8/26/13 at Citi Field

For some reason, when I ran inside the stadium at 5:10pm, the Phillies were already warming up in left field:


That didn’t affect my day at all. I’m just pointing it out because it was strange. Normally the visiting team doesn’t come out until 5:25 to 5:30.

Anyway, my first ball came from a security guard, and my second was tossed by Andrew Brown. See the two Mets standing near each other in the previous photo? Those are the two bullpen catchers — Dave Racaniello and Eric Langill — and when Rac saw me get the toss-up, he shook his head and started talking to his buddy. I assumed he was telling him about me, so I waited until he finished and then shouted, “Eric!! Only half the bad things he told you about me are true!!” They both cracked up, and we all talked for a bit. Fun stuff.

The Mets’ portion of BP was pathetic. All the good hitters took their cuts before the stadium opened, and as a result, my only other ball from the Mets was thrown by Gonzalez Germen. I was in right field, and he flung it lazily at the very tail end of BP, forcing me to scurry up the steps and make an awkward back-handed lunge.

My fourth ball was a John Mayberry Jr. homer that I caught on the fly. Twenty minutes later, I got Justin De Fratus to toss one to me, but at the time, I had no idea who he was. Many thanks to everyone on Twitter who responded after I posted a photo of him.

I caught two more homers after that. My friend Greg thought they might’ve been hit by Kevin Frandsen, but we weren’t sure. In any case, I caught the first one while standing on a seat and caught the second while leaning far over the railing in the front row. I handed that one to the nearest fans, and after BP, I gave away another to this guy:


His name is Ryan, and he was there with a man named Ed, who’d contacted me several days earlier to ask if I’d be there. Neither of them had asked me for a ball. If they had, I would’ve said no, but since they’d been trying hard to get one on their own and came up short, I decided to hook them up.

Here’s some random weirdness that I witnessed after BP:


I think there was some sort of cultural/heritage pre-game ceremony taking place. The Mets seem to have lots of them, and no one ever seems to care.

During the lull between BP and the game, I wandered off to use the bathroom and get a drink of water. Normally this would’ve been uneventful — you know, not the type of thing worth blogging about — but on this fine day, I happened to find a fancy ticket in the concourse:


The Empire Level?! I hadn’t even heard of that, much less actually BEEN there. It turned out to be the suite level, so you can imagine what I did. I used the ticket to get in there, and I wandered all over the place and took a bunch of photos. Here’s what the concourse looked like:



In the previous photo, did you see the doors on the right? One of them was open, so I took a quick peek through the doorway . . .


. . . and then kept walking. Look what I stumbled upon next:


Did you know that Citi Field has an auditorium? Neither did it. Do all stadiums have auditoriums? Is that a thing?

All I could think as I entered and walked though this corridor . . .


. . . was something along the lines of, “Where the HELL am I?”

The answer to that question is evident in the previous photo; I was next to the Brooklyn Dodgers Rotunda. But no, wait . . . seriously, what WAS going on? Why was there a frickin’ auditorium inside Citi Field?

Here’s what it looked like from the back:


I kept expecting security guards to appear out of nowhere and ask me what I was doing there, but that never happened. Instead there were just a bunch of young Asian folks milling about, none of whom said a word to me or even made eye contact.

Seriously, WTF?

That auditorium gave me the creeps, so I kept wandering . . .


. . . and of course I took more photos along the way:


Citi Field was built with only 41,000 seats to be “cozy.” Does the photo above strike you as cozy?

I really wanted to check out one of the suites, and eventually it appeared that I had my chance. I saw one that was wide open, and there wasn’t anyone it, and there weren’t any security guards in sight, so I stepped inside:


Could I have gotten in trouble? Probably not. Was I doing anything wrong? Not really. I was just taking a peek — not taking the furniture.

I walked to the far end with the glass door, and to my delight, it was unlocked. Here’s what it looked like when I stepped outside:


This was the view to the left:


I didn’t stay there long — just long enough to call Greg and wave — and on my way out, I took one more photo inside the suite:


That looks more like an IKEA showroom than a place where I’d actually want to hang out. The same could be said about this portion of the concourse . . .


. . . which felt like the corridor of an upscale mental institution (which isn’t far from the truth).

At one point, I passed these two open suites:


I was tempted to wander inside and try to schmooze my way into getting some free food, but I thought better of it. Besides, the game was about to begin, and I wanted to get back downstairs to the area in the stadium where I feel most comfortable: straight-away left field.

Here’s one end of the Empire Level concourse:


On my way to the other end, I passed by this candy area:


This candy was not free.

Here’s the other end of the Empire Level concourse:


That’s where I exited. None of the guards up there recognized me, which was great. One guy gave me detailed instructions for finding my way back down to the 100 Level concourse. (“It goes all the way around the stadium,” he told me. “You can walk in a full circle.” HAHAHAHAHAHA!!!! Thanks. See ya.)

Here’s where I sat during the game:


Cliff Lee pitched eight innings, and the Phillies won, 2-1. There were no home runs, and to make matters worse, news of Matt Harvey’s injury broke. That’s the New York Mess for ya.


22_the_five_balls_i_kept_08_26_13• 7 baseballs at this game (five pictured here because I gave two away)

• 537 balls in 72 games this season = 7.46 balls per game.

• 687 balls in 89 lifetime games at Citi Field = 7.72 balls per game.

• 944 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 469 consecutive games with at least two balls

• 29 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, Turner Field, Citizens Bank Park, Dodger Stadium, Chase Field, and the Oakland Coliseum

• 6,996 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.)

• 38 donors for my fundraiser

• $3.43 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $24.01 raised at this game

• $1,841.91 raised this season through my fundraiser

• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs

• $37,747.91 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009


  1. Dennis B

    Zack, your pictures don’t link to full size lately; is it just me?
    Nice luck on the ticket find!
    Thanks, Dennis

  2. Navi

    Nice Luck with the ticket.
    who knew citi field has an auditorium!
    Thank you for sharing, any big plans of/for when you’ll hit the 7,000th milestone ball?
    -Navi from New York

  3. Zack Hample

    NICK M-
    Glad to hear that.

    You know . . . the other day, I noticed that some photos were screwy, but I didn’t know what to make of it. I’ve been doing everything the same. WTF?

    Sure did. Nationals Park. :-)

    It’s been busy with baseball, which is how I like it. We should catch up by phone sometime soon, not in the comments section here.

    I was in Washington D.C.

    I have no idea. Check out my reply to Dennis B.

    You’re welcome, and as for ball No. 7,000, I got it tonight at Nationals Park.

  4. cbeltran15

    Ran into Greg at Citi Field. We crossed paths a bunch. I ended up snagging 6. Not sure how many he ended up with. At one point when I caught a 3rd out ball, I walked up the steps and an 18-19 year old teenager said “You should give it to a Mets fan.” I was behind the Phillies dugout wearing Phillies gear. Why should I give it to a Mets fan? Ignorant fans. I love it.

  5. Ed

    Great meeting you Zack, and congrats on 7000. Ryan really enjoyed seeing his picture on your blog.

  6. Zack Hample

    I don’t know how you can tell, but thanks.

    Wow. Some people really have no clue. Congrats on the half-dozen.


    Nice meeting you guys too. Glad to hear that about Ryan.

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