I have had this game marked on my calendar for quite some time – though the exact date was not set in stone until a month or so ago. What was the occasion, you ask? The one, the only Ballhawk Shawn was going to be making his debut at Target Field! It’s hard for me to comprehend how it has taken him so long to visit the next ballpark to the West of his home field of Miller Park, but then again, I have only been to Miller once, back in 2009 (before the ballhawking bug gripped me so tightly).
Since I knew that Shawn would be in town, I tried to pull out all stops. First step was contacting the Twins (my ticket rep in particular) to see if I could get us in for early batting practice. I have mentioned once or twice in the past that the Twins let in a few dozen season ticket holders to view the Twins batting practice about an hour before gates normally open, but it’s based on a “lottery system” for the most part. My rep was more than happy to let us in – THANK PJ – and so we planned on getting to the gates early and entering around 4:15.
Here was the weather outlook as I got close to Target Field around 2 pm (screenshots courtesy of NOAA):
As a brief aside, if you want to look like a weather pro and get detailed – and TRUSTED – info for games, check out NOAA.
Yep, we were under an excessive heat warning and it was feeling like 105 degrees according to the heat index. This was easily the warmest weather I have experienced at Target Field. There may have been hotter games temperature-wise, but the dew point was tropical, as in nearing rain-forest heights (not an exaggeration either).
In order to keep cool, Shawn and I decided to hit up the Majestic team store. Utilizing the AC gave us a chance to admire the All-Star Game balls that we both hope to acquire next year.
This heat wave had me worried about BP, but as we still had over An hour until the cage normally went up, it was all conjecture…
4:30 pm – CRISIS:
With the absence of the normal cracking of bats at 4 pm, we waited eagerly at Gate 29 for the ticket reps to meet us and inform us of the goings-on for the day. It was at the time that we were supposed to be entering the stadium that we were informed of some bad news: NO BP!
I had been banking on this extra time to show Shawn the stadium and maybe add a couple balls to each of our totals before the gates even officially opened. Instead we were told that our group would be getting a quick field access tour – doing a lap around the warning track – as well as rescheduling of Early BP access in the future. No bad, but less than optimal…
As we sat, slightly fuming in in our seats, that when it stuck, …
Trainer, Perry Castellano, was finishing up his work with Caleb Thielbar, so I decided to holler out and get his attention, as he had one ball in hand. He looked up, noticed my leather flashing about, then threw the ball 30-something rows up into my glove. Shawn was hoping for an errant throw, but no dice.
I mentioned that we were a bit disappointed about the lack of BP, which lasted until we actually took the field and experienced such things as:
5:45 pm – Elation:
(OK, it’s growing on me, but the balls still aren’t nearly as cool as what I pictured in my mind.)
(This was my photo of the day for day #239.)
(Just some schmuck who has thrown a NO-HITTER, Mr. Ervin Santana himself!)
(Oh how tempting this was. This photo is not using any type of zoom, I literally could have touch all of these balls and if I was crazy enough, I could have taken them, too.)
Jamey Carroll, finishing warm-ups, had a ball in hand and tossed it to me. I totally thought Shawn would get this ball, since he was wearing a Royals shirt and hat, but apparently my voice got his attention first? Oh yeah, we were also warned very sternly by the tour guide that we cannot talk or yell at ANY players. Come on, it was Jamey Carroll, a former Twin, and he was done with warm-ups! Oh well.
(Here’s a view you don’t get to experience very often.)
(And like many great little-leaguers before me, I just HAD to write my name in the dirt.)
(Shawn wanted proof that he was not only AT Target Field, but ON Target FIELD itself. Crazy that he was on the field before even snagging a baseball at the stadium.)
5:00 pm – Sweat AND Friendship:
(Not exactly the best picture of myself – I cannot speak for Shawn – but as you can tell, we were both soaked from sweat, but that could not stop a good ballhawk bond from forming.)
(Before even snagging a baseball from his collection and streak’s sake, Shawn was able to rob a homer at the wall. Look at those ups!)
***End of Tour***
With about 15-20 minutes before gates opened, we were given the green-light to roam wherever we pleased. We ended up behind the Twins dugout and as soon as Dominic (the bat boy) came out, I started to chat it up with him. This was the first game for me after chopping off about 6-7 inches of hair and Dominic was the first of the regulars to notice this. I told him about Shawn and how it was his first time here. Shawn mentioned how he collects balls and was hoping for just one; that’s when Dominic gave us the signal to wait, and when he returned:
Voila!! Shawn was on the board with his first of the day, and first EVER at Target Field. I was now at three for the day, before gates opened, and without BP. I will mention and praise Dominic in my thank yous later on, but let me just drop a simple “THANKS!” as a placeholder until then.
‘Twas during the game that I acquired the ball pictured below. For much of the game it appeared that it might also be the only Twins hit of the game. Josh Willingham singled off of James Shields and since James doesn’t like a ball that hits the dirt or grass, it was rolled into the dugout by home-plate umpire Jerry Layne. Ron Gardenhire ended up with the ball and once the second inning was completed, I flashed my catchers mitt and was rewarded with this beauty.
(Notice Gardy on the bench in the background?)
After spending a few innings with Shawn and Paul, I decided to go back towards the dugouts in hopes of one or two more balls before the end of the night. My last ball of the night was literally placed in my glove by Jerry Layne as he walked off the field.
I tried to get back up to gate 29 to meet Shawn and Paul, but as it took longer than expected to say my thanks and good-bye to Dominic, we were unable to all get together.
I was, however, able to give Shawn a rather nice mix-CD before we entered that contained only Minnesota acts. I know that he likes music (as is evident by some of his tweets), so why not show him what the boarding state has to offer sonically?
Mateo: If you are reading this, I may be able to solve your recent “problem” of only knowing music that is played at ballparks. Let me know if you ever want to correct that.
As I drove home, still dripping wet with sweat, I took the last screen-shots of the day. Wanting to capture the “coolest” part of the night as well as the historical temp during the game, I show you exhibits 1 and 2.
That is correct. It felt like 100+ until game time, then by the time the stadium was all cleared out it felt like a cool 85. Many a pounds were lost; they fought a good fight, but ultimately were laid to rest in liquid form, dripping from chins, noses, and backs.
So it comes to this; a crisis averted by way of field access, a new friend that shares an affinity for snagging baseballs at Major League stadiums, and 5 more balls to add to the collection.
- Ballhawk Shawn – Thanks for being a cool dude and spending a sweaty afternoon at the ballpark with me. It was great finally meeting you in person as well as meeting your parents. Don’t be a stranger! I’ll try to make it to Miller Park in the near future.
- Paul – I’m glad that our mini-fest was a success. There were no shut-outs, and plenty of jokes/insight shared. I can’t wait for our 9/11 game!
- Perry Castellano – Thanks for putting me on the board! Also, great mustache!
- Jamey Carroll – You have always been great to me at Target Field. I hope you get a shot at a ring and able to notch your 1,000th hit very soon.
- Dominic – You have been so generous to me, my thanks are not nearly enough. Not only did you help add to my total today, but hooking my new (albeit Wisconsin) friend up with a ball was the coolest. I know that when I say a thank you for Shawn, I am not speaking out of turn.
- Ron Gardenhire – Thanks for the gamer! How I wish it would have been under happier circumstances; I really think you are a championship-caliber coach.
- Jerry Layne – Put the finishing touches on an incredible night. Thank you!
- Twins Ticketing Staff – Thanks for not only being accommodating under pressure, but thank you for going above and beyond! I know that you guys can’t control the BP session, but the chance to reschedule AND go on field was crazy-awesome.