Batting practice was great, but the rest of the day was better. Mets coach Tom Goodwin got things started by tossing me my first ball in left field, and several minutes later, I got Zack Wheeler to throw me another. I was pretty happy about that (mainly because he’s a fellow Zack) and took the following photo to capture the moment:
My next two balls were home run by Juan Lagares that I caught on the fly, and when the Braves took the field, I got two quick toss-ups from Jason Heyward and Luis Avilan.
That’s when THIS happened:
Doesn’t look like much, right? Yeah, well, have a closer look:
That was the result of running carelessly through an empty row and slamming into an armrest, and since you’re probably wondering . . . no, I didn’t get the ball.
My seventh ball was an Evan Gattis homer that barely cleared my glove and landed behind me in an empty row. My eighth ball was another homer (not sure who hit it) that landed in the seats, and ball No. 9 was a deep line drive by Reed Johnson that I caught on the fly.
The stands were fairly crowded at that point . . .
. . . and if you look closely, you can see my friend Ben Weil. In the photo above, he’s wearing the red jersey and tan shorts at the far end of my row.
My 10th ball was a Jason Heyward homer that landed several rows deep and ricocheted toward the back of the section. Ball No. 11 was a towering fly ball hit by Reed Johnson that I caught on the fly, and my final ball was a B.J. Upton homer that I caught after drifting 20 feet to my right and reaching above a gloveless middle-aged man. (In case you lost count, I snagged eight home run balls including five that I caught on the fly.)
I gave three of my balls away and met up with a friend who hooked me up with a ticket to the exclusive Hyundai Club:
This friend wants to remain anonymous, and no, it’s not the same person who bought me tickets to the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game. (There are lots of nice people out there who do lots of nice things for me; I’m always happy to name names and give credit, but some folks don’t want it.)
Here’s what it looked like inside the club . . .
. . . and to my delight, there was a whole lot of free food. Here’s some of it . . .
. . . and here’s the first plate that I got:
In the photo above, starting at the top and going clockwise, you’re looking at (a) turkey with gravy, (b) cranberry sauce, (c) some sort of beef-like substance, (d) pasta with tomato sauce, (e) fried sweet plantains, and (f) fish with avocado.
Overall, the food was good, but not great. The plantains, for example, were excellent, but the beef was rubbery and the fish was okay — the type of thing you’d order at a place that doesn’t specialize in fish and then wonder why you’d ordered it in the first place. But it was free! And I was starving. So I was happy. Getting anything for free from the Mets is cause for celebration.
This was the view from the club’s outdoor seating area . . .
. . . and as you can see below, there was a cross-aisle, which provided some room to chase foul balls:
Of course, there were none, and to make matters worse, Dan Uggla hit a home run *right* to the spot where I would’ve been sitting in left field. I could’ve predicted that because that’s the kind of luck I have. Sit in left field all season? No home runs. Sit behind the plate for ONE GAME to enjoy some free food? Bam! Home run.
But let’s not think about that. I’d rather talk about the food some more. (Based on some of the comments on my previous entry, it seems that you do too. To quote a reader named Liz, “How are we supposed to live our dream lives vicariously through you when there are no food pictures?” Well, Liz, it’s your lucky day.) Here’s a look at the grilling area . . .
. . . and here’s what I got:
That’s a bacon-wrapped hot dog, which would’ve been better had the bun not been stale. I also had a pulled pork sandwich and a small burger — those buns were soft and fresh — which I dressed up with some nearby condiments:
I grabbed a fist-sized portion of cotton candy . . .
. . . which was also stale. (It had been a while since I’d eaten cotton candy, but as far as I know, it’s not supposed to crunch when you bite into it.)
After that, I helped myself to a small portion of tortilla chips, cheese sauce, chili, and guacamole:
I also ate more plantains:
As for the game, the following photo says it all:
The Mets, as a whole, are not particularly exciting, but that didn’t matter to me. I entertained myself with dessert . . .
. . . followed by more dessert:
The muffins were bland, the mini-tarts were somewhere between forgettable and decent, and the oatmeal raisin cookie was very good.
While I was stuffing myself silly, Ben was lurking behind the Braves’ dugout. Here’s a photo of Jason Heyward tossing him a ball after the 7th inning:
That was Ben’s seventh of the day.
Unfortunately, the most memorable part of the game was Tim Hudson’s injury in the bottom of the 8th. Basically, he ran over to cover to 1st base, kept his foot on the bag a split-second too long, and had his ankle spiked/trampled by Eric Young Jr. It was so gruesome that the whole stadium (or at least the fans near the TVs) gasped when the slow-motion replay was shown. As the swarm of players, coaches, trainers, and umpires gathered around Hudson, I took lots and lots and lots of photos. Look what I happened to capture in one of them:
As you can (kinda) see, Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez had taken the ball from Hudson and flipped it to home plate umpire Chad Fairchild. Obviously, though, the situation was much more important than the ball. Here’s another photo that shows the activity on the field:
Young stayed near Hudson the entire time, and the two men shook hands before Hudson was carted off:
It was extremely touching to see that type of sportsmanship and camaraderie.
After a long delay, the cart drove off . . .
. . . and the game resumed. I learned later that Hudson suffered a fractured ankle and will not pitch again this year. Given his age (38) and the fact that he’ll be a free agent after this season, I wonder if he’ll ever pitch again in the major leagues.
I feel so bad for him and the Braves. Never mind the fact that he’s tossed me several baseballs over the years. I’ve always liked him as a player, and based on everything I’ve heard about him, he seems to be a really good guy.
That said, life/baseball goes on, huh?
With the Braves holding an 8-2 lead, I moved near the dugout in the bottom of the 9th . . .
. . . and got the lineup cards from Fredi Gonzalez after the final out:
That kind of makes up for the Uggla homer that I missed . . . but not really. If you want a closer look at the those lineup cards, click here.
On my way out of the stadium, I met up with my friend and returned the ticket. (That was part of the deal.) And then I headed home on the No. 7 train.
• 390 balls in 52 games this season = 7.5 balls per game.
• 635 balls at 82 lifetime games at Citi Field = 7.74 balls per game.
• 924 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 449 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 33 lifetime lineup cards (or pairs of lineup cards); click here to see my whole collection
• 22 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, Camden Yards, U.S. Cellular Field, Comerica Park, Rogers Centre, Miller Park, Busch Stadium, Wrigley Field, Target Field, and Nationals Park
• 6,849 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.)
• 30 donors for my fundraiser
• $1.88 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $22.56 raised at this game
• $733.08 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $11,000 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $33,139.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Wait, there’s more! Four of the nine balls that I kept have invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison in regular light versus black light:
On a final note, my next game will be at Marlins Park on Monday, July 29th. The following day, I’ll be at Tropicana Field, and after that, I’ll be hitting up Turner Field for two games on July 31st and August 1st. This trip will be part of my BIGS Baseball Adventure, speaking of which . . . the folks at BIGS are running a contest and giving out free t-shirts and sunflower seeds. To win, all you need to do is write a paragraph (or so) about your favorite ballhawking story. I’m not on Facebook, but evidently there’s more info there. Here’s the link.