My 6-foot-6 friend Leon Feingold sent me the following email a few nights ago:
“Hey, want to meet some 7-footers tomorrow??? Call me around 10 or 11am….”
Based on this blog entry that I’d posted a month earlier, you could say that my response went something along the lines of “HELL yeah!!!”<
It turned out that the 5-foot-9 Martha Stewart was going to be taping a show based entirely on tall people. There was going to be a fashion show with extra-tall models (run by a tall designer), an interview with a 6-foot-3 woman who wrote the definitive book about being tall, and other tall-related topics.
“You can’t come into the studio audience,” wrote Leon in his follow-up email the next day, “b/c EVERYONE in the audience must be minimum 6′ and I’m afraid you just miss the cutoff. But you can come meet me and mom lining up outside at 221 w 26th (7/8) where they’ll be doing the taping, and meet Dave Rasmussen, who I think is 7’4″. We’re heading over now, and will be there through 4pm.”
It just so happened that I had to be at West 13th Street for a two-hour meeting ending at 12:30pm, so I headed over to find Leon as soon as I got out. Here I am with him and his 6-foot-1 mother, Eleanor:
(Note my “trying-to-appear-taller-than-I-actually-am” pose. For the record, I’m officially 5-foot-10 and five-eighths, which I normally round up to 5-foot-11.)
Unfortunately, I had just missed the super-tall guy — actually, there were two super-tall guys — but at least I got to hang out with Leon for a while. And if I wanted to wait for a couple hours, I could catch them on the way out.
Suddenly, the line started to move. Leon and his mother and all the other tall folks were about to head inside. He said he’d try to sneak me in. I didn’t see how that was possible. (Leon once snuck me into Citi Field, so I should stop doubting him.) He’d once snuck me into a Mensa meeting (where I managed to trick everyone into thinking I was smart), but how do you fake height? I happened to be wearing thick-ish sneakers, so that was good for about an inch, but everyone was wearing shoes that made them look taller. It was a celebration of height. Even the women were at least six feet tall, and most of them were wearing high heels.
We headed inside to a little check-in/security area with an airport-style metal detector. There were several “Martha Stewart” employees standing behind a counter, looking at everyone’s IDs and having them fill out forms. I was screwed. I knew it. Crap. I wasn’t scared about getting in trouble, but I was ready for them to tell me to get lost.
I handed my driver’s license to one of the ladies.
She looked it over and said, “You’re not on the list.”
“This is my friend, Zack,” said Leon. “He decided to join us at the last minute. Is there any chance you can still add him?”
“I think so,” she said. Then she checked the list to review some other names, and before I knew it, I was holding a ticket to the studio audience:
The fact that I was standing on my tiptoes might’ve helped, or maybe I’d managed to trick her because Leon had poofed up my hat to make me look a little taller. I don’t know what happened. Maybe the lady just wasn’t paying attention, or maybe she didn’t care, but regardless, I was in. Every member of the studio audience was given a yellow, ruler-like name tag. Here’s how I filled out mine:
There was a large waiting area with dozens of chairs and people milling about. I kept walking around on my tiptoes. My calves got sore within three minutes. I was thrilled to be there, but felt so out of place.
“Imposter!” snapped a middle-aged 6-foot-2 woman as I walked past the coat check area.
I couldn’t tell if she was joking, so I just shrugged and pointed at my name tag.
“You’re not six feet,” she said a bit too seriously.
I smiled and said, “I rounded up.”
And then it happened: the two TALLEST human beings I had EVER seen walked by with a bunch of other tall people (who looked short by comparison).
“Go get a photo!” said Leon.
Eleanor grabbed my camera (which I always carry with me, just in case), and we followed the crowd into a hallway. Everyone immediately turned and stared at me. It was bizarre. The two super-tall guys…THEY were the freaks of nature (I mean that in a good way), yet I was being looked at as the freak. Everyone was smiling, though. They knew why I was there.
