Opening Day at Citi Field (3/31/14)

The most wonderful time of the year was upon us. I didn’t get much sleep the night before Opening Day, a true holiday to me, whether the U.S. recognizes it as one or not. I left Schenectady around 7:15 for the 11:10 Gate Opening time. With a rest stop and some traffic, I arrived to the park just in time. This photo was taken from the highway at 11:04.
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There was quite a bit of traffic, and tailgating going around at the time, and I managed to get to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda gate just in time for the gate opening. Had I known for sure there wouldn’t be batting practice, I probably wouldn’t had entered the stadium when I did. I wish I could’ve walked around the park a little more and seen the live pre-game that was going on right outside the gate, or enjoyed my groups tailgate, or just enjoy the atmosphere.

Here’s a new one: As I entered the park, they were checking bags as always. In my Mets bag, I had my glove, an extra coat, and the cup-trick. The cup-trick is basically a cup tied to a string, with rubber bands around the length of the cup, and added weight taped to the bottom of the cup. As the security guard checked my bag, he saw all the stuff taped to the bottom of the cup to weighit down, and immediately said…

“What is this, a bomb?”
I was surprised. That’s my first terrorist accusation. Then I replied:
“No… umm… it’s for picking up baseballs.” At this point I thought maybe the guy would confiscate it or make a big deal about it, or continue asking questions, but then, luckily, he said…
“Oh, and all this stuff is so it’s heavy enough to drop over the ball?”
OK, so he understood how it worked. After that, he saw that I was completely decked out in Mets gear and said “Well with that blonde hair, you don’t look like a terrorist, and you look like a pretty big Mets fan to me, so you can go ahead.” I’m glad that was over with. I also worry that security thinks blonde hair means that someones not a threat, though!
The promotion for the game was a 2014 Magnetic Schedule. (Like they needed any promotion for Opening Day. I’ll take it anyway.) Then, I got that first beautiful look at the field.
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Right when I saw the green grass, I instantly got goosebumps. Baseball was back! After I saw there was no BP, and nobody throwing, I took advantage of the mostly empty stadium and took some pictures. This first one is of the new 7 Line kiosk in center field.
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Here’s a view from behind the Big Apple Reserve in Center Field.
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The usher asked me if I wanted to go down into the section, but with no batting practice, and it being pretty cold, I said “no thanks” and got a head start on the riff-raff with some food.

I got in line at the Shake Shack for some of my first ballpark food of the season. I get it almost every time I come to Citi Field, a Shackburger, and Fries. But one thing you have to know is, it’s always crowded. The line can be as long as an hour long, so you have to know what time to get in it. This line here was 18 minutes after the gates opened, and it’s still pretty short for the Shake Shack line.
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As you can see, they have the ropes going pretty far back for the crowds they were expecting.
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With all the cold wind blowing through the tunnels, it was good to have some warm food that I hadn’t had all offseason.

Over in left I saw a tarp over where ther Mets would be unveiling the Ralph Kiner commemorative logo. The section above that in left field is where I would sit.
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With the sky still pretty dark and gloomy, they had the lights on at the stadium. 2014-03-31 11.27.26
But as the sun came out, the lights went off. It ended up being a beautiful 57 degrees and sunny at Citi Field. That felt like 75 degrees after the winter we had in NY!

I quickly ate my food and ventured out towards the third base line. There was a pretty big crowd waiting for autographs. It wasn’t a crowd I was about to wait in, so I just snapped some photos.
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It was around noon so I started to head to my seats in the Left Field Landing, section 349. I took this photo before crossing the Shea Bridge.
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The seats were pretty empty at this point, an hour from game time, but you wouldn’t know it from this picture of the center field concourse.
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There you can see the line for the Shake Shack and other concession stands. It was pretty packed out there, and it’s like that a lot. There was going to be a ceremony honoring Ralph Kiner at 12:30, so I bought a scorecard and spent the next half hour in my seat. The weather slowly got better, especially with the sun right on us in the Left Field Landing.

The seats were good as far as second deck outfield seats go. If you’re not in the first row or two, you’ll miss what happens below you. And for this particular game, we had to rely on the sound of the crowd to know for sure that home runs were over the fence. Four homers went into the left field stands.

And this is my favorite part… the big American flag.
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There was some trouble rolling it back up. But now the game was under way.
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There were some stupid fans in my section that tried to start the wave about five times:
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I don’t mind the wave like some. I don’t really like it either, though. Especially on Opening Day, when you should be paying attention to the game. And don’t do it when you team is batting either. These Mets fans were a bunch of morons.

But you know what I really hate? Volleying a beachball in the crowd. These same fans tried to start two separate volleys. The second time they tried it was quickly halted by security guards. The first time though, it went on the field, and this happened.

OK, that’s pretty funny. But seriously, stop with the beachballs.

The game itself was great, but the age-old story repeated itself. The Mets bullpen blew it. Namely, Bobby Parnell, who is now going on the DL with a torn ligament in his elbow. Here’s a recap of the game from MLB.com.

Final Thoughts: It’s always great to go to the ballpark on Opening Day. And I know it’s only one game, but it’s always nice to see your team win the first one. I hope this loss doesn’t set the tone for the season. The Mets struck out a lot, 18 times, and one of the biggest reasons was their big offseason aquisition, Curtis Granderson. I was happy that they signed him, because it proved to me that they were trying to win, but I was also nervous. I know that he has that long looping swing, and is prone to striking out. I’m also aware that he’s become a Yankee Stadium power hitter, and I don’t think that will translate to Citi Field. It’s too early to say, but fly-outs and strikeouts, and power not translating to Citi Field brings up a bad name in Mets history… Jason Bay. I’m especially worried about the Mets bullpen now, as Parnell is out, and the Mets have put Valverde in the new role. He was really a shut-down pitcher in the past and showed that on Opening Day, but you worry with guys like him. Also, they called up Kyle Farnsworth. I’m sure these guys will raise my blood pressure this season. As for ballhawking, I’m not really concerned with it too much on Opening Day. I have to note I’m going to a lot of crowded games this season and that might affect how many balls I get. Only time will tell if I both the Mets and I can turn it around!

Lost Photos from 2013

Over the course of last season, I took many photos on a video camera, but was not able to upload them to my computer to share them with all my readers. I have some photos from Opening Day, a four-day trip to PNC Park, and many more games throughout the 2013 season. One reason I didn’t feel like sharing them is because that some of the photos are pretty low-quality, a byproduct of the camera having a really good zoom feature. Also, the camera lens had a little nick on it that is visible in some of the pictures. But this is the first set of a series of “lost photos,” so enjoy.

The first set of photos is from Mets Opening Day, and the first picture I took on the foggy, breezy morning was of the Throgs Neck Bridge, which I took while crossing the Whitestone Bridge into Queens.ImageImageImageImageImage
ImageImageFor Opening Day, SNY (the Mets channel) was doing a special pre-game right outside of Citi Field. The pre-game TV Personality Chris Carlin, along with some named you might know: former Mets pitcher Bobby Ojeda, and former Mets manager (and disgraced Red Sox manager) Bobby Valentine. Also, Keith Hernandez would later be getting his mustache shaved for charity. Though it was  a good cause, it did leave some Mets fans with sore hearts, and Keith Hernandez with an empty upper lip.ImageImageImageImageI took a couple more photos before entering the park for the first time of the season: ImageImageImageImageImageIt was nice to see the rotunda once again:ImageImageImageImage
But there’s nothing better than seeing the field for the first time of the season. Just to make sure it exists. After that there are some more photos of the concourses. Since it was the first time seeing the field in a while, I was a little photo-happy.
ImageImageImageImageImageImageI call this view “The Gilded Age.” When standing on the Shea Bridge, you can look out to the bullpen gate, where there are a lot of sketch auto -repair places. On one side of the street you have the beautiful Citi Field, and then on the other side of the street, it looks like a slum. Those will all be down in a few years, though.ThImageThe 7 Line Army was starting to form. But for the most part, the park was still very empty.Image
But the Shake Shack area was PACKED! It was nearly impossible to walk through the concourse. It looked like half of the people in the stadium were in this picture.
ImageThe view from Left-Center Field.ImageThe Apple was up, and there were a few more bodies in the 7 Line section.ImageImage
The grounds crew was preparing the field for a tribute to the victims of both Hurricane Sandy and the Newtown Shootings.
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ImageThe view past the Pepsi Porch:ImageNow it was getting closer to game time, the fans were settling into their seats:Image
Now to the game!
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New film about the 2013 Red Sox?

ourcity

So there’s been a lot of buzz over the announcement of the new film, “Our ****ing City: The story of the 2013 World Champion Red Sox,” a sports drama reenacting the ups and downs of Boston’s historic 2013 season. Baseball fans everywhere are looking forward to what some critics believe will be “the best baseball movie of all time.”

(more…)

Last Season and This Season…

In Season 9, Episode 15 of the long-running animated comedy Family Guy, Lois’ sister Carol is upset after her ninth husband breaks up with her. Carol then shortly dates the Mayor of Quahog, Adam West, to the dismay of Lois. Lois Griffin then brings back three of Carol’s ex-husbands, one named Evan Johnson.

Peter angrily says, “Lois, you didn’t tell me you were bringing Evan here. We bonded over the Red Sox one time, and now he’s gotta bring it up every time we see him.”

Evan then comes to interrupt and the conversation goes as follows…
Evan: How ’bout those Red Sox, Peter?
Peter: Yeah. How about them, Evan? They exist.
Evan: How about last season, huh?
Peter: Yeah.
Evan: How ’bout this season?
Peter: We’ll see.
Evan: Haha, Imma hold you to that!

And here’s where I’ll get to the point: Just like one of Lois’ sister’s ex-husband, I’m going to talk about last season and this upcoming season. In this post, I’ll review last season and talk about my goals (you could say New Year’s Resolutions) for the 2014 season.

2013 Season in Review

April 1st: It was my second ever Opening Day. I didn’t intend to ballhawk, but was pressured by other ballhawks that I would have to count it anyway as part of my stats on MyGameBalls.com. I had never ballhawked before, and what basically happened was that I was enjoying some tailgate hot dogs and sausages, and didn’t end up getting into the stadium until about 10 minutes before batting practice was wrapping up. I figured I would have to count it whether I ballhawked or not, so I headed to the outfield with my glove. Left field was already packed, so I went to right field. And the only home run hit during the time I was inside was to left field. Since Batting Practice was just ending, it was mostly the weaker hitters that were up to bat.  I was completely content at the end of the day, though, because the Opening ceremonies were great, the Mets crushed the Padres 11-to-2, and I ate a terrific dinner later that night at Bailey’s BBQ in Blauvelt, NY. Man oh man, that was some of the best food I ever ate.

April 20th: It was a four o’clock game, and unfortunately I yet again showed up at the very end of batting practice coming from Schenectady. It wasn’t a great start to my ballhawking experience. I didn’t think I would get a ball this game, as the tickets my sisters bought me for Christmas were 15 bucks a pop, up in the left field seats I would like to remove. Fortunately, we knew someone who had seats right on the third base line, and it wasn’t very crowded. The person we knew tried to bribe the usher to let us in. The usher denied the bribe, but let us in anyway. The stars aligned, and the inning after I settled into these seats, John Buck hit a foul pop-up my way. I got up and into the aisle, but the ball kept sailing, and landed a few feet behind me, around where I was originally sitting. It rattled around and I picked it landed in my glove. Not a bad way to get your first ball at a Major League Game, right? Unfortunately, the Mets lost 6-7.

April 21st: Coming off getting a foul ball, I was psyched to get through the gates that day… on time! In the left field seats, a few balls were getting hit near me, but none of them were bouncing my way. I was checking twitter between hitters, and on one of the occasions, I was checking, perhaps, a bit too long. As I’m staring at my phone, I hear “Brendan, look!” from my older brother Patrick. I look up, and mostly just see a white sky, but I spot the ball out of the corner of my eye, and it was traveling very fast to a section-and-a-half over. I started on a dead sprint while I put my phone in my pocket. It clanked off a seat and rolled into the row I was in, where I picked it up for my second ball of the season. After batting practice, I got my first look at

May 12th: It was Mother’s Day, and Matt Harvey Day, and I was appropriately at the game with my mom. There was no batting practice, but I was able to get a ball from A.J. Burnett, a Pittsburgh Pirate who had a monster season in 2013.  I still can’t believe he hasn’t signed with a team yet this offseason. The Mets fought to the end in this one, but luck was really against them. Really. With the Mets rallying, and looking to pull ahead, Lucas Duda ripped one over the first base bag. Actually, right on the first base bag. If it had hit anywhere else, like behind it, or in front of it, or somewhere else on the bag, the Mets would have probably gone on to win the game. There were some great moments in this game, though. Sure, Ike Davis was in this awful slump that made me wonder if he should reconsider his career choice. But Juan Lagares showed us how good of a defensive player he is.

May 25th: One of the oddest events I’ve ever been to. The night before, rain came down with the game tied in the bottom of the ninth of a Mets-Braves matchup. This meant that there would be a game-before-the-game. This also meant there would be no batting practice. This was a game where I felt like I was completely overmatched by Citi Field. The gates opened at 4:45PM for the 6PM game-before-the-game, followed by the real game starting sometime after 7PM. The players didn’t really come out to throw before the first game. The only people who were throwing were Alan Butts and Brian McCann, in center field. There was loud machinery, so it was hard to here me asking for a ball. There were two little kids in front of me who were just looking for a ball yelling “BUTTS!” and “MCCANN” every time they threw it. They ended up getting the ball. I didn’t see anyone else throwing, and the stadium was still pretty empty. I left that section and tried to get into another one, where I was told I wasn’t allowed in (the 6PM game was starting in like 30 minutes and the park was still empty.) So I got some food and went up to my seats in the Pepsi Porch. My only shot at a ball would be if I could get someone to toss a ball up to the Pepsi Porch, or if someone hit a homerun. Neither happened. And I got shut out. And the Mets lost. Twice. This might have been the worst experience I’ve ever had at the ballpark.

June 22nd: School was out, and I was at my first away game of the season. There were some troubles traveling to Citizens Bank Park, and I got to the park with 30 minutes left in batting practice. Despite that, I worked my Mets-fan charm with the Mets players. I got toss-ups from Mets bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello near the bullpen, and Jeremy Hefner in right-center field. I spotted a ball on the warning track and cup-tricked my first ball of the season. Long live the cup-trick! It was a blazing 90 degrees outside, and the Mets were getting crushed for the better part of the game. But they came back in the ninth and tied the game at 7. And Carlos Torres subsequently blew the game, allowing a home run off the bat of Kevin Frandsen.

July 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th: This was definitely the highlight of the season for me. On this four-day trip, which I documented the first half of, I got to visit beautiful PNC Park in beautiful Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The first night there, I walked around  the park and took some photos. On the first full day, I took some more photos, ate at a former-church, and got five balls during batting practice. They were all toss-ups, but I was also able to meet some of the local ballhawks. The Mets blew this game in extras, and PNC Park was as packed as it had ever been. The next day, I got to see the Heinz History Museum, and also recorded two more balls. On the final day, I got shutout, as there was no batting practice, but the Mets got an elusive win, and I was off on an eight hour drive back home.

August 3rd- There was no batting practice this day. If I didn’t have field level seats on the third base side it would have been impossible for me to get a ball, as they weren’t letting people into the lower sections without a ticket for that section. The Royals must have already been done throwing, because only one or two guys came out to throw before the game started, and a few more came out to stretch. Yet, I was unable to get a ball at this game. The Mets were trailing the Royals 2-0, until they tied it up in the eighth when Josh Satin got a 2-RBI single. The game went 11 innings, where David Aardsma (who also got a blown save the night before) blew the lead on a Justin Maxwell homer. Maxwell has some monster pop in the games and in batting practice.

August 4th- Redemption came this time around (ballhawking-wise.) There was batting practice this day, but I showed up a little late. I still had enough time to get two balls though, one being a toss-up from James Shields in left field, and another which I cup-tricked in the center field gap. It was the first time I had tried my cup-trick at Citi Field, and security did take issue. A security guard in left field spotted me and came across the batter’s eye, telling me not to do it again. Could’ve been worse. The game itself was painful to watch as a Mets fan, as they fell behind early, due in part to Marlon Byrd losing two would-be-easy pop-ups in the sun. The Mets lost 6-2.

August 24th- This was one of my best games of the entire season, and one which I’ll never forget. It was a Mets-Tigers game, and Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer were facing off. It was the first time the American and National League starters from the All-Star Game would have a rematch in the same season, because of the newly implemented expansion of interleague play. The attendance was moderately large at about 35,000 but this mattered little for ballhawking. Why? Because I had a plan, which I devised the night before with some help from other ballhawks over the Twittersphere. For Mets batting practice, I would start off in left field, with a few righties up at the end of batting practice. As the Mets got done with batting practice, I would check to see if there were any balls hit in the center-field gap. And during Tigers’ batting practice, I would avoid the left field crowds and head up to the Pepsi Porch, where I was sure one of the Tigers lefty power hitters (or Miggy) could reach.

When I got to the stadium, Left Field was pretty crowded, and I saw some elite ballhawks (Zack Hample and Greg Barasch.) I got pretty close to snagging some baseballs, but some of the ones I had the best chances at were gloved by others. The closest I got to getting on the board there was when John Buck hit a ball off the facing of the upper deck. I thought I had it lined up pretty well, but there was some killer glare from the sun coming off the advertisement. I stuck my glove out, thinking I’d have a chance at it, but someone bare handed it RIGHT in front of my glove.

I quickly headed to the center-field gap, and spotted a ball. Making sure security wasn’t looking I cup-tricked a ball, but it took way too long. I first had to knock the ball in to get it closer, and that must have knocked one of the rubber bands lose, which meant I had to reel it back up and adjust it. Onlookers were pretty impressed, and there was luckily not one word from security. I had a sob-story prepared just in case.

I then headed to the Pepsi Porch. Zack Hample had the same idea. A few balls were hit up there, but a memorable moment followed. Victor Martinez shot a ball sky-high. It looked like it was coming towards me, in the front row. It wasn’t going to reach the seats, but I reached over the railing and…

(Photo courtesy of zackhample.mlblogs.com)
For a split-second, I didn’t even think I caught it. When I reached over, Zack Hample’s glove shielded my view of my own glove. Since it was a pop fly, and didn’t really have time to gain momentum (as the Pepsi Porch is about 40 feet in the air) I didn’t feel it in my own glove. The first thing I did was look to see if he had caught the ball. He didn’t. For a split second, I thought both of us had missed it. But it would have hit the facing of the Pepsi Porch, which would have made a loud “bang” noise. I then looked into my own glove, and found a baseball. The first batting practice homerun I had ever actually caught. What a thrill. And to top it all off, ballhawking-great Zack Hample complimented me on the catch.

The game kind of took the backseat to batting practice in my mind. But what I do remember about it was that the Mets couldn’t get any runs across off Scherzer, and Matt Harvey was giving up hit-after-hit-after-hit. He somehow only gave up 2 runs, while the Tigers got 13 hits. I guess they couldn’t string any together. This was Harvey’s worst start of the year, and it wasn’t even that bad. His velocity was a bit low, but nothing to be concerned about. And to my complete surprise, he would end up having Tommy John surgery. Crazy.

September 29th – There was no batting practice this day. I knew well ahead of time there wouldn’t be, and I was completely content. It was not only the last day of the season, but there would also be a ceremony honoring the best hitting catcher of all-time Mike Piazza. This didn’t stop me from getting on the board, though, as I got a ball from now-ex-Met Greg Burke. Most importantly, the Mets ended on a good note and beat the Brewers to end the season.

It was a great rookie season as a ballhawk. I can’t wait for next season where I will try to build on what I had in 2013. I think my stats would have looked better if I chose better games to go to, but what happens happens. First and foremost I am a Mets fan, and that is the reason I go to the park. I can’t wait to watch the Mets with their new additions, Curtis Granderson and Bartolo Colon, the former who it will be weird to see in a Mets jersey. The Mets will certainly miss not having Harvey, but they have a great rotation with or without him, and I think that will be one of their strengths in 2014. I’m still a little worried about the shortstop situation… unless Ruben Tejada can become the table-setter he was in 2012.

