A Grand Don’t Come For Free – Balls 997-1001 (March 28, 2019)

Cleveland Clevelanders 0 – Minnesota Twins 2

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

March 28, 2019


 

What. A. Day.

Never did I dream this scenario would ever become a reality. Opening Day on my birthday?! Snagging 1000+ baseballs in my life?! Doing these things all on the same day?! This is one of those moments where it feels like I’m living a movie-script life.

The journey began nearly 10 years ago (April 15, 2009) in a Minnesota stadium that no longer exists. There have been many great moments, and a few of the worst moments in my life, but on the day I celebrated the completion of 35 trips on one rock rotating around the sun, it all reached its apex.

I still have a few baseball adventures left (snag a ball at every MLB stadium – 4 left), but this is the biggest “round number” goal I will ever reach. I know my days of running around for baseballs is coming to a close, which made this day extra special.

Also, how cool is it that this was the 10th straight time that Jared and I have attended Opening Day at Target Field together? We’ve been to every single one (plus the first exhibition game) and have no intentions of breaking that streak any time soon. To be able to share this day with my best friend, many other Target Field friends I’ve made over the years, a few new friends who watch my videos, and my partner… it meant the world to me.

My day began shortly before 10 am, as I arrived at the newly remodeled Gate 34. I was the first of my group to show up, so I took some time getting familiar with the new sight lines and recording a little bit of the video included below. Then during the 10 o’clock hour, Jared appeared, followed by Nate and TK. Jared and I recorded some of the podcast and then interviewed Nate shortly after, followed by my first birthday card ever received at a Twins game! (Thanks, Nate.)

The Twins ended up hitting a bit around noon. At first it wasn’t anything special, but then a lefty pulled one down the line and it rolled a bit too far to my left. The worker ended up giving it to a fan and that’s when it dawned on me that maybe, just maybe the ability to snag a ball at the gates wasn’t dead. There was a concern when the new design was released that the occasional bonus ball before the gates opened would no longer be a reality. But then it happened…

That Twins lefty pulled another one and it was carrying deep enough, and rolled on the new plaza turf enough for me to run through the gates and pick up the rolling ball into my glove. The security was pretty relaxed and I was amazed no one seemed to care that I run in about 20 feet past the metal detectors to pick up the ball. But that’s the story of ball #1 of 2019 and #997 of my life.

The gates eventually opened about a minute after 1 pm. The customary pomp and circumstance no longer holds its appeal to me. Just let me in, I don’t need to see the same former Twins open their gates (especially since Puckett and Killebrew can no longer be with us). I grabbed my puffy jacket giveaway and hurried down the first base line to see if there was an Easter Egg. Nope. The bunny hasn’t come to town yet. I guess I’m a couple weeks early for Easter.

I eventually got my first ball of 2019 while officially inside a stadium when Cleveland coach Victor Rodriguez tossed one up to me. It was a nice Arizona Spring Training commemorative. I kinda love the simple logos they used for 2019. It looks sharp and modern.

Since I was getting close to numbers 999 and 1000, I wanted to slow my game down and be more selective. I had hoped my big one could be an Opening Day ball, so I needed to slow my pace and just take in the sights and sounds a bit more.

After BP was done and the Opening Day intros/ceremonies had been completed, I got Miguel Sano to come over and get an Opening Day commemorative out of the bag and toss it my way. Ball #999 was looking great. The only downfall was that the “2019” in the logo had such thin font that it was easily rubbed off when it was mud-rubbed. No fault of anyone other than the designer. I was (and still am) grateful.

Then the moment happened. New Twin, Marwin Gonzalez, returned from his warm-up tosses and threw the ball right to me. It was not a commemorative of any type, but I didn’t care. The milestone had arrived and I knew that Marwin was a very nice guy to Astros fans in the past (shout out to Angel!). To share this milestone with him was pretty cool. It’s a great way to gain a new favorite player for the season.

The coolest part of all was the fact that Chelsea had just arrived a few minutes before that and got to witness this occasion. Watch the video below and you will see pure joy on my face and a caring individual who genuinely was happy for me. I am lucky beyond words.

Then Chelsea, Jared and I all went into the Champions Club area and relaxed and took in the game. We had discussions of baseball and non-baseball, and I got to see two people I care about dearly form their own bonds. Again, it was pretty darn cool to have all of this happening on such a perfect day.

The last ball that I kept came during the game. It was a warm-up ball from Corey Kluber that he tossed int he dirt. The home plate umpire tossed it to the bat boy who then tossed it into my glove. This logo was perfect. The “2019” was not missing, as the mud-rubbing was a bit lighter on this ball. This was the best way to cap off the day.

The Twins decided to score a couple runs shortly after and I got to cheer “TWINS WIN!” as the final pitch was thrown. One more ball ended up in my glove after the game, but that isn’t my story to tell (or my ball to count). Someone else, much younger than I, gets to share that story.

Ball 1: Unknown Twin (The ghost of Jim Thome? Probably Nelson Cruz. Maybe Marwin Gonzalez, Max Kepler, or Eddie Rosario.)

Ball 2: Victor Rodriguez

Ball 3: Miguel Sano (Opening Day commemorative)

Ball 4: Marwin Gonzalez – BALL #1000!

Ball 5: Bat Boy (Opening Day commemorative)

And here is the song that is referenced in the title. I can confirm that snagging 1000 balls (or a grand) definitely doesn’t come for free. It took a lot of hard work, plenty of free time, nearly 200 tickets purchased, and plenty of other costs associated with running around and trying to get baseballs into my glove. But was it worth it? Heck. Yes.

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5 thoughts on “A Grand Don’t Come For Free – Balls 997-1001 (March 28, 2019)

  1. Congrats, Tony!

    I appreciate the shoutout, and give you a standing ovation for getting to 1,000! Takes a lot of hard work and plenty of games/experiences. Well done, this entry makes me even more excited for us to reach 1,000 this summer! (76 to go!)

  2. Pingback: How Long? How Long? – Balls 1037-1039 (July 5, 2019) – Plouffe's New Hairdo

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