All-Star Game – Day 3 – THE ALL-STAR GAME – Balls 324-328 (July 15, 2014)

NL All-Stars 3AL All-Stars 5

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

July 13, 2014


 

 

Day three of three, the final taste of a potentially once-in-a-lifetime experience.  We arrived at the gates around 10:30 – I planned on sleeping in, but wouldn’t you know, I woke up before my alarm – and saw the red carpet leading up to gate 29.  I had received a text from San Fran Joe saying that they were going to do the Red Carpet Show, but I was apprehensive.  For the sake of my friend’s baseball, it’s a good thing I got over those feelings.

We waited by the red carpet, first on the railing and closest to the gates.  As the players pulled up in their vehicles, we thought there would be a decent chance to snag just a couple autographs and enjoy the billions of dollars in athletes that would be paraded in front of us.  The hopes of a couple autographs turned into a bumper crop of signatures – 15+ in total, including Derek Jeter… and I had nothing for them to sign.  I think Jared’s baseball starts to alleviate the pain of the “black rainbow”.  (I’ll let him decide if he wants to share the story in the comments below.)

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The Red Carpet event was supposed to be over by 2, but it was stretched until about 2:30, which meant that we were not able to actually wait at the gate itself until around 3.  While it was nerve-wracking not to have a spot yet, it also eliminated much of the anxiety of “gate waiting”.  Plus, we still made it to the front of the line once the barriers were taken down.

Speaking of the barriers coming down, they had vinyl banners made for the Red Carpet event and when the guy was cutting them down, Joe’s dad asked, “What are you going to do with them?”

The worker replied, “I don’t know, just give them away or toss them.”

We both jumped on them immediately.  We made sure to get the banner that had the ASG logo (which has grown on me to a status of “kinda love it”… maybe because it signifies good times).

How big is the banner?  See for yourself…

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I don’t know where I am going to put it yet, but it will have to decorate somewhere with a lot of space.  I cannot believe that these were just given away.  Nice banners like these are not cheap and usually MLB controls their stuff so tightly in order to be able to throw a sticker on it and sell it via auction or cut up as part of some “game used/event used” memorabilia.

Alright, enough Red Carpet talk, let’s enter the gates and relive snagging them baseballs.

Ball #1:

Immediately upon entering, I made my way down to the foul area in right-field – gotta look to see if the Easter Bunny came.  With no eggs to be found, but a pearly baseball just sitting 40 feet out on the field, I shouted to Alex Gordon and asked nicely for the ball.

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Dang.  No All-Star Game logo, just HR Derby.

Ball #2:

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After the short sweep for eggs, I went back to my lucky spot – sections 5/6.  I said hi to the Twins’ communication department’s very own Dustin Morse, who later tossed me this ball.  I have seen Dustin quite a few times, from Spring Training to fan events, and he is a cool guy.  If you get a chance to see anything Twins and like what you saw, be sure to thank him and his team.  They were crazy-busy for this event, but put it together so nicely.

Ball #3:

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Chris Maloney of the Cardinals staff, after infield practice during BP.

Ball #4:

Show of hands:  Who has ever snagged a ball from their high school baseball coach?  How about at an All-Star Game?  Would I be wrong in assuming that I am the only one?

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Brian Raabe, who excelled in the minors, came up for a few very brief stints in the majors, and grew up in Minnesota hooked me up.  We had spoken the day before and it was so wonderful to see someone I knew be a part of the all-star on-field experience.  While the rare and special commemoratives might be more exciting balls, this ball has the most meaning behind it and probably the coolest story of any toss-up I’ll ever get.

(Here’s a photo of the closest flyover I’ve ever witnessed.)

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Back to the last story of ballhawking for the ASG…

Ball #5:

With the Jeter-love fully dissipated, the ASG finished, and Mike Trout fully embracing his new convertible, I finally got my hands on the ball that defines the 2014 All-Star Game.  This was the first ball that we had photos of, the first ball I saw in stores, and the one ball that without question says “2014 All-Star Game at Target Field”.

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How beautiful.  Mud-rubbed, perfect logo, and in exquisite condition.  The collection was now complete – 4 commemoratives available, 4 acquired.  The bonus for snagging all four was now a reality, NAMI will be getting some extra coin from me.

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And there it is.  The complete All-Star ballhawking experience, wrapped up in three short(ish) entries.  It’s hard to believe it is over and even harder to process everything that happened and everything I experienced.  The balls were even more amazing than I had expected.  The activities were more than I could handle.  The people I met were cooler than any game I had been to before.  In all, this is going to be something I reflect on often… and my mind will still not do it justice.

 

Thank yous:

  • Alex Gordon
  • Dustin Morse
  • Chris Maloney
  • Brian Raabe
  • Dominique

Extra Thank Yous:

  • Dominique
  • Brian Raabe
  • Joseph Pedlowe and his dad
  • Jared
    • All of the people listed above made this experience unique and AMAZING!!