“YOU!” I said, pointing up at a 7-foot-3 black guy named Curtis, and “YOU!” I said again, turning toward the 7-foot-4 (if you round up) white guy named Dave. “I *need* to get a photo with you two!!”
They just kinda looked at each other and shrugged and said okay. We gathered close together…and Eleanor took a couple quick photos…and oh my God. Check it out:
Seriously…JEE-zus Aitch. I was happier standing between those two guys than I would’ve been if I’d been standing with Hank Aaron and Cal Ripken Jr. I don’t know what it is. I just freakin’ LOVE tall people. You know how you hear stories about women who feel trapped in men’s bodies? Well, I feel like a 7-foot-8 monster who’s trapped in a nondescript 5-foot-11 (if you round up) body. I realize that 5-foot-11 is a perfectly acceptable height. In fact, it’s actually slightly taller than average, but as far as I’m concerned, just based on how I feel in my head and in my gut, my height is a complete disaster.
BTW, when I thanked these guys after the photo and reached to shake their hands, it’s like I was reaching right for their crotches. The whole thing was just…weird.
Eventually, it was time to line up outside the studio:
See that guy at the bottom of the ramp? He’s 6-foot-6. And the woman between him and Leon? 6-foot-2.
Once we got inside the studio, we were told that we could take photos before and after the taping, so…here you go:
The show itself was fine. I won’t give a play-by-play. You can watch it for yourself if you’re interested. It’s going to air on Thursday, February 18th. You might even catch a glimpse of me. On several occasions, those cameras that get shots of the crowd were pointing right at me, but I have no idea what exactly they captured or if it’ll be used in the actual show.
During the commercial breaks, I talked to the two women sitting next to me. One was 6-foot-1. The other was 6-foot-2. They told me that they’re members of the Tall Club of New York City. I fessed up and admitted that I’m not quite six feet tall (we were sitting down, so it wasn’t obvious) and asked if I’d be allowed to attend one of their events. They said there are get-togethers in bars that are open to the public. “Anyone can come,” said one of the women, “but we don’t like it when really really short guys show up. You know, really short, like 5-foot-8 or under. We call them ‘tree-climbers’.”
After the taping, Martha Stewart lingered in the studio for a few minutes and took questions from the audience:
In the photo above, do you see that big brown thing behind Martha? That, my friends, is a 1,250-pound chocolate cake (with a cherry made of sugar on top). Every audience member was given a piece of a different chocolate cake during the Q&A session. Each of us also received a copy of The Tall Book as well as a coupon for a free extra-tall cutting board. I’m thinking I might use mine as a coffee table.
Another thing about the photo above…
See all those people standing next to the cake? See the guy standing closest to it? That’s Tom Cruise. Sort of. It’s a life-sized cardboard cutout of him, which is to say that it’s exactly 5-foot-7…
Mwahaha!! Suck it, Cruise!
Here are three more photos of people standing with the cutout, going in increasing height order.
First, we have a random six-foot-tall hottie:
Next we have Leon:
And (drumroll) here’s the tallest of the tall:
Here’s a group photo, and FYI, the woman wearing red underneath the “AR” in “MARTHA” was standing on a bench:
Here’s one last photo (which needs no explanation):
(If there’s anyone reading this who’s at least seven feet tall, please get in touch. I want to know you and have 18 million of your babies. Okay, that was a joke, I only want 16 million, but no, seriously, I do want to know you. I swear this isn’t a sexual fetish. I just really REALLY adore tall people. The end.)
Last night, thanks to an invitation from my friend Mike, I attended a Steiner Sports dinner in New Rochelle, NY. (For those who don’t know, Steiner is basically THE biggest sports memorabilia company in the world.) The purpose of this event was a) to showcase some items that will be sold at an upcoming auction and b) to raise money and awareness for a not-for-profit agency called Family Services of Westchester.
