Batting practice got off to a good start. On the way to my usual spot in left field, I found a ball in the seats:
When I picked up that ball, it marked the 950th consecutive game at which I’ve snagged at least one — a streak that began on September 10, 1993.
A few minutes later, I ran a full section to my right and leaned over a row of seats to catch an Anthony Recker home run on the fly. Soon after that, Mets manager Terry Collins (who was roaming in the outfield) threw me a ball that required me to reach below the railing.
During the previous home stand, the Mets had been using last year’s commemorative balls during BP, but that appears to be done:
I was excited when the Nationals took the field. You may recall that I snagged a bunch of old/random commemorative balls during BP on 8/27/13 at Nationals Park, so I was hoping that the Nats would still be using them here in New York.
My first ball from them was a homer that took a crazy-lucky ricochet. It landed on the party deck and bounced up through the vertical metal bars into the front row of the regular seats. (You can see these bars in the previous photo; they’re just wide enough for the occasional ball to pass through.) Was it commemorative — an All-Star or World Series ball?! Maybe one that I’d never seen before?!?! Check it out:
I don’t often feel disappointed after snagging a baseball, but this was definitely one of those times. That said, there was no time to keep pouting because the Nationals were hitting bombs. Let me say right now that I have no idea who hit any of the home runs that I snagged. I recognized Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman, and Jayson Werth when they were in the cage, but I don’t think any of the balls I got came from them.
My fifth ball of the day was a homer that I grabbed after it landed near me in the seats. (I offered it to a little kid in Nats gear, who told me he’d gotten one already.) My sixth ball was a homer that I caught on the fly directly behind a guy named Jeff. Ball No. 7 was a homer that I caught on the fly “in traffic” on the staircase. Ball No. 8 was a homer that smacked off the facade of the second deck and ricocheted like crazy in the seats below. My ninth ball was a monstrous homer that hit the facade of the upper deck . . .
. . . and dropped right down to me.
I remember looking at the clock after that. It was only 5:52pm. Nice.
Unfortunately things slowed way down. There was an entire group of Nats hitters that barely put anything in the seats. I went more than 20 minutes before getting another ball, but then things picked back up.
My 10th ball was a homer that I caught on the fly in the middle of the section on my right. Ball No. 11 was a towering homer that landed several rows behind me, and because everyone else was shockingly slow to react, I was able to snag it. No one got annoyed or shouted “Give it to the kid!” because there were hardly any kids. This was the first day that public schools were back in session in New York City, so as a result, there wasn’t much competition.
My final ball of BP was a toss-up from Tyler Clippard in left-center. He may have been aiming for the fans in the front row, but he flung it sloppily, and it sailed over their heads, right to me in the 3rd row. I considered this payback for the one he’d intended to throw me earlier, which fell a bit short and was grabbed by a fan directly in front of me.
After BP, I photographed all my baseballs:
As you can see, none of them were commemorative.
Just as I was zipping up my backpack, a little kid walked by with his father. Because the kid was wearing a glove, I handed him a ball. I would’ve given a few more away after that, but I’m telling you . . . there were very few kids. It was bizarre.
I had brought my 7,000th ball with the hope of getting Anthony Rendon to autograph it, but this was as close as I came:
Any advice for getting Rendon to sign? Do I need to lurk outside the team hotel? I’ve never done that. I hate the idea of doing that. But I’ll make an exception if that’s what it takes.
Here’s a random piece of ballhawking advice for any young kids who might be reading this: every time I’ve seen the Nats play at Citi Field, Ian Desmond has thrown his pre-game warm-up ball *deep* into the stands along the shallow left-field foul line — always to a little kid. If you’re, like, 12 or under (or better yet, about eight years old), go 20 or more rows back and wave your arms to get his attention, and he might hook you up.
Here’s where I sat during the game:
I took a photo of the scoreboard in the bottom of the 3rd inning . . .
. . . because I noticed that Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez had a no-hitter in the works. I took pics of the scoreboard every inning. I really thought it was going to happen, but Zach Freakin’ Lutz of all people broke up it up with a pinch-hit single in the bottom of the 7th. Zach Lutz? Seriously? The dude entered the game 3-for-20 for his career! That’s a .150 batting average. He ended up hitting an opposite-field, excuse-me line drive that landed ON the foul line just past 1st base. ZACH LUTZ!!!!!!! As it turned out, that was the Mets’ only hit. Can you believe that? If I’d never seen a no-hitter before, I would’ve been really bummed, but I’ve seen two: Dwight Gooden’s on May 14, 1996 at the old Yankee Stadium and Johan Santana’s on June 1, 2012 at Citi Field, so it’s okay — I can get on with my life without feeling devastated.
I should mention that I *did* still witness some history: the Nationals hit five home runs, which is the most ever by a visiting team in one game at Citi Field. Unfortunately the first one went to right field, and the rest landed far away from me in left-center. Poop on that.
Final score, Nationals 9, Mets 0.
• 590 balls in 78 games this season = 7.56 balls per game.
• 699 balls in 90 lifetime games at Citi Field = 7.77 balls per game.
• 950 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 234 lifetime games with ten or more 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
• 7,049 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.)
• 39 donors for my fundraiser
• $3.48 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $41.76 raised at this game
• $2,053.20 raised this season through my fundraiser
• $14,500 from BIGS Sunflower Seeds for my game-used baseballs
• $37,959.20 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009
Finally, two of my baseballs from this game have really nice invisible ink stamps. Here’s a side-by-side comparison of one of the balls in regular light versus black light . . .
. . . and here’s the other: