A question asked on Twitter a week or two ago got me thinking; “which top prospects ended up being complete flops?” This question is a bit loaded, and any fan of one team in particular will always have a long list of “should-have-been’s/could-have-been’s.” Instead of immediately fixating on the Twins’ draft busts, I thought immediately of the Rookie of the Year award winners that never lived up to their expectations. I will meander through the list of RoY winners and then cover the “future of the Twins” after my analysis of those prospects that ended up having their best years under a rookie contract.
Rookie of the Year Analysis:
Let’s make things straight from the beginning. My analysis is purely subjective and I also limited it to the period where I was alive when the award winners were chosen. I would have found it incredibly hard analyzing a player who won the award in the 1950s or ’60s that I never saw and who played in a completely different era; so let’s focus on 1984 to present day.
With award winners like Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Cal Ripken Jr, Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, and Albert Pujols, it is easy to see why the award for Rookie of the Year is coveted by the youth of the game. When I was a kid, behind the World Series trophy or Hall of Fame induction, the Rookie of the Year award was the biggest honor I could think of; I wanted to be that guy in a dozen years or so! I immediately associated the winner of that AL or NL trophy as a super-star, a potential Hall of Famer… that is until I started to realize that some winners didn’t duplicate those initial performances for the rest of their career. I was devastated when Marty Cordova did not equal a third World Series trophy for the Twins. And even though David McCarty was not a RoY, I was crushed when the hype surrounding him turned into nothing more than a short career full of disappointment.
Within the past few years we have had GREAT recipients of the awards – Justin Verlander, Evan Longoria, Mike Trout, Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Braun, Buster Posey – is this a case where writers are smarter and the award is getting easier to give to the rookie with the brightest FUTURE and not a flash-in-the-pan? Or may one of these guys turn into a huge bust; a man crowned as a Hall of Famer at 22 only to be out of the game by the age of 30? Time will tell.
But here is my top ten – in chronological order – of the top “Rookie of the Year… Lack of Career” guys.
- 1989 – Jerome Walton (Chicago Cubs) – The 1989 rookie class in the NL was slim, looking back on it, only Andy Benes had a fully respectable career out of any of the guys that received a vote in the NL. Also worthy of note, Gregg Olson (Pitcher) was voted RoY over KEN GRIFFEY, JR!!
- 1992 – Pat Listach (Milwaukee Brewers – AL) - Great example of a guy that won the award and was out of the game before he was 30. Only once after winning the award did he play more than 100 games (101 in 1995). Maybe Kenny Lofton would have been a wiser choice.
- 1994 – Bob Hamelin (Kansas City Royals) - Who?! hits 24 home runs in 101 games, wins the RoY. Hits 43 the rest of his career and calls it quits at age 30. Surely Manny Ramirez would be the answer if we were to re-write history. Heck, I’d even take half a Rusty Greer over this race-car driver (wait, that’s Denny Hamlin, apologies).
- 1995 – Marty Cordova (Minnesota Twins) - Maybe I am too hard on him, since he was a Twins “bust,” but come on! His injuries – or sun-tanning mistakes – really cut down a potentially powerful bat. I’d like to call a re-count and see if Florida’s hanging chads prevented Garret Anderson from winning the election. Sorry Andy Pettitte, you lost to Marty Cordova… but not in World Series ring count.
- 1998 – Ben Grieve (Oakland A’s) – Let’s face it, the guy was basically done by the time he was 26, then out of baseball at 29. Ben had nearly 500 RBIs before exiting the game, but when you put up a goose-egg in your 30s, second guessing this award becomes quite easy.
- 1999 – Scott Williamson (Cincinnati Reds) – With a lifetime record of 28-28 and 55 saves, Scott only broke 100 innings once in his career. In fact, after the age of 27 he only averaged 24.1 innings per season before finishing his career at the age of 31 in 2007. At least the rest of list of RoY candidates was unimpressive.
- 2000 – Kazuhiro Sasaki (Seattle Mariners) – Sure, next year a fellow Japanese player named Ichiro would win the same award with the same team, but Kazuhiro’s career in the MLB was brief. Sasaki debuted at age 32 and went back to Japan at 35, it’s as if he brought the good fortune of the entire franchise back with him to Japan, because the Mariners have not looked good since. If not for being known as a calm guy, I would have guessed that Barry Zito would have been upset.
- 2002 – Jason Jennings (Colorado Rockies) – Going 16-8 for the Rockies is impressive, but having that be your last winning season must really be painful. Jason went 46-68 after winning the RoY and retired at 30 years old with an ERA just below 5.00 (4.95). Mark Prior has his name in this class, as does Austin Kearns; but don’t fool yourself, this RoY class is thin.
- 2003 – Angel Berroa (Kansas City Royals) – After 4 complete years in the league, Angel retired in 2009 after trying to catch on with both New York teams in his last season. Angel was 29 at the time of his retirement, though he is currently still playing baseball in New Jersey (part of the Jackals in the Can-Am league). Somewhere out there Hideki Matsui and Mark Teixeira are both trying to petition MLB to retroactively make them the RoY.
- 2004 – Bobby Crosby (Oakland A’s) – The most recent “bust” on the list, Bobby hit only 40 HRs after winning the AL RoY (22 during his award-winning campaign) and bated around .230. Bobby was healthy enough to play 2 full seasons while managing to play about 5 half seasons before calling it a day at 30 years old in 2010. He recently tried to catch a ride with the Milwaukee Brewers this year, but was already cut. Zack Greinke and Alex Rios were snubbed; but then again, Matt Holliday finished 5th in the NL, and he wasn’t even the highest rated on his Colorado Rockies team (Aaron Miles).
Minnesota Twins – 2020 World Series Champions!
Judging by the way that the minor league class has been rated, you would swear that the Twins are likely favorites to win a World Series trophy by the year 2020. Our prospect pool is deep and loaded; not just on offense, either. With a bit of help from the Aaron Gleeman blog, I wanted to quickly lay out the top reasons why we should be excited for baseball in Minnesota for the next decade or so.
***Note: As described above, some of these names could either be GREAT, or end up out of baseball before notching three decades of life. Surely one or two of these guys will be long-time Twins, though… right?!***
- Trevor May – Traded to the Twins for Ben Revere (we also got Vance Worley), May will hopefully turn into a decent middle rotation guy. We all know how much the Twins have struggled with pitching in the past couple of years.
- Kyle Gibson – Drafted by the Twins, many scouts had him already in the Twins rotation by now, but arm problems that led to Tommy John have delayed his trip to the Bigs, hopefully not derailing them. He still has top of the rotation expectations, though.
- Alex Meyer – Traded to the Twins in a move that sent Denard Span to the Washington Nationals, Alex is a hard throwing starter. Get the point by now? The Twins have a decent rotation in their farm system, let’s just hope they stay healthy and progress.
- Aaron Hicks – We have seen him since opening day here at Target Field. The potential 5-tool center-fielder is finally starting to show some comfort at the plate and in the field. He has the potential to erase Denard Span and Ben Revere from Minnesotan’s memories, just give him some time.
- Oswaldo Arcia – With Darin Mastroianni out, the Twins are able to keep Oswaldo on the roster. In his first month or so with the big club, Oswaldo has looked solid. This makes two of the long-term prospects a part of the Twins in 2013, hopefully getting them some repetitions for future greatness.
- Byron Buxton – I read when I woke up this morning that Byron hit a game-winning grand slam last night. Another outfielder (this makes a full line-up of 3) with 5-tools, this speedster has an arm and some pop. maybe this is the future Kirby Puckett of Target Field.
- Miguel Sano – Possibly the next Miguel Cabrera, the only thing missing from Miguel’s bag of talent is a glove. The Twins are not known to develop DH-only guys, so he will have to prove his value in the field before moving up. Let’s face it though, this dude can flat out CRUSH the ball. Bring your poncho for BP, because he’ll be making it rain!
Question? Comments? Concerns? Leave your feedback below. Did I miss any terrible RoYs? Any other talent that you remember as wasted? I’m listening…
I wasn’t really planning on going to this game, but I was fortunate enough to come across a ticket the night before and I knew that the drive for one of these cool Mother’s Day balls was going to scream at me until I did break down and go.
Here is the ball I am talking about, in case you are not familiar with it:
— MLB Fan Cave (@MLBFanCave) May 12, 2013
I arrived at the gates around 10:45, again only 15 minutes before gates, but since it was a Sunday (no Batting Practice) I chose to go to gate 14, since that is by far the quietest gate… and quickest to get to the Twins dugout. I ran down to the dugout and…
(The ghostly gate 14.)
…that’s when I saw Tony Oliva who saw me, said hi, then turned away and talked to a security guard by the other end of the dugout. He asked the guard for a pen and signed an autograph on a ball. I figured that it was for the guard, since they often get cool things from players/coaches as a way of saying “thanks.” Tony gives the pen back and then walks back towards me, points and I raise my glove. Pow! A nice strike in my mitt. He signed a ball for me!!! I didn’t even ask him to, he just did it because the man is one of the nicest guys in baseball. I am honored to share my name with him.
I will have a closer look at just the ball later, but can anyone help me out with what Tony wrote above his signature? I think it says, “Good Luck,” but as I do not speak Tony-O, it’s hard to tell. After he tossed it to me he proceeded to converse with me and said that he tossed it to me because, “you had a big smile.” Like I said, a true gem, and a Hall of Famer who was cut down before he could reach 3000 hits. He would have easily reached that number if not for some bad knees (damn you, old-time medicine!).
Shortly after that awesome interaction a magical bag was brought out. This bag is just a normal “game ball bag,” but today it contained one of the prettiest game balls ever used in the MLB, the Pink Mother’s Day balls! here was my sneak peek once it was opened:
I nearly leaped for a ball. I could see how pink they were and immediately wanted one. I waited like a hawk (more like a ballHAWK!).
When Ryan Pressly came in from warming up I decided to try to ask him for just a ball, but secretly hoped he didn’t have one and would reach in the bag and toss me one… AND THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT HAPPENED!! I flashed my glove, he looked a little panicked and searched for a ball, I looked at the bag, and he opened it and tossed me the prettiest ball in my collection (sorry Target Field commemorative, sorry Robin Ventura signature ball). I knew right away that I wanted to share this ball with my grandma (she lives in a small town about 2.5 hours away, I’ll be seeing her in a couple weeks).
My grandma had breast cancer and is now going strong as a survivor. So when I put all of this together and realized how lucky I was to still have her – corny, but she cheered for me in baseball (even if she didn’t completely understand the game), so it was awesome that the MLB was giving back to people like her. I started choking up a little and I am looking forward to taking a photo with her and the pink ball. Did I mention that she now loves the color pink and I even got her a pink scarf from the Mother’s Day game last year? Surviving a scare like that tends to shift the way you think – you appreciate the giving aspect a whole lot more.
Truly, thank you, Mr. Pressly!
Then a magical thing happened. I talked to Trevor Plouffe and told him about my grandma being a survivor (something he knows all too well, as his mother had to battle breast cancer, as well). He is honestly my favorite current ball-player (explains the blog’s name) and the more my grandma learned about him, he became her favorite, too. He gladly signed a pink ball, and that’s when I was really hit by how special of a day this was; being a ballhawk is fun, but when I can share this with my family – grandma in particular – it will be AMAZING!
How did I get so lucky? The twins really do have a wonderful group of players and coaches, the franchise is set up on individuals like Trevor and Tony, so it’s actually quite easy to share a story like mine. That isn’t taking away how amazing and lucky I am, but it’s totally thanks to great people on the field.
Here is the scoreboard before the game. It scrolled photos of players with their mothers, and I got a shot of Trevor Plouffe with his mom. It was awesome seeing the players kind of freeze during their on-field exercises in order to see a picture of them and their mom.
As I have mentioned before (beat a dead horse?), I have an instagram project to take one photo every day for all of 2013. Here is today’s picture:
And here is a panorama of my view for the game. Even though the Twins lost (6-0), the gorgeous weather made the game rather enjoyable.
After the game I met up with my wife and we went out to eat with my mom and dad. I got to spend some nice time with my mom, so this Mother’s Day was quite a success. I’ll leave out my thanks, as it would be premature at this point, I still have a couple more photos.
Upon returning home I took the following photo:
Not a bad haul; three balls, a scorecard (and game notes), four extra tickets, and three “Chinese take-out” boxes of candy.
And below are close up shots of the balls/autographs.
And now the THANKS.
Thank you Tony Oliva, Ryan Pressly, and Trevor Plouffe. You made my day, and soon you will also make my grandma’s day! I cannot wait to show her what the MLB is doing to help people with a disease she was able to beat. Thank you, MLB and all the sponsors who help donate to breast cancer awareness. I know that there is still a weird issue between $ and awareness, but hopefully that will be ironed out (anyone not in the know, look up Trevor Plouffe/Louisville Slugger pink bat argument). And most importantly, thanks to my mom and all the moms in my lineage that gave me life. I truly would not exist without them.
Before “part two” of 2013 season officially began for me – as the title suggested, it had been a while – I had to have a refreshing drink to give me energy for the game.
A nice tall glass (or two) of Watermelon Kool-Aid. It’s so delicious!
Once I felt I had enough strength, I departed for Target Field. This was not the first time since April 23rd, but this was the first ballgame I would be attending since then. I had visited Target Field on May 4th to take a special photo for my instagram project.
May 4th was the 20th birthday of my late childhood “puppy,” Kirby. Even though she was a girl dog, I still named her Kirby, after the great Kirby Puckett. You have to remember that we got her in 1993 and I was 9 years old. Coming off of a great World Series win less than 2 years ago, how could I not name my first dog Kirby? The photo above is of a panel of names that were etched in glass; season ticket holders had priority to purchase a line and my parents were awesome enough to give this to me for Christmas. Now whenever I go to a baseball game, I see her name under the “Passion” panel of etched names (I’m pretty sure she is the only dog that has her name on the boards, too).
So with enough liquid to keep me hydrated, enough sugar to keep me energized, and a decent short term memory, I was able to find Target Field once again. I arrived at 3:45 for a 6:10 game. Gates opened at 4, so I was NOT first in line for the first time in forever. Nope, I was second in line and when they opened the gates I positioned myself to be first in one of the lines. I picked up my Dairy Queen Twins hat. The hat is just a cheap rendition of the BP hats that the Twins use, and I am sad to say that I did NOT win a Dairy Queen cake (if your hat had a purple sticker under the bill, you won).
So once I entered the gates I jogged over to section 101 and walked down looking for an Easter Egg or two. It had been a while since I actually found an Easter Egg, when…
…I found this beauty!
It was hiding underneath a seat in the first row when there is a narrow area for water to stream from above and into grates.
Ball #2 and #3:
The second ball of the day came shortly after when the Twins wrapped up their portion of BP. Usually you get to see about 15 minutes of the Twins take BP on the weekend, and rather than compete for the one or two dingers that make it into the seats, I positioned myself by the dugout, knowing the odds were much better by going that route. Sure enough, Chris Parmelee hooked me up with number two of the day and number 120 overall. After that I went over to the Orioles side as they were warming up before taking their rips and got former Twin, Alexi Casilla, to hook me up with lifetime number 121, that’s eleven… SQUARED!
During BP I went over to the left field bleacher area, but the place was actually quite packed. I guess the giveaway coupled with a weekend game really brought out the crowd (even if it was a bit chilly, but more on that later). I didn’t come close to any and just felt crowded, especially for a stadium that really only has 10 somewhat decent rows to catch a ball in the outfield.
My last ball was also tossed to me, but this time it was by an Orioles coach as they cleaned up the field on their way in from BP. I don’t know who it was other than he was wearing a catcher’s mitt and was older and plump. Does that help anyone that my be familiar with Orioles coaches?
After that I tried for another toss up after the Twins did their warm-ups after the national anthem, but it wasn’t happening. Then I decided that I would not play for toss-ups this game, and so I headed to right field for a hopeful bomb.
Here was my view (Mateo has seen this very view NUMEROUS times):
And this was my picture for my instagram project, from the same location:
And I wouldn’t be a Minnesotan if I didn’t complain about the weather. How can it only be in the low 50s for a high with a 23 mph wind?! That means we were experiencing temps that would also have to be explained by “wind chill.” Dang…
Needless to say, it felt quite chilly if you were not in the sun, and since the sun was setting, it was hard to stay in the light, plus the temps would only fall. Blah! I cannot wait for a game where I can wear shorts and sandals and not have to worry about goosebumps.
Well, let’s finish this off and give some thanks. Thank you Chris Parmelee and Alexi Casilla. It feels weird thanking two Twins names, but only having one be a current Twin. Alexi was a player that I disliked for such a long time but I finally warmed up to him within the last 2 years, once I finally saw some of his personality come through at a function he was a part of. Also, thank you to the Orioles coach. I am sorry that you are nameless on this blog, but if I can pinpoint you, I will have to make a revision. Lastly, thank you to the awesome usher in the Champions Club, Larry. Larry is awesome and I love talking to the guy. If you ever go to a game with me, let me introduce you to Larry, he’s a cool guy and you will definitely have a decent conversion.
Introduction to the reader:
A month or so ago I finally made my plan for an unconventional entry public on this blog (See: HERE and HERE). In short, I wanted to do a handwritten blog post and send it in the mail to those who wished to have a copy for themselves – sort of like a pen-pal type of deal. For those of you who were interested, but did not contact me, you missed out on the physical product, but below is my original transcript that was then transferred to a regular-sized notepad and copied another 4 times. When I was all done, I had copied 24 pages (each copy was 6 pages) in additional to what you see below. To say that I am happy to be done with this experiment would be a disservice to the word “happy”.
So I will give you the basic lay-out and flow then let the scans/photos speak for themselves.
- Scans of my original written blog
- Photos taken by my disposable camera, with corresponding notes I wrote on the back
- Bonus “Game Notes” that I wrote at the game itself – These were NOT included with the ones I mailed out to those who requested a physical copy
- A typed transcript, in case you cannot read my handwriting. I normally have decent handwriting, but since I was writing more than I have in a REALLY long time, it got a bit sloppy, sorry.
Here it is! Enjoy!!!
Sorry for the blurriness, I kept my mini-notepad in my back pocket and pencil tends to smear.
Now for some bonus pictures; the “behind the scenes” or “making of” if you will…
Supplies, before being used.
Finished Product – as you can can see, this one is for Mateo.
Lastly, here is the fully transcribed version of what was written above, in case you couldn’t make out a few words.
I am writing to you – I am ACTUALLY writing to you – to tell you about my recent experience at Target Field. if you have this in your hand, then you already know about my blog – Plouffe’s New Hairdo. I will go a bit deeper with my thanks, as is customary on my blog, at the end, but thank YOU for being a dedicated reader of my silly ramblings on catching baseballs and other non-sensical thoughts that pop up.
How did this form of “blogging” come about?
At the end of the baseball season in 2012 I thought of some tweaks that I wanted to try for P’sNHd. I was going to be heading into my first offseason as a blogger, so I needed to think creatively. ideas for the offseason turned into ideas for the 2013 season, and it all kind of blossomed from there.
The first idea was donating money to a great cause and tying it in with ballhawking. i had seen other hawk blogs that did this and I had just the cause in mind, NAMI.org – go ahead and click the link, err, start up your computer, log on to AOL, listen to the dial-up tone, and type the address into Netscape. (Wow, that really showed my age right there.) After implementing a rather non-creative or original idea, i wanted to work on something truly my own.
The Idea Is Born:
Then it hit me, do a blog in its original form, pre-internet days. The idea was simple at first, send people my blog via snail-mail. After brewing the thought over for a few weeks, I decided to one-up myself, the blog would be handwritten. I love when music artists put together “deluxe packages,” and a few (see: Amanda Palmer) have even offered handwritten notes/lyrics, so I let that be my guide.
With Help, Via Twitter:
During my Spring Training adventures, I asked if kids still use wooden pencils at school. Jared Serre replied that he does, so I knew that writing with a REAL pencil was a must. I then decided to go “full retro;” bring a disposable camera, get it developed, and be surprised to see the photos. I took a few with my iPhone, but those are just in case, and will not be used for this “blog.” I kind of miss the thrill of seeing a good picture days/weeks after it was taken, the anticipation was very rewarding once you got the roll of film back.
…But enough small-talk, let’s get into the game!
Marlins vs. Twins – April 22, 2013:
I mentioned on my blog post from 4/22, that it was a bit of poetic justice that on Earth Day, Mother Nature punished us humans in Minnesota. I believe that climate change is real, it’s really a no-brainer, unless you disagree with all science has to say. (How’s gravity treating you? you believe in that part of science, right?)
We received 4-9″ of snowin the twins Cities metro area and so the game was canceled. A doubleheader was announced, and my tickets were now good for the 7:10 pm game on April 23rd.
Marlins vs. twins – Take Two – April 23, 2013:
The Twins beat the Marlins 4-3 in the 1:10 game, but work duties kept me from attending. Instead, I ended up arriving at Target Field around 4:45. Normally the gates open at 5:30 for a weekday 7:1- game, but the doubleheader pushed back gates to 6 pm entry. Couple that with no Batting Practice and you have a ballhawk’s worst nightmare – a boring pre-game which only included about 15 minutes of a few guys throwing some soft-toss. I kind of figured this (or something like it) would happen, so I knew that I would be lucky & happy with just a ball or two.
*As I do not yet have the photos in front of me, you will just have to read the notes on the back of the non-ball-collection pix.*
As I spent my 75 minutes in the cold shade (it was 39° and breezy) I realized a few things:
- No Mateo and no Paul
- Unknown attendance -
There were surprisingly few tickets on StubHub, but surely the last of the “winter games” would keep people at bay. Plus, the Twins announced that tickets for 4/22 could be used on other games, not just the rescheduled game. Plus, you didn’t have to redeem the ticket by game time, you could get a different game even AFTER the game took place. So this “switcheroo” meant a low turn out, right?
Well, I walked through the gates, picked up my snow, I mean RAIN gauge, and slowly headed over to the bullpen area. I knew there was no BP, no one throwing, and no one even in the dugouts. I stayed relatively warm in the sun and hoped for a ball to be tossed once the bullpen guys showed up. *I was skunked.* They didn’t show up nearly as early as usual, so that meant that I didn’t even get the opportunity. We were now less than 30 minutes to game time and I had a goose-egg.
I was somewhat nervous about being shut out, especially for such a special blog entry, but I remained calm. i had already psyched myself that this was a possibility and I knew that I always had a decent chance of a toss-up during or after the game.
After the Twins took an early 4-0 beating, and after I got shut out through 4 innings, Anthony Swarzak came in to relieve Mike Pelfrey after 2 outs in the top of the 5th. Anthony was warming up with Ryan Doumit and threw one in the dirt. Doumit tossed it to the dugout, Scott Ullger picked it up and then turned to the crowd to give it away. Since the crowd was thin and no one was paying attention, Scott decided I was a worthy candidate – with my catcher’s mitt and all.
*See Picture – Ball #1*
Whew, the streak continues.
After 7 innings of no Bat Boy toss-ups, I moved over to the Marlins’ side, directly above the umpires’ tunnel. I was in the first row and prime territory for a final ball once the game was over. I remembered the home plate umpire’s name, Lance Barksdale, and when it was time to pounce, I shouted and was rewarded with this beauty.
*See Picture – Ball #2*
Not too shabby. Multiple balls from a game with no BP and minimal toss-ups. I learned that Mr. Barksdale does not easily get rid of a baseball. While other umps get rid of any ball that hits the dirt, Lance kept the balls in play and would try to rub out the marks. Maybe this was the reason for the authenticator getting balls through 8 full innings.
After my second ball – the Twins lost, 8-5, by the way – I tried going to the other end of the dugout to get either Rob Brantly or the Bat Boy (Mario) to toss me one last ball. Rob came close, but had no ball to throw and apologized as he went into the locker room. Then, as I started to ask Mario, the usher came down and got crabby. His direct quote:
“Come on, you gotta leave, I’ve been here for twelve hours.”
Great words to hear from the equivalent of a “customer service representative” in a baseball stadium. i have met many nice ushers, but it amazes me when I meet the bad/angry ones; they are the people who should be helping create a happy & fun environment in the ballpark. They do not have to entertain me or go out of their way to please me, but just don’t be mean when people are following the rules.
*See Picture – Haul from game*
There it is, in all its goodness. Two balls, three rain gauges, an extra ticket, and a streak preserved.
I will now be developing my pictures, getting the envelopes ready, and copying my original text by hand another 5 or 6 times. For an added thank you for partaking in this experiment, please enjoy the Twins magnet schedule. It’s not much, but it’s something (and easily mailable – the rain gauges were not).
–>Please contact me (Twitter/Blog) once you have received this, then I can post the scans on my blog for all to read.
Thanks go out to Scott Ullger and Lance Barksdale for the toss-ups. Thanks also to the numerous people in MN that cannot tolerate a little cool weather, it gave me better seats.
Most importantly, thank you to Paul “A Piece of the Game” Kom, Mateo Fischer, Jared Serre, and my wife, Jael Vode; you (they) all helped shape this very blog entry.
PS: How did YOU like this blog experiment? Was it fun? Would you like something like this done again in the future? Feel free to answer this question on the real blog (below for you reading online).
(My full signature, Anthony Voda)
I just wanted to tell everyone thank you for the support and feedback on the last blog post. I am actually at a loss for words right now to describe what it meant to me, but just know that it was very touching.
Now to turn the gears back to baseball, I will be posting the “retro blog” post that I promised a while back. This special post will be a scan of the handwritten blog that a handful of lucky individuals will probably receive on the same day that I post it here (Friday evening – May 10th).
***As an aside, May 10th is also the 19th anniversary of one of the best albums of all-time – Weezer’s self-titled debut album, known simply as “The Blue Album” – as well as the 8th anniversary of another platinum album by Weezer, “Make Believe”. Yes, they are still my “favorite band of all-time”; though it’s probably more sentimental than anything else, since they haven’t released a true “good album” for quite some time.***
On May 11th I will be attending my first Twins game since the April 23rd game, which the retro blog will be detailing. To be “off” for nearly 3 weeks from baseball makes me feel kind of weird. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like to go to a game and it feels like a whole new season. Hopefully I can add a few baseballs to the collection, especially since it’s Mental Health Awareness month and my donations are going towards the cause…
Which leads me to my last bit of news. I have decided (literally 2 minutes ago, as I write this) that I will be donating an extra 50% for anything I snag/receive during a game in May. As I said before, since the funds are going to NAMI, and they are the ones putting together the awareness during May, it is only fitting.
I just wanted to take a couple minutes of your time to share with you what the month of May represents, Mental Health Awareness.
As you probably already know from my blog, I have decided to donate some of my money based on my ballhawking adventures. It isn’t a ton of cash, but so far I have a total of around $60 that I will be donating to NAMI.org. NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness – has declared May the month of awareness for all mental illnesses and want to help people become aware of their own mental health.
We often worry about our physical health, which can show obvious and immediate impact on our quality of life – a broken bone is easy to diagnose and the pain is easy to place. Mental health issues are much trickier to pinpoint and can often go undetected or fester below the surface until it’s too much to handle one day.
My Story (I’ll keep it brief):
I still remember the first time that I had a large panic attack – it felt like a heart attack, like certain death. I was worried about my physical health, but little did I know that it was my mental health that had manifested into such a physical sensation. These episodes came and went, and for a while it was nearly daily. it started to affect the people around me and my work; I never knew if I would be able to make it through the next 30 minutes without having an episode. My mind was fixated on this doom and worry, but I didn’t know that this cycle only gave my anxiety more power. After going to the doctor and taking a test to show that it was not a physical issue (no heart problems), I decided to go see a therapist. I got lucky, since I was able to do some research online and found out that my symptoms could also be anxiety/panic-related.
***NOTE: Do NOT self-diagnose your illness, whether physical or mental. You can take your symptoms and get ideas for what it could be, but then share all of those symptoms and results with a doctor.***
I started going to therapy quite regularly, bi-weekly if I remember correctly. I told my family about what I was going through and what I was learning and they supported me. I realized that the more people I told and the more I talked about my issues and shared myself with others, the better I felt. The hardest part, and it added a little bit of short-term anxiety, was telling friends.
…But they are FRIENDS for a reason, it’s because they care and do want to talk to you. Sure, you probably have certain things you like to talk about more (me, I like sports and music talk), but I found out that some of my closest friends (and family!) have also dealt with anxiety or other mental illnesses either directly or with other people they are close to. This was a relief to me, since I could finally share something about myself to those that cared; I rarely did that, if anything, I was always crazy without saying anything about myself at all.
Once I was able to feel comfortable with myself around family and friends, and once I realized that some of them were fighting the same fight, I decided to give something back. I knew the pain and the fear associated with a fairly standard diagnosis of anxiety, so knowing that there were people in worse shoes than mine that needed help made me realize that this was a sort of calling for me.
I decided to take my campaign to the blog-o-sphere. I didn’t have a huge audience, but at least wanted my voice out there on the off chance that it would reach someone who needed it. Since I was not ashamed and I was trying to be open and honest, I figured what better platform than a public e-journal like this? Now, I understand that most of this blog is about chasing balls, but there are also sprinklings of who I am, and when I am not catching baseballs I like to include those personal stories, so it’s not strictly a 100% baseball blog.
I was able to fuse ballhawking and helping others by donating a certain dollar amount for each piece of memorabilia I bring home from a baseball stadium. As I said above, I am at around $60 now and hope to reach triple digits before the year is over. One hundred dollars isn’t much, but when you consider that it is from just one person, it can really add up.
If you look back at some older entries, I tossed around a few ideas for “charities” (“causes” seems more appropriate now) that I would donate to that helped those with mental illness – people like me. After much research and investigating, I found out that NAMI was a very strong organization and had a higher percent per dollar that went directly to the organization’s cause than other organizations. NAMI is a large organization that, as the name states, is national and reaches a wide range of people on the “mental illness spectrum.”
What May Means to NAMI:
NAMI has a campaign right now (of course to raise donations, but more importantly, awareness) that looks like this:
…And they are trying to spread a basic message, “You’re Not Alone”:
That video is just one of many stories that are shared through NAMI. Though there is much pain behind each story (and there will always be future struggles), I also get a feeling of pure JOY when I see someone kind of like me that is dealing with their issues and telling a success story. It’s a hard fight, but the steps and help that NAMI provides in just spreading awareness alone proves to be the biggest win for most people that are trying to figure out why they feel the way they do.
So before I give my thanks – thanks that mean more than any baseball I could EVER receive at a ballgame – I want to leave you with this challenge. This challenge is not monetarily based, but one of awareness and compassion:
- If you, or anyone you know, have been feeling a little off and not quite yourself, mentally, reach out to someone. Maybe it’s just a small issue that you need to overcome or maybe it’s a mental illness that you have had all of your life, it doesn’t matter, find someone who will listen. Talking is often the best support/medicine that can be prescribed.
- If you know of someone that has a mental illness, please, PLEASE, do not make them feel like an outsider or “crazy.” We all have our battles, some greater than others, but even the most healthy person gets sick, and that goes for mental health, too. We all fight small bouts of depression, anxiety, phobias, etc., so we all need to be there supporting each other. The quicker we can lend a hand, the quicker we can help others overcome these obstacles. Enough of the stigmas that compare mental illness to the “loony bin” or “psych wards,” mental illness sufferers do not need to be locked up and quarantined, we just need support.
This list could included HUNDREDS of people, since each reader and each story I have heard deserves their own thanks, but as I do not know each person or their name – and have limited space – I will name the major players in my story.
My wife, Jael – THANK YOU for helping me in every single way that you have. I know how hard it was at times, and how much it hurt you as well, but you are the main reason why I got the help I needed when I did. Without your support and push, I would probably have lived with the attacks and not sought help until much later (if at all).
My parents – Although my issues started when I was much younger, and I should have gotten help sooner, your support this time was crucial. I didn’t know if they would be critical of me, if they would think I was odd, or what either of them would think. But when i finally decided to just come clean and tell them my pain and what the doctors were thinking, I learned about family members with similar issues and I knew that my dad wanted me to get help – he had lost a friend to depression and I feel like he feels bad for not fully understanding just how hard his friend’s depression was.
My grandparents – Similar to my parents, I didn’t know how they’d react. I was less concerned about their reaction, though, but when i found out that each side of grandparents had some familiarity on anxiety/depression, I leaned on both for their input and knowledge. I was able to be convinced by one of my grandmas that medicine was not a bad thing, and she was able to tell me what worked well for her (a few didn’t work so well) and I am happy to say that she was right. I always wanted to keep any drugs or medicine out of me (even Tylenol), so her story must have really meant something to me.
Friends – You know who you are. I had one friend that had some brain trauma that resulted in some mental health issues and when he and his wife showed support (on the same day they announced to us that they were having their first born!) it felt AMAZING. I also have another set of friends (soon-to-be husband and wife) that both deal with anxiety issues and were able to not only tell me their stories and offer the mental support, but one of them even walked 6+ miles from a Dairy Queen back to my house when I had a panic attack. We don’t always agree with our friends – heck, it’s hard to agree with yourself over time – but supporting them through thick and thin is admirable.
YOU – Thank you for reading this. I hope you take my 2-step challenge. We all need someone once in a while, so thanks for being here for me (even if it’s just talking into the ether). Remember, I am also here for you; if you need more information about NAMI or where to get support, don’t hesitate to ask. i do not have all the answers (I actually have very few), but I can always try.
*EDIT: The game HAS been POSTPONED*
Tonight’s game vs. Miami has been postponed. Rescheduled for 7:10 pm tomorrow as part of spit day-night DH. First game will start at 1:10 pm
— Dave St. Peter (@TwinsPrez) April 22, 2013
Back to the original post:
“Game on!” shout the Twins early in the year as the schedule is released to the public.
The Marlins counter back in acknowledgement, “Game on!”
And now, Mother Nature comes driving in, threatening the Twins, via Target Field’s meteorologist, to shout, “Car!!!”
What am I talking about?…
This is a perfect analogy for what may happen due to yet another winter storm. I hope the fans aren’t treated like Stacy by the Twins, a nice heads up before getting to the stadium would be great. I also use the term “winter storm” loosely, as we are now over a month in to spring. In less than 2 months the days will officially become shorter (summer solstice), and we even have 70s and 80s talked about by the weekend and early next week.
But instead, I may have my Marlins/Twins game postponed and rescheduled tomorrow as a doubleheader. I would be excited about this, but I then have to rearrange work schedules (possibly) and worry about what type of batting practice routine will be done tomorrow. Will I go to the first game? Second game? Do I do my first ever twin-bill? These are all questions circling my brain, all because of this…
Five to NINE inches of snow. On April 22. This is ridiculous.
Another reason why it could suck? I chose to do my “retro blog post” for this game. I am all prepared, too. I have my pencils, pencil sharpener, note pad (though my blog post note pad will be bigger – and yellow), as well as a disposable camera, my stickers for any balls I snag, and the drawstring bag from the stadium giveaway.
See?! I even have proof of the “retro gear”!
Well, I guess I’ll just sit back and send out some positive vibes; it’s really all I can do. if you haven’t signed up for the blog post to be delivered in the mail yet, please comment and follow my blog, then follow me on Twitter and I’ll DM people for their addresses when i am ready to send in the mail. I am guessing that the post will be online about a week or so after the game.
I have forgotten about this for a while, probably because the weather has been testing my sanity, but:
Heck, the Twins have a winning record about 10% of the way through the season, something they didn’t have all of 2011 AND 2012!!
Thanks to Mother Nature/Earth for this poetic winter-slap in the face! Maybe this will remind people how what we are doing to the Earth doesn’t just lead to “global warming”, but true “climate change”. Do some research on this Earth Day, see how you can make a difference and allow future generations to have a fighting chance to live on an planet that has reasonable and stable climates.
PS: I cannot wait for my Rain Gauge from the Twins for Earth Day. I really hope they re-brand it as a “snow gauge” to have some fun with the wacky weather as of late.
HAPPY RECORD STORE DAY!!
Baseball needs a soundtrack, right? Well, I think it does; so I chose to spend 5+ hours that I would normally dedicate to sleeping to sitting outside in record low temperatures. Sure, it may not be the -60 degrees (Fahrenheit) that Minnesota is known for, but this is April! The old record was 26 set back in 1888… that’s 125 years ago! This morning it was:
Simply put, we shattered the record!
“And what time did you get up?” the reader asked. Well, here’s a screenshot of my alarm:
Yep, 3:30 am. If I were to take a guess at what time I finally was able to fall asleep, it was probably closer to 11 pm than 10.
My wife had waffled worse than Brett Favre contemplating retirement. One day she was in, then the next she was out, then it sped up like contractions in pregnancy might. I swear, she was changing her mind multiple times per minute. But in all, she decided to partake in the experience (probably just to make sure I wasn’t the only loser there, making it easy to get mugged or stabbed).
