In 2013 I attended my first ever “true” Opening Day at Target Field. Having experienced that, I can see why MLB would not want to truly start the season in Minnesota for a while. It was below 30 degrees when the gates opened and didn’t get much better throughout the game.
In 2014, I continued my tradition of going to the Twins’ home opener, though when they took on the Oakland Athletics to start the Target Field year. I thought that Gate 34 would be a mess of people, so I headed to the center field gate, Gate 3 (for Harmon Killebrew) instead:
And much to my surprise, I got to see a different Twins legend there:
If you can’t tell who that is, let me zoom in a little for you:
That would be Baseball Hall-of-Famer, Bert Blyleven, who came out to gate 3 to greet fans as they entered the gate. I got to shake his hand and then took these pictures as he moved down the line of fans. Speaking of fans, it was the home opener. That means that there was an atypically-large crowd present. Not as big as I thought it would be, but big enough:
This worried me a little, but I had already come to the conclusion that while it would be a tough game to snag at due to the Opening Day crowd, I would get a couple baseballs from it being the Athletics, since I had gotten I believe seven baseballs the last game they had been at Target Field. I was kind of wrong about it, but we’ll get to that later. For now, here’s the view when I got to the left field bleachers:
And because it was the home opener, the other fans came quickly behind. Here was the bleachers within the first five minutes:
Not much, but I’m used to having only a couple of people to beat out in the left field bleachers in the first five minutes, so I just had a little less room than I normally did to work with. But I made the most of it. Or at least something of it as I caught a ball hit by Josh Willingham a couple of steps from my usual spot in left:
It was around then that my then-roommate, Sean, showed up:
As you can see, he really had by that point been desensitized to me snagging baseballs. I think it might have occurred when he and another friend tried briefly to shut me out for the game–before I was then able to snag nine baseballs that game. While he also doesn’t usually partake in the process of documenting my games, he aided by doing a little video work.
I moved to right field and…well there wasn’t much. Sean did take a video of me sharing my lack of excitement for Nick Punto as a batting practice hitter as well as an update video, but WordPress doesn’t allow me to add videos, so I’ll cut to the chase: The Willigham was the only ball I got.
So Sean and I went to the right field standing room for the national anthem:
Where I also managed to get a t-shirt from the t-shirt gun that TC Bear (the Twins’ awesome mascot, for those who are unaware) shot it from to me:
(Forgive the fuzziness of the foreground objects.)
Then I was able to experience something really nice/sad at the same time. Major League Baseball has a partnership with a charity by the name of Stand Up To Cancer. As a result of this, there will be certain games in which they have plugs for the organization/the cause they look to fight for. Since it was the home opener, they handed out signs at the gates. These signs were for people to write in the name of a person in their life affected by cancer whom they “stand up” for:
As you can’t read on the scoreboard (unless you clicked on the image and zoomed in), this was to take place at the end of the second inning where everyone would stand up and hold their signs up to recognize that almost everyone’s life is affected in one way or another by cancer–with the charity’s objective being to end the disease. Here is a picture of the stadium once this took place, which can give you a little bit of idea as to how it was when it actually happened with all of the signs lifted up:
With Terry Ryan having been diagnosed with squamous-cell carcinoma (a type of cancer) just two months prior in the offseason, many of the signs–particularly of the players–were dedicated to him. Others paid tribute to cancer’s effect on the Twins by writing Harmon Killebrew who had died almost three years earlier. Instead, I wrote the name of someone whose death preceded Harmon’s by just two or three hours:
And after that, there was one other thing I had to do. I had gotten some temporary tattoos, and for those who didn’t click the link I had on his name, Sean is a pretty big White Sox fan. He’s originally from a southern suburb of Chicago, so I forgave him enough to be roommates with him for a year. The opportunity to get him completely “Twins-ed” out was just too tempting. The result was the following:
He wasn’t thrilled to have to deal with the fallout from me inevitably posting the picture on social media his friends would see, but he was semi-cooperative once I started taking a burst of pictures by not ducking out of the frame.
