During 2009 I made a goal for myself, and not just getting a ball from a game. I wanted to go to the last Twins game in the Metrodome. That goal was crossed off THREE separate times, thanks to the unbelievable comeback by the Twins (collapse by Detroit), I was not able to celebrate it solely against the Royals on October 4th. Then came October 6th, game 163 against the Tigers; this game will more than likely be the most exciting and most memorable game that I will ever have the privilege of saying that I attended. The bad news, the Metrodome was not killed yet. the honor was left to the Yankees on October 11, 2009, they were finally the ones able to put away the Twins and force the Metrodome, a stadium that managed to go into extra innings, into a much overdue retirement. WE’RE HEADED OUTSIDE IN 2010!!
I then wanted to witness the first and last of each milestone that could be planned. I went to the first exhibition game (against the Cardinals), the first ‘home opener’ (against the Red Sox, and no, there was no snow and it was comfortably warm), the first regular season ‘home closer’, and the first and last playoff games of the first playoff run in Target Field.
So here we were, the first playoff game in our new home. At this point in time, i had been to Target Field so many times that it already felt like home. I had long forgotten about the
Dump Dome, and was convinced that somehow this team was destined for something great. We had a new stadium that was always full, Big Jim Thome was on our side for once, and surely these guys remembered how the Metrodome was ended! Heck, we even clinched our division SUPER early and could have chased the best record in the AL if we hadn’t rested some guys down the stretch.
I will get into the ballhawking in just a little bit, but let me finish my 2010 Twins Playoff rant…
The Twins were able to take an early lead in both of the games at home, but for some reason we just ended up giving up the lead and got swept yet again by the Yankees. It was so frustrating, we had all the right pieces, but the Kryptonite proved to be too much. there was always 2011, right? Twins fans could at least be stoked for that, right?! (Sorry Twins fans, you already know what happens.)
So there I was, in a playoff atmosphere, outdoors, at home, against the Yankees. WE were the home team with home field advantage and the YANKEES were the wild card!! SWEET!! With all the craziness that comes with Playoff baseball, there is also another great benefit, early gates!
I got to the park super early (not nearly as early as my opening day tradition, but still a bit before gates opened). I positioned myself in right field as the Twins were taking their BP. I picked the MN State Lottery sections because they only have 4 rows and the big guns on the Twins are lefties. I didn’t want to compete with the madness that is in left field, 500 people for 5 balls, with only 40 or so in good position to get one. It can really be a madhouse over there when the Twins are good and the opponent is a big draw.
There was only one other couple around me trying to hawk for balls, the only problem, they stayed super close to me and they were both older (more than likely retired). The lady was the one with the glove on to, and I knew that just behind small children, the people most likely to get a ball are older people, since they are so rare to see trying to get a ball.
The lady ended up snagging one that was thrown up. Even though I tried flagging down the player, she made a sound towards him when he looked up towards us and at that point my hopes for that ball were sunk. Then I noticed that her husband also ended up getting one, I think it was hit to him, but that’s not important. And there it was, my first bit of jealousy as a ballhawk. I was getting bummed that I didn’t have one. I was trying but in all actuality, I was not trying nearly hard enough. Up until now, I didn’t realize how much the real hawks try to talk to the players and yell out loud (nicely of course, as simple as using the word “Please”). I was still not a full on hawk, I had not added that part of the game to my arsenal, so to be getting frustrated and jealous was unwarranted. no one owes me a ball, and like I said in one of my earlier posts, some days even the best get shut out and some days the lucky guy with no glove has one land in his lap. Ballhawking is not completely luck, but it is based on social interaction and the complexities of logarithms not fully comprehensible to man. You can do things that get your chances as close to 100%, but sometimes the balls just aren’t there.
Alright, so now that I am getting jealous and bummed, I am really trying to get myself to focus back on batting practice. Look at who is up, who is coming up and where the other fans are. I was able to clear my head and on top of that, the older people were now content with their ball per person haul. I had the whole State Lotto section to myself, while the Overhang and Left Field were getting crowded beyond comfort.
Then it happened, a ball was hit towards my massive section. I just had to make sure it was deep enough, and that it was going to stay in my section and not bounce back on to the field. Luckily it stuck in the section right next to me and I quickly raced over and picked it up. My first playoff ball!! Against the Yankees!! Back when I was young I thought games like these had little to no odds of hauling in such a cool prize. But I had just made it work.
I felt like a real, official ballhawk. I was still new though, and thought it was only respectable if after you got one ball you would stop. So that is what I did. I was OK with this since the stadium was still a bit new, a few of the nooks and crannies still needed my attention, and the hot dog and scorecard weren’t going to find me and sell themselves to me.
thank you nameless old couple that challenged my young ballhawking patience. By no means was the jealousy warranted or in any way due to a fault of your own, it was on me. I was able to realize this and for that, thank you. You two also helped out because you were still sitting in the Lotto section as the ball I snagged touched down. Thank you for watching me and cheering me on when I got the ball. It felt very symbolic, that ballhawks should build each other up AND compete.
By the way, I really don’t like the term ballhawk. It sounds too dirty, mean, and immoral to me. A hawk sounds like they swoop in at the last second and take stuff away. It sound like us ballhawks are “looking around for something that just died” (thanks Craig Finn/The Hold Steady). The only reason I use it is because of how commonly accepted it is, and because I don’t have a better term. So let’s do our best to turn that word around, shall we?