Tagged: pitchers

4/25/13 Rangers at Twins: Target Field

After a week off from baseball, due to the game I was initially going to attend on Tuesday against the Marlins being postponed, it was back to Target Field:

42513 Opening Picture

Ah yes. The Texas Rangers. Historically a team that could always get enough runs to win, and relied on their pitching to not get knocked around. Sadly, though, I didn’t get to see their bombers this game, because, well, they didn’t show up:

42513 No BP

I thought it was really weird that there was no batting practice until I realized that they had played the last night’s game in Ananheim. As overlooked as it may be by  most baseball fans, that’s a long ways to travel overnight, especially when the time change is working against you. And also, as my friend Jonathan pointed out, they had beaten the Angels 11-3, so in a sense, they got their batting practice in. Why did he say this to me? Because he joined me for this game. Here is a picture of him waiting in line for the gates to open:

42513 Jonathan at gate

I really should do a better job of warning people when I’m about to take a picture of them. But progressing away from my digression, the reason that you can see so many people at the gates (who had sizable lines behind them) is 1. This was the first game that it was over 40 degrees for the majority of said game, and it was even warmer for BP because the sun was still out. And 2. The Twins, in partnership with 96.3 K-Twin were giving out a Glen Perkins fishing lure as a promotion:

42513 Fishing Lure

I ended up giving it away to a lady on the bus ride back, who had just missed out on it and wanted to give one to her nephew, but I guess it was a cool promotion? My experience with fishing is the catch-it-and-throw-it-back of summer camp, so………moving on to the snagging; when I got in, the pitchers for the Rangers were indeed throwing, so I moved behind them:

42513 Pitchers

When I got there, though, the awesomeness that is Derek Lowe took over. Jonathan took the next few pictures/video.

Here he is throwing me what I believe is a curveball. He spun a bunch of them to me as well as over-emphasizing the speeds of the “fast”balls he was tossing me from thirty feet out:

42513 Derek Lowe 1

He did so with such gems as: “Woo! What was that?! Twenty miles an hour?” Here I am throwing him what I believe is a change-up:

42513 Derek Lowe Change up

For the sake of completeness, here are the rest of the pictures that Jonathan took:

42513 Derek Lowe 3

42513 Derek Lowe 4 42513 Derek Lowe 5

And here is the video of us two throwing:

Finally, after TEN MINUTES of playing catch with me and then playing and additional session of catch with Yu Darvish that you saw earlier, Lowe tossed me the ball:

42513 Derek Lowe Ball

He’s now much higher on my favorite players list.

After that, I almost got Yu Darvish to sign the ball:

42513 Darvish signing

but he had to go to a pitcher’s meeting right before he got to me.

Then there was a lull because absolutely nothing was going on on the field, but one of the awesomest things that has ever happened to me at a baseball game happened. A Twins worker headed up to both myself and Jonathan and handed us each one of these flyers:

42513 Target Race Flyer

We were both going to be in the Race at Target Field. She actually said she had spotted us sitting by the dugout from the upper deck. What are the odds? So since there really wasn’t anything of note that happened between this point and the race, let’s get right to it, shall we?

In the bottom of the second inning, Jonathan and I headed out to the New Era Store in left field:

42513 New Era Store

From there, a different Twins employee took us through the elevator typically designated for the club and suite levels to the basement (or -2) level concourse:

42513 Basement

Sorry the picture is a bit blurry; we were walking and I didn’t want to stop to take pictures.

Anyway, I had to leave my phone in my backpack, so my detailing to you of what happened next will be all text. I didn’t know if I was supposed to be taking pictures, so I didn’t want to find out that I didn’t. We first arrived at a room that opened similar to a garage door. In there, among other things, were the mascot costumes and a broken Best Buy video game station, similar to that which I played on in my last game of last season. In there, we got completely suited up as the mascots. Jonathan and I actually ended up picking our mascots last, so I had Skeeta, leaving Jonathan stuck with Wanda:

42513 Skeeta and Wanda costumes

Skeeta (as in a shortening of the word “mosquito”)/myself is on the left while Wanda/Jonathan is on the right. After getting suited-up, we moved to an alcove of sorts right underneath the left field seats, where we got the rules and logistics explained to us. Then it was a little bit of waiting, and finally we got to go out onto the field. We got to exit to our (characters’) names being introduced and to the applause of the crowd. After the introduction, we lined up and waited for the countdown to “go”.  I was really nervous about getting an unfair start, so I hesitated a bit on the start, but I got the lead after ten feet or less and then never gave it up for the rest of the race. It was *really* awkward running in the mascot costumes, because the heads bobble up and down as you run, so I was actually going what felt like very slowly to me. It also caused me to be off-balance on turning, so I almost broke one of the main rules that were explained to me. In turning the corner by the foul pole, I almost ran onto the grass, but I managed to balance my head long enough for me to jump over the corner of the grass and take a really sharp turn down the last stretch of the race, which ended at the outfield end of the dugout. Again, I was running what felt to be VERY slowly, so I couldn’t believe that I was in the lead. Finally, though, I crossed the finish line as still no one had passed me. If you want to watch the video of the race, here it is:

Exciting to say the least. After the race finished, though. I thought we were going to the tunnel the umpires exit through. It wasn’t until the camera man was telling me to get off the field back from where I came from. I then grabbed the trophy and got off the field just as the first hitter of the inning was being introduced. In getting in through the door we were supposed to exit, though, we all had to duck, and Babe had to also turn sideways. That’s another thing: during the race, we were told not to hold our heads. I is so tempting given how wobbly they are, but apparently Target doesn’t like how awkward it makes the mascots look as they are running.

When we got back to the garage-type room, I got the organizer to take another picture of me celebrating:

42513 Skeeta da winna

Jonathan then headed up to the standing room and spent the game basically rephrasing how to say, “Did that just happen?” And with that, ended what probably what will be my favorite Twins loss/1-ball game ever.

STATS:

  • 1 Ball at this game

42512 Baseballs

Number 481:

42513 Sweet Spot

  • 35 Balls in 8 Games= 4.38 Balls Per Game
  • 1 Balls x 25,459 Fans=25,459 Competition Factor
  • 70 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 90 Balls in 22 Games at Target Field= 4.09 Balls Per Game
  • 20 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 4:05-11:22= 7 Hours 17 Minutes

4/13/13 Mets at Twins: Target Field

Just a few short hours after I had left Target Field to go back to St. Paul and my dorm, I was back yet again to see my Twins take on the New York Mets:

41313 Opening Picture

Once again, the below-freezing temperatures scared people away, so I wanted to start the game off strong. I did so by quickly get a ball from who I believe was Brian Duensing soon after the gates opened:

41313 Ball 1

After I snagged this baseball, I headed over to left field. Over there, first of all, nothing was going over the fence again because of the cold, but I also managed to get Anthony Swarzak to toss me a baseball. He tossed it to me over three rows of fans, so when I got the ball I asked a kid in the front row if he had gotten a ball yet, and when he told me he hadn’t, I tossed him the Swarzak ball:

41313 Swarzak ball picture

When the Twins finished batting practice, I headed over to foul ground to try to get a ball from the infielders/pitchers warming up:

41313 Infielders warming up

This time there was no snow (yet) but I managed to get Jeremy Hefner to toss me a ball:

41313 Ball 3

That would be my third on the day. After that, the only ball I got for the remaining portion of BP was tossed to me by Kirk Nieuwenhuis in the right-center field seats. In my recounting of batting practice, it may seem like it went really quickly, but it didn’t. It’s just that the other part that I’m not writing about is me running back and forth between left and right field and the Mets again not hitting many home runs during batting practice. It’s truly frustrating because I like snagging hit baseballs waaaaay more than I do toss-ups, but this stadium is just awful for hit baseballs to begin with and was not being helped by the cold weather knocking everything down, so all I could really hope to get was a couple of toss-ups.

After batting practice, though, the opportunity presented itself for me to snag a different type of ball:

41313 Softball set-up

What you are seeing is a Softball home run derby about to begin. The notable contestants were TC, the Twins’ mascot, and then the two hosts of the radio show I had been on the day prior, Mark Rider and Lindsay Guentzel. As you can maybe tell from the picture, I was in left field for the beginning of the derby. Neither of the two right handed hitters pulled the ball my way (although Lindsay was the only one of the two to hit a home run). So when I realized that Rider wasn’t going to be hitting the ball into the stands in the opposite field any time soon, I headed up to the second deck in right field (both he and TC Bear are left handed). By the time that I got up there, Rider was already done, but look what I got once TC took his hacks:

41313 Softball KTWIN

The story of the ball is I saw it coming towards me right off the bat, but then I realized that the ball wasn’t going to hit under the overhang. It was at this point that I ducked and covered my head with my glove and other hand. When I heard the ball bang off of the 96.3 K-Twin advertisement (serendipitous, eh?), I looked around for where the ball dropped and picked it up. As you can see i the picture inside of the green circle, the ball left a big dent in the sign. Now here is the ball with the softball set-up in the background to give you an idea of how far it traveled:

41313 Softball Field

The bear’s got some pop. He ended up winning the home run derby. I think I’ve only seen him get beat once in all of the derbies that I’ve seen.

Interestingly enough, my next notable moment of the game also included the K-Twin crew. For the game, I was again out in the standing room section, ready to snag as always:

41313 Mateo ready to snag

Of course nothing came even close to me, but I was ready if it did. Anyway, in the bottom of the sixth inning, I took a lap of the stadium to keep warm, and when I got back, the K-Twin radio hosts were in the standing room. In addition to being a part of the home run derby, they were also being invited to sing “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” for the seventh inning stretch. Since the stretch is sponsored by Lexus, they give out hats for all of the singers. They had an extra, so Lindsay asked if I wanted it to thank me for being on the show the day prior. And while I already do have a bajillion hats, of course I would:

41313 Lexus Hat

That guy who is giving the low thumbs-up and smiling would be the person who was filming both Lindsay and Rider as they did their various activities throughout the day. I thought it was cool that before I took that picture *he* asked me how many baseballs I had snagged that day. And of course I also had to put the hat on right away:

41313 Mateo with 2 hats

Anyway, I would get nothing out there all game, as I previously mentioned. But towards the end of the game I first got a cup of hot chocolate, because I was freezing and needed SOMEthing to warm me up since it wasn’t exactly sweatshirt weather. And then, I headed down to the dugout and got a ball from home plate umpire, Marty Foster. After that, I stuck around for a while longer just in case anyone else was in the dugout. (This and last night’s snag would not have been possible in New York, since I probably would have been told to leave before the game even ended.) Eventually, Mario, the attendant popped out of the clubhouse in order to do his final cleanings, and when I held up my glove, he picked up a ball that was there and tossed it to me with surprising accuracy:

41313 Ball 6

I say surprising because he needled the ball right through the opening between the camera and the diagonal dugout railing from half-way down the dugout. Had he been off by a foot in either direction–something many major league players have been when tossing balls to me–the ball would have hit either and not reached me/possibly have taken out a camera.

After that I headed out, and found it funny that this sign I had seen earlier in the game had been left on the ground by its owners:

41313 Circle Me Mets

And with that I left to enjoy the rest of my baseball-free weekend to go do homework the next two days because I had spent all of my time thus far in the weekend attending baseball games.

STATS:

  • 6 Balls at this game (5 pictured because I gave 1 away)

41313 Baseballs

Numbers 459-464 for my lifetime:

41313 Sweet Spots

  • 18 Baseballs in 4 Games= 4.50 Balls Per Game
  • 6 Balls x 28,804 Fans= 172,824 Competition Factor
  • 66 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 16 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls
  • 73 Balls in 18 Games at Target Field= 4.06 Balls Per Game
  • 17 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
  • 3 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
  • 2 straight Games with at least 4-6 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 11:35-7:17= 7 Hours 42 Minutes

Oh, and a column that I wrote for mygameballs.com is up now, so if you want to go check it out, here’s the link:

Capture

4/3/13 Tigers at Twins: Target Field

Another day of the week, another day in the winter wonderland that is Target Field:

4313 Opening picture

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:

4313 View from LF

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:

4313 Pitchers

This resulted in me getting a ball from Brayan Villarreal:

4313 Villarreal ball

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:

4313 Martinez ball

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):

4313 Path of ball 1

and then bounced down in the standing room before bouncing back up in the air:

4313 Path of ball 2

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:

4313 Kid I gave ball away to

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:

4313 Bullpen

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:

4313 View for the game

2. There were invisible people sitting to my right:

4313 View 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:

4313 View from the SRO

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:

4313 Open Flag pole

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:

4313 Last Play diagram

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.

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)

4313 Baseballs

Numbers 449-451 for my lifetime:

4313 Sweet Spots

  • 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

9/30/12 Tigers at Twins: Target Field

It was Sunday, September 30th 2012. It was my last game of the season. Except, when I awoke early Sunday morning, it didn’t feel like it at all. It just felt like another day at the ballpark. Except I semi-changed things up by going to Harmon Killebrew’s gate:

I knew there wouldn’t be batting practice, and my bus drops me off right by Gate 3 when I take it; so I didn’t feel like walking to Gate 34.

When I entered the left field seats, this was my view:

No surprise there.

I went down to the Tigers’ dugout, but there wasn’t anything going on down there:

See? Nothing.

Eventually, Jeff Kunkel– one of the Tigers’ bullpen catchers– came out to play catch with one of the pitchers:

I don’t remember who the pitchers was, but I do remember that after playing catch they went to the bullpen to throw a bullpen session.

Then there was a long break in action. How long? It was long enough for Kunkel to go to the bullpen, catch the session, and come back out to be the catching partner of the next pitcher who came out:

I don’t know who it was. The face looked most Luke Putkonen, but he didn’t look 6’6″, which Putkonen is listed at. But who knows, MLB players routinely “round up” on their listed heights, so it wouldn’t surprise me if it was Putkonen.

Anyway, at this time, the Twins came out to throw:

I had half a mind to go over there, but I decided against it since my most notable competition on my side of the field was a family who were expecting the Twins to take batting practice and a couple of kids with their parents.

It looks like I made the right decision, because minutes later, I got this from Luis Marte by working some Spanish magic:

One down, four to go to get to my goal of 444 career baseballs. I gave this ball away to the family I mentioned before, since they had engaged me in conversation over day games after night games, the Twins, and a whole bunch of other things.

After Marte, I would get a giant boost in my campaign for four baseballs in a BP-less day. Two words: Phil. Coke:

Yeah he’s one of the nicer players out there, but the reason he was so good in my quest for four baseballs on the day is he was absolutely the most wild I have ever seen a pitcher in a session of catch.

Here was my view of Coke and his throwing partner, the other bullpen catcher, Scott Pickens:

To give you an idea of Coke’s wildness in this particular session, Pickens was at least thirty feet in front of the stands. Now that you have this fact in your mind: Coke threw four balls into the stands by me. The first almost decapitated me because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time. I ducked just in time as the ball whizzed over my head, bounced off a seat two rows behind me, and bounced back onto the field. After that I was sure to pay attention. The next ball actually technically didn’t make it into the stands on the fly. As soon as the ball was half-way between Coke and Pickens, I could tell it was sailing way over Pickens’ head, so I moved into position and caught the ball right at the wall. So even though I was in the stands, I caught the ball itself over the field of play. Without a hesitation, I gave the ball back to Pickens and he told me he would give me the ball when they were done throwing.

The third ball was a HUMONGOUS overthrow that sailed over even my head. It then bounced off of a seat behind me and bounced back towards me. At this point, I acted like a catcher who was blocking a ball in the dirt and just blocked the ball with my chest, deflecting it to the seats to my left. Basically, this was the path of the ball:

After I deflected the ball, I ran after it and just barely scooped it up before anyone else could get to it. I then proceeded to give the ball to the second-closest to the ball who just happened to be a ten-year old boy with a glove. This was technically my second ball of the day since I gave the first overthrow I snagged back to Pickens. I was gave away two consecutive baseballs because I knew I was approaching milestone/goal territory and I wouldn’t want to give away any of the latter balls I snagged in the day.

 

Then a fourth bounced to almost the exact same location, but this time, there was someone closer to me after the deflection, so he scooped it up. I really didn’t have a chance because I wasn’t paying attention to Coke at the time, Instead, I was talking to the family I gave the Marte ball to, so I didn’t see the ball until I turned around and saw it hit the seats.

 

When Coke finally finished throwing, he came to sign autographs. Pickens headed straight for the dugout and Coke headed straight for the foul line. This is where he showed his awesomeness. First, there were a bunch of baseballs sitting on the foul line. He picked up a couple of baseballs. The first he threw up to the second level. When the woman who he threw it to didn’t catch it, he jokingly got on her case by flinging his glove on the ground, yelling “COME ON!”, and then using her former softball playing to further his discussion even though she was a hundred feet away. The second ball also went to that woman and she caught it this time. (No glove on, by the way.) He then came over to start signing. While he started signing, he asked me if Pickens had given me the ball. When I said no, he jokingly reprimanded Pickens for not doing so and tossed me a ball:

While he kept signing, we talked for 1-2 minutes about the ball he just tossed me and why I hadn’t snagged the last ball he threw into the crowd. I realize that doesn’t seem like that long time, but it is when you consider it was a major league player I was talking  to, it’s pretty special.

 

Because I had to get four baseballs in a BP-less game, I got a ticket in Target Field’s “moat” to have a shot at a ball during the game, since I figured I would enter the game under four baseballs for the day.I waited there until the position players came out to throw. When they finished throwing, I got Andy Dirks to toss me career baseball number 444:

Oh. Yes:

This effectively eliminated the possibility of me going to a playoff game in 2012 (I didn’t, but I was seriously considering a trip to Detroit.) What it also did was it made it so I wouldn’t have to sit by the dugout for the game. Sure, those seats are nice and all, but I wanted to end my season with a game home run if I could. So instead, I stood out here for most of the game:

How awesome would it be to end my season with a Prince Fielder, Justin Morneau, or Joe Mauer home run. Or even better, an opposite field bomb by Miguel Cabrera to lock-up the triple crown for him. Alas, the only home run any of those players hit was a Prince Fielder home run to left field.

 

In the middle innings, though, I was kind of tired, so I decided to do something I had always wanted to do at a major league stadium but was always to busy running around to do: I went to Target Field’s Best Buy gaming station to play MLB The Show:

Yeah, for one real baseball inning, I was that guy who pays no attention to the game and just plays video games at a baseball stadium. And you know what, it felt nice to relax a little in frantically trying to get to first fifty games in the season and then reach 444 career baseballs, I hadn’t had much of a break in the action between ballhawking, blogging, and schoolwork. (If you’ve noticed the relaxed pace of entries lately, it’s because I still had some overload left in me. I’ll be ramping the blogging schedule back up in a bit.) So yeah, it was nice:

For the record, I was the Nationals; not the Astros.

 

When I realized I was never going to score any runs because I had no clue how to hit in the game (yes, it took three innings to realize this),  I headed back out to the standing room section just in time:

That would be Mike. He and his friend (not pictured) are– besides myself, Tony Voda, and Paul Kom– the closest thing Target Field has to regular ballhawks. I believe they are both season ticket holders, but they only try to catch baseballs on less than half of the games they go to. Anyway, he was dressed in this get-up to pay homage to Red Solo Cup. If you don’t know about it, don’t worry, I didn’t know about the song until I got to Minnesota. Mike pretty much always has the hat on, but this was the first time I had seen him with the cup costume itself.

 

As previously mentioned, there was no action out on the standing room. At the end of the game, I headed down to the moat and got a ball from home plate umpire, Jim Wolf:

This meant I had officially “passed” my goal of 222 baseballs in 2012. Yay?

 

After which, I simultaneously tried to get the lineup card(s) from Jim Leyland and tried to get a ball from the Tigers relievers coming back from the bullpen:

It wasn’t because of my multitasking, but I failed at both. When I realized there would be no on-field demo by FSN due to Kids Run The Bases, I went around the stadium saying goodbye to all of the ushers I had met in the last month of season and I headed out.

 

One last thing before I get to the stats portion of the entry: my next entry will be a statistical recap of the season. I have a general idea of how I’m going to go about it alla last year’s review, but let me know in the comments below if you have any ideas for stats you think of or anything you would like to see in review of the season.

 

STATS:

  • 5 Baseballs at this game (3 pictured because I gave 2 away):

Numbers 441-445 for my career:

  • 223 Balls in 53 Games= 4.21 Balls Per Game
  • 5 Balls x 32,554 Fans= 162,770 Competition Factor
  • 62 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 12 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
  • 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls
  • 55 Balls in 14 Games= 3.93 Balls Per Game
  • 13 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
  • 12 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
  • 2 straight Games with at least 4 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 11: 44- 4:47= 5 Hours 3 Minutes

9/29/12 Tigers at Twins: Target Field

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:

20121024-131440.jpgWhatever. I was expecting NO batting practice, so any at all was just fine with me.

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:

20121024-135330.jpgAll I can say is it’s always a great experience to play catch with a major league player. I don’t care if it’s someone most people have never heard of, it’s a fun experience.

Anyway, Worth played catch for a while before heading into the field to work on his defense:

20121024-142601.jpgOn 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:

20121024-143115.jpg

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.

STATS:

  • 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

9/28/12 Tigers at Twins: Target Field

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.

STATS:

  • 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

9/16/12 White Sox at Twins: Target Field

How do I spend my Sundays? I go to Twins games when there is no batting practice?

Apparently, the Twins *never* take batting practice on Sundays. I learned this from various ushers. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Anyway, I was pretty much the first one at the gate, expecting there to be potential baseballs to catch, but I just had to stand outside for half-an-hour doing nothing.

When I got in, I saw that no Twins were doing anything. However, two White Sox were throwing, so I headed over there to the third base side of the field while changing my gear. Minutes later, I was the first person in the ballpark to snag a ball by getting Dylan Axelrod to toss me a ball:

Here’s a cruddy diagram of the throw- with a poorly chosen color choice for the arrow:

Then, because nothing else was going on at the time, I headed over to watch Axelrod and some other White Sox pitchers throw bullpen sessions:

I did this for about ten minutes, but I then saw there were Twins pitchers warming up across the field:

So I went over there to try to get a ball from them:

There was only one problem: after about ten minutes of them stretching, there were signs of life on the White Sox’s side of the field:

So I had the decision to make: go over there, or stay where I was.

For the “pro”s of staying, I had:

1. I wouldn’t have to move and regret it if I didn’t get anything from the group.

For the “con”s, I had:

1. I would be pretty much the only one with White Sox gear on.

2. There weren’t that many people period on that side. (As opposed to this side where this was the crowd):

3. I wouldn’t have to comet with a bunch of kids.

4. Since I haven’t seen them that much in batting practice, I essentially knew the Twins as well as I did the White Sox.

Anyway, even though all common sense pointed to going to the White Sox’s side, I stayed on the Twins side because I figured the Twins would finish first, and I could maybe get over to the White Sox side just as they were finishing.

Well, after he finished catching baseballs by running in football-esque running patterns, I yelled out to Tyler Robertson, and he tossed me a ball. Then, in the same motions I caught the ball, I handed it to the kid next to me. Here is Robertson walking away with the kid also in the shot:

Right after I took the picture, I ran over to the White Sox side. Much to my surprise, only one throwing pair had finished and headed in to the clubhouse by the time I got over there. Also to my surprise, despite this fact, I didn’t get a single ball from them. They just waited to toss the balls up until when they were closer to the dugout and I wasn’t by the dugout, so I missed out on all opportunities.

 

Although, it was fun to see Chris Sale talk for half-an-hour with some fans:

I like it when athletes don’t feel so above people to for even a little time when they have nothing else to do. I don’t think I worded that last sentence as well as I could have.

 

That was it for pre-game warm-ups snagging-wise, but there was something else interesting brewing in Target Field:

But since I had no clue what it was, I asked the teacher in charge of the operation. What I found out was they were a group of University of Minnesota students preparing to launch a weather balloon with a baseball attached to it signed by Justin Morneau. The balloon you saw in the last picture was the test balloon. This is what happened when they launched it:

Yeah, it went high.

 

Oh, and in between the practice balloon and the real one, I marveled at the work of art that is the Target Field visitors dugout roof:

That might not seem like much, but most dugout roofs are just slabs of concrete with paint on it. Heck, if you’re at Citi Field, they didn’t even put in the effort to paint it; they just put slabs of pre-made dugout designs on it:

In the pre-game ceremonies, I got to see the students inflating the balloon:

And here is the ball attached to the balloon on the Jumbotron:

As I mentioned on Twitter, I had half a mind to try to shoot down the balloon and try to snag the ball. Anyway, here is the balloon going up-up-and -away:

Fun stuff.

 

Anyway, this was my view for the game:

I didn’t get a third-out ball, because for whatever reason, Adam Dunn and whoever tossed the ball to Alexi Ramirez, who always tossed the ball away to a section that wasn’t the one I was in. When Gordon Beckham caught a line drive for the third out of the inning, I was sure I had a ball awaiting me. You see, before the game, I had yelled out happy birthday to him, and he acknowledged me by saying thank you. Unfortunately, he too threw the ball to Ramirez. As a result, the only ball I got at the dugout was a ball after he game from umpire, Gary Cederstrom:

That made three balls on the day for me. I then got to see Dan Johnson say hi to his wife and kids:

And then I got him to give me the whole bag of ball in the dugout. Well, no, but I got him to shake my hand.

 

STATS:

  • 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)

 

Numbers 425-427 for my career:

 

  • 205 Balls in 49 Games= 4.18 Balls Per Game
  • 58 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 8 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
  • 37 Balls in 10 Games at Target Field= 3.70 Balls Per Game
  • 9 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
  • 8 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 9:31- 5:06= 7 Hours 35 Minutes