We then got a picture together on the second level of the right field seats:
And that’s where I’ll end the entry. Normally I do a “STATS” section at the end of entries, but I will skip that for all of the games I write about having gone to in 2014 because it is now 2015 as I write this. If you really want some ballhawking statistics about myself (or the majority of all ballawks in the country), go to mygameballs.com. Here is the link to my individual profile from which you can stalk me.
Yet another game, and it was again time to head to the second game of the Athletics series against the Twins at Target Field:
But sadly this would be the definition of my day:
More or less a conglomeration of semi-facetious sadness. The emotion was being caused here by the fact that my ballhawk friends Tony Voda and Paul Kom were inside early for season ticket holder early BP and I was stuck on the outside for the extent of it. That didn’t change my no-custom, though, of going to Gate 3 to actually get in the stadium:
Once I got in, it took me very little time to get Jarrod Parker to toss me a baseball. I then quickly turned and tossed it to one of the kids in the following picture for a reason I don’t remember:
(As I write this, the game happened over three weeks ago, so excuse me for not remembering which of the three kids in the picture I gave it away to.) I then had a lull in terms of snagging, but it was ended when I made my way to the right field bleachers. There I got Chris Young to toss me a ball by being the only one to call him by name:
I’ll spoil a part of this entry right now: I only got toss-ups this game. That said, I went on a mini-toss-up rampage. First I got A.J. Griffin to toss me a ball over a kid who was in front of me. Because I felt kind of bad for how cruel it must have seemed to see a ball be thrown at him but go over his head, I gave it to him:
Additionally, I told him Jerry Blevins’–since Blevins had seen me get the ball from Griffin but not me give it away–name and told him to ask him for a ball. My hope was that Blevins would overthrow him and I would get the ball. And that’s what happened…sort of. Blevins did miss the kid, but it was to his side. If you are not familiar with the right field bleachers at Target Field, they kind of jut out from the wall in right. But that’s not what’s important here. Do you see the flower pots that outline the box that is the “jut?” Well Blevins missed the kid to our right, so the ball went in the flower pots tot the right side of the “box” of the right field seats. And it then kind of went up the flowers. I ran over, picked the ball out of the flowers, and handed the ball to the kid for my fourth ball of the day:
I then figured I had exhausted my toss-up opportunities in right, so I headed to the right-center field seats. This was the best thing I could have done. As I got there, Ariel Prieto–a person listed on the A’s roster as simply “coach”–tossed a ball to a kid that landed a little short. As a result, it landed in the flower pots in front of him. As this happened, I told the kid that I would get the ball for him. So as Prieto watched, I pulled the ball out of the flowers and handed it to the boy:
After he saw me do this, Prieto gave me a thumbs-up, and a very promising gesture: the “I’ll give you the next one” gesture. Only one problem: as Prieto was trying to get a ball, Chip Hale tossed me a ball:
…or so I thought. Even though Prieto saw me get the ball from Hale, he tossed me the second “thank you for giving tha other one away to that kid” ball:
And that was it for the snagging for me on the day. After BP, though, I was on the second deck, and so I gave a ball to a vendor who I had promised one if I got more than a couple. I don’t know which one it was exactly, but here it is:
After which, I talked to an usher by that concession stand. And after talking to him for a while and learning that he is an usher for not only the Twins, but Gopher football and basketball games, I also gave him a ball. Basically, if you haven’t been keeping track, out of the seven balls I snagged, I gave away six.
I then headed down to the dugout to reunite with Tony and Paul, both of whom had been doing very well to that point (seven and eight balls snagged respectively) due to their early admission into the ballpark. They had both never snagged double digits, so I just stepped back while an A’s coach that they identified as Casey Chavez cleared the baseballs out of the bullpen. My hope was Chavez would overthrow one, but I was also perfectly content with my seven baseballs I had snagged to that point. Fortunately for Tony and Paul, Chavez didn’t throw any up, and they both got one step closer to their first ever double-digits games. I don’t know where Tony wandered off to, but I did manage to get this picture of Paul just before he left to go to the dugout and secure his first ever ten-ball performance:
And that’s when the game (read: frustration) commenced. Since I had and would be going to so many games this week, I had to find somewhere to do my reading for my classes. And since I wanted to go for home runs this game, the flag court seemed like the perfect place:
(For the record, that is a Kinesiology book, but the highlights aren’t mine. I always get used books whenever possible and make sure that I get the book in the bookstore with the highest amount of highlighted material that doesn’t look completely arbitrarily in case that person actually knew what they were doing in the class and the highlights could actually help me later on.) Well that was my view when the A’s catcher Stephen Vogt came up in the fourth inning. The A’s had already begun a ridiculous inning, but since Vogt had only hit like three home runs the whole season, I figured I might as well keep reading. And then this happened:
For the record, yes, I was the one in the bright green shirt who just barely missed the ball. As I read a part of my book, I heard the roar of the crowd and then looked up into the air. As I saw a white speck that was clearly headed over my head, I sprinted back as fast as I could. I then turned around right before I knew the ball was going to bounce, but it was three feet over my head and a bit to my left. So then, my only hope was it would bounce off the gate and back to me. But as I turned my head to the gate, there was a guy who was randomly right where the ball was bouncing to. My only hope was that he would drop the ball, but he didn’t.
That particular homer upset me, because I picked the ball up when it was almost at its apex. Had I started running as soon as it was hit, I could have had a ten foot head start and almost definitely could have turned around and caught the ball on the fly. I will say this, though: the homer was an absolute blast. I think it’s the furthest I’ve seen a ball hit on the fly during a game in person out there. That home run also capped off a ten-run fourth inning for the A’s which left the game at 13-1 going into the fifth inning.
Which brings up the next disappointment. I’ll say only two thing about this next clip. 1. I was completely prepared for this ball. 2. I don’t think I misplayed it at all, since it was hit at the same angle as the Vogt home run:
And with that, my day of “excitement” ended.
Oh, but wait…it didn’t. The Twins always have *some* group sing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” But when there’s no group lined up, they often just ask people in the flag court if they want to be a part of that. Well since I was already out there, I went ahead and joined in the group:
But since it was September 11th, there was a big deal made of the singing of God Bless America. So big, in fact, that my friend Nick Badders saw me on TV all the way from the Bay Area in California:
Meanwhile, here was my view of the singing of it:
After that, I simply sang “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” and then watched the painful rest of the game.
After the game, I headed to the dugout and managed to get a picture of Tony getting his then-eleventh ball of the game from the dugout attendant, Mario:
And then I just had to capture the magical moment where I was essentially the only person left in the stadium:
Why was I there so late? Because I had to go over to the other side of the stadium where I had entered at Gate 3 because my cup trick had been stopped at the gate by the security guard who checked my bag, citing: “they don’t like those here:”
And with that final “snag” of the night (happening a little after 11:00, since the game had gone four hours despite going only nine innings), I headed out to my bus and a much-needed day off from ballhawking.
- 7 Baseballs at this game (1 pictured because I gave the other 6 away)
- 267 Balls in 57 Games= 4.64 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 24,522 Fans= 171,654 Competition Factor
- 119 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 24 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 21 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 13 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 3 straight Games with 5-6 Balls
- 151 Balls in 31 Games at Target Field= 4.87 Balls Per Game
- 29 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 9 straight Games with at least 2-4 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 5-6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:36-11:57= 8 Hours 21 Minutes
After going to a anomaly of an April make-up game, it was time to gear up for the Oakland Athletics. When I got to the stadium at a little before 4:30, I first went to Gate 34:
As is usually the case when I go to Gate 34, I came away with nothing–I’ve actually only ever gotten I think one baseball there; I’ve actually snagged just as many baseballs at Gate 3. Speaking of Gate 3, that’s where I went at about 5:10 in order to be the first in line for when the gates open:
I wanted to start doing this because although I’ve snagged an equal amount of baseballs at both gates, the odds of getting one at Gate 34 are much higher than 3. That said, I like going straight to left field when I get inside, so Gate 3 is the clear option for when the gates open. So when the gates opened, that’s just what I did:
Although, can you see the kid all the ay in the corner of the left field seats? Well I got some A’s pitcher to throw me a ball as I was going down the stairs, but because I was turning my backpack around to get something out of it, I wasn’t able to get my glove on properly and dropped the ball. This kid–whose dad and him I actually know and have run into several times–was coming down the stairs right behind me, so when the ball bounced in front of him, he picked it up. I’m friendly with him and his dad, so it was no big deal, but I would have rather snagged the ball myself.
My first ball of the day came in the right-center field seats. I called out to A.J. Griffin to throw me a ball. He did throw it to me, but he threw it over my head by accident. Thankfully, an usher I had just been talking to saw it, and grabbed it before tossing it back to me:
I then remembered that Yoenis Cespedes was in the group, so I headed up to the second deck in left field. Another ballhawk named Mike had the same idea. Well actually he’s usually in the upper deck, but with Cespedes up, he had a better shot of getting a ball up there than usual. Mike actually didn’t think Cespedes would hit a ball up there for the first few rounds. But then one round, he went off. Mike got the first ball:
And then I got one from Cespedes:
I then went back downstairs after this group was done and went over to right field. There, there was one player with his number showing. So when I looked up who number 54 was, I got Sonny Gray to toss me the ball:
I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the first time anyone on mygameballs.com had gotten a ball from him. I always have way more pride about that than most people…which is to say, I care about it at all. There is something that I just love about being the first one in a community of ball-snaggers to get a ball tossed from a specific person.
I then headed to the center field edge of the right-center field section, and got Tom Milone to throw me a ball. But I realized that there was a fan in an A’s shirt right next to me, so I gave him the ball after I snagged it:
And he thanked me profusely. I later ran into him, and apparently he lives in Minnesota but he makes it to Target Field pretty much only for the A’s. But anyway, that was my last baseball of BP. Right after BP finished, I tried to make it to behind the A’s dugout to get a ball from the ball bag, but I was too late. However, a good thing that came of me being at the dugout was that I got the ball Sonny Gray tossed me signed by Dan Straily. I then headed to the bullpen(s) afterwards.
When I went to the bullpen after BP, I got the Twins second bullpen catcher, Ben Richardson, to toss me a ball:
That guy isn’t *really* important; he just turned around right when I was taking the picture. This was also the first baseball of his that had been registered into the mygameballs.com system. I was particularly proud of this one since Richardson had been talked about numerous times between us Minnesota ballhawks. I then stayed seated by the bullpen and thought of things I was going to include in my “Things that have happened since the Pirates last had a winning season” video (which you can watch here, if you’d like):
But I then got to see a weird thing when the A’s got to the bullpen. After the starting pitcher ended his warm-ups and the beginning of the game, the A’s lined up at the pitchers mound in the bullpen:
And they then took turns throwing baseballs toward the plate. The goal–as far as I could tell–was to get the ball on one of the home plates, or as close as possible:
And they then picked up their baseballs and lined up at home plate:
And they then did the same, but with the targets being the pitching rubbers:
They then repeated this a couple times. It was truly bizzare.
The Twins then went ahead and won the game 4-3, and at the end of it, I managed to get a baseball from home plate umpire, CB Buknor for my sixth and final ball of the day:
And so ended the game. As you may have noticed, I once again edited the pictures in my entry. I’ve gotten a mixed reaction as to whether I should keep them, but I also wanted to get the opinion of those of you who have been silent on the matter. So here’s a poll for you guys. If you want to keep the pictures like this , vote yes; if you want the pictures to go back to “normal,” vote no:
- 6 Baseballs at this game (5 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 701-706 for my lifetime:
- 260 Balls in 56 Games= 4.64 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 26,017 Fans= 156,102 Competition Factor
- 118 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 23 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 20 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 12 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 2 straight Games with 5-6 Balls
- 144 Balls in 30 Games at Target Field= 4.8 Balls Per Game
- 28 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 8 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:45-11:04= 7 Hours 19 Minutes