I’d been looking forward to this game for several days because my first ball of the day was going to mark the 900th consecutive game at which I’d snagged one — a streak dating back to September 10, 1993.
When the stadium opened at 5:10pm, I headed to the left field seats with a clear vision of how I wanted things to play out:
1) Snag a baseball.
2) Get someone to take a photo of me with it.
3) Label it and stick it in a special compartment in my backpack.
Simple enough, right? Well, after several minutes had passed, my friend Mateo (who just returned from his freshman year of college in Minnesota) got Mets coach Tom Goodwin to throw him a ball. Unfortunately for him, it sailed a bit too high and barely eluded his glove. I didn’t bother going for it at first because Mateo was standing one full section to my right, but when I realized that he had no idea where the ball was, I ran over and grabbed it. (Sorry, Mateo, but you would’ve done the same thing to me, right? And I wouldn’t have blamed you.) At the very instant that I got that ball, I heard another one slam into the seats near me. First I flinched. Then I saw it rattling around in my row five feet away. Then I grabbed it. Five seconds later, it occurred to me that I had no idea which ball was which. D’oh!! I’m pretty sure that the second ball was a Justin Turner homer, and I’m positive that if I’d seen it coming, I would’ve caught it on the fly. I felt kinda bummed about the haphazard, semi-botched milestone, but what I could I do? I photographed the two baseballs . . .
. . . and got on with my day.
The worst thing about BP (aside from the fact that this was Citi Field) was the steady flow of fans getting wristbanded on the way to the Party Deck:
Sure, I could’ve moved to a different staircase, but (a) there were other ballhawks on my right and (b) hitters rarely reach the seats on my left.
My 3rd ball was another toss-up from Goodwin. (He hadn’t seen me get the first one.) My 4th ball was a homer by a right-handed batter on the Mets that I caught on the fly in the front row. (I gave it to man standing next to me, who handed it to his very thankful daughter.) My 5th ball was a home run by a left-handed batter on the Reds that I caught on the fly in the 3rd row. (My friend Mark was in the 2nd row and got a bit tangled up and couldn’t quite reach it.)
I should’ve caught another homer late in BP, but *barely* misjudged it. Basically, as the ball reached its apex, I drifted down the steps and hurriedly picked a spot because there were several other fans closing in from various directions. The ball ended up drifting about a foot farther than I’d predicted, and when I jumped and reached for it, it tipped off the end of my glove. That really pissed me off — and that was it for BP. Meh.
A little while later, I caught up with a young fan named Zach, who’d brought his copy of Watching Baseball Smarter for me to sign. Here we are with it:
Zach and I have crossed paths at a bunch of Mets games over the last few years. Despite usually showing up late for BP, he usually finds a way to snag a ball or two, and this game was no exception. He made a nice grab on a home run (hit by Brandon Phillips, I think) that was rattling around the left-center field seats.
I also caught up with a guy named Jon, who’s an expert autograph collector and has been reading this blog for years. He’d gotten Votto and several other guys outside the team hotel earlier in the day, and he got a few more signatures behind the Reds’ dugout.
Here’s a photo that shows where I sat for the 1st inning — directly behind a guy wearing the best jersey I’ve seen all year:
In the second inning, I moved one section to my left, and in the 3rd inning, Mark caught a Marlon Byrd homer two sections to my right. It was a nice play, mainly because he’d been half-paying attention when the ball was hit and had to scramble to get ready for it, but even he would admit that it was lucky. He was sitting on the end of a row, and Byrd drilled a line drive RIGHT at him. I tweeted a congratulatory message and hoped I’d get some home run action of my own, but it wasn’t meant to be.
During the middle innings, I gave one of my BP balls to a little kid sitting behind me.
After the game, which the Reds won, 4-3, I gave away another ball at the dugout and then got one tossed to me by Reds coach Billy Hatcher. Look how beat-up and gorgeous it is:
Then I caught up with Mateo and another ballhawk named Aaron (aka “Howie”). The three of us posed with Mark and his home run ball:
Aaron initially posed with the ball that he’d gotten, but I was like, “Nope, gotta put it away. None of us are showing our baseballs. It’s all about Mark.”
Mateo ended up with three. A few other guys each managed to get one or two.
• 218 balls in 28 games this season = 7.79 balls per game.
• 900 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 14 stadiums this season with a game-used ball: Citi Field, Fenway Park, Yankee Stadium, Angel Stadium, PETCO Park, AT&T Park, Safeco Field, Kauffman Stadium, Rangers Ballpark, Minute Maid Park, Great American Ball Park, Progressive Field, PNC Park, and Camden Yards
• 6,677 total balls
(For every stadium this season at which I snag a game-used ball, BIGS Sunflower Seeds will donate $500 to Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. In addition to that, I’m doing my own fundraiser again this season for Pitch In For Baseball.)
• 26 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.63 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $9.78 raised at this game
• $354.34 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $7,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $28,760.34 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, one of the balls that I kept has an invisible ink stamp. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light: