Cleveland Indians 6 – Minnesota Twins 3
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
September 24, 2015
Before I start the post with the recap of the game, notes about BP, or anything of that nature, I must say one thing…
I lost a ball. Either that or it was stolen. Somehow, between the end of the game and the time I got home, my total in possession went from 9 down to 8. I was and still am upset. Granted, the frustration and anger has subsided, but it is not gone completely.
So if you have seen or have in your possession, a game used baseball that is in a Ziploc bag with a number “6” in the upper left-hand corner, please let me know, I shall ask no questions and give a reward. (I also welcome the renumbering and revisions I must do to my notes.)
With that out of the way, let’s talk about the podcast, early entry, and exciting BP session…
“At the Gates” Podcast, episode four:
(Podcast to be embedded once upload on 10/1.)
One of those two things happened. I’ll give you a hit, there were no cracks of the bats heard until game time. A light drizzle, that was more off than on, canceled batting practice. This was the second time in a row that BP was canceled at a game I went to at Target Field. The “curse of Greg Barasch” is real.
Paul (yep, that Paul) and I got to use our season ticket holder early entry pass…
To literally see two baseball players on the field (neither with a ball). Both were Indians; one was talking to a small group of people on the field by home plate and the other was flying a drone with a GoPro on it from the 3rd base side. That was it, for 30 minutes. Early entry meant being stuck in the outfield as NOTHING happened. Hey Twins, want to improve the experience? On days where there is no BP, maybe allow the dozen or so fans to be anywhere in the lower bowl area. Or, if you really need to round us up, stick us behind the dugouts?
The first ball of the day came about 45 minutes after entering the stadium. It took that long for players to come out and for a ball to be seen. It was given to me by Ryan O’Rourke, who was visiting with some family/fans in the dugout. He threw both Paul and I one, then went back into the clubhouse. No more balls were seen for quite some time.
A ball from a “should-be Hall of Famer”, Mr. Tony Oliva. he was part of a pre-game ceremony to honor Mudcat Grant – Mudcat received the 1965 AL Championship ring that was lost many years ago. To see these two men together and the smiles beaming from their faces… it was magical.
CAREER BALL #500!! Woo-hoo! Thanks to Dom for completing the toss-up. Kurt Suzuki tried to toss the ball my way after a strikeout in the 1st (Kyle Gibson getting Chris Johnson), but the ball went directly into the net and landed on the ground.
A 3-1 pitch to Chris Johnson (again!) in the top of the 5th.
A wild pitch (1-0 count) by Michael Tonkin to Carlos Santana… NOT THE GUITARIST… int he top of the 6th.
The one that got away? This was a 2-2 pitch by Neal Cotts to Jason Kipnis in the top of the 8th. But due to its unknown whereabouts, I cannot count it in my collection, and therefore it goes unnumbered.
What I thought was the 7th ball of the night was a toss-up from Miguel Sano after the game.
The eighth, but the revisionists call it seventh, was another toss-up, but this time by Joe Mauer. He had a nice pearl and no one to give it to. He honestly looked at me like, “Please take this ball. Please?”
Whether it was the ninth or the eighth, this was the final one of the night. Another post-game toss-up, courtesy of Kennys Vargas.
This was when I noticed I was one short. After I got home and went to take a picture, I started to lose my… shtuff. I poured out my bag (which has my gloves, podcasting stuff, and other random things), but there were only 8 balls, no matter how many times I counted or tried to search deeper in the bag (or in my car). This was a bad feeling. I had 8 bags with me, which is why the last ball doesn’t have a bag. If you look carefully, you can see the numbers “3” and “5” in the upper left of those respective balls. Understand why there is a hole in the unfinished square now?
- Dominique – toss-up hat trick, again.
- Ryan O’Rourke
- Tony Oliva – GET HIM TO THE HALL!!
- Miguel Sano
- Joe Mauer
- Kennys Vargas
Sunrises and Sunsets: A Minnesotan’s Land-Trek to Minute Maid Park – Balls 489-497 (September 19, 2015)
Oakland Athletics 6 – Houston Astros 10
Minute Maid Park – Houston, TX
September 19, 2015
Please raise your hands if you have experienced the following:
A sunrise in Minnesota and sunset in Texas… on the same day.
A sunrise in Texas and sunset in Minnesota… on the same day.
The number of hands is probably measured in the dozens, especially if you take into account the method of travel – automobile.
At the beginning of each baseball season I plan road trips in my head. Heck, I’ve even planned one for 2016 already (the preliminary schedules were released and I had some free time). Houston always makes the list, but due to its long distance from home and relatively nothing in between, the trip never makes it past the planning stage. But things change, reasons come and go, and road trips can be made in haste.
This story is only made possible due to the fact that the Astros announced a major change to their ballpark… the removal of Tal’s Hill. My fascination with this feature/quirk is longstanding; it ties together old-school baseball stadiums with modern cookie-cutter ballparks. But if you want to listen to me gush more about this, listen to episode three of “At The Gates” (embedded below).
So let’s actually talk about the trip, a nearly 2400 mile journey…
Friday: The first 1200 miles…
I left at 6 in the morning, on the dot. This was coming off of a late night caused by one of the slowest baseball games I’ve witnesses (see previous post). With less than a handful of hours of sleep, my almost 18 hour trip began in the dark morning of the Twin Cities suburbs. By the time I got towards the Iowa border I saw the sun rise; I was finally awake.
Rain in southern Iowa/Northern Missouri turned into warmer and more humid conditions the further south I traveled and once I reached Joplin I became rather excited. I was going to visit Oklahoma for the very first time! The excitement soon wore off after encountering some stupid drivers and the realization that there was next to nothing to see in my hours of Oklahoma travel. Still, it was nice to put down the windows and channel the inner “early teenage rebel boy from the 90s” in me – I drank a Surge and listened to some death metal at a rather high volume. Yep, I made the best of Oklahoma.
By the time I arrived in Dallas the day was ending and the night was starting to request its own appearance. It was here that I experienced the wonder of witnessing a Minnesota sunrise and a Texas sunset in the same day, while viewing over 1000 miles of America in between. I mention it in the podcast, but I will say it again here (and hopefully clarify any awkwardness that may make me sound anti-American):
While I do not classify myself as patriotic, there is something about driving 18 hours and seeing how different and huge this country is… and how similar it can be. My political and social views align with a more “global community” way of thought. However, as I reflect back on my journeys – this trip from MN to TX, my numerous trips from MN to FL, and a couple from MN to CO – I cannot help but feel more connected with this land.
Thanks for letting me profess that to you.
The rest of the trip was dark and uneventful, Dallas to Houston is pretty bare, especially when you add nighttime to the mix. I pulled into the hotel shortly before midnight and even though my body and mid wanted to pass out, the excitement of tomorrow’s adventure and the adrenaline of the trip kept me up another hour.
Good morning, Cactus Music!
When I am in a new town I want to know two things:
- Do they have a major league stadium? If so, can I attend a game?
- Where is the best (or at least closest) record store?
I already knew the answer to #1, but as I planned my 3-day, ultra-quick adventure, I had to do some research to find #2. It turns out that the people of Houston have spoken and elected Cactus Music as the best of the best. The next step was to look at the hours of operation – I gave myself a “have to be at the game before noon” ultimatum. The shop opened at 10 and was less than 15 minutes from Minute Maid Park, PERFECT!
Oh, I also found out that it was only 5 minutes from the hotel (less than 2 miles). This was also good news, but would have been better had I planned out things better. Instead, I found myself able to record an “At The Gates” podcast outside of the record store if I had really wanted to do so. Showing up more than 30 minutes before they open the doors at a record store (without a Record Store Day promotion) is pretty boring and unnecessary.
Here’s what it looked like inside and out:
That is Rufus, an employee of the store. He is the guard… and also the companion of one of the actual employees. This made me happy to see a puppy, but also sad, since mine was more than 1000 miles away.
After completing my purchase, I made my way over to Minute Maid Park. Admittedly, I missed an exit and got a little turned around, but nothing one exit later couldn’t solve. However, the parking situation (especially with a Mexican Heritage Parade going on around the stadium) was extremely frustrating and difficult. Sure, there are TONS of parking lots around the stadium, but when you are nearly 7 hours early for the game, many of them have certain issues. In MN we either have easy to use machines that take cards or we have attendants that take your cash and give you a parking slip. Houston had machines that take cards, but either they don’t work or they had 3 hour rates only (no game-time rates available yet). And attendants?! NOPE, they don’t believe in them, they just use a “put your cash in a slot and poke it through with a metal stick” approach. This approach concerned me, as I wanted a slip to place in my dash and feel safe knowing I wasn’t going to get towed. When you are taking off from the stadium and want to get a few hours out of town in order to get back in time, you try for the safest and most legal parking.
AT THE GATES!!!
After a half an hour of parking mayhem, I reach gate number, ummm, the gate’s name was, ahhhh. Wait, they don’t number or name their gates?! What the hell?! So stupid. Anyway, I was at the gate in centerfield; I could see my first glimpse of the actual field, and it was glorious.
It was at this point that everything felt real. My anxieties were all but gone and my excitement and happiness was at a rather high level. No more worries about getting there, or about being late, or about… well, you get it. I could sit down, take some photos, and record a podcast in peace.
A few days earlier it was announced that the Astros were doing a bobblehead giveaway for this game. All I could think of is “crap!” but the fans down there were surprisingly chill about it all. The Twins have folks that camp out for bobbleheads, but at Houston I was first in line and only one in line for a couple hours. I still worried about “getting a ball” and how that would all work, but those worries were only slightly more elevated compared to going to my home park. It was cool to feel almost at home in Houston – even if it was my first game there and on a weekend bobblehead day, with their team in a playoff spot.
After about 4 hours of waiting in line, the gates opened, I got my bobblehead(s) and…
…Ran over to the bullpen area in right-centerfield. With only a handful of fans waiting, I flashed my glove at an Astros player walking by. He picked up the ball laying by the warning track and helped get me on the board.
An Astros player hit a BP homer into the bullpen and it bounced once and landed in the seats behind the pen. I ran over and picked it up.
Carlos Muñoz was down catching for a few guys and was putting his gear away. A ball was sitting near him so I asked for it. The day was going to be a good one.
I had a sign that said “2400 mile road trip for my 1st Astros game.” Pat Neshek saw it and I told him I was from Minnesota (his stomping grounds as a young man, both growing up and early in his MLB career). Later on he came back towards the wall wear I was standing in order to pick up a ball on the warning track. I wanted the ball, but didn’t ask, since I had already talked to him and didn’t want to bother him. Plus, with a few children nearby, I thought my chances were low. I stood back, but he looked at me, pointed and then tossed it up. AWESOME!
I wandered away from the bullpen, since it was filling in with people at this point, and headed over to right field. George Springer caught a ball and all the fans were yelling. He didn’t look back, but instead just threw it over his shoulder and a few rows deep… directly to me. There was no one around for a good 10 feet. It was almost too perfect/easy.
My goal was to try for 5 balls, since that seemed like a respectable total for a new park. Achievement Unlocked.
With Astros BP winding down, I made my way towards their bench. I was hoping to see Javier Bracamonte in order to say hello. I successfully navigated my way over and got his attention. We said hello and he said it was nice to see me make it down safely, then he grabbed a ball and tossed it up. The dude is AWESOME!
The Astros were nearly finished and their dugout area was a zoo. I could have tried to go back into the outfield area for the Athletics BP, but since it was bobblehead night, the place was quite packed. However, the visitor’s dugout was surprisingly empty by comparison. Usually at Target Field the opponents even get a large showing behind their dugout. Here at Houston it wasn’t even 1 deep.
I found a prime spot (by an opening where the players come in) and waited to work my magic. Danny Valencia (former Twin) was throwing in front of the dugout and when he was done I asked for the ball.
This is the lone ball I forgot to take notes for. I know where I was and the general time, but I do not remember who tossed it up. I hate when that happens. So maybe it was Rickey Henderson, who was in town visiting and wanted to see his former club. Thanks, Rickey (or other unknown Athletic).
This was the last ball of BP. After shattering my expectations, I wandering the stadium, soaking in some sites/scenes and picking up a drink to stay hydrated (PS: they do not have vegan food, go figure).
(The reason for the trip: Tal’s Hill)
(Line up and introductions)
(Barry Zito’s farewell tour)
(My view of the game)
Had I been greedy, this could have been number ten of the day. Instead, I gave #9 to an A’s fan sitting next to me and kept this ball. But it’s not just a simple story like it sounds.
I made a sign for Mark Canha and showed him in BP. I asked if he’d throw me a 3rd out ball, since I wanted a game ball with the commemorative logo. He said yes and told me to just hold the sign. In the bottom of the 3rd he made the putout at 1st base and came running my way. As he got close to the dugout his coach tossed him a pearl. Mark caught it, looked at both balls, and then decided to give me the pearl. DANG IT!!! Not only was this not a commemorative, but my streak of gamers was on the line.
After ending the top of the 4th, Mark ran back out to first base, with that game ball in his glove. They did their infielding routine as the pitcher warmed up and then he tossed it in to Tye Waller. The previous 3 innings saw Tye toss the ball into the crowd – something the Twins coaches do not do (they use one warm-up ball for the entire game, but the first baseman also tosses up the game ball). Knowing this, and not yet getting a ball from Tye, I pounced on him quickly. I called out his name a couple times within a second of him catching the ball. The A’s hat and green shirt got me noticed and he threw it right to me.
However, folks in my area saw me get two balls now within a half-inning, and since there were children running down, they thought “give it to the kids!” I know that most, if not all of the kids had or would receive balls, so I gave the pearl (still in my pocket) to the A’s fan next to me and showed them that she had one. Most people were then quieted by this act, except for one dude. He was then silenced by his friend and also by me explaining that I was helping an A’s fan and that the A’s were the ones throwing them to their fans.
So it all worked out. Things couldn’t have gone any better. The stadium, the ballhawking, and the city in general exceeded my expectations. The Astros went on to win in a semi-comeback fashion and my night came to an end with a season-high-matching performance.
Houston, we do NOT have a problem. In fact, I want to come back.
Though the game was nearly 4 hours, which meant I lost the ability to make it to Dallas for the night, I still was able to remain happy and make it 2 hours before hitting one of the worst hotels in my life. I will not go into the details, but let’s just say I saw the bugs scatter whenever I turned on the lights.
The next day saw an end to this insane tour – fans at the game, at the gates, and people back home all told me how crazy I was to do all this for just one game – but all in all, it was TOTALLY worth it. I am not saying this from a purely ballhawking experience, but as a whole (an admittedly short 24 hours in the city of Houston).
I took off from Texas at 6 in the morning, saw a sunrise before Dallas and eventually ended with a sunset in Minnesota.
- Pat Neshek
- Carlos Muñoz
- Javier Bracamonte
- George Springer
- Danny Valencia
- Tye Waller
- Angel Arroyo – Thanks for all the tips. Next time we will meet, just don’t lose any more body parts before then! (And also don’t lose any after that, too. Keep all your parts.)
- Random Security Guard – You were at the gate when I got there and in section 110 or so. Thanks for talking so much and keeping me company around noon.
Los Angeles Angels 11 – Minnesota Twins 8
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
September 17, 2015
Hopefully the name in the title sounds familiar to you; if not, be prepared to know the man, the myth, the legend… Greg Barasch!
Greg was in town with his father in order to cross off Target Field from their list of stadiums to visit. They mentioned that Target Field would be the 28th out of the 30 current stadiums – they had been to Minneapolis’ finest stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, but that has been deceased since last year (and out of baseball service for over 5 years).
But if you want to learn more about “The Guest Formerly Known As Greg” (his official Minnesota name), listen to episode two of “At the Gates.”
Speaking of “At the Gates,” they were wet. They were very, very wet. Rain came in earlier in the day and never fully went away. The weather was nothing short of humid and after each line of storms/rain came through, another line formed in its wake. I thought things were looking good around 3 or 4, but then the last line formed and guaranteed NO BATTING PRACTICE!
No BP for a ballhawk is like spoiling a movie or an episode for a nerd – and yes, ballhawks are the nerds of baseball (for the most part), and I fully accept that. While not good news for Paul and myself, this was even worse for Greg (at least on paper). To travel to a new stadium, riding an average close to 15 balls/game, and to only have a shot at snagging warm-up balls and game balls, this severely limits the number possible. The good news? It was a Thursday and there were no bobbleheads to be given away (something I could not say about my trip to Houston in two days).
If you can do simple math, then you will know that I got SIX balls this game (and a special surprise to be shown below). Paul ended up with FOUR. And Greg?… He just had to show off and put up more balls than Paul and I combined… ELEVEN!
(Paul ordering a Jimmy Johns sub. Greg doing “the thinker.” Me taking a rare selfie.)
Once inside the stadium, we were at least given a slight hope of getting on the board – the pitchers were warming up.
I believe that all three of us got one within the first few minutes. This ball in particular was from Glen Perkins.
Another warm-up ball, this time from Trevor May.
Straight from the ball bag, courtesy of Eduardo Escobar.
What appears to be a game used ball, but given to me from the ball bucket (not bag) from Dominique. Dom uses the bucket to hold balls that he doesn’t give to the authenticator or toss up into the stands. It was probably a hold out from a previous game, but there is no way I will ever know.
A 3-2 pitch to Albert Pujols via Tommy Milone in the top of the first. Yep, a ball swung at by a future hall of famer.
Thank you, Trevor Plouffe! I love snagging not-baseballs, too. The collection will look AMAZING someday, when I can properly display it all.
The last of the night, another gamer tossed by Dom.
- Dominique – toss-up hat trick.
- Glen Perkins
- Trevor May
- Eduardo Escobar
Chicago White Sox 0 – Minnesota Twins 3
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
September 2, 2015
Well here’s something that you don’t hear all that often. I was not EARLY to the gates. In fact, I missed out on 96% of the “early entry BP” for season ticket holders. I knew this was a reality when I couldn’t get out of work until after 5 – once the gates had already opened for those with the STH pass/privilege. I even thought about canceling my game and just going home… Oh, how wrong I’d be.
I parked drove like mad to get to the closest place to park (with quick access to the gates) and then ran like a crazy person to gate 34. No time to do a podcast (unfortunately), but looking at my phone I saw that it was 5:25 with just a few more blocks left. I *might* just make it in before the “regular people.”
I walked through the gate, got my ticket scanned, and ran to the flag pole – 5:29 pm.
In that one minute of early entry, I received a big ol’ goose egg. Quickly I went down to the foul area of right field – closer to Alexei Ramirez. On the way down…
…an usher found a ball as I ran passed him. He looked up, I showed him my glove and he actually tossed it to me. Not only do a lot of ushers not give up baseballs, but if they do it is usually to a small child. I was on the board within 5 minutes overall. Whew; exhale.
After asking Alexei a few times, I finally gave up and faced the fact that he probably wasn’t going to give me one. Even though we played around a bit – nodding, pointing, cheering, etc. – he went 5-10 minutes without tossing one over to me (he had about a dozen opportunities).
Then, without me saying anything, he got a flyball, looked over and just threw it to me.
I was beginning to feel better. What was a certain disaster in my head (late to the gates and all the concerns/missed opportunities), two on the board is not exactly a bad day – especially with more than 3 hours left at the park.
As it was the last hurrah for many youth baseball teams before the kids have to go back to school, I stayed in the foul area for BP. Nothing worse than being around multiple teams of kids all of whom brought there glove and worse yet, all who scream for a ball EVERY time one comes anywhere near them.
Bobby Thigpen, one time single season saves record holder, tossed me ball #3 for the day. I was beginning to think I could get my average of about 5 balls this game. Again, not bad for a “lost game.”
Now positioning myself by the White Sox dugout, I flashed my glove (and Sox shirt) to anyone with a baseball who would look over towards me. It paid off when a White Sox worker looked over after helping clean up the baseballs used during BP. He tossed one back in the bucket and the other to me. He was wearing a grey polo and khaki pants, probably a trainer?
Dominique. Enough said. Five balls in one game? I cannot complain.
Shortly after Dom hooked me up, Eduardo Escobar did the same. I came into the game around five and a half balls per game, so hitting 6 only helps the average. I went from nearly aborting the game to having an “above average” total.
Anyone ever heard of the Golden State Warriors? Alright, most of you already know where I am going with this. Klay Thompson – NBA Finals winner, himself – has a brother named Trayce who plays for the White Sox. He was at the plate in the 4th inning, with Tommy Milone pitching, and this was the ball he tipped foul to make it 0-2.
Anyone else ever heard of Miguel Sano? Well, he tossed me my final ball of the night, a warm-up pitch by Daniel Webb in the bottom of the 7th. He came in with 2 out to face Trevor Plouffe. This ball was used in the previous Joe Mauer at-bat (a strikeout).
And that’s it. Nearly 50% more balls snagged this game than my yearly average. Unbelievable.
- Alexei Ramirez
- Twins Usher
- Miguel Sano – for hitting homers AND tossing me baseballs.
- Eduardo Escobar
- Bobby Thigpen
- Unknown White Sox worker – Bill Brasky? I don’t know.
Extra Credit/Help Wanted:
Anyone ever been to Minute Maid Park? If so, please leave comments or let me know on Twitter (@TonyV433). I will take any and all tips/tricks possible. I’d like to snag a gamer of any sort and put up a respectable number – I am closing in on career ball #500, and would like to still do this in 2015.
THANKS! (Anyone with tips/tricks will get shoutouts on the “At the Gates” show that I do from Minute Maid Park. If you have a special message you’d like me to read, I would even do that.)
Houston Astros 0 – Minnesota Twins 3
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
August 28, 2015
Before I get into writing about the baseballs I obtained at this game, I wanted to share episode 1 of “At The Gates” Podcast! This is a podcast I had brewing, but finally decided to make. The premise is simple: show up early to the game, meet friends at the gates (new and/or old) and talk baseball.
The podcast is
currently under the “review” phase in NOW AVAILABLE to download on iTunes and should be up in the near future. For any additional info and behind-the-scenes peeks, check out Twitter, Instagram, and email.
Hopefully you have downloaded the show to see what was talked about “at the gates”, so now I can talk about what happened inside the stadium.
Within a few minutes of being inside the stadium, I was hooked up with ball #469 of my career from new Twins closer, Kevin Jepsen (at least until Glen Perkins is back to 100%). After that I went over towards the Astros’ dugout, because now that my streak was no longer in jeopardy, the goal of getting a commemorative took priority over any sort of “big number.”
I got Carlos Muñoz’s attention and tried to mouth/sign for a 50th commemorative, but do you know how hard that is to convey to someone who cannot hear you and at the other end of a dugout? Still, cool to have at least 2 for the day. Thanks, Carlos!
After getting Javier’s attention early on and being told “bullpen”, I finally made my way out to centerfield before first pitch and waited for the man to show up. i had asked for one on Twitter and showed him the sign above that I had made for this game. I think this won him over.
As soon as he got over to the bullpen, he went over to his bag, unzipped it and…
…went directly towards the ball he had specifically set aside for me. How cool is that?! This marked the 3rd time that he hooked me up with a commemorative baseball (the 2012 and 2013 Houston versions being the other two), with a eerily similar story happening for the 2013 ball. Javier is the best in the Bigs. Watch Zack Hample’s video of him playing catch with the fans and try to disagree. These were Yankees fans, too!
There are all three of the most recent Houston commemoratives, all courtesy of Javier Bracamonte. Gracias, Javier!
Dominique hooked me up and then Paul, just before first pitch. It’s always nice to have a mud-rubbed ball before anyone else in the stadium.
In the top of the sixth, Evan Gattis faced off against Kyle Gibson. This was the 2-1 pitch. Again, Dom.
The last of the night, this was in the top of the ninth, Luis Valbuena facing off against Kevin Jepsen. This was the 1-2 pitch. Dom scores the hat trick.
Notice the show notes for the podcast? I wanted to have a script for my intro (since a lot of it was introducing the premise and future plans) and then have a list of topics to cover with the gang.
I cannot wait to be wearing that nice “H” hat again, but next time in Houston (tickets purchased for 9/19/2015).
- JAVIER BRACAMONTE – first and foremost. The dude loves his job and treats the fans with more respect that any other member of the staff I’ve seen on any team (minus Dominique, of course).
- Dominique – check out his music, seriously, he makes his own music!
- Kevin Jepsen – welcome to the club and to my list of dudes who have thrown me a baseball.
- Carlos Muñoz – always want to call him Pedro, but this isn’t the 1991 Twins team.
Often times, when we have an idea or issue so close to us, we get very scatter-brained and our best intentions and thoughts get lost behind a perceived “mad-man’s writing.” This is not because we are actually crazy, irrational, or lacking proper writing technique; instead, it is because that idea, that issue that is so dear to our heart gets our brain going quicker than our fingers. Quite simply, we have no way of capturing exactly what we want to say because it all comes at once.
So I apologize if the post below appears to be the work of a person who needs psychological help – this topic just really gets me going. And on the off chance that it is easily followed and semi-logical in form, I give my brain and fingers a simultaneous high-five.
If you think, “Oh no, here we go again. Another nutter with his opinions on the second amendment…”, then well, you’re right.
The first amendment guarantees the right to debate this topic and allows me to write this blog (baseball, mental health, music, or gun control being the wide varieties of topics covered).
But before I get too deep into the whys and hows, I feel it is right and fair to tell my own history with guns.
Tony and Guns (the short story):
I have spent all but 6 months of my life living in Minnesota. Heck, even the other six months (albeit as an infant) were spent in South Dakota. So do you know what that means? Hunting in huge; guns are common. In fact, growing up in my family – one that historically lived in the rural areas of the Midwest – meant that you would probably, at some point in your life, end up going hunting. I did.
I went hunting a few times – pheasant, deer, and even duck, I think – which meant that I had to gain a license in gun safety. Since most children are handed down morals that are formed from their parents and other close members of their family, I was under the assumption that gun safety was helpful and adequate and that hunting was a normal part of recreational activity.
My family, when looking back, would probably call me “sensitive” or, even more blatantly, “soft.” Early on, I wrestled with the idea of having to take a life in order to have a successful hunt. I understood the thrill and the challenge, but after the adrenaline wore off and the literal “smoke cleared” I just felt sad. I saw the animal, lifeless from my actions, and couldn;t help but feel an overwhelming guilt.
***Please note, my next point I bring up is NOT directly related to gun control or current gun laws, but rather something that personally ties it all together for me.***
After choosing to not hunt anymore (and cowardly running away from those who asked me to, instead of telling them the truth), I kept eating meat for many more years. Animals dying no longer on my hands felt much more… digestible. But finally, after some questioning from my wife and the flirtation with vegan-ism, did I finally extinguish the practice of killing ANYTHING all together.
Again, by NO means am I saying the being vegan trumps gun control and gun issues, not a chance. They are two separate ideas and issues all together. Tying animal cruelty, climate change, and even personal health reasons to gun control is like comparing beef to pears (i.e. it only works in a culinary sense, not political). However, this tale of my path to becoming vegan underlines a few things clearly, my pacifism, activism, and compassion towards others. I gave up things, things that I enjoyed or took as “freedoms” because I knew that in the end they just were not right – whether for me personally or for the greater good of others.
- Does not own a gun.
- Does not kill animals.
- subsequently, does not kill humans
- Believes some freedoms may actually limit humanity/human life.
- Wants change – this needs to be done politically and with more supporters behind the cause.
Why Do I HATE Guns:
Quite simply, they kill people.*
*OK, OK. Guns do NOT actually kill people. The person behind the gun is the one making the active choice and putting the mechanical mechanisms into action in order to perpetrate the action of killing.
More accurately, guns have made it exponentially easier to kill people – and kill more people in a quicker time than possible throughout 99% of human history.
“But there are more good people with guns than bad. Why punish those who do not break laws and uphold the second amendment?”
For the same reason why we have any other law. The majority of people do not rob banks, do not sell drugs, and do not go 80 in a 30. However, laws were built against those things in order to protect people. Whether it was a huge epidemic (like drunk driving was – and sadly still is) or a rare instance (like robbing a bank actually is), actions took place to curb them from happening again. While we haven’t fully taken away automobiles to prevent auto crimes from happening, gun control faces a much different reality/problem.
Being reactive to gun crime means the near certainty of the loss of lives. Speeding or even drunk driving does not result in imminent death, but gun crimes tend to have a much more grim outcome. So if we decide to keep guns in everyone’s hands because the “majority are not breaking the law” then we also submit to the countless number of criminals who do not follow the rules and we are bound to their ultimate fate… loss of life.
“But the second amendment guarantees us the right!…”
Yes, and it is called an AMENDMENT. The laws of the land were not given to us by some all-known god, nor were they modeled with the entirety of known future civilization ahead. The Constitution was made by those with the greatest power (rich, white men from the 1700s) and then has needed revisions throughout history (amendments – also made by predominantly rich, white men, but this time from 1789 to 1971, with salary revisions – 27th amendment – being updated in 1992). What I am trying to convey is that the Constitution is not written in stone and can be/shall be updated when issues arise. And yes, we have had amendments then be nullified down the road. So why can;t we touch the second amendment?
I would even go so far as to say that the intent was written in order to prevent tyrannical government, so the citizens having the right (not MANDATE) to bear arms was crucial to stopping an 18th century ruler. However, nearly 200 years later, we now stand (as citizens) against governments with nuclear weapons, tanks, drones, etc.
Tell me, how well do you think your gun will defend you against those pieces of weaponry attacking “you and your family”? And are you also saying that you believe all citizens should have the right to the same level of weaponry as the governments? Imagine those mentally ill that you get mad about for giving gun owners a bad name. Now think about them having a nuclear warhead. Sure, they’d have to be rich, but is that being the only thing stopping them in this scenario going to let you fall asleep comfortably in that world?
So maybe the amendment needs to read something like this instead: “those protecting the nation in active duty, whether against foreign nations or its own internal, civil war, shall have the right to bear arms.”
(This is a concession, being a pacifist at heart, but one I am ultimately will to give. Heck, history gave us a sad lesson of a time when war was seemingly the only option to save lives, World War II – the anti-holocaust measures.)
“Taking away guns will only leave them in the hands of criminals.”
While I agree with the logic behind it and can see that we have dug ourselves a terribly huge hole with the amount of guns owned in this nation, it still does not excuse the absolute and dire need to make swift and radical changes.
It is now that I would like to mention Australia and what they did with their gun issue. Google it: Port Arthur massacre.
I do not know and cannot speak with all-knowing knowledge of the situation or detail all the numbers that can be shared from this tragedy, but I know one thing… THEY DIDN’T WAIT FOR MORE TRAGEDIES TO HAPPEN!
Australia took a drastic measure after this huge mass murder and decided to ban guns all together. I’d be willing to bet that some responsible gun owners were not just bummed, but royally pissed off. But as a country they came together politically and decided to take action. Was it perfect? Nope. I am sure they still have a few murders using guns, but did the number of gun-related deaths (and gun crimes in general) fall? Shockingly, YES! (Sorry, I used “shockingly in a sarcastic manner.)
We have a much more gun-saturated and more heavily populated country than Australia, so we might have to go about things a little differently, but why not try? Programs to get guns off the street take time and even tax dollars, but would we rather spend tax dollars to prevent murders or to house murders for years/life in jail?
“How are you going to go from a land of guaranteed gun rights to ‘no guns allowed’ overnight?”
Maybe you cannot realistically do that. What we have to do now is stop debating and start putting real, hard laws in place. Maybe it is not a sweeping ban like Australia like I would like. But to go back and forth screaming “ALL” or “NOTHING” does us no good. Look at what the last few years have taught us – we are on pace for a mass killing each day in the United States, far exceeding any “first world” country. We have to do something, we have to start saving ONE life. The end game, in my scenario, should be total removal of all firearms in the country, but that doesn’t mean we can;t start with the smallest of measures – increased registration and permits for guns – in order to see if we can shift the numbers towards a generally safer country.
My urge to the parties is simple (overly general, but still simple):
- Republicans – stop accepting NRA money and start making laws for the good of your citizens.
- Democrats – do not say that you will settle for nothing less than the banning of all firearms. Small changes backed up with hard data is what is needed.
For those who wish to see which politicians are accepting NRA money, a link is provided HERE.
Whether you are a politician, activist, or “plain ol’ citizen” I ask you to rank these two freedoms:
- The right to bear arms.
- The right to live a full life.
For me, I have chosen to live over needing a gun.
Conclusion/What To Do:
Vote. An informed vote is the most basic and fundamental thing you can do. If you do not like a major party, find an alternative. If you do not like anyone on the ballot, submit yourself. If you honestly have no other options, then abstain.
Contact your representatives. After seeing the list of NRA-funded politicians, I will now be contacting those from my state to share my frustration and disappointment. As with any issue, tell them how you feel. It may go nowhere, but if that is the case, then you can either choose to vote differently in the next election or…
Petition. If your voice is not being heard on a singular level, and you have the support of others around you, gather your voices into one larger, louder voice. Petitions are not a guaranteed way of being heard, but they have had more recognition from politicians and/or media than sole ideas/voices.
Fund. If you have a lot of money and if the current (and broken, in my view) laws of funding parties/candidates remains the same, then set up ways to fund your cause and give money to the politicians in office. It worked for the NRA, right? Why not counter-attack?
Do not go silent. Lastly, and most importantly, do not let your voice go silent. Unfortunately we are bound to our representatives in order to have laws made and changes take place, but those changes cannot start without our voices being active. If someone says nothing, then how are they heard? I wrestled long and hard with the idea of even posting this on my blog. “It’s not about baseball… It’s too political… It will get people upset… No one reads this, so what does it matter…” All of those things ran through my brain – and still do – but this issue is actually important to me. I have anxiety and I wrote about that (no matter how hard/uncomfortable that was)… and funny enough that anxiety is fueled by my fears of death.
I don’t want to die. If I can even empathize 1% of that anxiety/pain/torment to someone other than myself, then how frightening is it that 2-3 people died at the hands of a person with a gun as I wrote this?!
How can I sit back and keep the current way of life when that many people die? Am I waiting until I become part of that number? *anxiety rising*
America, we can do better…
(PS: Do you agree? Disagree? Have more to say or care to let your voice be heard? I urge you to actually comment on this post. It’s a very small portion of the internet to let your voice be heard, but it’s still an outlet none-the-less. Anything less than a civil debate will be deleted, however. This does not mean I will censor to show only those who agree, but I will not tolerate bullying and immature comments on either side of the fence. We have the right to discuss this intelligently, let’s take the opportunity.)
Pittsburgh Pirates 8 – Minnesota Twins 7
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
July 28, 2015
I am writing this a bit late, which has become a rather rare event – usually I blog within 24 hours. But at least I do not have a backlog, as this is the last game I have gone to and will probably go to until the end of this month. yep, i will have had an entire month between games.
Unfortunately this means my St. Louis trip was canceled, but the team and stadium aren’t going anywhere, right? the road to all 30 team’s stadiums is a long one with many bumps in the way.
So, let me dust of the cobwebs in my brain and hopefully I can recall all the moments from this game – at least the ones centered around these EIGHT baseballs.
Gracias, Miguel Sano! Miguel has been SUPER generous since getting the call up to the Bigs. This was the first of two he gave me this game.
My first ever toss-up from Phil Hughes. Excellent.
A toss-up from an unknown Pirates player. Some pitcher, no doubt, but the lack of identifying numbers or unique features (facial or otherwise) make this a player lost to time. Let’s call him Roberto Clemente, though (see previous posts this year with unknown players to get the inside joke). Thanks, Roberto, we wish we had more time with you; your legacy lives on though – especially since you were able to comeback to throw this one ball to me.
I am pretty sure that this was a ball that was hit up seconds before that was never found, but the lack of visuals from those around me and the unknown nature of this ball make it officially an “Easter Egg”. This ball was “found” in the 200 level – the grandstand in the right-center outfield. Whoever hit it, however it got there, it was a bomb.
Straight from the ball-bag, Eduardo Escobar hooks me up yet again. Nice to get a mud-rubbed ball before the game officially starts.
Dominique’s replacement, Bobby, hooked me up with this warm-up pitch in the dirt before the start of the 7th. It was a pitch by Ryan O’Rourke to Eric Fryer (filling in for Kurt Suzuki as he was dressing).
Another pitch in the dirt, this time a warm-up pitch before the start of the 9th by Glen Perkins, pitching to Eric Fryer who replaced Kurt Suzuki. Again, Bobby was generous.
After a nice Twins comeback, tying the game at 7-7, they lost when the Pirates scored a run in the 9th. Miguel Sano was generous, though, as he headed towards the clubhouse. Another mud-rubbed ball – four of the eight were this night. Told you that Miguel was generous.
- Miguel Sano
- Phil Hughes
- Roberto Clemente
- The Easter Bunny
- Eduardo Escobar
Detroit Tigers 1 – Minnesota Twins 7
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
July 12, 2015
I very nearly became someone I never meant to become… a cynical, ballhawking-before-baseball ballhawk. I was honestly debating whether to go on not – I already had the ticket as part of my season ticket package – and the only thing that was preventing me was that it was a Sunday day game.
Non-ballhawks: Sunday day games mean no BP and very little chances for acquiring the very baseballs that us ballhawks chase. Add to the mix the fact that it is the middle of summer and Sundays are catered towards children AND it was Armed Forces Appreciation Day… So many others that would get a baseball (if any were made available) before me, a middle-aged dude with no children.
So I debated back and forth. I was sure that I wasn’t going, then sure I was, then back and forth. The cycle was vicious and the anxiety and mental energy devoted to this truly “First World Problem” finally made me see the light.
I am going. Going to a baseball game is good. Even getting one ball was better than none. Nothing actually depends on me putting up a “good number” or continuing whatever streak(s) I have going.
So the moral of the story is simple – if life gives you a baseball game, take it.
Enough of me talking from a soap-box, let’s discuss this game that gave me such exhausting mental anguish.
I got to the sweaty gates at 10-ish. Of course I was the first at my gate; it was a 1:10 game and already steamy. Parents do not want to bring little ones to the game any longer than necessary – and they sure as hell want to watch the game itself and not a field with four pitchers warming up for an hour.
Once gates opened I rushed inside and was pleasantly surprised by…
Emptiness. Nothing. There were no players to be seen, as Ervin Santana was only a couple of steps away from the dugout before he would not appear until maybe game time.
Eventually the Twins bull-pen guys braved the heat and came out to do some tossing.
Glen Perkins?! Yep, three-time All-Star, Glen Perkins, tossed me his warm-up ball. He looked over and I said nothing, just stuck up my glove. I’ve never had good luck with him in BP, so I figured I’d make minimal effort, since he was bound to already have a target or find a small kid quickly. But no one else was ready or got themselves noticed. It was nice to be on the board.
After watching the bull-pen guys throw and then wasting my time (mainly just sweating… and getting Miguel Sano’s autograph on the Glen Perkins ball), I was able to extend my “gamer” streak to 39 games (including Spring Training – 32 if you only count Regular Season). Thanks to the not-Mario visitor’s bat boy, I got the ball that was not only the subject of a challenge, but was then thrown back out on the field of play to be used as a warm-up ball as the challenge was being reviewed.
When I am at games, I try my best to watch the life of each baseball, just in case I end up with that ball. This one was unique, since it was used in play, thrown to the Tigers’ bench, handled by Brad Ausmus, and then thrown back out to the infielders to toss around before officially being “retired”.
We all hope for and secretly wish for some record-setting number – maybe a personal record, a stadium record, or the BIG record (more than 36 – the highest of highs) – but “settling” for three just sounds stupid when you say it out loud. Constant growth is unsustainable, and averages are just that, average. You need the lows AND the highs. This was just a low, but if you were to ask 99% of baseball fans, they’d be thrilled if you gave them three baseballs to go home with at one game.
This particular ball was an 0-2 pitch by the dominant Kyle Gibson (he went 7 innings without giving up an earned run). The pitch was to JD Martinez in the top of the 7th. You guessed it, Dominique with the hook up.