All-Star Game – Day 2 – HR Derby – Balls 317-323 (July 14, 2014)

HR Derby Champ: Yoenis Cespedes

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

July 14, 2014


 

Another day, another dream come true.  But first, I had to get through the late night, the “anticipationsomnia”, and an early alarm clock for the second day of FanFest.  Yes, I woke up at 6 in the morning because I wanted a damn bobblehead – but it was totally worth it, since without this exact chain of events I may not have had the same tale to tell.  (Plus, it was a Tony Oliva bobblehead.  He’s the nicest guy you could ever meet and it’s become one of my favorite bobbles.)

I’ve mentioned enough about FanFest for now (photos and detailed account to be shown at a later date), so let’s skip ahead to the gates and “game” itself.

Gate 34 @ 10:30 am:

Sure, the derby didn’t start until 7 pm and gates wouldn’t open until 4, but I am in the royal court when it comes to being early (I hesitate to use the word “king”).  The good news about getting to the gates so early?  I was spotted by Sean Casey, former MLBer and current MLB Network reporter, and asked to do an interview for Intentional Talk.  How cool is that?!  I even got to record a “gotheeeeem!” at the end.  Supposedly, this interview was shown on the Tuesday show, can anyone confirm?

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PS:  Does anyone have a link to this or have a way to view it?  I haven’t been able to see it.

After the interview, the long wait started at the gates.  The good news was that my friend, Jared, showed up and shortly thereafter a father-son combo from San Fran showed up.  We had met the San Fran guys the day before, but for the HR Derby we shared even more stories and really got to know them – heck, we even got the Jimmy Johns delivery tradition firmly planted.  Side note:  Yes, Jimmy Johns delivers to the stadium, just specify the gate and they show up on a bicycle.

Also showing up at the gates were Nick and Jabs.  I had seen them briefly the day before, but beyond saying a short hello and introductions, there was no time for stories.  The three of us played some catch and generally hang out.  Being around these giants of the ballhawk scene made me feel at peace for some reason.  Their nerves were not completely calm, their anticipation was also high, and this made me feel normal/acceptable.

A few more hawks filtered in and so we had a nice group photo taken on the giant gold glove in the plaza:

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Many stories and a few time-defying hours later, we finally entered the gates, but not before I got a DM from a very special Twitter-follower.  A few minutes after 3 pm I got a message from Jeff Allen – guitarists for an amazing local band that is kind of shut down indefinitely, The Plastic Constellations – and it said the following:

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How cool is that?!  Not only was this guy part of a band that I love (my favorite album of 2008 is their “We Appreciate You” swansong), but he is a writer for Rolling Stone!!… and wants to interview me!!(?!)

Of course I agreed to my second interview of the day.  I would have said yes to any Rolling Stone interviewer; I would have said yes to just talking to Jeff Allen at a baseball game; but meeting Jeff Allen, being interviewed for Rolling Stone, and being at an All-Star Game event?!  Too much.

Because I am so excited, why not share a photo and then the link right away?  I know, it’s out of order, but who cares.

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Balls Deep: A Home Run Derby Diary

Ball #1:

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Remember how I said I was going to toss-ups only?  Well, I stuck to my ways that had worked well the previous day and landed a nice HR Derby ball right away.  Who was this from?  I don’t know and cannot remember.  So many people were in the batting practice area (a complete media frenzy) so this mystery person just got lost in the shuffle.

Ball #2:

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This time I could see the jersey and remembered the name, Greg Colbrunn.

Ball #3:

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I shouted for Carlos Gomez (Go-Go) and he smiled as I flashed my “¿Pelota, Por Favor?” sign, but it was his buddy Starlin Castro – jealous Larry? – who ended up tossing me the ball from the other side of the batting cages.

Ball #4:

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Remember how I got interviewed by Sean Casey earlier?  Well, he remembered that I was chasing balls and hooked me up with one.  He even went out of his way to ask a coach for one from the bucket by the BP pitcher.

Ball #5:

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The skies opened up for a lengthy but light rain, so the crowd dispersed, except for me a few other diehards.  I cheered loudly for Justin Morneau as he took his BP rips with rain coming down.  He smiled a lot and then tried tossing me a ball, only to have it sail over my head and get picked up by someone else.  He was nice enough to try again a minute or so later.  This time, with much success.

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*End of BP/Begin HR Derby*

I decided to try for a Morneau HR, since he was the only lefty and all of left field was seating (next to impossible to sneak into and grab a seat).  I came about 5 feet short on his first HR… stupid flag.  If not for hitting the flag, I may have just snagged a Morneau derby ball.  Oh well, my nerves and anxiety over snagging a FlexBall were nagging away at me, but all would be made awesome shortly.

*End of HR Derby/Awards Ceremony*

Ball #6:

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One of the AL coaches or staff had a ball from the derby (one of the pitches that you see taken by a contestant) and tossed it just out of my reach.  Good thing I had a giant sign that I could use as a backboard!

