Today is my first official game at
Shea Stadium Citi Field. So we arrive 30 minutes early. I head over towards the Jackie Robinson Rotunda to make sure it is the earliest gate.
It is and I look for my ticket. I look for it in my pockets, but it isn’t there! I look everywhere around me. Oh crap, where is my ticket. If I don’t have it, we printed out another copy, but someone could pick up the dropped ticket and somehow get ahead of me. This isn’t good. But way off in the distance, I see an object.
It is near the light post in the center of the parking lot. It seems too big, but I went RIGHT through that area. I walk/run over there. I pick it up and it is the size of a ticket. I open it up and whwala! It is the ticket for section 123. It’s not there anymore, but it was just in front of the pole in the parking lot.
After I scan it, I run up the escalators. When I get a look at the field, there is nobody there. There are B.P. cages, but the only action is a Met running around the outfield warning track. I put on my Mets cap and go over there. I think it is John Maine, a quite little farm boy.
I am not sure, so I do what I did with Aaron Laffey back at Yankee Stadium. I just hold up my pen, and he makes a throw it to me motion. I don’t ever have the baseballs out, so I take one out and toss it to him. He gladly signs it for my 1st autograph today.
Since there are B.P. cages I ask a nearby guard what is happening with B.P. today:
“Only the Nationals are taking B.P. today.”
I wait happily in the empty outfield seats for the Nationals to start.
But after some coaches come out and go to the bullpen, the entire Nationals roster comes out of the dugout. I can see Adam Dunn, Austin Kearns, Manny Acta, Marquis Grissom, Ryan Zimmerman, all of them.
There is also a bucket of balls there.
Austin Kearns is right there so I ask him for one and he gladly walks over, picks one up, and tosses me my 1st ball of the day. Not that hard considering that I am the only person behind the dugout.
That’s him with his hands in his pockets.
Then I get some competition, an 8-year-old kid or so and his dad. He gets one ball easily and gets some more later on (you’ll see).
Soon two coaches start throwing. One of them is Marquis Grissom, a former Expo, and another coach I don’t know. I plop a seat in the first row and wait for them to finish. Marquis Grissom ends up with the ball so I don’t even ask, not to attract attention to myself. We make eye contact, I open and close my glove, and he winds-up and throws the ball straight to me, my 2nd ball so far.
Look at this cool wipe:
Then a random player walked over to the bucket. The dad and his kid ask him for a ball and he starts to walk away.
“Wait, can I have a ball also?” He sees my Nationals hat and Inaugural Season Nationals shirt, smiles, and walks over and gladly tosses me my 3rd ball. According to a coach, it was Ryan Zimmerman (you’ll see again).
You can see on this ball the *Official* Training Ball print and the ‘Practice’ print. The Nationals were only using these balls.
All the players go out to the line to start throwing, but Marquis and Manny remain. The dad asks for Manny’s autograph, and gets it, so I ask him for an autograph also. I toss him both baseballs, and he returns them to me, signed, for my 2nd autograph today.
Jim Riggleman kept taking balls from the bucket, now on the mound, and hitting them towards the players, for warm-up balls. They pile up, so I head over there. The closest person over there is Pat Listach:
“Could I have that ball?” I ask him.
“How many you got?”
“What?” I am not sure what he said since he is about 50 feet away.
“How many do you got?” (The got sounded like want).
I think he was joking around when I thought I heard him say ‘want’.
“Oh, one,” thinking that he said want.
“Your lying to me.”
“I saw you at the dugout. I say you get multiple balls from the players. You lied to me and you got that uh, uh Nationals hat.” He said the last part while pointing to me hat.
“Sorry, I didn’t know what you meant.”
“You got like 6.”
“No, I did not get 6 baseballs.” I replied.
“I saw you get some from players and also one from Ryan Zimmerman.”
“Ryan Zimmerman didn’t toss me a ball, I saw him without his jacket.”
“Well it was him,” he said and then he starts signing. I figure what the heck and ask him. “You want me to sign all 6?” He joked. I just have him sign one baseball not to push it for my 3rd autograph today.
I then go over and see Randy St. Claire with some baseballs.
“Balls are for pitchers,” he says after I ask him for a ball.
A bit after he said that, a ball is hit on the line to Shairon Martis. I happen to be right there, and he is recognizable, so I ask him for the ball. He inspects the ball and tosses me my 4th ball today. Did I mention that all the balls I have gotten so far have been training balls? I need one more for my 50th ball on the season…
After the pitchers finish, I go to the outfield for home runs. There is a ball that is hit to the wall. It is about 5 feet out. Glove trick anyone?
The wall is much bigger than I thought. I lower my glove about 10 feet, a little more than halfway down, when bullpen coach Randy Knorr comes to pick it up. I shout leave it there, but he flips it high up. I’m still holding my glove trick in my left hand, and sort of sitting down, so I jump up and lean over and bare hand it with my right hand. That was a good way to get my 5th ball today and my….50th on the season! This is a very clean ball for sitting on dirt and at this pace; I’ll get 300 by the seasons end.
Then it becomes dead. No balls are hit into the seats. There are too many people. There is too high a wall to lower the glove trick in time. About 15 players are out in left field, so they pick up every ball. It’s too hot. I just give up. I go over to the dugout. I ask the players as they walk in for something. They all say no. Finally when the whole team comes in, I get an autograph. Kip Wells comes in, so I call out his name. He looks up, I hold out my pen, and I toss him both the baseballs and my pen, both of which he signs and returns for my 4th autograph today.
That is pretty much it. The bucket of baseballs is being emptied, but guess who is doing that? Pat Listach!
So I wait for the pre-game warm up balls. Nick Johnson, who looks like any guy that accidentally jumped onto the field wearing a Nationals uniform, is the first one to start and finish. When he ends up with the ball, I call his name. He doesn’t look up. He just keeps walking until he is on the first step. Only then does he finally look up and toss me his pre-game warm up ball for my 6th ball today.
See the ball? There was absolutely no competition. I just laid back and nobody tried to get it. Citi Field seems laid back.
Now I want a commemorative baseball. All the baseballs the Nationals have used, besides Nick Johnson’s, have been training balls. UGH! I try for third out balls on the Nationals side. Finally, after the third, I stop. Why?
A ball was hit to #16, who catches it for the third out. He walks towards the dugout and stops at the very top to put on his shin guards or something. I see that the player is Josh Willingham after waiting for a long time. Finally, he looks up, smiles and finally tosses me the ball, my 7th ball. While getting the ball, an adult lunges for it, and lands on me, but by which time the ball is in my glove. I fell O.K. and it was worth it for a commemorative baseball.
At around the 6th inning, I go over to the inner aisle of the Nationals dugout. I see Manny Acta at the top step of the dugout during the half-inning. I ask Manny Acta for something at the end of the game, to which he will give me at the end of the game.
At the end of the game, by which time I am in the front row, I say “Manny”. He turns around, sees me, and gets ready to toss it to me. I nod to show that I am ready. He tosses me it, and I catch it easily. I take the pen off that is clipping them together and look at the line-up cards for today’s game, signed by both Manny Acta and Jerry Manuel.
Jerry Manuel signed by him. Notice Sheffield on it? Nice and printed.
Manny Acta signed by him. Everything hand-written. I don’t know why the star is next to Kip Wells’ name.
I am not counting these in my autograph collection because it would make things a little difficult. They are signed by the managers, but in what order? I have also gotten one or two previous line-up cards, which I don’t think I counted, so since it would screw some stuff up, I don’t count them. Now bought autographs, I count. I know you may say that that is cheating, but I had already bought a bunch of autographs, I’d say around 400 of my collection. Now that significantly takes away from my lifetime total, but it is still 1,500 MLB Autographs. Now, I am still counting them in my lifetime total, but I have a thing where I enter each autograph I get and information about it, so I can look back and see which autographs I bought and which I got from now on. Remember, I still have gotten about 1,500 MLB Autographs on my own, and plus I usually get two for my brother. I know some people may call that cheating, but it would be too difficult. I went through my collection and counted each and everysingle autograph and the year before that I wrote the names of players on little slips and put them underneath the balls in holders. It would be a huge pain to resort through each autograph and find out which is bought and which isn’t, but if you pick out a ball from my collection I can tell you which it is.
Well back to the game. The two players on base, one at-bat, and one on-deck come into the dugout. Nothing from Johnson. Nothing from Dunn. Nothing from Zimmerman. Then Anderson Hernandez comes in. I ask his for his batting gloves by making the hand symbol (un-strapping your wrists). He takes off his wristband and throws it to me, easily, my 1st G-U item of the day, and the MLB season.
Now all the bullpen pitchers come in from the bullpen. When they get close, I see two baseballs on Knorr’s bag. I ask him for them, but nothing. After they disappear two baseballs are thrown from underneath. I reach out and get the first one for my 8th baseball today. A wristband, a ball, and the line-up cards? That is why you stay after the game, or for the Kids Run the Bases.
4 MLB Autographs Today
8 MLB Balls Today
46 MLB Autographs in This Season
49 Total Autographs in This Season
53 MLB Balls in This Season
69 Total Balls in This Season
5 BP, 1 Pre-Game, 1 During, 1 After
Attendence: 39,960 people
Competition Factor: 319,680
6.625 balls / 1 game
8 Consecutive games with 1 MLB Autograph
8 Consecutive games with 3 MLB Baseballs
3 Consecutive games with 5 MLB Baseballs
I’ll leave you with some pictures of Citi Field: