(For the record, the glove gets HOT when exposed to direct sunlight, so you need something underneath you so you won’t burn. I used my Indians shirt.)
Anyway, since it was a Friday and the gates were opening two hours early (as opposed to 1 1/2 hours Monday through Thursday), Josh Willingham’s group was still hitting, and so I went to left field right away:
Right as I got there, Josh Wilingham launched a ball in my direction. I got in line with it, but I could tell the ball was sailing over my head, so I started going up the bleachers. Just as I was five feet from the landing spot, the ball landed and deflected back towards the field. Gaaah! Here is a diagram if you’re having trouble visualizing it:
That wasn’t the end of my left field woes, though. Willingham hit another ball three sections to my right. I could tell the ball was headed right over the heads of the people in the section, so all the ball had to do was stay in the spot it landed and I would easily scoop it up. Instead, the ball deflected back my way, but it tailed back towards the field. Since I was running full speed through a row of bleachers, I couldn’t stop and change directions, so it landed right by where I had just run by and some other person picked it up. Again a diagram for the people who aren’t able to visualize this:
(The dotted arrow is my running path while the solid arrow is the ball’s deflection. That guy standing on the bleacher wasn’t there when the ball landed there.)
After that, Willingham hit yet another ball over the fence. This time, I had a beat on it. I ran about fifteen feet to my right and made the catch:
That felt really good as it was my first ever ball at Target Field I had caught on the fly.
After that, I headed over to the Indians dugout as they warmed up, but I got shutout by the infielders. I was going to stay and try to get a ball from a pitcher, but I saw there was a mostly-lefty group nearing their second round of swings in the batting cage. So…. I headed out to right field and readied myself.
My first ball out there was hit by Carlos Santana and would start a theme for me: balls that went over my head but I managed to beat people out for. As the name of the theme suggests, the ball went over my head and to my left, but when it bounced, I played the deflection and scooped up the ball before anyone else could:
I don’t know who hit my next ball-it might have been Santana again, but I don’t know-but the same exact thing happened; except this time it went over my head and to my right:
The last ball from this group of hitters came when Asdrubal Cabrera hit right in the middle of the section and over my head:
That would be ball number 4 for those of you keeping score at home. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but my next ball would be career number 400. I actually had been making a big deal about #400 back in New York, but I guess the magic of it wore away as it kept taking me longer and longer to get there. Anyway, as much as I would have liked #400 to be hit, I’m perfectly fine with what ended up happening. When a ball got hit to the warning track to my right, I looked over to see who was retrieving it. I couldn’t recognize practically anyone else on the Indians, so I was relieved when Chris Perez got the ball. Not only is Perez very distinguishable with his long hair, but he is one of- if not THE- nicest players in all of baseballs when it comes to toss-ups. When I yelled out a request at him, he turned around and kindly obliged:
It took me a few minutes to realize it was number 400, which fortunately didn’t cost me. Had there been a kid with a glove, I might have given him that ball. This mistake actually happened to me with ball number 200. STILL, there was no kid to give the ball away to. I mean, yeah, there were kids, but none with gloves. I have truly never seen anything like it. I don’t know if this is true, but it may have been my longest streak ever without giving away a ball. (I had caught five at this point.)
Then the next group of Indian hitters came up to the plate. A couple rounds in, Casey Kotchman hit a ball to my right, so I ran over and made the catch:
After that, I FINALLY found a kid with a glove two sections away and gave him the ball:
My next ball came when an Indians pitcher threw a ball to a kid in front of me, but sailed him by two feet. I was right behind him, so I picked the ball up and naturally gave it to the kid.
I then headed over t right field for the final group of BP. There, I convinced Joe Smith to toss me a ball for my eighth and final ball of the day:
As impressive as this is, I feel I really could have done much better. In addition to the balls I detailed that I missed in left field at the beginning of batting practice, there were countless other in right field. Why do I tell you this? I don’t want any sympathy or anything (mostly because it was *me* messing up my opportunities); it is because I might have passed the Target Field record of twelve had I been on my game. Oh well, I’ll have plenty of other shots at it.
As for the game, it was freezing. I guess I should have expected that when I came to Minnesota for college. What made matters worse was I was out in the standing room section in right field where the winds came through. It was so cold, in fact, that I actually bought food at the ballpark. I usually never do since it adds on a considerable expense if I do it with any sort of regularity. Anyway, to warm me up, I got a bucket of mini-donuts:
They look pretty vile from that picture, but they were absolutely amazing. And since they were baked right on the spot, they served to warm me up for a couple innings. This, however, could not make up for the Twins’ loss as they had gone up 4-0 only to lose 7-6. Since I was playing home runs the whole game, that was it for snagging.
- 8 balls at this game (6 Pictured because I gave 2 away)
- 8 Balls x 30,111 Fans= 240,888 Competition Factor
- 52 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 13 Balls in 4 Games at Target Field= 3.25 Balls Per Game
- 3 straight Games with at least 1-2 Ball(s) at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 2:15- 11:38= 9 Hours 23 Minutes
The Rays were the beneficiaries of (reportedly) the greatest day in baseball last year:
Carlos Peña, Burke Badenhop, Jeff Keppinger, Josh Lueke, Jose Molina, Fernando Rodney, and Luke Scott.
Casey Kotchman, John Jaso, Kelly Shoppach, and Andy Sonnanstine.
Why?: Really every thing they lost, they replaced, and they also added talent. They replaced Casey Kotchman with what I believe to be a better first baseman in Carlos Peña. They downgraded a little by replacing Shoppach with Molina, but also added a very good player in Luke Scott, who I see most likely to be the Casey Kotchman of this year for the Rays in that he will over-perform his contract.
Andy Sonnantine would have been a reliever for the Rays (because of the depth of their rotation), so they over-replaced him with Fernando Rodney, Burke Badenhop, and Josh Lueke. This was a huge bolster for a bullpen depleted from their form two years ago.
I haven’t even gotten to what may be their best move of the offseason. Okay, so it really wasn’t an addition, per say, but signing Matt Moore to a 6- year, $14 million (or something in that range. I’m sure of the money, but not the years), contract was probably a good move, potentially a spectacular. For those who don’t know, Matt Moore is ranked in the same echelon as Stephen Strasburg. This is $2+ million a year for an ace-type pitcher for six year. They then have a secondary part of the deal made up of club-options that make the deal a total of 8 years and $40 million (this I am sure of).
You may or may not remember that Evan Longoria signed a similar contract (6 years 17.5 Million on his seventh day in the league, or something ridiculous like that). Well, doesn’t that look like an incredible deal now? They can’t really lose that much. At worst, they are losing the $16 Million over the first part of the contract if he stinks, or injures himself. Even for the low-budget Rays, that isn’t a huge blow. The upside on this deal is enormous, though.
Predicted Record Range: 92-97 wins
2011 was truly a fun year for the Cleveland Indians…the first half anyway:
Casey Kotchman, Jeremy Accardo, Jose Lopez, Derek Lowe, Felix Pie, Kevin Slowey, and Dan Wheeler.
Jim Thome, Adam Everett, and Austin Kearns.
Why?: This is a weird entry/grade. The addition far surpass the subtractions. That said, I usually don’t put in more than one or two players in the “Notable” lists that have been signed to a minor league contract. In this entry, however, I have five players that were signed to minor league contracts on the list. This serves as an indicator that a lot of the players aren’t game changers. In other words, the subtraction players aren’t that far away from equaling the value to a team that the addition players present, a fact which reflects itself in the grade I gave their offseason.
Also, Kosuke Fukudome and Chad Durbin have yet to sign, which may bring the Indians’ grade down as they were on the Indians last year.
Predicted Record Range: 77-82 wins
They did win the most games out of anyone in the American League:
because I knew the they won the AL East but it is still shocking in retrospect.
Manuel Ramirez, Johnny Damon, Kyle Farnsworth, Casey Kotchman, Felipe Lopez, and Dirk Hayhurst.
Carl Crawford, Dan Wheeler, Rafael Soriano, Jason Bartlett, Matt Garza, Joaquin Benoit, Grant Balfour, Randy Choate, Carlos Pena, Dioneer Navarro, Gabe Kapler, Brad Hawpe, and Chad Qualls.
Why?: Well, let’s see where to start? For one, that is the first three line notable subtractions segment I have written. Normally, its about five guys that are notable and then ten or something minor leaguers that they lost to free agency. Here, it was just the opposite. I think everyone knew that this was the year they would lose most of their top talent but they lost the barn with the cows, losing so many people in their bullpen:
They did sell the barn to strengthen the farm though. They definitely know what to do with high draft picks. There was a book written on the subject. I think that the Rays will be better in the future because of not paying for their core but the grade is still how they helped their team THIS YEAR.
So, will they one up last year? No, but will they have a solid “time waste” year? What does that even mean?
3rd Place? 4th Place? Or just surviving the year with minimal financial loss?
Predicted Record Range: 65-70 wins Even if they can get a lot of runs. I see this being like the 2007 season. If anyone remembers, they would get ahead of very good teams and then give up afew runs late in the game because of their bullpen and lose. Their bullpen is even worse now but I think that their offense is much better as well. That year they didn’t have Evan Longoria in their line-up.