Anyway, here are my goals for 2014:

  1. Go to the Montreal Series- If you haven’t heard, the Mets and Blue Jays will be playing two exhibition games in Stade Olympique right before the regular season will get underway. This provides a great situation for me, as I am a Mets fan who is 3 and a half hours away from Montreal, and I’ve wanted to go to a game in Stade Olympique for a very long time, but thought I missed out on the opportunity to ever attend a game there when the Expos became the Nationals. Vive les Expos!
  2. See a Mets game at one new stadium- I’ve got my eyes on you Nationals Park. This is the only reasonably close park the Mets will play in in 2014 that I haven’t visited. Plus, my brother will go to college in D.C., so maybe I can work something out.
  3. Get 40 Major League Balls- With 18 balls in 13 games in 2013, this is a good goal to have. I don’t think that 18 balls in 13 games really represents the level I think I reached by seasons end. I got off to a slow start and attended some games that were tough to get balls at. Plus, I didn’t make use of my cup-trick until June.
  4. Use the cup-trick more: I’m looking for this to come in handy in 2014. Though I had it for my last 8 games of last season, I was never really looking to use it. I’ll be more on the lookout for loose balls on the warning track, or in gaps behind fences this year. And a side-resolution: don’t get it confiscated by security.
  5. Go to the Mets series in Pittsburgh- I had a blast during my trip to Pittsburgh in 2013. And conveniently, the Mets will be there again in 2014… on a weekend… right after school gets out. I absolutely have to get to this series. It’s a beautiful city and a beautiful park, and it’s great for ballhawking.
  6. Try to get to at least two games per month- Living almost 3 hours from Citi Field, I’m not making it down every weekend. I might not even get to two a month… like in September. Or technically April, because Opening Day is on March 31st. But from May-August I’ll be looking to get to at least 2 a month. When I get into this routine, there’s not too much or too little time in between the games I go to.
  7. Read 5 baseball related books- Not just because I think books about baseball are the best books, but I like to read autobiographies about baseball players (I would suggest R.A. Dickey’s Wherever I Wind Up,) and would like to learn more about baseball in general. Sabermetrics is one subject I’m interested in, but don’t know too much about, and that’s something I bet a lot of baseball fans can relate to. I’d like to learn more about this through the many statistics-related books there are about baseball. There’s also non-statistic related books out there I’d be interested in too. But one thing I notice when I walk into a Barnes & Noble is that there are always a ton more books on baseball than any other sport. That’s one reason why baseball fans are smarter.
  8. Get a job in Minor League Baseball- One thing I’d like to do is be at the park everyday, be it the Major or Minor Leagues. And one great way to do that would to get a job at the park… where I’d be getting paid to be there.
  9. Go to 15 Games- I’ll take the quality of games over the quantity of games I go to any day. But I think this would be a good goal to set for myself. Before last year I had gone to no more than 4 games. Last year, I had already gone to my 4th game by May. I finished the season by going to 14 games (one was a school field trip, where we were there for 2.5 innings, though.)
  10. Sit in the outfield more- One thing I noticed is that since Shea Stadium closed, I’ve only sat in the outfield twice. Both times were on the Pepsi Porch. Though the view from behind home plate is hard to beat… I’d like to sit in the outfield a bit more, to get a different view, and possibly even catch a home run. But I don’t want to make any premature predictions.

Throwback Thursday: Should old ballparks be torn down?

It was September 26th, 2008. The tears were just beginning to dry on my nine-year old face, as I had just witnessed a miserable 6-1 loss from the Florida Marlins. (Okay, I was nine.) The loss had pushed the Mets one game away from elimination, as they were a game back from their division rival Phillies, and in a virtual tie for the Wild Card with the Milwaukee Brewers with only two games left to play.
I refused to talk to either my brother or mom on the train back from Shea Stadium to Manhattan. I couldn’t imagine the Mets possibly missing the playoffs by such a slim margin two years in a row. In my mind, the Mets were still the best team in baseball that they were in their 96-win season of 2006. In my mind, the 2007 collapse was just a fluke. Lightning doesn’t strike twice…
We then got off the 7 train in Grand Central station, among a swarm of disappointed Mets fans. We walked outside, and I remember feeling the cold fall evening air, which means it’s almost playoff time. We flagged down a taxi and squeezed into the back seat as it took us back to our hotel in Times Square. This was a fancier taxi, with a TV in the back. ESPN was on the screen. My head was in my hands at this point, both tired and annoyed by the Mets loss.

“Brendan,” my brother nudged. “Look!”

I lifted my head up, and my brother was pointing to the small bottom line. Scrolling across I read something along the lines of “Breaking: Johan Santana will pitch on three days rest tomorrow.”

My face lit up. Johan Santana was unstoppable during the 2008 season. Though only 15-7 at the time, it was popularly discussed in the New York Media that he should have had about 20-22 wins if it weren’t for the [meddling] bullpen. The bullpen was so bad, that If all the games played by the Mets ended after the 8th inning the Mets would have won the NL East by 12 games.

That night, I went to bed a little happier, not only because Santana was starting, but that my older sister (who worked for the hotel) got us a suite for a mere 99 dollars a night.

The next day, as we found ourselves on the 7 train, yet again filled with anxious Mets fans, something memorable happened. A god-like figure holding his high-tech Blackberry (remember, it’s 2008) got up from his seat and announced to the packed subway that Brewers’ pitcher Ben Sheets had given up 4 runs and got knocked out of the game in only the second inning. The train erupted in cheers, and people were high-fiving, celebrating, and all that goodness.

I would be entering Shea Stadium for what turned out to be the last time. My nine year old self didn’t appreciate the moment as much as I would have now. As we walked up to the promenade level, high up behind home plate, I didn’t think about how it would be the last time I walked up the ramps of Shea Stadium. I didn’t try to soak it all in, I didn’t save my ticket stub (I thankfully found it in my dresser last year when I was moving.) The point is, I was a spoiled fan. Sure the Mets got knocked out of the NLCS in a heart-breaking fashion. And sure, the Mets lost 7 of their last 17 games in 2007 to hand their playoff spot to the Braves. But in the regular seasons of 2006 and 2007, the Mets got 97 and 88 wins. That’s a whole lot better than they have done since they moved to Citi Field. I had taken the whole experience for granted, and was already nagging my parents to buy playoff tickets for when the Mets would surely make it to the playoffs.

The game itself was incredible to watch. The packed crowd of 54,920 were standing up for half of the game, cheering on a wonderful performance from Johan Santana. On three days rest of a career high 125-pitch start, and (which we would later find out) a torn meniscus, Johan was striking out batter after batter.

As he would walk off the mound at an end of the inning, “Smooth” by Santana and Rob Thomas would blast through the speakers. I had been to an NLCS game in 2006… and this game may have topped it. Santana’s start was not only heroic, but it gave Mets fans hope.
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With the Mets up 2-0, Johan would attempt to put the finishing touch on his complete game shutout, as a fly ball sailed to deep left field off the bat of Cody Ross, with Josh Willingham on first base. As the ball smacked into Endy Chavez’ glove, the crowd erupted in cheers. I was ecstatic, with the old Tug McGraw moniker in my head, “Ya Gotta Believe!” During that moment, I believed something was in the air. I believed that the Mets would use this momentum to send the Mets into the playoffs and have an appropriate send-off of Shea Stadium

To put it very unromantically, it didn’t end up that way. The next day, I was at home, watching the Mets bullpen blow yet another lead in the family room of my old house. (Go to hell, Scott Schoeneweis. My mom knew you were no good.) That’s when it finally started to sink in, that the Mets not only weren’t going to make the playoffs, but that I would never step foot in Shea Stadium again. It was the classic Mets narrative of having a bit of hope, and then having all that hope being thrown out the window. I went up to my room, refusing to watch the last out. The whole day was gut wrenching. I sobbed into my pillow and had an awful headache. This goes to show you what a baseball team can do to a nine-year old fan.

The next day, the Mets began to tear down old Shea Stadium.

And that’s where I begin my argument. Did Shea Stadium HAVE to be torn down? I’m not saying that the Mets should have kept playing in it, (I’m sure that would make many fans happy, though) because Citi Field was already near completion behind the outfield walls.

Shea Stadium wasn’t considered the best looking park my non-Mets fans. But it did have a special place in most Mets fans hearts. My question is, isn’t there value in not tearing down a piece of history?

This was the stadium where the Miracle Mets, led by young arms like Tom Seaver, Jerry Koosman, and Nolan Ryan, surged past the Cubs in the standings late in the season, winning their first World Series. The same team had never been above .500 after the first 9 games of their first 8 seasons.

This was the stadium where the Beatles made their debut in America, in a packed house filled with adoring fans.

This was the stadium where four teams (The Mets, Jets, Giants, and Yankees) all played during the 1975 season.

This was the stadium where, with two outs in the 9th inning, a little roller up along first got through Buckner, staging one of the most unlikely comebacks in sports history.

This was the stadium that hosted the first sporting event in New York after the 9/11 attacks, and where volunteers (including Mets players themselves) set up a rescue canteen to collect supplies for first responders.

Sadly, this is the stadium where Mets fans now park on.A huge piece of baseball history no longer exists, and it seems like yesterday I was watching Johan Santana pitch the best performance I’ve ever seen in person. Not only is the former site just a parking lot now, but local politicians are planning to build a mall there.

The issue isn’t just Shea Stadium. Imagine how many museums there would be if we didn’t tear down every ballpark that was no longer being played in. There would be the Polo Grounds, Ebbets Field, Shibe Park, Forbes Field, Comiskey Park, Tiger Stadium, Old Yankee Stadium…

The list goes on and on. There’s not really anything we can do now that these parks are gone. All we have are stories, photos, and maybe some video of these old parks. But it stinks that I can’t see some of the classic parks that my father and grandfather got to go to, let alone the park I used to go to. But what we can do is make sure that we don’t continue to tear down parks that could still serve a purpose (wink, wink… Turner Field.)