Here’s a photo of the room where the event took place:
Some people were wearing suits and ties. Others were wearing jeans and baseball caps. And Dwight Gooden was wearing a leather jacket:
Gooden was one of three players in attendance. Unfortunately I didn’t get to have my photo taken with him (or to tell him that I attended his no-hitter in 1996) because it was so crowded, but I managed to get photos with the other two guys:
I knew I was only going to have 20 seconds with Yogi Berra, so rather than telling him that my dad served with him at a submarine base during World War II, I mentioned my baseball collection and asked if he had any weird stories about baseballs. All he said was that back in the old days, when balls were hit into the stands during BP, one of the coaches would sometimes walk out there and ask the fans to give ’em back.
As for Brett Gardner, the first thing I told him was, “Last year, during the final week at the old Yankee Stadium, you tossed your ninth-inning warm-up ball into the bleachers, and I got it, so thank you for that.”
“Oh…” he said, “you’re welcome.”
“Now, I don’t want you to feel used,” I continued, “but I’ve actually caught a LOT of balls in my life, and if I told you how many, you’d probably call me a liar.”
“How many?” he asked.
“Over forty-three hundred,” I said, and since there was no one else waiting to talk to him at that point (he’d already been there for a couple hours), we got to chat for a few minutes. He asked me questions about my collection, and after I explained some of the details, I told him that I used my collection to raise a lot of money for charity this year. I then asked him what his fastest time running the 60-yard dash was, and he said it was something like “six-three-six,” meaning 6.36 seconds, which is thoroughly insane, not to mention more than a full second faster than I ever ran it. I bowed down to him in “We’re not worthy!” fashion, and he admitted that he’s probably not quite that fast anymore.
“But you WERE when it mattered,” I said, “when all the scouts had their stopwatches ready.”
Dwight Gooden and Yogi Berra and Brett Gardner weren’t the only celebrities at the dinner; the man responsible for the food itself — Executive Chef Robert Hesse — was quite well known as well. Here’s a photo of him with my friend Mike:
Hesse starred on the show “Hell’s Kitchen” and has recently worked as a personal chef for some bigtime sports stars (including Hank Aaron). Here’s a short article about him.
In the photo above, the plate in Hesse’s right hand has two slices of pork tenderloin and a small cup of his beyond-awesome sausage gumbo. The plate in his left hand has a pulled pork slider, mac-n-cheese, and roast beef with some kind of white/creamy sauce on top.
I asked Hesse if he’d ever caught a baseball at a game, and when he said no, I said, “Good because I’m completely inept in the kitchen.”
Back to the baseball memorabilia, here are a few of the items that were on display:
In the photo above, do you see that little case just beyond the upper right corner of the “final season” base? That contained a freeze-dried clump of dirt and grass from the old Yankee Stadium.
Here’s another cool item. I don’t know exactly what to call it or where in the old stadium it was located, but it seems to be some kind of mail slot unit. Check it out:
Here’s a close-up:
Here’s another photo of the room:
Did you notice the turnstile in the photo above? (I miss the old NYC stadiums so much. I can’t even describe it. I had a dream last night that I was at Shea, and there were about 14 fans in the entire ballpark. I was in heaven…and I was nearly depressed when I woke up.)
Here’s a signed “holiday ball” from Joba Chamberlain:
(I got Joba’s autograph for free at the 2007 Futures Game. Haha.)
I wanted to see what kind of ball Joba had signed. In other words…what did the logo say? Was it an All-Star ball? Those are typically the only types of balls with multi-colored stitching (click here and here and here for some examples), so I walked around to the back of the table and crouched down. This is what I saw:
Whoa. That’s pretty snazzy. I never knew that such a ball even existed…and do you see the name on it? The printed signature? It says “Brandon Steiner.” That’s THE guy at Steiner Sports — the head of the whole company. Shortly after I took this photo, I got to meet him and chat for a few minutes, and based on a few things we discussed, I have a feeling that I might be crossing paths with him again next season…
The Dodgers were in town, Manny Ramirez was back from his 50-game suspension, and the sun was actually shining. Citi Field, as I expected, ended up being unbearably crowded, but for the first 20 minutes after the gates opened, I had some room to maneuver, and I made the most of it.
