My final Mets game of the season was a day of unbridled excess. Take a look at the photo below and then I’ll (start to) explain:
As you can see, I was holding two tickets. One of them — an e-ticket for the all-you-can-eat Hyundai Club — was given to me by my friend Jeff, pictured above on the left. The other one — a hard/season ticket granting early access — was sold to me at a reasonable price by friend Ben, pictured above in the middle. And guess what? There was the promise of a third ticket coming my way later for a different all-you-can-eat section.
Before the gluttony got underway, there were baseballs to be snagged. Unfortunately, though, when I ran inside the stadium, the Mets hadn’t yet started taking BP. Instead they were playing catch in right field:
Do you remember when I ran into Vic Black on the subway in mid-August? I followed him on Twitter after that and was delighted when he followed me back and then recognized me at subsequent games. I’m mentioning this because I saw him again here along the right field foul line. He came over and shook my hand, and we chatted for a bit, and then he said, “Hey, congrats on the Jeter ball.”
“I follow you on Twitter!” he said, sounding shocked that I would ask such a dumb question.
Meanwhile, I was shocked that he’d seen my Tweet about it.
“I follow you too,” I replied, “but I don’t necessarily see everything you say on there.”
“Oh, well, I try to catch up on everything baseball related,” he said.
Vic Black is truly one of the friendliest players I’ve ever met — right up there with Jeremy Guthrie, Jason Grilli, Josias Manzanillo, Brian Stokes, and maybe even Heath Bell.
A few minutes later, Lucas Duda threw me my first ball of the day, and soon after that, with Mets BP finally underway, I got another tossed by Jacob deGrom:
My next ball was No. 7,800 lifetime, and I got it rather unexpectedly. It was a Curtis Granderson homer that I caught on the fly in straight-away right field — no big deal, right? Well, if you’ve never been to Citi Field, you need to know that right field is a disaster. Not only is there a huge area without seats (because of a netting-covered section behind the outfield wall), but the overhang of the second deck prevents most home runs from reaching the stands. The Granderson homer missed the facade of the second deck by about a foot, and it was hit so hard (and with such a low trajectory) that it was able to reach me in the front row. Is this making any sense? Do you understand why right field is so bad? The front row in any outfield section *should* be a spot where home runs frequently land, but here at Citi, everything had to fall exactly into place for the ball to reach me.
My next stop was right-center field:
That’s another awful section, mainly because it’s two miles from home plate, but because there weren’t many fans yet in the stadium, I did okay out there. Travis d’Arnaud threw me my fourth ball of the day, leaving me one short of a milestone. My next ball was going to be my 1,000th lifetime at Citi Field. Here’s a crappy photo that shows how I got it:
More specifically, it was a home run that landed in the bullpen and rolled to the back of the mound. The employee pictured above (who might have been a groundskeeper) retrieved it and tossed it to me.
Two minutes later, I got my sixth ball tossed by Bartolo Colon. Things were looking good. It was still early. Double digits seemed like a guarantee . . . until I ran back to left field and saw this:
With the exception of those two players (and a coach) in left field, the Astros were nowhere in sight. And did you notice the groundskeepers in the photo above? See them in shallow center field? They were removing the screens. Batting practice was done. POOF!! Just like that.
I thought about heading to the Hyundai Club and eating my sorrows away, but decided to wander into foul territory instead. This turned out to be a good move, as Vic Black and Josh Edgin randomly appeared and started posing for photos with fans:
Of course, not everyone was excited about it . . .
. . . but I was certainly glad to see Vic again. Here he is giving me a thumbs-up:
I got him to sign a ticket “To Zack” from the previous night’s game:
He and Edgin were being *so* friendly. They were shaking people’s hands and making conversation, so when Edgin made his way over to me, I said, “Hey, Josh, whats up!”
He responded by reaching out with both hands, playfully squeezing my backpack, and saying, “How many today?”
“Wait a minute . . . you know about my baseball collection?”
“I got six today. Would’ve been more if the Astros had hit. But seriously, how did you know?”
“I saw it on YouTube.”
“Was that just random internet browsing or did someone tell you about it?”
“I think I heard about it from him,” he said, pointing at Vic.
“Wow. And you’ve continued to throw baseballs to me anyway?”
“Well, I heard about your charity and that you give lots of balls to kids, so that’s pretty cool.”
I was in shock. Prior to this, I had no idea that Edgin recognized me, and in fact I assumed he wasn’t too friendly. Other than having shouted at him from afar for the occasional baseball, I’d never interacted with him. I had only seen him on TV, lookin’ all pissed off with his tough-guy beard, so if anything I figured he was someone to avoid. Now I must humbly admit that I was wrong.
