2015 World Series — Game 5

I arrived at the stadium more than four hours before game time, and there were already lots of people milling about:

1_arriving_at_citi_field_11_01_15

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:

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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:

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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.

4_zack_and_jeremy_guthrie_11_01_15

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.

(Yes, really.)

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:

5_fan_taking_selfie_with_jeremy_guthrie

How often do you see people lined up outside a stadium at night? Not very often, which makes this next photo so cool:

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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:

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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:

8_tang_in_right_field

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:

9_ball5000_in_a_ziploc_bag

Guthrie spotted me from afar and pointed me out to Rios:

10_jeremy_guthrie_telling_alex_rios_about_me

Awesome.

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:

11_tang_giving_shake_shack_to_jeremy_guthrie

Two minutes later, this happened:

12_jeremy_guthrie_giving_ball5000_to_alex_rios

On his way back . . .

13_jeremy_guthrie_bringing_ball5000_back_to_me

. . . 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:

14_jeremy_guthrie_holding_ball5000

Here’s a closer look at the signature:

15_ball5000_signed_with_jeremy_guthrie_giving_a_thumb_up_in_the_background

GORGEOUS!!

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.

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When the Royals started hitting, I headed back to the left field seats. Look how crowded it was:

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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.

18_frank_thomas_getting_miked

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:

19_alex_rodriguez_signing_from_below

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 . . .

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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:

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It took 15 minutes to get from one end to the other.

Tony Bennett sang the national anthem . . .

22_tony_bennett_singing_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:

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At various points, everyone was standing:

24_everyone_standing

Well, almost everyone:

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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:

26_security_on_field_late_in_game

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.

WHOA!!

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.

27_scoreboard_9th_inning_blown_save_by_jeurys_familia

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:

28_ball8633_thrown_by_alcides_escobar

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:

29_top_of_the_12th_inning

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.

Hoo-boy.

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:

30_security_ready_to_go

Buster Olney was hanging out down below:

31_buster_olney_standing_below

In the bottom of the 12th, the crowd behind the 3rd base dugout was 99 percent Royals fans:

32_royals_rans_ready

Here’s what their celebration looked like:

33_celebration_after_world_series

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:

34_zack_and_robin_11_01_15

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:

35_fans_standing_on_seats

Jarrod Dyson eventually poked his head out of the dugout with the World Series trophy:

36_jarrod_dyson_holding_world_series_trophy

Then he climbed up onto the dugout and high-fived everyone:

37_jarrod_dyson_giving_high_fives_on_the_dugout_roof

Here he is high-fiving my friend Garrett Meyer:

38_garrett_meyer_high_fiving_jarrod_dyson

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:

39_garrett_robin_tang

A little while later, a pretty cute scene unfolded nearby in the seats:

40_little_kid_interviewed_on_tv

After security finally kicked everyone out, Tang ended up getting interviewed in the Jackie Robinson Rotunda:

41_tang_interviewed_on_tv

Garrett got interviewed too:

42_garrett_interviewed_on_tv

Garrett, if you’re reading this, what did you say that was so funny?

I followed my Royal-loving friends to McFadden’s:

43_robin_garrett_tang_in_mcfaddens

Outside on the street, there was a VERY drunk fan being confrontational with a bunch of cops:

44_drunk_royals_fan_outside_mcfaddens

It went from bad . . .

45_drunk_royals_fan_arrested

. . . to worse for that guy:

46_drunk_royals_restrained_on_a_stretcher

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.

47_pumpkin_carved_with_baseball_stitches

Garrett took a final photo of us before we headed to the subway:

48_garrett_robin_tang_zack_final_photo_outside_the_stadium

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:

49_the_three_balls_i_snagged_11_01_15

It’s hard to believe that the Royals are now the team to beat. Seriously, how did that happen?

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 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

14 comments

  1. jere80

    “For the first time ever, Citi Field security wasn’t micromanaging everything.”

