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:
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:
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.
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.
- 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
It was the late afternoon, and I was back to Target Field for my second game of Fan Appreciation Weekend:
When I got in, all I can say is: I love Fox’s Saturday game-of-the-week:
Coming into this series, I figured I would have one game with batting practice (Friday) and two without (Saturday and Sunday). Because of Fox, this game got moved to 3:00 from its regular time of 12:00, thus making it so the cage was up when I got in– meaning their *would* be batting practice.
Except, on further inspection, it would only be the Tigers taking batting practice:
As you can see, I was behind the Tigers’ dugout. So when Danny Worth came out with a baseball but no throwing partner, I–as I do with most players– half-jokingly asked him if he wanted to play catch. Upon me asking, he threw me the ball. We ended up having a 5-minute catch that ended in me throwing an extremely bad slider. Here he is going out to throw after his partner showed up:
Anyway, Worth played catch for a while before heading into the field to work on his defense:
On his way to second base, he hooked me up with not the ball we played catch with but a different ball. I promptly gave it away to a kid by the dugout. (Not the one in the orange in the previous picture.)
After that, I headed down the line to try to get a ball from the Tigers’ pitchers who were warming up:
Except, if you can see, the two players closest to me were the Tigers’ two bullpen catchers, Scott Pickens and another one not on the roster. When Scott Pickens finished throwing, I asked him for the ball and he gladly obliged:
After that, I headed up to the left field bleachers for Miguel Cabrera’s group:
And this was the view to my left:
And this was the view to my left:
Unlike the previous day, the Tigers were indeed hitting balls to the first level in left field. Unfortunately, I ended up with the same amount of baseballs after this group as I did the previous day: zero. The guy you see in the orange in the last picture was right on the staircase I wanted to be on. In addition to that, by the way he moved in the bleachers, I could tell this wasn’t his first game trying to catch baseballs. In other words: he had range. This range resulted me in having to be a full section away from him if I hoped to catch anything, and the Tigers hit all of their baseballs outside of my range as a result.
In the next group, I headed over to right field as it was highlighted by Andy Dirks and Don Kelly (two lefties). While I was out in the standing room, I got this ball off the bat of Kelly:
Right off his bat, it bounced off the second deck you see in the picture. As I was running back to see where it was going, it was bouncing down the stairs. However, I wasn’t the only one chasing after the ball; there was actually another guy who had me beat as it went down the stairs. What happened was he took the wrong route to the ball. Before I explain his mistake, here is the ball’s path:
The ball bounced behind this souvenir stand. The other guy ran directly after the ball, going behind the stand as well. Meanwhile, I knew the concrete behind the stand in addition to the ball’s trajectory meant the ball would be most quickly reached by going in front of the stand, so I did that and awaited the ball like it was a routine ground ball.
During my time in right field, I was alternating between standing in the actual seats and the standing room itself. In my “actual seat” portion of batting practice, I convinced Brayan Villarreal to toss me a ball. Actually, I think “convinced” is too active a word. I pretty much tipped my Tigers cap at him when he looked my way and he tossed me the next ball he fielded:
That would be it for batting practice. Four balls was good, but there was almost certainly not going to be batting practice the next day, so if I stayed where I was for the day, I would have had to get five balls the final day to get to my goal of 444 career baseballs. As much as I don’t like to doubt what I can and can’t do, I preferred my chances of getting to my goal if I got as many baseballs as I could this day and not have to rely on a ridiculous non-BP day to get to my goal. Where I’m going with in all of this is that this was my view for position player pre-game warm-ups. Except there was one problem:
There were three baseballs brought out, but only one person brought his glove out. Thankfully, Austin Jackson righted this problem by tossing the two excess baseballs into the crowd even though no one played catch with them (one of many examples I have seen of him being a nice guy):
For those math majors of you at home, you’ll know that was my fifth ball of the day. This is great considering I didn’t expect to have any batting practice. What’s even better? This was my view for the game:
I didn’t get anything there, but there was a funny aspect of this game: It was the end of September in Minnesota, yet it was very warm. As I write this, Minnesota has shown its much cooler side (it’s 45 degrees), but at the time, it was so hot I had an excuse to finally buy a bottle (can?) of Harmon Killebrew root beer:
It was probably the best root beer I’ve ever had (but still not worth the $4.50 I paid for it…even if root beer is my favorite type of soda). Anyway, that was it for the day. It would leave me at 440 career baseballs. I would return the next day to attempt to get four baseballs in a BP-less day to reach my season’s goal of 222 baseballs I set in this entry.
- 5 Baseballs at this game (4 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 436-440 for my lifetime:
- 218 Balls in 52 Games= 4.19 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 32,839 Fans= 164,195 Competition Factor
- 61 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 11 straight Games with at least 2-3 Balls
- 50 Balls in 13 Games at Target Field= 3.85 Balls Per Game
- 12 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- 11 straight Games with at least 3 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 11:07- 7:12= 8 Hours 5 Minutes