Ball #7:

Drum-roll please…

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YES!!!  FLEXBALL!!!  Dominique is entering god-like status.  One of the hardest to snag balls was now going home with me.  It matched my orange jacket nicely, along with Mateo’s orange Twins cap, and the orange Gatorade that was tossed to me from the derby coolers on the field.  Orange is the new black.

I was in heaven.  I was batting 1.000 in my commemorative quest at the All-Star Game, with just one more left in play (heck, I’d argue I was batting an impossible 1.333, since that commemorative softball made it 4 for 3 in a weird way).

Can you tell that I am stoked?

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While Paul was a little less stoked and Mateo… well, we’ll let him speak for himself.

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Here’s the entire group, followed by the two-day total.

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Thank yous:

  • Two mystery men
  • Greg Colbrunn
  • Starlin Castro
  • Sean Casey – for the interview and ball
  • Justin Morneau – we miss you and wish you much success
  • Dominique – thanks for the white whale
  • Joseph Pedlowe and his father – cool dudes from the San Fran area
  • Eric Jabs and Nick from PNC - for playing catch
  • Leiming Tang – wish I had more time to talk to him
  • Paul Kom
  • Mateo Fischer – for using his orange hat
  • Jeff Allen – for the interview and chilling with a TPC fan
  • Jordan Roske (and his wife) – for hanging out with Jeff and me, then taking a photo
  • The Plastic Constellations – for beautiful rock and roll music

All-Star Game – Day 1 – Futures Game – Balls 312-316 (July 13, 2014)

World Futures 2 – USA Futures 3

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

July 13, 2014


 

I’m still not sure where I am or what just happened.  This whole “extended-weekend” of festivities has taken a toll on not only my feet, but my mind.  The anticipation is like the illegitimate lovechild between an insomniac and a child waiting for Santa on Christmas Eve.  For about a week before the ASG I was prepping in my head, trying to come up with a game plan, but knowing full well that I had no clue what to expect.  And when exactly was I thinking of this?  When I should have been sleeping.  The result: I spaced on the simplest of things and was in a completely different kind of fog compared to the one I am now in.  (Just ask my wife, she can attest to my forgetfulness during this time period.)

If you look at my previous entry – the one about what exactly the ASG was bringing to town and the time-table, that gives you the basic structure.  That was all I had to go off of.  I had a leg up on some folks, since Target Field is my home field, but the ASG is run by the fine people of the MLB, not the Twins – any changes or additional rules would be completely new to me (and might be ones that carried over from previous ASGs).  I was dreaming of each of the four commemorative baseballs followed by nightmares of me not getting my hands on them – or coming up just short and making a terrible error.  It was an anticipation purgatory.

Once the weekend came, I tried my best to keep myself occupied with non-baseball things; Friday night was a free orchestral concert on a lake and Saturday was supposed to be paddle-boarding (though that was rained out).  It was also the last few things I was able to do with my wife before I was essentially gone for 3 days straight due to baseball (save for a few hours of long “naps” after the games).

Sunday, July 13th @ 7 am:

The alarm sounds and I am already awake.  Whenever I am happily anticipating something I wake up BEFORE my alarm goes off.  This isn’t a terrible habit, but the bad part is the anticipation the night before keeps me up late and my sleep dwindles faster than an hour-glass while playing charades.  Today is “All-Star Sunday!”

FanFest was the first stop on the list before eventually waiting at the gates for many hours and finally being let in to enjoy some future MLB players and “celebrity” softball players.  I would cover FanFest here (or even in my next post), but I’ll save the non-game stuff for a later time.

Futures Game:

The first event at Target Field for the All-Star Game came in with an adrenaline rush and quickly calmed with this…

Ball #1:

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Sean Coyle (of the Boston Red Sox organization) was the one to help me out.  Being dressed loudly (bright orange suit jacket, for those who don’t follow me on Twitter) and having a catchers mitt did the trick.  Sean was done with his warm-up tossing and this gem of a commemorative was my first ASG ball of any sort.  SWEET!

Shortly after receiving this ball I had Alex Meyer – future Twin great – sign the ball (see the last photo below).

Ball #2:

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With the US team done taking some grounders as the batters were taking BP, coach Brian Snitker hooked me up with this wonderfully filthy ball.  I chose to attack toss-ups this entire All-Star Game, since I thought (and it was confirmed) that the outfield would be packed.

Ball #3:

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Another beautiful logo, this time compliments of the 2014 MVP pictured in the background – Dominique Frost.  I was worried about just getting one, but here I stood with three and the game hadn’t started.

Ball #4:

Another ASG/Futures ball!!…

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Wait, what?!  How did this get in there?  Looks like some, if not all, of the infield warm-up balls used by the USA team were regular MLB balls.  Thanks to Justin O’Conner, this one is now safely asleep with all his other friends.

That ball was it for batting practice, but the night was not over.  There was still a game and then a celebrity/legends game.

