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