Also, I think Shea Stadium could have been left partly intact. People could park there cars where the playing field used to be. There could be stores and restaurants where the main concourse used to be. People could have sat in the seats of the lower concourses, imagining where they once saw games being played. This could have been done in ballparks across the country.

Of course, baseball is a business, and people running the business (team) usually aren’t as sentimental as the fans. As the years go by, new stadiums will be built, I get that. But before teams start to tear down their old pieces of history, they should reconsider what they are losing.

9/29/13 at Citi Field.

It was a bittersweet day, and one that I thought would never actually come. For the second year in a row I was attending the last home game of the Mets’ season. And for the second year in a row the Mets were not in the playoffs.

It was September 29th, 2013, and the New York Mets would be facing the Milwaukee Brewers. Furthermore, it was Mike Piazza’s Mets Hall of Fame induction ceremony, Eric Young, Jr. had the chance to capture the National League stolen base lead, and The 7 Line Army would be in full blast out in center field. But first, we (me and my mother) had to get to Citi Field. We boarded the Megabus at the Albany Train Station at 7:35. Who would have thought that we would have the same annoying, joke-telling busdriver that we had on Mother’s Day.

From Penn Station we would have to take not one, but two subways to get to Citi Field. While we were waiting to get on the 7 train to Citi Field, I took some photos.

Now, is the 7 train really a subway if it’s above-ground once it crosses the Hudson into Queens? Anyway, this is where it took us. I finally arrived at Citi Field for the last time of the season.

When I got through the gates of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda, I was handed a black Mike Piazza Hall of Fame t-shirt.

As I expected, when I got to the field, there was no batting practice. But because it was Fan Appreciation Day, they were letting fans into the lower seating bowl, but not behind the dugout. They never let fans behind the dugouts, but they usually do not let fans into the lower seating bowl at all when there isn’t BP. Here’s the first photo I took entering the seating bowl:

There was a sizable crowd along the baseline, as many were seeking autographs from players…

like Wilmer Flores.

Instead of seeking autographs in that swarm of people, I positioned myself further down the line where there were fewer people, and where I knew the Mets would be warming up their arms. As I was by myself, feeling like a genius, I took some more photos.

You’ll never guess what happened after that. The Mets came out and started to play catch:

And when they came out, all the people trying to get autographs moved to where I was. I stayed put at the front of a large crowd, and waited for one of them to finish.

There was one fan who kept annoying the he[ck] out of me. He kept asking Tim Byrdak for an autograph while he was warming up. And I know that he was annoying the he[ck] out of Tim Byrdak as well. He would keep saying stuff like “Tim could I have your autograph” and “Tim could you sign this ball for me” and “Tim you’re my favorite lefty specialist” and “Tim you’re my favorite lefty” and “Tim you’re my favorite reliever” and “Tim you’re my favorite pitcher” and… you get the point. But his nagging got progressively worse. When Byrdak finally came to sign some autographs, the guy said something to him again, and Bydak made it a point not to sign anything of his.

Meanwhile there was more stuff going on that annoyed me. There were a lot of Mets fans that were really trying to budge in front of me and others at the front of the pack. I was staying put at the front no matter what. And there were the “riff-raff” Mets fans that were asking me and a 20-something next to me players names so they could get a ball. I didn’t mind it so much when a kid would ask if they seemed like a real fan. But when an adult dressed in no Mets gear who didn’t even know who the more obvious players were asked me, I was more hesitant to answer. Being the last day of the season, and watching a 40-man roster 25 percent full of minor leaguers, there was one person throwing that I had no idea who it was. And neither did anyone next to me. His name was Sean Henn. I looked him up on Baseball-Reference. He was a September call-up roster filler who had pitched 2.2 innings.

I positioned myself where Juerys Familia and Frank Francisco were warming up. Why? Because Frank Francisco is extremely wild… and hard throwing… and a little bit scary. My plan almost worked to. On one throw, he bounced one in the dirt, and it erratically bounced right at the wall in front of me. I was more inclined to get out of the way so my teeth didn’t get knocked out.

Though I didn’t end up getting that ball, (after many attempts of directing my poor spanish towards Juerys Familia,) I did end up having another chance. Greg Burke was throwing further down the line. A throw somehow got away from him, as it tipped off his glove and rolled in front of me on the dirt. I wasn’t going to take it (nor could I have,) but when he went to get the ball I said “Greg” and I got his attention. “Who said Greg?” he said, wondering who recognized him.

“I did. Could I have the ball when you’re done with it?” I asked, to which he replied “Sure.”

After he got done, and was heading back to the dugout, it looked like he was scanning the crowd. I again said “Greg” to get his attention. He immediately recognized me and flipped the ball to me, for which I thanked him.

The crowd was growing larger behind me, and people were getting more aggressive to get to the front. I was now squeezed into a big pile of people. I left, figuring I already got a ball, and I probably wasn’t going to get another one. I bought a scorecard, and headed up to my seats on the club level, where I took a picture of the ball.

Positioned to my left was a scoreboard, looping through images of Mike Piazza, a few of them in his forgettable bleached hair phase of 2001…but also a phase in which he hit this homerun.

The logo you see above and in the photo below were on commemorative balls, which I was unable to attain. You can also see the 7 Line Army starting to form.

The field was being set up for the pre-game ceremony:

There were planes taking off from LaGuardia overhead:

A nice moment then followed. Terry Collins came out to see the fans:

After Collins took a half-lap around the field, providentially waving and (once or twice) stopping to talk to fans and sign autographs, the Mike Piazza ceremony began. The crowd went absolutely nuts when Mike Piazza appeared out of the dugout and threw the first pitch to David Wright. (COREY SIPKIN/ NY DAILY NEWS)

Keynote speaker and Mets Radio Broadcaster Howie Rose had a nice speech. I have some crappy phone video of the speech, which you may watch if you’d like.

Meanwhile his old teammates, John Franco and Edgardo Alfonzo seemed to have no speech prepared. And it showed. I’m not sure if they were expecting to have the microphone handed there way, as they just made short remarks about their memories with Piazza.

Though, there were definitely some more touching parts of the ceremony. Mike Piazza was in tears talking about his family, mainly his dad who is in poor health. He talked about his love for the fans of New York. And when (jokingly) speaking of his newborn son and his potential baseball aspirations, he said “I’ll teach him how to hit and the rest is up to him,” also noting that the Mets would get the first shot to sign him.

Now onto the game… Eric Young, Jr. wasted no time getting a hold of the stolen base lead. Singling to lead off the game, he quickly stole second and then third to claim the NL Lead with 46 stolen bases. Here’s something to note: Lucas Duda, the slow, low average, power hitter was batting second. You do you, Terry Collins.

Also, doesn’t 46 stolen bases seem like a low number for the league leader? When Jose Reyes led the league in stolen bases three years in a row, he did it with 64, 68, and 78 bases stolen respectively. Eric Young, Jr. wasn’t even a full-time starter but still managed to get the honor. I don’t think the whole National League has gotten slower, but I do have one theory to the drop. Maybe the sabermetrics movement in baseball has caused teams to realize that (maybe) stolen bases aren’t mathematically worth the risk.

Well, it was worth the risk this time, because the Mets got an early 1-0 lead on a sacrifice fly to shallow right field from the Captain, David Wright. Young tested the arm of Norichikai Aoki… and man was it a close play.

The second and third innings went by quickly, but the fourth inning had a different, deeper, darker, story.

Jon Niese let up three consecutive singles to Jeff Bianchi, Jonathan Lucroy and Carlos Gomez, before walking Yuniesky Betancourt to tie up the game. Oh, it gets worse.

Sean Halton grounded into a would-be double play, but that can’t happen because C.B. Bucknor was the first base umpire.

He was called safe at first base, when he was clearly out from my vantage point, and on TV. Look for yourself.

A unique part of this story is that the club level actually gets to see the game on TV screens as well as on the field. This meant that we got to watch the re-play… followed by a collective groan from the club level. And I didn’t see this on the Mets’ broadcast, but Bucknor immediately knew that he had blew the call, putting his hands on his head in embarrassment. That’s why he’s built such a bad reputation in the Major Leagues as one of the worst umpire mankind has ever seen.

I’m sure he didn’t feel any better when Logan Schafer perfectly placed a hit-bunt to score Carlos Gomez. This was when fans in my section started to band together and create a plan to get back at C.B. Bucknor… and his family. But in all seriousness, I was ready to call it a season and blame the loss on Bucknor. It would be very-Mets like to lose on a blown call from him. But at least Juan Lagares made a great throw home to end the inning, making it the second runner of the inning thrown out at home. You see something new every time you go to the park. I’d attribute it more to poor base-running, but still, a great play:

Juan Lagares, in my opinion, should have been nominated for a Gold Glove. Before you laugh, he was third in outfield assists in the MLB with 15 in only 116 games. Not only was that the most for any rookie, he also was only two cannons away from Gerardo Parra and Alex Gordon… who both played 155 games. Some might say that teams didn’t know not to run on him… but he still put up very impressive numbers and had terrific range in the outfield.

It was also Lagares who led off the eighth inning, reaching base when Sean Halton pulled his foot off the bag… a good call by C.B. Bucknor. (WHAAAAAAAT?)

In the next at-bat, Terry Collins called for September-callup, third string catcher Juan Centeno to bunt, in hopes to move speedster Juan Lagares to scoring position with one out.

He got to scoring position alright. Centeno placed the bunt in front of the plate. Jonathan Lucroy picked it up, looking to throw it to second baseman Scooter Gennett who was supposed to cover first. But Gennett didn’t cover first on time… because he got tangled up with none other than… C.B. Bucknor. Dagummit, C.B! (In reality though, Gennett was extremely lackadaisical getting to the bag. And if you watch the video, Keith Hernandez and Ron Darling were extremely critical.)

The throw went into right field, and Lagares hustled around third to tie the game at 2! I was very happy, to say the least. Matt den Dekker came in to pinch run for the motorized chair-bound Juan Centeno. It paid off. Wilfredo Tovar bunted him over to third, and was also safe at first. Nothing was going right for Milwaukee this inning. Eric Young, Jr. chopped one to pitcher Brandon Kintzler, who had no play on den Dekker at home… and nearly threw the ball away as well.

In the top of the ninth, Frank Francisco came into close the game. And *gasp* he got the job done. As Aramis Ramirez struck out looking to end the game, “Takin’ Care of Business” echoed through the stadium as it does after every Mets win. As people started to clear out of their seats, the song “Closing Time” by Semisonic came on. That’s when it finally sunk in that the season was over.

Ballhawkin Stats
Total Balls = 18

Games Ballhawked at = 13
Balls per game = 1.38

Balls at Citi Field = 8 (In 14 games)

Balls at other parks = 10 (In 4 Games)

Game balls = 1 (Foul ball off the bat of John Buck)

Balls caught on fly = 1 (This one.)

Balls hit in BP = 2

Cup Trick = 3

Thrown from players = 13

How to build your own Cup Trick.

Hello baseball fans. I hope this post finds you having a good time during the offseason, and that your team decides to make some moves that gets them a step closer to the World Series (I’m sure the Mets will.)

Today I’ll be showing you how to make the cup-trick retrieval device. First, lets start off with what a retrieval device is…

Retrieval devices are instruments used by ballhawks in an attempt to get otherwise out-of-reach baseballs. The most famous retrieval device isn’t even made from a cup. It’s the “glove trick,” created by Zack Hample.  He has shown this contraption off on his blog, on national tv, and at the ballpark.

While this may work for you, there are a couple problems that may arise for some people when attempting the glove trick. It could simply be too confusing to make, it may not be compatible with your glove, or maybe it’s too much of a hassle to have to quickly turn the glove you’re wearing into a retrieval device when you’re using it at the park. One major flaw in my opinion was that, unless you brought multiple gloves, you would have to use the same glove that you’d be snagging toss-ups and batted balls with and try to quickly assemble it (the glove trick) and disassemble it depending on when you needed to retrieve a ball. Not only in that time could the ball be tossed up to somebody, (because in ballhawking, timing is a key factor) but if you attempted it during batting practice a ball could fly near you into the stands, and instead of having a glove ready on hand, it could be dangling by the warning track, significantly decreasing your chance of another ball.

For me however, I wanted a separate device, that was easy-to-make and easy to use, and the glove-trick just didn’t do it for me. Enter the cup trick.

I had heard about this retrieval device online, but couldn’t find any information on how to make one. That’s when I realized the one problem with the cup-trick. There was absolutely no information available on how to make one, what materials you would need, or exactly how the contraption worked, so there was a lot left to the imagination. Fortunately, I already had a plan hatched in my head about how I could make it work. After an easy and successful attempt at making and testing my own cup-trick, I felt responsible to show others how to create a cup-trick of there own just how Zack Hample showed others how to use the glove-trick to get balls.

I mean no offense to Zack Hample, or anybody who uses the glove trick. If it works for you, than continue using it if you want to. I just want to offer another solution that could potentially help other ballhawks. This won’t replace the glove-trick, it’ll just be an alternative. You can decide which you want to use if you choose the path of using a ball-retriever.

First lets start with the materials:

  • Obviously, a cup. This cup should be a non-disposable, hard plastic cup, with no handle on the side. This is because it has to be evenly weighted on both sides so it doesn’t tilt. Use a cup that’s rim has a circumference just a little bit bigger than a Major League Baseball so that it can fit inside, but also have a snug fit so the ball stays secure inside the cup. I used a souvenir 2013 All-Star Game cup I got at Citi Field because it fit the description well, and it has some sentimental value. Just make sure you use a cup that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty.

  • Rubber bands. You will need two thick rubber bands. Thicker rubber bands are prefered so the ball will stay inside the cup. I didn’t have any laying around the house, so I went over to CVS and got a pack of assorted sizes for about $1.40. This allowed me to see what size rubber bands were correct for the size of the cup. Make sure they are not too loose or too tight. You can test what sizes work best for your own cup-trick.

  • String. This was actually laying around the house. Generally, the longer the string the better. If the string is too long, you can just bunch the end of the string up with no problem and adjust the string to the size of the fence you are dropping the cup trick down from. Even within stadiums the heights of walls change from the different parts of the field, so keep that in mind. This is a very long and strong string, and will definitely not snap (or be cut by stadium security.) My brother uses it for knots as a boy scout and he got it at Eastern Mountain Sports (An outdoor sporting goods store located in the northeast.) If there is no EMS near you, any sporting goods may be able to help. If not, twine works well. NOTE: Don’t use flimsy string.

  • Weight. This is where you can use your imagination. You need weight so the cup will be sturdy and it will be easier to drop the cup over the ball without the cup shaking from outside factors, like the wind.  The most important part is that the cup has enough weight while going onto the baseball that the ball will fall inside the rubber bands. Some things I did was take coins and wrap them in aluminum foil and tape them to the bottom of the inside of the cup, where it would not touch the baseball. You can also use things like metal washers, or really anything small and heavy. After I was done, to add weight, I put a roll of duct tape around the cup. One thing I would suggest is that if you have a batting doughnut somewhere around the house, that you can possibly put that around the cup and that will add significant weight to the cup. Generally, the heavier the better, but don’t make it so heavy it weighs down your backpack and is hard to maneuver and/or pull up.

Instructions:

  1. Take the two rubber bands and wrap them vertically around the cup, across the top and bottom. The gap between the rubber bands should be a little less than the size of a baseball, just so it has room to go into the cup, yet stay in the cup. What I did to make sure the rubber bands stayed in place and had a tight grip was cross them like this: so they would cross in the middle.
    diagram

  2. Tie the string around the rubber bands at the top of the cup. Make sure that it is centered right in the middle of the cup. If it is not it will tilt. Also, if it is not tightly knotted, you may have to constantly re-tie it, or even lose your cup, so make sure it is secured tightly!

  3. Add any additional weight, and in these short steps you already have yourself a cup trick. If it doesn’t have enough weight, it can still be effective, you may just need to drop it from a few inches higher so that it will have the force to get the baseball past the rubber bands.

  4. Test it! Don’t go to the ballpark never having used it before! Not only could you jeopardize, wheel-of-fortunize, family-feudize, or the price-is-rightize your chance at getting a ball, it could be embarrassing if you fail on an attempt to get a ball in case a crowd gathers to see if your contraption will really work. Here’s my first attempt at using my cup-trick. 3 times a charm!

A great thing about this is that you can keep it assembled so you can take it out on a moments notice when you have the chance to use it. It’s also fairly easy to make, so it shouldn’t take too long to assemble it if you have time to kill before the gates open. (I always make sure the string is tight and the rubber bands are in place on the way to the game.) I like that I can have my glove handy with the cup trick so I can quickly switch between the two.

Just make sure that the stadium you use the cup-trick at allows ball-retrievers. If they don’t allow them, be smart about it. Some stadium security don’t seem to take too kindly to baseball retrieval devices dangling above their luscious, well groomed piece of stadium. My home park however, Citi Field, is supposedly very strict about ball retrievers. I’ve gotten a few balls in the center field gap at Citi, and the worst that’s ever happened to me is a stern “Don’t do it again” from security (I’ve done it again, too, with no problems.) Some stadiums however may confiscate your ball retrieving instrument. You wouldn’t want your hard work to be confiscated by an usher. I hope this technique makes it easier for you to snag many more baseballs now and into the future.

August 22, 2013 at Citi Field (Mets vs. Tigers 4:10PM)

The day started at about 10:05 in Schenectady when my group left for a 4:10 Saturday game between the Mets and Tigers. Matt Harvey and Max Scherzer were set to face off, in what would be the first matchup between two All-Star Starters (from that year) ever. I was excited not only for what I thought would be one of the greatest pitching duels I’d ever seen, but also for some batting practice where Detroit and New York could showcase their power. Schenectady is about 2 hours and 45 minutes away, but about 3 hours with normal New York City traffic. That would have gotten us to Citi Field at about 1 o’clock,  where I would’ve had plenty of time to eat before the gates openedm play catch in the parking lot, and get to the gates with no pressure.  But there was some major traffic on the Major Deegan Expressway (I knew the Bronx was no good!) due to construction in its left lane. (Does anything ALWAYS go perfectly?) As I watched the clock, it turned from 12:45, to 1 o’clock, to 1:30, to 1:40… and traffic was still at a standstill, making me wonder if we would get there before the game started let alone before the gates opened. I was already thinking batting practice was out of the equation.

But then god cleared the skies, and at 1:45 cars started moving. Not just slowly, but at a normal (fast) pace. I started to eat in the car, hoping I could hop right out and get into Citi Field as quick as possivle when we arrived. We got to Citi Field right at 2 o’clock, when the gates were supposed to open. We rushed to the lines, which were a mile long…

2013-08-24 14.10.47
And the gates were still not open, which was a blessing in disguise. People must’ve been excited that the Tigers were in town… this is one of the biggest crowds I’ve seen. There were multiple lines stretching back to the parking lots and were so long that they were curving and changing directions. There was no way I was gonna wait in that line, so I moved to where I saw that they were setting up ticket machines, bag-checking tables, and moving bike racks. This was a great move. Though the other lines opened before my line, my line opened a minute later, and I was able to get in the stadium much sooner than I would have if I had stood at the back of the other line.

For this game I had a pretty sophisticated plan that veteran ballhawks Rick Gold and Mateo Fischer helped me with:

  1. For Mets batting practice, I would go to Left Field. Not only is right field at Citi Field very hard for ballhawking, but the Mets would have many righties up at the end of their BP.
  2. At the end of Met batting practice, I would quickly head over to the gap in center field and attempt to cup-trick any ball that had been hit there.
  3. I would head up to the Pepsi Porch hoping to avoid the bigger crowds on the field level and possible catch a Prince Fielder home run.

