Minnesota Twins 2 – Tampa Bay Rays 4
Charlotte Sports Park – Port Charlotte, FL
March 19, 2015
Unlike Paul Kom (aka: A Piece of the Game), I had been to Charlotte Sports Park before… once. The last time I was there was 3/2/2014 and I put up a respectable 11 spot. Not bad for knowing nothing about this park, but could I replicate my luck again? I had already had a lower-than-2014 day at Hammond Stadium, so I didn’t know what to expect.
There was one thing I knew I would try… search the scummy pond for signs of (baseball) life. After all, last year I was able to find the innards of some sort of ball, and Rick Sporcic has had similar luck in the past.
Here are some of the finds that I DIDN’T bring home…
Those were the various stages of “ball rot” that were happening in that swampy graveyard. Since neither could be identified as an Official MLB, I “threw them back” (more like “catch and release”).
But all hope was not lost.
A Manfred ball already in the pond/swamp?! This was a pleasant surprise, and after some deduction and decyphering of clues, i am coming to the conclusion that this was a “gamer” and more than likely a HR (due to its place where found and how deeply it was lodged in the mud).
- The ball looks mud-rubbed (compared to other swamp balls and other gamers received this trip)
- All other balls used by the Rays’ BP were Selig balls
- The Rays’ BP was on their practice field, not the real stadium, where this was found
- The location of the ball was in fair territory and not too deep from the back of the stands
- A HR was hit during the game that carried close to the same distance
- The ball was lodged quite deep in the mud, making this an unobstructed HR “splash”
- There were not many marks on the ball, making it less likely to be used in BP – since most BP balls are hit multiple times and have scuffs
If anyone has any videos of HRs hit at this park pulled down the left-field line, please let me know. Obviously there can be no definitive answers, but maybe some deeper clues that I can add to the potential story.
See where these things can hide? Again, I pulled it from the mud – this is not the exact location, but a recreation. Between thick, yet forgiving mud and hard, bushy weeds, balls can easily get lost. I probably didn;t even find a quarter of the identifiable MLB balls back there.
The last of the “Mud Eggs/Gator Eggs”… these are definitely NOT Easter Eggs. This one was lodged in the weeds, not the mud. This particular ball is not still drying out, unlike the other two.
After wandering the swamp, trying to peek in the stadium, and roaming around like a weirdo, I settled on the practice field a ways back from the 1st base side of the main park. The pitchers were getting loose and soon the team took batting practice back there. This ball was from coach Kyle Snyder.
Once batting practice started I met a kid and his father who were Twins fans from Prior Lake (where I live!!) – he threw out the first pitch at the game before this one (which I got to see and was insanely jealous of). We were allowed to hop the fence that separated the parking lot from the home run fence of the practice field if any balls landed in this “no man’s land”. Thank you, kind parking lot attendants!!
Another Rays’ BP HR. All of these HRs were hit by unknown players. It was hard to pick up on 3s as you hop fences and try to peek through the green screen.
Rays BP… and we were only getting started.
The only downside? So many Seligs!! Think this one is a bit lumpy? I do.
Woohoo!! One more until double-digits, and the gates were not even open yet.
I am starting to wonder if this part was open last year. And if it was, then how many would I have snagged in addition to my 11?!
We are winding down, but it ain’t over…
The last of the Rays’ BP. But again, it ain’t over. I still have a gamer streak in jeopardy…
STREAK PROLONGED!! Thank you, Kennys Vargas! I was sitting next to an awesome little boy and his parents (think his name was Max, who was only 4 or so?), so I decided to give a ball to him at this time – his father was very happy and when Max returned with his mother, so was he. Little Max got two more and ended the day with three!! (And no, I did not count the ball I gave to him, since I do not count balls given away).
Speaking of Kennys Vargas…
Notice his batting gloves in hand?
Well, here’s a better look…
EXCELLENT!!!!! Mr. Vargas said that he remembered me! I introduced myself to him before the game (during Twins’ BP, which is why I was absent from ballhawking during their portion). I started to say that I was the guy who caught his first homer, but he already knew, even if his English was a little broken (but hey, it’s getting pretty good… much better than my Spanish).
Practice ball from the man in frame – Butch Davis.
The final haul:
I forgot my sunscreen, which can be seen here:
I am now peeling as I write this. Kids, don’t forget your sunscreen, not even once.
After two games in FL in 2015 the total is 23 balls… only 8 more until #400!!!!
The Game Recap: