As was my tradition toward the end of September, I got to the stadium before batting practice began and stood out by Gate 34 trying to get a long home run ball:
But then I went to Gate 3 about twenty minutes before the gates opened in order to be the first one in line over there:
When I got in, I quickly got Al Alburquerque to toss me a ball by being the only one in the left field seats who knew his name:
(He’s the one to the left of the group of two.) I then went on to miss a Torii Hunter home run ball. I tracked the ball about forty feet to my right, turned, and jumped for the ball, but it tipped off my glove and bounced to my side where another person got it. I was mad I couldn’t come down with the ball, but then almost the exact same scenario, so I started the exact same way:
But when I got to the point where I needed to turn and jump for the ball, I climbed on the bleacher, and thus had a much smaller jump to make and caught the ball. I then gave the ball away to the kid in the red. Usually he’d be too old for me to give him a ball, but he had a cast on his right leg, so I made an exception.
I then headed over to right field for the second group, which included Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. I first had a a near miss with a Prince Fielder ball. He bombed the ball over my head in the the standing room, so I bolted back and ran to the spot where the ball was headed:
But the ball took two bounces to a ticket scanner I was the person closest to the ball as the ticket scanner got it, so I stuck around for a second to see if he would give the ball to me; but I left when it became apparent that he was going to keep the ball for himself. For both Martinez and Fielder, this was my view:
And so when Martinez hit a ball that bounced off the wall you see in the lower left hand of the picture and bounced into the back row, I ran and picked it up. That would be my third and final ball of batting practice. I then gave the ball away as batting practice ended to a kid who had not tried hard but still had not gotten a ball all of batting practice.
As for the game, I was down in the “moat” of Target Field. And so, I decided to take a look inside of the third base lounge:
Considering how many times I had sat in the moat seats, it was kind of sad that the only time I had ever been there was when I was in the Race at Target Field mascot race. And then it was even just for a second since we were using it as a way of getting back to the -1 level concourse. Anyway, as I walked in, the view stayed familiar, since the door which I had exited through was immediately visible in front of me:
But when I turned my head to the right–which was much harder in a giant mosquito costume–I saw what I had previously missed on my last trip to the lounge:
Besides the overpriced food–which makes sense for the lounge’s usual clientele–it’s a neat place.
I then made it back out to the field for the Tigers infielders warming up. When they were done, I got Ramon Santiago to toss me my then-fourth ball of the game:
During the game I then played third-out balls. After several inning of trying, I was coming to accept the fact that I was never going to get one since I was playing the outfield end of the dugout and Max Scherzer was striking out pretty much every Twins player he got out. In about the fifth or sixth inning, though, he got the last Twin of the inning to pop the ball out to Miguel Cabrera. When Miggy headed to the dugout, I flashed my glove, and when he noticed my Tigers gear, he tossed me the ball:
And then the people who had been watching me go up to the dugout every third out and encouraged me every time offered to take my picture after I go the ball:
And that was it for snagging, but when the Tigers finally won the game, they had clinched the AL Central. So I got to experience my first ever postseason celebration:
It was fun in that I knew the Tigers were making the playoffs even if the Twins managed to sweep them, but it was still kind of not since it was the Tigers celebrating on our field. That said, it *was* my first ever time watching one of these celebrations, so I made sure to stick around for it. And with the amount kind-of-sad faces that stuck around, I’d say that was the general sentiment–except for, you know,all of those weirdo Tigers fans in attendance:
And so ended the Tigers series. Next up would be the Indians, who the Twins could potentially knock out of the playoffs. Three games down in the week, three to go.
- 5 Balls at this Game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away and somehow can’t find the Cabrera ball)
- 291 Balls in 61 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 26,517 Fans= 132,585 Competition Factor
- 123 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 28 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
- 175 Balls in 35 Games at Target Field= 5.00 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:18= 7 Hours 57 Minutes
Another day of the week, another day in the winter wonderland that is Target Field:
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:
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:
This resulted in me getting a ball from Brayan Villarreal:
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:
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):
and then bounced down in the standing room before bouncing back up in the air:
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:
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:
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:
2. There were invisible people sitting 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:
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:
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:
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.
- 3 Balls at this game (2 pictured because I gave 1 away)
Numbers 449-451 for my lifetime:
- 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
This was the season of three of the four players in the next picture. There was Jose the perfect, Justin the MVP, and Miguel the MVP candidate:
Prince Fielder, Collin Balester, Ocatvio Dotel, and Gerald Laird.
Carlos Guillen, Wilson Betemit, Ryan Perry, and Joel Zumaya.
Why?: The temptation would be to say their good offseason grade came from Prince Fielder. While this is partially true, it was not only him, but all of the players in the “Notable Additions” category that brought this grade to a B+. True, there are only four of them, but that is why it is a B+ and not a grade in the “A”s. Let’s just compare the two sides very briefly. They gained: One of the best 1st Basemen in the game, two bullpen hands, and an above-average replacement for their injured catcher who was an All-Star (I believe) the last time he was on the team. They lost: a declining utility player, a young underperforming utility player, an Outfield prospect, because they had a surplus, and an oft-injured reliever. These are some solid additions they have made.
However, there is a hidden part to this story. There are two free-agents still on the market that were Tigers last year: Magglio Ordoñez and Brad Penny. Both would certainly be more “Notable” than any player on this list if they were to sign with another team. If they both were to do so, I might downgrade the Tigers.
Also, if this grade were for the impact this offseason had on the next few years, it might be higher. I mean the Tigers have a chance to win the World Series, but the move will be more for the years when Victor Martinez, because the lineup will be a mine field to navigate for pitchers.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins
This scene was way too familiar to Red Sox fans last year. As, a result they overacheived by underacheiving (it makes more sense if you don’t think about it).
Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Brandon Duckworth, Jason Bergmann, Dan Wheeler, Andrew Miller and Bobby Jenks.
Victor Martinez, Adrian Beltre, Bill Hall, Felipe Lopez, and Mike Lowell.
Why?: Yes mister “my second dream in life was to play for the Red Sox” and Crawford were indeed big additions. Yes, maybe I am a bitter but optimistic Yankee fan but they also lost two big pieces in Victor Martinez and Adrian Beltre. Now, I would take the trade of Gonzalez for Beltre any day of the year but I would rather have Gonzalez nothing, though. The piece that really bothers me is the Martinez loss. This is because they don’t have a reliable cather behind him. Sure, he wasn’t the most reliable himself defensively, but he was a force in the lineup. One that will be replaced by either Jarod Saltalamachia (?) or Jason Varitek.
Though I am not sure why people are so up on their rotation, they added some nice armsto the bullpen. They now have, three possible closers, two guys who would normally be set-up men, and a whole lot of depth.
Now on the issue of preformance. If you have a fantasy baseball team, pick Red Sox players. Adrian Gonzalez is going from the worst hitter’s ballpark to the best hitter’s ballpark. He hit 32 homeruns and has one of the best opposite field strokes in the major leagues. Many of the balls that he hit on the screws and were flyouts in PETCO, will be home runs in Fenway. I pedict somewhere in the 40 homerun range with somewhere in the 50 doubles and triples.
Crawford on the other hand, has behind him: Dustin Pedroia, Kevin Youkilis, Adrian Gonzalez, and David Ortiz. Sure having Jacoby Ellsbury in front of him may lower his steals somewhat from what they would have been had he been leadoff but remember that he has stolen 62 of 66 bases at Fenway. Maybe this was from the horribly throwing Red Sox catchers but he is still comfortable. I think it was in 2006 that he stole second, third, and home plate against the Red Sox.
Predicted Record Range: 94-99 wins They have the best line-up in all of baseball. However, these records do not account for injuries that have not yet happened.
Any time your team is most remembered for a failure than its successes. It’s not good:
Why?: Although they did make some improvements, they did so in a way that managed to anger the other 29 teams for what may be years to come. Now, I’m not saying that it wasn’t inevitable but whoever gave the first big multi year deal to a middle reliever was going to be hated. It just so happens that the Tigers made that move. From now on, acquiring and developing middle relief talent will be changed forever in that it is now a more valuable asset.
The losses, although insignificant in talent could come back to bite the Tigers if they keep the injury bug with them in 2011. Although they upgraded the spot of fourth and fifth starters with Brad Penny and Phil Coke, they sacrificed depth when they let go of Galarraga and Miner. Now if any starter goes down (and who ever heard of a rotation going through the season completely healthy) they will have to turn to Mr. AAA instead of a proven starter like Galarraga. This might cost them just enough spots to be edged out by one of the other strong teams in the Central.
Also, they did get rid of defensive depth in Laird but took care of that by getting Omir Santos. Everett on the other hand, should have been kept. I know the Tigers like to think optimistically but when was the last time he played 120+ games. I’ve got the answer, 2007. Again, I like Everett significantly better than a AAA shotstop or second baseman or even Ramon Santiago.
Predicted Record Range: 84-89 They made some significant additions and are getting players back but the Tigers’ players do tend to ebb and flow (Justin Verlander and Miguel Cabrera). Will they finally all have good seasons at the same time? If so, this team has enough talent to win the division but the mean of the ebb and flow is the predicted range.
Next Up: Cleveland Indians
Tomorrow is a double header for Fordham. So the data from this game might back me up over part of the weekend. I will get the first entry by end of Saturday but make no promises about the second. I will try and get the player bios on the roster entry as soon as I can but baseball season can be hectic. We’ll see.