Here is the lineup for the US team:

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Note:  Tom Kelly – two time World Series winning coach – was the coach for team USA.  It was cool to see the coach of my childhood Twins coaching again.

Ball #5:

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GAMER!  A pitch grazing the dirt during Domingo German’s warm-ups in the bottom of the 2nd led to my amazing streak of gamers.  Every game this season (including Spring Training) has led to at least one gamer in my bag.  Dominique is definitely the MVP – and we are only in day one of the festivities.

Celebrity & Legends Softball Game:

Admittedly, I hadn’t heard of many of the “celebrities”, but I haven’t compared this to previous ASGs, so is this normal?  Do people just not want to visit Minnesota?  Don’t get me wrong, the athletes and Legends had amazing names and accomplishments, but the TV/music personalities were in no way A-listers.  No worries, though, it was pure entertainment and fun.  Jennie Finch and Adrian Peterson stole the show, but seeing Jim Thome swing a bat again was the real treat.

Oh yeah, I also snagged a couple of THESE balls:

(Soft)Ball #1:

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Thanks Charlie McDermott!… Did I really just say that?!  I flashed my glove and tried seeing if he’d toss.  He politely said he couldn’t, but then gave me the “shhh” with the finger to the mouth as if we were keeping a secret as he wound up and tossed it to me.

I wasn’t expecting to actually land this and wasn’t convinced it’d be commemorative, but what a fun surprise.

(Soft)Ball #2:

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Yep, two softballs snagged at a baseball game.  That’s some sort of record, right?  This time it was Minnesota’s very own, Chef Andrew Zimmern.  I really like Chef Andrew and his story, so this is kinda special.  Having said that, I would not eat it, even if it were a crazy food like he has on his show.  Now to find a softball cube or two…

 

Total Snagged:

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Five baseballs (four commemorative), two softballs (both commemorative), and a buttload of stuff from FanFest.

 

Thank yous:

  • Sean Coyle
  • Brian Snitker
  • Justin O’Conner
  • Charlie McDermott
  • Chef Andrew Zimmern
  • Dominique

 

PS: Joey Gallo is an absolute beast.  One of the best BP sessions I’ve seen this year… and he’s in the MiLB!!  Look out Texas Ranger fans, you are in for quite a treat.

All-Star Tune-Up – Balls 306-311 (July 1, 2014)

Kansas City Royals 2Minnesota Twins 10

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

July 1, 2014


 

 

July has traditionally been a slow mo nth for me in the ballhawking department.  Sure, last year I finally made it out to Denver for the the first time AND got my hands on a commemorative, but even then I only got a total of 4 balls in two games.  In fact, I had only snagged 16 balls in 7 games since I began my ballhawking adventure – and outside of 2 games in 2012, the totals are virtually non-existant.  My high of 5 in one game was in jeopardy (7/20/2012) and for sure my Target Field best of 3 (7/19/2012) was surely to fall with the early entry for STHers.

After a long hiatus apart, I met Paul for the second time in only a couple weeks (before that we hadn’t seen each other since Spring Training).  We missed out on a ball that was thrown over the gate by a worker (to a guy who more than likely had a connection or had bribed said worker in the past).  But my attention wasn’t fully on the game, BP, or even baseball, it was on the soccer match between the US and Belgium – spoilers: we lost.  The game was being shown on the jumbotron, but due to the way that Target Field is designed, you cannot see any of the scoreboards from gate 34 – this meant that I was listening to the moans and groans of the final minutes of regulation time fromt the workers inside.

Finally, we were let loose and the gates were open.  I had noticed a ball hit deep and more than likely stuck somewhere in the grandstand, so I raced up the stairs and looked all over.  Paul even came up and started looking for this Easter Egg.  Both of us were stumped and couldn’t find it, until…

Ball #1:

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The Old Cup(holder) Trick!  Sneaky, sneaky.  Thankfully as I was giving up on the ball and about ready to go to the overhang, I saw this white sphere just waiting to be plucked from its awkward home.

Balls #2:

After making the grueling 50 foot trek to the overhang in RF, I asked Oswaldo Acria for a ball.

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Excellent!

Ball #3:

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With the Royals now on the field, I was able to get a toss-up from Alex Gordon.  Alex was SUPER nice to the fans and gave away a ton of balls (seems like around 10 or so).

Ball #4:

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Francisley Bueno. Muy Bueno, indeed.

After my fourth of the day things kind of stalled out.  I was mainly more concerned with Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen.  I was lucky enough to play catch – for the second time this year – with Jeremy while he was in the Twins bullpen, cleaning out HR balls.  After a few knuckles he tossed the ball back in.  Dang.

I was hoping to get Bruce Chen to toss me up a ball and act like we’d play some catch, but he didn’t fall for it.  I was going to toss back a lacrosse ball that I had in my pocket.  If you need further reasoning as to why I wanted to give Bruce Chen some “pay back” read my past blog entry on the “Bruce Chen Incident“.

Ball #5:

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Dominique for MVP.  Enough said.

Ball #6:

Straight out of the game ball bag, Chris Parmelee with a beautiful mud-rubbed hook-up.

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Just like that, my night was over, but that was my own choice.

I still stuck around for some decent food, a Twins win, and ballhawk talk with Paul, but I didn’t really try much harder for any more balls the rest of the night.  My streaks were intact, so why press?

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(Champions Club dining.  My numerous variations on a “salad”… plus fortune cookies.)

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(A vegan dog!!  Not too bad.  Don;t order it if you are expecting an exact replica of a regular hot dog, but do expect more flavor wothout the worry of “what is this mystery meat?”)

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Although there was a very brief rain in the bottom of the 7th, I did not get to use my clever sign…

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I brought that due to the weather outlook that called for a chance of rain and even isolated storms.  Nothing panned out and no tarps were used.  But I did get the following:

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How cool is that ASG mini-helmet?  And who leaves those behind?!

 

Thank yous:

  • Dominique – Broken record, but he is my MVP of 2014.
  • Random Twin – More than likely it was Oswaldo Arcia or Kendrys Morales, but whoever planted the bomb that eventually was placed in the cupholder, thanks.
  • Oswaldo Arcia – ¡Gracias, hermano!
  • Alex Gordon – Thank you, from all of the fans you hooked up with a ball.
  • Francisley Bueno – Tú eres “Bueno”.  (Broken Spanish pun.)
  • Chris Parmelee – Your streak is much more impressive and takes better skill (double-digit hit streak with an over .450 average in that span), but thanks for extending mine, too.
  • Jeremy Guthrie – Thanks for playing catch with me… AGAIN!

 

BONUS!!

Because this is my blog and I call the shots, why not show my travel photos of my weekend trip to Iowa a few days ago?

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My cousin lives in Cedar Rapids and so we went down to see her, her husband, and their daughter (see the cute Uncle Sam and the little one in the selfie with me above).  The other group of photos was from a dam outside of Iowa City.  Snakes, fossiles, flood waters, and dead fish… OH MY!

And there it is, potentially my last post (definitely last ballhawking post) until the All-Star Game.  it still doesn’t feel real that I am going.  Any tips?  (I’ll be arriving super early and trying to experience EVERYTHING the ASG has to offer.)

Count Down to the 2014 All-Star Game – Info Included (and Requested)

Yesterday I got the tweet that I had been waiting for… My buddy Jared got the tickets in the mail!!

It’s official!  I am now holding onto an All-Star Game ticket strip.  The first one in my life and hopefully not the last.  Here is what the strip itself looks like:

Ticket Strip

Now, how about a breakdown of of the events?

 

FanFest (July 11-15):

Following the link in the title and clicking on the FAQ section, I found that each day of the FanFest opens at 9 am.  It looks like this will be one way to get a bunch of former players’ autographs, play ASG-themed games, and try to get special giveaways.

I don’t know that I will spend a lot of time at this event, but depending on the timing of it all, I wouldn’t mind checking it out – if not only for the air conditioning.

 

All-Star Concert (July 12):

Not included in our ASG strip (WHY THE HELL NOT?!), this FREE concert has turned into a rather expensive ticket.  Blame it on Imagine Dragons if you will, but Atmosphere – a local hip-hop group – is probably the real reason why this ticket is in such high demand in the Twin Cities area.  At least Atmosphere have apologized, told people to not reward the scalpers, and offered up another set at a later date.  I’d still LOVE to go, but it’ll take a friendly person with an extra ticket to get me in.

 

All Star Sunday – Futures Game and Celebrity Softball (July 13):

The first of the events with a commemorative baseball – the details of which are unknown, though it wouldn’t be a shock if it resembled the logo on the ticket below.

Futures and Celebrity

Two Twins prospects will be appearing for the World Team: J.O. Berrios and Kennys Vargas.  The rest of the lineup can be found here.  I think the World Team will be in the visitors dugout (makes sense, right?), so I will be making my sign accordingly, as I am seated in that area.

***UPDATE: The US team now contains 100% of your daily values of Twins prospect Trevor May.***

Hall of Famer Bert Blyleven and two-time World Series winning coach (and Twins team Hall of Fame member) Tom Kelly will be coaching the clubs.  How cool is that?!

 

Warm-Ups and Home Run Derby (July 14):

With a new format for the HR Derby, the rate of play should more than likely be sped up.  I hope this means more HRs and more actual swinging for the fences and not just a shorter time on the stands.  The good news about being live at the contest?  Not having to hear Chris Berman announce the thing.

Again, the logo for the balls has not yet been confirmed or released to the public, but it might just look like the logo on the ticket below:

Home Run Derby

Gotta get those sponsors on everything, right?!  I know that it is a long tradition of not only having a sponsor, but putting them on the balls, but I find it funny that it is Gillette that is the sponsor this year.  (If you know me or can tell by the photos on this blog, my shaving happens maybe once a month.  I have somewhat of a disdain for it and think that there are some societal pressures put on folks by Gillette and other corporations who put false values on looks/sex in order to make money… but let’s not open that can of worms.)

