Javier, Javier, Javier: Houston Commemorative Trifecta – Balls 469-474 (August 28, 2015)

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.

Click here to get to the download page.

At the Gates Episode 1

The guests: Mateo, Paul, and Nate – Target Field’s finest group of ballhawks.

The podcast is currently under the “review” phase in iTunes and should be up in the near future.  For any additional info and behind-the-scenes peeks, check out Twitter, Instagram, and email.

The Game:

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.

Ball #1:

20150828 Ball 1

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.”

Ball #2:

20150828 Ball 2

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!

Ball #3:

Javier Sign

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…

20150828 Ball 3

…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!

Houston Commemoratives

There are all three of the most recent Houston commemoratives, all courtesy of Javier Bracamonte.  Gracias, Javier!

Ball #4:

20150828 Ball 4

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.

Ball #5:

20150828 Ball 5

In the top of the sixth, Evan Gattis faced off against Kyle Gibson.  This was the 2-1 pitch.  Again, Dom.

Ball #6:

20150828 Ball 6

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.

The Haul:

20150828 Hall

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).

Recap:

Thank You:

  • 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.

I’m Sick! (WARNING: NON-Baseball Post)

Writer’s Confession:

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.

Topic:

Guns.

If you think, “Oh no, here we go again.  Another nutter with his opinions on the second amendment…”, then well, you’re right.

Good News Everyone

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.

Current Tony:

  • 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?!

(Citation: CDC link to gun-related homicides in 2013.  Roughly 30.7 per day die as gun-related homicide.  It took me over 2 hours to write 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…

Homicides

(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.)

Late Entry/Early Entry – Balls 461-468 (July 28, 2015)

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.

Ball #1:

IMG_7774

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.

Ball #2:

IMG_7775

My first ever toss-up from Phil Hughes.  Excellent.

Ball #3:

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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.

Ball #4:

IMG_7777

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.

Ball #5:

IMG_7778

Straight from the ball-bag, Eduardo Escobar hooks me up yet again.  Nice to get a mud-rubbed ball before the game officially starts.

Ball #6:

IMG_7779

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).

Ball #7:

IMG_7780

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.

Ball #8:

IMG_7781

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.

The Haul:

IMG_7782

Recap:

Thank you:

  • Miguel Sano
  • Phil Hughes
  • Roberto Clemente
  • The Easter Bunny
  • Eduardo Escobar
  • Bobby

ALWAYS Choose Baseball – Balls 458-460 (July 12, 2015)

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.

Ball #1:

IMG_6808

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.

Ball #2:

IMG_6809

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”.

Ball #3:

IMG_6810

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.

The Haul:

IMG_6739

Recap:

Thank you:

  • Glen Perkins
  • Miguel Sano
  • Not-Mario
  • Dominique
  • Common Sense

PS:  See!  It was hot/sweaty – temp of only 90, but the humidity pushed it to “feeling like” 100…

IMG_6811

BIRDS! Baltimore Invades Minneapolis PLUS #VoteDozier! – Balls 451-457 (July 7, 2015)

Baltimore Orioles 3 – Minnesota Twins 8

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

July 7, 2015


Self-imposed limit of 100 words or less.  Starting… NOW. #VOTEDOZIER IMG_6647

Ball #1:

IMG_6648

Mike Pelfrey.

Ball #2:

IMG_6649

Miguel Sano.

Ball #3:

IMG_6650

Travis Snider. BP HR on the fly. Many claps.

Ball #4:

IMG_6651

Ubaldo Jimenez. Wasn’t happy, saw me catch others, yet threw directly to me.

Ball #5:

IMG_6652

Eduardo Escobar, straight from the ball bag.

Ball #6:

IMG_6653

Dominique! (He’s back, due to illness to Bobby.)

Ball #7:

IMG_6654

Post-game Miguel Sano – hit his first HR that night.

BIRDS!!!

IMG_6655

It was a pleasure meeting you, Grant!

Haul:

IMG_6656

Recap:

Thank you:

  • MP
  • MS
  • TS
  • UJ
  • EE
  • DF

Parked in the ramp:

IMG_6644

Top: 8/30/2009

Bottom: 7/7/2015

KC’s the Place to Be – Balls 444-450 (July 3, 2015)

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?

EARLY BIRD

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:

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This was one of the three signs (all pictured below):

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SWEET!

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…

Ball #1:

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Thanks, Rusty Kuntz!

Ball #2:

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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).

Ball #3:

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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.

Ball #4:

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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.

Ball #5:

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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.)

Ball #6:

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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.

Ball #7:

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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.

Dang.

Still…

THE HAUL

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Recap:

Thank You:

  • 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

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  • 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…

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Into this…

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From Famine to Feast – Balls 435-443 (June 22, 2015)

Chicago White Sox 2 – Minnesota Twins 13

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

June 22, 2015


The condensed version:  I went from panicked during batting practice to best night of the season during the game.  Plus, there was a virtual Ballhawk Fest at Target Field, along with a reporter from the Star Tribune that Mateo brought into our confines.  Here’s the details…

Ballhawk Fest-lite: Target Field 2015

The “players” – in order of arrival:

  • Myself
  • Nate Duppler
  • Eric Bottern
  • Paul Kom
  • Mateo Fischer

The rationale was simple: attendance couldn’t possibly be as high as it was the previous 3 days (weekend PLUS Cubs equals one giant cluster), we all had the opportunity to put up good numbers.

After some short discussions and introduction to a journalist who writes for the Minneapolis Star Tribune, we entered the gates early – 5 pm was finally here!

Ball #1:

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All I can say is, “Sorry, Nate.”  I honestly didn’t see you/him that close until my glove was floating into position.  Chris Herrmann was the one tossing this heartbreaking ball.  (It made me happy to see Nate get a few more balls later and definitely not get shut out.)

Ball #2:

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My second game in a row of making a “nice catch” that got some applause. (Does anyone else get a little dyslexic and read “applause” as “applesauce”?  Me either.)  This ball was launched courtesy of a White Sox player, maybe a former player-turned-coach.  This ball was hit by my all-time favorite, Robin Ventura.

(By now you know not to believe me when I describe a caught ball hit by a player I couldn’t identify, right?)

I was in the overhang in RF, the corner closest to CF and reach over, with my backhand, to snag this one.  not quite as good as the one the game before, but it still felt good.

Ball #3:

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With both teams’ batting practices in the books, I tried for any amount of pre-game toss-ups I could find.  I thought that if I got one in pre-game and one during the game, I would finish with 4.  not great, but not nearly as bad as what could happen after finishing BP with only 2.

This ball is kind of special, since it was the 50th ball that Dominique (former Bat Boy) Frost has thrown me.  See him in the lower-right corner?

Ball #4:

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*Working the Chicago White Sox side.*

I decided to try the visitor’s side, since the first 7 or so innings see all balls thrown to the home bench go to the MLB authenticator.

The middle of the 1st inning saw Mark Parent toss me this gem of a gamer – a nice foul ball that was hit towards his bench.

Time out for a Robin Ventura break…

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Ball #5:

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Might I get up to 6 balls this game and bring my average back up to an even 5 for my lifetime?  This toss-up from the new visitor’s bat boy helped.  This came at the end of the 3rd.

Ball #6:

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Woohoo!!  Goal achieved; massive success, considering the lackluster BP.  My first toss-up from the new Bat Boy, Bobby.  It was still only the middle of the 5th at this point…

Ball #7:

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A ball from Torii Hunter?  Yes, please.  Middle of the 8th and still a little time left to keep going…

Ball #8:

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TWINS WIN!!  This is the ball that was used to turn a game-ending double play, courtesy of my favorite, Trevor Plouffe.  I was honestly not expecting this one.  I thought seven was a good number and would be the end.

Ball #9:

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The last one of the night came from the new Bat Boy again.  BOBBY!!  He keeps the game balls that don’t get authenticated in a white 5 gallon bucket next to the black “game ball bag”.  This one was one of those.

While it was no “I caught Alex Rodriguez’s 3000th hit” game, it was still…

Un-REAL.

Here’s Nate and I (and Eric creeping in the background)…

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The Haul:

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Recap:

Thank You:

  • Bobby – new bat boy extraordinaire
  • Dominique – the all-star veteran
  • Mark Parent
  • Chris Herrmann
  • Trevor Plouffe
  • Torii Hunter
  • New visitor’s bat boy (sorry, “name unknown”)
  • Mateo, Paul, Eric, and… ummm… hmmm… anyone else?
  • Oh, right, NATE!  (Told you we’d see each other again.)

New Beginnings and a Lucky Number – Balls 431-434 (June 17, 2015)

St. Louis Cardinals 1 – Minnesota Twins 3

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

June 17, 2015


“Things, they always change.”

I had known about a huge change at Target Field for quite some time, but this particular game would be the first time I’d see it in action… and I’m not talking about the arrival of byron Buxton.

Sure, the talk of the town was about the #1 prospect in baseball making his debut at Target Field, but ballhawks always have finer details that they fret about.  We know who has yet to hit their first HR, as much as we familiarize ourselves with bat boys, and I am no exception to this.  Dominique Frost, the best in the biz, had mentioned about a month prior that come June he would be transitioning to the clubhouse.  This is great news for him, since it is a promotion and a step up (and furthering his career), but terrible news for me.  So while I was like the typical Twins fan, eager to watch Buxton for the first time at home, I was also sad and nervous about someone else taking Dom’s place.

