Sunday, August 17, 2014

Nationals @ Mets 8/13/14 and 8/14/14 at Citi Field

I was at the final two games of the New York Mets recent series against the Washington Nationals at Citi Field, and I figured I'd combine the two games into one entry.

Wednesday August 13
The decision to go on Wednesday was a last-minute one, as the weather forecast wasn't looking good until a few hours before the game was set to begin. Ultimately, the decision was to go and go early for batting practice.

My friend and I arrived at Citi Field at about 4:45 p.m. When we got to the Jackie Robinson Rotunda gate, there were two lines of people waiting to get in the gate. The lines were formed behind two tables that would be used for bag checks. There was a third table set up about 30 feet to the right of where the second line formed behind Zack Hample. I knew the third table was going to be a line, so my friend and I decided to start the line. Within 15 minutes of starting the line, dozens of people were behind me.

Since I was in the front of the line, when the gates opened at 5:10, I was one of the first people inside. I went down the third base line where I figured the Nationals pitchers would be warming up. When I was running down the stairs, I saw a security guard holding a ball while making a throwing motion. I raised up my glove in acknowledgement of him, and within a few seconds we made eye contact. The guard threw the ball as far as he could, but I was just too far away for him. The ball clanked off a seat two rows in front of where I was. But, since nobody was there, I walked down the stairs and picked up the ball off the floor. I waved and thanked the security guard before going to my normal spot.

Eventually, I made it to my normal spot and watched the Nationals pitchers warm up. A few other people were standing near me, but I had enough personal space to myself. After wandering for a few seconds, my eyes widened when I saw a ball in a puddle. When I noticed nobody looking at me, I quickly snapped the photo on the left, then picked up the waterlogged ball. It was completely soaked when I picked it up. As I'm writing this entry a few days later, it is still wet and heavy. Right after I picked it up, someone told me, "Nice grab." I'm guessing the person saw the ball, but just didn't get to it before I did. Within five minutes of entering the stadium, I had already gotten two baseballs. I was off to a good start.

Most of the Nationals pitchers were warming up just a few feet in front of me. The closest player was Doug Fister, who was playing catch with fellow pitcher Tanner Roark. When they were finishing their catch, Roark was walking closer toward Fister. At the end, the two of them were throwing the ball to each other from behind their backs and through the legs from about five feet away. After Fister signaled that he was done, Roark turned his back to the crowd and flipped the ball into the stands. It landed a row or two behind me and hit a seat back. I ran over to grab it, and snatched it off the ground with my bare hand as a sea of other hands descended on where the ball was. I had snagged three baseballs, and didn't need my glove for any of them. Those were all the baseballs I snagged on Wednesday. Here are the balls and the sweet spots. Don't go away, there is more that happened on this day.

Shortly after getting the third baseball, a message was shown on the scoreboard that got my attention. Former Mets and Montreal Expos great Rusty Staub would be doing an autograph signing at the Verizon Studios in center field from 6-7 p.m. Since I was going to be back the next day, I figured I'd go to the signing and get a guaranteed autograph instead of standing around in the cloudy weather. After a brisk jog around the Citi Field concourse with my friend, we made it to the Verizon Studios behind a short line. After about five minutes of waiting, we went inside. No outside items would be signed, just the 4x6 photo they were giving out. My friend and I each went inside and got the signed photo from Staub. About a half hour later, after a rain storm had went through Flushing, I put on my sweatshirt and a different hat. Looking different than I first did when I met Staub, I went inside and got a second photo signed as there was almost no line. Below are the signed photos I got from Staub. That was it for Wednesday, as my friend and I just went to our seats and watched the game after meeting Staub.
Thursday August 14
Less than 24 hours after leaving Citi Field, I was right back at it with a different friend. Unlike the day before, I wasn't at the front of the line. After entering Citi Field, I went right behind the Nationals dugout with my friend. We saw Jordan Zimmerman signing for people further down the line, but couldn't get to him before he ran back to the dugout. Many different Nationals including Bryce Harper and Michael Taylor signed, but not for many people. Thankfully, I did get an autograph from one of the Nationals. 

Adam LaRoche was walking toward the dugout after taking batting practice when a kid in a Nationals jersey asked him to sign. LaRoche stopped, and the kid threw LaRoche a ball and pen. LaRoche signed the ball for the kid, then signed a few more, including mine, before going into the dugout. He actually dropped my ball when I there it, but got it, dusted it off and signed it for me. He used the first kid's black pen for all the balls. He has a nice signature, as you can see on the right. That was the only autograph I got from a member of the Nationals in this series. 

Shortly after getting the autograph from LaRoche, batting practice was over. One of the last players to leave the field was former Met Scott Hairston. He was walking to the dugout with a ball on his hand. As he got closer to the dugout, I asked him for the ball. He then looked up and tossed the ball to me underhanded while walking down the dugout steps. Within two minutes of that, all the players were off the field. One of the Nationals ball boys was tossing balls into the crowd on the other side of the dugout, so I ran over there and got one of the balls that he threw into the crowd of Nationals fans. Within a few minutes, I had quickly snagged two balls, which is all I would catch on the day. Here they are. Keep scrolling down though, I'm not done yet.

Once Nationals BP was over, my friend and I headed over to the Mets side to try and meet one of the best signers in the MLB, Curtis Granderson. Over the course of the season, I noticed that Granderson signs pretty much every single game, just before the game began, in the exact same spot. In hopes of  not getting kicked out by a security guard, I took a seat a few rows back from where I hoped he would sign. After the national anthem, Granderson came right over to where I thought he would be, true to his form. The security guards made everyone form a single file line on one side of the aisle. Here's a short video I took when Granderson walked over.

Eventually, I made my way to the front of the line. The person in front of me was getting a jersey signed, but didn't have a pen. I handed Granderson my blue sharpie and waited for him. As he signed the jersey, I thanked him for coming. While many people were getting baseballs signed, I figured I'd try my luck with cards since I don't usually get them signed at games. I handed Granderson three cards, one on top of the other. He signed all three rather quickly, handing them back to me one at a time as he signed them. It isn't much of a signature, but with a name as long as his, he can be forgiven. I thanked him, then went back toward my seat for the game. You can see the cards below.

My friend got a ball signed on the sweet spot. It seemed like Granderson was only signing balls on the sweet spot after personalizing them. Unfortunately for my friend, Granderson spelled his name wrong. In the crowd yelling for him, something must have gotten lost in his ears. Granderson signed for about ten minutes before going into the dugout at about 7:05, right before the game would begin. 

That was everything I got at these games. It was a good two days autograph and baseball wise. But for the Mets, it was terrible. I won't go into that, as I'm sure you know that already. Thanks for reading. Good luck graphing! Feel free to follow me on Twitter for live updates of what I'm up to. 

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