PS:  If the rounds are only 7 outs, when will the golden ball be used?  They will have a golden ball, right?!  Oh, how I’d be livid if this were the time when they eliminated that beauty.  If they still use it, I just have to be nice to some folks and hope someone gets a golden ball and decides to make my year.

 

All-Star Game (July 15):

The main event.  The game I have waited 30 years to see.  Hey, I was one when the last ASG was in MN, and I was living 3.5 hours from Minneapolis.  The only thing better than this would be a World Series, but this will be a nice stepping stone for that.

The balls have already been released and are available for purchase at the Twins pro-shops.  the ball looks like the ones used in 1996, 1997, 1999, and 2000 – red print with red and blue stitches.  I’ve warmed up and will not scoff once I have one in my possession, but I can’t help but think “what could have been” if given free reign of designing.

All Star Game

If you want a better look at it, click this link.

The alternate version though, looked something like this:

ASG Ball Alternate

This photo came from a mailing that was sent from the Twins to the STHers months before the ASG actually went on sale.  The program contained limited ASG info, selling points, and key dates for purchasing.  The ball pictured is clearly a computer-generated mock-up and not an actual ball (they replaced the MLB logo – clearly visible on the balls behind it – with their ASG logo and it is not exactly centered perfectly).

 

So there it is.  The entire ASG as I know it.  I gather that you could have easily searched and found the same info, but hopefully this one-stop shop combined with additional photos of the tickets themselves made it worth the view.

For those of you who have been lucky enough to attend an ASG, do you have any tips?  Any ideas when gates open and how security is normally?  I will be down at Target Field EARLY – not just 1-2 hours before the gates open like normal, but more like “as soon as I wake up and it seems like others are waiting around” early.

ROLL CALL:  Who else will be there?

Ballhawk Talk – Podcast/Vlog

I have mentioned Mateo Fischer numerous times on this blog (an East Coast-er turned Minnesotan) and also referenced Larry Larson - a frequent viewer of this page and commentor from the greater Chicago area.  Well, those two did something incredibly awesome a couple of weeks ago, they actually broadcast their first episode of Ballhawk Talk – “a video podcast about ballhawking specifically for ballhawks.”

After a maiden voyage and a second adventure featuring Alan Schuster (president/creator/webmaster of MyGameBalls.com) I was tapped as the guest for the third episode.  Without giving too much away, check out the video below – and while you’re at it, subscribe to the channel.

Cardinal Sinning – Ball 302-305 (June 20, 2014)

Chicago White Sox 4 – Minnesota Twins 5

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

June 19, 2014


 

This is the story about an unplanned game.

So that’s how that happened.  I won a couple of tickets last minute for a bobblehead game.  Long lines, tons of kids, and a late start – surely this spelled certain doom.

Oh, add to that the “cardinal sin” that I alluded to… I didn’t have a glove packed and was in the work attire (dress shirt, jeans, and dress shoes).

I DIDN’T BRING A GLOVE!!  (?!?!?!)

I could not believe that I was attempting ballhawking during a crazy-busy weekend game without a glove.  That is the first thing you learn when going after a baseball – whether you consider yourself a full-on ballhawk or a newbie looking to snag that hard-to-get souvenir.

As you can tell by the title, though, I succeeded.

Ball #1:

Ball 302

A hard slice by a Twins hitter within about 2 minutes of opening the gates put me on the board.  This gave me great relief.

Ball #2:

Ball 303

A drive down the line followed by a nice request to the man in the background (this is the only photo – so good luck trying to help me figure him out) landed me a “for sure” duo.

Ball #3:

Ball 304

Short story: Dominique.

Ball #4:

Ball 305

Gamer streak lives!  A request to Oswaldo Arcia “en español” and I got this beauty of a mud-rubbed gamer.

With four balls and no glove, this night was about as good as it could have been.

Haul time!

Ball Haul June 20 2014

Four balls, 2 tickets, and a Harmon Killebrew bobblehead.

Harmon joins the slowly growing family, a family that I did not actively seek, but got lucky enough to assemble over the years.

Bobbleheads

(Side story: I won two of these, bought two – Robin Ventura and Trevor Plouffe, got two as a season ticket holder benefit, happened to attend two games to pick them up, and specifically attended one for the giveaway itself – Kent Hrbek/Ron Gant.)

Thank yous:

  • Dominique – Told you, he has a permanent spot here.
  • Random Twin and unknown White Sox member – If I knew your names, I’d list them.  But unfortunately I will never know.
  • Oswaldo Arcia – ¡Gracias, hermano!
  • Brian “Mr. Walk-off” Dozier – Thanks for signing the ball for me!  Hopefully we get you into the ASG.