The doors to Electric Fetus opened at 9, so when we showed up in the below-freezing temps at 4:20 (yep, on 4/20 as we were going to a record store that also served as a head-shop… we do NOT puff, but if you do, that’s your own thing) we still had about 5 hours until we would be done shopping – it only took us 20 minutes to shop, but over 4.5 hours to wait.
I had a list of goodies picked out. *EDIT: I have attached my list below*
I forgot to taker a picture of that, but my list was handwritten and color coded based on the level that I wanted it – green meant I wanted it badly, yellow meant I would like it, and red meant that only if they had it and I was under the quota would I purchase it.
Here is the damage that was done (I was going to save this for last, as it is the most “epic” of pictures, but it works better for the story now):
Jael purchased some of these as a Christmas gift that I will finally receive in 8 months. But I’ll show you some of the madness, then breakdown some of the individual releases.
First Stop – Electric Fetus:
I was 18th in line, and Jael was 19th. In years past I had shown up around 4 and been 2nd in line. People are catching on and I don’t like it!
This was the craziness at about 7 am. By the time the doors opened, the line was definitely past the Wendy’s – a block down the street. I know that I saw the number 252 passed out, so there were at least that many people.
I did not plan on going to multiple stores today, but out of the 3 that I stopped at (because I was chasing down a Frank Turner 7″ that no one had) Electric Fetus was the only one that had a decent set of “rules and regulations” that made the process as smooth as possible.
Here are the first people going through the RSD exclusive treasures. My turn was soon to come… (see treasures above, again, for my glorious haul)
Second Stop – Treehouse Records:
We stopped at Treehouse and then Cheapo, but did not find that Frank Turner piece that I so badly NEEDED. I still do not have it, so if you are looking to be generous and donate…
Last Stop – HOME:
We are dead tired, but here is a short little blurb about some of the highlighted releases that I procured:
The Hold Steady – Side A: Criminal Fingers (a new track from their upcoming album), Side B: The Bear and The Maiden Fair (a little track from an episode of the much loved Game of Thrones)
Elliott Smith – Alternate Versions From Either/Or – If you have not listened to Elliott Smith, do so NOW! Either/Or and From A Basement On The Hill are AMAZING, the rest of his songs/albums are great, too, but start there.
Kate Nash – Free My Pussy – Of course she means cat, look at the sticker! Oh, Kate. Jael mocked me for getting this “girly disc”, but she is also the one giving it to me for Christmas.
Pink Floyd – See Emily Play – Yep, who doesn’t like Pink Floyd?!
Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Descension (Big Beige Demos) – The photo does not do it justice, the color of this “coke bottle” vinyl is outstanding!
The White Stripes – Elephant (10th Anniversary Edition) – Beautiful vinyl, as always from Jack and his group at Third Man Records. Remember when I went there?
I got a few more albums, but they are ones that Jael is going to give me later, so I can’t show much more detail than that which you can see in the massive photo above.
I urge you, go to a record store, pick up at least one random record and open your mind. You are supporting a great business, and the prices are comparable to a download… but you get to have a physical piece of art as well as the music!
HUGE thanks to my wife for going with me. It was fun, and we can now say we went to the coldest Record Store Day in history! Thanks to Electric Fetus, Treehouse Records, and Cheapo for the great times. Thanks to the people providing freebies along the way, from donuts and coffee to stickers and 7″ records. Lastly, thanks to the people that came up with this great HOLIDAY. It truly is a holiday for me and many other music-junkies.
The Angels were heading in to town. I was not too excited about this, since I had seen them last year and figured that the turnout would be huge, since their roster is nothing but studs. When the schedule came out I did NOT have them on a list of games to attend, since I’d rather not go to a packed house full of people there to see the opposing team.
Well, I am glad that plans can change, because when I saw just how many tickets were available on StubHub and for how cheap, I decided to go. The attendance was officially 23,299 last night, but that is mighty generous, especially when you factor in the fact that it was about 40 degrees, in the shade/dark, and the pace of the game would have made a snail blush. The first few weeks at Target Field have the same pattern – a pattern that started towards the 2nd half of 2012 – people show up and trickle in until about the second inning, they reach their max attendance, then by about the sixth inning people start to head for the gates… quite noticeably, too.
I knew that Mateo would be going to the game, and he was right on my heals for taking over the career lead for balls at Target Field (I am only ahead by 1 as we speak, so let me congratulate him now for passing me in the next few hours), but the surprise of the night was hearing that Paul (A Piece of the Game) was going to be there, too! Paul was itching to get some more baseball, and you could tell, so of course he found a way to make it all work. What I was NOT expecting was to see Paul inside the park before the gates even opened to the public; I got there around 4:30 and a little after 5 pm Mateo and I see Paul with a big grin on the other side of the gates. Apparently he had season tickets and they let him in early to watch BP, so of course I had to check this out.
I went over to gate 29 and showed my Season Ticket Holder ID and they let me right in to watch
the few remaining moments of BP the Angels stretching and throwing long-toss. Needless to say, I did not get a ball before the gates opened, but I was at least able to run over to the left-field bleachers before anyone else.
…But that’s when it started, my record night (to date) began as an error-filled horror show that left me wondering if this was the night that “the streak” would be finished. I could have easily had 3 catches on the fly if I was better positioned and didn’t get shy. (Why was I being afraid/shy?!) The first error happened when I went to my left a few strides and reached out for the ball. I was thinking “full extension”, but only went 95%… which meant that it hit off my glove and right to Paul. DAMN! Sure, i was one row lower than desired, but it was not impossible, and quite frankly, was an error on my end.
Then there was the ball that was hit a few rows in front of me. had I broke right away and got in position sooner, rather than later, I would have ended up with a ball instead of a person’s glove in mine with the ball securely in their glove.
Lastly is there was the incident number three. I was in the corner of the front row next to the bullpen and extended my arm over the bullpen area and the ball (again!) deflected off my glove and landed in the Angels’ bullpen area. I was convinced that my trifecta of errors was a sign, an omen of how the night would turn out.
The the clouds broke, the baseball gods shined upon me, and my fellow man helped me out by tossing me 8 (yes, EIGHT!!) balls the rest of the night… well, technically 9, but I do not count my give-aways, and the only reason i mention it here is because this one was a gamer that I gave away – you’ll see why I was able to afford a gamer later on.
DISCLAIMER: I thought I made a HUGE mistake early on, since BP was more crowded than I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nowhere near being actually crowded, just relative to what I had anticipated based on tickets still available. Maybe this made me gun-shy, who knows.
There was a guy in bleachers that I talked to, but I couldn’t get a read on him. He was there with his son (maybe 8 or so years old) and he was getting frustrated that he was being shut-out, even though his son finished with at least a half a dozen balls. He was trying to tell me that a few of the guys “don’t give them away, those d-bags” and stuff like that. I agree, most guys toss up to kids, but there is no reason to get upset about it, especially if your son is the one raking them in. he told me that the trainer (who appeared to be Japanese?) was one of the guys who would never toss one up, this man tried yesterday to no avail, so it was with great pleasure that I was able to prove him wrong.
I took this man’s story of “not possible” as a challenge, and after a few times of asking politely and hollering when the trainer made a nice catch, I was rewarded with my first ball of the day – and only one I got during BP itself.
The trainer is in the background with the black pants on. I was able to rest easy at this point, my streak was safe for another day.
I thought I might be able to get another ball or two during BP, especially with the number of right-handed bombers in the lineup, but BP came and went, and I was standing by the bullpen with one ball in hand. I saw a few balls just sitting in the bullpens (one of which was my own error), so i decided to wait it out and hope for a toss om Nate Dammann – the Twins bullpen catcher. I shouted out his name after he put his pads on, and that’s when I got this:
I was still kicking myself for not making the other plays, but 2 balls is not a bad consolation…
…And if 2 balls is not a bad consolation, then 3 starts to erase the pain of the three you lost.
I was still sticking around the bullpen area and was going to try my luck with the Angels staff. I had looked at the roster (including coaches) and had memorized a face and name.
I decided to shout out and get his attention early on, in order to gauge whether or not I should stay and try for a ball or just go over to the dugout box area. He acknowledged me and said he would after throwing a little bit. Turns out it would be quicker than that, since he decided to pick up an extra ball as he went to get his warm-up ball, then tossed me ball 3 of the day.
There he is, walking away in the bullpen.
I thought I would have a good chance of getting a toss-up during the game, since I was able to score a seat in section 5 for dirt cheap. What surprised me (this night was full of surprises) was that only about half of the people in the Dugout Box area decided to show up for the game. So before the first pitch i decided to try my luck in the 3rd row in section 6, aisle seat next to the rail that separates Dugout Box from Champions Club. I made it the whole night without moving… until the 8th inning, when I went to the FIRST row!
The Twins must be trying to get a decent stock-pile of balls to sell at their game used post, because for most of the game (until about the 7th or 8th) the Bat Boy was tossing all balls to the authenticator directly below me. I was still able to get one in the middle of the first inning, though, because Jason Vargas threw a pitch in the dirt during warm-ups and it was tossed over to the Twins dugout by the umpire. Since it was not a pitch during an at-bat, the bat boy looked up and I flashed my glove. Like that, I had my first “gamer” for the 2013 season. (Yes, the two Opening Day balls were without a doubt “gamers”, but I cannot pinpoint when they were removed from the field of play, eliminating them as “gamers” to me.)
My night could have ended here and I would have been happy with my total.
It COULD have ended there, but it DIDN’T! Another toss-up of a gamer, this time from Eduardo Escobar who was warming up Mike Pelfrey in the middle of the third inning. Escobar took the last warm-up pitch that he caught and tossed it up to me. His attitude during the game and towards the fans is quickly shooting him up my ranks of favorite players.
Two gamers tied my personal best for any one game.
Records are made to be broken, right? Anthony Swarzak came in to pitch the 6th inning and was FANTASTIC. He retired all three batters in a row, getting them all to strike out… on only 12 pitches! He tossed 10 strikes and 2 balls in his first frame, and after his third K, Joe Mauer came in to the dugout and I flashed my catcher’s mitt while shouting “Joe!” a few times.
The mitt must have done the trick, because I was the intended target along with a nice nod.
Somewhere around the 8th inning I got another toss-up (gamer) from the bat boy – shown in the photo above – but I decided to give it to someone else, since I felt a little weird having that many balls while sitting in one section as everyone looked on. I looked for a kid, but there were absolutely none around me. Instead i gave it to the couple sitting behind me that had cheered for me after catching the Mauer toss-up.
The game ended – TWINS WIN!! – and I tried for any last balls possible. Brian Dozier was signing autographs and before he went in the locker room for good, he tossed up 3 balls, of which I was able to catch one.
Once the well was dry on the Twins’ side, I went over to the Angels side and asked the only person remaining, the bat boy, if I could get a toss-up. He happily obliged, and in doing so helped me set a new personal best!
On my walk back to my car I was both pumped about my haul and disappointed. I was incredibly happy to set a new best, but I knew that I could have had my first ever double-digit game!
Oh well, at least I got to see my first (of hopefully many) Twins win of the season. I am starting to feel like a terrible luck charm for my favorite player, Trevor Plouffe. It seems like he does really well in games I am not present (a HR the day before) and then terribly when I show up (no hits and an error). I hope to correct that track record, too.
Here is my complete haul from the game:
I failed to mention before that it was draw-string bag night. These draw-strings are the cheapest bags I have ever seen when it comes to draw-string bags. It’s kind of funny, since these bags are not known ass incredibly durable to begin with, so the fact that they used micro-thin material in order to save a few bucks made it easy to see why most of the bags were left on the ground in the stadium. I also caught a t-shirt from the cannon while waiting for balls by the bullpen before the game; the good thing about that is the coupon for a free meal at Perkins.
Now for a LIST of thank yous:
- Los Angeles Angels Trainer
- Nate Dammann
- Tom Gregorio
- Twins Bat Boy
- Eduardo Escobar
- Joe Mauer
- Brian Dozier
- Angels’ Bat Boy
- Mateo and Paul – great seeing you guys at the park, as always.
- Minnesota Twins – for winning and having outdoor baseball!
I had been targeting a Mets game to go to ever since the schedule came out. I was really wanting to go to the Friday game, since it was the only night game, but I was keeping my options open in order to get the best deal. When I heard that the weather for Friday was calling for snow & cold, and coming off of a blizzard/April snowstorm the day before, I knew that Friday’s game would be the best value.
This game was the first 7:10 game at Target Field in 2013, and boy how Mother Nature did not like that idea. If you are a Twins fan and can think all the way back to THREE whole years ago, this marked the 3rd anniversary of the first regular season game at Target Field. The weather that day for the 3:10 game started off drizzly, and eventually we had a few glimpses of the sun, but the temperature was a balmy 45-50 degrees… something the fans in attendance at this game were praying for. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really liked the weather, it’s an added element of surprise and “I was at that game” kind of bragging rights, but as far as the Twins business strategy is concerned, this game was a dud.
The Twins were well aware of the less than stellar atmosphere that the weather was going to provide for the first ever visit by the Mets to Target Field, so they decided to advertise “Free Coffee and Hot Chocolate” at the gates during the game. This was the first time that they have ever provided an unscheduled freebie of any dollar value, so you know that it was a last ditch effort to hold onto the 24,000 estimated people that had bought a ticket already (thanks to the usher who showed me cheat sheet with that figure). A few times during the summer they advertised “free water” at the gates, but they already had the big Gatorade buckets at the gates for the staff, and they were more concerned about heat stroke and death, not uncomfortability.
So after watching ticket prices for about 3 days, I finally pulled the trigger at about 10:30 on Friday. I had wanted to sit in the Dugout Box, since I figured a cold game would be low scoring and not many long-balls, plus I could warm up in the semi-private area in the Dugout Box section. Tickets at their lowest were going for about $35… GREAT! The only problem was that I needed a single, but all these tickets were sold in 2 or 4. Spending $70 for a $82 seat was not a great bargain, so I waited.
That’s when it appeared, a ticket for the greatest section in Target Field, for about the same price as the TWO tickets in the Dugout Box. The cheapest tickets for this section are $185 and for a Friday Night game, I am guessing that they were actually $225… and I paid WELL under half that, closer to a quarter of that price. Why are they the greatest tickets? The view, the accessibility to the dugouts, and the FREE FOOD! Yep, I upgraded without having to pay more AND I got a 4-star meal along with all the snacks I could want. Pictures of this glorious area will be shown after the main feature. Great segue, Tony!…
The Main Feature:
I am relatively new to ballhawking, but I would guess that the question in my mind is strikingly similar to even the veteran ballhawks, “How do you prepare to snag balls in the snow?”
I was worried that the field conditions and further precipitation would hinder the chances of actually having BP. I was still going to get to the field early, but I was trying to temper my expectations by telling myself that it was only a 50% chance of seeing batting practice. My excitement returned when I saw the batting cages up when I got to the gate.
Here was my walk, from close to my parking spot and closing at the Target Field gates (a la Mateo Fischer’s “Before the Gates Open” series).
OK, so now we all have an idea of the awesomeness that is Minnesota, let’s continue.
Speaking of Mateo, he showed up around 4:30 and we chatted with a Mets fan at the gate. We discussed my favorite, Robin Ventura, and his knack for hitting grand slams, we talked about the obvious snow, and then we also talked about the radio booth set up at Gate 34. Inside the booth were Ron Coomer (former Twin) and Lindsay Guentzel (former MLB Fancave member from MN!!). I decided to enter the sweepstakes that the booth had setup, and then as I went to reclaim my spot at the gate, who do I see inside the booth? MATEO!! Lindsay and Mateo had met each other a couple of times and she was familiar with his blog and the whole “ballhawking” idea so of course it was a great way to promote coming out to the gates early. (Disclaimer: K-TWIN – 96.3 FM in Minneapolis – is owned by the Pohlad family, so of course there is a huge interest to promote Twins games on that station.)
The Twins either did NOT take outdoor BP early on or if they did, they were NOT hitting very much, especially towards gate 34. When we got in, the Twins were on the field and swinging the bats, but it was definitely not a 100% effort (Mauer and a few others were staying warm and probably took BP in the indoor cages). I roamed around, looking for Easter Eggs, but to no avail. I ended up trying to snag a few in left field, but there were very few that made it that far, so I decided to plant myself over by the Mets’ dugout.
The Mets were warming up as the Twins finished off, and I hoped that I could snag a toss-up or two during this period.
*Self-pimping notice* Here is my photo of the day from Instagram:
If it’s acceptable to take pride in one’s work, I will admit to it with this photo. For some reason it looks either painted or like an old-time photo from the early days of color-printing in magazines.
As people were holding off until the very last minute to get to the game – in order to stay cold – here is what greeted them at the gates:
Anyone else ever experience snow on the turnstiles? Yeah, this was a first for me, too.
I found a decent place to try to snag a warm-up ball, it was right next to Mateo and another ballhawk; we all positioned ourselves with one section in between each other. Here is the full view to give you an idea of just HOW dead it really was in the stadium. (As always, click to enlarge.)
The Story of the Balls:
Balls 1 + 2:
I know that I am jumping around a lot, but you must forgive my frozen memories and my lack of taking a photo of the first ball in the location where I received it. The first ball came from the Twins’ Bat Boy as he was packing up the equipment after the Twins got done with BP. I briefly went over to the Twins dugout for the sole reason of snagging my first ball and I was rewarded. It felt good to get my first “snow ball”.
After spending my 5 minutes behind the Twins dugout (after I had done my stops in left field), that’s when I positioned myself in the panorama above. I flashed my glove to a few guys, but stayed quiet, since they were not yet finished with the balls. Apparently I caught the attention of the Mets coach, because he was starting to collect the balls, now that the bats were alive and guys went into fielding mode. The coach spotted me with my glove ready and there it was, ball number two of the day.
If there is one thing that I learned from BP in the snow, it’s that the snow and moisture REALLY strip the balls of logos/writing and do make them rather water-logged. I don’t know why this was a surprise, but I just figured that the frozen precipitation was harder to penetrate the leather and it didn’t seem like that much moisture compared to rain.
After the tossing finished, I debated between statying by the dugout for toss-ups or trying to snag some HRs. The fact that Mateo had left for HRs and I didn’t feel like very many would actually reach the stands made the decision pretty easy to stay. Couple that with the prime spot for autographs being open by the Mets dugout and I figured that I had a shot to use that ground as a ballhawking post.
As guys came in from the field to take BP, I would flash my glove and see if any had a ball in their pocket to toss to me. Most guys did not, but this wasn’t too worrisome, since I was not seeing a crap-ton of home runs.
Then Jordany Valdespin came jogging in. He had a ball ready for me and tossed it up with ease.
(Sorry, I had to take the photo later, since I forgot. I was busy targeting more balls, that I didn’t take a photo of it until nearly the start of the game. Like the worn off logo?)
In a similar manner to Jordany, Ruben Tejada came jogging in, but he did NOT have a ball ready to toss to me. I motioned that there was a ball in front of the dugout and so he went back out, grabbed it and then tossed it to me before going back in to the locker room.
After a terrible 16-5 loss by the Twins, I finally made my move to try to snag an extra ball or two.
I didn’t want to admit to this, but I DID make a terrible mistake that should have led to a gamer being directly caught by myself in the Champions Club. It was 3 feet behind my seat, but due to the weird angle, I thought it was carrying further back, plus my glove was off (WTF?!), and I had to do a 180, which was not pretty. Plain and simple, it was an E10 on my part. I am still kicking myself.
I went to the Twins dugout first, tryied for a lineup card, but nothing. Oh well, let’s try the Mets’ side…
I got over to the Mets’ dugout and asked the bat boy for the lineup cards, but they were already gone, so I asked for a baseball. He complied by bringing out about 8 baseballs for nearly all of the fans still hanging out by the dugout. (Read Mateo’s blog at this point, because he was also involved in this.)
Boom! I thought that his was my last ball of the night, which I was content with…
As I started making my ascent up the stairs, I decided to swing by the Twins’ dugout. The only guy left was the security guard, which I figured would be a dead end.
I was then pleasantly surprised when I saw him pick up a ball from the helmet rack area and turn around with it. My glove was like a girl at Mardi Gras, ready to flash on command. He looked around, no one else in sight, and turned back to me to deposit my 6th and final ball of the night.
There were a handful of girls that were now in the section above the Dugout Box area (Diamond Box) that started shouting that they wanted the ball instead. The guard said something like, “I looked around but didn’t see anyone!” He obviously would have given it to teenage girls, but I was at the right place at the right time. Don’t feel bad, though, because he went back in the clubhouse and got them a few baseballs… plus they already had a few from the Mets’ side. All’s well that ends well.
So here is the stash that I pocketed from this snow game:
Six balls, three scorecards, three lineup sheets, 3 boxes of candy, and my ticket. The Champions Club offers free scorecards, so of course I had to take a few. I actually grabbed the amounts at random, so it’s odd that – minus the ticket – everything came in a multiple of three.
The Rest of the Story:
So here are a few pictures, which i hear are like reading a thousand words, each. Right?
Holy crap, that is a ton of baseballs!… Nope, just snow flakes.
Silly Met. Is he trying to stick his tongue out at me or eat a snow flake? (Answer: the former)
In Champions Club you have direct access to watch the Twins indoor batting cages…
While you eat delicious meals at a four-star restaurant…
After which you can walk out and have views like this!…
And see the first pitch from a completely padded seat!…
Then stop over to the dugouts and feel like you are part of the team.
Well, that’s a wrap. I’d like to thank Mateo Fischer for the good company at the Puckett gate. Thanks to Brandon Nedoma, too (he was the other guy I mentioned above that was hawking balls). Brandon just followed me on Twitter as I am writing this, so that is how I learned his name… I’m not a creepy stalker. Thanks to all of the Mets players that tossed me a ball – Jordany Valdepsin, Ruben Tejada, random coach guy, and the great Bat Boy. Thanks also to the extended Twins staff – Bat Boy and Security guard, I’m looking at you! Lastly, thanks to the guy who listed the ticket for such a steal on Stubhub. he was nice enough to show up and offer me my paper ticket in addition to my e-ticket – as a collector of my ticket stubs, this was HUGE!