- Glen Perkins
- Miguel Sano
- Common Sense
PS: See! It was hot/sweaty – temp of only 90, but the humidity pushed it to “feeling like” 100…
Baltimore Orioles 3 – Minnesota Twins 8
Target Field – Minneapolis, MN
July 7, 2015
Travis Snider. BP HR on the fly. Many claps.
Ubaldo Jimenez. Wasn’t happy, saw me catch others, yet threw directly to me.
Eduardo Escobar, straight from the ball bag.
Dominique! (He’s back, due to illness to Bobby.)
Post-game Miguel Sano – hit his first HR that night.
It was a pleasure meeting you, Grant!
Parked in the ramp:
Minnesota Twins 2 – Kansas City Royals 3
Kauffman Stadium – Kansas City, MO
July 3, 2015
Ahhhh, it feels good to be back in KC. I needed a change in scenery from the all-too-familiar Target Field. This was my third time at Kauffman, but first time back since 7/20/2012. This game was going to be a new experience for me, no matter what the outcome of the number of balls snagged – this was the first time I would NOT be sitting in luxury (CROWN BATS Club) – 4 tickets would be insanely expensive, no matter what year, but coming off a World Series appearance, currently atop the division, playing the number two team in the division, against a rival that travels well to Kansas City… on a holiday weekend?! Ticket prices were expensive.
I wanted to try to extend my “game ball” streak so I worked out a deal with my wife:
I would purchase the best (affordable) single ticket I could – which happened to be on the Royal’s website. Then I would buy 4 cheap seats for the group – which happened to be in the nosebleeds in the top row that only had 4 seats in it. After I got my first 3rd out toss-up I would then meet them in the faraway section and enjoy the rest of the game with them (or the rest until the last inning).
It turned out that we were all hungry, and there was a sweet vegan pizza to be had, so they left in the 8th inning, since it closed at 11 (and they are not exactly baseball fanatics).
But enough about the plan of attack, let’s discuss some logistics that made this trip possible…
My brother-in-law lives in Omaha (soon to be moving to Denver) but works in Kansas City on a longer-term contract. Since his job takes him all over the place, they have decided that Denver is just the place they want to live when he decides to stop traveling for work. But since he works in KC and basically lives in hotels, he has built up a sweet bank of rewards – he is Mr. Platinum – which he was kind enough to share with us.
A free room meant that this trip was very cheap. It boiled down to two tanks of gas, five tickets to the game, food, and $5 cover charge per person for the fireworks. Not too shabby, especially considering that we’d spend close to that for a local holiday weekend, let alone one away from home/Target Field.
So that cleans up the non-baseball part of the pre-game details. Ready for some baseball now?
I did the early bird experience for the 3rd straight time. If given the opportunity to get into the stadium early, I will always take it. Sure, it would only net me ONE extra ball, but there is something to be said for just being able to be in the park and not anxiously waiting at the gate.
Before I could even snag a ball, I was photographed by someone who had access to the Twins’ Instagram page:
This was one of the three signs (all pictured below):
Yes, I always campaign to #VotePlouffe, but now that the voting was over and it appeared that no Twins would make the game, I had to speak up for the most worthy and yet underappreciated Twin… Brian Dozier.
After gaining the most minor of celebrity status, I got on the board…
Thanks, Rusty Kuntz!
After roaming the outfield, not knowing how to get down to the fence, I finally found my way. I honestly thought the lower outfield area was being protected by security guard, like some kind of party deck. I was a little mad, until I just acted like I owned the place and then proceeded to see that everyone was down there. Greg Holland was kind enough to get me the second of the day in right-center field (photo taken in left-center).
After talking to Aaron Thompson for a few minutes – a super nice dude – I got ball #10 of my Kauffman career. Aaron, who also abides by the “long hair, don’t care” matra, spoke to me about my long flow, about the drive down, and then about Miguel Sano.
No more than two minutes after Aaron hooked me up, my Twins jersey came in handy again – and the fact that I was probably the only person who knew JR Graham’s name and face.
Kyle Gibson. After a busy and less-than-productive stint in the outfield, I made it back towards my seating area. I still want to catch one on the fly in KC, but the number of fans (especially kids) made that nearly impossible. Who would have thought that the Fourth of July weekend would put so many bandwagon KC fans in the stands?
(Yep, I said it. I was there in 2011 and 2012, against the very same Twins team. There were plenty more Twins fans in attendance those games, but now there is more Royal Blue in the stadium… Did a Cinderella run in the play-offs last year help? You can decide that for yourself.)
Gamer streak sustained.
Thanks to Kurt Suzuki and a nearby Twins fan for the assist. End of the first and I was able to get up to the cheap seats in the 2nd inning. Not bad at all.
After my family left to get pizza, I went back to my nice seat. The Twins and Royals were now tied and it was the bottom of the 9th with the bases loaded and only one out. Mike Moustakas flied out to shallow center field and Aaron Hicks came up throwing to home. The newly called up Dusty Coleman (from South Dakota) tagged from third, got over half-way and then hesitated. This was a deadly mistake. Kurt Suzuki fielded the ball ran him down, almost tagged him, and Dusty took off for one last attempt at home. Kurt threw to Joe Mauer who tagged him out at the plate. Inning-ending and game-saving double play. I was JACKED-UP! I was shouting for excitement and partially to seduce Mauer into giving ME the ball.
I got the ball.
The Twins could have used this as propellant to carry them to a win, but after putting a zero on the board in the top half of the 10th, they gave away the “W” in the bottom half.
- Rusty Kuntz
- Greg Holland
- Aaron Thompson
- JR Graham
- Kyle Gibson
- Kurt Suzuki
- Joe Mauer
- Fellow Twins fan in my section – for the assist on the Suzuki ball
- Jael (wife) – for the fun vacation
- Brother-in-law – for making it super affordable AND for the great recommendations for food
- Kansas City – thanks for letting me “steal” baseballs and vinyl records
I was able to turn this…