Tagged: special privileges

6/30/10 at Hiram Bithorn Stadium

This was my last game in Puerto Rico, and my goal was simple: don’t get shut out. I’d snagged three balls the day before, but they were all kind of flukey, so basically, I just wanted to get on the board early and keep my streak alive.

The gates opened 15 minutes late because some workmen were using a gigantic cherry picker to change the bulbs on a light tower. (During this time, I kept hearing home run balls clanging off the metal bleacher benches.) As a result, I missed the Marlins’ portion of batting practice, and the Mets were already on the field when I ran in:

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Two minutes later, a right-handed batter hit a line drive that rolled all the way to the wall. One of the team’s strength and conditioning coaches picked it up, and I convinced him to toss it to me. It was about as uneventful as it gets, but I felt a huge sense of relief. Check out the look on my face right after I got it:

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In the photo above (which was taken by my girlfriend Jona), do you see the guy wearing sunglasses and a black Mets shirt? His name is Gustavo. He’s my newest friend. We’d met for the first time two days earlier, and you’ll see a better photo of him later in this entry.

When the bleachers started filling up, the security supervisor gave me (and only me) permission to go underneath the stands. Why? Because she loved me. Why? Because I’d given her a baseball the day before — and because she’d seen me give away several other balls to kids. Here I am standing in the gap behind the outfield wall:

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If you look closely at the photo above, you can see a stadium employee walking underneath the bleachers. Like I said, I was the only fan that was allowed to go down there, and look, it paid off:

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This ball landed in the middle of the bleachers and dropped down through one of the spaces between the steps. Here’s a photo that shows those spaces:

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I was sure that I’d end up snagging a dozen balls down there, but there wasn’t any action. It was bizarre and extremely frustrating.

Toward the end of BP, an employee wandered over and asked me something in Spanish. I had no idea what he said, so I shrugged. This prompted him to pull a ball out of his back pocket and flip it to me. (He must have asked if I’d gotten a ball yet. Good thing I didn’t pay attention during my Spanish 101 course in college.) The ball had a beautiful smudge on it:

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Have you ever seen a green smudge? I have no idea how that mark could have gotten there. Grass doesn’t stain like that. Could this ball have skipped off the artificial playing surface, or could it have been foul-tipped by a green bat?

Anyway, that was it for batting practice. Three balls. Not great. But better than zero.

Want to see what the bathrooms look like in the bleacher area?

Here you go:

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In the photo above, you can see how gray the sky was, and sure enough, it ended up raining:

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The rain didn’t last long.

Mike Pelfrey started warming up…

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…and then it rained some more:

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The rain delay lasted an hour and 20 minutes.

Eventually, I changed into a bright pink T-shirt and got Gustavo to take a photo of me and Jona:

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The shirt is completely ridiculous. The only reason I wore it was was to make it easier for people to look for me on TV.

Then Jona took a pic of me and Gustavo:

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The game itself was thoroughly entertaining, but unfortunately, there weren’t any home runs. Can you believe that? What a waste.

The lack of longballs didn’t stop these kids from having a great time:

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But no, really, the game was fun. The Mets scored three times in the top of the first inning, and the Marlins answered with a pair of runs in the bottom of the frame. The score was tied at 4-4 after five innings. Overall, the Marlins committed four errors. It was a sloppy game and a sloppy night. It rained a bit more. It was hot and muggy. The game (not including the delay) lasted nearly four hours, so it turned out to be a loooooong night. You can see the final score in the following photo:

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Jona was exhausted and sweaty and hungry. She really wanted to get back to the hotel, but I still had a few more things that I needed to do. First, I took photos of the nicest people I met at the stadium. In the double-photo below, the pic on the left shows a man named Nelson, who grew up in Brooklyn and now lives in Puerto Rico. He and I sat together at all three games, along with his 14-year-old daughter, who’s standing just behind him. The photo on the right shows the three guards/ushers who gave me special privileges and basically looked out for me throughout the series:

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As I mentioned in my previous entry, all the ushers were wearing those special “San Juan Series” T-shirts. I really wanted one, but they weren’t for sale, so I had to get creative. Long story short: I learned that the ushers had to report to a certain area inside the stadium after the game and that they had to wear their shirts until they came back out. I also learned from Gustavo how to ask, “Can I buy your shirt?” in Spanish. (It’s “Te puedo comprar la camisa” if you really want to know.)

Jona was ready to collapse. At that point, we’d been at the stadium for nearly nine hours. That’s a long time for anyone, especially someone who doesn’t particularly care for baseball, but I couldn’t just jump in a cab. I had this whole plan worked out for getting a shirt, and I had to see it through. When I explained to Jona that we needed to walk around the outside of the stadium and wait another 15 minutes for the ushers to exit, she wasn’t exactly thrilled. She was a good sport about it, though, and we were able to laugh about it. Before we exited the bleachers, I asked her to act out how she was feeling, both mentally and physically. This is what she did:

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(In the photo above, that’s Gustavo in the background. Earlier in the night, he caught one of the outfielders’ warm-up balls. I forget who tossed it — either Jason Bay or Chris Coghlan. It was the first ball that Gustavo had ever snagged at a major league game, and he offered it to me. I didn’t accept it, but thanked him profusely, and he later gave it to his 11-year-old nephew.)

Jona and I headed over to the employee exit and waited. It actually didn’t take that long before they started trickling out.

Te puedo comprar la camisa?!”

Te puedo comprar la camisa?!”

Te puedo comprar la camisa?!”

I shouted the phrase at everyone. Some people ignored me. Some gave me funny looks. Some mumbled a few words in Spanish and kept walking. Some responded in English and told me they were going to keep their shirts. And then, finally, a young, female usher (who was wearing another shirt underneath) stopped and asked, “For how much?”

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“Twenty bucks?” I asked, afraid that I’d get laughed at for making such a low offer.

“Are you serious?” she asked excitedly.

“Yeah, I want one of those shirts, but they’re not for sale.”

“Okay!” she said and started taking it off.

“Wait, what size is it?” I asked.

“Large,” she said.

Perfect.

She handed me the shirt. I handed her a $20 bill. She was happy. I was ecstatic…

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…and then Jona and I got our cab.

SNAGGING STATS:

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• 3 balls at this game (2 pictured on the right because I gave one to Nelson’s daughter)

• 182 balls in 19 games this season = 9.6 balls per game.

• 648 consecutive games with at least one ball

• 198 consecutive games outside of New York with at least one ball

• 4,540 total balls

CHARITY STATS:

• 38 donors (click here to learn more)

• $5.56 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)

• $16.68 raised at this game

• $1,011.92 raised this season for Pitch In For Baseball