My first ball of the day should have come from Mike Pelfrey. Within the first minute after I reached the left field seats, I got him to throw one to me–but he chucked it 10 feet over my head. The stands were still totally empty at that point, so I wasn’t too concerned about his horrible aim until I turned around and saw another fan who just happened to be walking down the steps at that very moment. This other guy didn’t have a glove and of course he ended up with the ball.
That hurt. But then things got better.
A right-handed batter on the Mets (no idea who) launched a high fly ball in my direction, and as it sailed over the wall, I drifted a few feet to my left and caught it easily on the fly. The ball had last year’s Shea Stadium commemorative logo. Check it out:
The logo, as you can see above, was smudged, but that didn’t bother me. I’d snagged a bunch of these balls last season and had plenty (like this one) that were game-used and in “perfect” condition.
Two minutes later, I caught another home run that (I think) was hit by Nick Evans. It was a line drive that hooked 15 feet to my right. I bolted through an empty row and made the back-handed catch and then noticed that the ball had a pristine Shea logo.
A few minutes after that, two home runs landed in the seats, prompting an all-out scramble among the fans. I lost out on the first ball to an older man, but grabbed the second ball under a seat just before the nearest guy could get his hands on it.
That was the end of the first round of BP. There were a bunch of lefties due to hit in the second round, and I noticed that there was a ball sitting on the warning track in right-center field…
…so I ran over there and stood above it and decided to wait until a player came to retrieve it. The section began filling up a bit during the next few minutes, but I figured I still had a great shot at getting it. Under normal circumstances, I would have simply snagged it with my glove trick, but Citi Field is not normal. Security is incredibly strict, and as soon as I had entered the stadium, I had been warned/threatened not to use the trick by a guard who recognized me (but obviously didn’t know about my charitable efforts).
Sean Green was the player closest to me:
He’s usually nice about tossing balls to fans, so I was still liking my chances.
Now…I should mention that my friend Andrew Gonsalves was at this game. Andrew and I met a few years ago at my writing group, and just this past winter, he and I spent many many hours together, designing the program that now accepts pledges for the charity.
Three more things you should know about Andrew:
1) This was his first game of the season.
2) He lived in L.A. for a while and loves the Dodgers.
3) He had never snagged a baseball, nor had he even tried.
He hadn’t planned on trying to snag anything at this game. He just wanted to watch his favorite team and see me in action, but once he saw how many balls Livan Hernandez was tossing into the crowd, he decided to give it a shot. I took a photo of him from where I was standing…
…and then he took a photo of me:
Green eventually came over and tossed me the ball, and then less than a minute later, Andrew got one from Livan:
Andrew even snagged a second ball after that and handed it to the woman standing next to him.
When I headed back to the left field seats, I saw a ball sitting on the batter’s eye, just to the side of the Home Run Apple:
It would’ve been SO easy to snag it with my glove trick, but I was too scared to go for it. If I’d gotten caught, I might have been ejected or had my glove confiscated. (I was ejected four times from Shea Stadium for committing horrible crimes such as catching too many baseballs and not sitting in my assigned seat, and I did once have my glove confiscated at Yankee Stadium, although I was able to get it back soon after.)
Toward the end of the Mets’ portion of BP, I made a nice catch on a Gary Sheffield homer. It was a high fly ball that was carrying a bit over my head and 10 feet to my right. While the ball was in mid-air, I took my eye off it and climbed back over a row of seats, then picked up the ball as it continued its descent. At the last second, as I reached up to catch it, I was clobbered from behind by a man who of course was not wearing a glove. Not only did I manage to hang onto the ball, but when my hat went flying, I swooped it up before it hit the ground and put it right back on my head in one motion. The man congratulated me and apologized. I noticed that he was wearing a media credential. How dare he compete with (and crash into) fans?
