9/27/14 at Citi Field

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:

1_zack_with_jeff_and_ben

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:

2_mets_warming_up_09_27_14

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.”

vic_black_2014“Wait, what? How did know about that?!”

“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.

Wow.

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:

3_ball7799_from_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:

4_view_from_right_center_09_27_14

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:

5_ball7802_1000th_lifetime_at_citi_field

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:

6_astros_not_taking_bp_09_27_14

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.

Fabulous.

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:

7_vic_black_and_josh_edgin_posing_for_photos_with_fans

Of course, not everyone was excited about it . . .

8_young_fan_not_impressed

. . . but I was certainly glad to see Vic again. Here he is giving me a thumbs-up:

9_vic_black_giving_me_a_thumbs_up

I got him to sign a ticket “To Zack” from the previous night’s game:

10_vic_black_autograph

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?”

josh_edgin_2014“Yeah, of course,” he replied matter-of-factly. “Now how many?”

“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:

11_josh_edgin_autograph

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:

12_inside_the_hyundai_club

Jeff was there, ready to join me for an early dinner:

13_jeff_in_the_hyundai_club

I considered the various food options, starting with this carving station . . .

14_carving_station

. . . and these semi-fancy items:

15_wannabe_fancy_hot_food

Here’s what I got:

16_my_plate_pork_tenderloin_herb_crusted_filet_of_perch_rigatoni_with_pesto_cream_sauce_seared_chicken_with_baby_arugula_salad

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:

17_chips_with_chili_and_toppings

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:

18_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 . . .

19_tunnel_to_seats

. . . and here’s the only “dessert” that was available before game time:

20_cotton_candy_and_cheerleaders

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:

21_ben_behind_the_right_field_fence

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 . . .

22_jose_altuve_at_bat_in_the_top_of_the_1st_inning

. . . and here’s where I went in the bottom of the 1st:

23_brief_view_for_lefties

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:

24_pulled_pork_sandwich_09_27_14

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:

25_heading_to_the_clubhouse

In the photo above, did you notice the sign for The Clubhouse on the far right? Here’s where I went to get there:

26_heading_to_the_clubhouse

At the bottom of those stairs, I turned to the left and saw this:

27_weird_desolate_picnic_area_behind_the_bullpens

In the six-year history of Citi Field, I’ve only passed through there a few times, and it’s always deserted.

Yuck.

I didn’t know where to go when I reached the very bottom . . . until I looked around and saw this:

28_doors_to_the_clubhouse

Here’s what it looked like inside the doors:

29_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:

30_where_the_fuck_am_i

Seriously, Mets, WTF?!

I kept going and eventually saw another human being:

31_service_level_concourse_on_the_left

And then I saw a few more:

32_finally_a_sign_of_life

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:

33_ben_emerging_with_a_ticket_for_me

Now I had three tickets and two wristbands:

34_three_different_tickets_09_27_14

The Clubhouse was an all-you-can-eat area, though not nearly as good as the Hyundai Club. There were hot dogs . . .

35_yucky_hot_dogs

. . . and cheeseburgers:

36_pathetic_cheeseburgers

There was an open bar . . .

37_open_bar_09_27_14

. . . 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:

38_chips_salsa_cookies

I ate a cookie. Oatmeal raisin. Not bad, surprisingly.

Here’s what the outdoor seating area of The Clubhouse looks like:

39_clubhouse_from_the_corner

Look who else was with Ben:

40_zack_jen_ben_chris

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:

41_shitty_view_behind_the_fence

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 . . .

42_better_view_through_the_fence

. . . 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:

43_view_directly_above_me

What exactly was I seeing?

Here, have a closer look:

44_pigeons_closeup

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:

45_weird_employee_area_beyond_the_ritht_edge_of_the_clubhouse

Upon closer inspection, I realized that I could see into the indoor portion of the Mets’ bullpen:

46_employee_area_up_close_and_peek_into_bullpen_indoor_area

Here’s an even closer look:

47_ricky_bones_looking_at_me

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:

48_cheeseburger_that_i_ate_most_of

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 . . .

49_cupcakes_and_cookies_back_in_the_hyundai_club

. . . and the previously-locked ice cream freezer was now open:

50_ice_cream_09_27_14

I started with this . . .

51_cupcake_and_cookies_that_i_ate

. . . and then ate these:

52_ice_cream_that_i_ate

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:

53_scoreboard_heading_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:

54_tony_sipp_pitching_to_lucas_duda

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:

55_walkoff_home_run_off_the_right_field_foul_pole

Having learned nothing from Kendrys Morales, Duda look a flying leap as he approached home plate:

56_lucas_duda_jumping_on_home_plate

Here’s a closer look:

57_lucas_duda_jumping_closeup

Thankfully he was not injured.

Jeff and I got an usher to take a photo of us . . .

58_jeff_and_zack

. . . 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:

59_lucas_duda_getting_doused

BAM!!

Anthony Recker, the player with the cooler, sure seemed to be proud of himself:

60_anthony_recker_running_off_with_the_gatorade_cooler

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:

61_austin_mahone_concert_coming_up

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 . . .

62_concert_set_up_in_the_infield

. . . I made my exit and got a ride home from Chris.

Goodbye Citi Field.

