I arrived at the gates at about 4:10, hoping to get there early enough to snag a stray ball that decided to take a few hops on the right field grandstand area. They let a group of 25 or so Season Ticket Holders enter the gates early (4:30) and sit in the right field areas, specifically hoping to shag a home run or two. I knew that if i showed up any later than 4:30, my chances of an “ouside-the-parker” would be near zero. Or so I thought.
At about 4:30 Paul showed up. We looked at each other a few times, both thinking we were pretty sure who the other was, but not 100%. Finally we introduced ourselves and started talking baseball. I am so stoked to find fellow enthusiasts like me out there. Paul seems to be in a similar boat as me, he new to the hobby, loves making signs, and lives in Twins Territory. He does have one major leg up on me though, he’s young! When Mateo showed up around 4:45, I definitely felt like the old man, but at the same time they made me feel much younger than 28.
Mateo showed up, his first Twins game as a member of our great state, and there wasn’t much happening. We all chatted, asked questions, and tried to feel out what each others’ game plans were. Then, with Justin Morneau more than likely taking BP, a ball decided to commit baseball suicide, it jumped over the seats, behind the merch sales-person, and between the fences that separate park from parking ramp; it had plummeted to it’s death on Interstate 394 BELOW Target Field. A few people asked some of the workers what the best way to get the ball would be, but they decided not to pursue it once they found out how long the walk would be. I decided to keep my streak alive as early as possible, so I went jogging after it.
After about 10 minutes of running around, I finally spotted it, rolling ever so slowly West on 394 (OK, technically 3rd Ave, but it connects to 394). I had to cross multiple lanes of traffic, and I am lucky that rush hour does not congest this part of the road. Remember how I said that these young guys made me feel old and young at the same time? Well, after I returned to the gate showing up like I had lost in a water-balloon fight, I felt old. I was already sweaty and the gates hadn’t even opened. Then again, I already had a ball and the gates hadn’t even opened!!
Below is a map of Target Field and the roads that actually go underneath the concourse area outside of gate 34. I had to run past 2nd Ave, nearly all the way to 1st Ave on 6th St. before crossing back over all of those roads many feet below where we were camped out at the gate. I think that this is by far the weirdest ball I’ve snagged, and most uncontested I will probably ever snag.
Here I am, looking pooped:
There was one more ball that ended up making it to the gates, and Paul nearly had it, but unfortunately it was not meant to be, the other guy at the gates made a bad play and one of the Season Ticket Holders ended up chasing it and snagging it after it touched the near freedom of gate 34.
We decided to take a before picture of the 3 of us and the one ball so far. Here it is:
Mateo would end up doing a bit more roaming once inside the stadium, spending a good amount of time in the outfield (LF specifically). paul decided to work his Mariners magic and hit up their dugout (he had Seattle signs, could you blame him?). And I decided to go to my trusty old area, the Twins dugout (wandering around the section 5 area, give or take a section).
Once the gates opened I was able to get a ball within a couple minutes from an unknown Mariners coach. I have it narrowed down to a possible list of 4 guys, but that’s not exactly the most helpful is it? Here’s hoping it was Carl Willis, since he pitched for the Twins and I can say that I watched him play as a kid. This was my 50th career ball!!
After trying to get a few guys attention for just one of the 5 balls that were scattered on the 1st base foul area, Munenori Kawasaki hooked me up with a ball. I do not know Japanese, but I politely asked in English and made a motion of throwing. He joked that he was going to throw his bat to me and then picked up the ball and so goes the story of number 3 for the day.
Only a couple minutes later, I caught John Jaso’s attention and asked for a toss-up. He happily obliged and then asked for me to give it to the kid next to me. As you know, if I give away a ball, I do not count them. I have nothing against those that do, but I only track the stories of the ones I bring home. With that said, I tried giving it to the kid and he said he already caught one, I tried insisting that he take it, since I had a few already, but he was more interested in autographs and catching them himself. Fair play. So that DOES count as number 4 for the day.
This was my view of the Seattle BP:
BP wrapped up and I was happy to be sitting on 4. I knew that I had a good chance of getting a gamer, since I was in the Dugout Box area, so when I thought about getting 5 optimistically, it was going to be a great day. plus, I still had the chance of getting that Jamey Carroll toss up right before the game. Five seemed very reachable. If I were to get 5 it would tie my second best haul of my career, just short of the big 7 I put up with my field access.
The Jamey Carroll toss-up was a no go, he tossed it over to somewhere in section 4. My seats were for section 3, but I saw an even better open set of seats in section 5. It was an aisle seat with 3 empty to my left. Now I was on 3rd out duty.
The first 4 innings came and went and I had no gamer to show for it. There were just too many small, cute children to toss them to. heck, I would have probably given it to them had I been tossed one. So either way, I was not meant to have one early on. Then in the top of the 5th, with teh score 2-1 Mariners, Dustin Ackley came to the plate with 2 men on base.
Notice how the ball never ends up in the seats? Ben Revere catches it as it falls back towards the field, tosses it to Jamey Carroll who then tosses it to Pedro Florimon. What the video doesn’t show is that the ball was then rolled towards the first base coach who was being met by the Mariners Bat Boy on the first base line. The bat boy jumps over the rolling ball and ignores it, so the Twins bat boy comes running out to pick it up. I stand up immediately and ask for it, and to my surprise he tossed it right to me, no hesitation!
My first HR ball!!
Here’s the path it took from ESPN’s HR Tracker:
I still want to catch one for real, but this will do. Not everyone can say they have a HR ball. I was surprisingly calm. I sent a tweet to Mateo right away, since I needed to share it with someone who not only would understand, but someone who was there! But in all, I thought I’d be more stoked. Maybe it was the fact that the Twins were losing, or I was in disbelief, but it wasn’t hitting me as hard as I thought.
I decided that I needed to mark the HR ball by taking a shot of the scoreboard when Dustin Ackley stepped up for his next at-bat…
He then squared around to show bunt for his first pitch! Don’t see that much from a guy that goes deep, show bunt the pitch after hitting #10 for the year.
The rest of the game went by with very little of note. The Twins added a run in the 9th to make the final 5-2 Mariners. Suddenly that meant that my home run ball was the game winner. Nice! but also, un-nice, the Twins lost and Plouffe had a not-so-good game.
(My view for the end of the game…)
I stuck around to see if anything else was going to go on, tried showing my support for Plouffe as he came back into the dugout to pack up. He was very nice and tossed me another ball, making it the 6th of the night and no longer a tie for my 2nd best game ever. I really hope things turn around for both the Twins and Trevor. Today is a new day.
After my 6th of the night I decided to look for Paul and Mateo. We met up for one last time and discussed our hauls. Overall it was a decent night, not everything was perfect, but the weather was beautiful and the balls were making their way into the stands.
Once I got home (around 11 pm), i was able to take a few quick shots of the small army of balls I had received.
The first is a close-up of the big mark on the “394 Ball”, probably from it’s rather high drop onto a dirty road/embankment:
And here is a close-up of the HR Ball: (What you cannot see are the numerous marks all over the ball; one big scuff from hitting the top of the wall, another large black, vein-y mark probably from the fence, and a few grass/dirt marks from the throw/roll in.)
And now a group shot:
Lastly, here are my game notes:
And now the big thank you list. Thank you Mateo and Paul! It was wonderful meeting you both, and let’s hope it’s not the last time we cross paths. Maybe a mini-ballhawkfest at Target Field in 2013 will be needed. You guys really inspired me to try to put in my best work, both hawking and now blogging! Thank you to the Seattle Mariners. You guys tossed up a lot of balls, and all of us Twins/Mariners fans appreciate that. HUGE THANK YOU to the Twins bat boy for hooking me up with that HR ball. Unreal!!