***Dominique, if you are reading this, no one can actually take your place, you crazy, helmet-spinning, Torii Hunter cleaning, best-in-the-Bigs “BB”.***

But before I get too caught up on the changes and new beginnings for two BBs (Byron Buxton and Bat Boy), let’s talk about the BP portion of the game.

Ball #1:

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After a 10 minute (max) Twins BP, I was able to finally get on the board with a toss-up from Miguel Socolovich.  I was honestly getting nervous that I would either get my first 1 or 2 ball game in quite a while, or worse yet, get shut out.

Ball #2:

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Sometimes we make nice catches and even better, sometimes people notice your nice catch and applaud you.  This was one of those “applause” moments.  I was in the front row, the ball was hit hard, but dying quickly at the wall.  It carried enough to reach the fence while I shifted slightly to my right (the stands were pretty full, so I didn’t have a lot of room to work with) and stood up on the concrete that connected to the aluminum fence, in order to get more extension.  I then leaned over, extending to nearly 100% of my ability and made a backhanded catch.

It felt good.  I needed one of those.

Ball #3:

BALL #433!!!  My favorite number.  Achievement unlocked: Superstitious Baseball.

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I thought I might get my first “new bat boy” toss-up, as he got the ball that was pitched in the dirt by Tommy Milone during the first inning warm-ups, but he handed it to Dom (since he clearly didn’t know what to do with it, since the authenticator didn’t want it) who then tossed it to me.  Is this the last toss from Dom for quite some time?  Who knows.  Any ball can be my last, since even the best skill depends on some luck and balls coming to you at the exact right time, but hopefully this is a temporary “last”.

PAUSE:

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Time out for Byron’s first pitch at Target Field.  We’re still waiting for his first HR, but at least I saw one of the firsts.

Game On…

Ball #4:

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The last ball of the night came from Ron Gardenhire’s arch-nemesis, umpire Joe West.  It’s been a while since I tried for an umpire toss-up.

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Had the hair up on the way home and also during BP (in a slightly different fashion). Do I win the longest flow for MGB ballhawks?  This should be a yearly award, right?  (If you agree, please let Alan Schuster know on Twitter and cc me: @TonyV433)

The Haul:

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Notice the lineup card?  This was crumpled into a ball by Joe Vavra, given to Dominique, then tossed to me.  I really wanted this, especially since it was from such a historic night (beating a dead horse: Buxton’s first night at Target Field).

Recap:

Thank You:

  • Dominique – I hope this is not the last time I write this for you, in fact, I owe you more.  But if this was the last (49 in total), then THANK YOU!!  You’ve been amazing and I hope the new position treats you well.
  • Miguel Socolovich
  • Joe West

PS: If you ever want a parking tip for a Monday through Friday night game, let me know.  Park at 4 pm, 2 hours for a total of $1 and free parking after 6 pm makes this a STEAL.

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The One Where I Barely Ballhawked – Balls 427-430 (June 6, 2015)

Milwaukee Brewers 4 – Minnesota Twins 2

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

June 6, 2015


The title may be a bit misleading, but when you are used to going alone and being able to just do your thing, sitting in a section that has a near-zero-percent chance of baseballs is… WEIRD.

It was my wife’s birthday yesterday (Happy Birthday, Jael!) so she got a bunch of family to ride their bikes from our house to the stadium – 31 miles of trail/roads.  I did not ride, since I wanted to get there early and snag a ball or two AND some one needed to drive the car which held the bikes – in case of bad weather… or what ended up happening, just driving them home, regardless.

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It was looking like no BP for the better part of me waiting at the gates, but then I was proven wrong.  We got in and I witnessed one of the lamest BP sessions in recent history.

Ball #1:

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Jason Rogers toss-up to put me on the board.

Ball #2:

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The Brewers’ Bat Boy.  I do not know his name.  Sorry.

Ball #3:

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Gamer from the weirdo in the background… Dominique!  This was from the middle of the 6th.

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Ball #4:

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The last one was from Dominique… and caught by my wife!  Yay!  Thanks for the birthday gift, Dom!.

The Haul:

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Recap:

Thank you:

  • Dominique – #VoteDomBB
  • Jason Rogers
  • Torii Hunter – for signing a baseball card from my childhood.

It’s Raining Plouffe! #VotePlouffe… #VOTEPLOUFFE!!! – Balls 424-426 (May 29, 2015)

Toronto Blue Jays 6 – Minnesota Twins 4

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

May 29, 2015


Beautiful Thursday, beautiful Saturday… terrible Friday.  When you live in Minnesota, you come to expect these things – heck, it’s even a badge of honor, of sorts.  We joke that it can be 80+ one day and snow the others, and that HAS happened.  however, this weather interruption was not nearly as cool, it only offered rather chilly temps and rain that turned into a non-stop drizzle.  It was just enough to make things miserable for everyone – especially ballhawks, since BP was CANCELED.

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After waiting at the gates (under shelter from the rain) with Alex (@everythingtwins on Instagram) we made our way into the ghost-town.

Ball #1:

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I knew that the only way that there would be any balls (as there were no longer any players on the field) would be the small hope that a ball was left over from any potential warm-ups.  I saw cleat marks in the dirt on the warning-track in foul territory and kept my eyes peeled.  That’s when I saw this ball sitting in a cup-holder.  Excellent!  No matter what, I would not be shut out, even if it would be rescheduled to a date I could not return to.

A while back (last year?) I made a sign, inspired by a famous line from Star Wars, by Admiral Ackbar.  I spun the line “It’s a trap!” into…

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How many of you honestly would have gotten this?  Because no one seemed to understand or appreciate how awesome this was.  I had another sign for today, but that will remain a secret until it becomes relevant.

Ball #2:

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I fully endorse the campaign that Paul (APieceOfTheGame) Kom has going on: #VoteDomBB.  Even without his help today (with this and ball #3) I would vote until my fingers bled.  We used to have bumper-stickers in MN that said “My governor can beat up your governor” because we elected Jesse Ventura.  We need to make a new one that says “My Bat Boy can out friendly your Bat Boy.”  He is a straight-up pro: from toss-ups to in-game management to dealing with hecklers (there were hecklers tonight) he can do it all… and still look like he is happy and nothing bothers him.  PRO!

Here’s where things get weird…

Remember how I said I made a sign for this game?  Guess what it was about…

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And so it got the attention of both Trevor Plouffe and FSN (Fox Sports North – for those not in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area).  Marney Gellner, FSN pre-game host and interviewer extraordinaire, first saw it and told me to expect a quick chat during the 5th inning.  Excellent… but in the meantime…

Then Trevor Plouffe saw it, went back in the clubhouse and came out with a blonde bat (he swings only a black one, period) and says, “Sorry, it’s not mine.”

I’m still pumped and amazed to be able to add something to the Baseball-cave.  “OK…”

I take it, turn the barrel and see that it is a Rawlings with the name… JOE MAUER on the barrel.  I’m speechless and don;t know if I actually was able to say thank you the number of times I thought it, but I hope I was able to convey it at least once (I know I was able to after the game).

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He came back a little later, before the game started, and said to me, “I stole it, so don’t say anything.” (So I am entrusting you, dear reader, with your silence. Do NOT tell your best friend, Joe Mauer, about this transaction.)

I am grateful to have this, amazed, and potentially have a Hall of Famer’s bat.  How cool is that?!  But honestly, Trevor is more the hall of famer in my personal records book.  I will keep all of these treasures and display them proudly, but I’m not going to lie, I think the first bat that he gave me is still the most special.

Now fast forward to inning number five, still sitting on two baseballs for the night, but also a Joe Mauer bat (talk about sitting/walking in fear… I don’t want to ruin this thing, nor do I want someone else to take it, so I am nervous to say the least).  Marney finds me at the end of the fourth and preps me with one of the questions she has for me (focusing on the “#VotePlouffe” sign)and tells me just to “adlib the rest”.

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I give my interview, slip in some quick remarks, start to worry about my words being twisted (I mentioned the term “hardcore” and then had to think of something that was “less than hardcore” without going into “softcore” for fear of it sounding like I’m alluding to porn)..  But in the end I got to spread the “Vote Plouffe” campaign, get circled by a MLB Hall of Famer (Bert Blyleven), and scored $100 in lottery tickets!

(PS: I do not get the tickets until later, since they only have props.  But I will do my best to add my “winnings” to this post later.)

Ball #3:

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With the night coming to a close, here is the last ball that came in the 8th inning.  It was a pitch fouled into the dirt to Brian Dozier from Mark Buehrle.  When I look at this ball compared to the one that came straight from the ball bag (#2), it is amazing how much of the Lena Blackburne mud came off during the rain; this for a ball that lasted less than one batter and only during the lightest of mists.

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The night finished with fireworks, which I am still not a huge fan of.  The Twins do it every Friday night game (loses its feeling of being “special”) and the shows themselves are only margin at best, due to laws for downtown Minneapolis fireworks.  maybe I just got spoiled in Denver, who knows.

Family photo:

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…And a close-up of the bat…:

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Recap:

Thank you:

  • Dominique – #VoteDomBB
  • Trevor Plouffe – #VotePlouffe
  • Joe Mauer (as long as you do not punish Trevor)
  • The Easter Bunny
  • FSN/Marney Gellner
  • Evelyn (she made the sign)
  • Alex – for the company at the gate.  Don;t worry, you’ll get plenty of balls when there isn’t a near-rain-out.
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