In 2011 I was not concentrated on much of anything outside of seeking autographs. I was asking people to sign my ticket and just having fun talking to a few of the players. Who ever thought they would be so nice and talk to fans so much?! I was still in autograph mode on our trip down to Kansas City. We had just got done eating at Oklahoma Joe’s (Z-Man Sandwich = Best Ever, No Lies!) and we had tickets for the CROWN BATS section at Kauffman Stadium. These were the seats that where you get all you can eat and drink and if you want to have snacks during the game, they are not only included, but brought out to your seat. Quite simply put, the gluttonous section. My wife and I were more than OK with that. Since we were traveling so far and found such a good deal, why not try for luxury.
When we arrived at the stadium I noticed that they had an “early bird tour” for only $10. Included in the tour is not only early admission for the tour, but it specifically ends early so that you can ballhawk before the general public is allowed entry. this was good news for me… as a autograph seeker. If I was smarter, I would have used it to my advantage and picked up a few balls, too, but I was not in that mode.
As a side note, in order to make this entry more about the ballhawking itself and not about the autographs and rather funny stories that could take up many paragraphs of this blog (and many additional minutes of your time) I have chronicled my adventures in what is currently an unpublished rough draft of a short book of baseball memoirs.
So on to the game. I didn’t get, or even ask, for a ball the whole time I was watching the Twins BP. Like I said, I could probably have scored at least 2-3 during BP, I was a true away-team fan and have a loud enough voice and a glove. So our story begins half-way into the game. I am 80% sure that it was Eric Hosmer up to bat (like I said, only within the past year have I adopted stricter notation; thanks iPhone Notes function!!), Carl Pavano was pitching when Hosmer (or Alex Gordon, only other guy I remember that it could have been) just got a piece of the ball with the end of his bat and it lazy rolled over to the Twins dugout, right into Ron Gardenhire’s hands. Looking back at the box score, it was more than likely in the bottom of the 5th inning when this happened, plenty of time for my voice to be heard by all of the Twins and especially Gardy. I had made a few guys chuckle, cheered loudly as exciting plays happened, and was generally outspoken about supporting the Twins. Gardy noticed that and rewarded me with a first of many kinds…
He tossed me my very first game used ball, my first ball from a non-MN stadium, and the first ball of the 2011 season! I was so stoked, especially when I saw the smile on Gardy’s face when he tossed it to me. It honestly felt like it was a reward for all of the cheering up thorugh that point. I only stood up and showed my glove, no yelling at Gardy to throw it, he seeked me out. Excitement was high, and I gave the ball to my wife, who quickly treated it like she was the mother bird and this was her precious baby-egg.
The ball turned out to be somewhat historical as Pavano would cruise to get the win in a complete game fashion, his 100th career win! In the 8th (after more cheering), I even called out Gardy after Pavano returned from the mound to end the 8th inning. I asked if he was coming back in and he gave me a slight nod. I cheered loudly and said that he should leave Carl in, if anything went wrong he could pin the blame on me. I got another chuckle and tried to keep my eyes aimed towards the dugout. Carl had escaped into the tunnel and I was concerned that his night was over. There were a few tense words between him and Gardy, Pavano was a warrior, he wanted to end his battle.
Pavano was sent back to the mound in the 9th inning, with no one else in the stadium cheering more loudly than me. He closed out the game and preserved the Twins win. I quickly turned to Gardy and he looked at me and we gave each other the thumbs up and I quickly cheered for him and Carl. He grabbed a ball out of his back pocket and lobbed it again my way. The ball was nearly perfect, it was like it had just had the last stitch sewed as my glove grabbed it out of the air. I looked at it, thanked Gardy, he gave me one last nod and then carried the celebration into the locker room. During that brief exchange it felt like he was giving me a symbolic game ball. I was the super-supportive super-fan and one that knew what he was doing and saying. In a year where not much was going right for them, they still had a super-fan in their corner. AWESOME.
On top of all of the madness this was my first multi-ball game. Kansas City was good to me. (This is also a major reason why I am returning to Kauffman on July 20th of this year; that and the relatively close distance, comparatively speaking.)
It’s pretty obvious who I owe the thanks to on this one. The biggest thanks go out to Mr. Manager himself, Ron Gardenhire. He is a down to Earth man that connects with his team’s fans, kudos. Secondary thanks go to the city of Kansas City itself. The stadium was great, the BBQ even better, and the experience was one of the highlights of 2011. Seriously, I have planned a return trip this year because of how well this trip went last year. Lastly, and I know I’ve thanked this person already, I’d like to thank my wife. She used her own vacation day to go to a baseball game… two days before her birthday!