I arrived at the stadium more than four hours before game time, and there were already lots of people milling about:
The Royals were leading the series three games to one, so it was do-or-die for the Mets. Many fans, of course, seemed nervous, though they wouldn’t admit it. I was just excited for one final baseball hurrah in 2015; this was my 113th game of the season, and regardless of the outcome, it was definitely going to be my last.
My friend Jere (pictured below on the left) was already standing outside the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:
He lives in Rhode Island, so it was great to see him and catch up.
A little while later, he took the following photo of me talking to some friends at the front of the line:
Do you recognize the guy on the right with the short hair and striped shirt? That’s Royals pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. Let me explain . . .
In the photo above, the guy wearing the backpack is my friend Tang from Kansas City. He’s a DIEHARD Royals fan and knows a bunch of the players, including Guthrie, whom he happened to see getting off the subway at Citi Field. Tang knew where I’d be, and he knew that I’m friendly with Guthrie and that I wanted to talk to him, so Tang led him to me.
I told Guthrie that his teammate Alex Rios had hit me my 5,000th baseball — a BP homer at Rogers Centre back in 2011 when Rios was with the White Sox — and that I’d never been able to get him to autograph it. (Rios is notoriously un-fan-friendly.) Of course I had the ball with me here at Citi Field, just in case, so I asked Guthrie if he could possibly get Rios to sign it for me. He said yes and told me to meet him in right field when the Royals came out for BP; in exchange for this favor, he asked me to bring him a burger and a shake from Shake Shack.
I was overjoyed to have a plan in place, but nervous about missing BP in order to get him food. Thankfully my man Tang offered to hit up Shake Shack so that I’d be free to run around and attempt to snag a few baseballs.
As dusk set in and Guthrie headed off, several fans approached him to say hello and take selfies. Here he is posing for one:
How often do you see people lined up outside a stadium at night? Not very often, which makes this next photo so cool:
When the gates finally opened, I bolted out to the left field seats and quickly got a ball thrown to me by Mets coach Tom Goodwin:
That was a huge relief, and guess what? It was the only ball I got during the Mets’ portion of BP. (Few homers + huge crowd = lousy ballhawking.)
I headed over to right field and caught up with Tang:
He’d gotten the food from Shake Shack (which I had paid for), so we were all set.
As for my 5,000th ball, I had traveled to the stadium with it protected by two Ziploc bags:
Guthrie spotted me from afar and pointed me out to Rios:
Then he walked over to get the ball from me and also to take a swig of his milkshake, which Tang handed to him from the front row:
Two minutes later, this happened:
On his way back . . .
. . . Guthrie fielded a batted ball and pretended to get mixed up and throw the wrong one back to the bucket. (Hardy-har, Jeremiah!) But of course he brought back the proper ball, and then he posed with it:
Here’s a closer look at the signature:
I love that Guthrie had him write the number “5,000.” Huge thanks to him and to Rios as well. And to Tang! This was a real team effort.
When the Royals started hitting, I headed back to the left field seats. Look how crowded it was:
I only managed to get one more ball — a home run by a right-handed batter (no idea who) that I grabbed out of mid-air after it deflected off someone else’s glove.
After BP, I noticed Frank Thomas getting miked up at the FOX Sports booth.
He’s one of my favorite players of all time, so I was glad to see him up close.
Then I got even closer to this guy:
I hadn’t seen A-Rod since our press conference on 7/3/15 at Yankee Stadium, but he still remembered me. He asked how I’d been, and I told him that that ball had changed my life. “For a good cause,” he said. It was hard to hear with so many people screaming for his attention, but it was still nice to have a brief, personal encounter with him.
Speaking of personal encounters . . .
When I first spotted that woman, I assumed she worked for the Mets or perhaps was there as part of some promotion, so I unapologetically asked to take her picture. She happily obliged and then informed me that she was just a fan. Fun stuff.
Look how crowded it was in the left field concourse:
It took 15 minutes to get from one end to the other.
