My first ball of the day was thrown by Mets center fielder Juan Lagares at the start of batting practice:
My second ball was tossed up from the party deck by a friendly employee:
(Yes, that counts because it was given to me by someone who was getting paid to be at the stadium. That has always been my personal rule.)
Then, with the Royals’ portion of BP underway, I used my glove trick to snag three balls from the gap in right-center field. I started with the ball closest to the stands . . .
. . . and then reeled in the two over here:
Moments later, two security guards appeared out of nowhere. One of them (who’s actually a super-nice guy) said, “Zack, you know you can’t be doing that.”
“Are you serious?” I replied. “Not even here in this little dead area?”
“They’re watching you and called us from upstairs. You can’t do it.”
“But I’ve seen lots of other people do the same thing over here lately and get away with it.”
“Sorry, that’s the rule.”
I don’t know if the Mets are just picking on ME, or if that *is* in fact a rule, so if you find yourself in that section, proceed at your own risk.
Anyway, here’s what happened to the rest of the balls that were in the gap:
That’s Jeremy Guthrie. I asked him for “all the balls down there.” He smiled and chucked them all back onto the field, but hey, it was still nice to see him. After Heath Bell, he’s the major leaguer that I know best.
Toward the end of BP, I snagged a toss-up from Bruce Chen in left field. It had been bobbled by some other fans, so I handed it to the nearest/smallest kid.
Here’s a photo that I took at the dugout after BP:
It shows Chen tossing a ball to a kid in the front row. Less than a minute earlier, I had given that ball to the kid, and then when Chen walked over, I called him by name and pointed to the kid and got him to sign the ball. (FYI, I’d given the ball during BP to a different kid.) If you click the photo above and zoom in on the ball, you can barely see a signature on it. The kid was there with a man in his 30s — not his father, but some other random grown-up, who was very very very appreciative and thanked me and shook my hand no less than half a dozen times. The three of us ended up chatting for a bit after the kid bluntly asked, “What happened to your eye?” At the end of our conversation, the man asked if I’d pose for a photo with his young companion. I gladly agreed and asked if he’d take a pic with my camera. Here it is:
In case you missed the story about my eye, the quick version is that a batting practice home run ricocheted unexpectedly and hit me in the face on 7/31/13 at Turner Field.
When the game started, I was in left-center with a totally empty row all to myself. This was my view:
Here’s something random that I saw early in the game:
Did you notice the fan in the “WRIGHT” jersey with the crazy-lookin’ foam protective thingie around the cast on his left arm? Have you ever seen anything like that? What exactly is its purpose?
By the 3rd inning, the front row was half-full, so I moved two sections to my right. It was crowded there too, but at least I had an end-seat; when trying to catch baseballs in the stands, there’s nothing worse than being trapped in the middle of a long row.
Why was it crowded? Take another look at the photo of the kid catching the autographed ball. You’ll notice that the jumbotron said:
“Duane Reade presents O|A|R following tonight’s game.”
O|A|R is a rock band. There was going to be a concert. I had no intention of staying for it.
With the Mets clinging to a 2-1 lead, I headed to the 3rd-base side in the top of the 9th inning:
In the photo above, guess which fan was drunk. At one point, when Billy Butler was standing about a 100 feet away near the on-deck circle, this guy jumped up and shouted, “BILLY BUTLER!!! F*** YOU!!!” which prompted the entire section (including many little kids) to gasp. I actually saw one little kid turn and stare nervously at his father, perhaps hoping for some comfort or an explanation. Wanna guess what stadium security did to this drunk fan? Absolutely nothing — and there *were* guards within earshot, but of course I’m not allowed to use a harmless contraption to snag a few extra BP balls.
When the Royals forced the game into extra innings, I headed back to left field. This was my view:
Let’s take a closer look at the photo above:
I realize that the Mets aren’t a whole lot of fun to watch, but COME ON. This is the second time in two weeks that I’ve found myself sitting behind a “fan” who couldn’t have cared less about the game. Remember this guy from 7/24/13 at Citi Field? What’s the deal?
I hoped that the game would last 47 innings and completely mess up the concert, but alas, the Mets won it on a two-run walk-off homer by Eric Young Jr. in the 11th. (That ball landed on the netting above the Modell’s Clubhouse in right field — one of the many areas in this stadium that’s inaccessible to normal fans.)
The worst thing about this game was David Wright’s injury. While busting it down the 1st base line in the 10th inning, he strained his right hamstring and is now expected to miss three to five weeks. He’s the one player on the team that I truly like and root for. Matt Harvey is fun to watch, but until he shows that he’s a nice person who gives a damn about the fans . . .
• 443 balls in 57 games this season = 7.77 balls per game.
• 641 balls at 83 lifetime games at Turner Field = 7.72 balls per game.
• 929 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 454 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 25 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, Nationals Park, Marlins Park, Tropicana Field, and Turner Field
• 6,902 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, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 34 donors for my fundraiser
• $3.10 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $18.60 raised at this game
• $1,356.34 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $12,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $35,222.34 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009