Cool Stat: My ball collection matched my age at the end of this BP session.
With the Blue Jays in town it meant one thing, big time batting practice. I knew that I wanted to commit to ballhawking this year and so I chose this game to really try out some of my skills. I was able to get off work a little early, camp out at gate 6 in order to be the first one in left field (home run porch). plus my wife was meeting me there just before game time, so I didn’t have to feel like I was holding anyone up, it was just going to be me having a fun time ballhawking before a nice night at the game… Well, it turns out that it was more of me just ballhawking and then we waited for a couple of hours in a rain delay before just giving up. We had to work the next day and I knew my wife was beyond bored and miserable, so the last thing I wanted to do was make her sleep deprived the next day.
Ball #1: As I said before, I was the first one in the gates and raced down into section 128. The Twins were wrapping up their BP and so I yelled at a group of pitchers to see if I could get a toss up. I recognized Anthony Swarzak in the bunch, but there was a guy next to him that I was unfamiliar with. I would later find out that it was a newer pitcher on the squad, PJ Walters. PJ had the ball and tossed it right to me. no more than 30 seconds in the section and I was on the board. At least I knew that I would not be shut-out, and I was also thinking that I might just get multiples and solidify (in my mind) my place as a real ballhawk. I still do not like the negative connotations with ‘ballhawk’ but I do enjoy the thrill of collecting Officially Licensed Major League Baseballs, so whatever that is, I’m that.
Ball#2: The Twins wrapped up their BP and a few balls were collected around me, but with a decent number of hawks (Jays fans) it was more likely that the ball had to be lined right to you than you being able to run a few sections over to catch a ball. I didn’t fully listen to Zack Hample’s advice, I parked myself in the first row, since I was the first one in, though i did get it right in the aisle to move easier. I figured with the high volume of people and the weird overhang of Target Field, it’s actually better to be in the first couple rows of the 100-level in LF. As the jays took BP I had the easiest HR catch of my young career. The ball could not have been hit more directly at me. I had what felt like 2 minutes to cast an incredible amount of self-doubt (“you gotta move back”, “move to the right/left”, “you better catch this!”, “don’t drop it!”, “don’t lose it in the air”, “someone’s gonna bump you soon”), none of which came true, I followed it directly into my glove for the 2nd ball of the day. People half-heartedly applauded and I felt somewhat proud, and yet mocked; it was the simplest of HR grabs possible.
Ball Help: In an earlier post I mentioned that I do indeed “give balls away” but I do it in a way as to not touch the ball. This was a game where I did just that. While the Jays were taking BP I noticed that I kid next to me (4 or 5 years old) really wanted a ball. When he didn’t get one from the Twins he was bummed. After 15 minutes of none through the Blue Jays portion, he was sure he wasn’t going to get one. His dad was supportive, and tried to tell him to keep trying, but I knew that with the lack of a booming voice, his chances of getting one without going into his father’s glove were nearly 0%. So as a ball rolled to the fence directly in front of us I started yelling at the Blue jays guys to come and get it and toss it up to this kid. After about 5 minutes someone finally came over, I kept yelling and asking with tons of ‘pleases’. The guy looked up, tossed it to the kid and the kids father backed him up and made the catch for him. I know that without my voice and constant asking this ball would have likely been tossed to either a different fan with a loud voice, or just tossed back into the bucket of balls. The kid was overjoyed and his dad was proud of him. It was pretty cool seeing that magic happen. It’s exactly what I tried chasing a few times with my own dad.
Ball #3: This would turn out to be my last of the night, but my first time I ever caught more than 2 balls in Target Field. I had already caught one in sections 128 and 130 on this day, it was only fitting that I added 129 to the mix. Unlike ball #2, I knew exactly who hit this one, Edwin Encarnacion. Also, unlike #2, I had to move quickly and didn’t get this one on the fly, it was a section over and the person who appeared to have it ended up playing too shallow and had it hit the glove and land a couple rows behind them. It was a good thing that I ‘backed them up’, at least for my benefit. I had a toss-up, one on the fly, and then a jump-ball that felt like a real ‘hawk ball’ if there is such a ball. I still have never stolen a ball or gotten in someone’s way for a ball, but this one was one of the less pretty ways to get a ball. Someone’s gotta pick them up though, right?
My thank you list includes PJ Walters (and Anthony Swarzak, since those two seemed tight that game), the Blue Jays roster for the insane power they possess, and to the Target Field Grounds Crew. Obviously the stories above detail why I thanked those players, but the Grounds Crew at least made it a little entertaining to watch them cover and uncover the field. Plus, thank you to the meteorologist who let the teams take BP and not getting an trigger happy and cancelling it due to imminent storms on the horizon.