63_goodbye_citi_field_09_27_14

See you next year.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

64_the_five_baseballs_i_kept_09_27_14• 6 baseballs at this game (five pictured here because I gave one away)

• 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

CHARITY STATS:

(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

14 comments

  1. Nick Gantz

    Whats wrong zack? Didn’t wanna listen to a teen pop star? hahaha. Are you planning to go to any postseason games at Camden Yards, Kauffman, Busch, or ATT? I went to game 3 of the NLDS between the Cards and Dodgers. I only had a standing room only ticket, but was able to make my way down to the 3rd row behind the dodgers dugout! (ahaha busch stadium security is easily fooled) I got 2 toss ups, but no postseason balls (cries). Probably wont be back until next season, but it was a great game. I really wanna catch up with you sometime next season at Busch Stadium. Let me know if you plan on making a trip to the great state of missouri

    -Nick G

  2. cbeltran15

    In the last week of August during the Mets vs. Phillies series, Vic Black went out of his way to acknowledge an autograph request of a young fan near me. To top it off, on his way out to the bullpen I asked him if he could get me a ball. I forget what he said, but after he signed the autograph for the fan, I asked him if I could have a ball again, and he went over to the ball bag sitting by the mound and pulled one out to throw to me. Great guy. A few weeks later I called his name out from near the Mets dugout as he was walking towards the ‘pen and waved and he responded with a wave, a smile, and a point as if he knew my face.

  3. Ray Burton

    Seriously Zack , did you really eat all the food that you photographed. That can`t be normal or healthy. Or is that an Australian perspective ? Maybe you can store food in some form of cheek pouch or go into hibernation and not eat at all during the non-baseball season. What`s your secret ? It only seems like yesterday that it was Opening Day in Sydney. Any exotic holiday plans for the off-season ? The Burtons are set to invade the US again in early February. Go Royals !!

  4. Liz Merry

    Vic Black is very friendly. I have exchanged a few words with him also, and he is a doll. Thanks for the food pics, although the cheeseburgers looked dry and unappealing. And they lock up the ice cream until they decide it’s time for dessert? Sheesh, what jerks. SELL, WILPIGS!!!

  5. Zuma Jay

    Zack: You are my hero! How do you stay so thin? I eat salads all the time & am loosing the battle of the bulge. Keep up the good work!

  6. Sf Connor

    random/fun/coincidental to see London make it into this post as that’s where I’m reading this from

  7. Zack Hample

    GARRETT MEYER-
    Wait, really? I was trying so hard to tone it down in this entry and be nice. You should see all the negative/hateful/complain-y stuff that got deleted.

    NICK G-
    I actually have no problem with teen pop stars or anyone. If something’s pretty/catchy, I’ll listen to it. I just happen to dislike live music in general, and in addition to that, all the screaming girls in the stands were driving me crazy. There were two of them right behind me and Jeff during the game who were truly hurting my ears with all the shrieking. And for no good reason. Foul ball 100 feet away from us? BETTER START SHRIEKING!!! I was at Game 1 of the ALDS in Baltimore, but that’s been it. If the Orioles somehow reach the World Series, I’ll probably go to a game or two. As for St. Louis, I don’t like that stadium at all, so unless someone pays for my entire trip or there are commemorative balls that I can’t snag anywhere else, I probably won’t go back anytime soon.

    CBELTRAN15-
    Very cool. Given how nice and talented he is, the Mets will probably trade him.

    RAY BURTON-
    Haha, I ate almost everything. I left a bite of the cheeseburger behind because it was bad, and I only took one bite of the cupcake because it was extremely bad. No plans yet for the offseason. There’s talk of a potential family trip somewhere warm in the dead of winter, but at this point, I’m not sure if it’ll happen or where it would potentially be. Sydney feels like a long time ago to me — a clear sign that you’re old and time is flying by. :-)

    LIZ MERRY-
    No joke. The ice cream freezer was actually locked. It’s like my mom was in charge. “No dessert until you’ve eaten a well-balanced dinner!” But really, who cares if people want to eat ice cream during BP? Does it really cost that much extra? Anyway, I’m glad to hear that Vic was nice to you and to other folks as well.

    ZUMA JAY-
    Ha, thanks. I run around at stadiums so much during the season (especially when I get out of NYC) that it’s almost impossible for me to gain weight. During the off-season, however, I’m very careful about what I eat because I don’t get nearly as much exercise. But you have to realize that I don’t pig out like this on a regular basis.

    SF CONNOR-
    Nice! That *is* quite a coincidence. (Most people probably have no idea what you’re talking about. Most people don’t click all the random links.)

  8. Cook & Son Bats

    Yo, Zack. I read this nonetheless. Anyway, I’ve determined from this entry (and several comments you’ve made in the past) that you don’t explore stadiums enough. Thus, I must fact check the last snippet of the following statement:
    .
    “In the six-year history of Citi Field, I’ve only passed through there a few times, and it’s always deserted.”
    .
    In reality, this area is often times packed with people (including us when we are at Citi Field). At several games we attended this season, it was roped off for private parties and was packed with 100 or more people. When there are not private parties, there are usually a bunch of people eating at the tables and watching the relievers warm up (and yelling, “Ricky, can you toss me a baseball!” to Mr. Bones). Tim always wants to go to this spot so we can play catch along the back side of the bullpen, which sometimes we cannot do because there are too many people around.
    .
    There you go. You’ve been fact checked on your home park!
    .
    PS – I didn’t read the other comments, so I apologize if someone else already brought this to your attention.
    .
    PPS – However, I do not apologize for using the “.” trick that I learned in your comments section several years ago to make this a huge, spaced out comment.
    .
    PPPS – GO MARINERS!

  9. Zack Hample

    Well, I stand corrected. Thanks for reading the entry and letting me know that it’s not always so gloomy in that weird area. Go Mariners? No no no . . . you mean GO ROYALS!

  10. Larry

    Zack! What’s up? It’s nice to see that the players are finally catching on to your charity thing. Did you go to any playoff games? How about those royals??

  11. Zack Hample

    It sure is. Heath Bell is the only player who actually donated, but several guys have tossed baseballs to me, knowing that it would add to the donation total. I went to Game 1 of the ALDS in Baltimore, but that’s been it. The Royals are truly unbelievable.

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