In my second-to-last game of the season, look who decided to join me at an unfamiliar gate:
It was Paul Kom. Actually, though, there are a couple odd things with this picture. Yes, we were both at a gate very foreign to the both of us, but 1. You may notice I’m pointing to my glove. I decided to go with a catcher’s mitt this game instead of my lefty glove. 2. We thought of this idea completely independently of each other. You see there was also another person joining us for this game, my friend Jonathan Mueller. You may remember him best as the person who joined me on the night I snagged my only home run off the bat of Trevor Plouffe. Well Jonathan and I both walked from the University of Minnesota campus. In doing so, we almost *had* to pass by Gate 34. In doing so, I saw Paul and the man most commonly known as “Waldo”, formerly know as Greg Dryden:
It was at that point that I informed Jonathan we were going to go to Gate 6 in right field. I made the decision that I didn’t want to compete with both of them in right field as the gates opened, so I was going to go to left field. I decided to go to Gate 6 since I had seen the people from there get into the left field seats faster than myself the last few times when I came from Gate 3 in center field. Less than a minute after getting there, I got a text message from Paul asking me if I had gotten to the stadium yet. This inquiry quickly led to him telling me that he planned to come to Gate 6. Keep in mind that he had no clue I was there.
Once we got in, I quickly ran into the left field seats whereas Paul went first to the seats down the left field line. The result? A quick 1-0 Mateo lead. As I was running down the steps of the left field seats, a Twins righty hit a ball in the first section from the foul pole. I COMPLETELY lost the ball in the sun, so I ducked for cover instead of running towards the spot I thought the ball was going to land, but when it did land, I ran over and grabbed it for my first ball of the day:
Or maybe I was just telling him what Shairon Martis’ name is. I’m not really sure which.
Then when the Indians started throwing down the left field line, I headed over there. There, I got Michael Brantley to toss me a ball. Extra-super special e-shoutout on Twitter to whoever can find the ball in this next picture:
Here’s a hint:
I then headed out to the flag court where I did a bunch of running after baseballs like this one:
Only one of which I actually ended up getting. Here’s a four-picture collage I put together to show you what happened:
Top left: Me seeing the ball bounce off the concrete past the guy who was in front of me.
Top right: Looking up at now again-airborne ball as it floated through the air.
Bottom left: Me watching the ball that is now on its descent and in the frame of the picture hoping that my catcher’s glove would be able to make the catch.
Bottom right: Nor with all of the eyes out on the flag court on me, making the catch–much to the chagrin of the guy pursuing the ball from behind.
My next two baseballs came from the same person. When I went to the right-center field seats, there was a kid there who asked Chris Perez for a ball. When Perez threw it into the flower bush, I ran down, and made it very clear that I gave the ball to the kid after pulling it out of the flowers. As a “reward” for doing this, Perez then tossed me the next ball he fielded:
Coincidentally, Jonathan took a picture at this same exact moment:
And that would be my last ball of batting practice.
After BP, all three of us–myself, Jonathan, and Paul–went to the bullpen. Both Paul and I got one of these there:
If you can’t tell the autograph, I got mine from Anthony Swarzak. I don’t remember who tossed Paul his two. Let me explain what these balls are and why I didn’t count this as a “snag.” Every fan appreciation weekend of the year, the Twins each sign one of these tee balls and toss them into a random part of the crowd. I didn’t count mine because while it did come Anthony Swarzak, a major league pitcher, it was still a tee ball and felt cheap.
We then decided to all stay in the left field seats and play home runs for the game. In the second inning, though, I looked at my Twitter timeline and noticed that the Twins sent out this tweet:
Granted, we had already missed the first two innings of the contest at that point, but I still asked both Paul and Jonathan if they wanted to do it. They did, and actually got three of the baseballs to my none. Paul got the first two baseballs after we started:
And Jonathan was in the right spot and was able to get the final autograph ball:
We then went to the flag court and took advantage of another perk of Fan Appreciation Weekend. When we saw a Target Field employee with a box, we realized that it was them about to hand out some sort of prize to the section on behalf of some Twins player. Because of what we thought was going to happen, I went and sat down in the section right before the inning break. And as a result, I got a bag of Cracker Jack:
But I wasn’t the only one. Jonathan was smart enough to act on my observation as well and got a bag for himself:
And that was it for the excitement during the game. After the game, all three of us headed down to the dugout. Paul and I tried for an umpire ball. Here’s a shot Jonathan got of both myself and Paul asking home plate umpire Tony Randazzo for a ball. (I’m on the far left and Paul’s on the far right.)
Good for us, both were able to get a ball from him:
But don’t feel bad for Jonathan. In looking through the seats for ticket stubs to send to my friend Avi Miller, I found this for him:
And with that upside-down bag of chips, all of us left to go to Paul’s car, and we all went home; Paul staying at my apartment for the night before heading of to the game the next afternoon.
- 6 Balls on the Game (5 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 308 Balls in 63 Games= 4.89 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 24,074 Fans= 144,444 Competition Factor
- 125 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 30 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
- 192 Balls in 37 Games at Target Field= 5.19 Balls Per Game
- 35 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 15 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- 4 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:45-1:14= 9 Hours 29 Minutes
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
Having ended my previous game at 693 career baseballs, my goal for this game was to maybe get to 700 career baseballs. At the time gates were opening, though, this was my view at about the time gates were opening:
At this point, I felt as though I maybe wasn’t even going to snag one ball. Let me explain: This game was supposed to take place on April 17. Heck, I was there, if you want to read about it. But the game got rained out before it even began. Anyways, because of it being rescheduled, the game was scheduled to start at 6:10 instead of 7:10. I realized this various times beforehand, but for whatever reason, it didn’t register in my mind that I needed to leave an hour earlier than normal in order to get on time. Well not until half-an-hour before the gates were scheduled to open. Unfortunately, it takes longer than half-an-hour to get to Target Field from my apartment, so when I arrived here, the gates had been open for close to twenty minutes:
(If you can’t tell, I’m trying out editing my photographs to look a little better before I post them in the entries. It might be a one-entry thing, but it might become a regular thing if you guys like it.) But then one of the luckiest things ever happened. Just as I was running towards Gate 34, I saw all of the ticket scanners reacting to *some*thing I couldn’t see. Just then, I saw a baseball bouncing out of the gate. And since I was the only one out in Target Plaza, I walked over and picked it up for my first ball of the day. I’m guessing it was Josh Hamilton, since he was the only lefty in the group, but who knows. I then stupidly didn’t take a picture of the ball outside of the gate, but instead I was so focused on just getting IN to the stadium that I got my bag checked and headed to the right field seats. But then when there was a righty up, I finally took a picture of the presumed Josh Hamilton ball:
And while I was so frantic about not having an awful day ballhawking due to my stupid mistake, it took me a moment to realize how few people were actually at this game. I mean just take a look at this picture of the left field seats that I took:
There were what, maybe fifteen people in the left field seats. While I was thankful for having gotten a ball already, I was frustrated by the thought of how many baseballs I could have snagged had I showed up on time. I mean there would have been a serious chance for me to have broken the Target Field record for baseballs in a game.
I got up to three baseballs pretty quickly because of some Angels coach. I don’t know who he was, but I eventually figured out after the fact that it was either Bobby Knoop or Bill Lachemann. My first ball that he threw me came when he turned around and motioned that he was going to throw the ball to a little girl. Since 1. She wasn’t looking, and 2. She was very small and might not catch the ball, I told whoever the coach was that I would catch the ball for her. And so, he tossed it to me and I immediately gave the ball to her. Here she is with some of her siblings. (They’ll come into play later.)
I then realized the group had changed from Hamilton’s to a group with Mark Trumbo in it, so I headed out to left field. There I met up with Paul Kom, who had been there the whole time, but I hadn’t seen since he was in left field the whole time. (Side note: Paul actually already wrote an entry about this game on his blog, if you’d like to check that out.) I caught up with him since it was the first time I had seen him since the game the day before the day this game was initially supposed to take place. Shortly after that, I convinced Michael Roth to toss me a baseball by being the first person in the stadium to actually know what his name was:
I then headed back to right field for a group that included Kole Calhoun and Hank Conger. When I was there, Calhoun hit a ball a little to my right. I went over a couple feet, put up my glove, and dropped the ball as it hit my glove. If you noticed, I was using my lefty glove for the first time in a long while. In getting ready for the game, Brandon Nedoma told me he had forgotten his glove at home in Wisconsin. So when I finally realized how late I was, I threw my lefty glove in my backpack. What I didn’t realize at the spur of the moment was that my right-handed glove wasn’t in my glove. I only figured this out on the bus. I initially thought I had taken it out of my backpack when I went to the Mall of America with Ben Weil and his fiancé Jen the day before, but I still haven’t found it as I write this on September 22nd, so I suspect I may have left it at the game I went to the day before this when I decided spur-of-the-moment to leave that game at the national anthem. But anyway, I picked the ball up after I dropped it. I then gave the ball away to the brother of the girl I gave the second ball to:
(He’s the one in the blue with the glove.) And then they told me that the second brother in that last picture to the right of the first two kids I had given a ball to. So when I got Buddy Boshers:
to toss me a ball, I turned and tossed it to the kid.
I then headed to left field and met up with Paul and his friend Matt at the bullpen:
I think you can figure out who’s who, but if not, left-to-right it is: Paul, Matt. and myself. And then Paul got a ball at the bullpen (and maybe Matt too?) but I didn’t, so I just had the pleasure of watching the starting pitchers of both teams warming up:
And then I was going to go out to the flag court, but then I saw this crowd in the left field seats at game time:
What ended up happening was I stayed in left field for the whole game because I thought it would be great if I got my 700th ball via game home run. Matt and Paul also stayed with me for most of the game, but not even three minutes after they left to head to the dugout, Josh Hamilton gave me one of the next best things. He hit a double that bounced into the left field bullpen. With Matt and Paul gone, there were only two people in the bleachers who had the situational awareness to go to the bullpen: myself and a person in Angels gear. Now I hadn’t mentioned it yet, but for whatever reason, I had completely forgotten to bring either an Angels shirt or Athletics shirt (which will come into play in my next couple entries). Therefore, it was myself in a neutral blue shirt/University of Minnesota hat and this Angels fan. But as Steve Soliz, the Angels bullpen coach approached the ball, I asked him by name while the Angels fan had no clue what his name was, so Soliz tossed me the ball for my 700th career baseball:
I’m not sure many better scripts could have been written. Anyways, I met up with Paul and Matt soon after, and we walked out of the stadium together. So I first got a second picture with my prized possession of the night:
And then we got a parting picture together:
What a day.
- 7 Balls at this game (4 pictured because I gave 3 away)
Numbers 694-700 for my “career”:
- 254 Balls in 55 Games= 4.62 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 21,826 Fans= 152,782 Competition Factor
- 117 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 22 straight Games with 2 Balls
- 19 straight Games with 3 Balls
- 11 straight Games with 4 Balls
- 138 Balls in 29 Games at Target Field= 4.76 Balls Per Game
- 27 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 7 straight Games with at least 2-4 Ball at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 4:04-10:33= 6 Hours 29 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
Oh how great this day was:
I still sort of can’t believe that it really happened. Oh, and by the way, I refer to great in its true sense and not the sense it has come to mean. As in although it was great in the “awesome” sense, there was also great cold, and great hoopla, and a great amount of “stuff” happening.
What do I mean by “stuff”? Well, here’s some shots of the Target Plaza that show the greater level of activity than 30 minutes before the gates open on a regular game day.
First off, here is my view of Target Field’s Gate 34 just as I arrived from my last class of the day:
Then, there was apparently something being filmed at my usual napping spot in front of Gate 34:
And then the gate itself. With its own personal radio booth, courtesy of 96.3 K-Twin:
And then a second picture. This time more of the people at the gate, partially to show you how people were dressed up to deal with the sub-30 degree temperatures:
Once I got to the gate itself, there were…well, normally I would say “familiar faces”, but that wasn’t necessarily the case here. The first person who I recognized was Paul Kom, along with his friend, Asher:
And then there was Tony Voda, who I didn’t really recognize because this is how he looked from my initial perspective:
He was also here at the game with a friend, whose name was Jared. Here are the two of them, with the photo credit going to Paul:
I was actually supposed to have a companion of my own in the way of Sean, but something came up for him the day of. I tried to get a few other people to come with me, but all of them had things going on. I truly do not get some people. I get not going to just some game, but it’s Opening Day of Major League Baseball! Anyway, long story short: no one ended up being able to make the game and I ended up taking the $33 hit and going with my imaginary friend, Tommy McActuallywantstogotoabaseballgame. Then, at 1:00, the gates were finally opening:
Remember when I said there was a great amount of “stuff” going on? Notice Tom Kelly helping in the opening of the gates on the left hand side. I think I would have absolutely ate that up if it weren’t around 20 degrees and the gates weren’t opening for the first time this season.
Unfortunately this was the view as I ran in and got my magnetic schedule:
The Twins had started batting practice early, so they got done right before we entered and the Tigers were still several minutes from getting started. So I went over behind the cage and tried to get a ball from Rafael Belliard:
I yelled out to him, but unfortunately all I got was a wave and a smile. To be fair, I only yelled out “Rafael!”, but I was going to follow it with “Can you toss me a ball please?” I think he thought I was just saying hi.
My next opportunity came when the pitchers warmed up down the left field line:
Unfortunately one ball went to a much smaller and cuter game-goer than I, and then the second, I found out had already been promised to Paul because he had thrown back a previous overthrow.
Then it was off to the outfield. Therein lied the problem with Opening Day. You see Target Field is a pretty bad ballhawking stadium ceteris paribus, but it especially wretched with any substantial crowd because it is so reliant on the first few rows of the outfield sections. In left field, it was crowded enough that the first rows that were clear enough to run through were under the overhang, where no balls could be hit. In right field, the actual seating was completely full, so I would have had to stand out in the standing room section and hope that a ball get hit out there. Translation: I went into the section of seating in right-center field and asked for toss-ups. Unfortunately for me, the man patrolling the patch of ground in front of this section was Doug Fister, who although he may not be like this all the time, was being an unresponsive jerk. By the end of the day, I didn’t even mind that he completely rejected me several times. There was an early teenage girl dressed head-to-toe in bright orange who was yelling his ear off (politely) for almost half-an-hour with no avail. Once Fister moved out of the section, though, I got my first ball of the day pretty quickly from Drew Smyly:
I then spent the rest of my batting practice in the standing room. Apparently I wasn’t smart enough to realize that if it’s tough to get the ball out there normally, it is nearly impossible to get a ball into the standing room when it’s below 30. So (shocker!) nothing came out there with Prince Fielder having already hit.
I did see something very interesting while I was in right field, though:
If you can’t make out what it is that arrow points to, I’ll just tell you. It’s ice. This marked the first time I had seen ice in a stadium that wasn’t being used for the purpose of refrigerating beverages. I guess the whole “it’s usually 90+ degrees whenever I’m in a baseball stadium” thing comes into play here.
As I started to head toward their dugout, the Tigers dugout, they finished batting practice, and I don’t know if it was the cold or what, but usually if I start heading to the dugout before batting practice itself, I’ll beat the ball bag to the dugout. This time, however, the pack-up process was accelerated by about 200%.
At this point, I found myself in a very interesting situation: my ticket was in left field but I was now in the moat behind the Tigers dugout. At this point I told myself I would see if I could stay until the players started warming up down the line. Ushers started checking tickets in the section, but through a series of maneuvers, I got past them and stayed in the section. Then when I didn’t get a ball from any of the Tigers players warming up, I decided “You know, they’re using the Opening Day commemorative baseballs. I might as well stay down here for the rest of the game.” And so, this became my view of the action for 9 innings:
A pretty nice view for my first Opening Day game ever, eh? What would have that cost at Yankee Stadium? Two, or three…thousands of dollars? Probably more since it was Opening Day. Want to know what’s even more sad about that fact? This is how Yankee Stadium looked in the ninth inning:
I’ve only seen a stadium anywhere near that empty in a handful of cases, and all of them involved inclement weather. Oh, and if you’re even thinking of arguing that people wanted to leave because of the cold, please refer to the paragraph of text under the fourth picture in the entry.
What that seat also gave me a great view of was the storied Opening Day ceremonies. First, both rosters were announced. At which point every player lined up on the field as his name was called:
Then, probably the best part even though I’m not overly-nationalistic was the national anthem. What they did first to prepare for that was bring the famed “giant flag” on the field:
They then had a veteran raise the flag on the mast as they always do. Except here’s where that “great” Opening Day twist comes in. The veteran who raised it this day was Rod Carew.
Onto the game, I was obviously going for third out balls, but the first two didn’t even make it to the dugout. I believe one was tossed into the stands by an outfielder. The other didn’t make it to the dugout because of this guy:
First a little background information on said “guy”:
1. Yes, he is wearing a leopard skin suit jacket.
2. He was wearing a ski mask for batting practice.
3. You might see someone who holds up *a* sign during games; he had a stack of them for the different Tigers players.
4. He had a gold-plated glove.
5. Even though he was supposedly a Tigers super fan, he asked me on several occasions during batting practice to identify Tigers players. (That reminds me. I probably should have included this story earlier, but I don’t know where to fit it into the entry above so I’m just going to tell the story here in these parentheses. Anyway, a hilarious thing happened when the Tigers players came out to warm up before the game. A group of 3-4 Twins fans saw Austin Jackson run out to warm up and immediately starting yelling things like “We love you, Torii” or “We miss you, Torii,” and kept it going for a while until Torii Hunter actually came out onto the field. Then they just started to realize–and confirmed after asking myself–that they were indeed not cheering for Torii Hunter. Murmuring and a retreat away from the field ensued.)
6. He was one of those fans who demands respect for his team from the opposing fans while trashing their team.
Anyway, Miguel Cabrera had the ball and was headed to the dugout when he saw this fan in the corner of his eye, stopped, and threw him the ball. I wasn’t bitter at the time, and I was even more fine with it two innings later when Prince Fielder tossed me a third-out ball of my own:
But wait do you notice anything special about this ball? How about now?
Opening Day commemorative baseball, baby! And yes, this was the first one I had ever gotten as a result of this being my first Opening Day game ever. The rest of the game played, and the Tigers unfortunately pulled it out despite the Twins limiting Justin Verlander to his shortest start in approximately 3.5 years.
At the end of the game, my plan was to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jim Joyce. I was going to go down the main staircase to the umpire’s tunnel, but I surprisingly met up with Paul in the ninth inning and he took that staircase, so my plan was to go down the secondary staircase and yell out to Joyce before he got to the tunnel since this staircase was closer to where the umpires exited the field, but for whatever reason, people stayed in their seats, so there was no space in the front row for me to get down. Fortunately, though, Paul managed to snag his own Opening Day commemorative, so that made up for it. Basically, this was my reaction to not getting an umpire ball:
In that: “I didn’t get another ball and I only snagged two baseballs this game, but so what? It was an absolutely great game/experience. (Minus the cold. I’m still trying to forget how miserable it was in the shade.)
Tony and Paul had three and four baseballs, respectively, when I left, and they each managed another from the Tigers equipment person afterwards to push their totals up to four and five. A ton compared to my measly two, but if there was one game I didn’t care, it was this one.
- 2 Balls at this game:
Numbers 447-448 for my career (I realize that the last entry from this past season said I ended the season at 445, but in the offseason I realized that I never inputted my sixth baseball from my one game at Citizens Bank Park, so everything from that point on is technically one baseball above whatever I have it at. I just don’t feel like going back and changing all of the entries. This is just a day for long parenthetical insertions, I guess.)
- 2 Balls in 1 Game= 2.00 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 38,282 Fans= 76,564 Competition Factor
- 63 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 57 Balls in 15 Games at Target Field= 3.80 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 12:05- 7:46= 7 Hours 41 Minutes
It was the beginning of a new era for me:
Walking up to Target Field, the best word I can think of to describe the feeling is surreal. I just could *not* believe I was there again. It defied all logic. Why go to a bad ballhawking stadium for the second time in two years? Target Field is the kind of place you visit to say you’ve been there and then stay away for as long as you can.
Once I got to the gates, two people waved at me. It was just kind of like “Whoa, what’s this?” One I actually recognized from the pictures he had of himself on his blog and that was Paul Kom. You can vaguely see him towards the right of the last picture in the white hat. He leaves comments here as paaoool123.
The second person was Tony Voda. Unlike Paul, I had no idea of his existence until a couple days prior, much less an idea of what he looked like. When Zack Hample announced in his blog that I was going off to Minnesota for college, he was one of the many people who contacted me regarding the fact. He left a comment on this blog saying that he would like to meet up some game.
First of all, I would like to say that when a ball plummeted into the gap outside the stadium between the parking garage and the rest of the walkway, Paul and I just wanted to see where the ball had landed. Meanwhile, Tony was already running after it. Apparently, that gap has Interstate 394 under it. When Tony came back with the ball several minutes later, all three of us took a picture together:
That would be me on the left, Tony in the middle, and Paul on the right.
At the gates, we did two things: awaited any balls that might’ve bounced to the gates (Paul nearly got one), and divvied up where we wanted to go in the stadium. Paul took the Mariners dugout, Tony took the Twins dugout, and I wandered all over the place.
My first stop was the third base foul line:
When I got there, Jesus Montero picked up a ball, and I decked out in Mariners hat and sweater (even though it was really hot), asked him for a ball. For whatever reason, he completely ignored me and tossed it into the outfield seats.
So, I made I stop along the third base foul line seats, but I eventually ended up in left field seats where I ended up getting Jason Vargas to toss me a ball:
At least I think it was Vargas. I stupidly didn’t take notes about this game, so I’m basing everything on memory. Anyway, I then headed over to the “section of death” in right-center field. It’s the section of death to myself and other ballhawks (I have come up with the name, but others have agreed with the sentiment.) because it’s four rows of seats to begin with, and the overhang makes it so you can only really catch a home run in the first row or two. In addition to that, there’s a flower bed in the front of the section which means a player has to be about five-ten feet from the wall for you to ask him for a ball.
Anyway, right as I got there, a player overthrew a kid, and the ball flew into concourse:
I then said that I would give him the next ball I snagged.
A few minutes later, I asked Stephen Pryor for a ball, and when he tossed it to me, I gave it to the kid. His sister then hugged me, which was…unexpected. Just to give you an idea of how the flower beds affect one’s sight, here’s a picture of Pryor standing 60+ feet away from the wall:
See? Unless you want to be talking to a bed of flowers, you either have to hope a ball stops just the perfect distance from the wall, or hope the player doesn’t throw the ball right when they get to the wall.
I then pretty much stayed in the right field seats for the rest of batting practice, where the offensively anemic Mariners didn’t send anything into the stands:
I then met up with Paul in foul ground along the third base line.
From there, we both headed over to the left field seats by the bullpen. At that point, he had snagged four balls. He ended up with seven by the end of the day. But don’t take my word/ account for it, right….here is the link to his entry about the game.
When we were sitting there, I saw the Mariners bullpen coach, Jaime Navarro walking to the bullpen, so I put on my Mariners sweater and hat. Once he was picking up the balls that had been hit there during batting practice, I asked him for one. This was the result:
What I hadn’t noticed was Paul had also stood up and had grabbed his camera. Here is the five-second video he took of me snagging the ball:
Thank you to Paul for that.
As for the game, I won’t really talk about the result, but I’ll say Todd Cook was made happy by it. This was my ticketed seat:
but I decided to stay out here for the majority of the game:
I can’t say for certain, but I think I’ll spend most of my time at Target Field out there.
However, as I suspect will be the norm for most of my time out there, nothing was hit even close to the section. After the game, I met up with both Paul and Tony (who also wrote an entry about the game, whose link can be found right….hiaaaagh.) by the dugouts. We then walked to the exit together before saying our goodbyes. I’ll probably see Tony again, but it was in all likelihood Paul’s last Twins game of the season. Anyway, it was good to get to meet both of them in my first “new” game at Target Field.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 393-395 for my “lifetime”:
- 173 Balls in 42 Games= 4.12 Balls Per Game
- 3 Balls x 29,854 Fans= 89,562 Competition Factor
- 51 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 5 Balls in 3 Games at Target Field= 1.67 Balls Per Game
- 2 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field with at least 1 Ball
- 2 straight Games at Target Field with at least 2 Balls
- Time Spent On Game 4:12- 10:36= 6 Hours 24 Minutes