Tony Bennett sang the national anthem . . .
. . . and before I knew it, Game 5 of the World Series was underway. Edinson Volquez got the start for the Royals, and for the Mets, it was Matt Harvey.
This was my view for most of the night:
At various points, everyone was standing:
Well, almost everyone:
In the bottom of the 1st inning, the Mets jumped out to a 1-0 lead courtesy of a leadoff homer by Curtis Granderson. After that, no one scored until the 6th inning when Lucas Duda brought home Granderson with a sac fly.
Harvey was absolutely dominant. He struck out two batters in the 1st inning and then struck out the side in the 4th and 5th. After eight innings, the Mets were still winning, 2-0, and Harvey had allowed just four hits and a walk on 102 pitches.
The stadium was ready to erupt:
What would you have done if you were Mets manager Terry Collins? Stick with Harvey for the 9th inning or bring in All-Star closer Jeurys Familia? Keep in mind that Familia had thrown nine pitches the day before and 11 the day before that.
As a fan of neither the Mets nor Royals, I didn’t need to worry about making the best baseball decision. I just wanted to see a great game and a legendary performance, so of course I hoped to see Harvey come back out for the 9th inning . . . and he did . . . and he sucked. He started by walking Lorenzo Cain on seven pitches. Moments later, Cain stole second and came home on an RBI double by Eric Hosmer.
At the start of the 9th inning, the Mets were three outs away from forcing the series back to Kansas City, where they’d have Jacob deGrom pitching Game 6 and Noah Syndergaard available for a potential Game 7. In order to have that opportunity, all they had to do now was get three outs without giving up two runs, but thanks to Collins’ decision and Harvey’s pitching, the Royals scored one run and had a runner on 2nd base with no outs!
That’s when Familia entered the game. The first batter he faced, Mike Moustakas, grounded out to the right side of the infield, advancing Hosmer to 3rd. Salvador Perez followed with a weak groundout to 3rd, but that’s all it took to tie the game.
Blown save. Harvey’s epic performance wasted. Yet another meltdown by the Mets — and I just knew that the worst was yet to come. I could’ve easily seen Harvey mowing down the Royals in the 9th, but now that they’d tied the game, they were simply NOT going to lose.
There wasn’t a mass exodus of fans at that point, but there was enough shuffling of bodies that I managed to move a few sections over behind the Royals’ dugout. I didn’t head there for the view. I went for one reason only: to try to snag a commemorative, game-used World Series ball.
In the 1st inning of Game 3, I was five feet away from David Wright’s home run ball (which he ended up wanting back), but I didn’t come close to any gamers after that — not during the rest of Game 3 or at any point in Game 4 or during the first nine inning of Game 5. And just to be clear, I reeeeeally wanted one. Not only do I love trying to snag commemorative balls in general, but World Series balls in particular are beautiful (gold stamping) and rare (because they’re not used during BP), and on top of that, this was the first World Series ever played at the new stadium of my childhood favorite team. I was feeling all kinds of feelings, okay? Can we leave it at that?
I’ll cut to the chase. Kelly Johnson popped out to Hosmer to end the 10th inning. Hosmer then chucked the ball to shortstop Alcides Escobar as all the players jogged in, and Escobar ended up tossing it to me!
Check it out:
I love that ball sooooooo much! The word “thrilled” doesn’t even begin to convey how happy I was at that point, so naturally I didn’t want anyone to score after that. I just wanted the game to last forever. I think every baseball fan has felt that way at least once, if not 1,000 times.
I got my wish in the 11th inning. Jon Niese somehow prevented the Royals from scoring in the top of the frame, and all the Mets could muster in the bottom half was a two-out walk by Daniel Murphy (who’s really not that good).
With the score still tied, 2-2, Addison Reed came in to pitch the top of the 12th for the Mets. Salvador Perez greeted him with a leadoff single and was promptly replaced (bold move by Royals manager Ned Yost) by pinch runner Jarrod Dyson, who stole 2nd base.
The next batter, Alex Gordon, worked the count full. That’s when I took the following photo:
Gordon, as Moustakas had done three innings earlier, hit a ground ball to the right side in order to advance the runner to 3rd base. THAT’S GOOD FUNDAMENTAL BASEBALL, FOLKS. Pinch hitter Christian Colon followed with a line-drive single to left field to plate Dyson with the go-ahead run.
Paulo Orlando then reached on a fielding error by Murphy (See? I told you. Not that good.) Alcides Escobar kept things moving with an RBI double, and after that, Ben Zobrist was intentionally walked to load the bases. That’s when Bartolo* Colon* entered the game. The next batter, Lorenzo Cain, crushed a three-run double to put the Royals on top, 7-2.
THAT’S when the mass exodus occurred.
I didn’t have any agenda for the end of the game. I didn’t feel the need to try to get another ball, so mainly I just wanted to be close to the action and see it all unfold.
This was the scene in the middle of the 12th inning:
Buster Olney was hanging out down below:
In the bottom of the 12th, the crowd behind the 3rd base dugout was 99 percent Royals fans:
Here’s what their celebration looked like:
This was only the second time that I’d seen a World Series end. The other was Game 6 in 2013 at Fenway Park. Very very exciting.
Look who I ran into behind the dugout:
That’s my ex-girlfriend Robin, who’s actually from Kansas City, so this was a BIG moment for her. Of course she never gave a damn about baseball when we dated, so now that the Royals are good, she’s really into it. Life is dumb.
For the first time ever, Citi Field security wasn’t micromanaging everything. Fans stood on chairs, and the guards let it happen:
Jarrod Dyson eventually poked his head out of the dugout with the World Series trophy:
Then he climbed up onto the dugout and high-fived everyone:
Here he is high-fiving my friend Garrett Meyer:
Garrett currently lives near Kansas City, so I asked him later how far in advance he’d planned his trip. He said, “After the Royals won on Saturday night to go up 3-1 in the series, I was lying down in bed thinking, ‘Man, I can not just stay here while my team wins the World Series,’ so at about midnight, I noticed StubHub prices were tanking and last-minute airfare was reasonable. Seven hours later I was on a plane to New York City, and the rest is history. Believe it or not, the last-minute airfare and tickets at Citi Field still would have been cheaper than StubHub prices for Game 6 and 7 at Kauffman. I met a couple people on the flight that did the same thing. It was pretty cool.”
Here’s another photo of Garrett, this time with Robin and Tang:
A little while later, a pretty cute scene unfolded nearby in the seats:
After security finally kicked everyone out, Tang ended up getting interviewed in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:
Garrett got interviewed too:
Garrett, if you’re reading this, what did you say that was so funny?
I followed my Royal-loving friends to McFadden’s:
Outside on the street, there was a VERY drunk fan being confrontational with a bunch of cops:
It went from bad . . .
. . . to worse for that guy:
He had lost his hat during the ruckus, and a bunch of Mets fans responded by stomping on it and kicking it around and cursing. That’s why I generally avoid bars. Alcohol turns everyone into a dick, but hey, enough with the negativity. It was a great night.
Garrett took a final photo of us before we headed to the subway:
Did you notice that our group had gained a member? The gentleman at the back wearing the visor is a Royals superfan named Chris Coats. He and Tang are friends. Google him. Interesting stuff.
Here are the three baseballs that I snagged at this game:
It’s hard to believe that the Royals are now the team to beat. Seriously, how did that happen?
• 3 baseballs at this game
• 827 balls in 113 games this season = 7.32 balls per game.
• 1,289 balls in 175 lifetime games at Citi Field = 7.37 balls per game.
• 154 balls in 30 lifetime postseason games = 5.13 balls per game.
• 50 balls in 12 lifetime World Series games = 4.17 balls per game.
• 1,166 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 77 different commemorative balls (click here to see my full collection)
• 8,633 total balls