Raining Milestones at Target Field – Balls 296-301 (June 19, 2014)

Chicago White Sox 2 – Minnesota Twins 4

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

June 19, 2014


 

For this game I had 3 goals/milestones in mind:

  1. Take over the Target Field career lead – Mateo has 204, I had 202.  3 balls needed.
  2. Set a personal best for one season/year – I got 109 in 2013, I had 106.  4 balls needed.
  3. Reach 300 career balls – I was at 295 entering the gates.  5 balls needed.

Even though the forecast for the day looked TERRIBLE, I still wanted to get a ticket for this game, since the weekends are both busy at home and at the field (now that school is out, the kids are in full attendance).  The promising sight when I arrived about 45 minutes before my early season ticket holder entry (half hour before public) was that the batting cages were up and the Twins were hitting.  in fact, a lefty was bombing them deep and a few ushers/gate workers even got balls… which were not shared with anyone at the gate.

The bad news?  About 14 minutes before our scheduled early entry, the tarp came on the field and the cage quickly disassembled.  The rain was coming.  And came it did; within 2-3 minutes, a soaking downpour – which would last for about 2 hours – ended any chance of snagging BP balls…

Ball #1:

Or so I thought.

Ball 296

Once inside the stadium, I decided to run up into the grandstand area in RF.  That lefty I told you about above?  Well, I saw a few that might have reached this area and hoped that something remained.  My patience was rewarded.

Oh yeah, guess who else showed up at the ballpark…

Paul Kom and Nate Duppler!  Photographic evidence will be included later in this post.

And yes, this is the exact scene that I found the ball in.  Kinda pretty.

Ball #2:

Ball 297

After searching the upper deck areas, I focused on getting down to the lower deck down the lines in foul territory.  Nothing was in the LF/3B area, but when I walked the 1B/RF line… oh boy!

Ball #3:

Ball 298

Yes!  This was the second ball within 15 feet and the ball that would put me (most likely only temporarily) in the lead for career Target Field snags.

Ball #4:

After the 3 Easter Eggs that were probably left in a hurry before the wicked rain, I focused on the only players visible – Jose Abreu and company.

Ball 299

With a blurry Jose in the background, this is the ball that broke my 2013 record for most balls in one season (personal record, mind you).

Ball #5 (300!!!):

Ball 300

When you think of milestone baseballs, you think of grand scenarios.  Your favorite player hitting a walk-off grand slam using a commemorative baseball sounds like the dream.  This one?  A random stray tossed to me by Dominique as we entered a two-hour rain delay – plus, it was a beat up stray.  I am not ungrateful, but it’s not the sexy and appealing idea that you have for a semi-historic (to me at least) baseball.

 

RAIN DELAY:

TF Rain Pano

(Scene shortly after entry.)

Weather at TF

(Weather gauge.)

Rain Delay

(Painfully obviously evidence of a Rain Delay.)

After 2 hours and 6 minutes…

GAME ON!!

 

Ball #6:

Ball 301

Keeping my streak of gamers alive, a toss-up in the top of the sixth from Dominique, as we waited for the home plate umpire to be switched out (he took a wicked foul to the chin).  I love this ball – the game marks are fantastic.

As I am an old man with an early job, I figured I’d make my way back to my car at this point – hey, the game didn’t start until 9:15, it was already 11 pm, and I want to normally be sleeping by 10 in order to wake up at 6!

Look who I saw before I left:

TF Ballhawking Gang

Target Field’s very own hawk club.  If only we had Mateo there…

The haul?

Ball Haul

As I regularly get StubHub tickets now, I have to search for hard tickets.  It’s easy when you stay for the whole game, but hard when you don’t; even harder to find one if it rains a few inches.

 

Thank yous:

  • Dominique – I might as well make this a permanent fixture in this list.
  • Easter Bunny – 3 eggs.  SCORE!
  • Jose Abreu – A slugger who is also nice, very cool.
  • Paul and Nate – Thanks for the company, it’s much cooler to see familiar faces, especially during a slow, rainy game like this.
  • Weather – Though you ruined a promising batting practice, you also allowed for a game to be played when it looked like none was possible.

Bracamonte… Muy Picante! – Balls 289-295 (June 6, 2014)

Houston Astros 5 – Minnesota Twins 4

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

May 26, 2014


 

 

Before I get into the game recap too much, let me get my biggest thanks out in the open…

THANK YOU, JAVIER BRACAMONTE!!

As you can see, I reached out to him on Twitter in the hopes of getting that tricky commemorative ball from last year – the inaugural AL ball used in Houston.  When I saw him once I was in the stadium, he mentioned that he had one for me and that it was the last one he could find (they were out in April).

So, Javier, if you are reading this, next time you are in Minneapolis, let me know (voan0201@gmail.com) and I will personally buy you a slice of pizza from one of my favorite spots close to the ballpark – Pizza Luce.  It’s the least I could do for you.  My mancave has a great addition, thanks to you.

Ball #1:

IMG_4436

 

Within a few seconds of gates opening, I grabbed my giveaway (surprise that you will see at the end) and went Easter Egg hunting.  This is what the bunny left me in section 102.