With the reasons listed in Step 1 of my plan, there was no reason not to be in Left Field. Left Field had a moderate crowd, and there was a good amount of home runs hit. I was only close enough to one to catch though, where it hit off the facing of the second deck and ricocheted back into the front row in Left Field. The glare off the advertisement on the second deck was bad enough to where I had a split second to see the ball, stick my glove out, and hopefully catch it. But a man in better position than me barehanded it right before my glove. During batting practice there, I saw Greg Barasch and Zack Hample, who are regulars at both Citi Field and even Yankee Stadium, and have both gotten thousands of balls during their time ballhawking. I know that Zack had already collected about a dozen baseballs before the general public (a.k.a. me) was allowed in the stadium. To get to my point, I was shut-out of Mets BP.

2013-08-24 14.49.19

Picture I took of Center Field area afterwards from the Pepsi Porch.

To those who don’t know, Citi Field apparently doesn’t allow retrieval devices. Since it’s not an official rule, they usually let you off with a stern warning. I weighed my options and figured I’d rather be on the board and told not to do it again (which happened my last time) than not have a ball at all. When I went to Center Field, I saw a baseball probably about 7 feet out. I pulled out my cup-trick, which was tangled, and it took me a few attempts to knock the ball within reachable distance, untangle the strings, and adjust the rubber bands. I should have untangled the string and adjusted the rubber bands beforehand, but of course I didn’t realize there wrong before I dropped my cup-trick down. In what should have taken 30 seconds at most, it took about 4 minutes, and all of this was in plain view of the security. When I finally got the ball, people cheered in amazement, and I didn’t get one word from security. But a season-ticker holder was telling me that they usually don’t like people to use contraptions because they don’t like them leaning over the rail, as it’s a liability issue. Meh.

Either way, I ended up giving the ball to the kid I came to the park with.

2013-08-24 14.54.24
A few minutes later, this was my view. Like step 3 of my plan said, I was in the Pepsi Porch hoping for some bombs. Not too long after I got up there, I realized the king of ballhawks Zack Hample had the same plan, as he came down the steps I thought how my chances of getting a ball were probably lessened. But I would later be thankful that him and his girlfriend Hayley (with her camera in hand) came up to the Pepsi Porch. While a righty was batting, I took a picture of the scoreboard. As you can see, it was Fiesta Latina night. They would wear orange “Los Mets” jerseys, and half of the game had a spanish-speaking Public Address Announcer from ESPN Deportes announcing the players before at-bats.
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Victor Martinez, a lefty Designated-Hitter/First Baseman/Catcher was up, and I moved up to the front row. I wouldn’t do this on the field level, but I figured that anything that would reach the Pepsi Porch wouldn’t go too many rows up. So I got a spot in the left part of the front row. Zack Hample was on my left side. On my right side, though, I had completely free roam.

A ball shot up into the air off the bat of V-Mart. It was coming right towards me, a bit to my left. I took a step to my left, keeping my eye on the ball. I knew then that the ball would not reach the seats, but it was within an arm-length. A man who was nearing his 7 thousandth baseball ever collected was on my left. My heart was pumping, I’d never had a chance at a home run ball like this. I reached my glove out with an open pocket. Out of the corner of my eye I could also see another glove just above it. I didn’t feel anything, but I heard the ball hit leather. But I was pretty unsure who’s glove it hit. Even then, did it pop out and fall to the field? I looked over to my left to see that Zack Hample had not got the ball. I lifted my glove up, and see… oh my god. A faded beauty.
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As I stood in awe that I caught my first homer on the fly, Zack congratulated me by saying “Nice catch!” to which I replied “Thanks, it’s the first I’ve ever caught.” Soon after he left to go behind the first base dugout.

I’m an avid reader of his blog, and I knew that his girlfriend took pictures of him snagging baseballs during batting practice. So I tweeted him:

He then later replied to me, giving me a link to a picture:

I could not have asked for a better picture. Big thank you to Zack and Hayley. I have evidence of a big milestone… who knows, maybe I’ll frame it. He labeled the picture “zack getting robbed”. Wow. I robbed the “king of ballhawks”! :D

As I left the Pepsi Porch, I took an “artsy” photo:
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and snapped a picture of the passing 7 train. You can also see a sliver of the eyesore, “Iron Triangle.”2013-08-24 15.29.05
Then I wanted some Shake Shack, but then…
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holy lines. It was near impossible to get through the concourse. DannyMeyerLand (coined after the restaurateur who owns the Shake Shack, Blue Smoke, El Taqueria Verano, and Box Frites which all take up the centerfield concourse.) was very crowded.

I opted to not wait in those lines, so I headed to my seats. There were shorter lines in the eighth inning of Opening Day. This game drew about 35,000 people. I took a pre-game photo.
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This one, right before first pitch, shows the orange jerseys on Juan Lagares, Eric Young, Jr., and Matt Harvey… on the scoreboard.
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This start for Matt Harvey was not his best. He gave up 13 hits, and surprisingly only 2 runs. Striking out only four.

The real downer in this start was that it would be his last of the season. He partially tore his UCL, even though he threw 95 miles-per-hour consistently, and was not taken out because of injury. This injury may require Tommy John, and is a real threat to the Mets long-term plans. Not that I knew at the time, but lets say I tried to eat away the pain. I headed over to Box Frites, something I had never tried before. It was alright, but for the serving size and price of eight dollars, I’ll probably opt for Nathans or Shake Shack next time around. The fries were crisp, and they give you one free sauce with it. I chose bacon aioli (a mayonnaise with bacon in it.) Maybe it was too fancy for me, but I didn’t like it. I tried a bit of it, but ended up just using ketchup instead. I’m a big fan of bacon, but if I go to Box Frites again, I’m choosing another sauce. I ate a little bit at the standing room, but quickly went back to my seat.
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Another “artsy” photo.
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Some game photos.
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I’m not a supporter of banning the wave, (it’s impossible to enforce, and it’s not too much of a distraction in my opinion.) A beachball on the other hand is a bit ridiculous. It started in my section, and my heart dropped as it came toward me and landed at my feet. A security guard came marching towards me. I didn’t want to be “the kid who didn’t keep the beach ball going” so I just nudged it to the section across from me where they continued to hit it for 30 seconds before security a few sections over deflated it:
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Later I found out I was a “savvy fan” from Mets beat writer Adam Rubin. Not proud of it. https://twitter.com/AdamRubinESPN/status/371408288832688129

I wasn’t going to include this photo, but does the guy on the bottom right vaguely resemble John Buck?? No? Ok. Click to Zoom.
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Before the Mets could even score, the game was over. 3-0 Tigers. The Mets are now 3-10 in games I’ve been to this year. (One was a school field trip in which I didn’t ballhawk, but the Mets lost, and I got laughed at by my Yankee fan friends.) WTF Mets? To my surprise, my battery was still good even after the game was ending, so as I left, I took these photos.
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See ya Citi Field.
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There was a nice sunset as we left through the Left Field Gate, with a cameo from the Goodyear Blimp (the game was being televised on FOX.)
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Endy Chavez waving goodbye.
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It looks like my rookie season in ballhawking has come to an end, as my next and final game (blog post coming soon) will have a pre-game ceremony placing Mike Piazza in the Mets Hall of Fame. Obviously, the Mets didn’t make the playoffs this year, but I’ll hope to post occasionally through the offseason as I’ll continue to ballhawk next season, and most importantly root the Mets on in 2014. As the schedule comes out, I’ll reveal my plans for next year. Also, continue to follow this blog as I haven’t gotten to publishing my final two days in Pittsburgh yet, which will be posted on Friday at 5 o’clock.

Stats: 2 Baseballs at this game.
7 balls in 8 games at Citi Field.
(0.875 per game.)
17 baseballs in 12 games. (1.42 per game.)
4 Balls with Cup-Trick, 12 Thrown, 3 Hit (with one on the fly, and one a foul ball.)
Awards won: Self-Proclaimed 2013 Ballhawk Rookie of the Year.

Pittsburgh Trip: Day Two (July 12th, 2013)

Opening

It was my first of three full days in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and a big one at that. The itinerary was like this: I would take a tour of PNC Park at 10AM, and get to PNC Park at 4:30 for batting practice and then see the first of three games. In between that I would be taking a lot of pictures, and see if I could do a cup trick off of the Roberto Clemente Bridge. But back to that in a minute.

The morning started off at 6:30am when I woke up at Hyatt Place North Shore. This is one of the best hotels for being close to the ballpark, and the only one that has views of the river and downtown as well. I left the hotel at 7:30 to walk around to take some more photos around the park, which I had already done a lot of the night before. To my surprise there were less people on the riverwalk then the night before, I suspected there would be some people taking morning jogs. But there seemed to be more geese than people.
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Because there were so few people, I figured I would head over to the Clemente Bridge and try to figure out if doing a cup-trick off of it and onto the riverwalk would be plausible. Since it wasn’t crowded, it might be my best shot all weekend. I didn’t feel a great need to do it, and not that it would be a difficult thing to do, but I figured that it wouldn’t hurt to possibly create some buzz around my blog within the ballhawking community. And it would be pretty cool to say I did the cup-trick off a MLB Landmark.

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To avoid confusion, the red square is where I attempted this trick.

I staked out a spot at the north side of the bridge where it passes over the riverwalk, where you are able to rent kayaks and stroll along the Allegheny. I didn’t kayak this time around, but it’s definitely something I’d like to try in the future. It would also be cool to long distance kayak to PNC Park (the Allegheny River extends up to Western NY,) but back to the point at hand.

2013-07-12 07.44.34(This picture is taken from this staircase.)

I figured that I would be able to put a baseball on the concrete path and then lower my cup over it. And I probably would have been able to as well, except I ran into a problem. I had been using a new cup that wasn’t weighted down as much as the one that got me a ball in Citizens Bank Park in June. So I would have to can my cup trick as a whole for this weekend and make some improvements when I got back. Oh well.
Now I have to add two things to my baseball bucket list:

  1. Go kayaking on the Allegheny River.
  2. Re-attempt the cup trick off the Roberto Clemente Bridge.

As I was packing my cup-trick back up at about 8:20, I got a text from my group that I needed to get to breakfast. So I dead sprinted back to my hotel, and promptly eat a great, big, continental breakfast. (Always eat as much as you can when it’s free.)

After that, I headed back to the hotel room before heading off to the tour. On my way there I got a photo of Honus Wagner and I.
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We kept walking past the third base side of PNC Park, and I took some pictures of a guy who hit the first home run in Shea Stadium,
Willie “Pops” Stargell…
2013-07-12 08.09.572013-07-12 09.35.06…which was in front of the Left Field Gate where we would start 10 o’clock tour.
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My first steps inside PNC Park:
2013-07-12 08.10.35They first take you to the Left Field Bleachers where you can take photos of an empty ballpark before the tour officially starts.
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The tour started with a look at PNC Park’s Negro League Museum. It was built in 2006, making PNC Park the first park to formally honor the Negro Leagues. It was fitting, because the Negro League powerhouse Homestead Grays played only a 15 minutes drive away from where the Pirates play ball today. They also played at the Pirates’ former homer, Forbes Field, where players like Josh Gibson, Cool Papa Bell and nine other future Hall of Famers showcased their talents during Major League Baseball’s darkest days (racially, at least.) You can view the museum at any time after the gates open.

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We were then taken to a hallway of where all the behind-the-scenes activity takes place. As we walked through the hallway, we passed by Clint Hurdle’s office. Our tour guide, who was very kind and intelligent, told us that Hurdle will often come and say hello to the groups touring as he goes to and from his office. Since it was a game day, we weren’t allowed into the Pirates clubhouse, but the Pirates substitute it with a video tour of the clubhouse. It was kind of disappointing that we couldn’t go into the clubhouse, but I can completely understand because players and coaches would be arriving in a couple of hours. We then headed to the batting cage…
2013-07-12 10.29.42To inspire their players, the Pirates have a sign listed of all the batting titles they have won outside of the batting cage. Honus Wagner definitely owns this list.

tour01After that, we headed to the best part of the tour. The field! Here are some shots I took from the dugout.
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tour05Then we got to walk out on the warning track and dirt path near home plate, but not on the grass.
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I really like this picture I took. I love how it details the blades of grass and the dirt, but also picks up the skyline in the backdrop.
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The view towards the backstop. The man in the seats is one of the many people who were cleaning throughout the park. None of them had uniforms on though.
tour10The dugout:
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A photo of me on the field.
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Then we headed up to the press box, which was also a great photo opportunity for the great views that PNC Park offers. I regret not taking any pictures of the actual press box, which was nothing fancy, but I didn’t because my entire tour group was sitting in the press box. I wouldn’t want any of them to show up in one of my posts, not that they would even care if they did stumble upon themselves.
Anyway, here’s the photos:
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After the tour, my group headed back to the hotel, and I charged my cameras so they’d be back at 100% for game time. We called a taxi and ate a great lunch at a very cool place that’s no more than 10 minutes from PNC Park. It’s called The Church Brew Works, and it was a Roman Catholic church built in 1902 that closed down in 1993. It was converted into a brewpub/restaurant. It was pretty cool looking around and seeing all the stained glass. All the booths were originally pews that people sat in back when it was called St. John the Baptist Church. I took a photo of it, but it came out blurry because of how the restaurant was lit, so an image from “theaposition.com” will do.
I like how they kept a lot of the features that it formerly had. I can definitely imagine a Sunday mass going on in here. Because of how they restored it, the Church Brew Works is now a city landmark. I thought it was funny how they showcased their brewery right where a statue of Jesus probably was before. Some people really worship their beer.

One thing that surprised me is the amount of Mets fans that turned out to Pittsburgh. As he was walking in, a Mets fan shouted out to me “Lets go Mets!” and the hotel I was staying at was FILLED with Mets fans coming from out-of-town, and I bet the other ones were too. A few of the fans I talked to were from New York City, but I imagine that it would be an easy drive to Pittsburgh for Mets fans from Western New York.

I headed back to the hotel and it was almost approaching an hour before the gates would open at 4:30. I needed to get a season ticket pass to be allowed into the Left Field Bleachers before the general public would at 5 o’clock. Robbie “Scoonz” Sacunas decided to be awesome and dropped his off the night before at the front desk. I stood in line behind a person checking in, and told the man at the front desk (who was short and had glasses) that somebody had dropped something off for me the night before. He then — probably because of my age — laughed and said “I’ll get to you in a minute,” before waiting on a guy who was also checking in. I felt really disrespected by the guy. It would have only taken 5 seconds to get the envelope with the season ticket pass out from below the front desk, but he went on for about 5 minutes checking in the next guy before I decided to switch lines. I was then promptly given the season ticket pass upon asking by a taller young man with glasses who was very nice to me. That’s the only grudge I have with this hotel, but Robbie also said that they made him wait a long time and fill out stuff when he dropped off the pass. Enough of that… off to the game.

I headed off to the game less than ten minutes before the Center Field Gate opened, which was okay because of my proximity to the park. I got in quickly and got the yellow Pirates shirt that they were handing out as a giveaway. I got to the left field bleachers and met Pittsburgh ballhawk Erik Jabs as well as Robbie Sacunas. I thanked Robbie for lending me the season ticket pass, meanwhile Erik Jabs was being a baseball-magnet.

There was some action during Pirates batting practice, but I did underestimate the competition. The bleachers are easy to navigate for the most part, but all three games I went to were sold out. I can definitely say that Pittsburgh has the most competition ballhawking-wise than any park. There are parks where you won’t see any ballhawks at games. At PNC Park, there is a large group of ballhawks, many who I did know, and many more that I did not know. There are a lot of older ballhawks that aren’t on social media, like Jim Saylor who talked with me and told me a lot of tips and stories over the weekend. One of my favorite tips of his went like this:

Jim: If you see a home run land in an empty section, go and get it. Say you didn’t know that you weren’t supposed to go in. And you know what you do if you see another home run go in that section?
Me: Not go in?
Jim: No, go in! Because at that point, even if you get kicked out, you’ll have gone home with two home run balls!

He was very entertaining, and he told me how a home run ball is the best kind of ball you can get, so going home with two is a complete day. He was a lot of help and complimented me later that weekend saying that I have good hands and never drop anything. Meanwhile, as Pirates batting practice came to a close, I still didn’t have a baseball. That was probably due to the fact that I was completely decked out head-to-toe in Mets gear. I thought maybe I should’ve put on my Pirates giveaway shirt, but I’m not really for changing shirts honestly. I don’t mind if others do it, I’m just too big a fan of the Mets to put on any other teams shirt.

As the Pirates relievers who were shagging baseballs cleared out, I noticed that a ball or two were leftover on the grass in Left Field. Josh Satin was walking around the area and picked up both baseballs and threw one to me while I was in the left field corner (Section 133) near the foul pole. The rest of the park had opened up, and the Pittsburgh ballhawks were off to right field already.

A few minutes later while I was in Left Field getting ready for some BP homers, a ball was hit down the left field line and Mets bullpen coach Ricky Bones stood near the wall with the ball in front of a group of Pirates fans. I came over and he jokingly said “Hmmm… I wonder who I’m gonna give it to?” And handed me my second ball of the day, while I was still in section 133. After that, I figured I wouldn’t be able to get another ball in Left Field because the players might recognize me, plus in the bleachers closer to Center Field, the Mets pitchers weren’t tossing much into the crowd.

So I went on to the Right Center Field bleachers where there were much more pitchers shagging fly balls, including Jeremy Hefner. I stationed myself in the front row of section 140, not too close to younger people or other Mets fans. Then a ball came soaring toward me that I thought would be mine. I noticed it would fall short but definitely thought it would clear the fence on a bounce. Instead, it hit the warning track, which was wet because of rain, and sort of died and bounced off the wall about a foot under my glove.  Hefner turned around and walked toward the wall where he picked up the ball and tossed it up to me. Jeremy Hefner is a real nice guy who often acknowledges fans and gives a lot of balls to the crowd. He gave me a ball in Philadelphia, and now gave me one across the state in Pittsburgh only weeks later.

I then moved over a section to where guys like Zack Wheeler, Dillon Gee and Matt Harvey were shagging fly balls. A few toss ups came to Mets fans near me. But then a ball was lined to the group shagging in the outfield, and Zack Wheeler (who had just been called up recently) turned around and lobbed the ball up to me for my fourth ball of the day. On that note, I had just broken my single game record of three balls that I got while at Citizens Bank Park, plus Zack Wheeler is probably the best player (or up-and-coming player) to give me a ball. I figured that I was done with getting baseballs in the right center field area, so I headed to the 21 foot fence in right field.

Relievers David Aardsma, LaTroy Hawkins, and bullpen catcher Dave Racaniello were stationed under it and snagging baseballs. While I was up there I met a man who from Illinois (with his son) who was on a little ballpark roadtrip and would be headed up to Progressive Field the next day. We had a nice chat and he got the attention of David Aardsma by asking him if he knew “______,” who was apparently one of Aardsma’s in-laws. Aardsma responded that he did in fact know “______.” I’m not sure if he thought I was his son because we were talking with eachother, but when a ball was right under the right field wall, he tossed up a ball so I would have to reach over and catch it, to the simultaneous “ohhhhs” of people in the stands.

I bobbled the ball a little bit because of the angle I received it at, but I secured it in my glove for my fifth ball of the day. I heard a guy say, “He almost just paid the price just to get that ball.” That made me a little angry inside since my feet never left the ground, it’s not like I was dangling over the rail. I was leaned against the rail with my arms reaching over it. If I hadn’t reached over I wouldn’t have got it. And even if I was being unsafe, 21 feet is a pretty big drop, but depending on how I landed I probably wouldn’t have “paid the price” for it. As I left I saw Robbie and told him how many balls I got and thanked him again for the pass. The man who I had talked to in the RF bleachers also said he was glad that I got a baseball. I love the people I meet at the ballpark.

