9/10/08 at Shea Stadium

Several years ago, when MLBlogs switched over to WordPress, a bunch of my blog entries were lost, including this one from the final month ever at Shea Stadium. Thankfully I had saved all the photos, along with the text from my original entry, so this was easy to recreate. Enjoy!

I attended this game with my girlfriend Jona, and as soon as we ran inside, I got my first ball the day. The Mets were about to start taking batting practice. There were two balls lying on the field just beyond the first base coach’s box. Carlos Beltran was walking toward them. I bolted down the steps and asked if he could toss me one. He bent down to pick it up with his glove . . .

zack_about_to_get_ball3720

. . . and did such a lazy job of flipping it to me that it fell short and landed in the photographers’ box. There happened to be one photographer there (whose head you can see just to the right of my black backpack in the photo above), and he got it for me.

Thirty seconds later, Ryan Church started walking past me, and I wasn’t sure if he’d seen me get the ball from Beltran, but he had a ball in his hand and I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask him for it. So I did. And he threw it to me.

BP then got underway, and I headed out to the right field foul line. Pedro Feliciano, who was playing catch with Duaner Sanchez, fielded a batted ball and tossed it to a little kid on my right. The ball fell short, tipped off the bare hand of an usher who tried to catch it for the kid, and landed at my feet. I reached down and picked it up and handed it to the kid. (Even though the ball wasn’t intended for me, and even though I only had it in my possession for a couple seconds before giving it away, it still counts.)

Less than two minutes later, a right-handed batter sliced a ball into the second row (of restricted blue seats). It landed about 50 feet to my left, and by some miracle, it hit the seats in such a way that it shot all the way to me through the empty row. In fact, it shot so fast that I wasn’t prepared to catch it, and it hit me on the right shin. Luckily it didn’t bounce anywhere after that so I was able to reach down and grab it.

Less than two minutes after THAT, Sanchez happened to airmail Feliciano. The ball reached the seats on a fly and landed in the front row, right next to a woman who had ducked out of the way when she heard people yell, “Heads up!” The ball sat at her feet for a good two seconds, which gave me time to jump over the chain (that separates the orange seats from that skinny blue section) and snag it. Feliciano then asked me for the ball because he didn’t have another one to finish playing catch with, and he promised to give it back when he was done. Of course, because he’s one of the least fan-friendly players I’ve ever encountered, he broke his promise and disappeared as soon as he was done throwing. Sanchez was left with the ball and didn’t realize that I was the fan who’d returned it, so I basically had to re-snag it. In the four-part pic below, starting on the top left and going clockwise, you can see a) my attempt to convince Sanchez to give it to me, b) Sanchez inspecting the ball, c) the ball in mid-air on its way to me, and d) the ball about to enter my glove.

zack_getting_ball3724

Wow.

I’d barely been inside the stadium for 20 minutes, and I’d already snagged five balls. That just DOESN’T happen at Shea, so naturally I was already thinking about reaching double digits.

Sensing I’d used up every natural resource along the right field foul line, I ran around the stadium and tried my luck on the other side. Soon after, when Nick Evans walked over to retrieve a ball, I shouted, “Nick! I’m going deep!” and I started running up the steps like a wide receiver.

nick_evans“Keep going,” he shouted, and I didn’t quite know what to think. He was either messing with me and making me run for no reason, or he was actually planning to throw me the ball.

I made it all the way up to the cross-aisle, which is about 20 rows off the field, then cut toward home plate and looked back at Evans. As soon as I made eye contact, he fired the ball to my right (the home plate side) — and what a throw it was! I kept running, taking care not to run over the few ushers and fans who were standing around, and finally reached over the railing and made the catch.

FUN!!!

Then I snagged another ball, which was hit by a lefty on the Mets and took one bounce off the warning track. Everything was going my way. It was insane. And there wasn’t even any competition.

I should probably mention that six of my first seven balls were commemorative. I gave one of them away to that kid. Here are the remaining five (and no, they’re not for sale):

commemorative_balls_09_10_08

Jona then made her case for “Best Girlfriend Ever” by exiting Shea Stadium, waiting near the entrance to the picnic area (which was about to open), and finding two fans who each had an extra ticket. She got one for free (I don’t want to know how) and bought the other for $10. Then, after I snagged my eighth ball of the day which had somehow plopped into the narrow space between the rolled-up tarp and the stands, she used one of her two picnic area tickets to re-enter the stadium and delivered the other to me.

Sadly, the bleachers turned out to be dead (relatively speaking). The following photo (with me wearing a red Nationals shirt) was taken during BP:

zack_bleachers_09_10_08

I still managed to snag three more balls out there, all of which were those awful blue training balls (not to be confused with green training balls which were used in 2006). The first was thrown behind-the-back by Joel Hanrahan in left-center field. The other two were home runs to straight-away left. I have no idea who hit them. I caught one on a fly and grabbed the other after it sailed over my head and ricocheted off a metal bench.

And that, my friends, was it.

Jona and I spent the first half of the game in the bleachers (where I came closer than I should’ve to Elijah Dukes’ 2nd-inning homer) and the second half in the Loge Level behind home plate (where I would’ve snagged a foul ball if not for a hot dog vendor who happened to be blocking the narrow aisle at the exact moment that I needed to be running through it).

The game itself was crazy. The Mets batted around in the third inning to take a 7-1 lead, but the Nationals chipped away and tied it in the sixth. The Mets scored four runs in the seventh to go on top, 11-7, but the Nats answered with three in the top of the eighth to make it 11-10. In the bottom of the frame, David Wright (who finished 4-for-4 with four runs and three RBIs) capped the scoring with a two-run homer. Jose Reyes stole two more bases, the first of which (No. 282 in his career) moved him past Mookie Wilson for most in Mets history.

I went to the Mets’ dugout at the end of the game, and the only thing I got was a five-dollar bill that I found crumpled up under a seat. Oh well. No complaints here.

ten_balls_i_kept_09_10_08

STATS:

• 11 balls at this game (10 pictured above because I gave one away)

• 453 balls in 59 games this season = 7.7 balls per game.

• 555 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 334 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball

• 92 lifetime games with at least 10 balls

• 19 double-digit games this year (extends my personal record)

• 3,730 total balls

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