Let me preface this story with a few semi-related points:
1. My count should have been 4. I caught 4 balls fair and square. However, after my third ball there was a fan that whined to the coach that threw me the last ball (Jerry White) that “He already has 2 balls!!” I never forced Jerry to toss me a ball, I just flashed him my glove and called his name and he tossed the ball directly to me. I did not take it away from anyone, get in anyone’s way, and no one else really cared… until AFTER I caught it. Jerry then asked if I would give it to someone else, and because I was still new at ballhawking and didn’t want to “offend” anyone I caved in immediately and gave it to the whiner. Sure, the ball really wasn’t worth getting into an argument about on my end, but it definitely shows how people feel entitled to getting a ball. It’s as if ballhawks do not give away balls and are clearly taking them FROM others. So that’s one disclaimer.
2. I do “give balls away” but I do not do it in the typical way. Since my dad was always the one trying to help me and no stranger ever helped me get a ball, I had a close association with getting a ball tied to either doing it on my own or getting help from my dad. I know that it would have been cool to get a ball from someone when I was young, but I would much rather have had it come from help from my dad. Therefore I have made it a “rule” to not use my glove to get a ball for a child next to me (unless they are going to the game with me). It may sound harsh, but I promise you, it isn’t. I have on multiple occasion been the person responsible for having a child get that special souvenir at a game without me catching a ball. Instead, I often will use my loud voice to grab the player’s attention and get them to look in my direction and see me pointing to a small child next to me. I’ll then tell the kid to get his glove ready and then let the father/mother/guardian help them haul in the big catch. I do not want to be the “hero” tied to their first ball, I want that moment to be between them and their loved one (not a strange crazy dude).
3. This was my first Spring Training game, something I had always wanted to do, and I made it my goal to try to take in everything possible. I had read how it was easier to hawk a ball (multiple), so I decided I would try somewhat hardcore for one of the games down there. There are many stories other than ballhawking, but I will spend more time on that in the off-season (after 2012) or if there is a long gap this season (highly doubtful).
4. By now many people are starting to notice Trevor Plouffe, and rightfully so. I like to brag that I joined the Plouffe-bandwagon pretty darn early, maybe one of the founding members. Not only was I at his MLB debut, but as he was first called over the PA, I started a Jason Kubel-like “Plooouuuffe!!” call, which you could clearly hear gain in loudness AFTER I yelled it. Secondly, I had him sign my canvas, and it was a memorable interaction. I’ll keep it short, I had my iPhone in my dress-shirt pocket and leaned over to hand the canvas to him in the dugout. the iPhone fell about 15 feet onto the hard concrete and I was sure that it was toast. I wanted to swear and was so mad at myself. Trevor retrieved my phone and handed it back to me and was like “It’s OK!” with a bit of shock in his voice. I then told him it was good luck to have a phone drop in front of him, it meant he’d have a big game. I got a chuckle from him in return. Lastly, and this is the HUGE part. I won a Twitter contest that he held, a photo of the best “Delmoning”. It was a photo with me and my wife, my parents, and my grandparents. He said I’d get a cool prize and I told him that I’d be at Spring Training if that worked. So I found him at the batting cages during my first morning down there and he recognized me and told me to hold on for a second. He returned with one of his used bats and signed it “To Tony, Best Wishes” along with his signature. (I will post a picture of this at a later point, see #2 for details).
So now on to the ballhawking stories. I already told you about the ball that was taken away, so I won’t dwell on that any longer (it was throw to me in section 112 of Hammond Stadium by Jerry White), we’ll just call it Ball #2.5, aka The Redacted Ball, in this story.
Ball #1: I had just gotten into the stadium and positioned myself in section 112. Everyone else was in 114/115, but mainly for autographs. My viewpoint from section 112 was pretty good, I could see into the dugout (partially) and also take in BP from a very close position. Since I had just received a bat from Trevor Plouffe only a couple hoiurs back, I figured I could try to see if he’d toss me a ball. And then it happened… I had my first Spring Training ball, and my first ball of 2012. Trevor is an awesome guy. I have had a few more interactions with him, and he is always very nice and takes his time (precious as it is) to say a few words and treat you like another human being. (You’ll see him as my first thanks below, SHOCKER!)
Ball #2: Shortly after the Trevor ball I got another one. I cannot remember from who, but it was definitely not a big name roster guy, and for some reason I am thinking it was a coach of some sort. Again, this ball was caught in section 112 as I watched the HUGE Twins roster take BP. I wish I had more details on this one, I really do. This was my last straw, I made it a point to try extra hard to take detailed notes on the balls I snag from here going forward. It’s tough to take great notes during the visitor’s BP, especially if you are tracking HRs and don’t have people around you that know the roster. But there is no excuse if I get a ball from a Twin and I don’t know who gave/hit it to me. *unless I catch it outside of the stadium
Ball #3: I told you, I am ignoring the Jerry White ball. Ball number three is obviously the game ball that I caught. SCORE!! I like to think that I wouldn’t have got this ball if I hadn’t given up my other ball, because obviously there was an invisible cap of 3 balls for me at this game… NOT!! But I got a game ball and more than likely those people who were whining around me didn’t. It was thrown to me by Aaron Bates, a first baseman that was a long-shot to make the team, but was fighting for a AA/AAA spot. I was focusing on taking photos during most of the game, but as I noticed that the Twins were throwing balls into the stands after the 3rd out, I decided to give my hawking a try, and so I stood up, had a glove on, and cheered. Right into the glove.
I also received a few autographs that I needed for my canvas, but I have decided to do a “Canvas Wrap-up” post at a later date, and since I don’t try for canvas autographs anymore in 2012, I will not put my Canvas Update in this post.
So here it is, my thanks. Thank you Trevor Plouffe. You are my favorite current Twin, and the success you are having is WELL deserved. Thanks for taking the time to connect with your fans, it really does mean a lot to them. Thanks also to Aaron Bates. That toss up made my day. I have a part of a memorable game, my first Twins Spring Training game, SO AWESOME! Lastly, thank you to the great state of Florida. Sure you made me sweat, but I got to do things in March that I couldn’t have done in a Minnesota March (baseball games, golf, beaches, shorts, etc.).