My trip to Shea Stadium started with a live 20-minute interview on the Covino & Rich Show on Sirius Satellite Radio. I actually had to go to the studio for this one, and while I was waiting (on the 36th floor of the McGraw-Hill building on 49th Street & 6th Avenue) for the producer to come and get me, I got permission to take photographs. Here’s the lobby area:
See the blue screen on the upper right? See the black panels with orange text just below it on either side? They were like little scoreboards that kept listing different song titles and artists. I think they indicated what was being played on the various Sirius music channels.
I took a pic of the view of Radio City Music Hall…
…and was led into the studio soon after.
After the interview ended at 3:55pm, Jessica the call-screener took a photo of me and Covino (Rich was still sitting across from us)…
…and then I got a shot with both of the guys:
It was 4:04pm when I made it back out to the street. I ran over to 7th Avenue and then ran seven blocks south (right through Times Square) and ran down the steps into the subway and kept running until I was on an express No. 7 train…which then sat in the station for about 10 minutes.
By the time I made it to Shea, Gate C was already open and hundreds of fans were in the process of filing in.
My plan was to wait outside until I found someone with an extra bleacher ticket–and the bleachers weren’t even going to open for another 50 minutes.
It took 40 (of the longest) minutes (ever) to get myself the ticket I needed, at which point I raced back to Gate C (you can enter the main part of the stadium with a bleacher ticket) and ran up the ramps to the Field Level concourse and headed around to the first base side and darted down the steps to the front row behind the Mets’ dugout. The Mets were still taking BP. This is what it looked like:
See the guy standing on the warning track with the tan pants and dark green jacket? That’s Marty Noble, the Mets’ beat reporter for MLB.com (in case you’ve seen his name a thousand times and always wondered what he looked like).
“You didn’t see the thing about the guy who caught home runs on back-to-back nights at Yankee Stadium?”
“I saw that,” he said.
“Well that was ME,” I said.
“That was YOU?! No way.”
I then tried to convince him that it WAS me while he transferred the balls from the basket to the equipment bags. I’m not sure if I succeeded, and it didn’t matter. The only reason I was at the dugout was to try to get a ball, and before I even had a chance to ask for one, Dave looked up and said, “I suppose you want a ball.”
“Well,” I said, “if you happen to have a really dirty one that you were planning to throw out anyway…”
Dave then started fumbling through all the balls and he quickly pulled out a dirty one and tossed it to me. It was commemorative. Here it is:
“Thanks so much,” I said. “I really appreciate it.”
“I know,” he replied with the hint of a smile and disappeared underneath the dugout roof.
“Where is it?!” I asked frantically.
“Over there,” he said, pointing toward the front row in the middle of the bleachers.
I ran over and saw the ball sitting right where the guard had been pointing, and I took a photo before I grabbed it:
The Cubs were already on the field by this point, and I quickly got my third ball of the day from Carlos Zambrano. Then, because the section were still basically empty, I had ZERO competition when a home run ball landed in the center field end of the bleachers. I was like 40 feet away, and there wasn’t anyone else over there or even near me–not even security–so
A few minutes later, a man turned around and said, “Hey, aren’t you the guy who was on the FAN?” (He was referring to my recent radio interview on the “Boomer & Carton” Show on 660 WFAN here in New York City.)
“Yup, that’s me,” I said as another home run ball headed our way, landed on a metal bench two rows in front of us, bounced up and hit me on the wrist, and settled at my feet where I picked it up. (This ball, pictured on the right, had a VERY cool smudge on the logo.)
“How many balls is that now?” asked the man.
“Lemme think for a second,” I said, trying to remember how many balls I’d finished the previous day with. “Um…this one makes it three thousand seven hundred and eighty-eight.”
The man didn’t seem jealous or pissed off or anything about the fact that I’d just snagged this one right next to him. He seemed happy for me. I love Mets fans.
My sixth ball of the day was thrown by Reed Johnson–the 10th “Johnson” (along with Ben, Brian, Howard, Jason, Jonathan, Kelly, Mark P., Nick, and Russ) to have thrown me a ball–and my seventh was tossed by a player that I couldn’t identify.
I’d snagged the last six balls in such a short time frame that I didn’t have a chance to label any of them or put them away. Good thing I was wearing cargo pants with lots of pockets…and good thing there weren’t more people out there because I’m sure I would’ve gotten some strange looks. There were balls bulging out everywhere (sorry if that sounds gross), and it was hard to walk. I couldn’t even sit down because I had two of the balls in my back pockets. Thankfully, I soon had a minute to spare when the Cubs started a new round of BP so I quickly wrote the numbers on the balls and put them in my backpack.
My friend Greg (aka “gregb123” if you read the comments on this blog) was watching all of this from the corner spot in the left field Loge, and when I happened to move closer to him at one point, he got my attention and told me that a ball had dropped into the gap at the far end of the bleachers, all the way out in left-center field. Naturally, I ran over there and took a look, and this is what I saw:
Sweet!! (Thanks, Greg.) I set up my glove trick and reeled in the ball with ease.
There were two clumps of G.S.M. (Grody Shea Muck) caked to the sweet spot:
Still, I was glad to have the ball and made my best attempt to clean it off (by scraping it on the edge of a bench) before dropping it into my bag.
My ninth ball of the day was thrown by Kerry Wood, and my 10th was a home run that I caught on a fly in the wide cross-aisle. That one (I have no idea who hit it) had a big dirt/scuff pattern on it:
I managed to get one more ball, and I wouldn’t have had this one either if not for Greg. It was a ball that he’d pointed out at the start of the Cubs’ BP. It was in the gap behind the wall on the foul-pole end of the bleachers, and I hadn’t seen it because it was half-buried under weeds and trash. You can see the ball clearly in the photo below, but when I’d originally peeked into the gap from a spot to the left, it was completely hidden. Check it out:
It took me quite a while to fish this one out of the gap. At one point, I had it in the glove and started to lift it up when it slipped up. I nearly had a fit when that happened, but I kept trying (starting with swinging my glove from side to side in order to knock the ball a few inches to the side where I thought I’d have fewer leaves getting in my way) and eventually got it.
This ball, like several others I’d snagged throughout the day, was worth photographing:
I ended up giving three balls away to little kids; the security guards had been so nice to me during BP–first by pointing out the ball when I ran into the bleachers and then by letting me use the glove trick–that I decided to “share the wealth” a little more than usual with the fans in their section. I don’t normally take pics of the kids that I give balls to, but I made an exception because one of them was just sooooo damn cute:
The game itself was boring from a ball-snagging standpoint but exhilarating from a Mets-supporting standpoint. The Mets fell behind, 2-0, early on but tied the game in the fifth inning and took the lead for good in the sixth on Jose Reyes’ 200th hit of the season, which just so happened to be his 19th triple, which just so happened to come with the bases loaded. I was very excited. Shea was rockin’. It was fun.
Meanwhile, Johan Santana struck out 10 batters in eight solid innings to pick up his 15th win.
Final score: Mets 6, Cubs 2.
? 11 balls at this game
? 517 balls in 68 games this season = 7.6 balls per game.
? 564 consecutive games with at least one ball
? 335 consecutive games at Shea Stadium with at least one ball
? 95 lifetime games with at least 10 balls
? 22 double-digit games this year (extends my personal record)
? 3,794 total balls
AND IN OTHER (media) NEWS…
1) Someone at CBS recently uploaded my “Early Show” segment onto YouTube. In case you haven’t seen it, here it is.
2) Do you remember when I mentioned in my last entry that I had to pull over while driving to Philadelphia to do an interview with a reporter at the Wall Street Journal? Well, that story is now up, and you can read it here. Because it’s a blog-type piece, there are comments at the bottom, and as a rule, I never read comments about myself on other people’s blogs. They’re always so negative, and they’re always from people who don’t know a single thing about me (or might have seen me snag 11 balls but didn’t notice when I quietly gave three of them away), so please, if you’re going to read that piece, don’t leave a comment here and tell me how badly I’m getting bashed. I’m not interested.
3) I got quoted today in the New York Times about something only slightly related to snagging baseballs. Here’s the article. You’ll find my name about halfway down…