Batting practice had ended, and I had a record 5 baseballs and was very pleased with myself. Here are the locations of the balls I got.
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I headed over to my seats on the third base line when I saw SNY’s sideline reporter Kevin Burkhardt preparing to tell a story on the Mets pre-game show on the first base line, so I headed over to the first base line and took some nice photos of him on air. Burkhardt has been the Mets sideline reporter since 2007 (and we haven’t made the playoffs since… coincedence?) and recently just got news that he’ll be announcing primetime football on Fox Sports. Much deserved.
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2013-07-12 18.13.22He then came and signed autographs for a sizable crowd of adoring Mets fans, including those who were wearing shirts from The 7 Line that say “K.B. is my homeboy”
2013-07-12 18.16.06I walked back to my seats, and on my way took a picture of PNC Park from behind home plate, as sprinkles started to return to the weather forecast.
2013-07-12 18.18.04The seats I had were the best I had all weekend. You can’t beat sitting on the third base line and admiring the Pittsburgh skyline as the sun sets on the North Shore.

2013-07-12 18.19.32As the game began, the seats filled up quickly. In all my years of watching the Mets face the Pirates, who would always be below .500 and had historically low attendance, I would have never thought I would attend a weekend that sold out. The Steel City was excited, and seats filled in quickly. At this particular game, no two seats could be bought together.

Eric Young, Jr. started the game off with a single to Center Field. Speed kills, and the Pirates made sure to hold him at first base with Daniel Murphy at the plate.

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2013-07-12 19.08.312013-07-12 19.08.53Unforunately I did not take many more pictures on my phone as I needed to conserve its battery. But a very exciting game was about to take place. After Daniel Murphy flew out to Starling Marte, David Wright came up to the plate to a sea of boos from the Pirates fans.

This was because David Wright did not initially pick Pedro Alvarez in the Home Run Derby, and Alvarez was not selected until after Carlos Gonzalez got injured and needed a replacement. The booing was ridiculous, it made a lot of these fans seem uneducated (I mean a lot had just hopped on the bandwagon.) David Wright could have easily picked Domonic Brown for the Home Run Derby, so I don’t understand why Pirates fans felt so entitled to boo Wright, who is not a player that normally gets booed.

The situation didn’t get better in the next inning when Jeremy Hefner let up a two-run homer to El Toro himself, Pedro Alvarez. I wasn’t watching on TV, obviously, but I could already imagine that all cameras were pointed to David Wright when Alvarez rounded third.

The game went surprisingly quick as both offenses were getting shut down quickly, until the top of the sixth inning when David Wright answered the boos of Bucs fans with a bloop single of his own that scored speedster Eric Young, Jr. In the next inning, Kirk Nieuwenhuis tied the ball game with a home run that carried to right-center field, where Zack Wheeler had given me a ball earlier.

In the bottom of the ninth, Starling Marte led off the inning with a double to left field. On a sacrifice bunt, he would go to third, meaning the Pirates had the tying run on with one out. The odds were against the Mets and my fingers were crossed. Andrew McCutchen was intentionally walked by Scott Rice to face Pedro Alvarez, who was a threat at the plate in his own right. But he struck out swinging as McCutchen went to second base, and Greg Burke came into the game. Russell Martin came up to the plate and was walked by Greg Burke. Though it added the force play, I wished that Burke would have retired a struggling hitter like Martin. Luckily for me, Gaby Sanchez grounded out to get the Mets out of the jam.

In the top of the tenth, the Mets got runners on first and second but were unable to drive them in. Going into the eleventh inning, the Pirates played this scene on the scoreboard from Pirates of the Carribean 3. It even gave me chills as a Mets fan. The Buccos fans were waving their Jolly Roger flags back and forth and screaming “Hoist the Colors!” The best part was when the crowd reacts to “The winds on our side boys, that’s all we need!” Watch for yourself.

The Mets bullpen was being spent and the only available reliever was Gonzalez Germen, who had yet to make an appearance and had an ERA of over 5.00 in AAA Las Vegas. The Mets were living and dying with Germen in the bottom of the eleventh. I was nervous for him as he would be facing McCutchen and Alvarez as his first two batters in the Majors. Germen was a bit wild and walked McCutchen. But in the next at bat, he made El Toro look silly as he struck out swinging. McCutchen would once again advance to second. Russell Martin was again intentionally walked, and Gaby Sanchez hacked against a changeup from Germen that he was way ahead of.

Then Jordy Mercer came up to the plate. I’d seen him play when the Mets faced him and knew he was a pretty weak hitter and was on the Pirates bench for the most part. I thought that Germen had a good chance of getting out of the inning with him up. He delivered a first pitch strike, and then a ball that was high. Mercer then got a walk-off that was so weak that only Jordy Mercer could hit it.


I felt like a Yankees fan after losing the ’01 World Series. I swear I didn’t say a word going back to the hotel room. It was an awkward elevator ride up to my room, filled with Mets and Pirates fans alike. That loss was soooo Mets. But there were still two days ahead to see more of PNC Park, to collect more baseballs, and to see the Mets win a ballgame! Hoist the colors!

Pittsburgh Trip: Day One (July 11th, 2013)

The day had finally come. I was finally leaving to go to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, home of the Best Ballpark in America, PNC Park (according to TripAdvisor.) It all started off at about 9 in the morning when I woke up to get ready to leave at about 10 o’clock. There would be no game on the Thursday that we left, but we went the day before and would then stay overnight at our hotel. Before we left, there was one problem.

For the past two weeks I had been looking everywhere in my house to look for my blue Matt Harvey jersey, but failed to find it anywhere. I would be going to three games to cheer on the Mets eight hours away and I probably wouldn’t even look like a die-hard fan, as I only had my Mets All-Star Game t-shirt, as well as a black Mets jersey with no name on the back, that I had never worn. In fact, the Mets don’t even wear it anymore. I hadn’t seen the Harvey jersey since my last baseball trip to Philadelphia. I really didn’t want to go to Pittsburgh without the jersey.  So about half an hour before I left, I looked in my garage and opened up some boxes. Luck would have it, I found not only my blue Matt Harvey jersey, but also my white Ike Davis jersey. Now I was in business. It would be a great start to an awesome weekend.
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Fast forward past 8 hours of driving and a couple of rest stops (including one that was about an hour) and a major traffic jam in Erie, PA and we finally arrived in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania despite the delays. (The jam was caused by a sixteen wheeler that went off the road and got absolutely demolished in the process. I hope the driver was alright. Here’s the story.)

Coming into the city, all I could say was that it was beautiful. If you’ve ever been to the Steel City, you’d know that coming in from the north (Route 279) you’re in a more forest-like setting, and then the buildings from Downtown Pittsburgh come into view rather surprisingly. I didn’t have my camera out at the time, but here’s the view on Google Maps Street View.
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I got all of my stuff settled and prepared my cameras and phone to do some picture-taking before the crowds would come to the game the next night (Friday.) Luckily even past 8 PM it was still very bright out, something I wasn’t used to because the sun sets earlier father east in Schenectady. To give you a birds-eye perspective on how things were laid out in Pittsburgh, click here.

This was the view as I exited my hotel, Hyatt Place North Shore, which was spectacular for the most part. Here you can just see a tiny glimpse of Downtown and the Fort Duquesne Bridge.

View from outside my hotel (Hyatt Place North Shore)

View from outside my hotel (Hyatt Place North Shore)

The streets were pretty empty, probably because it was a weekday on top of the fact that there was no game that day. On the other hand the North Shore area of Pittsburgh is more of a sports-reliant area with less businesses then downtown. This made the streets emptier, providing a good opportunity to take photos.

First I walked over to the front entrance of PNC Park, where the Honus Wagner Statue is.
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After that I headed down to the end of Mazeroski Way (First Base Side,) where the Bill Mazeroski statue is. It’s pretty cool how its weighted down enough that Maz can stand at the angle. This statue celebrates Mazeroski’s World Series winning home run against the Yankees in 1960, the first time a home run had won the series.

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I then headed down the stairs to the North Shore Riverwalk, which is a trail down the Allegheny River which passes the Right Field Area of PNC Park. Here is another view of the Fort Duquesne Bridge.

Fort Duquesne Bridge

Fort Duquesne Bridge

Turn your head to the left, and see the Roberto Clemente Bridge.
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By the way, Pittsburgh has the most bridges of any city in the world, and has the nickname “City of Bridges” because of its 446 Bridges. Finding that out was not surprising to me, because it seems that all along the Allegheny River there are bridges. Past the Roberto Clemente Bridge there are two more identical yellow steel bridges called the Andy Warhol Bridge (after the artist) and the Rachel Carson Bridge (after the environmentalist.)Due to all these bridges that connect Downtown and the North Shore, the Clemente bridge being closed on game days is just a minor inconvenience.

Here are some facts that you don’t need to read if you don’t want to: These bridges are also called the 6th, 7th, and 9th Street Bridges, but that isn’t as fun to say. Also, the “North Shore” used to be called the “North Side” but the city of Pittsburgh didn’t think it was fancy enough either. On top of that, the North Shore as a whole used to be a part of “Allegheny City” which was separate from Pittsburgh, before it was annexed in 1907.

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River Boat passing below the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the Allegheny River.

River Boat passing below the Roberto Clemente Bridge on the Allegheny River.

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Glimpse of the scoreboard and flags from the River Walk.

Glimpse of the scoreboard and flags from the Riverwalk.

Stairs from River Walk to street level of PNC Park.

Stairs from River Walk to street level of PNC Park behind Left Field.

Roberto Clemente Statue in front of Center Field Gate.

Roberto Clemente Statue in front of Center Field Gate.

I then took a closer look through the Center Field Gate and snapped a picture of the inside of PNC Park.
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Roberto Clemente Bridge empty on non-game day.

Roberto Clemente Bridge empty on non-game day.


The opposite view down sixth street (behind Left Field) on a non-game day. There are some great restaurants built into PNC Park, like Atria’s and the Rivertown Brewing Hall of Fame Club.

2013-07-11 20.44.03I then had to leave to eat a late (but fantastic) dinner at McFadden’s, which is across Mazeroski Way from PNC Park. Though there were no games on this day, it was one of my favorite days of all because I got a good view of one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in. If you haven’t, please get down to PNC Park in Pittsburgh. It’s the best-looking park I’ve ever been to and it should be on every baseball fan’s bucket list.

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