Dodgers BP was a nightmare. I couldn’t even get into the front row to try to get players to toss balls to me. Look how crowded it was:
You know why it’s so crowded? Because Fred Wilpon, the owner of the Mets, thinks it’s a good idea to keep fans out of the seats behind the dugouts during batting practice. (Imagine all the horrible things that would happen if fathers and sons were to loiter there and try to collect autographs. God forbid!) Therefore, all the fans are forced to stand along the foul lines and in the outfield. It’s awful. Shame on the Mets. I refuse to root for a team that treats its fans this way. Go Royals!
Somehow, against all odds, I managed to catch two more home runs on the fly during a 10-second span at the end of BP. They might have been hit on back-to-back pitches. I have no idea, but I remember that I was still holding the first ball in my bare hand when I caught the second ball in my glove. Both balls came within five feet of where I’d been standing, but when the seats are packed, five feet feels like a mile. That said, I judged both balls perfectly. I mean…before the balls even reached their apex, I was carefully weaving in and out of people toward the EXACT spot where they ended up landing, and then I had to reach above all the other gloves (a few of which were bumping into mine) to actually catch them. After I caught the second of these two homers, everyone with a glove crowded around me, as if moving closer was somehow going to increase their chances. One word: duh.
It ended up not making a difference. There wasn’t much else that landed in the seats after that, so I took off for the dugout.
I got some equipment guy to toss me my eighth ball of the day after all the players had disappeared into the clubhouse.
Then Donald Trump made an appearance and started signing balls:
Andrew got him:
(I think the signature says “Duuuuuuy” which of course would be pronounced “DOYYY!!!”)
I could have easily gotten an autograph, but there was no way I was going to allow Donald T. Rump to deface one of my precious baseballs. That just wasn’t going to happen. (How would he like it if I wrote my name on one of his buildings? Yeah.)
Right before the game started, I got Casey Blake to toss me his warm-up ball at the dugout, and then two minutes later, I got another (my 10th of the day!) from Mark Loretta. That one was marked by the Dodgers on the sweet spot:
I later wrote the “4118” because this was the 4,118th ball I’d ever snagged. (If you want to see my entire collection of marked balls, click here.)
I headed out to left field for Manny’s first at-bat, and there was really no point in being there. There simply weren’t ANY empty seats, not at least in the section I had chosen, so I headed back to the Dodgers’ dugout with Andrew, and we stayed there for the rest of the night.
Here’s Oliver Perez (fresh off the DL) pitching to Manny several innings later:
You can see the ball in the photo above, but it doesn’t look like a ball. My camera’s shutter speed isn’t all that great, so the ball looks like a streak. It’s on the grass just below the white ESPN sign…just barely above and to the right of first base.
I was hoping to get a third-out ball tossed to me, but there was some serious competition:
I’m talking about the kids who were sitting near the bottom of the staircase, ready to race to the front row as soon as the third out was recorded.
As for my claim about left field being packed, here’s proof:
There aren’t any cross-aisles on the field level at Citi Field, so once the seats fill up, the only way to catch a batted ball is to pick a staircase and pray. Sorry, but even with two members of the 500 Home Run Club (Sheffield was the other) in the starting lineups, I wasn’t going to waste my time in the outfield. And hey, my decision to stay close to the action paid off. No, I didn’t snag a third-out ball or an infield warm-up ball or a foul ball, but for the first time in my six games at Citi Field, I grabbed a T-shirt during the T-shirt launch:
The guy sitting behind me offered me $20 for it, but his offer was only good if I left the shirt wrapped up. (He wanted to give it away to someone as a gift.) Up until that point, I had never gotten a look at one of these shirts, so as tempting as the offer was, I decided to keep the shirt and unwrap it and take my chances that it would turn out to be something cool that I’d actually be proud to wear. Here’s how that played out:
I was really hoping to snag one more ball. That would’ve given me 300 for the season–a number I’ve never reached before the All-Star break–but there weren’t any other balls to be snagged.
(Click here for Andrew’s blog entry about this game.)
