Dear Major League Baseball,
I love you. I dreamt of being on the front of a Topps baseball card, of playing on an all-star team, and even of winning a World Series ring. Unless something goes horribly wrong with your league/players or something AMAZING happens to my body/arm, I will not live these dreams. However, I still have dreams of being around baseball. What other sport blends history, statistics, romance, and scandals so perfectly? The greatest curses and the most sacred of numbers are found in America’s true pastime.
So here it is, my pitch to you. I know that I only get a finite number of pitches, let’s hope my “stuff” is magical and electric…
This is where it all stems from; my definition of a “dream job.” There are few things I enjoy more than road trips and baseball. If I could somehow turn that into a job? Perfection. So, MLB, the ball’s in your court, nay, the ball’s in your hand… let me hit a home run!
A weekly special to be played before/after MLB Network’s game of the week which shows what the typical road-tripper/vacationer can do in that town and what the park has to offer someone from out of town. Every single city has its own unique flavor, places to visit, things to see, and areas that might otherwise go unnoticed. Meeting some fans and life-long residents of that area could give such a deep look at each of the 30 clubs’ territory.
Then there is the stadium… Highlight the stadium tours, places to visit in and around the stadium, and cover any unique sight-lines/seats the park has to offer. I am sure each club would absolutely LOVE to get information out to their visitors that they have tours or other special activities that they offer in addition to their standard baseball ticket. That’s the beauty of baseball, uniform rules for a game played on non-uniform fields (each one has different dimensions, characteristics, and history).
It’s really that simple.
And what would make this even more perfect?! If I could get a tiny house to pull behind me so that I could live on the road while doing this whole experiment. I’d love to not have to stay in different hotels every day and have a “home base” to come back to night after night. Plus, my little 60 pound lap dog needs a safe place to stay – I don’t want to be separated from her.
The overhead seems low, just production and scheduling being the large costs. The talent (me, my dog, and the crew) would be pretty cheap; while the settings would essentially be free – it is nothing more than a show that advertises each MLB club and the MLB as a whole. Look at the popularity of HGTV, the Travel Channel, and other networks (Food Channel, CNN, etc.). All of those networks do “reality-based” shows that are dedicated to travel and living a new way in the technology-era. Surely sponsorship would be easy to incorporate, too. The tiny house can have logos and have its own Instagram to track its whereabouts – and have fans take their picture in front.
As for the ability to keep this a long-running show, it should be possible to not only get the base 30 episodes (one for each club), but continue that into additional seasons/specials. The playoffs offer a completely new experience – doing a “near-live” episode before one game in each of the series for a mini-episode that takes a look at each stadium in “playoff mode” would be a good way to keep the brand in recognition into the off-season. This mini-episode could then be placed strategically during breaks, rain-delays, or on the numerous networks’ pre-game shows (TBS and Fox) to showcase MLB’s original content.
A second season is still viable because most, if not all, cities have more than enough to fit multiple hours-worth of content showcasing their attractions. Plus, if performing well (meeting/exceeding expectations), maybe local celebrities or current/former players would also like to become involved. Think of it like This Week In Baseball meets Travel Channel. (Post/sell this to a streaming service at the end of the season and you have even more revenue, or at least the ability to co-produce to spread the costs/risk.)
So, Mr. Manfred (and the MLB marketing and PR departments), what do you think? Do you want to produce my dream?
Similar to a real father, I have become a little nostalgic and even a little sad knowing and seeing my littlest one grow up. Evelyn Nibbler has become a full-grown, 60 pound, lap dog. I am so happy that she snuggles with me still and that she is super friendly to everyone, but what happened to her time as a puppy?! Time travels too fast; hopefully her and I can slow it down a little and enjoy the days to come just a little bit more.
Here’s to the last remaining days of being a one-year-old, Evie. I cannot wait to celebrate your birthday on August 12th and hope you live a good life well into your teens.
I love you, Evie. Thanks for making me smile and helping me through the rough times while also creating a bunch of good times.
With the personal chaos that has defined 2016, so too has the soundtrack mirrored said chaos. I have gravitated towards both extreme ends – diving deep into my despair then doing a complete 180 and hoping that my life can spew even a gram of the happiness expressed in a pop song. Life, death, regrowth, anger, acceptance, and escape are all part of what defines the list below…
The best music of 2016… (so far)
10. Mogwai – “Atomic”
Technically a soundtrack to a documentary film, this album definitely reflects the unstable nature of atomic energy, while exuding the life-giving nature of atoms. Not fully chaotic, this controlled experiment still hits the highs and lows expected of the godfathers of post-rock.
Stand-out track: Ether
9. Radiohead – “A Moon Shaped Pool”
Admittedly, my opinion regarding Radiohead is one of confusion at best. They have always seemed a bit pretentious and overrated (at least in the last few albums). I liked a handful of songs coming into this LP, but upon hearing ‘True Love Waits’ I could no longer deny this group. The simplicity is perfect, the emotions real, and the execution spot on.
Stand-out track: True Love Waits
8. Tegan & Sara – “Love You To Death”
On the opposite end of the spectrum from Radiohead are Tegan & Sara – the soft spot in my heart for them will more than likely never harden. T&S 2.0 took a little getting used to, but I am now completely fine with the new pop musings from this Canadian duo. Plus, ‘100x’ really speaks to my personal chaos in my life now.
Stand-out track: 100x
7. Beyoncé – “Lemonade”
I gave pop a bad image in my head. I liked the fringe pop artists (Kate Nash, Lily Allen, etc.) and even the pop rappers (Kanye, Jay-Z, etc.), but almost no Top 40 stuff. But then Beyoncé had to release this gem. Again, the personal chaos and hurt in my life led me to this album and never did I imagine I would ever identify with the Queen herself… But here I am. ‘Hold Up’ and ‘Sorry’ are incredible. Period.
Stand-out track: Hold Up
6. Anohni – “Hopelessness”
I had one Antony and the Johnsons album before picking up this solo(-ish) release. Even though I have had that one previous album (“The Crying Light”), I never really dove into it. But my search for comfort and peace led me back to that album and then into the arms of her newest journey. Antony/Anohni has such a strong political voice on this album, and even though I couldn’t see her voice paired with poppy-electronic beats, it worked. I stand behind so much of what she has to say and what she believes in; the hopelessness in our current “democracy” is a mutual feeling.
Stand-out track: 4 Degrees
5. Nada Surf – “You Know Who You Are”
These guys just keep maturing in such a peaceful and sonically pleasing way. There isn’t much that is new in terms of innovation or sound, but there is something so pleasing and rewarding when you can listen to a pop-rock group in their 40s and identify in a mature way with their lyrics. Matthew Caws seems like he wrote an album not focused on the break-up, but that strange transition period right after – the one where you find yourself, make plans and goals, and look back to hopefully learn a thing or two for next time.
Stand-out track: Victory’s Yours
4. Conrad Keely – “Original Machines”
Though this first solo release is more of a collection of songs than a standard album, the flow and path seem to be well representative of Conrad himself. Being an artist with the pen/pencil/brush as well, this album seems like a glimpse into his sketch pad of sonic portraits/paintings. At two minutes a song, even if you dislike a track (which I don’t) you don’t have to skip much to see the next sketch. Many of the ideas on here are reflective and peaceful; a true help for my running mind.
Stand-out track: Warm Insurrection
3. Death Grips – “Bottomless Pit”
Again. They did it AGAIN! This band will never release a bad album. They just won’t. Stuck between The Money Store and No Love Deep Web, these songs revisit what “poppy” side Death Grips may have. Don’t get me wrong, these tracks still come in hard and at your face, but they are also some of the catchiest and straightforward that this group could possibly make. Need to unleash and let your energy/crazy side out? Just put on “Giving Bad People Good Ideas”; it’s like a workout in 3 minutes.
Stand-out track: Giving Bad People Good Ideas
2. Weezer – “Weezer” (aka: The White Album)
The fourth self-titled release reveals that maybe, just maybe, Weezer is back? I’m a bit snake-bitten to commit to that statement, but for this batch of 10 songs the case can be made. Think of a great summer pop-rock sound and add a heaping pile of California to it (beach, cool kids, mellow attitude, and reflective hippie mantras). Once you have those pieces add some lyrics with personal substance to the mix (Thanks, Rivers!) and you have a very strong Weezer album.
Stand-out track: King of the World
1. David Bowie – “Blackstar”
While true on some levels that every song and every album is a work of art, not many can even begin to compare to this definition of the word MASTERPIECE. This album had love from day one, but by day two the artist who created it left planet Earth. The lyrics, which were already dark and deep, carried an even heavier and clearer meaning. This was Bowie’s farewell gift, his performance art piece of the grandest of scales. The title track will be the best song I hear this year, and probably in the running for best of the decade. I also do not see how another album could displace this from the top of 2016’s list.
Stand-out track: Blackstar
I have also revisited or been introduced to some music that wasn’t released in 2016. For more of what I am listening to and what is stuck in my ears this year, check out the list below.
“New” artists/albums I’ve fallen in love with in 2016:
Grimes – This is the kind of “weird pop” I love.
Antony and the Johnsons – See #6 above.
Beyoncé – See #7 above.
David Bowie – I liked his singles, but after Blackstar I decided to dig deeper.
Low – Ones and Sixes just kept growing into 2016.
Radiohead – Maybe A Moon Shaped Pool will be a launching pad?
Funkadelic – Maggot Brain. Enough said.
Beach Boys – The 50th anniversary of Pet Sounds had me revisiting just how beautiful those vocal harmonies and performances are.
Suicidal Tendencies – Their self-titles release had me opening my eyes towards punk sounds. ‘Institutionalized’ is an amazingly awesome tune.
Godspeed You Black Emperor! – Exploring more of that pleasurable post-rock sound, I picked up “F♯ A♯ ∞” and took a cool western trip.
Noose – A vegan straightedge hardcore band from Chicago?! Count me in.
And of course, the day after I release this list, a new album drops that could have easly cracked the top ten…
#?. Krishna – “Ascend to Nothing”
The collaboration between Dead Neanderthals and Drvg Cvltvre has been brewing for quite some time. Almost a year ago they shared the stage and made an experimental trance unlike anything the majority of my readers will have heard in their lifetime. I do not exaggerate; it’s a style that few have ever heard. Dead Neanderthals are an experimental jazz/grind-core sax/drum combo and Drvg Cvltvre is a self-described blend of “doomy, dark house and techno”. Together they are Krishna – a force that sounds like a dark, angry lone wasp waiting to take out its revenge, but ultimately leads you into a blissful trance.
Stand-out track: Ascend to Nothing
Confession: I took my mind and effort away from my own mental health.
I apologize to myself and, more importantly, to those around me. I did a fantastic job of working through panic attacks and generalized anxiety, but I did not give my mental health a FULL examination. While I am still proud of the fact that I went in to get help (after suffering a few panic attacks), admitted I needed medication, and then worked to get to the point where I could stop medication, I am also disappointed in myself. I did just enough to identify the issue (anxiety) and did just enough to get back to the bare minimum of “normal”. I did not focus on getting better or happier, just eliminating the scary parts, like panic attacks or staying on medication.
So what have I learned? I’ve learned that mental health and the issues that come with it are incredibly complex and fuzzy. My anxiety wasn’t just anxiety, but also had some roots within depression – there is a reason why they have an anxiety/depression scale. I’ve also learned that just because you suffer from a named illness, there is no “correct” or universal way to treat it. My underlying struggles are coping and obsessive thinking. Sometimes I can use those things to my advantage – obsessively thinking about something until I perfect that skill or idea – while other times I let it bring me down until I have a panic attack or get depressed. But it doesn’t stop there, it also affects those around me. My treatment of myself bleeds into how I treat others and how much energy I drain from them.
Now I am not trying to make it sound like people don’t want to help someone with a mental illness, far from it. But in many cases, those around you have no clue what you need or the correct way to handle someone who is suffering mentally. Doctors have a hard enough time defining and treating it, so why do we think our loved ones can shoulder so much of the burden? I was guilty of this, especially since I thought I had done enough to say that my journey was over for the time being. The anxiety was better, but the anger and other issues still remained. I worked on my anxiety, but I did not work on myself and did not do enough self-reflection to elevate myself into a better life.
A lot of people face an issue (mental of physical) and only look at overcoming that obstacle. What we don’t see is how we elevate ourselves even higher so we don’t have to continually face those same/similar obstacles in the future. While not true for all mental health issues, there is still a lot to be said on working on yourself and your happiness in order to lessen the likelihood of suffering mental health setbacks. This doesn’t mean having rose-colored glasses or being happy every single second of the day like some cartoon character, but it does mean working on basic things in order to improve your daily life. For me, that skill is mindfulness. I know, I know, that is the “in” word right now; from yoga to meditation, we all think of mindfulness as some weird Buddhist/guru jargon for hipsters. But it is more than that. Slowing down your thoughts and allowing yourself to reflect on all your emotions, dreams, goals, and whatever details that pop into your brain really allow you to focus on those things and not let them build up.
We have enough stress in our lives. Personally, I am dealing with my mental health issues (anxiety AND depression) along with two family situations that only add to the two mental health issues listed earlier. And that isn’t counting the daily stresses of life – job, house, dog, chores, finances, etc. Without reflecting and allowing myself to feel these emotions, I would build up quicker than a snowball falling down a mountain. And if we just go through our daily lives with our heads down, without focus, and without reflecting, we lose sight of our dreams and goals. We start to take things for granted and even get cynical and negative. The stress eats away at our true self and you are left with someone who can only get through the day, not someone who looks forward to tomorrow.
Even if you do not battle diagnosable mental health issues, I would recommend looking into some sort of reflection/mindfulness. We all have times when we get stressed to an unhealthy level, we all get anxious and/or depressed, but many of us still do not know how to work through those tough times. Eventually we get through them (and if you don’t feel like you can, please reach out to a loved one, a doctor, a hotline, or even 911), but being proactive and being able to have a good foundation for when times do get tough is key. Mindfulness doesn’t have to just be for stress or dealing with negative emotions/feelings, you can be mindful of the happy things, too. One of my favorite things to do is a mindfulness exercise where I listen to an album and concentrate on *only* that music. Listening to the intricate sounds of my favorite music while tuning out the rest of my mind/world is cathartic. It is my happy place.
So this May – mental health awareness month – let’s make a commitment to ourselves, to those around us, and to each other that we re-evaluate our journey. Let’s be more proactive and get to a place better than normal, somewhere we truly want to be living, not just surviving and getting by.
*Edit: No more than one day after I wrote this draft (4/27), I see a link to THIS ARTICLE on Google News. The title is “Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy Can Reduce Chances Of Depression Relapse”. Talk about serendipity.*
If you have questions about mental health, want to donate, or need additional resources, please click THIS LINK.
Also, if you are suffering from any type of crisis and live in a household where someone is employed and has an Employee Assistance Program, I urge you to call that number. Those programs are designed to help you in a multitude of ways – mental health being just one small piece. My program offered me 3 free sessions with a licensed therapist for the situation I was facing.
Life is like a blog; everyone has the ability to write their own. However, we often forget this lesson and we do things that derail our own story and hurt others along the way.
We sometimes look at other people’s lives/blogs and wish that we could write for them. We either wish that we had what they have or that they could be more like us. But it is not our experience that someone else wants to live, they have their own blog/life to write. This does not mean that you cannot make appearances in their life/blog, or even play a critical role, but just remember to not take away their unique voice.
I know that giving up that control is hard. The closer you get to someone, the more you want to protect them and the more you want to share with them. Trusting that they want to share with you takes time and may even hurt a little along the way (no one is perfect, them or you). I know just how hard this is, because I am working on trying to write for myself, while giving up control and trying to only support instead of write for others.
It is crucial to understand this: Only write for someone else with their full permission. And even then, try to offer more of a supportive role and let them use their voice.
The other piece that can also derail us in our life/blog is forgetting to write. We either get overwhelmed with daily tasks, stresses, or lose our drive in some other manner. Maybe we let someone write/live for us because it is easier or we are scared. No matter the reason for your absence, make it a focus to write/live (even if it only for yourself). Without goals, without focus, and without you speaking up for yourself, your story will not be one that you control. Do you really want to live/blog someone else’s story?
Another crucial point: I am not recommending focusing solely on yourself. Inviting others to share in your story, to offer their commentary, and learn from their experience can add more growth than staying solo. Maybe even decide to start a blog/life where you co-write a story while still maintaining your own blog/life.
I know that this seems obvious and even a little preachy. But the fact is that I am writing this as a lesson I have had to learn, and one that I am reminding myself to follow. Sometimes we lose focus on what is important and how we affect those around us. We also forget that we have the chance to write for ourselves, and even share our triumphs and struggles, so that others may learn (or empathize) along the way.
Kansas City Royals / Texas Rangers – Chicago White Sox / Los Angeles Dodgers
Surprise Stadium & Camelback Ranch – Surprise & Glendale, AZ
February 20, 2016
Well this is a first… I DIDN’T drive all the way to a stadium! I actually flew, on a real life aeroplane; one of them metal sky-beasties. I also lived to tell about it, so here it goes…
Why Arizona? Don’t you normally go to Florida?
Second question first, “yes”. I have made it a habit to attend spring training in Florida for the past few seasons – this will be the season which that streak stops. I chose Arizona (really, it chose me) because I was on a business trip in Las Vegas from Tuesday night until mid-day Friday. I then decided I was “Leaving Las Vegas” and hitting up some spring training workouts and a hockey game.
Would you like to see some pictures from the trip before the baseball portion started? Too bad, because I’m showing them anyway…
Vegan food and vinyl shopping.
Siegfried and Roy and Tony the Tiger.
A view from the drive out to the hole in the ground.
Said “hole in the ground.”
Another photo of a hole (this time a river makes a guest appearance).
Ansel Adams rip-off.
AT THE GATES!!!
First stop: Surprise Stadium
Gates were posted as opening at 10, I got there before 9, and they were opened up around 9:30 or so. At about 9 the Rangers took BP and some balls flew over the fence.
Be warned: Those old guys on bikes are vicious. Pretty much a “no rules” type of atmosphere. I was expecting chilled/laid back, but a couple balls later I was nearly assaulted for a BP spring training HR (that I had my hand on first, and only 3 other people were there for balls). Some choice words were thrown at me and between the fact that none of the balls were AZ commemorative balls and I don;t want to fight, I walked inside after the gates opened. My ball total could have been much higher, but I am not a fan of bleeding for it.
Another BP homer. As the fence only had a couple of holes to see through and the list of players was rather long, I have no clue who hit these.
And yes, that is a 23″ glove I’m wearing. It got some attention and I used it for a photo prop (not regular use).
Enough of that business. I’m going inside the training area.
A coach told me that none of the Rangers BP balls had the new AZ spring training logo, only the pitchers were using those balls (and in his words, they were “gamers”)…
So I went to the pitchers mounds and waited patiently, then told a coach I was looking for one. He was super nice and tossed me this beauty. No lies, the first Rangers coach was telling the truth; mud-rubbed and looking like something that was ready for a spring training game.
There were college games going on around all the fields in Arizona, and this particular day was a match-up featuring the University of Minnesota! I traveled all that way to see a local team after all. This ball was just laying against the fence in the pitchers’ area.
Another coach with a toss. This time a catching coach. “It’s a beaut, Clark! It’s a beaut!”
Those commemoratives are awesome. I’m just bummed I don’t have the FL version… but not too bummed.
By about 10:30 things were nearly done. People were leaving the Rangers’ side and only a few catchers remained before the boot was given to fans. Good news, though…
The Royals’ side was open! And they were still taking BP (or rather, they took BP late). This was a toss-up over the wall by Lorenzo Cain (who appreciated the big glove).
Luck. Luck. Pure luck. My first ever Postseason ball. This ball was nicely mud-rubbed and in pretty perfect “gamer” condition. All the dead leaves and brown rock made this ball blend in perfectly behind a fence. Luckily for me the ball was only a couple feet on the other side of the fence. So I dug a small hole and put my arm under to grab this shocker-of-a-ball.
Over to Camelback Ranch we go…
Not a single player spotted, other than the college teams playing in the big stadium. I still wandered around a little and tried to spot a ball or two. The one pictured above was found in a golf cart parked by the stadium, which was left recklessly abandoned.
The last of the day/trip and the ugliest I’ve received that I could still positively identify as an OMLB. The blue printing can still slightly be made out with “OFFICIAL” and other key letters that make this the worst looking ball in the collection.
I would normally go to “The Haul” now, but the night in sports is not over…
I went to the Arizona Coyotes game and brought the glove. Who knows if it will catch anything, but maybe it’ll stick out enough in my seats ont he glass to make it worth it…
Called it! A practice puck tossed over the glass by the man in charge of the pucks. Thank you, random Coyotes worker!
A closer look.
The seats. No zoom. I was separated from being a Coyote by a quarter-inch of plexiglass. I’ve never been so close to the action. Some of the sight-lines were poor (both corners on the side of the ice closest to me), but the experience made up for it.
This is the first “not on location” video, because of a few things:
- I forgot
- Multiple locations meant I didn’t know my final total
- No games were played (minus a hockey game)
- Rangers hitters – for the first 4 balls
- Rangers coach – who told me where the commemoratives were
- Rangers pitching coach – for the first commem
- Rangers catching coach – for the second commem
- Lorenzo Cain – for the third commem
- Royals workers – for not picking up the Postseason ball
- Royals – for using a Postseason ball
- Camelback Ranch golf cart – for tossing me ball number 10
- White Sox grounds crew member – for tossing me the final ball
- Coyotes worker – for the puck
- Coyotes – for the experience
As the majority of my readers are already part of the “ballhawking community” and frequent MyGameBalls, this will not be considered new news. However, those who are not familiar, let me give you a quick run-down and then details regarding the news in the title.
Every year since 2011, a group of ballhawks (no matter the skill) come together at a single game to form “BallhawkFest”. Since there is a high concentration of people AND stadiums, the east coast has held the official “Ballhawking All-Star Game” every year.
Some folks, like myself, who are based somewhere not found in the original 13 colonies, get pretty bummed about missing it every year. The demand for it to be located *insert new stadium here* has been overwhelming and the effort that goes towards planning must be a burden. So this year (MGB’s webmaster) Alan has come up with an Olympic-like system to take submissions from numerous locations and then decide where it will be held in 2016.
While I am confident in Minnesota’s bid, I also do not want to have it all be for naught. That is why I am proposing this bid for both the official BhF and as an unofficial BhF. If Target Field wins, great. If we lose out, dang, at least we’ll still be having everything that makes a BallhawkFest.
(Alan: Please know that this is NOT in anyway my attempt at forcing Target Field to be 2016’s official Fest home. I have found the whole proposal stage rather fun and I just don’t want it to be for nothing. Either way, I just want to have a fun experience for the MN/Midwest folks that share my love of baseball.)
Stadium: Target Field
Date: Saturday, July 30, 2016
Activities: Home Run Derby, Lunch, Twins Game
Home Run Derby: Parade Stadium (400 Kenwood Parkway, Minneapolis, MN 55403) (conditional based on permit)
Late Lunch/Early Dinner: Pizza Luce (119 N 4th St, Minneapolis, MN 55401)
Baseball Game: Target Field (1 Twins Way, Minneapolis, MN 55403)
Opponents: Twins vs. White Sox
Home Run Derby: 10/11 am (depends on the permit)
Lunch: 1 pm
Game: 6:10 pm (gates open at 4 pm, podcast recording starts about an hour before that)
Imagine a design like the Minnie and Paul logos below, but instead of Minnesota Twins, it would say “BallhawkFest”, and instead of “M” & “STP” there would be “20” & “16”.
Keeping up with tradition, the name and ball total will be on the back. I’d like to get baseball-style tees via a place like customink.com. The estimate for a shirt like this would be $25.
I have some feelers out there, but if you are living in the Minneapolis area or are a local company that would like to help us, please feel free to contact me (leave a comment or contact me via Twitter).
In addition to this blog, the podcast (At the Gates), and numerous other MN ballhawks’ Twitter and blogs, I have set up an account for BallhawkFest in general (from here going forward).
Follow BallhawkFest on Twitter and Instagram. This is not just for the MN campaign, but a way for whoever is in charge of the current year’s fest to give out info and celebrate their gathering. Once it is revealed who won the 2016 bid, the event coordinator will take over those accounts and be able to promote as necessary.
Why Target Field?
Last, but not least, in order to cover Alan’s criteria and give potential attendees a reason to show up, I’ll list a few reasons why you should come to Target Field on July 30th…
- The weather – July in MN is beautiful
- The locations – all three (Derby, Lunch, Game) are centrally located and easy to get to
- The Twins/Target Field
- Improved quality on the field
- Max attendance of 40,000 (though in it’s 7th season, attendance has plateaued around 30-35K on summer weekends)
- Legitimate ballhawk community (we have a core and are happy to help)
- Still a shiny, new stadium – maybe you haven’t been here yet, now you can cross it off the list!
- It’s not Citi Field or Yankee Stadium – I can think of a few places less ballhawk friendly, and one of them has already hosted a Fest
- Twins players – some of the most friendly in baseball
- White Sox are in town – not a bad group for BP
- Repeat: White Sox are in town – come on up, Chicagoans!
Thanks for listening to the pitch. I have a good core of people who are interested and who have said would attend. To those folks I say: Either way, it’s a go! Be ready to have some fun!
If you have any questions or want even more info or want to propose any additional things, comment below or contact me via any other desired avenue.
Minnesota Twins – TwinsFest 2016
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
January 29, 2016
The title will be explained in due time. But for now, let’s kick things off with the podcast plug and then from the beginning.
As this was not a normal episode (in MANY ways), I decided to not give it the proper numbering. This will be a “bonus show” – one to kick off the season, introduce a newer sound, and to cover what was missed since the end of the Twins 2015 season.
I admit it. I got there a bit early, but not as early as others. I was pleased with my spot in line, considering I had a half-day of work to put in and some errands to run before I could get to the field. If we revisit the “At The Gates” debate, another reason why giving it a proper episode number would be due to the fact that it wasn’t recorded at the gates (but inside the stadium) and I was never at a real gate to begin with. The skyway between “Ramp A” and Target Field was my home.
Here’s a view of the line at about 3:30 (gates opened at 4):
Once inside the stadium I went to the…
Normally the Twins have put a TON of game used stuff from Spring Training (from the previous year) and other left-overs up for sale. This year? Not so much. The majority was give-away/bobblehead-related and very limited jersey (a few used, but by guys that no longer take a spot in the Twins organization). I was still able to come across a few things I “just had to have”.
The give-away things from games I didn’t attend:
The All-Star Game tickets already framed:
A couple rather large posters (3′ x 2′ or so)… autographed:
Those posters were only $20. Torii’s signature at TwinsFest was going for more than that. So it wasn’t a bad pick-up (nor a bad way to avoid the long autograph line).
As for Trevor Plouffe…
The Plouffe Gang:
I met some people while I waited outside Trevor Plouffe’s autograph line. I was hoping to say a quick hello after he signed, but to my pleasant surprise, I met a couple cool people. Now, as you may know, I am a large supporter Trevor – this goes without saying really, just look at the name of the blog. I’ve even run across his mother on Twitter. We’ve said hello a few times via that medium, but never met…
Until now. After just getting there before Trevor finished signing, Trevor’s mom and sister walked up and also waited for him. I kind of recognized his mother from her Twitter picture, but I wasn’t 100% sure (nor did I want to be creepy). She was the braver one and asked if I was Tony.
Yep. Guilty. I am Tony. I am the random dude who writes a blog 60% dedicated to catching baseballs… I’m embarrassed. But then a funny thing happened, both of the Plouffes were incredibly nice and we had shared a nice conversation until Trevor came out to greet everyone. It’s easy to see why Trevor is so fan-friendly, he’s got a great family who supports him and who made him into who we see off the field.
So if you are reading this D and/or P. Thank you. Thanks for reading and even more so, thanks for talking. If we cross paths again, be sure to say hello.
Exploring/Regathering the Gang:
Paul (my cohort at Target Field, who is featured in the podcast) and I met up and talked as he waited in line for J.O. Berrios’ autograph. I explored and wandered as the line was slowly snaking, bobbing my head in and out to say hello to Paul.
I even took a photo of Larry Hisle’s oversized baseball card:
Larry and his son run a business called “The Hit Syndicate”. They are still operating out of the Midwest and focus on making grips and bats. I really hope to meet them when they come to Target Field. I’ve even put a little bug in their ear to guest on the podcast. Fingers crossed.
Also in all of the hoopla and runaround, I snapped a photo of the field itself:
(It was probably taken before the Hisle photo, but oh well. I’m not going to go back and rewrite things. Sue me, it’s late.)
The Elevator Story:
Now the “main event”…
Shortly after adding Mateo into the fold, we were stuck trying to get down to floor -2 (yep, NEGATIVE TWO). Moral of the story: don’t listen to Paul. But why is this important? Because it led us back on the 3rd floor (the top of the activities). We were waiting for an elevator, for a longer time than we wanted (which makes sense why we tried to walk down first). Then from behind come the 2016 All-Star Third baseman, Trevor Plouffe. He makes his way to the elevator, bypassing the lines under security’s order (not uncommon, no unwarranted… they have places to be, schedules to hold). No big thing. Then he gets in the elevator, which showed up at the perfect time for him, and the elevator attendant waved him in and told people only he was going down.
This is when you could tell he felt bad and was a little weird. He seemed to not mind if others got on with him, but the lady in the elevator wasn’t even going to leave that open for discussion. There were some lighthearted murmurs and puzzled looks, and I may have even given him a “See you later, Mr. Big Time”, but that’s how Trevor Plouffe got his own personal elevator.
I then joked to Mateo and Paul that I was going to rename the blog to something like “Plouffe’s Private Elevator” or something of the nature. We even conspired to keep this whole story a secret and just make it an inside joke when I decided to rename the blog. But since it was leaked a little on the podcast, I had to spill the beans. Plus, the story was just too good.
After finally getting down to -2 and getting Paul his Kurt Suzuki autograph, we did some light wandering again and finally settled in a less noisey area passed Champions Club and even further down from the Twins locker room. The place was a concrete podcast heaven. Only a light stream of walkers and cooped up vending booths kept us from being alone. As for the show? Scroll up to the top and listen.
Better yet: SUBSCRIBE TO THE SHOW ON ITUNES!!!
Search for “At the Gates Podcast” and look for a goofy picture of me in the red MLB t-shirt. Then subscribe and maybe give it a 6-star rating (if not six, I’ll settle for 5).
Congratulations to the Walch siblings – Aubry and Kale – for opening their brand new brick and mortar store in Northeast Minneapolis. The store is the very first of its kind… a vegan butcher shop.
When some people hear “vegan butcher” they have certain preconceived notions. I cannot help this, nor will those people probably listen to any argument/clarification anyone else could give. But let me say this, after seeing this shop firsthand, I can confirm: The Herbivorous Butcher feels like and operates like an authentic butcher.
I haven’t always been vegan – this is my 3rd year in which I comply by these moral and dietary guidelines – and in a previous chapter of my life, I even worked in a couple meat departments at grocery stores. I witnessed firsthand the “butcher atmosphere” and all the little touches that went into this industry. The Walch duo and their great staff upheld many of these traditions, minus one – no being died to create any of the goods sold.
A long wait
The idea of a vegan meat shop is one that I cannot take credit for, nor can I detail in this blog. The siblings who thought of the idea have been interviewed and the answers are scattered across the interwebs. With that said, I can share one thing, upon hearing about their idea via Kickstarter, my wife and I decided to donate/invest. I bought my wife a shirt in November 2014, knowing that it would at least be many months until they opened their shop.
Due to the intricacies that go into building an establishment that serves food, the project took a little longer than hoped, but on Saturday, January 23, 2016, the wait ended. Or rather, it just began.
I have frequented many of the pop-up shops that helped fund and give new ideas to the butcher team – often picking up a jerky snack to go along with whatever “main course meat substitute” we wanted. But the tricky part with all of those farmers markets and rotunda shops was the limited space and small quantities available. Hey, they were doing their best, but the demand coupled with a small work space to create the treats meant the inevitable “SOLD OUT” sign.
We knew (with help from Facebook, Twitter, and other media outlets) that the grand opening would be no different. But this time the wait was something else, something that felt bigger and better than just picking up food for the next week or so. This was celebration of two people causing their dream to become a reality and celebrating like-minded people who honestly believe that they are making the world at least a tiny fraction of a percent better.
The wait was close to 2 hours.
Good news: We acquired all our stomachs had hoped for, plus we got to be part of something bigger.
Truth be told, this place is trendy and vintage. Like I said before, it has the feel of a real butcher.
Here are some of the touches in visual form:
And here is my wife (Jael) and the dynamic duo that gave life to this vegan dream (Aubry and Kale Walch):
Lastly, here is my little, fluffy “daughter” (Evelyn) getting in on the action once we came back home:
Yep, there are even vegan goodies for puppies at the store. Not all products sold are made by the Walch gang (they have some other local and national products – caramels, dog treats, salsas, vegan eggs, etc.), but all the meat and cheese sold is made by them.
So there it is. A happy family, enjoying some food made out of love for every being on the planet. The secret ingredient to their meat (and their business) is truly love… and compassion. Lots of compassion.
Thank you, Aubry and Kale. Sincerely, thank you.