Ball #2:

IMG_4437

This is not the second ball that touched my glove.  Minutes before this ball was what could have been my death.  I was up in the grandstand area in right-center.  A place I do not frequent often.  As it is in the upper-deck area, the stairs are steeper and thus, more deadly.  I got Brian Duensing to toss me up a ball, but it went a good 20 rows behind me.  I went racing up, but a few bounces brought the ball back down and as I turned I lost my balance.  I ended up nearly catching myself, but the steepness proved too much.  I went head first, bouncing two rows on my face (hitting just above my eye).

This ball, though, was a monster blast by some Twin.  I do not know who, as I was in a rather poor state.

Ball #3:

IMG_4438

My first comedy ball.  “How so?” you say?  Well, it’s not because John Mallee threw it to me.  Nope, it’s because shortly after receiving it, I had a local comedian (and movie star – mainly in Adam Sandler films), Nick Swardson sign it.

IMG_4439

Here he is walking back into the clubhouse area.  If only he had a spot in the dugout as a Benchwarmer!

Ball #4:

IMG_4440

Ralph Dickenson toss up.  Plain and simple.  He was very nice.

Ball #5:

IMG_4441

The main attraction.

This is such a beautiful design.  I am honored and pleased to have it in my collection.  Javier is the nicest bullpen catcher in the league.  If only I could vote for him for the All-Star Game…

Ball #6:

IMG_4442

A “gamer”.  From the ball-bag before the rain delay struck.  Quite possibly the first ball taken from the “game bag”.  Dominique is the man, and Joe Mauer graciously signed for a handful of us during the rain delay.  The mancave has such a great new collection of baseballs – Nick Swardson, Houston commemorative, and Mauer gamer.

Ball #7:

IMG_4443

The cherry on top?  Trevor Plouffe’s pearly ball chosen for the warm-ups… which were postponed for an hour.  Lucky for me, I guess.

Oh, and the craziest part of the game?… The first ball of the day was number 100 of 2014!  I am now at 106, just 3 behind last year’s total.  And we’re only in the first week of June!!

Here is the haul, including a Snoopy ASG statue giveaway:

IMG_4444

 

Thank yous:

  • Javier Bracamonte – Quite simply… THE MAN!
  • Easter Bunny – Thanks for #100 of 2014.
  • Mystery Twin – Your power helped me overcome a huge blow to my ego.
  • John Mallee and Ralph Dickenson – The Houston coaching staff is amazing.
  • Dominique – Thanks for the gamer and for pointing out that you saw my tumble.
  • Trevor Plouffe – For the “Splash Plouffe” in BP and for everything in the past few years in general.
  • Nick Swardson and Joe Mauer – (Weird combo) For the autographs!

No BP? No Big Deal. – Balls 286-288 (May 26, 2014)

Texas Rangers 7 – Minnesota Twins 2

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

May 26, 2014 (Memorial Day)


 

 

I was a little bit bummed and then very concerned for quite some time.  The batting cage was NOT up when I arrived at Target Field an hour before gates opened, which meant any hopes of putting up a big number were dashed.  I reverted to just “getting on the board”.

Ball #1:

photo 3

It wasn’t until shortly before the game started (within a half an hour or so) that I got career ball #286 (season ball #97).  At this point the only other streak that I was (admittedly less) concerned about was my “gamer streak”.

Intermission:

photo 1

What can I say?  Trevor Plouffe is my favorite player.

Ball #2:

photo 4

In the bottom of the 5th, I hung out by the dugout, just hoping to see something or get a good photo.  Instead, I walked away with a gamer that was used as a warm-up pitch by Nick Tepesch (and tossed to me by former Twins player-current Twins coach, Tom Brunansky).

Ball #3:

photo 5

Once the game concluded, I waited for any last balls.  This is the 99th of 2014… so close to triple digits for the 2nd year in a row – only need 10 more the entire year to tie my 2013 mark (a huge Spring Training does help).  However, I now have 42 regular season balls in 2014, which I didn’t reach until 7/31/2013 – so even my regular season stats are better.

Before I get to the gratuitous photo of the haul for the day, how about an idea of just how nice it was at the game today?

photo (1)

The winter was long, and this was the first decent (read: summer-ish) weather at a baseball game.  We need to celebrate days like these in MN.

photo 2

How about the haul?  Three balls, a pair of batting gloves, and 3 BBQ tongs!  Not a bad day at the park.  FYI: One of these tongs might just be part of the giveaways for #VotePlouffe promotion that I am running.

I’ll have to confirm my calculations for the NAMI donation amount, but I believe the total is now at $203.75.

 

Thank You:

  • Dominique – Easily running away with most balls tossed to me by one person.
  • Trevor Plouffe – I am slowly building a complete 2014 uniform… which is AWESOME!
  • Tom Brunansky – Always cool to get a toss-up from a former player that you watched when you were a little kid.

 

Don’t forget… #VotePlouffe!!

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