• 299 balls in 34 games this season = 8.79 balls per game.
• 603 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 344 consecutive Mets games with at least one ball
• 6 consecutive games at Citi Field with at least 9 balls
• 108 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
• 61 lifetime games in New New York with at least 10 balls
• 12 games this season with at least 10 balls
• $6.95 remaining on the MetroCard I found on the third base side in the top of the ninth inning
• 4,119 total balls (73 more balls needed in order for my ball total to surpass Ty Cobb’s lifetime hit total)
• 112 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $24.37 pledged per ball
• $243.70 raised at this game
• $7,286.63 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball
By the way, in the wake of all the negative attention I’ve been getting because that silly Wall Street Journal story, it’s nice to get emails like this:
Just wanted to drop a line and let you know that we are big fans, here in Boise, ID (home of the (last place) Hawks!)
I’m sorry about the negative press in the WSJ and others, but I hope you don’t pay attention to people who don’t get what you do. You have brought a lot of fun into our family with your books and blog. My husband has only become interested in baseball after reading Watching Baseball Smarter.
Also, I gave a copy to my brother-in-law, whose claim to fame up to now has been that the only book he ever read was ‘The Outsiders’ in seventh grade. Now he can add yours to his list! Yay!
Take care and keep up the awesomeness!
p.s. I think the Watch with Zack program is so cool. I have been impressed with how respectful you are of the families and kids. I really appreciate your passion and love for the game. If we were closer I’d send my seven year-old with you in a heartbeat!
As a native New Yorker, I’ve been conditioned not to talk to strangers or even make eye contact with them, so when I got on the subway yesterday to go to Citi Field and heard some guy ask a question about Johan Santana, I ignored it. It was a silly question anyway: “What happened with Johan last night? He just didn’t have it?”
Of course Johan HAD it. Sure, he suffered the loss, but–
Suddenly it occurred to me that since I was wearing a Mets cap and a Shea Stadium shirt, the Johan chatter might have been directed my way, so I looked up and sure enough the guy was staring right at me.
“Really,” said the guy with enthusiastic surprise. “I didn’t get to watch the game. I only heard a little bit on the radio.”
We ended up talking for the next five minutes. He asked me if I’d been to Citi Field, and what I think of the new Yankee Stadium, and how I get to go to so many games. Each question led to another and another, so finally I just came right out and explained my whole deal with snagging baseballs.
“How ’bout you?” I asked. “What do YOU do?”
“I’m an actor,” he said.
“Oh…cool,” I replied, not knowing how to follow that up with anything insightful or intelligent. All I could think of was that he was young-ish, outgoing, good looking, and well dressed, so his answer made sense.
“I was on the Sopranos for four years,” he said.
“Seriously?! Wow, forgive me, I’m clueless when it comes to pop culture and the media and celebrities.”
“No problem,” he said.
“So…people come up to you all the time and know who you are?”
“Yeah,” he said, “especially at Mets games for some reason.”
“What’s your name?”
What did he say? Jano…what? There was another syllable at the end, but I didn’t quite catch it, and I didn’t want to make an even bigger fool of myself by asking him to spell it, so I just said I’d look him up later. I asked if he had any projects currently in the works, and he named a couple movies including “Taking Woodstock.”
I gave him my card, and we shook hands and parted ways when the train pulled into Times Square.
I have since looked him up, and his name is Will Janowitz. Has anyone heard of him? Here’s his page on IMDb.
My trek to Queens on the #7 train was less eventful. I sat in the last car, ate two slices of pizza, and wrote a page in my neglected journal. Then, after getting out at the Mets/Willets Point stop, I headed downstairs and walked over to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda.
Who was there? Three important people:
1) My friend Greg (aka “gregb123”) in the comments section.
2) My friend Donnie (aka “donnieanks”).
3) A 60-ish-year-old man named David Ross (not to be confused with the 31-year-old David Ross who plays for the Braves) who’s an editor for an “online rich media magazine” called FLYP.
David was there to interview me (with a very small HD video camera), and he got started right away. I handed my camera to Greg and asked him to take a few photos of me. He took four, and I look ridiculous in all of them, only because I was either blinking or in mid-syllable. (At least that’s what I’m going to tell myself). Here’s the least bad of the four photos:
See what I mean? Ridiculous. But at least it gives you an idea of what was going on.
I raced out to the left field seats when the gates opened at 4:40pm, and Gary Sheffield greeted me by scorching a line-drive homer to left-center. I was the only one out there (Greg and Donnie had positioned themselves closer to the foul pole), and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to catch it on the fly, so I just prayed that it wouldn’t ricochet back onto the field. Thankfully, the ball stayed in the seats and rolled down into the front row. I pulled out my camera, looked over my shoulder, and saw Donnie give me a nod as if to say, “Go ahead and take your damn photo. I’m not gonna run over there and steal the ball from you.”
Here’s the photo:
Is that a nice sight or what?
By the way, that ball had last year’s Yankee Stadium commemorative logo on it. Pretty nifty. And random. Obviously there are a bunch of extras floating around.
A minute later, with David’s camera pointed at me, I caught a homer on the fly and robbed the 6-foot-5 Donnie in the process. Donnie was cool with it. I hadn’t boxed him out or slammed into him. It was a clean play all the way. As soon as the ball was hit, I stepped down into the row in front of him, then drifted laterally as the ball approached, and made a leap at the last second. If it had been a couple feet higher, or if he’d run down into the row in front of me, he would’ve had it. That’s how we do it in New York City. If you can catch a batted ball, you go for it. Period. You don’t back off (as the uber-polite guys at Coors Field do) just because someone else is camped under it. In New York, there’s ALWAYS someone else camped under it. It’s a real competition, not a family softball game. That’s what makes it fun, and of course Donnie was a true gentleman about it.
You know who wasn’t a gentleman? A security guard out in center field who stopped me from using the glove trick to reel in the following ball:
I flung the glove out and knocked it closer, and after I’d moved the ball to a spot right below me, he started shouting and then walked out onto the batter’s eye and snatched it. Not cool. I could understand if security wanted to stop me from pulling up a ball off the warning track, but in the dead area behind the outfield wall? Really?! Good job, Mets. Way to train your employees. Tell them to focus on stealing balls from fans (and money from charity) instead of making sure that there aren’t razor blades out in the open in the seating areas. Yeah, that’s right, I found one sitting on the steps in left-center. Unbelievable. Welcome to Citi Field, everybody. Come see the Mets and die.
My third ball was thrown by Livan Hernandez, and it tailed a foot or two to my left. After I reached out and caught it, I realized that it had been intended for the woman standing next to me, so I handed it to her…and yes, it counts as part of my collection. Both Greg and Donnie said it was fair to count it, as did my friend Brad who’s the ultimate voice of reason when it comes to ballhawk-related issues. If Livan had pointed to the woman before throwing the ball, I would’ve stepped aside and let her catch it, but since it wasn’t obvious when he first let it fly (from a distance of about 75 feet), I decided to go for it.
That was it for the Mets’ portion of BP, and I didn’t get anything during the first 20 minutes that the Braves were on the field. Slow day. I was nervous. I’d started the day with a lifetime total of 3,989 balls, and I was planning to snag No. 4,000 in Los Angeles six days later. In fact, by this point, it wasn’t merely a plan–it was a promise. I’d already spoken to someone with the Dodgers and guaranteed that I would snag No. 4,000 at Dodger Stadium on May 18th. This game at Citi Field was going to be my last before flying to the west coast, so I *needed* to snag at least a few more balls. Ideally, I wanted to snag about seven or eight. That would’ve left me three or four balls short of the milestone–just the right amount to create a little suspense but not so short that I’d be nervous about failing to reach it. Even if I only snagged six balls at this game, I felt like I could still probably find a way to snag five at Dodger Stadium, but I didn’t want to take that chance…so yeah, I needed four or five MORE balls in addition to the three I’d already snagged from the Mets.
