spot, so in other words, the ball was thrown between us. With the gracefulness of a drunk hippopotamus, I shuffled hastily to the side and attempted to reach out for the ball at the last second. Unfortunately, though, I ran into a step which (for some reason) sticks up in the front row — and I went down. That’s when several things happened all at once:
1) I felt the ball hit my glove and thought I’d caught it.
2) I was temporarily blinded.
3) I tried to grab onto a railing to prevent myself from face-planting.
4) I bruised my right bicep on . . . something.
5) I half-fell on and half-toppled against the other fan.
6) I lost possession of the ball.
Although it wasn’t close to being my most painful moment as a ballhawk, it was easily the most clumsy. The other fan was fine — he weighed well over 200 pounds and shrugged it off — but I felt like a total dumb-ass. What can I say? These things happen, but as you’ll soon find out, I redeemed myself later on. And then some.
I spent the rest of BP in right-center field and, surprisingly, did pretty well out there. My 2nd ball of the day was thrown by a player that Nick identified for me as Jeff Locke. My 3rd ball was a Pedro Alvarez homer that landed half a dozen rows back. My 4th and 5th balls were thrown to me from center field. See the guy with the yellow sleeves in the following photo?
That’s where both of those balls were thrown from. I don’t know who hooked me up, but I can tell you that I gave the second one to a little kid who was standing near me in the front row.
My 6th and final ball of batting practice was a toss-up from A.J. Burnett that fell short and landed in the gap. I used my glove trick to reel it in.
After BP, I stayed in that section and got two more balls throw to me from the bullpen. The first (which I gave to a kid who was celebrating his 10th birthday) came from Pirates bullpen catcher Heberto Andrade, and the second (which I got half an hour later, when Wandy Rodriguez finished warming up with it) came from Pirates bullpen coach Euclides Rojas. That gave me eight balls for the day, but I was annoyed that I didn’t have ten. Not only had I flubbed the one when the sun got in my eyes, but there was a homer late in BP that I should’ve caught. I had to run 30 feet to my left and jump for it, and it tipped off the very end of my glove, so yeah, it was kind of challenging, but still, I know I could’ve jumped and reached a bit higher. And I wanted to smack myself.
Here’s where I sat for the first few innings of the game:
In the fourth inning, I went to get food and ran into a guy that I hadn’t seen in years. His name is Craig, and we used to ballhawk together at Yankee Stadium in the early to mid-90s. He had hundreds of balls back in the day . . . and then he suddenly quit . . . which is probably a good thing because . . . well, just look at him:
Craig was always tall, but Jesus Aitch, I’d forgotten HOW tall. When I asked him about it, he *claimed* to be 6-foot-5, but I don’t buy it. He looked more like 6-foot-7, and I know height when I see it. I mean . . . take another look at the photo of us. I’m 5-foot-11, and he’s not even standing straight up. His feet are spread far apart, and his head is titled down a bit.
When I returned to left field with my food, I moved one section over toward left-center and picked a spot in the 2nd row. Quite simply, it was a bit less crowded there.
In the bottom of the 7th, I witnessed some Mets history:
The jumbotron neglected to name the player that David Wright tied, so I’ll tell you: Ed Kranepool.
With two outs in the top of the 9th (and the tallest player in major league history on the mound), Garrett Jones jumped on the first pitch and drilled it deep to left-center. Here’s a screen shot from MLB.com that shows him connecting:
Did you notice the little white streak above the catcher’s mask? That’s the ball.
I knew immediately that it had home run distance, but I figured it was gonna be a wall-scraper, and because the ball was heading 20 feet to my left, I almost didn’t bother getting up and running for it.
Good thing I did.
Here’s where I was when I started moving to my left:
Suddenly it occurred to me that the ball had really been hit hard and that it might actually reach the first row of regular seats above the party deck . . . so I kept drifting to my left to get in line with it. Hell, it’s not like there was anything else for me to do.
As it turned out, the ball *did* reach the front row with several feet to spare, but I still didn’t think I was going to catch it. That’s because there was a man standing right in the spot where it was going to land. He didn’t have a glove, though, so I didn’t expect him to catch it. I thought he’d merely deflect it away from me.
Here’s a screen shot that shows him reaching up, and as you can kind of see, I’m standing just to his right and reaching to my left:
Somehow he completely missed the ball, and I caught it. Here I am holding it up:
As Garrett Jones circled the bases . . .
. . . it occurred to me that the highlight would be slightly more entertaining if I unzipped my jacket and showed my Pirates shirt. So I did. And the camera captured it:
I got a handshake from a nearby Mets fan . . .
. . . as Jones got a high-five from his 3rd base coach . . .
. . . and then I was all like, “Okay, yes, I caught another home run, thank you”:
Click here to watch the full video highlight.
Here’s a photo of the ball . . .
. . . and here I am with it:
Just kidding. Greg was totally jealous and called me something bad (that begins with “mother”) and wanted to kick my ass. Luckily for him, it was his birthday, so I let it slide.
After the final out of the Pirates’ 10-6 victory, I headed down to the dugout . . .
. . . and didn’t get another ball. And you know what? I was fine with that. This was going to be my last game of the season at Citi Field, and I liked the fact that my last ball was a game home run — and not just any home run, mind you, but Garrett Jones’ 85th career home run! Whoa-ho-ho!!
Remember the guy named Matt Latimer who interviewed me on 6/19/12 at Yankee Stadium? Well, I ran into him after the game. He wasn’t working. He was just there as a fan, and he was with his father, Barry. Here I am with them:
Home runs are funny. You can do everything right and not catch any for months, and then all of a sudden . . . it just happens. I spent the first half of the season bitching about my miserable luck with homers, so now it’s only fair for me to admit that I’ve been very lucky of late.
• 594 balls in 74 games this season = 8.03 balls per game.
• 866 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 391 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 22 lifetime game home run balls (plus five more that I don’t really count because they were thrown to me); click here for the complete list
• 6,413 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.)
• 45 donors
• $2.72 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $24.48 raised at this game
• $1,615.68 raised this season
• $20,772.68 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, of the seven balls that I kept, only one has an invisible ink stamp. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of it in regular light versus black light: