Man, was I ever glad that I picked up a super cheap ticket for the game!! When you score 5 balls and pay nearly nothing for a ticket, the price per ball becomes AMAZING! I was getting a little nervous standing at gate 34, not because I was the first one and no one was showing up, because the wind was blowing in and NOTHING was going to reach me outside of the gate. I even had a sneaking suspicion that at 5:15 the flood gates would open, just before the gates were set to let us in and there would be thousands of kids that just got freed from their captor called “school”. Nope, not even close. It was a ghost town.
As a person who loves going after baseballs, this lack of competition got me excited, it actually turned Target Field into somewhat of a ballhawk-friendly ballpark! But I also knew that it wasn’t good for the team. (I just checked ESPN, they say that the attendance was 28,993, but there is no way. Plus, by the end of the game it was looking more like a Tampa Bay crowd.) I want to see the Twins do well, I really do, but when you are trying to catch baseballs usually when a team does well your ball totals drop since the competition factor rises. It is this inverse relationship that plays with my emotions; love of the Twins or love of baseballs?
I mentioned earlier that no one was hitting balls that could reach the gates, that’s true. The regular crowd of season ticket holders that get to watch BP would normally be in for a treat and get to walk away with a few souvenirs, but even they were having a tough time, since balls just weren’t reaching the RF seats (though if anyone brought their glove it might help, I only saw two kids with their glove and NO ONE ELSE!). What I was trying to keep an eye on was where the balls were landing in the seats, balls that would still be there when the gates opened. Of course I could hear the loud bang of the LF bleachers getting assaulted, but normally those get picked off before the gates open (save for 1 or 2 in the flowers, but no guarantee). I saw a few that MIGHT have reached the right-center upper deck, but never heard the smack of the plastic seats providing “cushion” to said balls. Just before the gates opened a few season ticket holders ran up to the upper deck to see if there were any balls up there and, from what I could tell, they were shut out. i am glad that I had already made the correct decision in my mind, because a few minutes before the people went into the 200s, I had planned on going down towards 101 and making my way towards the dugout box seats. I was pretty sure that an easter egg had my name on it. I had seen a foul ball that sliced well into section 102 and another that hit the foul pole and bounced close to the same section (if it didn’t land on the field).
Ball #1: So once the gates opened at 5:30, I sprinted over to the stairs that led me down 101/102. I thought that I needed to sprint because normally the people at gate 29 come in quickly, but again, Target Field was a ghost town. I got down to section 102 and found this beauty just waiting for me. (Normally I wouldn’t have the luxury of taking the time to take a picture like this, but no one was even in the section yet.)
Ball #2: After I picked up my first ball of the day I was stuck (mentally). Where should I go? I was thinking about hitting up the dugouts, it worked out very nicely against the Mariners in my last game, but a part of me wanted to try out the dreaded LF bleachers. It had been WAY too long since I last caught a ball on the fly. I wandered through the rest of the sections over to the dugout box, then made up my mind, LF BLEACHERS!! The decision was aided by the view that I had from across the field… only a couple dozen people tops, when a normal game would have the first 2/3 rows full by now.
Once I reached the bleacher area I walked down 130/131 and scoped things out. Most people in the bleachers were playing near the line, so being in 130/131 would give me plenty of space. The fans would also normally be heckling the players for balls, but I think the sound of one loud voice in a forest of emptiness scared them too much. I watched for a few swings and then worked on getting a ball from Francisley Bueno. I called his names a few times, then started asking in Spanish. He looked back, tossed a ball to a kid and then made eye contact with me, so I asked again, showing him that I knew a little Spanish while being polite. The next ball that was hit his way ended up becoming my second of the day. I thanked him (in Spanish) and then took this picture:
Ball #3: Toss-ups are nice, but I still wanted to get on the board the old fashion way. Lucky, ball #3 both fulfilled this request and enraged me. Johnny Giavotella (who I had to look up, since I was not familiar with #9 on the Royals) was at the plate and hit a nice shot that was well to my left, heading straight for the 130/131 aisle and barely going to make it over the fence. I had moved deep into 130 a minute or two before that, as well as up a couple rows. I quickly got down to the general area, but since the aisles at Target Field have those annoying railings, I had to awkwardly reach up and to my left as well as reach forward, since it was just barely going to make it to the flowers and NOT over the metal fence. The ball smacked my glove, and then hopped out, landing in a flower bed. Again, glad it was a ghost town, because i was still able to pick up the ball, but I was still mad and slightly embarrassed. It would have been an above average catch, but I thought I should have still made the play. I was so mad that I didn’t even want to take a picture of this ball! (OK, maybe I just didn’t have time since it was during the righty-heavy portion of BP, but it did deserve its unintentional punishment.)
