As was my tradition toward the end of September, I got to the stadium before batting practice began and stood out by Gate 34 trying to get a long home run ball:
But then I went to Gate 3 about twenty minutes before the gates opened in order to be the first one in line over there:
When I got in, I quickly got Al Alburquerque to toss me a ball by being the only one in the left field seats who knew his name:
(He’s the one to the left of the group of two.) I then went on to miss a Torii Hunter home run ball. I tracked the ball about forty feet to my right, turned, and jumped for the ball, but it tipped off my glove and bounced to my side where another person got it. I was mad I couldn’t come down with the ball, but then almost the exact same scenario, so I started the exact same way:
But when I got to the point where I needed to turn and jump for the ball, I climbed on the bleacher, and thus had a much smaller jump to make and caught the ball. I then gave the ball away to the kid in the red. Usually he’d be too old for me to give him a ball, but he had a cast on his right leg, so I made an exception.
I then headed over to right field for the second group, which included Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. I first had a a near miss with a Prince Fielder ball. He bombed the ball over my head in the the standing room, so I bolted back and ran to the spot where the ball was headed:
But the ball took two bounces to a ticket scanner I was the person closest to the ball as the ticket scanner got it, so I stuck around for a second to see if he would give the ball to me; but I left when it became apparent that he was going to keep the ball for himself. For both Martinez and Fielder, this was my view:
And so when Martinez hit a ball that bounced off the wall you see in the lower left hand of the picture and bounced into the back row, I ran and picked it up. That would be my third and final ball of batting practice. I then gave the ball away as batting practice ended to a kid who had not tried hard but still had not gotten a ball all of batting practice.
As for the game, I was down in the “moat” of Target Field. And so, I decided to take a look inside of the third base lounge:
Considering how many times I had sat in the moat seats, it was kind of sad that the only time I had ever been there was when I was in the Race at Target Field mascot race. And then it was even just for a second since we were using it as a way of getting back to the -1 level concourse. Anyway, as I walked in, the view stayed familiar, since the door which I had exited through was immediately visible in front of me:
But when I turned my head to the right–which was much harder in a giant mosquito costume–I saw what I had previously missed on my last trip to the lounge:
Besides the overpriced food–which makes sense for the lounge’s usual clientele–it’s a neat place.
I then made it back out to the field for the Tigers infielders warming up. When they were done, I got Ramon Santiago to toss me my then-fourth ball of the game:
During the game I then played third-out balls. After several inning of trying, I was coming to accept the fact that I was never going to get one since I was playing the outfield end of the dugout and Max Scherzer was striking out pretty much every Twins player he got out. In about the fifth or sixth inning, though, he got the last Twin of the inning to pop the ball out to Miguel Cabrera. When Miggy headed to the dugout, I flashed my glove, and when he noticed my Tigers gear, he tossed me the ball:
And then the people who had been watching me go up to the dugout every third out and encouraged me every time offered to take my picture after I go the ball:
And that was it for snagging, but when the Tigers finally won the game, they had clinched the AL Central. So I got to experience my first ever postseason celebration:
It was fun in that I knew the Tigers were making the playoffs even if the Twins managed to sweep them, but it was still kind of not since it was the Tigers celebrating on our field. That said, it *was* my first ever time watching one of these celebrations, so I made sure to stick around for it. And with the amount kind-of-sad faces that stuck around, I’d say that was the general sentiment–except for, you know,all of those weirdo Tigers fans in attendance:
And so ended the Tigers series. Next up would be the Indians, who the Twins could potentially knock out of the playoffs. Three games down in the week, three to go.
- 5 Balls at this Game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away and somehow can’t find the Cabrera ball)
- 291 Balls in 61 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 26,517 Fans= 132,585 Competition Factor
- 123 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 28 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
- 175 Balls in 35 Games at Target Field= 5.00 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:18= 7 Hours 57 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
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
First of all, here is the intial entry.
Predicted Record: 84-89 wins
Actual Record: 95-67
For an AL Central prediction, this was surprisingly… not terrible. I *was* off by 6 to 11 wins, but I didn’t account for the surprises in this group. I would take any of my AL West predictions over this one, but it was the best prediction save Kansas City and Cleveland because they reverted to their self of awfulness. I attribute most of the 6 games I was off by to Justin Velander and Miguel Cabrera playing above what they had shown to this point last year. I actually did put in this provision. Usually what happens, is that Cabrera and Verlander have years where they’re on. Maybe I’m especially focused on them, but for whatever reason, this has been true of these two. Verlander had not put together 3 “good” years together yet. So I thought he would regress. Kill me on that if you wish. I really don’t know what else to attribute me being off by so much to, except for the late season pick-up of Doug Fister that addressed the rotation depth problem I detailed in the original entry.
Overall, I got the gist of this team but failed to accurately predict how they would do.
Any time your team is most remembered for a failure than its successes. It’s not good:
Why?: Although they did make some improvements, they did so in a way that managed to anger the other 29 teams for what may be years to come. Now, I’m not saying that it wasn’t inevitable but whoever gave the first big multi year deal to a middle reliever was going to be hated. It just so happens that the Tigers made that move. From now on, acquiring and developing middle relief talent will be changed forever in that it is now a more valuable asset.
The losses, although insignificant in talent could come back to bite the Tigers if they keep the injury bug with them in 2011. Although they upgraded the spot of fourth and fifth starters with Brad Penny and Phil Coke, they sacrificed depth when they let go of Galarraga and Miner. Now if any starter goes down (and who ever heard of a rotation going through the season completely healthy) they will have to turn to Mr. AAA instead of a proven starter like Galarraga. This might cost them just enough spots to be edged out by one of the other strong teams in the Central.
Also, they did get rid of defensive depth in Laird but took care of that by getting Omir Santos. Everett on the other hand, should have been kept. I know the Tigers like to think optimistically but when was the last time he played 120+ games. I’ve got the answer, 2007. Again, I like Everett significantly better than a AAA shotstop or second baseman or even Ramon Santiago.
Predicted Record Range: 84-89 They made some significant additions and are getting players back but the Tigers’ players do tend to ebb and flow (Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera). Will they finally all have good seasons at the same time? If so, this team has enough talent to win the division but the mean of the ebb and flow is the predicted range.
Next Up: Cleveland Indians
Tomorrow is a double header for Fordham. So the data from this game might back me up over part of the weekend. I will get the first entry by end of Saturday but make no promises about the second. I will try and get the player bios on the roster entry as soon as I can but baseball season can be hectic. We’ll see.