Success!! I made it back alive!! I was a bit worried that I was going to have a rough time in the hot, potentially humid, and incredibly sunny Kauffman Stadium. While I was at work on Wednesday (the day before my back-to-back Twins games in separate cities) I took a screen shot of what I was getting in to:
The area in the red box is what we potentially were facing. It looked a bit grim, especially since I had not been “training” myself for such a feat. The closest I came to “training” was keeping on the suit in our house while I tried to pick out areas to cut off in order to get it a little cooler under the jersey area. So a half-hour in a 70 degree house was all I had as a reference point… and I sweat pretty good doing just that. I was also nervous because ever since March or so of this year I have developed physical panic/anxiety attacks, some very severe, and at times a couple times a day for weeks on end. I write about anxiety in this post (and maybe future posts) because I want people to know that it’s not incredibly abnormal. If I can talk about it openly, maybe the stigma will wear off and lives can be lived normally. Who knows, maybe the anxiety of just having anxiety will subside and future attacks can be that much more manageable. But I digress…
I have already told you about what happened on Thursday, July 19th at Target Field. Simply put, it was awesome!! The 3 balls and batting gloves were a very nice addition to may future man-cave/Twins-cave. I was a little worried that I might have had a better game on Thursday than I would have on Friday. I tried not to worry/think about it though, the experience of such posh seats and craziness of Bigfoot would surely bring memories.
The trip to Omaha at night… Then Kansas City-bound in the morning
We made decent time down to Omaha on Thursday night, getting in before midnight (left around 6 pm). The next day we got up around 8 (after falling asleep around 1-something) and left by 9 am in order to hit our first stop: Oklahoma Joe’s. Touching back on the anxiety, I know that my anxiety/attacks are much more common when I feel sleep deprived, and knowing that I was tired and didn’t get good sleep AND a full night’s sleep I was at a disadvantage. However, I think that the excitement and just being on vacation made my worries that much easy to take. We arrived at our first stop, Oklahoma Joe’s, around Noon. My wife and I split a Z-Man sandwich and each had a quarter of a half-slab of ribs. Here she is eating the ribs:
As much as the ribs are wonderful, the true show-stopper is the Z-Man. A perfect blend of bun, Provolone cheese, onion rings, barbecue sauce, and tender beef brisket make this sandwich one of the best sandwiches ANYWHERE, PERIOD. Here’s the story behind the ‘wich:
I know, I know, get to the baseball already!! I will, I promise. But when I go on vacation and make special trips, why not share the experience in detail and maybe suggest things that I see/hear/smell/taste/touch? I promise that the baseball trips are not that often (once a year) and I will focus on the baseball aspect. But with all that said, i do like to experience the city (in what time I have), I like to eat at great places (thanks Food/Travel channel), and I like to visit places that are uniquely that city! …Dang it, the thought of the Z-Man is making me hungry again. Seriously, go check this place out before a Royals game!!
In between our eating and next stop on the trip, here is the temp and conditions I captured on my phone:
Now we can touch on the baseball aspect, though I’m not talking Royals or even Kauffman. We visited the Negro League Baseball Museum! My wife and I made this trip last year (I wrote a catch-up post about this a few weeks ago), we stopped at the NLBM then, and because it was so moving and rich with history we decided that it would be worth it in subsequent visits. I was glad to see and hear all of the publicity that the NLBM was getting during the All-Star break (follow @NLBMprez on Twitter!!) but I was worried that once the ASG had come and gone the museum’s spotlight would be over. I still fear for that a little, but from what I saw just on Friday alone, the Twins fans were doing their part to take in the history and fill up their knowledge buckets in order to dispense what they learned upon the masses back home in “Twins’ Territory”. Unfortunately for us Tony Oliva was a guest speaker the next day and I heard that he filled the seats and brought many laughs and smiles to the audience’s faces.
I was also a little bit bummed out because the Royals and Twins wore Negro League throw-back uniforms on Saturday, but the Twins did lose that game, so at least we saw a W. One of the first things that you see upon entering the museum is a beautiful “Field of Dreams” with the best of the best on the Field of Dreams. Here’s a sneak photo of just that:
Sorry Bob (NLBM President)!! I know that you aren’t supposed to take photos, but I just HAD to share this beautiful scene! I hope that this drives at least one more person to go see this wonderful exhibit and keep the story alive. These guys were heroes and stars that never stopped playing the greatest game in the world, even when being harassed and threatened with pure hatred and racism. Let’s just remember that it was the guys in the NLBM that made it possible for us Minnesotans to celebrate TWO World Series Championships because of the help of one of the best spark-plugs the game of baseball has ever seen, Kirby Puckett!! Without the struggles of the first half of the 20th century, none of today’s game would be possible.
As you may already know (or can infer from my posts and love of the game and my collecting of pieces of the game) I have a decent collection of game-used items. My basement is not finished yet, but I do have ideas of what I want to do with it. I love music, so there will be a lot of music represented (CD/Vinyl shelves). My wife and I also like a show called Doctor Who, I am in the process of trying to find a way to transform a free pool table from Craigslist into a TARDIS pool table, so that too will be present in my plans. But the largest piece to the basement’s design will be influenced by the Twins. I am trying to collect a decent collection of game used items, specifically Trevor Plouffe (favorite Twin in a long time, probably due to his positive attitude and how nice he is to his fans, me included). With all of that said, I have been trying to think of cool ways to display my stuff. A coffee table that displays 5 bats under UV protected glass seems awesome (something I can even try to make). But I was still trying to think of something else to make my collection pop, something museum-like that looks very professional. That’s when I remembered seeing a cool locker-like display at the NLBM. If I can get enough Trevor Plouffe stuff, i would like to do it of just one guy. Here’s the visual of what I mean:
OK, so have I bored you yet? I know that this is mainly a ballhawking blog to date, so I should probably tackle that portion soon. Can i just show you a few photos of me dressed up as Bigfoot first?
We ended up leaving the NLBM and went straight to Kauffman. Luckily we found a 4 pack of tickets from a season ticket holder that also included a parking pass (my wife and I had separate tickets for the CROWN BATS seats, while her family – parents, brother, and his girlfriend – used the other 4 tix). The parking experience at Kauffman could not be any more slick. It is so easy to get into and so easy to get out of; I am really jealous of that fact since Target Field parking is not exactly fun/easy. We got there a little early, but pretty much just on time in order to pick up our Early Bird Tour tickets at will-call. I was hoping to visit the club-house, especially being an ASG year, but we only had about 10 minutes to spare and that was not nearly enough.
So during the Early Bird Tour we roamed around the Royals’ Hall of Fame in left field. I had already seen this from the last time we were out there, so I was bored and just wanted to get down to the field for some BP, Bigfoot, and Balls!! Finally they let us Twins fans free and wandered down to the dugout in a single-file line. I was super eager and of course in the front of the line (along with a little dude that wasn’t doing so well with the heat… he was puking in a trash can a minute before we started our journey to the dugout). Once down by the dugout i switched into my hurry-up offense… I went BEAST-MODE! Within about 3 minutes I transformed into Bigfoot and immediately saw Jamey Carroll in the dugout. I called at him, he looked up, and then his eyes got big and he could only say, “Oh WOW!” It was GAME ON!
After no more than 2 minutes of taking a couple photos with my wife:
…And adjusting my catcher’s mitt:
…And getting a couple solo photos taken:
It was time for…
The previous day on Twitter I had noticed that Brian Duensing tweeted something about “Thanks to all of the people who brought me Sugar Free Red Bull, I have quite a stash” or something close to that. So what did I decide to do on my way home from the game on Thursday? Yep, I stopped and got a “Total Zero Red Bull”. It’s some sugar-free Red Bull that is extra sugar-free or something. I knew I would be able to sneak it into the game somehow and just maybe I could get a ball out of it. Well, he was one of the first guys out of the dugout and so in my Bigfoot costume I shouted to him and showed him the can and asked if he’d trade me a ball for it. He took the offer without hesitation. Within only a couple minutes of being in the section I already changed into a Bigfoot costume AND got a ball!! EXCELLENT!!!!
As an aside, the reason why I am wearing specifically an Anthony Swarzak jersey is because he said, early this year, that he not only believes in Bigfoot, but wants to track him someday. So why not have fun with that? Anyone can gun for Mauer/Morneau stuff, but how about appreciating the other 23 members of the squad?
After watching some BP and talking with a couple of guys as they admired my dedication, i decided to get down to my seats. The doors weren’t open to the public yet, but the CROWN section gets in earlier, and there was already a guy in that area, surely I could get down there. After walking through the dining area and past the workers (who looked at me as if I were a ghost) I made it to section 1, right by the Twins dugout. After a couple more minutes of chatting with a few guys as they rotated in and out for BP, Ron Gardenhire came out of the clubhouse and was immediately met by Bigfoot! He chuckled and talked to me a little. He asked how hot I was, I told him to add about 30 degrees to the temp and then said that I would probably sweat about 20 pounds tonight. He said, “If you sweat 20 pounds then I want that thing!” I laughed and then asked if I could warm up. He had a ball, tossed it to me, I tossed it back, and then he tossed it to me one last time and I got to pocket my 2nd ball of the night.
The rest of BP was pretty uneventful. I made a bunch of the guys laugh, they talked about me and pointed, and it was all good fun. Since the section also included free food and drink, and I had only taken advantage of the free bottled water, I wanted to get some food! So during the lull of no BP and before the national anthem, I ducked down to the dining room and was met with more pointing, talking, and even a few sneak photos. It was all good, I knew that this kind of thing would happen. I was also incredibly happy to be doing such a stunt in such a civilized and snobby section. The fact that I was a Twins fan AND Bigfoot in a classy Royals section just seemed poetic to me. I never was rude, mean, or pushy. I cheered louder than most (OK, everybody) in that type of section, but it was only encouragement for the Twins, with an occasional appropriate joke.
I took advantage of a couple of open seats in section 1, row B, seat 1 + 2. The people were still eating in the dining room and wouldn’t show up until the 3rd inning. So I stayed there until they showed up. In that time I was able to get a gamer from the Twins’ Bat Boy in the top of the 2nd inning. Luke Hochevar was pitching to Alexi Casilla (who was celebrating a birthday that day), the first batter following Darin Mastroianni’s homer. Alexi fouled off a pitched early int he at-bat and it ended up closer to the Twins’ side, so the Twins’ Bat Boy was all over it. He had noticed my costume before and so I held out my catcher’s mitt on his way in and he placed it right in my glove. That was my 9th gamer of the year, in what was only my 9th game of the year!
To my amazement and delight I was even caught by a photographer cheering during Darin Mastroianni’s home run trot. The photo was even featured on ESPN.com:
After the couple showed up for their seats I went over to my seat and on the way there I was stopped by Steve, the worker in our section. We had met Steve the year before, and he was very nice to us then and even now. He informed me though, that the Royals do have a “no mask policy”, which I was made aware of that day on their website, and “the guys upstairs want you to take it off, especially with what happened last night. I tried to tell them that it wasn’t like that, but we do have to be careful.” I totally understood, and in the back of my mind knew that it would probably have to end at some point. In my previous post I kind of rambled about my anger. I was/am not mad at anyone in MLB or the law enforcement, I am just mad at one individual who decided to be selfish and stupid. His actions had an effect on my freedoms/liberties, and I was miles away doing something very different from what he did, but because he did something so inhumane I had to be stripped of this fun little freedom.
I’ll skip over that part, I’ve spoken enough on that subject.
After a long drought I finally was able to make my way back to section 1 (I was in section 2 for my regular seats). Those same people that were late to the seats also left early. The game went into extra innings, which proved to be the straw that broke the rich camels’ backs. They left in the 9th inning and I was once again in section 1, row B, seat 1. I had already snagged 2 balls in this seat, and as Jonathan Broxton warmed up in the top of the 11th the home-plate umpire, DJ Reyburn, was checking the balls in his pouch and really fiddled around with one. I noticed this and since he was nearly directly in front of me I started to hold out my glove inorder to show him i was ready, just in case he wanted to get rid of the ball. The suff proved to be more than cosmetic and needed to find a new home. DJ tossed it directly into my glove. My 10th gamer this year!
The Twins would end up scoring in the 11th and winning the game. The game itself was amazing and fun, as was the experience of being Bigfoot and ballhawking. The celebration that ensued after the Twins clinched the win was awesome. I was cheering loudly and felt like I was part of the team. But the story isn’t over…
As the Twins made their way back into the dugout after the celebration I was trying to see if anyone would throw a ball or toss something up to me. It turns out that Justin Morneau would be the guy to do just that. He picked up a ball and from the stairs leading into the dugout, peeked his head out, looked for me and tossed the near-pearl directly to me. Just like that, I was at 5 baseballs!! This was my biggest non-target Field game, and 2nd largest collection in any one game! As the managers took their time to clean up a few things on the bench I asked Scott Ullger for the line-up cards. He went into the dugout quickly, fetched them for me, and then handed them over. Bigfoot definitely paid off.
If the night ended here it’d be perfectly fine, but what happened next surprised me the most. Joe Mauer was being interviewed for the FSN post-game show, scoring the winning run will do that. After he was done I pointed to him as he was walking in the dugout and cheered for his great effort and delivery. He looked up and smiled… and then got closer and fist-bumped me… and then told me something to the effect of “We did this because of you!” I was amazed! I had never seen Joe interact with a fan like that. The awesome win and the crazy fan dressed as Bigfoot must have been a powerful combination.
Here is a photo of prizes scored from the game:
I would normally start my thank yous at this time, but as the vacation was not over, I will save those until after I wrap up my trip detail…
Here is the breakdown of how hot it actually was during the game. I was pleasantly surprised by how well I held up and how it didn’t seem that oppressively hot. Don’t get me wrong, I needed a lot of water and probably did lose tons of water weight, but be no means was I in danger.
I drove back from Kansas City to Omaha that night, not getting to my brother-in-law’s place until 2:30 in the morning. Not exactly good for the anxiety, and though I did have a few small flares, it surprisingly stayed in check for the most part. We ended up going into the downtown “warehouse” part of Omaha and enjoyed the little shows. I had some great peach bubble tea at The Tea Smith, and then I witnessed some rather odd art in a metal-works shop.
The metal art outside was pretty cool and pretty standard, mainly animals (goats, dogs, cows, etc.), but the pieces of “other art” or “non-metal” was rather different. There was a scorpion belt-buckle (that I tried to get my brother-in-law to add to his wardrobe), and then the unexplainable small metal figurines that appeared to be antique-ish – a family of African-American individuals that were either eating watermelon or working. That was very odd and extremely racist, I decided not to take a photo of that because it just wasn’t appropriate. With as far as we have come in the game of baseball (see NLBM experience above) it sucks seeing things like this that bring us back to square one. But hey, if you are looking for Dia De Los Muertos art, plump naked lady paintings, and metal animals, the rest of the shop has something for you.
We capped of the downtown experience with a stop at Upstream Brewing Company for what I like to call “Lupper” – It’s Lunch/Supper (3 pm meal). I ended up picking up a growler of their own brew of Root Beer. Yep, I got a 64 oz. growler for $8! I could have gotten two 23 oz. glasses of root beer or one giant growler that I can keep (and bring back for a $5 refill). It was a steal! the food wasn’t bad either, but when it comes to me and fun new drinks, I’m easily excitable.
I included the BBQ sauce that I picked up for someone from Oklahoma Joe’s in the photo as well. It only seemed fitting.
Lastly, here is a look at my ever-growing tower of baseballs along with the batting gloves from Thursday and the line-up cards from Friday. Career ball #1 is on the bottom left, #4 on the bottom right, balls #45-47 from left to right on the top row.
Now for the light at the end of the tunnel, my thank yous…
Thank you to my wife and her family for joining me for this awesome game. I hope everyone had a fun time and made a few cool memories. Thank you to the entire Twins team; players, coaches, staff, bat boy, etc. I talked with some many people that I cannot list them all. Everyone was super nice and some of the reactions to Bigfoot were AWESOME. Thanks for having fun with it and rewarding me with such a cool haul. Thanks Brian Duensing, Ron Gardenhire, Twins’ Bat Boy, DJ Reyburn, and Justin Morneau for the balls! Thanks Scott Ullger for the very unique line-up cards. This was historic because it was Casey Fiens first MLB win, job well done to him! Thanks Robby Incmikowski and all the camera guys that took a photo. And lastly, thank you twins fans for having such a blast with me. I did this for the team and I’m glad that everyone enjoyed it.