Just a few short hours after I had left Target Field to go back to St. Paul and my dorm, I was back yet again to see my Twins take on the New York Mets:
Once again, the below-freezing temperatures scared people away, so I wanted to start the game off strong. I did so by quickly get a ball from who I believe was Brian Duensing soon after the gates opened:
After I snagged this baseball, I headed over to left field. Over there, first of all, nothing was going over the fence again because of the cold, but I also managed to get Anthony Swarzak to toss me a baseball. He tossed it to me over three rows of fans, so when I got the ball I asked a kid in the front row if he had gotten a ball yet, and when he told me he hadn’t, I tossed him the Swarzak ball:
When the Twins finished batting practice, I headed over to foul ground to try to get a ball from the infielders/pitchers warming up:
This time there was no snow (yet) but I managed to get Jeremy Hefner to toss me a ball:
That would be my third on the day. After that, the only ball I got for the remaining portion of BP was tossed to me by Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the right-center field seats. In my recounting of batting practice, it may seem like it went really quickly, but it didn’t. It’s just that the other part that I’m not writing about is me running back and forth between left and right field and the Mets again not hitting many home runs during batting practice. It’s truly frustrating because I like snagging hit baseballs waaaaay more than I do toss-ups, but this stadium is just awful for hit baseballs to begin with and was not being helped by the cold weather knocking everything down, so all I could really hope to get was a couple of toss-ups.
After batting practice, though, the opportunity presented itself for me to snag a different type of ball:
What you are seeing is a Softball home run derby about to begin. The notable contestants were TC, the Twins’ mascot, and then the two hosts of the radio show I had been on the day prior, Mark Rider and Lindsay Guentzel. As you can maybe tell from the picture, I was in left field for the beginning of the derby. Neither of the two right handed hitters pulled the ball my way (although Lindsay was the only one of the two to hit a home run). So when I realized that Rider wasn’t going to be hitting the ball into the stands in the opposite field any time soon, I headed up to the second deck in right field (both he and TC Bear are left handed). By the time that I got up there, Rider was already done, but look what I got once TC took his hacks:
The story of the ball is I saw it coming towards me right off the bat, but then I realized that the ball wasn’t going to hit under the overhang. It was at this point that I ducked and covered my head with my glove and other hand. When I heard the ball bang off of the 96.3 K-Twin advertisement (serendipitous, eh?), I looked around for where the ball dropped and picked it up. As you can see i the picture inside of the green circle, the ball left a big dent in the sign. Now here is the ball with the softball set-up in the background to give you an idea of how far it traveled:
The bear’s got some pop. He ended up winning the home run derby. I think I’ve only seen him get beat once in all of the derbies that I’ve seen.
Interestingly enough, my next notable moment of the game also included the K-Twin crew. For the game, I was again out in the standing room section, ready to snag as always:
Of course nothing came even close to me, but I was ready if it did. Anyway, in the bottom of the sixth inning, I took a lap of the stadium to keep warm, and when I got back, the K-Twin radio hosts were in the standing room. In addition to being a part of the home run derby, they were also being invited to sing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” for the seventh inning stretch. Since the stretch is sponsored by Lexus, they give out hats for all of the singers. They had an extra, so Lindsay asked if I wanted it to thank me for being on the show the day prior. And while I already do have a bajillion hats, of course I would:
That guy who is giving the low thumbs-up and smiling would be the person who was filming both Lindsay and Rider as they did their various activities throughout the day. I thought it was cool that before I took that picture *he* asked me how many baseballs I had snagged that day. And of course I also had to put the hat on right away:
Anyway, I would get nothing out there all game, as I previously mentioned. But towards the end of the game I first got a cup of hot chocolate, because I was freezing and needed SOMEthing to warm me up since it wasn’t exactly sweatshirt weather. And then, I headed down to the dugout and got a ball from home plate umpire, Marty Foster. After that, I stuck around for a while longer just in case anyone else was in the dugout. (This and last night’s snag would not have been possible in New York, since I probably would have been told to leave before the game even ended.) Eventually, Mario, the attendant popped out of the clubhouse in order to do his final cleanings, and when I held up my glove, he picked up a ball that was there and tossed it to me with surprising accuracy:
I say surprising because he needled the ball right through the opening between the camera and the diagonal dugout railing from half-way down the dugout. Had he been off by a foot in either direction–something many major league players have been when tossing balls to me–the ball would have hit either and not reached me/possibly have taken out a camera.
After that I headed out, and found it funny that this sign I had seen earlier in the game had been left on the ground by its owners:
And with that I left
to enjoy the rest of my baseball-free weekend to go do homework the next two days because I had spent all of my time thus far in the weekend attending baseball games.
- 6 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 459-464 for my lifetime:
- 18 Baseballs in 4 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 28,804 Fans= 172,824 Competition Factor
- 66 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 16 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- 73 Balls in 18 Games at Target Field= 4.06 Balls Per Game
- 17 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 11:35-7:17= 7 Hours 42 Minutes
Oh, and a column that I wrote for mygameballs.com is up now, so if you want to go check it out, here’s the link:
After the Twins decided to take a week-long break from the winter-like conditions of Minnesota. And look who was at the gates when I got there:
With his St. Cloud State hockey jersey for a day of mourning since the Huskies had lost in the Frozen Four the previous day.
There was also something else going on at Gate 34 when I got there:
That would be the 96.3 K-Twin Booth with the Rider, Lindsay & Coomer airing when I got there. Then, while in a conversation involving Robin Ventura, A-Rod, and Lou Gherig, something awesome happened. I saw one of the hosts wave at me. Ron Coomer had left at that point, but you see, the “Lindsay” part of the show would be Lindsay Guentzel, who if you recall, I met the night I snagged my one–and to this point only–home run ball, when she gave me her baseball card. Well, she had spotted me from the booth; presumably when Tony yelled out something that I have forgotten and Lindsay acknowledged him on-air.
Anyway, the “other” host who was in the booth, Mark Rider, signaled for me to enter the booth from the door on the other side, and, long story short: I got a min-interview with them on K-Twin in the six minutes before the gates opened. I know I sounded like a complete idiot for parts of it, because I was in-part still in shock from the spontaneity of it all, but I managed to get enough interesting stuff out for maybe someone to relate to what are some of the things that I like about ballhawking. And at the end of the interview, I thanked the two hosts for what was an amazing experience and got a picture with Mark Rider, courtesy of Lindsay:
I then got in pretty quickly after that despite mine being the only gate that the operators of happened to forget how to open. Another interesting aspect of this game that will make it stand out in my mind for a very long time is that it had been snowing the two days prior and it was supposed to snow during batting practice and the game itself. As a result, I got treated to a show one usually doesn’t see at the gates:
Yep. That would be a worker on a ladder clearing the snow from atop the awning above the turnstiles.
Once I got in, I hesitated a little in the right-center field section of seating before going out to the left field bleachers. There I managed to quickly catch a ball on the fly of an unidentified Twins player:
I misjudged it at first, though. I ran to get in line with the ball, but it wasn’t until the ball was almost on me that I realized it wasn’t going to carry to me due to the sub-40 degree temperature of the game. So I leaned over a row of bleachers and caught the ball.
Oh, and just in case you look at the field and don’t believe that it had been snowing the previous two days, that’s because the field is heated and workers cleared the stands of snow. Here, for example, is the batter’s eye:
That’s what the entire field would look like if it weren’t heated.
In left field, I had run into a fellow ballhawk who also happens to attend the University of Minnesota, Brandon Nedoma, who I had met in the final series of the 2012 season, so I decided it would be better for both of us if I headed to right field to try to get a ball. I did:
It came in the form of a toss-up from Ryan Pressly, which, fun fact, was the first ball recorded from him ever on mygameballs.com. That’s cool.
I then headed over to foul territory in case any Twins righty pulled a grounder down the line:
But the Twins ended their hitting soon after I got there. With my now two baseballs for the day, I headed over further into foul ground where the Mets were stretching:
It is at this point that I would like you to save your spot in the entry and go back up to examine the title. You see how it begins 4/12/13, right? That means this game was played on the twelfth day of April. Now look at some of the darker-colored spots in that last picture. Those white spots aren’t my phone’s camera acting up; they are snow flakes. It was actually snowing even though we were almost half-way through April! Since it was one of my goals to see a batting practice/game in the snow while I was here at Minnesota, I loved it, but that doesn’t spot me from realizing how ridiculous that actually is.
The result of me going over there was I got Daniel Murphy to toss me my third ball of the game:
I actually didn’t even recognize him at the time. I was hoping the ball would end up with his throwing partner, Ruben Tejada, but he ended up with the ball, so I in my Mets ski hat flashed my glove and he threw me the ball from about 80 feet out.
I then headed over to the pitchers warming up further down the line. Now I didn’t get anything, so normally I wouldn’t talk about it, but I had to give you some context for the following picture:
Ho-ly snow. It may not look like much, but keep in min that the shutter speeds on iPhones are very fast to avoid blurring. Let give you an idea of how hard the snow was falling. I couldn’t identify the ball while it was in the air a couple times when it traveled between Brandon Lyon and LaTroy Hawkins. Yeah. It was that bad.
I then headed over to right field and got my fourth ball of the day from Tom Goodwin:
Giving a new definition to the term “snowball”. But that’s not all, take a look at the view from the standing room:
“Cray” is but one of many adjectives that could be used to describe the weather at the moment.
I then moved over to the seats in right-center field. It should be noted that although I’m in these seats a bunch, they are worst of the three outfield sections; it’s just that the other two are usually far more crowded and/or I’m trying to get a ball specifically from the person in right-center field. While I was there, I asked Marlon Byrd for a ball. He then tossed it against the wall below me twice (jokingly) before tossing the ball up to me:
And that was it for batting practice. It was incredibly frustrating but not at the same time. How you ask? It was frustrating because I know that I probably could have set my Target Field record for balls in a game had it not been for the cold, because NOTHING was flying out into the stands. The cold air was knocking everything down before it got there. I mean a better hitting team could have hit a few out, but there wasn’t really anyone hitting baseballs into the stands besides David Wright. Ike Davis was hitting the out, but they were mostly landing in the batter’s eye section.
As soon as batting practice was done, I made a beeline for one of the Twins’ best promotions to date. You see, because of the snow, the Twins tried to salvage as many of the paid attendance as possible by providing free coffee and hot chocolate throughout the game. (Sorry for the blurry picture. My fingers were at this point already half-way frozen, so holding the phone steady was tough):
Talk about heaven on earth. By the end of the night, I would have drunk close to, if not over ten cups of hot chocolate. Here is the picture of my first with the diamond in the background:
I would stand in the standing room most of the game in the slight chance that someone launched a ball out there despite the cold (they didn’t) with occasional trips around the concourse of the stadium to keep somewhat warm. And I wasn’t the only one who thought low-30s was cold for a baseball game. Here is a view of the seats in the ninth inning:
To be fair to the fans, though, this wasn’t a game to stick around for. A bunch more people gave it a try to begin the game but either got cold or discouraged when the Twins were losing 10-2 by the second inning. I don’t blame them. But I also thank them for leaving, because it made me getting this ball from home plate umpire, Mike Everitt that much easier since I was the only one by the tunnel when he left the field:
It was right after this that I saw Tony appear in the Champions Club side of the dugout. (He had been there the whole game, but this was the first time I had seen him since I came down to the dugout. And again, sorry for the blurriness, but my hand was shaking and my fingers frozen in a curled position, so I wasn’t in ideal shape to take a picture.):
Besides it being nice to see him again, he gets the assist on my next baseball because just as I was set to leave, I asked Tony if there was anyone still in the dugout, and he told me that the dugout attendant, or whatever his official title is, was still in there. Moments later, the attendant, whose name I believe is Mario, emerged with about five baseballs. The first of which went to Tony. The next one Mario threw tome to give to the kid next to me. Cheap I know, but since I had the ball first before giving it away, it was my seventh ball of the day. Mario almost threw me the last ball he had, but there was a little girl who had still not gotten one, so he apologized to me before tossing it to her. Disappointing that I couldn’t tie my Target Field record, but I can’t argue with that logic.
After that, I said goodbye to Tony and a friend with whom I have several classes with and had met me at the dugout, and then I left. But on my way out, I made sure to take a picture of the microphone that had broadcast me all over Twins Territory just a few long hours earlier. (Normally they would have been short hours, but the cold took its toll.):
Good times. And even better:
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— Lindsay Guentzel (@LindsayGuentzel) April 13, 2013
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- 7 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 452-458 for my life:
- 12 Baseballs in 3 Games= 4.00 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 23,735 Fans= 166,145 Competition Factor
- 65 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 15 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 67 Balls in 17 Games at Target Field= 3.94 Balls Per Game
- 16 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:00-11:36= 8 Hours 36 Minutes
Another day of the week, another day in the winter wonderland that is Target Field:
Thankfully this day the Tigers started hitting a little less later after we were let in to the stadium, if that makes sense. This time, I headed almost directly to left field when the gates opened:
But when I realized that the Tigers weren’t hitting just yet, I headed to foul ground to try to get a ball from the pitchers warming up:
This resulted in me getting a ball from Brayan Villarreal:
Then I decided that right field was far less crowded than left field, so I headed over there for the hitting group that included Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera, and Victor Martinez. The decision on which side of the outfield to stand on for this group is harder than you may think. While Miguel Cabrera is a triple crown winner (and a right handed hitter), a bunch of his home runs at Target Field will be lost to the second deck overhang in left field. Also, he is one of those hitters who can seriously drive the ball out to any part of the field, and not just his pull side. On the other hand, Prince Fielder usually takes very short rounds of batting practice. Last year in the final series against the Twins, there were several times when he took one-pitch rounds. He literally got in the cage, swung at one pitch, and got back out of the cage. Usually when a hitter does this it’s at the very end of his group’s hitting as a sort of “lightning round”, but he did it in the middle rounds and was the only one doing it. To combat this, though, Victor Martinez hits the ball for way more power from the left side of the plate.
It turned out that I made the right decision:
That would be a home run ball from Victor Martinez. I completely misjudged it, as I did for all but one ball this batting, but thankfully it landed in a row with no one else in it. It was a very frustrating batting practice in this regard. I don’t know what it was, but whenever I thought the ball was coming right to me, the ball died because of the cold and didn’t even make it to the seats, but then when I thought it was going to fall just short of me, the ball would fly over my head and less than two feet over my glove. I would say I lost two to three baseballs to misjudgments on my part. I also didn’t know it at the time, but this was my 450th career snag.
Thankfully, though, there was one ball that I didn’t misjudge. When Prince Fielder got up, I moved back in the right field section of seating, as I usually do. He then launched a ball that I could tell was going over my head, so I sprinted back and looked back at where the ball was going to land. The ball then hit the gated fencing of the second deck terrace (I don’t know if that’s the proper word for it, but it feels right):
and then bounced down in the standing room before bouncing back up in the air:
where I managed to grab it before it could bounce back down and also managed not to run into the person running full speed in the opposite direction at the ball while it was mid-air.
I was then going to go down to the first row of the section of seating to give the ball to one of a group of kids who had been trying really hard to get a ball from the Tigers players, but people were blocking the staircase to go down there. So instead, I gave the ball to this kid who was in the wheelchair-ish seating at the top of the section of seats:
For the record: yes, he did have a glove; I just would have much rather given it to kids who were very actively pursuing a baseball, and I felt obligated to give a ball away since I had now snagged five baseballs this season without giving one away. That would be the last ball I snagged this game, bringing my total up to three baseballs for the day.
As for the game, I tried to get a ball from the bullpen in the pre-game warm-ups:
But the opportunity somehow managed to slip me by despite there being a ball on the ground of the bullpen right in front of me. It was then that I decided to stay in left field for the beginning of the game because:
1. This was my view:
2. There were invisible people sitting to my right:
But mostly 3. This spot was almost guaranteed to be in the sun for the whole game- While this game was not as cold as Opening Day, it was forecasted–and thus I was prepared for it–to be mid-50s. It was in the high 30s for most of the game. In the sun it was bearable; in the shade, I was getting frostbite.
Given this, once enough people arrived in the seats to force me up into the shaded part of the seats, I gave up sitting in left field and just headed over to the standing room section:
It’ll take me a while to get sick of that view. The wind I was experiencing on the other hand…
While I was up there, I spent a good chunk of my time 1. Using groups of people who walked into the standing room as human windshields and 2. Talking to an usher who happened to be in my sports management interview paper group. The basic premise of the interview groups is we separated the 150-student class into groups of what people wanted to go into when they were done with school, and so this usher and I were both in the “Front Office: MLB” group, in which we interviewed Terry Ryan (if you don’t know who he is, close this entry effective-immediately and don’t return until you have done some Google research on him. If you’re really interested, you can listen to the interview here: Terry Ryan interview. It’s pretty boring from an outside listener’s standpoint, but that’s because it was for a class first, so there were mandatory questions we had to ask him. Anyway, I talked with this usher about first the cold and then how we both have become less invested in the outcomes of games as a result of us both attending a ton of games. He for work, and I for ballhawking.
When he took his break and I resumed withstanding the cold with nothing to distract me, I noticed that whoever had conducted the raising of the flag ceremony had forgot to lock the flag pole, so I took a peek inside just to see what was in there:
Fun times. Cold times.
Then in the bottom of the ninth inning, I headed over to left field again to try to get a ball from one of the bullpen players. I figured the game would be over pretty soon with the Tigers up 2-1, but the Twins thankfully made me go home a couple outs early. See Phil Coke walked Trevor Plouffe, who then got pinch-run for by Jamey Carroll. Then Brian Dozier got a single to send Carroll. This brought up Eduardo Escobar. He then launched a ball that looked to be headed to my left into the bullpen. Instead, the cold knocked it down for a walk-off double.
The Tigers players got out of the bullpen as fast as they could, so this probably cost me a ball, but I was fine with this as it was a Twins win. What I was really afraid of when there were runners on first and third was extra-innings. This would have been torture. So really, anything besides this was fine by me, and a walk-off win was just icing on the cake. If you’re having trouble picturing the walk-off, here’s a picture showing where I was and where the ball landed:
After that, I walked back to the Minneapolis side of campus, where I took the Campus Connector back to my dorm on the St. Paul side.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 449-451 for my lifetime:
- 5 Balls in 2 Games= 2.5 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 22,963 Fans= 68,889 Competition Factor
- 64 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 60 Balls in 16 Games at Target Field= 3.75 Balls Per Game
- 15 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 12:05-7:18= 7 Hours 13 Minutes
Oh how great this day was:
I still sort of can’t believe that it really happened. Oh, and by the way, I refer to great in its true sense and not the sense it has come to mean. As in although it was great in the “awesome” sense, there was also great cold, and great hoopla, and a great amount of “stuff” happening.
What do I mean by “stuff”? Well, here’s some shots of the Target Plaza that show the greater level of activity than 30 minutes before the gates open on a regular game day.
First off, here is my view of Target Field’s Gate 34 just as I arrived from my last class of the day:
Then, there was apparently something being filmed at my usual napping spot in front of Gate 34:
And then the gate itself. With its own personal radio booth, courtesy of 96.3 K-Twin:
And then a second picture. This time more of the people at the gate, partially to show you how people were dressed up to deal with the sub-30 degree temperatures:
Once I got to the gate itself, there were…well, normally I would say “familiar faces”, but that wasn’t necessarily the case here. The first person who I recognized was Paul Kom, along with his friend, Asher:
And then there was Tony Voda, who I didn’t really recognize because this is how he looked from my initial perspective:
He was also here at the game with a friend, whose name was Jared. Here are the two of them, with the photo credit going to Paul:
I was actually supposed to have a companion of my own in the way of Sean, but something came up for him the day of. I tried to get a few other people to come with me, but all of them had things going on. I truly do not get some people. I get not going to just some game, but it’s Opening Day of Major League Baseball! Anyway, long story short: no one ended up being able to make the game and I ended up taking the $33 hit and going with my imaginary friend, Tommy McActuallywantstogotoabaseballgame. Then, at 1:00, the gates were finally opening:
Remember when I said there was a great amount of “stuff” going on? Notice Tom Kelly helping in the opening of the gates on the left hand side. I think I would have absolutely ate that up if it weren’t around 20 degrees and the gates weren’t opening for the first time this season.
Unfortunately this was the view as I ran in and got my magnetic schedule:
The Twins had started batting practice early, so they got done right before we entered and the Tigers were still several minutes from getting started. So I went over behind the cage and tried to get a ball from Rafael Belliard:
I yelled out to him, but unfortunately all I got was a wave and a smile. To be fair, I only yelled out “Rafael!”, but I was going to follow it with “Can you toss me a ball please?” I think he thought I was just saying hi.
My next opportunity came when the pitchers warmed up down the left field line:
Unfortunately one ball went to a much smaller and cuter game-goer than I, and then the second, I found out had already been promised to Paul because he had thrown back a previous overthrow.
Then it was off to the outfield. Therein lied the problem with Opening Day. You see Target Field is a pretty bad ballhawking stadium ceteris paribus, but it especially wretched with any substantial crowd because it is so reliant on the first few rows of the outfield sections. In left field, it was crowded enough that the first rows that were clear enough to run through were under the overhang, where no balls could be hit. In right field, the actual seating was completely full, so I would have had to stand out in the standing room section and hope that a ball get hit out there. Translation: I went into the section of seating in right-center field and asked for toss-ups. Unfortunately for me, the man patrolling the patch of ground in front of this section was Doug Fister, who although he may not be like this all the time, was being an unresponsive jerk. By the end of the day, I didn’t even mind that he completely rejected me several times. There was an early teenage girl dressed head-to-toe in bright orange who was yelling his ear off (politely) for almost half-an-hour with no avail. Once Fister moved out of the section, though, I got my first ball of the day pretty quickly from Drew Smyly:
I then spent the rest of my batting practice in the standing room. Apparently I wasn’t smart enough to realize that if it’s tough to get the ball out there normally, it is nearly impossible to get a ball into the standing room when it’s below 30. So (shocker!) nothing came out there with Prince Fielder having already hit.
I did see something very interesting while I was in right field, though:
If you can’t make out what it is that arrow points to, I’ll just tell you. It’s ice. This marked the first time I had seen ice in a stadium that wasn’t being used for the purpose of refrigerating beverages. I guess the whole “it’s usually 90+ degrees whenever I’m in a baseball stadium” thing comes into play here.
As I started to head toward their dugout, the Tigers dugout, they finished batting practice, and I don’t know if it was the cold or what, but usually if I start heading to the dugout before batting practice itself, I’ll beat the ball bag to the dugout. This time, however, the pack-up process was accelerated by about 200%.
At this point, I found myself in a very interesting situation: my ticket was in left field but I was now in the moat behind the Tigers dugout. At this point I told myself I would see if I could stay until the players started warming up down the line. Ushers started checking tickets in the section, but through a series of maneuvers, I got past them and stayed in the section. Then when I didn’t get a ball from any of the Tigers players warming up, I decided “You know, they’re using the Opening Day commemorative baseballs. I might as well stay down here for the rest of the game.” And so, this became my view of the action for 9 innings:
A pretty nice view for my first Opening Day game ever, eh? What would have that cost at Yankee Stadium? Two, or three…thousands of dollars? Probably more since it was Opening Day. Want to know what’s even more sad about that fact? This is how Yankee Stadium looked in the ninth inning:
I’ve only seen a stadium anywhere near that empty in a handful of cases, and all of them involved inclement weather. Oh, and if you’re even thinking of arguing that people wanted to leave because of the cold, please refer to the paragraph of text under the fourth picture in the entry.
What that seat also gave me a great view of was the storied Opening Day ceremonies. First, both rosters were announced. At which point every player lined up on the field as his name was called:
Then, probably the best part even though I’m not overly-nationalistic was the national anthem. What they did first to prepare for that was bring the famed “giant flag” on the field:
They then had a veteran raise the flag on the mast as they always do. Except here’s where that “great” Opening Day twist comes in. The veteran who raised it this day was Rod Carew.
Onto the game, I was obviously going for third out balls, but the first two didn’t even make it to the dugout. I believe one was tossed into the stands by an outfielder. The other didn’t make it to the dugout because of this guy:
First a little background information on said “guy”:
1. Yes, he is wearing a leopard skin suit jacket.
2. He was wearing a ski mask for batting practice.
3. You might see someone who holds up *a* sign during games; he had a stack of them for the different Tigers players.
4. He had a gold-plated glove.
5. Even though he was supposedly a Tigers super fan, he asked me on several occasions during batting practice to identify Tigers players. (That reminds me. I probably should have included this story earlier, but I don’t know where to fit it into the entry above so I’m just going to tell the story here in these parentheses. Anyway, a hilarious thing happened when the Tigers players came out to warm up before the game. A group of 3-4 Twins fans saw Austin Jackson run out to warm up and immediately starting yelling things like “We love you, Torii” or “We miss you, Torii,” and kept it going for a while until Torii Hunter actually came out onto the field. Then they just started to realize–and confirmed after asking myself–that they were indeed not cheering for Torii Hunter. Murmuring and a retreat away from the field ensued.)
6. He was one of those fans who demands respect for his team from the opposing fans while trashing their team.
Anyway, Miguel Cabrera had the ball and was headed to the dugout when he saw this fan in the corner of his eye, stopped, and threw him the ball. I wasn’t bitter at the time, and I was even more fine with it two innings later when Prince Fielder tossed me a third-out ball of my own:
But wait do you notice anything special about this ball? How about now?
Opening Day commemorative baseball, baby! And yes, this was the first one I had ever gotten as a result of this being my first Opening Day game ever. The rest of the game played, and the Tigers unfortunately pulled it out despite the Twins limiting Justin Verlander to his shortest start in approximately 3.5 years.
At the end of the game, my plan was to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jim Joyce. I was going to go down the main staircase to the umpire’s tunnel, but I surprisingly met up with Paul in the ninth inning and he took that staircase, so my plan was to go down the secondary staircase and yell out to Joyce before he got to the tunnel since this staircase was closer to where the umpires exited the field, but for whatever reason, people stayed in their seats, so there was no space in the front row for me to get down. Fortunately, though, Paul managed to snag his own Opening Day commemorative, so that made up for it. Basically, this was my reaction to not getting an umpire ball:
In that: “I didn’t get another ball and I only snagged two baseballs this game, but so what? It was an absolutely great game/experience. (Minus the cold. I’m still trying to forget how miserable it was in the shade.)
Tony and Paul had three and four baseballs, respectively, when I left, and they each managed another from the Tigers equipment person afterwards to push their totals up to four and five. A ton compared to my measly two, but if there was one game I didn’t care, it was this one.
- 2 Balls at this game:
Numbers 447-448 for my career (I realize that the last entry from this past season said I ended the season at 445, but in the offseason I realized that I never inputted my sixth baseball from my one game at Citizens Bank Park, so everything from that point on is technically one baseball above whatever I have it at. I just don’t feel like going back and changing all of the entries. This is just a day for long parenthetical insertions, I guess.)
- 2 Balls in 1 Game= 2.00 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 38,282 Fans= 76,564 Competition Factor
- 63 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 57 Balls in 15 Games at Target Field= 3.80 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 12:05- 7:46= 7 Hours 41 Minutes
It was Sunday, September 30th 2012. It was my last game of the season. Except, when I awoke early Sunday morning, it didn’t feel like it at all. It just felt like another day at the ballpark. Except I semi-changed things up by going to Harmon Killebrew’s gate:
I knew there wouldn’t be batting practice, and my bus drops me off right by Gate 3 when I take it; so I didn’t feel like walking to Gate 34.
When I entered the left field seats, this was my view:
No surprise there.
I went down to the Tigers’ dugout, but there wasn’t anything going on down there:
Eventually, Jeff Kunkel– one of the Tigers’ bullpen catchers– came out to play catch with one of the pitchers:
I don’t remember who the pitchers was, but I do remember that after playing catch they went to the bullpen to throw a bullpen session.
Then there was a long break in action. How long? It was long enough for Kunkel to go to the bullpen, catch the session, and come back out to be the catching partner of the next pitcher who came out:
I don’t know who it was. The face looked most Luke Putkonen, but he didn’t look 6’6″, which Putkonen is listed at. But who knows, MLB players routinely “round up” on their listed heights, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Putkonen.
Anyway, at this time, the Twins came out to throw:
I had half a mind to go over there, but I decided against it since my most notable competition on my side of the field was a family who were expecting the Twins to take batting practice and a couple of kids with their parents.
It looks like I made the right decision, because minutes later, I got this from Luis Marte by working some Spanish magic:
One down, four to go to get to my goal of 444 career baseballs. I gave this ball away to the family I mentioned before, since they had engaged me in conversation over day games after night games, the Twins, and a whole bunch of other things.
After Marte, I would get a giant boost in my campaign for four baseballs in a BP-less day. Two words: Phil. Coke:
Yeah he’s one of the nicer players out there, but the reason he was so good in my quest for four baseballs on the day is he was absolutely the most wild I have ever seen a pitcher in a session of catch.
Here was my view of Coke and his throwing partner, the other bullpen catcher, Scott Pickens:
To give you an idea of Coke’s wildness in this particular session, Pickens was at least thirty feet in front of the stands. Now that you have this fact in your mind: Coke threw four balls into the stands by me. The first almost decapitated me because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time. I ducked just in time as the ball whizzed over my head, bounced off a seat two rows behind me, and bounced back onto the field. After that I was sure to pay attention. The next ball actually technically didn’t make it into the stands on the fly. As soon as the ball was half-way between Coke and Pickens, I could tell it was sailing way over Pickens’ head, so I moved into position and caught the ball right at the wall. So even though I was in the stands, I caught the ball itself over the field of play. Without a hesitation, I gave the ball back to Pickens and he told me he would give me the ball when they were done throwing.
The third ball was a HUMONGOUS overthrow that sailed over even my head. It then bounced off of a seat behind me and bounced back towards me. At this point, I acted like a catcher who was blocking a ball in the dirt and just blocked the ball with my chest, deflecting it to the seats to my left. Basically, this was the path of the ball:
After I deflected the ball, I ran after it and just barely scooped it up before anyone else could get to it. I then proceeded to give the ball to the second-closest to the ball who just happened to be a ten-year old boy with a glove. This was technically my second ball of the day since I gave the first overthrow I snagged back to Pickens. I was gave away two consecutive baseballs because I knew I was approaching milestone/goal territory and I wouldn’t want to give away any of the latter balls I snagged in the day.
Then a fourth bounced to almost the exact same location, but this time, there was someone closer to me after the deflection, so he scooped it up. I really didn’t have a chance because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time, Instead, I was talking to the family I gave the Marte ball to, so I didn’t see the ball until I turned around and saw it hit the seats.
When Coke finally finished throwing, he came to sign autographs. Pickens headed straight for the dugout and Coke headed straight for the foul line. This is where he showed his awesomeness. First, there were a bunch of baseballs sitting on the foul line. He picked up a couple of baseballs. The first he threw up to the second level. When the woman who he threw it to didn’t catch it, he jokingly got on her case by flinging his glove on the ground, yelling “COME ON!”, and then using her former softball playing to further his discussion even though she was a hundred feet away. The second ball also went to that woman and she caught it this time. (No glove on, by the way.) He then came over to start signing. While he started signing, he asked me if Pickens had given me the ball. When I said no, he jokingly reprimanded Pickens for not doing so and tossed me a ball:
While he kept signing, we talked for 1-2 minutes about the ball he just tossed me and why I hadn’t snagged the last ball he threw into the crowd. I realize that doesn’t seem like that long time, but it is when you consider it was a major league player I was talking to, it’s pretty special.
Because I had to get four baseballs in a BP-less game, I got a ticket in Target Field’s “moat” to have a shot at a ball during the game, since I figured I would enter the game under four baseballs for the day.I waited there until the position players came out to throw. When they finished throwing, I got Andy Dirks to toss me career baseball number 444:
This effectively eliminated the possibility of me going to a playoff game in 2012 (I didn’t, but I was seriously considering a trip to Detroit.) What it also did was it made it so I wouldn’t have to sit by the dugout for the game. Sure, those seats are nice and all, but I wanted to end my season with a game home run if I could. So instead, I stood out here for most of the game:
How awesome would it be to end my season with a Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau, or Joe Mauer home run. Or even better, an opposite field bomb by Miguel Cabrera to lock-up the triple crown for him. Alas, the only home run any of those players hit was a Prince Fielder home run to left field.
In the middle innings, though, I was kind of tired, so I decided to do something I had always wanted to do at a major league stadium but was always to busy running around to do: I went to Target Field’s Best Buy gaming station to play MLB The Show:
Yeah, for one real baseball inning, I was that guy who pays no attention to the game and just plays video games at a baseball stadium. And you know what, it felt nice to relax a little in frantically trying to get to first fifty games in the season and then reach 444 career baseballs, I hadn’t had much of a break in the action between ballhawking, blogging, and schoolwork. (If you’ve noticed the relaxed pace of entries lately, it’s because I still had some overload left in me. I’ll be ramping the blogging schedule back up in a bit.) So yeah, it was nice:
For the record, I was the Nationals; not the Astros.
When I realized I was never going to score any runs because I had no clue how to hit in the game (yes, it took three innings to realize this), I headed back out to the standing room section just in time:
That would be Mike. He and his friend (not pictured) are– besides myself, Tony Voda, and Paul Kom– the closest thing Target Field has to regular ballhawks. I believe they are both season ticket holders, but they only try to catch baseballs on less than half of the games they go to. Anyway, he was dressed in this get-up to pay homage to Red Solo Cup. If you don’t know about it, don’t worry, I didn’t know about the song until I got to Minnesota. Mike pretty much always has the hat on, but this was the first time I had seen him with the cup costume itself.
This meant I had officially “passed” my goal of 222 baseballs in 2012. Yay?
After which, I simultaneously tried to get the lineup card(s) from Jim Leyland and tried to get a ball from the Tigers relievers coming back from the bullpen:
It wasn’t because of my multitasking, but I failed at both. When I realized there would be no on-field demo by FSN due to Kids Run The Bases, I went around the stadium saying goodbye to all of the ushers I had met in the last month of season and I headed out.
One last thing before I get to the stats portion of the entry: my next entry will be a statistical recap of the season. I have a general idea of how I’m going to go about it alla last year’s review, but let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas for stats you think of or anything you would like to see in review of the season.
- 5 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away):
Numbers 441-445 for my career:
- 223 Balls in 53 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 32,554 Fans= 162,770 Competition Factor
- 62 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 12 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
- 55 Balls in 14 Games= 3.93 Balls Per Game
- 13 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 12 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 11: 44- 4:47= 5 Hours 3 Minutes
It was the late afternoon, and I was back to Target Field for my second game of Fan Appreciation Weekend:
When I got in, all I can say is: I love Fox’s Saturday game-of-the-week:
Coming into this series, I figured I would have one game with batting practice (Friday) and two without (Saturday and Sunday). Because of Fox, this game got moved to 3:00 from its regular time of 12:00, thus making it so the cage was up when I got in– meaning their *would* be batting practice.
Except, on further inspection, it would only be the Tigers taking batting practice:
As you can see, I was behind the Tigers’ dugout. So when Danny Worth came out with a baseball but no throwing partner, I–as I do with most players– half-jokingly asked him if he wanted to play catch. Upon me asking, he threw me the ball. We ended up having a 5-minute catch that ended in me throwing an extremely bad slider. Here he is going out to throw after his partner showed up:
Anyway, Worth played catch for a while before heading into the field to work on his defense:
On his way to second base, he hooked me up with not the ball we played catch with but a different ball. I promptly gave it away to a kid by the dugout. (Not the one in the orange in the previous picture.)
After that, I headed down the line to try to get a ball from the Tigers’ pitchers who were warming up:
Except, if you can see, the two players closest to me were the Tigers’ two bullpen catchers, Scott Pickens and another one not on the roster. When Scott Pickens finished throwing, I asked him for the ball and he gladly obliged:
After that, I headed up to the left field bleachers for Miguel Cabrera’s group:
And this was the view to my left:
And this was the view to my left:
Unlike the previous day, the Tigers were indeed hitting balls to the first level in left field. Unfortunately, I ended up with the same amount of baseballs after this group as I did the previous day: zero. The guy you see in the orange in the last picture was right on the staircase I wanted to be on. In addition to that, by the way he moved in the bleachers, I could tell this wasn’t his first game trying to catch baseballs. In other words: he had range. This range resulted me in having to be a full section away from him if I hoped to catch anything, and the Tigers hit all of their baseballs outside of my range as a result.
In the next group, I headed over to right field as it was highlighted by Andy Dirks and Don Kelly (two lefties). While I was out in the standing room, I got this ball off the bat of Kelly:
Right off his bat, it bounced off the second deck you see in the picture. As I was running back to see where it was going, it was bouncing down the stairs. However, I wasn’t the only one chasing after the ball; there was actually another guy who had me beat as it went down the stairs. What happened was he took the wrong route to the ball. Before I explain his mistake, here is the ball’s path:
The ball bounced behind this souvenir stand. The other guy ran directly after the ball, going behind the stand as well. Meanwhile, I knew the concrete behind the stand in addition to the ball’s trajectory meant the ball would be most quickly reached by going in front of the stand, so I did that and awaited the ball like it was a routine ground ball.
During my time in right field, I was alternating between standing in the actual seats and the standing room itself. In my “actual seat” portion of batting practice, I convinced Brayan Villarreal to toss me a ball. Actually, I think “convinced” is too active a word. I pretty much tipped my Tigers cap at him when he looked my way and he tossed me the next ball he fielded:
That would be it for batting practice. Four balls was good, but there was almost certainly not going to be batting practice the next day, so if I stayed where I was for the day, I would have had to get five balls the final day to get to my goal of 444 career baseballs. As much as I don’t like to doubt what I can and can’t do, I preferred my chances of getting to my goal if I got as many baseballs as I could this day and not have to rely on a ridiculous non-BP day to get to my goal. Where I’m going with in all of this is that this was my view for position player pre-game warm-ups. Except there was one problem:
There were three baseballs brought out, but only one person brought his glove out. Thankfully, Austin Jackson righted this problem by tossing the two excess baseballs into the crowd even though no one played catch with them (one of many examples I have seen of him being a nice guy):
For those math majors of you at home, you’ll know that was my fifth ball of the day. This is great considering I didn’t expect to have any batting practice. What’s even better? This was my view for the game:
I didn’t get anything there, but there was a funny aspect of this game: It was the end of September in Minnesota, yet it was very warm. As I write this, Minnesota has shown its much cooler side (it’s 45 degrees), but at the time, it was so hot I had an excuse to finally buy a bottle (can?) of Harmon Killebrew root beer:
It was probably the best root beer I’ve ever had (but still not worth the $4.50 I paid for it…even if root beer is my favorite type of soda). Anyway, that was it for the day. It would leave me at 440 career baseballs. I would return the next day to attempt to get four baseballs in a BP-less day to reach my season’s goal of 222 baseballs I set in this entry.
- 5 Baseballs at this game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 436-440 for my lifetime:
- 218 Balls in 52 Games= 4.19 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 32,839 Fans= 164,195 Competition Factor
- 61 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 11 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 50 Balls in 13 Games at Target Field= 3.85 Balls Per Game
- 12 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 11 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 11:07- 7:12= 8 Hours 5 Minutes
So I filmed a Before The Gates Open Video… Wanna see it? Too bad, I’m showing you anyway:
Since it was Friday, the stadium opened 2 hours early– or when the Twins were still hitting. I didn’t get anything from the Twins. When the Tigers started to warm up, this was my view:
If you couldn’t tell, those were the position players. Both them and the pitchers didn’t give in to my requests for baseballs. Well not all of them, but while I was in the midst of waiting for players to finish throwing, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder’s hitting group started hitting. I first saw Cabrera, so I rushed over here:
At the time, Miguel Cabrera was only a couple home runs from having an outright triple crown. Let me just say this: I can see why he was in this position. He was hitting line drives everywhere on the field. Do you want to know what’s scary? It’s that he’s just so much more talented than other people. Major League Baseball is a place for freaks of nature. Miguel Cabrera is a freak among freaks.
Sadly, him and the other righty hitters in his group were hitting the ball too far, and were making on of the ballhawking flaws of Target Field very evident: besides the fact that you risk serious injury going up and down the bleachers due to the slope of it, this is also the view from the front row when you stare straight up:
That would be the overhang of the second deck. Because of the second deck, there are very few rows in the left field bleachers where a home run can be hit to without having to be a line drive.
It was a try unlucky day for me in general. Before the gates opened, when both Paul and Tony said they would be going into the standing room for Prince Fielder’s at-bats, I stated I would be going up to the second deck because I thought he’d be hitting them up there. Instead, I decided to try my luck in the standing room for Fielder’s at-bats. And whadda ya know, Fielder wasn’t hitting much at all, but whatever he did hit was going into the second deck. In running to right field for Fielder’s at-bats, I only missed one round of one righty hitter. In that round, Delmon Young hit THREE baseballs within five feet of where I had been standing for the righties. It was a generally disappointing group given it contained Fielder, Young, AND Cabrera. At the end of that group, I expected to have five baseballs; instead I was still at zero.
I was unable to get anything else for a long period in BP. Towards the end of it, though, I got Phil Coke to toss me a ball in the left-center field corner; I quickly gave it away to a kid right next to me who had also been calling out to him. I got a nod from Coke in response, so that was fun.
At the very end of batting practice, I went down to the Tigers’ dugout. I got there just as the equipment guy for the Tigers was packing up the balls. As he was bringing them into the dugout, I asked him if I could possibly have “the dirtiest ball in the bag. A ball that’s just a disgrace to the Tigers organization.” As he entered the dugout, and Paul said, “I’ve never heard someone say that before,” I thought my chances at the dugout were over. Just as I was about to leave, the guy came back out and tossed me my second ball of the game
He also tossed Paul his third ball of the game. (If you want to read Paul’s full account of the game, here’s the link.) (Oh, and if you want to read Tony’s, here’s that too. They’re both running some really great blogs….unless you hate the Twins. In that case, don’t read Tony’s blog. He’s a “real” fan. As in he writes about the team itself on his blog instead of just ballhawking/ MLB stuff like myself and Paul. If it’s not the Twins but ballhawks you hate, then why are you reading this in the first place?)
Paul and I had no idea who he was, but as he was walking back into the dugout, he acknowledged a kid who called him Mario. We then both headed over to the bullpens to try to get a ball there:
I didn’t get anything from the coaches, but when Gerald Laird came out to warm up, I got him to throw me his warm-up ball after he was done playing catch:
I then continued to watch my new friend, Gerald, catch the pre-game bullpen session:
While this was going on, an usher who has always patrolled the staircase nearest to the bullpens, came up to us. Ironically right after Paul had told me this usher had kicked him out of the section once. What he did was pretty much the opposite. He told us we were welcome to sit in his section if we wanted to, but we just couldn’t stand on the aisle to watch the pitcher warm up; we would have to be in the bleacher-ed section of the seats. We even talked with him about how he had been an usher at Tigers Stadium for a while before going to Vietnam and then started ushering many decades ago in there Metrodome. Sadly, though, I *had* to sit in my seat in first-base foul ground, so I couldn’t take him up on his offer.
For the game, this was my view of the action:
The reason I “had” to sit in foul ground was this:
My mom was in town for parent’s weekend, so she decided to accompany me at game time. Actually, though, I should clarify: I wasn’t in my seat *all* the time; I still went to the standing room for power-hitting lefties, but I spent the rest of the game with her– the fact that she was paying for this game didn’t hurt either.
As for the game, Ryan Doumit was able to single-handedly drive in all four of the Twins’ runs as they sped to a 4-2 victory, which meant I got to see Glen Perkins close the game even though the crowd got excited to see Matt Capps warming up in the bullpen as if he was going to come into the game.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 343- 345 for my life:
- 213 Balls in 51 Games= 4.18 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 30,315 Fans= 90,945 Competition Factor
- 60 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 10 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 45 Balls in 12 Games at Target Field= 3.75 Balls Per Game
- 11 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 10 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:27- 10:32= 7 Hours 5 Minutes