Again, it was another day of class before heading off to Target Field. This time, though, I was prepared for the cold it had to throw at me. Sort of, anyway:
I had a good streak of four consecutive games going with at least 6 baseballs, but really I just wanted to get four or more baseballs to keep my average for the season above 5.00 Balls Per Game. I’ll spoil it for you right now and say that sadly wasn’t the case. Once I got in the gates, I quickly got on the board by getting a toss-up from a player I couldn’t identify at all, since none of his face was showing with him having a hat on as well as sunglasses:
There had been a couple of baseballs hit into the bullpen, so he went in there to clean them out. When he did I simply asked him for a ball. My next ball came once I headed to the section of seats in right-center field. Mike Trout fielded a ball close to the wall there and so I shouted out to him. He was about to throw the ball to the bucket in shallow center field, but he turned and tossed me the ball instead:
He’s a nice player. Over the three days I was there, he probably gave out the most baseballs per-minute of any of the Angels players. Oh, and do you notice the condition of the baseball he tossed me? One word: pearl.
My third baseball came when I headed back to left field and got who I believe to be Scott Downs to toss me a baseball. I was on a pretty good roll, since the gates had opened fifteen minutes ago at that point. (A ball every five minutes is a *very* good pace for me. To give you an idea, if I averaged this at a stadium where the gates opened 2.5 hours early for the entirety of batting practice, I would snag almost twenty baseballs.) But just five short minutes later at 5:50, the Angels ended batting practice and headed to the dugout. Wow. A stadium opening 1.5 hours early is hard enough, but I missed as much batting practice as I actually saw. Anyway, I headed to the dugout and braced myself for the snow/rain that was in the forecast. As I did this, the grounds crew began to do the same:
I then waited for about an hour in the rain. As I looked at the crowd that was showing for the game, I was thinking big thoughts of what I could do during the game. I was seriously thinking I could tie my Target Field record of eight baseballs despite only being at three to this point. Then it happened:
Of course. After seeing this, I took a dejected walk of shame to my bus back to St. Paul.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away on my way out to a kid for showing up to the game despite it raining)
Numbers 478-480 for my life:
- 34 Balls in 7 Games= 4.86 Balls Per Game (Nooooo! So close!)
- 3 Balls x (an estimated, because the Twins didn’t actually put it up)25,000 Fans= 75,000 Competition Factor
- 69 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 19 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 89 Balls in 21 Games at Target Field= 4.24 Balls Per Game
- 20 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 6 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:39-7:35= 3 Hours 54 Minutes
Another day, another beautiful game at Target Field. And this time, I had company:
That would be myself on the right underneath the “Gate 34” sign and my friend Jonathan on the left. If Jonathan seems familiar, it’s because he’s filmed a couple of videos for me, and thus ended up in a couple Behind the Scenes and Blooper videos, but he also had joined me for exactly one game prior to this one. That game would be the one where I snagged my one–and to this point only–game home run off the bat of Trevor Plouffe. So, if you feel like clicking on the picture and zooming in, that’s why I’m crossing my fingers in the picture, because I was hoping he would be my good luck charm once again.
He wasn’t the only one with me at the gates, though. The photo credit for that picture goes to Tony Voda (who actually has an entry written about this very game that you should check out by clicking here. Don’t worry, I made it so the link opens in a separate tab/window). I was going to take a picture (Well, more specifically, have Jonathan take a picture) of the two of us, but he suggested we take the picture when Paul Kom (who also wrote an entry about this game)arriveth to the gates. Well Paul eventually arrived, but to a different side of the gates than we thought we would see him on:
If you’re new to this blog or are just unfamiliar with the two, that would be Tony on the right bowing his head in shame and Paul on the other side of the gates taking a picture of us outsiders. He was enjoying this moment way too much, though. Check it out:
Oh, Paul. He had gotten free tickets, so that’s why he was at this game. Those tickets happened to be a part of a 20-game plan, so Paul checked to see if those tickets could get him into the gates early. As you can tell, he was right. This lead to Tony–who owns a 20-game plan–questioning whether he could get in the gates too, and…well…see for yourself:
Yeah, so there was that. Unfortunately for them, there was no batting practice (Ha ha) going on at the time, so they were still on a level playing field with me when I got in the gates. Paul, however, used the extra time before the gates formally opened to get positioning and snag the first baseball of any of us. The next person to snag a baseball, however, was a very unlikely one:
That’s right. Jonathan managed to pick up a Mike Trout home run that landed in the seats. Remember how I said in the last entry that struggling with the hit ball can be frustrating in two ways: either not many baseballs are reaching the stands or you’re misjudging them? Yes? No? Well for only the second time this season, baseballs actually were reaching the stands, but I was just flat-out misjudging them. If I went down two rows on my initial read, the ball was flying over my head; if I backed up on the ball, it died a couple rows in front of me.
In just giving up on chasing home run baseballs for the first round of the Angels’ second BP group, I headed over to foul territory to try to get a ball from the pitchers warming up. When I got there, I immediately knew which pitcher I was going to try to get a ball from. I have mentioned it a couple of times, but just to refresh who didn’t read the entries in which I mentioned it: I am adopted from Colombia. So, given this fact, my obvious target for a toss-up was the Angels’ Colombian-born closer, Ernesto “Ernasty/Ernie/E-Money” Frieri. As I got in position to get a ball from Frieri, though, I saw two guys to my left looking towards me in a really weird way. They then looked slightly past my feet in that same weird way. I looked to my right and saw there was a baseball that lay there completely untouched. I grabbed it and then handed it to one of the guys, since I wouldn’t have gotten the ball had he not semi-pointed it out to me.
After this I asked Ernesto Frieri for a ball once he was done throwing by using the phrase: “Una pelota para un Colombiano?” It translates to: “A ball for a Colombian?” He turned out of the crouch he had been receiving the pitches from his throwing partner from and tossed me the ball. He then proceeded to do something that has never happened before: he followed his toss and walked up to me. He asked me a bunch of questions and we ended up having a five-minute conversation consisting of nothing but him asking me questions about my life. It was a pretty awesome experience. At the end of it, he told me (even though I didn’t ask) that he can’t sign anything during batting practice itself because he would get fined, so that I should find him after batting practice. It was okay with me, though, because I don’t care excessively about autographs. What I did ask from him is if he could take a picture with me, and, well:
A great experience to say the least.
It however did negatively affect my snagging experience, because due to my natural paranoia, I didn’t want him to see/hear me asking any other players for baseballs because he might think that I just made up that I was Colombian to get a ball from him, which isn’t true. Before I got to that, though, I managed to snag my third baseball of the day. I saw a baseball on the ground, just out of my reach. Normally I would have just reached out and grabbed it, but since there was a police officer not more than twenty feet away, I asked him if I could get the ball for a couple to my left (since I had just gotten the ball from Frieri pretty much a couple seconds prior). He tossed me the ball, and I then promptly handed the ball to the wife/girlfriend half. Here’s where the ball was:
And here is the couple–who thanked me multiple times–I gave the ball away to:
I then went cold for a very long portion of batting practice. My next ball came in the right-center field section of seats. When I headed over there, I saw a person who I couldn’t recognize the first batting practice of the series, but because he had entered that previous game, I knew it was Garrett Richards. Once I identified the player as Garrett Richards, I asked him for a ball and him toss it to me for my fourth ball of the day. Here’s a general idea of how he tossed me the baseball:
That would be my last ball of batting practice. After batting practice Tony and I met up at the bullpens:
(Yeah, I have no idea what I’m doing there either.) Almost immediately as I got there, though, I noticed a person clearing the baseballs in the batter’s eye, so I quickly excused myself from the conversation I was having with Tony, ran over to the corner spot in the right-center field seating(right above the flowers in the picture above), and shouted at the groundskeeper to get his attention. The result was my fifth ball of the day. At that point Tony had snagged three baseballs, so here he is conveying that fact:
(You can see the corner spot itself in this picture above and to the left of Tony’s head and the 96.3 K-Twin ad.) And at this point I didn’t know how many baseballs I had snagged, but I knew it was either four or five. See, I just keep track of how many baseballs I give away, let the pictures I take remind me of how I snagged the baseballs, and then add the number of baseballs I have given away to the number of baseballs I have in my backpack to figure out my total. Anyway, here I am conveying my uncertainty, with Tony giving his thought on the matter?
For the game, I stayed out in the right field standing room, where this was my view:
I would have taken a lot more pictures of the game, but I had lost my gloves earlier in the week and despite the sun showing itself for stints during this game, it was still cold enough that I didn’t want my hand constantly exposed to the cold. Instead I just leaned against the original Metropolitan Stadium flagpole with my hands in my sweater pockets:
I did, however get one picture that I think is kind of nice of the view behind me as the sun was setting:
Nothing came even close to going out to right field, but I got down to the dugout just as the game ended and managed to snag a baseball from home plate umpire, Paul Nauert:
After that, I headed over to the other side of the dugout and got Steve Soliz to toss me a ball for my seventh day. I then got Jonathan to take a picture of myself with those last two baseballs I snagged at the dugout:
And while we’re mentioning Jonathan, he is my same boat in that we both generally dislike hecklers. The difference between us two is that I just like the uncreative hecklers. Jonathan, on the other hand, hates the whole idea of heckling. So much so that even though he’s a Cardinals fan and is not happy with Albert Pujols having left St. Louis, when fans by us started heckling Pujols, who was then at-bat, Jonathan tried to counter it by giving Alberta positive reinforcement such as, “You’re doing a great job out there” and gems of that ilk.
And after I snagged my last two baseballs, I briefly looked around to see if I could spot Tony and see how he did during the game. I assumed since I had last seen him sitting on three baseballs that I had the lead for baseballs at Target Field. On the bus I received a call from Tony and found out he had managed to more than double his total during the game and snagged five baseballs, bringing his total to eight baseballs for the game. An amazing performance that would have to make my possession of the Target Field lead wait for another day.
- 7 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 471-477 for my “career”:
- 31 Balls in 6 Games= 5.17 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 23,299 Fans= 163,093 Competition Factor
- 68 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 18 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- 86 Balls in 20 Games at Target Field= 4.30 Balls Per Game
- 19 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 5 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 4 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:01-11:37= 7 Hours 36 Minutes
Guess who baseball was commemorating during Monday’s game:
Come on, guess. It’s not like it was a league-wide thing.
Yes, it was Jackie Robinson Day in major league baseball a.k.a. a facial recognitionly-challenged ballhawk’s nightmare. Fortunately I can recognize faces and it is names that I have trouble with, so I would still be able to identify players as different even though they would all be wearing number 42.
Let me rewind a little, though. In case you weren’t following this blog last year, I walk to as many Twins games as I can. Really the only time I don’t is if I’m absolutely pressed for time when I leave wherever it is I am going from. Okay, so knowing this, I was about half-way to Target Field when a person I had talked to about going to the game with called me. You see I bought two tickets for most of the games I bought in advance. This was because a bunch of people had told me that they were going to try to make a couple of games with me. Unfortunately, those same people had yet to actually make any of the games, so I had been having to search for other people to go to the games with me. Remember when I wrote about the usher I talked to who had been a part of my sports management group that interviewed Terry Ryan? Yeah? No? Well the person who offered to go to this game with me was in that same interview group. He was still on campus when he called me, so I waited a little while for him here:
before continuing on to Target Field once he met up with me. Unfortunately I forgot to get a picture of the two of us together for this blog, so you’ll just have to picture Matt (that was/is his name). He is actually from Milville, NJ, so once we got in the gates, he had one goal: get down to the dugout and talk to Mike Trout when he was either getting on to the field or exiting it. I on the other hand, headed straight to the seats in left field. There I got on the board very quickly by asking Jerome Williams for a ball:
You can’t really see it from the picture, since I was so far out, but he wears a pink glove, so he was the easiest player to distinguish from behind with all the players having their hoods up. This was pretty quick, but the ball was sadly again not taking off. Struggling with the hit ball is always frustrating. Some times it is just myself misjudging baseballs, but all too many times this season it has been that there just aren’t baseballs getting into the stands.
I did manage to survive this batting practice. Two words are the reason for that: Tom Gregorio. I managed to snag my next three baseballs courtesy of him. You may be wondering: But, Mateo, how could you get three straight baseballs from a person who isn’t a player? Well this particular bullpen catcher managed to throw me three consecutive baseballs. Want to hear something even crazier/explanatory? I gave all three away. Let me explain. On the first ball, Gregorio picked me out of the crowd with my Angels gear on and tossed me a ball. I gave that ball to this kid up here:
Notice his dad taking a picture of the ball. I love it when you can tell how excited when they get a ball. I still prefer to help kids get baseballs about ten times more, though. That’s because I have counted two baseballs ever that were given to me by other fans in my career total, including the first baseball I ever got at a game–since it was before I started “ballhawking” I decided to count them both. That said, they were the two most unfulfilling baseballs I have gotten. While I was happy in the moment that I got both, I have regretted both ever since and I want to try to help kids more by instruction than handing them the baseball myself.
After I gave him the ball, I hoped Gregorio had seen me give the ball away and would toss me another. He didn’t, but he tossed a ball to this kid:
But the ball fell short into the flower bed just to my left (and I was to the left of the kid, so I picked it up and handed it to him). Here’s where the ball was:
I know it’s cheap, but since I got primary possession of the ball first, I counted it. These occurred about two minutes, if even that, apart from each other, but the gap between my third and fourth baseballs was quite large–like twenty or thirty-ish minutes. This one Gregorio also tossed to me unintentionally. Gregorio got a ball close to the wall and then flung the ball randomly into the stands with his glove. It was initially going way over my head, but I moved back a couple of steps on the staircase I was on and jumped up to catch the ball. That ball went to the kid who was standing back down at the bottom of the staircase after I confirmed that he had not yet gotten a ball. More so than me trying to reciprocate and spread Gregorio’s generosity, I wanted to make up for my stinginess in the games prior to that. I mean one of my goals for the beginning of the year was to give away 33% of my baseballs, and as of this game, I was definitely not on that pace.
My fifth ball of the day came when I left the left field section–since I could tell my luck with toss-ups had dried up by that point–and headed over to the section of seats in right-center field. Over there I waited and asked Sean Burnett for a ball when he approached the wall:
I could recognize Burnett right away because I saw him a ton when he was a member of the Nationals. And if you can’t tell from the picture and the players running off the field (Burnett is the one at the head of the “triangle” of players) this was my last ball of BP. Not bad for Target Field and not having had a chance at a hit baseball.
During the game I stayed out in the standing room, not expecting to get anything but hoping today would be the exception to the rule. Sadly that was not the case, but in case anyone in the stadium managed to forget there was more than enough sinage in the stadium to remind people that it was Jackie Robinson Day:
I particularly love the second picture for the simple reason that the text on the screen is so crisp in the picture that it looks like I Photoshopped it in. Anyway, despite Peter Borjous hitting a lead-off home run, the Twins managed to pull off the game. It was freezing once more, though, so enough people left towards the end of the game that I found myself down here towards the end of it:
And as a result of this, I got this from Chris Conroy at the end of the game (Conroy not pictured):
That would be my sixth and final ball of the day.With this baseball, I tied Tony Voda for the lifetime leader for baseballs at Target Field, setting up a head-to-head match-up for the next day between us to for who would hold the title at the end of the day, since we were both going and tied at 79 career baseballs at Target Field.
And then, if you’ll recall, I went almost directly from the game to go watch “42” on Jackie Robinson Day.
- 6 Balls in this game (3 here because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 465-470 for my life:
- 24 Balls in 5 Games= 4.80 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 23,535 Fans= 141,210 Competition Factor
- 67 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 17 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
- 79 Balls in 19 Games at Target Field= 4.11 Balls Per Game
- 18 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 4 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:30-1:36= 10 Hours 6 Minutes
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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- 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
Entries with Zack in them: 27
How I met Zack: I don’t know if there was a single time I heard of Zack. The first distinct event I remember, though, was this: I was known–among other things–as the baseball-obsessed kid in my pre-teen years. (Trust me; I have the years worth of baseball books I never read to prove it.) Anyway, as I alluded to in that last sentence in parentheses, this lead everybody and their grandmother to go with baseball-related books when in doubt as gifts. One such book was “Watching Baseball Smarter”. Unlike most of the books that I have been given–which I convinced myself I’d read later as I put them on my bookshelf, only to be left, still unread–it seemed interesting, so I started reading it. While it ended up not being a book I particularly enjoyed, when I saw the author’s picture on the back, I thought, “Hey, that’s that guy who catches baseballs that I’ve heard of a few times.” (Again, because I was “the baseball kid”, a couple of people had told me about Zack before that point, but it was never more than a mention until I realized *he* had written the book.) After I read the book, I went on two road trips with my dad and snagged a combined four baseballs in 18 games. While it’s true that I didn’t get to the gates before they opened, didn’t really ask players at all for baseballs, and didn’t read Zack’s blog, I was kind of feeling, “You know, this whole do-it-yourself snagging thing really isn’t working, so I should learn directly from the expert himself.” So, that next year I saved up the whole year to A. Go to a “Watch With Zack” game, and B. Go on a third baseball road trip with my dad where I would have a clue as to how to snag a baseball. And that Watch With Zack Game was where I met Zack (more specifically, the 79th street subway station). I would write more about the experience, but I’m saving it for the “Blast from the Baseball Past” entry I hope to write on the game eventually. In the meantime, here’s Zack’s entry on the game.
First of all, since this is the first entry of its ilk, let me go through what this series of entries unofficially is. There are many people who I mention or just appear in my ballhawking entries, so these entries are to give you some background into the person and my relation to them. (So why they are even appearing in the entries.) Zack, for the .0000009% of you who don’t know, is the snagger of 6,459 baseballs (as of January, 14, 2013), and as such has appeared in a ton of my ballhawking entries since we are often at the same game in New York.
If you didn’t pick it up in the paragraph where I described how I met Zack, Zack was the one who taught me how to ballhawk. He was the inspiration for me starting to ballhawk and the reason this blog exists in general. Granted I haven’t written any other of these “Character of Observing Baseball” entries yet, but I’d say this is probably the hardest to write since there is so much known about Zack already out there, so most things I would write would be redundant. That, and my encounters with him are numerous enough that I can’t just narrate to you those one or two times I’ve been to the same game as him. My best advice is to click the “26” earlier in the entry and simply read a few of the entries for my experiences at game with him. So, good people, I give you a few links to somewhat get to know Mr. Hample yourself:
And, for fun: 4. Wikipedia Page
Now, just because I think you were too lazy or whatever to click the “26”, here are some of the synopses of the games we have both attended:
1. 4/9/11 Nationals at Mets- Every ballhawk in the New York it seemed came to this game because back then everyone went to Citi Field instead of Yankee Stadium only to find out that the reason they had gone there had been taken away from them by the Mets in that the Mets pushed the gate opening time from two-and-a-half hours before first pitch to two hours before it.
2. 4/14/11 Orioles at Yankees- Zack formally introduced me to Ben Weil forcing my first memory of Ben being the scrapes on his legs from the Yankee Stadium ground.
3. 4/17/11 Rangers at Yankees- I showed up half way through batting practice for this Sunday Night Baseball game only to almost out-snag Zack for the first time ever.
4. 4/21/11 Astros at Mets- I got Zack to sign my copy of “The Baseball and got Nelson Figueroa to sign a ball and take a self-shot with my camera. What did Zack snag? Only the first ever mygameballs.com-recorded Citi Field home run snag, which just so happened to be Mike Nickeas’ first career home run.
5. 7/24/11 Angels at Orioles- Zack caught Mike Trout’s first ever home run, so I got to have a semi-behind-the-scenes look at OPACY and got to see a 19-year-old Trout in person as he met with his family for the first time after hitting his first major league home run.
6. 8/1/11 Marlins at Mets- This time it my turn to snag a game ball. I snagged an Angel Pagan foul ball which Zack, myself, his half-brother, and his half-brother’s son had fun taking pictures of (none of which show up in the entry, but I that was the main interaction during the game).
7. 8/15/12 Rangers at Yankees- There was a bunch of rain , so Zack explained to me the difference between him and Mickey Mantle, helped me snag a ball from a groundskeeper, and provided almost half of the pictures I used in the entry.
8. 8/24/12 Astros at Mets- Since it was my last game before going off to school in Minnesota, I rode back the entire subway journey back with him and Greg Barasch.
9. 8/14/11 Rangers at Yankees- I did a “Before The Gates Open” video in which Zack made a ridiculous cameo–from which the picture up top is a screen cap of.
I think I could write more about the other games, but again, check them out. Mostly because I don’t feel like transcribing the entries all into this one single entry. And if you were wondering…Yes, making it so you can find every game I attended with any given ballhawk through tags is one of my mini-projects under the larger project of re-doing the blog this winter. I already have it so you can see every entry a certain player hit or tossed me a ball, but I realize now that I had no clue what tagging entries actually meant. So if you notice, as of late, I haven’t really been tagging the entries myself; I’ve just been using all fo the tags WordPress suggests for me. That’s because I’m trying to figure out what I actually want my tags to be used for. Once I have a concrete idea and get up the motivation to undertake the project, I’m going to re-do almost all of the tags. That’s yet another reason why I got rid of so many entries from the past. Anyway, if you couldn’t tell, the main part of the entry is over, so this is the part where I tell you to vote for the entry(s) you would like to see next if you haven’t already:
And here are the already-exhausted entry ideas. For those who don’t know, after all of the items on the poll get written, I will put some of the exhausted entries back up and we’ll do this all over until Opening Day (yes I capitalize it; it’s a national holiday) rolls around:
1. Ballhawk Interviews- 33 votes
2. Stadium Profiles- 26 votes
3. Ballhawk Profiles- 33 votes
4. Dissect (a) Baseball(s)- 26 votes
5. Tour Target Field when there’s snow on the ground- 26 votes
6. Weird Observing Baseball Facts and Records- 28 votes
7. New Observing Baseball Icon- 17 votes
8. MLBlogs I Recommend- 33 votes
9. Observing Baseball Trivia- 32 votes
10. My Favorite MLB Players- 28 votes
11. Characters of Observing Baseball- 29 votes
240,670 Words Written so far…