Florida is Closed For Business – Balls 393-400 (March 20, 2015)

Pittsburgh Pirates 4 – Minnesota Twins 2

Hammond Stadium – Fort Myers, FL

March 20, 2014


The last day in Florida and I had one last goal: snag my 400th career ball.  Doable?  Yes.  Tough?  Snagging 8 isn;t exactly a cake walk.  Hopeful?  Mildly, but not stressing over it.  If I was able to reach 400, then it meant that I averaged more than 10 balls a game in Spring Training for the 2nd straight year.

As sad as it was to be leaving, I was also looking forward to getting home.  When you have your own little slugger waiting for you, it’s hard to stay away…

Evelyn Baseball

I love my little Evelyn.  She was staying with my parents and getting spoiled (and being the subject of many photos).  Check out her Instagram feed for more examples.

Ball #1:



Tommy Milone warm-up ball.

Ball #2:


Eric Farris BP homer, caught on the fly.

Ball #3:


Danny Ortiz toss-up.

Ball #4:


Unknown Twin HR caught on the fly.

Ball #5:


Unknown Pirate HR, caught on the fly.  This was AFTER I took a ball to the inside part of my right calf – one that was hit by my favorite player, Trevor Plouffe (and one I didn’t even snag).  I should have dove for that ball in hind-sight, but thought I would get hurt.  I was wrong.

Ball #6:


Another unknown Pirate HR caught on the fly.  This one was caught on a dead sprint – I started in the corner closest to left-center and tracked it down at the line.  Numerous people told me “nice catch” afterwards – some even said it after BP as I wandered the stadium.  Nothing beats making a good catch that goes noticed by those around you.

Ball #7:


Have no fear, the gamer streak carries forward to the regular season of 2015!  This one was a toss-up from Joe Mauer after the Twins recorded out #3 of the first inning.  Since the kids weren’t aware of the toss-ups yet, this was my only chance at landing one before it turned into kid-central.

Ball #8:


I was honestly happy with being at 399, and thought I would have to crack 400 at Opening Day at Target Field (doing so with a commemorative ball would have been perfectly dandy).  Oh well, this near-pearl was from a stadium worker who was cleaning out the dugout.  Not exactly the most memorable of ways to reach a milestone, but still unbelievable when I think of it with my grade-school version of myself.


Here’s the haul from the game:

20150320 Group Shot


…And the haul from the entire trip (packed neatly in my suitcase:

FL Suitcase 2015



The Game Recap:

Biggest Day of 2015? – Balls 379-392 (March 19, 2015)

Minnesota Twins 2 – Tampa Bay Rays 4

Charlotte Sports Park – Port Charlotte, FL

March 19, 2014


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…

No Leather

Rotten Minors

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.

Ball #1:


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 details/facts/clues:

  • 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.

Ball #2:


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.

Ball #3:


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.

Ball #4:


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.

Ball #5:


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!!

Ball #6:


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.

Ball #7:


Rays BP… and we were only getting started.

Ball #8:


The only downside?  So many Seligs!!  Think this one is a bit lumpy?  I do.

Ball #9:


Woohoo!!  One more until double-digits, and the gates were not even open yet.

Ball #10:


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?!

Ball #11:


We are winding down, but it ain’t over…

Ball #12:


The last of the Rays’ BP.  But again, it ain’t over.  I still have a gamer streak in jeopardy…

Ball #13:


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…

Twins Dugout

Notice his batting gloves in hand?

Well, here’s a better look…

Kennys Vargas Batting Gloves

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).

Ball #14:



Practice ball from the man in frame – Butch Davis.


The final haul:

20150319 Group Shot

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:

Welcome to the Bigs, Mr. Manfred, Jr. – Balls 370-378 (March 18, 2015)

Baltimore Orioles 3 – Minnesota Twins 2

Hammond Stadium – Fort Myers, FL

March 18, 2014


Now that I have 3,601 miles of travel (for baseball alone, not including the additional travel to see my wife’s grandparents), I can finally blog about the adventures I had in Florida.

March Baseball!!  Nothing is more sweet than ditching the cold, baseball-less tundra of Minnesota and wrapping yourself in warm weather, beaches, and all-day baseball.  I started this trip with two goals in mind:

  1. Get a Manfred ball – preferably a gamer
  2. Reach 400 career balls – needed only 31, but was only attending 3 games (that’s an average of more than 10/game)

I had a few other “wants” in there, but those two targets were the main ones.  I thought that one was more than attainable, and the second could easily be within striking distance for Opening Day in April – if not broken in Florida.

***I have a few things to say about non-baseball activities, but I will save those for the “Road Trip Recap” entry that will follow the game entries.***

I arrived at the gates somewhere between 8-9 am.  The first scene was that of the namesake of this blog… in a semi-Godzilla inspired form…

Plouffe Mural


The rest of the Twins’ stars were also featured, but it was pretty cool to see nonetheless.

After watching some batting practice – with a cool ASG bucket – I finally got to enter the stadium and work my magic.

Batting Cages

Ball #1:


(Sorry, I couldn’t take photos of the first four balls, since I received them faster than I could record them.)

This ball, my first Manfred ball, EVER, came from the bottom of the steps as I got the closest spot to the players warming up their arms.  So whoever had “Easter Egg” as the ‘person’ who would provide me with the first Manfred is the winner.  Collect your prize and enjoy!

Ball #2:


A nice toss-up by a Twin – unknown, sorry.  Two baseballs, both Manfreds.

Ball #3:


Three for three on the “Only Use Manfreds for BP” Rule.  Unfortunately, this was another unknown Twin.  Like I said, the first four happened so quick.

Ball #4:


Fourth ball, fourth Manfred.  Eduardo Escobar gets the assist on this one.

Ball #5:


A Selig?!  And this was the first one that was actually part of any BATTING practice?!  I am confused.  This one was off the bat of a Twin.  It sailed over my head, but I played the berm perfectly and picked it up.

Here is the view from the LF grass area in Hammond Stadium…

LF View

Ball #6:


Another Selig?!  This time it had a practice stamp on it – which I promptly questioned in my head, “Are there any Manfred practice-stamps?”  This ball was caught on the fly from the bat of an Oriole.

Ball #7:


See ball 7.  Everything is the same.

Ball #8:


First Manfred gamer!!  This was tossed to me by the man in the background – Dan Rohlfing – coming in during the middle of the 1st inning.

Ball #9:


ANOTHER GAMER!!  This one is modeled by my wife, Jael, doing here best Ervin Santana impression.  #SmellBaseball

This ball was a triple hit by Dariel Alvarez and tossed into the stands by Eduardo Escobar in the top of the 3rd inning.  I love it when a ball gets thrown into the stands during the inning… especially if it lands in my glove.

After the game I met up with a fellow blogger and Minnesota Twins’ enthusiast, EverythingTwins!  Here we are showing off our prized possessions – mine is a Manfred gamer and his is his 50th career ball.  Go read his blog and add him to your community of bloggers.



***It was nice sharing the outfield with you, EverythingTwins!  It was even better just getting to know you.  I’m sure we’ll run into each other at games this year.  Best of luck!***

After the photos were taken, I tried my first ever, video recap.  It was an idea I wanted to try since last year, but I had no excuse this year NOT to try.  Might as well test it out in Florida/Spring Training… especially if I have a videographer (the wife) to help me.

So what do you think?  Should I include these for regular season games?  Anything else you want me to say in this BRIEF recap?


So there it is/was.  The first game of 2015.  I didn’t quite get double-digits, but nine is NOT a bad number.

20150318 Group Shot





I asked this question on Instagram, but it’s also a good one to post here:

Which signature do you prefer – Bud Selig or Rob Manfred – and why?


Selig vs Manfred


I prefer the Manfred ball, personally.  It’s probably because it is nice and new (more rare at this point), but also because there are more letters (including a “Jr.”).  Plus, Bud’s is a bit too slanted and sloppy.  I don’t mind sloppy if it is artsy (like I make my signatures), but that ain’t artsy.

Writer’s Block (These Are a Few of My Favorite Things?)

I don’t know if it is the cold temps, the excitement of baseball that seems forever away, or just a good old fashion writer’s block, but here I am – late February and nothing half-formed ideas and frustration.

So instead of dwelling on what I cannot think of or write, how about something I have enjoyed as of late?  I guess this is my last non-baseball/offseason/filler post until October (or November, if my team defies Vegas’ odds).


I know that I gave my 2014 top ten less than two months ago, but a lot has changed in under 60 days.  Though the 2015 music cycle is slowly gaining traction (few releases are winter releases), my focus/time has been spent on older albums and genres I have only recently started to explore.

  • Miles Davis – What can I say, except, “late to the party”, I guess.  This man was a genius.  I’ve fallen in love with:
    • Kind of Blue
    • Sketches of Spain
    • Agharta
    • In A Silent Way
    • Bitches Brew
    • The Cellar Door Sessions
    • …OK, I guess it’s more like his entire catalog
  • Ornette Coleman – Rules?!  There are none – this is the beautiful “Fight Club” of jazz.
    • Free Jazz: A Collective Improvisation
    • At the “Golden Circle” Stockholm (Volumes 1 + 2)
  • John Coltrane – The perfect blend between Miles’ controlled harmonies and Ornette’s free thinking that jazz has not limits.
    • Ascension
    • The First Trane!
    • Standard Coltrane
  • King Crimson – I’ve listened to them for a few years, but getting deeper into jazz/jazz-fusion has led me back to them.
    • In the Court of the Crimson King: An Observation By King Crimson
  • The Mahavishnu Orchestra – John McLaughlin worked with Miles Davis, so of course I had to revisit them.
    • The Inner Mounting Flame
    • Birds of Fire
    • Apocalypse
  • Captain Beefheart – Straight-up crazy/odd music.  This might be the artist that started my “challenge yourself” campaign.
    • Trout Mask Replica
  • Jean-Luc Ponty – Frank Zappa (Captain Beefheart’s discoverer) AND John McLaughlin used this jazz violinist?!
    • Enigmatic Ocean


I like to take pictures (which works well with detailing my ballhawk and baseball adventures/roadtrips).  So here are a few of my favorite in the last few months – be forewarned, I take a few pictures of my spoiled puppy (@evelyn_nibbler_voda on Instagram).

Evelyn Nibbler:


Post-surgery.  Glad we made it through the spaying with no huge complications.


Snow-cone… Puppy-style.


My childhood puppy (Kirby) photographed on the same couch that Evie is being photographed in.


Grandma is proud that she can still hold Evie.


“O hai!”


“I said MORE pupperoni!”


“This is the face that mom cannot resist.” – Evie’s brain


Embarrassing Christmas Sweater photo.



Puppy-dog eyes: Maximum Power




Best movie advert ever?  Little did I know that this was a movie about the Soviet hockey teams of long ago.  (This is Lagoon + Hennepin.)



A date night would not be complete without some food.  Galactic Pizza was our destination.  (This is 29th + Lyndale.)



On our way to Glam Doll Donuts.  (This is Franklin + Nicollet.)




With temps above freezing and a sunny sky, TwinsFest could have been mistaken for the Home Opener.  You never know what you’ll get in April in MN (or January for that matter), so we’ll see which day has better baseball weather.


How about a night game?  In January?  Got to the park just a few months too early.



Trevor Plouffe, Stand Up 2 Cancer.



That Miguel Sano guy, I think people like him, yeah?





See above: You do not have to like this album, but challenge yourself, you just might find something you’ve been missing out on for years.






What vegans eat: A homemade meat(less)ball pizza.



Remember the 90s?


Valentine’s Day:


From Evelyn… best Valentine ever.

My Wife (Jael):


…in LEGO form.  Re-enactment of a nasty fall.



My wife did my hair.  She also braided it.


So that’s it.  The last post until baseball starts (or lightning strikes and gives me back full control of my brain as a very amateur writer).

Opening Day… Moments Away

TwinsFest Tickets – Check

Spring Training Tickets – Check

Opening Day Tickets – Check

Baseball Fever – Double Check

Outlet for Baseball – NONE


I’m going stir-crazy, so many baseball things on the horizon, but nothing substantial for nearly two more months.  Sure, I can get a small fix at TwinsFest (tomorrow), but that’s more of a trade show – nothing more than a cash-grab without actual baseball.

But before I pathetically pine for Opening Day any longer, let’s revisit some good memories and examine a sweet “Opening Day 2015” related story…

Tony in the Media – 2014:

  1. Intentional Talk – HR Derby Outtakes
  2. Rolling Stone – Balls Deep: A Home Run Derby Diary
  3. MLB.com – Kennys Vargas’ First MLB HR
  4. 96.3 KTWIN – Interview with Lindsay Guentzel

Not a bad list, if I do say so myself.  Self-pimpery doesn’t come easy for me, but it was a great bit of fun to bit involved in all of these various media bits.  I don’t ever expect to be the focus of the limelight, but to say I hope to have my likeness show up like “Where’s Waldo” would be nothing short of true.  Who knows what 2015 will bring…

2014 Collage

Wait, I will be featured (somewhat) on a form of media near and dear to my elementary-school-aged heart…

Topps Opening Day 2015 Series!

Yep, I was lucky enough to have one of my photographs chosen for the inaugural “Topps Live” insert that will be included in the Opening Day Series of baseball cards.  I always dreamt of having my own baseball card – I may or may not have two that I drew back in grade school that my mother still holds on to – but once it was apparent my baseball dreams were over, the next best thing would be to have a photo I shot be on a card.

Quest fulfilled!

Here is a sneak peek at the image that they will use:  (Raw first, Instagram second)



Phillies at Twins - June 11 2013

I do not know how they will crop it, but this picture will be used in some form.  So go out and buy a few packs/boxes and cross your fingers.  You might just pull an insert that I had a part in making!  (PS: You have NO idea how cool that sounds being able to say that.)

So baseball gods, I ask you this: Please make Opening Day (at least the Spring Training version) come soon.  I miss baseball.  The readers miss baseball.  Baseball players miss baseball.  THE STADIUMS MISS BASEBALL!  Think of the poor empty seats!

Top Ten Albums of 2014

Much like the 2012 and 2013 entries:  Here it is – my top ten of ’14, starting with 10 and working up to the top spot.  I’ll also list my favorite and second favorite track from the album, that way you can try to get a glimpse into what sounds I truly like.


10.  …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – “IX”

ToD-IX (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“This record could be better than the #10 that I give it, but forgive me for still being caught up in the beautiful 3-part saga that is the “Tao of the Dead”.  The music itself is pretty fantastic, and maybe over time the lyrics will strike me, too.”

Grade:  B-

Favorite Track:   Bus Lines

Second Favorite:   How to Avoid Huge Ships


9.  Jack White – “Lazaretto”

JW-Lazaretto (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“Not a fan of Jack’s first solo album, his sophomore LP seems a lot more cohesive and re-establishes Jack as a modern-day guitar hero.  Also, RIP Ikey Owens – I best liked your work with Cedric and Omar (De Facto and The Mars Volta), but your work on this “poppier” album was solid as well.”

Grade:  B-

Favorite Track:   Lazaretto

Second Favorite:   High Ball Stepper


8.  Tokyo Police Club – “Forcefield”

TPC-Forcefield (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“The lyrics take a little bit of getting used to, but the poppiness really strikes you a couple listens in.  For a band that writes sub-3 minute songs, opening this LP with a near 9-minute track was ballsy… and TOTALLY paid off.”

Grade:  B-

Favorite Track:  Argentina (Parts I, II, III)

Second Favorite:   Gonna Be Ready


7.  Lily Allen – “Sheezus”

LA-Sheezus (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“Quite simply: She’s back!  Lily Allen’s return to music was not a timid foot into icy water, she dove head-first.  All the songs are not only perfectly poppy, but her cutting wit is peppered into every lyric.”

Grade:  B

Favorite Track:   Air Balloon

Second Favorite:   Hard Out Here


6.  Weezer – “Everything Will be Alright In the End”

W-EWBAITE (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“I am fantastically ecstatic to be listing my “favorite band” in my top ten of the year list.  The last time they had non-cringe-worthy output was the Red Album-era, and the last true top ten album they released was probably Maladroit.  The lyrics are no longer terribly corny (minus “Back to the Shack”) and Rivers picks up the axe again.  The closing opus is actually amazing, and not just because they are my sentimental favorite band.”

Grade:  B

Favorite Track:   The Futurescope Trilogy

Second Favorite:   Go Away


5.  Manchester Orchestra – “Cope” (and the acoustic companion album, “Hope”)

MO-Cope (300x300)MO-Hope (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“Even before the news of Hope, the dark and loud Cope hit me like a top ten album should.  The album just felt special, even if it was a relentless pounding in a very similar tone throughout.  After the release of Hope (whose clips sounded terrible on iTunes to me) I was confused as to which I loved more.  The reimagining and polar opposite takes provide a new life for this album.”

Grade:  B

Favorite Track:   Top Notch (Cope) / Every Stone (Hope)

Second Favorite:   Choose You (Cope) / The Ocean (Hope)


4.  Möngol Hörde – “Möngol Hörde”

MH-MongolHorde (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“Frank Turner goes back to hardcore?  Sign me up!  The song titles and lyrics can sound like meaningless throw-away scribblings, but listen closely and you’ll start to piece together the double entendres.  Plus, who doesn’t like a bit of screaming and pounding instrumentation?!”

Grade:  B

Favorite Track:   Casual Threats From Weekend Hardmen

Second Favorite:   Hey Judas


3.  Julian Casablancas + the Voidz – “Tyranny”

JCatV-Tyranny (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“Which was the most surprising album of the year?  Tyranny.  I was not expecting to be challenged by Julian – since his last solo output was very poppy and his Strokes stuff is, well, the Strokes.  The dark soundscapes, eclectic synths, grungy guitars, and varying track lengths make for a genre-less LP.”

Grade:  B+

Favorite Track:   Human Sadness

Second Favorite:   Take Me In Your Army


2.  The Flaming Lips – “7 Skies H3″

01013 - The Flaming Lips - 7 Skies H3 - 01 - 12 Jacket (3mm Spin

Tony’s Review:

“I like the Flaming Lips.  This is a recent development and the stranger they get, the more I love them.  Even though this was released in 2011 as a 24-hour song, this LP didn’t get a condensed release until 2014 – finally making it reviewable for the list!  Some songs are crazy Wizard of Oz-like soundtrack cuts while others are slow-burning minimal pieces that couple with beautiful lyrics.”

Grade:  B+

Favorite Track:   Battling Voices From Beyond (song is from 11:23 to 14:30)

Second Favorite:  Can’t Let It Go (song is from 41:18 to 49:38)


1.  Jeremy Messersmith – “Heart Murmurs”

JM-HeartMurmurs (300x300)

Tony’s Review:

“Being signed to a national label, the expectations were high – and worries were also just as high.  Would more money and a label head force Jeremy’s sound to change?  For a brief second I thought “yes”… but as the disc finished, I knew this was something special.  The bigger budget was well spent and the songs were still Messersmithian (did I coin a new term?).”

Grade:  B+

Favorite Track:   It’s Only Dancing

Second Favorite:   You’ll Only Break His Heart



Honorable Mention:

  • Tyte Jeff – “Tyte Jeff (EP)” – Grade: A
  • Sims – “Field Notes (EP)” – Grade: A
  • …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead – “Tao of the Dead, Part III (EP)” – Grade: A-
  • Electric Würms – “Musik, Die Schwer Zu Twerk (EP)” – Grade: B
  • Morrissey – “World Peace Is None of Your Business” – Grade: C+
  • Mogwai – “Rave Tapes” – Grade: C+
  • Sonny Knight & the Lakers – “I’m Still Here” – Grade: C+
  • Koo Koo Kanga Roo – “Whoopty Whoop” – Grade: B-
  • The Flaming Lips – With A Little Help From My Fwends – Grade: B+ (Excluded, since it is a compilation album – complete cover of The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)


  • The Hold Steady – “Teeth Dreams”
  • Lana Del Rey – “Ultraviolence”
  • Beck – “Morning Phase”
  • Damon Albarn – “Everyday Robots”
  • Foo Fighters – “Sonic Highways”
  • Pink Floyd – “The Endless River”


So there it is – my favorite of 2014!  I would once again like to thank these artists, some of which I have been able to see perform this year and give my personal thanks.  All of the albums listed above are albums are albums which I believe to be above average and strike a chord with me.  I know that this is the time of year where everyone becomes a critic and tries to show off their “musical knowledge”, but it’s no more knowledge than it is their personal opinion (or in major publications’ cases, which artist sells best and can bring in more clicks/ad revenue).  I hope you enjoy this list and maybe, just maybe, I can turn you on to one of my favorite artists/albums/songs.


Bonus Thoughts/Musical Musings:

Other artists that I have been getting deep into this year are as follows:

  • The Flaming Lips (obviously)
  • Miles Davis (Cool is just the tip of the iceberg, this guy is a god!)
  • Zach Hill (more like continuing to follow his musical path)
  • Deafheaven (Sunbather = OMG)
  • Mogwai (thanks to The Reurned for kickstarting them in my mind again)
  • Mahavishnu Orchestra/John McLaughlin (again, a reintroduction was necessary – thanks, Miles!)
  • Captain Beefheart (specifically, a new all-time favorite of mine, Trout Mask Replica)
  • metal in general (black/death/doom/drone are the most appealing to me)
  • jazz in general (free/modal/fusion being the most appealing)

Happy Thanksgiving!!! (2014 Version)

In the same tune as last year’s post, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday Maximus.  While I have more people that I can count that deserve thanks, the ones listed below were instrumental to making 2014 another great year.

  1. Ballhawks of Target Field (both official and honorary) – Catching your first home run? Amazing. Catching it in front of friends and other fellow Target Field ballhawks? Priceless. Mateo and Paul had many work commitments, which is why I’m back on top for lifetime balls caught at Target Field, but I’d imagine that next year’s race will be a wonderful thing. I think Target Field ballhawking is growing nicely.
    • Nate Duppler
    • Nick (whitesoxfan)
    • Dave Forstad
    • Mateo
    • Paul
  2. Mental Illness advocates – I said this last year, but whether you support NAMI financially, or helped support a friend going through a tough time emotionally, thank you. It was also great to hear from a Twins player and his wife about how anxiety has affected their household.
  3. Chicago – The experience was amazing. Getting to view the stadium tour for FREE and snagging a ball while inside the stadium early was insane. Add on top of that a few more commemoratives and best of all hanging out with friends afterwards? Not a bad road trip at all.
  4. Florida – Lovely tradition. Meeting up with Paul was a highlight, for sure. It’ll be weird to see the newest renovations… hopefully they don’t shut off access like other teams have seemed to do in the area.
  5. The Minnesota Twins – I see the bright spots, I really do, but here’s hoping that we finally see something positive in 2015. Thanks for a great ASG experience and friendly players who are good to the fans.
  6. Trevor Plouffe – Continued progress is a good thing; breaking your arm in the last home game is not. Career highs in games, plate appearances, Runs, Hits, Doubles, Triples, RBIs, Walks, Batting Average, On-Base Percentage, Total Bases, and OPS+ should translate to a well-deserved pay increase and maybe a shot at an All-Star Game in the future? Plus, he also put up a better fielding percentage at 3rd than any previous year. We’ll see if he stays at that position, though.
  7. Dominique Frost – Dominique contributed to the most amount of money by baseballs for my donation to NAMI for a second straight year. All those commemoratives snagged at Target Field? Yep, I have no one to thank but Dominique.
  8. Mother Nature – It’s like you know how to treat a ballhawk at Target Field. When games have low attendance you give us perfect weather, and when attendance looks to be on the uptick, a rainstorm you send. The Home Run Derby and final home game come to mind most vividly; a perfectly timed downpour caused a few extra balls to be pocketed by this humble narrator. Thank you.
  9. Evelyn – The newest addition to my numerous “collections,” she is a one-of-a-kind puppy that I got at the end of the baseball season. I got to watch the World Series with her and will probably be attending fewer games in the future because of her (more accurately: because I want to spend time with her).
  10. You, the reader – I know a decent amount of the regulars who visit my site, but there are countless others, people I do not even know by name; to you, THANK YOU!  Feel free to make your presence known and sign in on the comments below.


My 2014 in slideshow form:


Another “copy and paste from 2013”:

Lastly, I want to thank my wife.  She didn’t “make the top ten” because she’s just too damn vital.  Thanks for all of the baseball stuff (by going, not going, listening to my stories, looking at my pictures, storing the baseballs in our home, sharing links via your Facebook, and not strangling me) and all the non-baseball stuff (every other single thing under the sun).  THANK YOU!  And yes, I know that you technically got a ball before I ever got one; you can hold that over me for all of eternity.

Have You Heard?: TYTE JEFF

Pre Show

A new “off-season” feature to this blog will be more music-centric and will feature album reviews, concert reviews, and other music-focused subjects.

The inaugural “Have You Heard?” will feature a person who is kind of related to my ballhawking adventures of 2014.  You may remember that Rolling Stone article about the Home Run Derby and ballhawking; the writer being Jeff Allen.  Well, that Jeff guy is the namesake for TYTE JEFF… and the songwriter, lyricist, singer, guitarist, and nearly everything-else-ist.

More poignant words could not be used:

“You gotta admit the band’s pretty tight.”

-Craig Finn via The Hold Steady’s Chicago Seemed Tired Last Night

I’m pretty confident that Craig Finn was able to channel his inner-Doctor Who and transcend space and time by writing those lyrics, even if it was a bit “(sic)”, about former child-prodigy-turned-legit-front-man Jeff Allen, aka “his Royal Tyte-ness.”

The setting: The Nomad Pub in Minneapolis – Cedar Ave to be exact.

The scene: A snowy Sunday night, a few dozen pub patrons (half of which are probably in one of the three bands playing that night), a Giants/Cowboys football game on TV, and a band who openly proclaimed that they were “getting their sea legs.”


Sure, the lineup behind His Tyte-ness had changed, but for the common folk, you would not have been able to tell.  A rocking set by What Tyrants – who combined a Wolfmother-like throwback rock sound with a grungy Nirvana-esque twist – was followed by a fresh set of eight songs by Mr. Allen & Co.

Post Show

EIGHT SONGS?! That’s like 33% more than a six-pack… all for the low, low price of FREE!

(Dear reader, choose your own six pack; mine is tacos, and I couldn’t imagine how much more happy I would be with eight tacos…)

With a near-perfect 6 track EP as the only part of the Tyte Jeff (soon to be booming) discography, this show proved to be half history lesson and half a nod to the future, and not just because 4 songs were from the EP and 4 were new cuts from the soon-to-be-recorded debut LP.  Jeff Allen – yes, one quarter of the beloved Hopkins crew The Plastic Constellations – skillfully combines lyrics that reflect on events from the past and projects them on the current and future generations.  Just take a look at the lyrics for the EP and tell me they don’t resonate with any 30-something.

Getting back to the show itself, I must say that it had a feeling of something both special and mundane.  To the untrained eye/ear, it was just another local gig with a few small rock bands in a tiny bar: mundane, right?  But to a 30-something who is fighting with the idea of getting older and settling into the things never dreamed about as a child, this was like communion.  The show was special to me, the music pleased my ears, the message was heartfelt and relatable, and the band was incredibly nice.

Maybe it’s just my mind playing tricks on me, my brain dreaming up a wild fantasy, but I am thinking that the night of November 23, 2014 at the Nomad, that was the night I saw Tyte Jeff before they blew up.  The perfect ingredients are there, let’s just hope for their sake that my tastes are similar to a greater audience.

Here’s your chance to relive the magic that night:

Give them a listen and tell me what you thought.  Have a favorite new song?

Also, if you have a band or album that you think I’d enjoy and would like to hear my opinion, let me know!

The Super-Mega-Awesome-Ginormous-Happy-Fun Sized Year End Stats Show… (2014 Version)

Before getting too deep into the baseball-snagging stats…

…How Far Would You Drive for Baseball?

Mileage 2014

That’s my answer.  If you were to reference my totals from last year, I traveled approx. 6% less, but walked about 25% more.  (And yes, the walking is purely from car to gate, and not inside the stadium numbers… that would be too hard to judge and know.)  If you add the past two seasons together, I have cracked 10,000 miles in a car just to watch baseball games and catch baseballs.

Interesting side stat:


  • 2014:  31.31 miles driven per ball
  • 2013:  54.96 miles driven per ball
    • An increase in efficiency of 43.03%


Now onto…

The Stuff:

  • 180 MLB Baseballs
    • 123 Regular Season
    • 57 Spring Training
  • 11 Signatures
    • Byron Buxton, Chris Colabello, Nick Swardson, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Alex Meyer, Kennys Vargas (x3), Bud Black, Tony Oliva
    • Plus two at my place of employment: Brian Dozier and Kurt Suzuki (on a HR Derby ball)
  • 8 Line-up Cards
    • 3/2/2014
    • 3/3/2014 (2)
    • 3/4/2014
    • 4/17/2014 (2)
    • 8/5/2014 (2)
  • 7 Batting Gloves
    • Chris Colabello (3)
    • Trevor Plouffe (2)
    • Danny Santana (2)
  • 1 Pair of Cleats
    • Trevor Plouffe
  • 1 Bat
    • Kennys Vargas
  • 2 Softballs (ASG Celebrity Game)
  • 1 MiLB Babseball (Spring Training)


The Commemoratives:

  • Marlins Park – 1 (3/4/2014)
  • Fenway Park 100th – 1 (3/5/2014)
  • Wrigley Field 100th – 3 (4/5/2014)
  • Opening Day 2014 – 4 (4/7/2014)
  • Astros’ Inaugural AL Season – 1 (6/6/2014)
  • Futures Game 2014 (ASG) – 4 (7/13/2014)
  • Home Run Derby 2014 (ASG) – 5 (7/14/2014)
  • Home Run Derby FlexBall 2014 (ASG) – 1 (7/14/2014)
  • Home Run Derby 2014 (ASG) – 4 (7/15/2014)
  • All-Star Game 2014 – 1 (7/15/2014)


Top Ten Eleven Moments:

  1. Catching Kennys Vargas’ 1st career HR
  2. The 2014 All-Star Game
  3. The 2014 HR Derby
  4. My first ballhawking experience at Wrigley Field (Operation: Snag a Wrigley 100th ball)
  5. Plouffe cleats, Colabello batting gloves, AND 8 balls… in one game!
  6. 19 balls in ONE GAME!
  7. Snagging my 100th regular season ball in 2014
  8. The 2014 Futures Game
  9. Grabbing the first HR hit by Mr. Saltalamacchia in a Marlins uniform
  10. Javier Bracamonte bringing an Astros’ Inaugural AL ball to MN for me (thanks, Twitter!)
  11. The final game of 2014 (personal season high balls, most balls without BP by anyone on MGB for 2014)



1.  Dominique Frost

2.  Trevor Plouffe

3.  Oswaldo Arcia

4.  Kennys Vargas

T5.  Javier Bracamonte

T5.  Chris Colabello

T5.  Eduardo Escobar


Deep Stats (Non-“Ball Specific”):

Twins Record:

  • Regular Season: 9-8
    • 1 non-Twins game – Phillies/Cubs
  • Including Spring Training: 10-11

Twins analysis of Runs Scored (Based on Situational Breakdown):

  • Twins Win: 9
    • Average Score: 5.89 to 2.67
  • Twins Loss: 8
    • Average Score: 2.75 to 6.5
  • Spring Training: 4 Games
    • Average Score: Twins – 4.5 to Opposition – 5.5
  • Regular Season: 17 games
    • Average Score: Twins – 4.41 to Opposition – 4.47
  • Overall: 21 games
    • Average Score: Twins – 4.42 to Opposition – 4.67

Additional Non-Ball Stats:

  • Number of Teams Viewed In 2013: 18 (plus All-Star “teams”)
    • Astros, A’s, Blue Jays, Cubs, Diamondbacks, Indians, Mariners, Marlins, Orioles, Padres, Phillies, Rangers, Rays, Red Sox, Royals, Tigers, Twins, White Sox
  • Number of Stadiums Attended In 2013: 5
    • Wrigley Field, Charlotte Sports Park (Rays Spring Training), Roger Dean (Marlins Spring Training), Hammond Stadium (Twins Spring Training), Target Field
  • Games Attended By Month:
    • March: 4
    • April: 4
    • May: 4
    • June: 3
    • July: 5
    • August: 2
    • September: 3


Deep Stats (“Ball Specific”):

Number of Balls By Time of Year:

  • Spring Training: 57
  • Regular Season: 123
  • Postseason: 0 (it’s been a while since that was anything other than a doughnut)
  • Total: 180

Number of Balls By Month:

  • March: 57
  • April: 19
  • May: 23
  • June: 17
  • July: 30
  • August: 11
  • September: 23

Number of Balls By Time of Game:

  • Batting Practice: 107
  • Pre-Game: 28
  • During Game: 33
  • Post-Game: 12

Target Field-equivalent Section:

  • 7: 40 balls
  • 10: 19 balls
  • 129: 16 balls
  • 6: 14 balls
  • 130: 13 balls
  • Outside of Park: 13 balls
  • 12: 9 balls
  • 102: 9 balls
  • 5: 6 balls
  • 13: 6 balls
  • 3: 5 balls
  • 128: 5 balls
  • 101: 4 balls
  • 15: 2 balls
  • 138: 2 balls
  • 1: 1 ball
  • 4: 1 ball
  • 11: 1 ball
  • 17: 1 ball
  • 104: 1 ball
  • 126: 1 ball
  • 127: 1 ball
  • 131: 1 ball
  • 132: 1 ball
  • 133: 1 ball
  • 134: 1 ball
  • 136: 1 ball
  • 137: 1 ball
  • 140: 1 ball
  • 238: 1 ball
  • 239: 1 ball
  • 240: 1 ball

Number of Balls By Method of Retrieval:

  • Toss-up: 144
  • Caught: 22
  • Easter Egg: 13
  • Retriever: 1

Number of Balls By Team:

  • Twins: 111
  • Orioles: 8
  • AL All-Stars: 7
  • Royals: 6
  • Marlins: 5
  • USA Futures: 5
  • Blue Jays: 4
  • Padres: 4
  • White Sox: 4
  • Astros: 3
  • Mariners: 3
  • NL All-Stars: 3
  • Phillies: 3
  • Rays: 3
  • Red Sox: 3
  • A’s: 2
  • Cubs: 2
  • Tigers: 2
  • Indians: 1
  • MLB: 1

Average Attendance:

  • Spring Training: 7,265
  • Regular Season: 29,572
    • Target Field (16 games): 29,519
    • Coors Field (1 game): 30,651
  • Overall: 25,662

Number of Balls In One Day By Number of Occurrences:

  • 19 balls: 1 game
  • 18 balls: 1 game
  • 11 balls: 1 game
  • 10 balls: 1 game
  • 9 balls: 1 game
  • 8 balls: 2 games
  • 7 balls: 3 games
  • 6 balls: 6 games
  • 5 balls: 5 games
  • 4 balls: 3 games
  • 3 balls: 1 game

Number of Balls By Player:

  • 29 Balls: Dominique – Twins Bat Boy
  • 19 Balls: Unknown Twin
  • 7 Balls: Oswaldo Arcia
  • 5 Balls: Trevor Plouffe
  • 4 Balls: Eduardo Escobar, Security Guard
  • 3 Balls: Josh Willingham, Kurt Suzuki, Unknown Oriole
  • 2 Balls: Alex Gordon, Brian Duensing, Casey Fien, Chris Colabello, Dan Rohlfing, Francisley Bueno, Kennys Vargas, Logan Darnell, Padres Staffer/Trainer, Ron Gardenhire, Scott Ullger, Twins Employee, Unknown Red Sox, Unknown Tiger
  • 1 Ball: Alex Presley, Anthony Swarzak, Arquimedes Caminero, Bat Boy – Hammond Stadium, Bat Boy – Mario, Bobby Dickerson, Brian Dozier, Brian Raabe, Brian Snitker, Bruce Chen, Chip Hale, Chris Herrmann, Chris Maloney, Chris Parmelee, Chris Woodward, Christian Yelich, Clay Buchholz, Cubs’ Grounds Crew, Danny Santana, Delmon Young, Derrick Chung, Dustin Morse, Einar Diaz, Eric Fryer, Eric Hosmer, Greg Colbrunn, Indians Trainer, James Beresford, Jared Burton, Jason Kubel, Javier Bracamonte, Jeff Francoeur, Joe Mauer, Joe McEwing, John Mallee, Jonathan Papelbon, Jorge Polanco, Jose Abreu, Justin Morneau, Justin O’Conner, Kevin Correia, Manny Machado, Marlins’ Grounds Crew, Max Kepler, Michael Taylor, Nate Dammann, Norichika Aoki, Pedro Florimon, Ralph Dickenson, Rays’ Grounds Crew, Rene Rivera, Rich Donnelly, Rob Rasmussen, Robinson Cano, Ronald Belisario, Ryan Howard, Scott Diamond, Sean Casey, Sean Coyle, Sean Nolin, Starlin Castro, Stuart Turner, Target Field Grounds Crew, Terry Steinbach, Tom Brunansky, Tony Oliva, Unknown, Unknown AL Coach, Unknown Blue Jay, Unknown Phillie, Unknown Rays player, Unknown Trainer, Unknown Worker/Photographer, Vendor, Zach Britton
  • Total Number of People Who Tossed Me a Ball: 98



  • Too Many – additioanl blog post to come.


NAMI Donation:

  • Too Important to bury here.  A dedicated “end of 2014″-type of post seems like a better idea.


2014 vs. 2013 – Continued Improvement:

2014 vs 2013 Comparison

MyGameBalls.com Rank (by category):

  • Regular Season Balls (123) = 20th
    • Spring Training Balls (57) = 1st
    • Total Balls (180) = 15th
  • Regular Season Games (21) = T32nd
  • Average Balls/Game (5.86) = 13th
    • Average Balls/Game inc. Spring Training (7.20) = 5th
  • Games with 10+ Balls (1) = T12th
    • Games with 10+ Balls inc. Spring Training (4) = T3rd
  • Game Balls (39) = 2nd
    • I was able to snag at least one game ball at every game (including Spring Training) this year.
    • This category (along with all others) could be adjusted upwards by one, since the debacle of #HakeyWatch was never resolved.  Did he or DIDN’T he?
  • Game Home Runs (1) = T7th
    • Game Home Runs inc. Spring Training (2) = T6th
    • The Game Homer in the regular season was my first ever caught on the fly… and Kennys Vargas’ first career (in case you forgot).
  • High – Most Balls in One Game (10) = T19th
    • High inc. Spring Training (19) = T4th
  • Average Competition Factor (171,903) = 13th

Not bad stats, right?  Overall, it would appear that this year was a solid “Top 15″ showing.  If I could just get to more games, I might be a greater force.  But a new puppy, increased age, and other life aspirations will probably keep things in check (if not lessen my game intake).

Thanks to all of the friends of new and old that I got to share the stadium(s) with.  It was a great year, and many important memories that I will carry with me until I either completely lose it or die.


If you are the person who could make my dream job come true, please contact me about being a full-time baseball watcher/catcher – this would be the one way that I could definitely try to do some real damage and go for the top couple spots on the leaderboard.  Otherwise, it will be a slightly slower 2015, but hopefully a new stadium or two that I can cross off the list and some new commemoratives to chase (along with the first non-Selig balls in my collection).

PS:  Be on the lookout for 2014 versions of my YouTube slideshows that I made last year.  I had plenty of photos and an even larger collection to share.  As always, it will be embedded on this site once up.

Broken: A Record, A Streak, A Bone – Balls 360-369 (September 24, 2014)

Arizona Diamondbacks 1 – Minnesota Twins 2

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

September 24, 2014

As the title would suggest, many things were broken at Target Field during the home finale – some good, some obscure, and some just down right terrible.

The Record:  Phil Hughes set the highest “Stikeouts to Walks” ratio in MLB history.  He had 186 Ks and only 16 walks (the same number of walks as wins this year!).

The Streak:  A personal streak of mine – no games with double digits during the 2014 regular season – came to an end.  And this was without batting practice!!

The Bone:  Trevor Plouffe, while trying to tag a guy at third, broke his forearm.  You could tell right away that he was done for the rest of the seaon (only 4 games), since he was holding his arm gingerly while it was visibly shaking.  The amazing run of snagging baseballs really loses steam when the guy you root hardest for goes down.  At least he got his 80th RBI of the season and finished with a .258 average (both are career bests).  Am I sensing a second coming of Michael Cuddyer?

Onward, to the catches… errrr, toss-ups…

Ball #1:

I thought it’d be the ball shown below, since Lester Oliveros was the closest to me and Paul (yep, Paul Kom was here with me) was trying for a Logan Darnell ball.


But instead, we crossed each other’s guys and I ended up with the Darnell ball, and Paul ended up with Oliveros’.


Oh well.  A ball is a ball.

Ball #2:


After Ricky Nolasco got done with warm-ups with Nate Dammann, Nate tossed this one to me.  I think I was down 4-2 to Paul at this point.  But for no BP, we were doing surprisingly well.

Ball #3:


Let me just say this (again), Tony Oliva is a Twins treasure.  He is the nicest, most giving man, and he always has a smile.  He saw a small group of us by the dugout, went back in the clubhouse, grabbed a few balls, SIGNED them, came back out, and tossed them to us.  Kennys Vargas came out shortly after and almost wouldn’t sign the same ball, since he respected Tony that much.  Tony gave him the go ahead and that is why you see both their signatures.

Ball #4:


You knew this was coming, right?  Dominique, fromt he game-ball bag.  Enough said.

Ball #5:


Shortly after Dominique tossed me one from the ball bag, Eduardo Escobar did his best impression.  It felt great to keep the 5+ streak alive.



The man who gives the umpire crew their television signals bombed me hard.  I told him it’d go on the blog.  I can now say that I do not lie.

Ball #6:


Phil Hughes’ 184th K of the season.  This put him at 11.5 K:BB, but he wasn’t quite finished (he ended at 11.63).  This one was tossed to me by Kurt Suzuki.

Ball #7:


Nope, not poop.  DIRT!!  I love me a dirty souvenir; this one might be the finest example of the year.  I pitch in the dirt and subsequently fouled into the dirt by Danny Santana kept this ball from surviving.

Ball #8:


As the rain fell down harder and harder, the balls were being taken out quicker and quicker.  This one was tossed to me by Ron Gardenhire.  It was likely a game ball that was taken out of play and rolled over to him, but I cannot confirm.  The lack of rubbed dirt could be from the rain soaking it, but all these factors tell me that I cannot rightly call this a gamer.  Still, it was cool to tie my season high and still have some time left to break it.

Back to “The Bone”:


How sad and frustrating is it to see Trevor having to say goodbye to the group under these conditions?  I wish I could have given him (along with the rest of the Twins) one last “thank you” and cheer for the win (and everyhting else he gave to me and the fans), but it just wasn’t in the cards.

Ball #9:


The last ball from Dominique of the year.  A pitch in the dirt in the bottom of the 8th.  I will share my year-end stats, awards, and other random nuggets of knowledge,” but let’s give one thing away early:

Dominique, you are the MVP of 2014.  I will go further in depth and write a longer explanation, but this “secret” was something that couldn’t be kept.

Ball #10:

The last ball of 2014.  This was it; game over.


Casey Fien came out (after throwing a couple hats into the stands) and tossed a half a dozen balls into the crowd.  Here’s one in a bucket of bubble gum that came from the dugout via Dominique.  I might just have to give myself a Bubble Gum Bath like many teams do these days after a walk-off.

After the game, Paul and I met up and took a group shot of our sangs for the day.  He finished with 9, but don;t ask him about what “could have been.”



And there is the final individual game “group shot” of the year.

The final count?

  • 180 MLB Baseballs
    • 123 Regular Season
    • 57 Spring Training
  • 11 Signatures
    • Byron Buxton, Chris Colabello, Nick Swardson, Joe Mauer, Brian Dozier, Alex Meyer, Kennys Vargas (x3), Bud Black, Tony Oliva
    • Plus two at my place of employment: Brian Dozier and Kurt Suzuki (on a HR Derby ball)
  • 8 Line-up Cards
    • 3/2/2014
    • 3/3/2014 (2)
    • 3/4/2014
    • 4/17/2014 (2)
    • 8/5/2014 (2)
  • 7 Batting Gloves
    • Chris Colabello (3)
    • Trevor Plouffe (2)
    • Danny Santana (2)
  • 1 Pair of Cleats
    • Trevor Plouffe
  • 1 Bat
    • Kennys Vargas
  • 2 Softballs (ASG Celebrity Game)
  • 1 MiLB Babseball (Spring Training)


…And that is my 2014 baseball adventure all in one photo.

Like I mentioned before, I will have further blog posts giving recaps and rehashing what I experienced.

Thank yous:

  • Logan Darnell
  • Nate Dammann 
  • Tony Oliva
  • Kennys Vargas
  • Eduardo Escobar
  • Kurt Suzuki
  • Ron Gardenhire - I hope this isn’t the last ball from you, and especially not the last game you coach the Twins
  • Casey Fien
  • Trevor Plouffe
  • Dominque

Bonus… How about a video of the best bat boy in the game? Here’s Dominique doing his best Globetrotter.


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