    But it took a while–let me explain. After I separated with you when the gates opened, I took in BP from LF and then snatched a great spot in the standing room at the back of the lower deck behind the 3rd base dugout. Right at the top of the aisle, with no nobody standing in front of me. As the bottom of the 12th inning went on, the ushers were STILL not letting anyone go down into the lower deck seats. Royals fans were crowding around behind me, and we were all getting so mad–hundreds of empty seats, and they would not let us go. So the Royals get the final out and…let us loose, right? WRONG! The celebration is going on and we’re all still standing there like a-holes. Minutes pass, I don’t know how many, at least a couple (the baseball SEASON is now over folks, and Citi employees have STILL not been given the go-ahead to let fans get close to their team celebrating a WS win), and FINALLY they unlock arms and let us go…except that for some reason, they specifically keep MY staircase closed and tell everyone to go to the next one over. Which puts me behind dozens more people just to get down there. Anyway, I was still happy to get within the first few rows and, yes, stand on the seats and watch what was left of the celebration. I didn’t care who won but I was super excited to see Jonny Gomes celebrating as a champion once again–and I have to say, he “knew his role” and despite his happiness he seemed to be letting the starters and guys who hadn’t won before take the spotlight. Love that guy. (And I was happy for the true KC Royals fans, it was very cool to be surrounded by a huge flock of them, in NYC of all places, in their ultimate moment of mirth.)

    Bonus moment–it was fun playing catch with Zack and a random teenage kid right there on the pavement as we waited for the gates to open before this game. And the kid was the one who suggested it! Awesome. Will never forget the last day of the 2015 baseball season. Thanks for the recap, Z!

  2. Garrett Meyer

    For the record, I don’t remember saying anything funny (although I never did find that clip, I heard it was on-air). But I do remember that nice reporter was like a barbie doll…. always had the same cheesy grin on her face.
    But hey, my team had just won the World Series. I’m sure I had a cheesy grin throughout the night too.

  3. Liz Merry

    As a life-long Mets fan, this was tough to relive. However, it was not as painful as, say, the Beltran Statue of ’06. Low expectations make for less heartbreak. Thanks for the fun pics.

  4. Dennis B.

    This one was great timing after a boring winter; thanks Zack! I’m very happy for you in getting the game ball and wrapping up #5,000! I’m ready for Opening Day…

  5. raytheaustralian

    Nice job on the snag and getting that elusive autograph. The Royals just get better and better and will contend in 2016 as well. Countdown to Opening Day is on !!

  6. TC

    Me and Tang were just at kc bp in az wondering when you were going to blog your world series post. good job

  7. Zack Hample

    JERE80-
    That’s terrible, but hey, that’s how some teams do business. Wanna enter the seats near the dugout at ANY time? “Show us the money.” I’m sorry that you (and so many other passionate fans) got tangled up in the mismanagement at this stadium.

    GARRETT MEYER-
    Well said. Cheesy grins galore!

    LIZ MERRY-
    You’re very strong to have made it through this entry.

    BLOGGING BOUT BASEBALL-
    Thanks! “Mission accomplished” times two.

    DENNIS B.-
    Opening Day is only two and a half weeks away. How did that happen?

    ANDY-
    Cute.

    RAY THE AUSTRALIAN-
    Thank you! Hope you guys make it to NYC again sometime soon.

    TC-
    Ahh, well then. Thanks for checking it out, and I hope you guys are having fun.

  8. A Traveler

    “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.” TRUTH!

    I love the part about Guthrie and Shake Shack. Did he bring his food to the dugout?

  9. Zack Hample

    I’m not actually sure what he did with the food. I left him and Tang in right field after a few minutes and raced back to the left field seats.

  10. Amber Tilton

    I would’ve LOVED to actually see it in person but if the Royals go to the WS this year I am gonna try my danmdest to get tickets…IDC where the hell they are as long as I’m there!

  11. Mike M

    I somehow photobombed your Frank Thomas pic. BTW, refused to read one sentence of this. Still in denial! See you shortly! LGM!

  12. Zack Hample

    AMBER TILTON-
    Three consecutive seasons in the World Series? That’d be incredible. I hope you make it, if that happens.

    MIKE M-
    No. 69? Perfect.

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