Here’s a ticket that he signed for me:
After saying thanks and goodbye to my new Mets friends, I was ready for the Hyundai Club. Rather than eating my sorrows away, I would eat in celebration!
Here’s what the club looks like:
Jeff was there, ready to join me for an early dinner:
I considered the various food options, starting with this carving station . . .
. . . and these semi-fancy items:
Here’s what I got:
The plate above contains:
1) braised brisket
2) herb crusted filet of perch
3) rigatoni with pesto cream sauce
4) seared chicken with baby arugula salad
Here’s what I got next:
In case you can’t tell, those chips are loaded with chili, cheese sauce, tomatoes, onions, and guacamole.
The quality of all this food ranged from “good” to “forgettable.” Certainly the best thing about it was that it was free, but to be fair, I had been spoiled recently by two games in the Legends area of Yankee Stadium, where the tickets are insanely expensive and the food is incomparably better.
Here’s the Hyundai Club bar:
Alcohol was not included in the price of the ticket — a non-issue for me since I rarely drink.
Here’s one of several tunnels that lead to the seats . . .
. . . and here’s the only “dessert” that was available before game time:
In the Legends area, there’s an endless assortment of candy and desserts that are available from the time the stadium opens, but here at the Hyundai Club, there was one tiny freezer of ice cream bars, which was locked until the 5th inning. In a nutshell, that’s the difference between the Mets and Yankees.
Do you remember the netting-covered section that I was complaining about during BP? Well, here’s a photo of it:
See the fan in the orange jersey standing behind the outfield fence? That was Ben! Somehow he’d gotten four free tickets to that area from the Mets, and he was saving one for me. (That area used to be sponsored by Modell’s Sporting Goods and was known as the Mo’s Zone. Now it lacks a sponsor and is called The Clubhouse.) All I had to do was show up there, and he’d escort me inside. But what about Jeff and Hyundai Club? I didn’t want to be rude and abandon him. But The Clubhouse was special. I’d never been there during a game and really wanted to check it out.
Jeff was very understanding. He knew what he was getting into when he offered me a ticket and wasn’t concerned with my whereabouts, so this was the compromise: I would sit with him for the first few innings, then go find Ben for the middle innings, and rejoin Jeff for the remainder of the game. It was a perfect plan, except for one thing, namely my inability to sit still. This was our view in the top of the 1st inning . . .
. . . and here’s where I went in the bottom of the 1st:
You see, the first five batters for the Mets were left-handed, and I couldn’t bear the thought of being trapped on the 1st base side of home plate, where there was *no* chance of getting a foul ball. Of course, as it turned out, Astros starter Samuel Deduno was an extreme ground-ball pitcher, so the Mets hardly hit any foul balls back into the seats on either side.
After the 1st inning, I grabbed a pulled pork sandwich on the way back to the 1st base side:
It was almost as good as this one I got at PETCO Park three days earlier.
After the 3rd inning, as planned, I walked out of the Hyundai Club and headed through the concourse until I reached the Shea Bridge:
In the photo above, did you notice the sign for The Clubhouse on the far right? Here’s where I went to get there:
At the bottom of those stairs, I turned to the left and saw this:
In the six-year history of Citi Field, I’ve only passed through there a few times, and it’s always deserted.
I didn’t know where to go when I reached the very bottom . . . until I looked around and saw this:
Here’s what it looked like inside the doors:
Where were the security guards? Where was . . . anyone? What the hell was going on? Was I at a major league baseball stadium or in an abandoned nuclear power plant?
After taking a few steps, I looked to the left and saw this:
Seriously, Mets, WTF?!
I kept going and eventually saw another human being:
And then I saw a few more:
Hooray! I reached my destination without getting lost or being arrested for trespassing!
Then I called Ben, who came out with a ticket for me:
Now I had three tickets and two wristbands:
The Clubhouse was an all-you-can-eat area, though not nearly as good as the Hyundai Club. There were hot dogs . . .
. . . and cheeseburgers:
There was an open bar . . .
. . . but rather than loading up on free beer, I got my 4th bottled water of the day.
Then I stumbled upon a sorry display of chips, salsa, and cookies:
I ate a cookie. Oatmeal raisin. Not bad, surprisingly.
Here’s what the outdoor seating area of The Clubhouse looks like:
Look who else was with Ben:
That’s his fiancée Jen and our friend Chris Hernandez.
It was fun hanging out with them, but our view of the game was lousy:
It didn’t really matter. Heading into the 5th inning, there was no score, so it’s not like I was missing much.
Poking the lens of my camera through the chain-link fence made the view appear better . . .
. . . but I still felt terribly removed from the action.
Moments later I felt even worse when I looked straight up at the overhang of the second deck and saw this:
What exactly was I seeing?
Here, have a closer look:
There was a time in my life — 19 years ago, to be specific — when I actually thought pigeons were worth getting to know. But now? Not so much. And to make matters worse, I had this image in my head of bird poop coating the top of the outfield wall, right in that very spot. I’d seen it several weeks earlier and ew-ew-ew!! What is wrong with the Mets? Haven’t they heard of pigeon spikes? I realize that the overhang of the second deck is kinda high up and hard to reach, but umm, perhaps they should’ve thought of that when they built it. It’s not like it’s too late. They should hire a team of contractors or bring in a crane or do something!! METS FANS HAVE TO DEAL WITH ENOUGH CRAP AS IT IS!! THEY DON’T NEED ANY MORE RAINING DOWN ON THEM FROM THE SKY!!
I got the hell out of there after that and wandered toward the far end The Clubhouse:
Upon closer inspection, I realized that I could see into the indoor portion of the Mets’ bullpen:
Here’s an even closer look:
Yikes! Bullpen coach Ricky Bones caught me photographing him and was not amused. Perhaps the Mets should’ve thought of that too when they built that room with a gigantic window facing the fans.
I wish I had a better camera because if I did, I’d be able to read the small text on that “pace of game procedures” sign on the wall. See it there above the phone? Click the photo above to zoom in on it.
Before leaving The Clubhouse, two significant things happened. First, the Astros took a 1-0 lead, and second, I got a cheeseburger:
I said goodbye to Ben, Jen, and Chris and raced back to the Hyundai Club, worried that I might’ve missed dessert. Thankfully I still had some options for getting sugared up. There were cupcakes and cookies . . .
. . . and the previously-locked ice cream freezer was now open:
I started with this . . .
. . . and then ate these:
And then I ate another ice cream bar. Yeah, three ice creams. What’re you gonna do about it?!
Here’s what the scoreboard looked like as the game headed to the bottom of the 9th inning:
Pinch-hitter Eric Campbell, desperately needing to get on base but lacking guidance, swung at the very first pitch of the inning and hit a flyout to center field. That’s bad baseball. Eric Young Jr. followed with a triple, giving the fans some hope and bringing up the Mets’ best hitter — Daniel Murphy. The result? A weak fly ball to left field, failing to tie the game. There was still a chance with Lucas Duda stepping to the plate, but the lefty-lefty matchup against reliever Tony Sipp was unfavorable. Duda took the first pitch for a ball. Then I pulled out my camera and took the following photo as Sipp delivered the next pitch:
To the surprise of absolutely everyone, Duda ripped a deep line drive down the right field line that hit the foul pole! Game over!
I kept taking photos as the Mets spilled out onto the field:
Having learned nothing from Kendrys Morales, Duda look a flying leap as he approached home plate:
Here’s a closer look:
Thankfully he was not injured.
Jeff and I got an usher to take a photo of us . . .
. . . and just as my camera was being handed back to me, I noticed someone on the Mets creeping up on Duda with a Gatorade cooler. I thought I was going to miss it, but somehow hit the button in time:
Anthony Recker, the player with the cooler, sure seemed to be proud of himself:
Am I the only one who thinks that dumping a large quantity of an ice-cold beverage on a heroic teammate is the stupidest thing ever? Does anyone else think that slamming a shaving cream “pie” in someone’s face is a terrible way to celebrate? To me it seems like something that oughta be done as a punishment for someone who blows the game, not to someone who wins it.
Speaking of punishments, check out the Jumbotron:
I’d never heard of Austin Mahone until the Mets started promoting his concert several months ago, and I knew I wanted no part of it. Therefore, when the field started taking shape for his performance . . .
. . . I made my exit and got a ride home from Chris.
Goodbye Citi Field.
See you next year.
• 627 balls in 86 games this season = 7.29 balls per game.
• 1,001 lifetime balls in 133 games at Citi Field = 7.53 balls per game.
• 1,052 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 718 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 14,367 (or so) calories consumed at this game
• 7,803 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn about my fundraiser, and if you donate money, you’ll be eligible to win one of these prizes.)
• 24 donors for my fundraiser
• $2.05 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $12.30 raised at this game
• $1,285.35 raised this season
• $39,949.35 raised since I started my fundraiser in 2009