It is with a heavy heart that I have to announce that not only is my time at Spring Training, but my days of ballhawking as a 20-something is over. The next one I am at a game I will be 30… THIRTY!! That sounds so wrong, but oh well, it’s better than being dead.
For the last game in Florida I was accompanied by Paul Kom. With over 1,600 miles separating us from out states, it’s crazy cool to have a familiar face with you at the park.
We started off the day meeting up at JetBlue Park – Fenway South…
After scoping out the cages, we headed over towards the practice field, except we noticed some balls that rolled out behind the cage, but still behind a fence. I dug a quick hole and slid this beauty out! A commemorative that I hadn’t yet snagged – two years old now!
After about an hour or so, we made our way over to Hammond Stadium (after hitting up a grocery store)…
We arrived 9 hours before the gates opened and no ball-players were present (and very few workers). Paul and I were free to roam the grounds for quite some time and each stumbled across a few balls. These three were “Easter Eggs” found around the batting cage area.
After eating a “lunch” (glorified snack) and also seeing a few minor leaguers on their fields we stayed inside the stadium from a little after noon until the game was over. The Twins staff was incredibly cool and relaxed, we even got to walk on the field (more pix in the mega-entry).
Once the Twins started to actually hit, I moved over to the LF grass area – home of my great luck on the 3rd. This ball was a bomb off the bat of my very favorite, Trevor Plouffe. As you can see in the photo, it hit off the nice new sign and made quite a mark before entering my glove.
I do not know who hit this one, but it was well to my right. I was still in the grass, but over in the corner by center. The ball was traveling about 2/3 of the way towards the pole and me and after a split second or two of deliberating, I broke for it. My running isn’t anything special, but I tracked it down and it was just out of my reach so I dove at the last second. I watched it into my catcher’s mitt in slow-motion and knew that this was probably the best ballhawking catch of my life (past, present, and future). Rounds of applause from the fans and a few players made me feel great (especially since I landed on my stomach and had a few balls in my pocket that bruised my leg).
Three in a row!! This “Unknown Oriole” guy can sure hit! (wink wink) I tried asking a trainer who was hitting, but they couldn’t tell. I’ll take a nice trifecta of snags on the fly… in the warm, soft, green grass.
Since there was an unrestricted re-entry policy, and a ball was fouled over the stadium in the 1st inning, I decided to try my luck outside the stadium, rather than hope for a 3rd out toss-up. In the 4th inning James Beresford sent one up and over the 3rd base side. It was between me and one other guy. Can you tell who won?
After the dust settled, Paul and I met up again and took some parting photos:
Speaking of stashes:
…and that’s it. That was my Spring Training 2014 adventure. I’ll be posting a massive recap, along with an overall “group shot” of everything gathered from the games.
-Twins/Hammond Stadium staff
-My wife and family