Tim Hudson flipped one up without looking. I was in the crowded front row, and as soon as the ball left his hand, I knew it was going to sail over my head, so I started climbing over the seats, and when the it plunked down (thankfully there was no one behind me), I was right in position to grab it. Phew! That was ball No. 4.
This is how crowded the seats were at that point:
As you can see, it was packed near the foul pole, but there was some room to run in left-center. Of course, there’s a reason for all that room, namely the distance (well over 400 feet) that a batter would have had to hit the ball to clear the 16-foot wall to the right of the “384”
Toward the end of BP, Jeff Francoeur launched a deep drive to my left. I darted across an entire section before anyone else even budged, and I was able to grab that ball off the ground. Hell yes. I was approaching my recommended daily allowance of balls…and then I reached it. Martin Prado tossed me ball No. 6 (I later gave that one away to a kid) and I felt relieved. I was almost certain that I’d find a way to snag at least one more ball, but even if I didn’t, at least I was only five away from the Promised Land.
That was it for BP.
David interviewed me for a bit before the game, and then we moved to our very good seats (courtesy of FLYP) behind the Braves’ dugout.
First inning? Nothing.
Second inning? Dead.
Third inning? Nada.
But in the middle of the fourth inning, I got Braves first base coach Glenn Hubbard to toss me the infield warm-up ball.
Sweeeeeet! That was my seventh ball of the day. I was SET. As far as No. 4,000 was concerned, I didn’t need to snag anything else, but of course I kept at it because a) I can’t be at a baseball game and NOT try to use my glove, and b) I still wanted to raise money for Pitch In For Baseball.
The fifth inning came to an end when Mike Pelfrey hit a weak grounder up the middle. Yunel Escobar fielded it, stepped on second base to force out Omir Santos, and threw me the ball as he approached the dugout. It was a thing of beauty (and not just because it was commemorative). Escobar was a full section to my left, but he spotted my Braves gear and tossed the ball JUST high enough to clear the reaching hands of the fans next to me. If they had even a three-inch vertical leap, I would’ve been out of luck. (Not that I’m an Olympian or anything, but I’m always amazed at how unathletic people are.) Anyway, in case you’ve lost count, that was my 8th ball of the day. Now, just three balls away from 4,000, I was really *really* set.
Although this might be hard to believe, the highlight of the game was NOT Carlos Beltran’s extra-inning walk-off walk. No sir. The highlight (and I forget the exact moment at which it occurred) was when a fan ran out onto the field wearing nothing more than a Mets rally monkey. Seriously…he was naked except for…the monkey. The guy ran out into the infield, made a rather graceful foot-first slide into second base (ouch), and was apprehended by security soon after:
The photo above was taken by Donnie (my camera…don’t ask) and it’s not even the best photo he got. If you want to see the real zinger, you’ll have to check out his blog entry about this game. So funny! On Donnie’s blog, you can actually read what’s written on the guys’ stomach.
The game itself was truly exciting. For most of the last two innings, everyone in the stadium was standing, and in the following photo, you can see Fernando Tatis getting plunked by Mike Gonzalez:
After the game (which the Mets won, 4-3), I couldn’t resist trying to get a ball from home plate umpire Andy Fletcher…and I succeeded.
I almost felt bad about ruining the suspense of ball No. 4,000. Now there’s really no question about whether or not I’ll get it on May 18th at Dodger Stadium. The only question is…how will I get it? (And also how far past 4,000 will I go?)
As for the FLYP interview, I’m not sure when it’ll be ready, but hopefully I’ll have an update within the next week or two.
• 178 balls in 22 games this season = 8.09 balls per game.
• 591 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 473 consecutive games in New York with at least one ball
• 343 consecutive Mets games with at least one ball
• 3,998 total balls
• 104 donors (click here and scroll down for the complete list)
• $20.70 pledged per ball
• $186.30 raised at this game
• $3,684.60 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball