Kansas City Royals 1 – Minnesota Twins 7
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
April 12, 2014
Bruce Chen gave me quite the scare, and has even thrown a small wrench into the numbering of my ball collection. Before we get into the specifics, let’s cover the game and when the “Bruce Chen ball(s)” come up, I’ll explain what I mean.
Back in January (?) I won 4 tickets to an unknown future game at Target Field for participating in the Twins Hot Stove conversation. I did not know which game I had won until late February, once tickets started to be printed and single game tickets were going on sale. I was not expecting a Yankees series, but getting tickets for a game this early in the season was not on my radar.
I waffled back and forth, “should I sell, should I go?” and then asked myself, “who would even be available?” The short answer, these tickets were unsellable, no one wanted to go, and I should probably just go. The weather was kind of crappy (raining a few hours before batting practice) with overcast skies and temps in the upper 40s. The added bonus of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers being in the Men’s Hockey National Championship meant that the stadium was going to be a potential ghost town.
The only downfall once I showed up at the gates was the non-existence of the batting cage on the field. Was my free reign spoiled before it even began?!
With no batting practice going on, I targeted the relief pitchers that came out to warm up. In fact, I believe that I got the first three (and only three) balls through the first wave of warm-ups. The one above was from the newest father on the Twins, Brian Duensing.
See Caleb Thielbar and Casey Fien goofing around in the background? This ball was the first ball I saw when I finally got through the gates. Casey was on the field and this beauty was resting in his glove on the grass next to him. After saying hello to Casey and then watching his warm-up, this was a nice gift to receive.
Similar to the previous balls already in my possession at this game, this one was from Anthony Swarzak and Samuel Deduno’s warm-up. Thanks, Anthony!
Ball #4: The Bruce Chen Incident/Experience
As the Twins pitchers started to end warming up, the Royals came out and decided to taking batting practice. Many of their guys were putting on some great displays of power, but I was delayed getting over to the correct area. Once I got to the overhang in right field, I saw Jeremy Guthrie (whom I follow on Twitter) and asked for a Twitter toss-up. He said no, but asked if I wanted to play catch instead. HECK YES!! I threw a few knuckleballs about a hundred feet out and 30 feet down. It was a weird and awesome experience. If only I had someone with me to tape part of it. Oh well, no one will ever take that from my memories. Thanks, Jeremy!
After playing catch, I ran over to left field and tried my shot at getting a ball on the fly. After a couple rounds I finally caught this ball off the bat of Justin Maxwell:
…And that’s when things got weird. I asked Bruce Chen for a ball a little while later and he said something back, which I couldn’t quite make out. He then asked to play catch with the ball I caught. Being a trusting fan and wanting to interact with players a bit more, I obliged. I threw the ball to Bruce and he took it out of his glove and immediately tossed it in to the rover in centerfield. WHAT THE HELL?!
People were kind of shocked and “oooh-ing and ahhh-ing”. Bruce gave me a smile, said some words (again, not fully understandable) and when another ball came his way he tossed it back up to me and asked to play catch. I wanted to keep it, but I also didn’t want to back down. I had a feeling that he would just do it all over again to me, but I still threw it to him and he did exactly that – a second ball now “taken” from me by Bruce Chen.
Bruce was getting many laughs and a few derogatory names thrown at him (think phallic-based names). I was kind of upset at this point. My first real snag of 2014 and it was never going to be mine again. A joke being worn thin by a team that I actually don’t mind. This whole scenario was some weird dream playing out in real life. The real matter at hand? How was I going to count this ball (or was it “these balls”)?! I don’t count the ones I give to kids, only the ones I take home for the eventual mancave. But this one wasn’t for a kid; this one was “taken”.
Ahhh!! This was getting out of hand. To make things worse, Bruce was now shagging more and more balls, turning to me and telling me that I wouldn’t want them. He asked if I would be back tomorrow (4/13/14) – nope – and then if I would be here next month – maybe? – and then finally tying to position me to catch a HR. Mr. Chen even threw a ball in the stands to me, but a young girl jumped in front and snagged it; a little maddening, but I wasn’t going to show it and look like an idiot who wants to steal a ball from a young girl – saving a little bit of face in hopes of winning back a chance at a Chen ball.
Then it happened. With only a few more swings in the Royals’ BP, Bruce shagged a ball and I shouted quickly, “I’m really not picky at all.” After some back and forth body language, he saved the ball in his back pocket. Then as BP wrapped up, he tossed me the “real ball 259” that I now have in my red bucket.
Confused? I am, and this happened to me. I don’t think Bruce was doing this maliciously, just more a bit of fun and games with the fans. It was a totally unique experience, one that I’ll always look back on with a sense of extreme bewilderment. Anyone else ever have an experience like this with Bruce Chen or any other major leaguer for that matter?
Though this isn’t Joe Mauer’s first HR of 2014, it is a ball from that at-bat. In fact, someone in the section next to me got the HR ball (it bounced back onto the field and was tossed to a fan by Scott Ullger). This was was a foul ball that rolled to the Twins dugout towards the first base end. Eduardo Escobar picked it up and tossed it to me. I like to think that my catcher’s mitt helped me land this gamer.
After the game I got a slightly flawed pearl from Dominique. Since I was running around and trying to soak up the last balls before closing time, I forgot to take a picture until I was walking back to my car.
- Brian Duensing
- Casey Fien
- Anthony Swarzak
- Jeremy Guthrie – The Real J Guts! Thanks for my first session of catch with a major league player.
- Bruce Chen – Thanks for the ridiculously odd experience. You got me. You got me good.
- Eduardo Escobar