Ball #4: Jeremy Guthrie. Enough said. I was familiar with Zack Hample’s interaction with Jeremy and knew that he was a friendly guy, so when he went into the bullpen to clear out the balls that had landed in there so far, I figured I’d go over there, chat him up, and see if I could land a ball (here’s the post that was running through my mind from Zack).
I asked him if he had seen any All-Star Game balls floating around, but he said that he hadn’t since joining the Royals. That was my clever way of showing interest in a ball, without being vanilla or greedy. I then watched him try to jump over the chain-link fence the separates the Twins’ and visitor’s bullpens… and he failed. His right pant leg got caught and he was trapped for a few seconds, but escaped with only a minor pant-wound (maybe the size of a quarter). We joked about it while he cleared the rest of the balls, and then he tossed the last ball up to me. Nice!! Jeremy is truly a cool dude. Here he is seconds after hooking me up:
Ball#5: With the way things were going, it’s hard to believe that this would be my last ball, but it’s the unfortunate truth. (I should note that I did give away balls after this ball that I don’t count or describe here, plus I came oh so close during the game, but it ain’t horseshoes or hand-grenades.) If I had to end my day with 5 balls, what better way that with one that I caught on the fly. It felt SO good. After making my semi-error a couple of balls earlier I was glad to right my wrong. There was no way that I was going to mess this one up. I was standing in section 130, 3rd row, last seat (basically in the aisle between 130 and 131) and watched it the entire way into my glove. I made a couple small steps back and forth, just to make sure I wouldn’t lose it with the wind, but the track it had in mind was one place and one place only, my glove. Thank you Tony Abreu, you hit nice BP! The rest of the bleacher folk cheered me on after I caught it, and I know that it was to be nice, but the catch was so routine that it was boring. The only noises that the crowd should have made were loud “boos” if I had fudged it up.
Shortly after that catch BP was over. I decided to take the picture below and then head up to the concourse to get my free Sierra Mist for signing up to be a designated driver. What would I care, really? I don’t drink, so it’s the easiest free pop you could ask for. After that I made my way over to the dugout box and proceeded to come up empty handed. There was a close ball that hit off of Lorenzo Cain’s helmet and bounced on top of the Twins dugout (short of my glove by about 2 feet) and bounced very high over me. But enough of the what-ifs, 5 balls ain’t too shabby. Target Field is going to be a ballhawk stadium yet!
Here’s the proof of how dead it was in the bleachers. This photo was taken with about 5 minutes left in BP (25% showed up maybe 10-15 minutes before that photo):
All balls together:
(I used a abbreviated version of my notes, since BP had a quick pace and I didn’t want to take a ball to the face. “Top” and “Bottom” only refer to the position in my camera bag.)
Thank you time! Thank you to Mr. Bueno (I love that last name! It’s so GOOD!). That was my first non-English toss-up. Thank you also to Jeremy Guthrie. Jeremy is a really cool guy and nice to us baseball fanatics, it’s refreshing to see. Thank you Kansas City Royals, you put on a very nice BP. Most importantly, thank you to the thousands of fair-weather Twins fans! The more you don’t use your already purchased tickets, the more balls I can snag. (This IS a back-handed compliment, for those of you who have a faulty sarcasm-meter.) Lastly, thank you Jamey Carroll and Trevor Plouffe. You guys hooked me up with a baseball, but I couldn’t ignore the little dude to my right; still thank you! Speaking of Trevor: Clear your mind buddy, things will fall into place. Loosen your grip and let it rip!