I still have no idea why I went to this game.
For starters, my plan going into the week had been to go to Citi Field on Friday, May 23rd, to see the Mets play the Diamondbacks. This fell through when the weather was bad, so I decided to go the following day instead. This also fell through because of the weather, and for some reason, I wanted to go to a Sunday game that would start at 1:10 pm, which meant that there would not be batting practice. To top it off, it was a single admission doubleheader, so there would definitely be no batting practice.
Last year, on 8/28/13, there was no batting practice and I was still able to go down to field level on both sides. Surely fans would be allowed to wander around until, I don’t know, maybe 12:30? I was counting on getting some tossups from the Diamondbacks pitchers before the game.
Well, I was only slightly bummed when I saw that there was no batting practice. But here’s where it gets bad. As I was running towards left field, I saw the lack of batting cage, so I slowed to a jog. I heard an usher say to me, “No batting practice, you don’t have to run.” I slowed to a walk, and when I tried going down to the seats down the left field line, I was stopped by an usher, who said that fans had to go to their ticketed seats. This was two hours before the start of the game! Unbelievable.
At that point, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do. I’d never had this problem before, and that’s when I realized that I was probably going to get shut out. It was a real shame.
I saw some Mets on the field beginning to throw, so I ventured over to their side. I reached a staircase guarded by a nice looking lady. I said to her, “Look, is it all right if I go down there and try to get a ball until the Mets leave the field? I promise I’ll leave this section when they’re gone.” She thought for a second and said, “Okay… but you have to come out when they leave.” I thanked her profusely, and I liked the fact that she was able to think for herself and not succumb to the hideous rules of Citi Field. I’m sorry, but fans should be able to go wherever they want for at least the first hour and a half.
By the time I made it down, there was only one ball left, and Dan Warthen picked it up and started walking towards the bullpen. I shouted his name loud and clear, but he ignored me. So much for that. I ran back up the stairs and thanked the usher again, but inside I was fuming.
That’s when I saw D-Backs’ pitcher Chase Anderson long tossing in left field. I headed over there and was surprised when there was an unguarded staircase leading into the left field seats. I ran down it and saw this:
At one point, I shouted his name and tried to get him to look up at me and acknowledge the fact that I was wearing Diamondbacks gear, but he never looked up. This picture was taken as he was wrapping up, because he started out further in left field. When he was done, I shouted his name, but he never acknowledged me. Wow.
This was serious. It was only 11:30, but I was already worried about a shutout.
It was then that I decided to press my luck on the Mets’ side again. I went over to the female usher and I pleaded with her again. I gave her one of my spring training baseballs so that she could give it away to somebody later. That seemed to win her approval, so I made it down to the Mets’ side yet again. Jenrry Mejia finished throwing, and I shouted his name. He saw me but he handed the ball off to a younger kid. Can’t really compete with that.
Opportunities were dwindling. Players were finishing left and right, and yet I was constantly out of position. Finally, when it seemed as if all the Mets were off the field, I saw Mets’ coach Ricky Bones walking from the bullpen towards the dugout, and I noticed that he had a ball in his hand. At this point, I was desperate. I let out a loud, “RICKY!” Nothing. I tried again. “MR. BONES!” To my delight, he looked my way, and after seeing that I had a glove, he let it fly towards me. There was a guy a few feet to my left who made a little effort to catch it, but there was no way that anybody else was going to take this one from me. I reached as far out as I could in order to prevent any deflections and I made the catch. I have to say that this was the biggest relief I have ever experienced at a baseball game. I ran up the steps and I profusely thanked the usher again. She held out the ball I’d given her, but I told her to give it away to somebody later. Words could not describe how I was feeling at that moment.
You’d think that after almost being shut out and after finally getting a ball I’d be content, right? Wrong. My contentment lasted for a good minute until I realized that I had to be behind the Diamondbacks’ dugout. I played it smart, though. I knew that security would be tight behind the dugouts, so I made an attempt to get into one of the sections down the left field line. Here’s where I did most of my loitering:
On field level, in the concourse behind several sections there is a handicapped row. It is chained off, so when a fan comes with a ticket for that section, the usher leaves his post five feet away and goes to un-chain the row. I noticed this happening at the staircase I’d been loitering by, so I made a run for it. Luckily, the usher was heavily preoccupied with the handicapped row, so I was able to make it in unscathed.
I ended up here shortly after:
I made it! Rather than going behind the dugout immediately, I decided to stay past the outfield end for a little bit because I saw a couple decked out in Diamondbacks gear. I sat in their row and we chatted briefly. There was a man near them (also in Diamondbacks gear) who said he was Chris Owings’ cousin. He tried calling out on my behalf to get a ball from Owings when he finished throwing, but to no avail. That was fine because I wanted to save my opportunities for the game itself and I didn’t want to be kicked out before the game even started.
When the game started, I was sitting behind the main dugout entrance. The bottom of the first ended with a groundout by Lucas Duda, and by the time Paul Goldschmidt received the throw at first I was already standing up on the staircase right next to my seat. Well, when Goldschmidt came in towards the dugout, he spotted me and underhanded me the ball. It was coming right to me, but the guy in front of me tried catching it too. My glove collided with his hands, and the ball bounced on the ground. Immediately I looked down and reached for it, and it was difficult because I was looking behind me… between my legs! Anyway, I picked it up. Unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of this ball.
Then, I moved to the staircase behind the home plate entrance of the dugout. As soon as I got there, I noticed a kid sitting on the other side of the railing sitting with his dad and brother. He had a glove, so I handed him a spring training ball. His dad thanked me, as did some of the people around me. More on that later.
Before the bottom of the 2nd, I noticed that Dave McKay threw the infield warmup ball to a fan. Fast forward to the middle of the third. When the infield warmup ball was thrown back to McKay, I was standing in the front row behind the dugout, and when he turned I said, “Mr. McKay!” He looked up and flipped me the ball. Again, I don’t have a picture.
The row I was sitting in was empty to my left. I figured that if an inning ended with anything but a strikeout, I would cut through the row and stand on the staircase where I’d gotten the ball from Goldschmidt. It was then that I realized I was sitting on 199 lifetime baseballs. The next one would be extra special. There were a bunch of adult men behind me who saw me get the ball from McKay, so I told them that my next ball would be #200. When the inning ended with a 6-4-3 double play, I told the guys behind me that I was going to cut through the row and try to get the ball. I decided not to cut all the way across because Goldschmidt might remember me. Instead, I stood in the row and half-heartedly waved my glove. That’s why I was shocked when Goldschmidt saw me and lobbed me the ball. I made the catch (with no interference this time) and as I walked back to my seat, I shrugged at the guys behind me. Here’s the ball, my 200th ball lifetime:
On 8/3/12 at Citizens Bank Park, Goldschmidt threw me 2 third out balls within the first 3 innings. It was like deja vu. I guess he has a bad short term memory? It’s not like I changed my shirt or anything between innings.
The next few innings were bland. The bottom of the 7th, however, ended with a Juan Lagares strikeout. When I ran down to the front row behind the dugout, I was the only person there! I knew I was going to get the ball, so when Miguel Montero approached, I didn’t even need to say his name. Sure enough, he threw me the ball. It was that easy.
As I mentioned before, this was a single admission doubleheader. Remember the kid I said I gave a ball to who was with his father and brother? I asked the father if they were staying for the second game, and he said no. I asked him if I could please have one of his ticket stubs, and to my delight, he gave me two of them! I only needed one, but this was great. Now I could go to the bathroom whenever I wanted and not have to worry about not being allowed back in, and I could also wander around elsewhere and then return at my own will.
The first game ended, and I headed up to the concourse to meet up with a friend from school who said he was going to this game. During our chat, I noticed that Zeke Spruill and Tuffy Gosewisch were tossing along the left field line. I tried getting the ball from them when they finished, but they held onto it. Bummer.
I went back to my new ticketed seat for the game, and the first few innings were boring. I happened to look at my ticket and notice that I had Delta Club access! I had never been in there, so I wanted to check it out, but I also didn’t want to miss out on any opportunities behind the dugout. I then realized that I had basically exhausted all opportunities behind the dugout, so I left the section to wander.
I got my ticket checked before reaching the inside of the club, which looked like this:
If it appears a little blurry, it’s because I was walking fast. I wanted to make it to the seats quickly because I wanted to make it back to the dugout in a timely manner.
I walked through a tunnel towards the seats and had to open a glass door to get outside. The usher there asked for my ticket, so I told her that I had club access and just wanted to sit for a little while and take a bunch of pictures. She told me to sit in the seat closest to her, which was on the aisle of the last row. This was perfect because there was a small cross aisle directly behind me, and I was prepared to get up and chase any foul balls that flew back my way. Unfortunately, there were none.
Here’s what my view looked like:
Here’s another shot:
I knew that this would probably be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, so I made sure to capture the moment. This was the view to my right:
I finally left and thanked the usher on my way out before heading back to the dugout.
At one point, I noticed a player in the dugout tossing a ball up and down. I went down to the front row and quickly identified the player as Ender Inciarte. Some people were asking for the ball repeatedly, but none of them knew his name, so I shouted “Ender!” He looked up at me and threw me the ball. One lady said “That’s enough.” Some guy was mad that I’d gotten a few baseballs over there already, so I finally asked him, “Who here hasn’t gotten a ball?” I wasn’t trying to be rude, I was simply asking because I’d seen a bunch of the kids down there get balls during the second game, and I was prepared to give a spring training ball away. He pointed to a kid who looked to be about 14 and didn’t have a glove. The guy said, “This is his first game.” I said, “He’s too old. I’m looking for someone younger.” It was then that I looked in the rows behind me and noticed a kid wearing Diamondbacks gear with a glove. I asked the guy, “How about him?” The guy said, “Okay, that works.” I went over to the kid and handed him the ball, prompting happiness from the guy and everybody else around. The ball from Inciarte, by the way, was my 6th of the day, which tied my Citi Field record. I also had 3 game used balls at that point (2 from Goldschmidt, 1 from Montero), which tied my single game record at any stadium.
Later on, Lucas Duda fouled a ball off the screen behind home plate, and it ricocheted towards the Diamondbacks dugout. The visiting team ballboy went to retrieve it, so I ran down to the front row behind the home plate entrance and asked him for the ball. He threw it to me, and just like that I had broken my single game Citi Field record, as well as my single game record for game used balls. Here’s the ball:
I failed to get any more balls, but you know what? That was fine. For a game in which I almost got shut out, I was able to bounce back from my pre-game mindset and snag 7 balls total. It was satisfying.
Here’s a departing photo that shows the Mr. Met dash for kids:
This was undoubtedly the most conflicted game I’ve ever been to. It instantaneously caused me a ton of stress, but in the long run it was my best Citi Field performance. If only there had been batting practice…
7 balls at this game
203 lifetime baseballs