Happy Thanksgiving!!! (2015 Version)

In the same tune as last year’s post, I wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving/Thursday Maximus.  There are many people that have helped contribute to a great time at the ballpark, but the ones listed below were most instrumental to making 2015 another great year.

  1. Ballhawks of Target Field (both official and honorary) – The community at Target Field really solidified at the end of the year last year and now has the feel of a legitimate place to ballhawk (maybe not with great numbers, but at least with a community).  The cast this year included:
    • Nate Duppler
    • Dave Forstad
    • Mateo
    • Paul
    • Greg Barasch
    • Grant Edrington
  2. Josh Hyber – Thank you for the great write-up in the Star Tribune.  You showcased the great community of baseball nuts at Target Field, without falling into the stereotypical “stealing baseballs from little girls” talk that usually associates itself with this hobby.
  3. Houston – What a great time packed into such a condensed trip.  The stadium looked great, the ballhawking was perfect, and the people were friendly.  I will be back, you can count on it.
  4. Kansas City – Back again. It was nice to return after my one year hiatus.  You’re welcome for giving you the World Series touch (I’m sure that’s the reason why you “took the crown”.  It was a fun town in general, and a good way to spend a 4th of July weekend with some family.
  5. Florida – Lovely tradition.  It may end this year, but only because of another potentially HUGE road-trip (California tour?  LA and San Diego?  Maybe…).  It’s always nice to be able to catch baseball a month early… and maybe catch some 80 degree weather and beaches, too.
  6. The Minnesota Twins – I said last year that I saw bright spots, and this year you proved me correct.  Paul Molitor is a great coach, Torii Hunter’s final lap as a Twin was wonderful, and finally debuting “the future” (Sano/Buxton) all while winning more than losing made 2015 the best since 2010.
  7. Trevor Plouffe – No longer a fringe guy, Trevor is an everyday third baseman.  His fielding is above average, his hitting is powerful and clutch, and his leadership can now be described as “veteran”.  However, this success does not come without downfall – he has value and might be shopped.  No matter the uniform, you’re always a Twin and I’m always your fan.
  8. Dominique Frost – Amazing.  Simply amazing.
  9. Javier Bracamonte – For the second straight year (and 3rd in 4 years), Javier has tossed me a commemorative.  Not only that, but when I was in Houston he asked if my road trip went well.  He is the most down to Earth guy, the best ambassador to baseball that one could hope for on a team.  His actions after the Royals were eliminated finally caught some attention and showcased his positivity to the world of baseball (and sports in general).
  10. You, the reader – I know a decent amount of the regulars who visit my site, but there are countless others, people I do not even know by name; to you, THANK YOU!  Feel free to also subscribe to the podcast, follow me on social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc.), and/or say hello in the comments.


My 2015 in slideshow form:

Another “copy and paste from 2013/2014”… and bonus thanks:

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

New: Thank you, my “littlest one”, for always being eager and happy to see me when I came home.  My puppy, Evelyn, would always pounce on me and want to share in the collection of leather-wrapped strings that I brought home.  A simple distraction of a treat would usually allow me to take a quick picture and secure the prizes/souvenirs, BUT no matter how much I wanted to love this hobby (and going to games), she reminded me what matters most, my little family waiting for me at home.

Part 1: What to do when your favorite player is on the trading block…

It is with great anxiety and a self-made Hoover Dam holding in my sadness that I must face the harsh reality:

Trevor Plouffe is on the trading blocks.

This news is not exactly new, his name has come up for a couple years now, especially with the man-child known as Miguel Sano looming large.  But things escalated quickly on November 9th when the Twins were revealed as the winning bid to negotiate with Korean slugger-extraordinaire and first-baseman/designated hitter, Byung-ho Park.

TP Byung-ho Meme

Park’s signing meant that the already busy lineup got even more polluted.  A typical team keeps 12 batters and 13 pitchers, and keeping that in mind, along with positions currently mastered by those on the roster, things get messy and confusing WITHOUT a trade.

Joe Mauer – 1B/DH (rumors of outfield, but never proven)

Trevor Plouffe – 3B/1B/DH (played in the outfield – left-field – in spring training of 2013)

Miguel Sano – 3B/1B/DH (told to practice in right-field in Dominican league this winter, but not proven)

Kennys Vargas – 1B/DH (still a fringe player and not necessarily a 25-man roster spot)

Byung-ho Park – 1B/DH (if he doesn’t start in the MLB, it’ll only be a few weeks until he cracks the lineup)

So there you go, FIVE guys for 3 spots.  Only one of them is a legitimate bench guy (Vargas) and the other four are definitely starters.  This makes things scary enough.  I could get into money/contract terms to also prove that Plouffe is probably the odd man out, but that is well documented (so search for “Plouffe trade rumors” on Google).  The only piece that could have given me hope was potential flexibility in the outfield.  Surely someone could master those skills or at least become serviceable and make up for it with their bat (*cough* Delmon Young, Ryan Doumit, Michael Cuddyer *cough*)…

But even the outfield is crowded – and that’s after the announcement of Torii Hunter’s retirement.  The Twins have a young, speedy outfield, and a couple of them could even be decent trade chips, but probably not near as proven or valuable as Plouffe.  There are plenty of guys who can fill in an outfield hole in the league, and while a guy like Aaron Hicks might get a middle prospect in return, you have a hell of a time finding an everyday third baseman available that could not fetch that same return – and Plouffe is older with less club control remaining in his arbitration eligible years.

The outfield:

Byron Buxton – CF (sure, he could start in AAA next year, but he is the potential face of the franchise)

Aaron Hicks – CF/RF (can play all spots and is flexible with switch-hitting abilities)

Eddie Rosario – LF (originally a middle-infielder, I’m guessing he is pure OF now)

Oswaldo Arcia – RF (hard to give up on him yet; the power can excite, but the defense is… yeah)

Max Kepler – RF/1B/DH (he may still be a minor leaguer for a good portion of the year, but we saw him in 2015)

So while it is very conceivable that the Twins have only THREE outfielders for sure on their roster right now, making any of the guys mentioned above in the 1B/3B/DH conundrum are super-utility guy who is also your fourth outfielder seems like a stretch.  It is very likely that the position of fourth OF is taken by Arcia/Kepler in just a couple months anyway.

So why the long-winded explanation of “dead man walking”?  Because that is the first step in all of these rumor fears…

  1. Legitimize the rumor

Rumor Meme

If you see your favorite guys’ name but it is a far stretch in hopes of receiving a prized trade-deadline candidate?  Take that news with a grain of salt.  If my favorite guy was Joe Mauer and the trade was a late-July acquisition of David Price, I’d remain quite comfortable.  But as I have proven above, Trevor Plouffe is expendable and provides the Twins with a decent trade chip over the offseason.

  1. Check with local and national beat-writers and bloggers

Expert Meme 2

The Twins have a ton of guys “in the know” and many others that have substantial credibility.  The writers for the Star Tribune, Pioneer Press, and bloggers Aaron Gleeman, Twinkie Town, Twins Daily, and Puckett’s Pond all are great resources.  Many have theories and have provided the feedback from Paul Molitor, Terry Ryan, and even get the pulse of what other clubs and GMs are saying.  Oh, checking MLB Trade Rumors also doesn’t hurt.  Once you see it on MLB Trade Rumors, that kind of sets off the “this is real” alarm.

  1. Take a step back and think about what it means to you, personally

Cry Meme

This is the portion that is the most confusing part.  You start to reminisce about the good times that player gave you – the game-winning hits, the incredible plays, the funny commercials, etc.  Then you think about how they might not be there ever again, at least wearing your team’s jersey.  Those personal interactions will be gone or severely limited – the autograph you wanted may never come to be, your cheering during “crucial” at-bats will cease to be heard by said player, and seeing them at community functions (like TwinsFest) may never happen again.  Your happy past is squashed by the potential unpleasant future.

And then you start to think about it from their perspective…

  1. Take a look at it through the eyes of the player

Empathy Meme

That player has given a large part of his time to that team, to that city, to that community, and in some cases, it is the only club he knows.  To be caught in these rumor mills and have that be YOUR name?!  Your personal sadness and anxiety pales in comparison to the player’s.  He may be dealt to a team he hated as a child, or to a town that he doesn’t want to move his family to, or maybe he was perfectly happy with his current place of employment.  Then there’s the fans… *Insert favorite player here* has tons of fans that call themselves his #1 fan.  He has developed a relationship with that community and those people that support him, so that must also suck to have taken away from you.  (Sorry, *player*, not all your fans will cheer for you once you are wearing a different uniform.)

  1. Let it go…

Inner Peace Meme

Damn it.  No.  Not the song from Frozen.  I repeat… NOT THE SONG FROM FROZEN!

No matter the strength of the rumor, things are never certain until they are finalized and announced to the public.  We saw a nasty case of that with the Brewers and Mets (Carlos Gomez and Wilmer Flores), where even the strongest of rumors (near-confirmation?) fell apart at the last hour.  Your player’s fate is sealed by the GM.  He will keep the negotiations private and leak just enough to get good value.  Your actions (whatever they could be) mean exactly SQUAT.  Freaking out, being superstitious, or writing a letter to the team will not amount to any productive change in the fate.  The good news?  It takes two to tango, err, trade.  Sometimes the trade doesn’t happen, no matter how hard your GM tries.

And in a perfect (albeit broken) world?  Your favorite player comes back even after he is traded.

While I am not suggesting Trevor Plouffe is the same as Torii Hunter, he could still be in a similar situation years down the road and want to come back to the place where it all began.  Heck, even Gordan Beckham came back to the White Sox after being traded to the Angels and playing with them for a half a year.

“Crazy things happen.” –Baseball

Editor’s note:

This is part one of a potential three or four part guide.  If the writer (also editor in this situation) has to face the reality of Trevor Plouffe leaving the Minnesota Twins, he will also be doing:

Part 2:  How to react to the news of your favorite player being traded

Part 3:  Life after the trade, supporting your team and/or favorite player (aka: What do I do?)

Part 4:  The return of your favorite player… to the stadium of ‘your team’

The Top Ten Moments In Sports (Tony’s Edition)

In chronological order, here are the top ten moments in sports… according to my memory and excitement level.

Labeling things as “the best” and putting together top ten lists is arbitrary and completely subjective, but it also gives people a look at what makes up someone else – why do they think certain things, what makes them feel certain ways, how are the similar/different from me?…

Preface:  As this is a baseball blog, you can bet that there will be some baseball moments.  As I played hockey through college, you can also bet there will be some hockey moments.  Will there be much else?  Who knows?…

October 26, 1991:

Game 6 of the World Series.  I was 7 years old and in that perfect age group to be totally submerged in anything baseball.  But to have my local team playing for their second World Series in 4 years?!

There was no bigger sports hero in Minnesota in the 90s than Kirby Puckett.  He was the underdog, the loyal superstar, and on this date, he was the man who put his team on his back.  The Twins tied the series thanks to his heroics, and on the next day…

October 27, 1991:

Game 7 of the World Series.  Minnesota’s own, Jack Morris, pitches one of the best games in World Series history, capping off what I hold to be the best series in all of sports (and some legitimate sports writers have also argued this point).  Again, to be 7 years old and have your team win the World Series… in dramatic fashion?!  Amazing.  To have your parents let you stay up to watch?  The best.

August 4, 1993:

Not all top moments have to be pleasant.  Case in point: Robin Ventura – my childhood favorite – gets his ass handed to him by a future Hall of Famer who is 20 years older than him!  I remember on two occasions my dad coming into my room to wake me up in the morning and telling me about how Nolan Ryan just pitched another no-hitter.  This time, he came in to tell me that my favorite guy tried to fight Nolan Ryan… and lost.

It’s sad, because no matter how great of a player Robin was (and he was amazing, look up his awards and his ranking on all-time grand slam leaders), most people will still remember this fight over all the rest.  Fear not, though, this is not the last Robin moment on the list.

March 8-9, 1996:

High school hockey?!  If you live in MN you understand, if not, know this: they sell out the same arena used by the professional team for the high school hockey tournament.  If you play hockey (and there is a large number of us who do/did) in the state of MN, you dream of playing in this tournament.  I can still remember numerous spring breaks coinciding with tournament time and being able to watch hockey games all day.

So what makes this so special?  It was a 5-OT game (longest in state tournament history) against one of the best high school hockey scorers in history… and the goalie ended up getting the better of him.  As a kid, I hoped beyond hope that each game would go into OT, and that the OT would then stretch numerous periods.  It worked a few times, getting bonus hockey AND the ability to stay up late, but nothing was as good as this game.

EDIT: The Minnesota State High School Hockey Tournament is the true March Madness.

September 8, 1998:

We would later question the ethics of what happened in the summer of ’98, but for the time being, we didn’t care.  Was it obvious, in retrospect, that the best hitters in the game were juiced?  Sure.  But I have mentioned numerous times the ethics of baseball in the times before the “steroid era.”  Quite simply, the game I loved, one I was starting to master and become semi-advanced at (being 14 at the time) was coming off of a terrible work-stoppage – the lack of a 1994 World Series proves this – and the game needed something to gain back the fans.

Mark vs. Sammy, Cardinals vs. Cubs, and CARDINALS VERSUS CUBS!  Not only did the two men who were on pace to break a sacred 37 year-old record play in a heated rivalry, the two teams actually faced each other on this record-setting night.  Like much of America, I watched that night.  I even wrote myself a note (which I still have) and placed it in my baseball card folder, detailing the time at which it took place.

January 17, 1999:

The buzz was everywhere.  The state of Minnesota knew, and the country was even confirming it on outlets like ESPN, that the 1998 Minnesota Vikings were one of the best teams in the history of the NFL.  Heck, there were parody songs on local radio that had been playing for weeks about how the Vikings were “Going to Miami”.  The Super Bowl was a given; winning the franchise’s first was closer to a reality than the yearly illusion…

Until things utterly unraveled against the Falcons in the NFC Championship game.  Gary Anderson, who hadn’t missed a kick all year, missed his first (an eventual game winner).  Denny Green takes a knee before settling for OT… with one of the greatest offenses in history.  Vikings fans still feel the curse – I’m just glad I am not one.  Gone are the days of viewing football, but being surrounded by this hysteria made this the only non-baseball or hockey moment on the list.

October 17, 1999:

This is the happy story about Robin Ventura, one that New Yorkers hold onto dearly.  Stats and box scores be damned, Robin Ventura hit a walk-off grand slam to win the game in the bottom of the 15th inning against the Atlanta Braves.  As I watched this game, I had hoped in previous innings that my favorite would be the hero, but a simple single in the 11th and a flyout against the hated John Rocker in the 14th meant he was one for six on the night and the were down 3-2 in the 15th.

The Mets strung together a single and some walks to tie the game, then Robin came up to bat with one out.  Fearing a double play, but knowing it would just take a decent flyout to win it, I was on the edge of my seat.  Then Robin did what he did best, HIT GRAND SLAMS!  He only hit 294 home runs in his career, but 18 of those were grand salamis – tied for 5th most in the history of baseball.

…But his teammates mobbed him before he even reached second base.  The one run they needed had scored and the game was over.  The formality of scoring the unnecessary runs was deemed stupid, and Todd Pratt picked up Robin as the win became official.  In my heart, this is still a grand slam. Watch the tapes.

April 22, 2003:

If heartbreak is what Vikings fans felt in 1999, then I matched that feeling just 4 years later.  My favorite hockey player of all-time was Patrick Roy.  Even though I was a forward, I idolized Patrick.  I wanted to be a goalie, even though I knew I could never do what goalies do.  Seeing Patrick play and watching the Detroit/Colorado rivalry just brought up such raw emotions; it’s what makes me love hockey in a way I could never love baseball.

Most people in MN are Wild fans, but not me, I owned a Canadians Starter Jacket, then an Avalanche one when Patrick exited Montreal.  I had Colorado memorabilia and even wanted to live in Denver – though I had never actually seen/visited the area.  I even owned an Avalanche jersey, one I wore on that fateful day.

I’ll admit it, I had an attitude like Roy that day.  Wearing that jersey, I walked on campus knowing that all the other folks with Wild jerseys were going to be shedding their sweaters, while I could where mine to the Stanley Cup.


I remember watching in horror, Andrew Brunette scoring on such a weak awkward goal.  I was stunned.  Patrick was stunned.  And the NHL had just seen its last game from the greatest goalie of all-time.

October 6, 2009:

I had said goodbye to the Metrodome two days prior, expecting Target Field to be the next destination for baseball after October 4, 2009.  But the Tigers and Twins played some polar opposite baseball at the end of September and the last series in October.  A funny thing happened, the best case scenario happened on October 4th, which led me to buy a ticket for a “winner take all” game 163.

The game was not just intense because it was a one game addition to determine who made the playoffs.  It was not nerve-wracking because the Twins last one (1-0) in Chicago the previous year.  It was insane because it was a close game and decided in extra innings!  Yep, 162 games weren’t enough to determine the AL Central, and 9 innings of a game 163 didn’t prove any better.

Finally in the 12th, the man who was least likely to be a hero became a legend.  Alexi Casilla drives in Carlos Gomez.  TWINS WIN!

July 15, 2014:

Sure, it was Derek Jeter’s last all-star game.  Sure, Mike Trout was the MVP.  And yes, Glen Perkins (Mr. Hometown Guy) got the save.  But even if all that didn’t happen and Matt Tolbert was the biggest name selected for the game, this would probably crack the top ten.  Why?  Because I attended my first ever all-star game.  I had prepared and played this scenario out in my head for months.  I didn’t know what to expect, but when the craziness of basically a week full of baseball ends, you appreciate what just happened.

Fan-Fest.  Futures Game.  Home Run Derby.  Red Carpet.  All-Star Game.

The entire experience was incredible; it was the first time in my life where I could enjoy it in my hometown.  (Being one years old the last time it was in MN made it difficult/impossible to remember.)

So Long And Thanks For All The Bats… – Balls 506-511 (October 4, 2015)

Kansas City Royals 6 – Minnesota Twins 1

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

October 4, 2015

Bad news: This was my last game of the season, for sure.  The Twins were eliminated the day before.

Good news: It took 161 games to eliminate the Twins from playoff contention.  Gone are the days of 90+ losses in a season; we are finally back in winning record territory.  The added bonus of not making the playoffs?  The Twins pretty much had a fire-sale (more like a “free”-sale) with their equipment… but that will be covered at the end.

At the Gates:

Anyone ever heard of a podcast called “At The Gates”?  You getting sick of me mentioning it yet?  Oh well, this is the last time you’ll have to hear about it in a game post this year.

20151004 AtTheGates

Paul (unofficially the co-host) joined me at the gates at just past 10:30 for the 2:10 game.

Here was my late breakfast I ate while I waited for him:

20151004 Breakfast

Yep, two vegan donuts from Glam Doll Donuts in Minneapolis – go there, they are delicious and even sell regular delicious donuts – along with a glass bottle of Mexican Coke. Sugar on top of sugar.  That’s how I roll!

Paul and I discussed the meaning of life, solved many issues that man has struggled with since the dawn of time, and even proved which God is the correct one.  Seriously folks, this episode was a good one, you’ll be very enlightened.  (OK, the best part was probably our World Series picks which will get us ridiculed once the series is set in a few weeks.)

Then the gates opened…

To a field with no one on it… but it was set up for BP.  The Twins, who were eliminated and who were going to be fielding a strange/young lineup, did not take BP, so the field was empty for about 30 minutes.  Then the Royals started to come out and take one final regular season BP before their playoff push.

Ball #1:

20151004 B1

Thank you, Don Wakamatsu.  This was his warm-up ball before he threw BP.

Ball #2:

20151004 B2

Thank you, Alex Gordon.  A ball just sitting by the cage that he picked up and hesitated to throw to the BP-pitcher was snagged by myself when I yelled for him.  Simple.

Ball #3:

20151004 B3

Game time.  This was a toss-up from Dom.  I hope he comes back next year!

Ball #4:

20151004 B4

See ball #3.

Ball #5:

20151004 B5

The 1-0 pitch to Salvador Perez from Brian Duensing in the 5th inning.  Again, see ball #3.

Ball #6:

20151004 B6

As soon as the game was over I got in my prime spot for the season finale giveaways.  This was a game ball from Dom.  The rest happened all too fast and resulted in yet another record-setting day for me.


Bat #1: Let me back up.  In the 8th inning, before he took the field one last time, Eduardo Escobar grabbed his two bats, and decided to bring one close to me.  I shouted, “Eduardo!” and he held out his bat and gave it straight to me.  Excellent!  I love the last game of the year… and it wasn’t even over yet.

Rosin Bag #1: Thanks, Dom?  Who else has a rosin bag?  It gets messy, but goes nicely with the mota stick I have from Spring Training a few years back.

Hat #1: Trevor Plouffe, after he came in from giving the shirt off his back to a lucky kid.  What a year for Trevor; leading the team in RBIs, solidifying himself in the field, and having his first child.  Good job, dude.

Batting Gloves set #1: Kennys Vargas.  It helps when someone recognizes you.  Sharing that “I caught your first home run” experience really is something else. (He gave them to Miguel Sano, who was closer to me, and told Miguel to give them to me.)  But it didn’t end there…

Bat #2: Kennys Vargas!  This bat is PRETTY.  I have had my eye on his new model, since it is now his signature (not block style) and is in gold on white wood.

But wait, there’s more!

Bat #3: Danny Santana?!  Yep, the shy, quiet dude tied my record for most bats in a game.  All three being Latino players and all three I used broken English to get their attention at some point.  I guess it helped, huh?

Wrist Band #1: Dominique’s “KC” wrist band that he threw into the crowd.  I almost got his hat (weird), too.  I do not know what the KC stands for; maybe I’m being dumb, but any help?

I would have taken a photo of each one separately, but it happened quickly and then by the end, it was too much to try to hold onto.  So the photo of the haul will have to suffice.

The Haul:

20151004 Haul

Wow.  I averaged more than 6 balls a game int he regular season, a new personal best.  Plus I put up quite an impressive non-baseball haul in this last game.  Can you tell why it is easy to say “I love the Twins”?

The yearly recap post will come shortly.  I want to have it out before the end of October, so if you want to see anything that wasn’t covered in last year’s post, speak now or forever be disappointed!  As a little teaser, here is all the “stuff” I will breakdown in further detail in said “year-end post”…

2015 Haul 2

2015 Haul 1

Isn’t it lovely?


Thank You:

  • Dominique – quite simply, THE MAN.  Congrats, too.  You’ll be quite the man in February – don’t sweat, you got it.
  • Trevor Plouffe – another simple message: THANK YOU.  Congrats on your most important piece of 2015, fatherhood.
  • Kennys Vargas – thanks for never forgetting me.  You are the nicest giant.
  • Eduardo Escobar – the life of the party.  Your dance moves and happy spirit ignited this club.
  • Danny Santana – shy and quiet, but so much potential.  Come back strong in 2016!
  • Alex Gordon
  • Don Wakamatsu
  • All the usher friends I made along the way, but certainly not limited to Ken, Larry, Heather, and roaming specialist, Forrest.  You are all top class.
  • More year-end thank-yous in the next post…

WANTED: No Questions Asked – Balls 498-505 (September 24, 2015)

Cleveland Indians 6 – Minnesota Twins 3

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

September 24, 2015

Before I start the post with the recap of the game, notes about BP, or anything of that nature, I must say one thing…

I lost a ball.  Either that or it was stolen.  Somehow, between the end of the game and the time I got home, my total in possession went from 9 down to 8.  I was and still am upset.  Granted, the frustration and anger has subsided, but it is not gone completely.

So if you have seen or have in your possession, a game used baseball that is in a Ziploc bag with a number “6” in the upper left-hand corner, please let me know,  I shall ask no questions and give a reward.  (I also welcome the renumbering and revisions I must do to my notes.)

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the podcast, early entry, and exciting BP session…

“At the Gates” Podcast, episode four:


One of those two things happened.  I’ll give you a hit, there were no cracks of the bats heard until game time.  A light drizzle, that was more off than on, canceled batting practice.  This was the second time in a row that BP was canceled at a game I went to at Target Field.  The “curse of Greg Barasch” is real.

Paul (yep, that Paul) and I got to use our season ticket holder early entry pass…

To literally see two baseball players on the field (neither with a ball).  Both were Indians; one was talking to a small group of people on the field by home plate and the other was flying a drone with a GoPro on it from the 3rd base side.  That was it, for 30 minutes.  Early entry meant being stuck in the outfield as NOTHING happened.  Hey Twins, want to improve the experience?  On days where there is no BP, maybe allow the dozen or so fans to be anywhere in the lower bowl area.  Or, if you really need to round us up, stick us behind the dugouts?

Ball #1:


The first ball of the day came about 45 minutes after entering the stadium.  It took that long for players to come out and for a ball to be seen.  It was given to me by Ryan O’Rourke, who was visiting with some family/fans in the dugout.  He threw both Paul and I one, then went back into the clubhouse.  No more balls were seen for quite some time.

Ball #2:


A ball from a “should-be Hall of Famer”, Mr. Tony Oliva.  he was part of a pre-game ceremony to honor Mudcat Grant – Mudcat received the 1965 AL Championship ring that was lost many years ago.  To see these two men together and the smiles beaming from their faces… it was magical.

Ball #3:


CAREER BALL #500!!  Woo-hoo!  Thanks to Dom for completing the toss-up.  Kurt Suzuki tried to toss the ball my way after a strikeout in the 1st (Kyle Gibson getting Chris Johnson), but the ball went directly into the net and landed on the ground.

Ball #4:


A 3-1 pitch to Chris Johnson (again!) in the top of the 5th.

Ball #5:


A wild pitch (1-0 count) by Michael Tonkin to Carlos Santana… NOT THE GUITARIST… int he top of the 6th.

Ball #6:

Ghost Ball:


The one that got away?  This was a 2-2 pitch by Neal Cotts to Jason Kipnis in the top of the 8th.  But due to its unknown whereabouts, I cannot count it in my collection, and therefore it goes unnumbered.

Ball #6:


What I thought was the 7th ball of the night was a toss-up from Miguel Sano after the game.

Ball #7:


The eighth, but the revisionists call it seventh, was another toss-up, but this time by Joe Mauer.  He had a nice pearl and no one to give it to.  He honestly looked at me like, “Please take this ball.  Please?”

Ball #8:


Whether it was the ninth or the eighth, this was the final one of the night.  Another post-game toss-up, courtesy of Kennys Vargas.

The Haul:


This was when I noticed I was one short.  After I got home and went to take a picture, I started to lose my… shtuff.  I poured out my bag (which has my gloves, podcasting stuff, and other random things), but there were only 8 balls, no matter how many times I counted or tried to search deeper in the bag (or in my car).  This was a bad feeling.  I had 8 bags with me, which is why the last ball doesn’t have a bag.  If you look carefully, you can see the numbers “3” and “5” in the upper left of those respective balls.  Understand why there is a hole in the unfinished square now?



Thank You:

  • Dominique – toss-up hat trick, again.
  • Ryan O’Rourke
  • Tony Oliva – GET HIM TO THE HALL!!
  • Miguel Sano
  • Joe Mauer
  • Kennys Vargas

Sunrises and Sunsets: A Minnesotan’s Land-Trek to Minute Maid Park – Balls 489-497 (September 19, 2015)

Oakland Athletics 6 – Houston Astros 10

Minute Maid Park – Houston, TX

September 19, 2015

Please raise your hands if you have experienced the following:

A sunrise in Minnesota and sunset in Texas… on the same day.

A sunrise in Texas and sunset in Minnesota… on the same day.

The number of hands is probably measured in the dozens, especially if you take into account the method of travel – automobile.

At the beginning of each baseball season I plan road trips in my head.  Heck, I’ve even planned one for 2016 already (the preliminary schedules were released and I had some free time).  Houston always makes the list, but due to its long distance from home and relatively nothing in between, the trip never makes it past the planning stage.  But things change, reasons come and go, and road trips can be made in haste.

This story is only made possible due to the fact that the Astros announced a major change to their ballpark… the removal of Tal’s Hill.  My fascination with this feature/quirk is longstanding; it ties together old-school baseball stadiums with modern cookie-cutter ballparks.  But if you want to listen to me gush more about this, listen to episode three of “At The Gates” (embedded below).

So let’s actually talk about the trip, a nearly 2400 mile journey…

Friday: The first 1200 miles…

I left at 6 in the morning, on the dot.  This was coming off of a late night caused by one of the slowest baseball games I’ve witnesses (see previous post).  With less than a handful of hours of sleep, my almost 18 hour trip began in the dark morning of the Twin Cities suburbs.  By the time I got towards the Iowa border I saw the sun rise; I was finally awake.

Rain in southern Iowa/Northern Missouri turned into warmer and more humid conditions the further south I traveled and once I reached Joplin I became rather excited.  I was going to visit Oklahoma for the very first time!  The excitement soon wore off after encountering some stupid drivers and the realization that there was next to nothing to see in my hours of Oklahoma travel.  Still, it was nice to put down the windows and channel the inner “early teenage rebel boy from the 90s” in me – I drank a Surge and listened to some death metal at a rather high volume.  Yep, I made the best of Oklahoma.

By the time I arrived in Dallas the day was ending and the night was starting to request its own appearance.  It was here that I experienced the wonder of witnessing a Minnesota sunrise and a Texas sunset in the same day, while viewing over 1000 miles of America in between.  I mention it in the podcast, but I will say it again here (and hopefully clarify any awkwardness that may make me sound anti-American):

While I do not classify myself as patriotic, there is something about driving 18 hours and seeing how different and huge this country is… and how similar it can be.  My political and social views align with a more “global community” way of thought.  However, as I reflect back on my journeys – this trip from MN to TX, my numerous trips from MN to FL, and a couple from MN to CO – I cannot help but feel more connected with this land.

Thanks for letting me profess that to you.

The rest of the trip was dark and uneventful, Dallas to Houston is pretty bare, especially when you add nighttime to the mix.  I pulled into the hotel shortly before midnight and even though my body and mid wanted to pass out, the excitement of tomorrow’s adventure and the adrenaline of the trip kept me up another hour.

Good morning, Cactus Music!

When I am in a new town I want to know two things:

  1. Do they have a major league stadium? If so, can I attend a game?
  2. Where is the best (or at least closest) record store?

I already knew the answer to #1, but as I planned my 3-day, ultra-quick adventure, I had to do some research to find #2.  It turns out that the people of Houston have spoken and elected Cactus Music as the best of the best.  The next step was to look at the hours of operation – I gave myself a “have to be at the game before noon” ultimatum.  The shop opened at 10 and was less than 15 minutes from Minute Maid Park, PERFECT!

Oh, I also found out that it was only 5 minutes from the hotel (less than 2 miles).  This was also good news, but would have been better had I planned out things better.  Instead, I found myself able to record an “At The Gates” podcast outside of the record store if I had really wanted to do so.  Showing up more than 30 minutes before they open the doors at a record store (without a Record Store Day promotion) is pretty boring and unnecessary.

Here’s what it looked like inside and out:



That is Rufus, an employee of the store.  He is the guard… and also the companion of one of the actual employees.  This made me happy to see a puppy, but also sad, since mine was more than 1000 miles away.


After completing my purchase, I made my way over to Minute Maid Park.  Admittedly, I missed an exit and got a little turned around, but nothing one exit later couldn’t solve.  However, the parking situation (especially with a Mexican Heritage Parade going on around the stadium) was extremely frustrating and difficult.  Sure, there are TONS of parking lots around the stadium, but when you are nearly 7 hours early for the game, many of them have certain issues.  In MN we either have easy to use machines that take cards or we have attendants that take your cash and give you a parking slip.  Houston had machines that take cards, but either they don’t work or they had 3 hour rates only (no game-time rates available yet).  And attendants?! NOPE, they don’t believe in them, they just use a “put your cash in a slot and poke it through with a metal stick” approach.  This approach concerned me, as I wanted a slip to place in my dash and feel safe knowing I wasn’t going to get towed.  When you are taking off from the stadium and want to get a few hours out of town in order to get back in time, you try for the safest and most legal parking.


After a half an hour of parking mayhem, I reach gate number, ummm, the gate’s name was, ahhhh.  Wait, they don’t number or name their gates?!  What the hell?!  So stupid.  Anyway, I was at the gate in centerfield; I could see my first glimpse of the actual field, and it was glorious.

It was at this point that everything felt real.  My anxieties were all but gone and my excitement and happiness was at a rather high level.  No more worries about getting there, or about being late, or about… well, you get it.  I could sit down, take some photos, and record a podcast in peace.


A few days earlier it was announced that the Astros were doing a bobblehead giveaway for this game.  All I could think of is “crap!” but the fans down there were surprisingly chill about it all.  The Twins have folks that camp out for bobbleheads, but at Houston I was first in line and only one in line for a couple hours.  I still worried about “getting a ball” and how that would all work, but those worries were only slightly more elevated compared to going to my home park.  It was cool to feel almost at home in Houston – even if it was my first game there and on a weekend bobblehead day, with their team in a playoff spot.


After about 4 hours of waiting in line, the gates opened, I got my bobblehead(s) and…

Ball #1:


…Ran over to the bullpen area in right-centerfield.  With only a handful of fans waiting, I flashed my glove at an Astros player walking by.  He picked up the ball laying by the warning track and helped get me on the board.

Ball #2:


An Astros player hit a BP homer into the bullpen and it bounced once and landed in the seats behind the pen.  I ran over and picked it up.

Ball #3:


Carlos Muñoz was down catching for a few guys and was putting his gear away.  A ball was sitting near him so I asked for it.  The day was going to be a good one.

Ball #4:


I had a sign that said “2400 mile road trip for my 1st Astros game.”  Pat Neshek saw it and I told him I was from Minnesota (his stomping grounds as a young man, both growing up and early in his MLB career).  Later on he came back towards the wall wear I was standing in order to pick up a ball on the warning track.  I wanted the ball, but didn’t ask, since I had already talked to him and didn’t want to bother him.  Plus, with a few children nearby, I thought my chances were low.  I stood back, but he looked at me, pointed and then tossed it up.  AWESOME!

Ball #5:


I wandered away from the bullpen, since it was filling in with people at this point, and headed over to right field.  George Springer caught a ball and all the fans were yelling.  He didn’t look back, but instead just threw it over his shoulder and a few rows deep… directly to me.  There was no one around for a good 10 feet.  It was almost too perfect/easy.

My goal was to try for 5 balls, since that seemed like a respectable total for a new park.  Achievement Unlocked.

Ball #6:


With Astros BP winding down, I made my way towards their bench.  I was hoping to see Javier Bracamonte in order to say hello.  I successfully navigated my way over and got his attention.  We said hello and he said it was nice to see me make it down safely, then he grabbed a ball and tossed it up.  The dude is AWESOME!

Ball #7:


The Astros were nearly finished and their dugout area was a zoo.  I could have tried to go back into the outfield area for the Athletics BP, but since it was bobblehead night, the place was quite packed.  However, the visitor’s dugout was surprisingly empty by comparison.  Usually at Target Field the opponents even get a large showing behind their dugout.  Here at Houston it wasn’t even 1 deep.

I found a prime spot (by an opening where the players come in) and waited to work my magic.  Danny Valencia (former Twin) was throwing in front of the dugout and when he was done I asked for the ball.

Ball #8:


This is the lone ball I forgot to take notes for.  I know where I was and the general time, but I do not remember who tossed it up.  I hate when that happens.  So maybe it was Rickey Henderson, who was in town visiting and wanted to see his former club.  Thanks, Rickey (or other unknown Athletic).

This was the last ball of BP.  After shattering my expectations, I wandering the stadium, soaking in some sites/scenes and picking up a drink to stay hydrated (PS: they do not have vegan food, go figure).


(The reason for the trip: Tal’s Hill)


(Line up and introductions)


(Barry Zito’s farewell tour)


(My view of the game)

Ball #9:


Had I been greedy, this could have been number ten of the day.  Instead, I gave #9 to an A’s fan sitting next to me and kept this ball.  But it’s not just a simple story like it sounds.

I made a sign for Mark Canha and showed him in BP.  I asked if he’d throw me a 3rd out ball, since I wanted a game ball with the commemorative logo.  He said yes and told me to just hold the sign.  In the bottom of the 3rd he made the putout at 1st base and came running my way.  As he got close to the dugout his coach tossed him a pearl.  Mark caught it, looked at both balls, and then decided to give me the pearl.  DANG IT!!!  Not only was this not a commemorative, but my streak of gamers was on the line.


After ending the top of the 4th, Mark ran back out to first base, with that game ball in his glove.  They did their infielding routine as the pitcher warmed up and then he tossed it in to Tye Waller.  The previous 3 innings saw Tye toss the ball into the crowd – something the Twins coaches do not do (they use one warm-up ball for the entire game, but the first baseman also tosses up the game ball).  Knowing this, and not yet getting a ball from Tye, I pounced on him quickly.  I called out his name a couple times within a second of him catching the ball.  The A’s hat and green shirt got me noticed and he threw it right to me.


However, folks in my area saw me get two balls now within a half-inning, and since there were children running down, they thought “give it to the kids!”  I know that most, if not all of the kids had or would receive balls, so I gave the pearl (still in my pocket) to the A’s fan next to me and showed them that she had one.  Most people were then quieted by this act, except for one dude.  He was then silenced by his friend and also by me explaining that I was helping an A’s fan and that the A’s were the ones throwing them to their fans.

So it all worked out.  Things couldn’t have gone any better.  The stadium, the ballhawking, and the city in general exceeded my expectations.  The Astros went on to win in a semi-comeback fashion and my night came to an end with a season-high-matching performance.

Houston, we do NOT have a problem.  In fact, I want to come back.


Though the game was nearly 4 hours, which meant I lost the ability to make it to Dallas for the night, I still was able to remain happy and make it 2 hours before hitting one of the worst hotels in my life.  I will not go into the details, but let’s just say I saw the bugs scatter whenever I turned on the lights.

The next day saw an end to this insane tour – fans at the game, at the gates, and people back home all told me how crazy I was to do all this for just one game – but all in all, it was TOTALLY worth it.  I am not saying this from a purely ballhawking experience, but as a whole (an admittedly short 24 hours in the city of Houston).

I took off from Texas at 6 in the morning, saw a sunrise before Dallas and eventually ended with a sunset in Minnesota.

The Haul:



Thank You:

  • Pat Neshek
  • Carlos Muñoz
  • Javier Bracamonte
  • George Springer
  • Danny Valencia
  • Tye Waller
  • Angel Arroyo – Thanks for all the tips. Next time we will meet, just don’t lose any more body parts before then! (And also don’t lose any after that, too.  Keep all your parts.)
  • Random Security Guard – You were at the gate when I got there and in section 110 or so. Thanks for talking so much and keeping me company around noon.

Hurricane Barasch – Balls 483-488 (September 17, 2015)

Los Angeles Angels 11 – Minnesota Twins 8

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

September 17, 2015

Hopefully the name in the title sounds familiar to you; if not, be prepared to know the man, the myth, the legend… Greg Barasch!

Greg was in town with his father in order to cross off Target Field from their list of stadiums to visit.  They mentioned that Target Field would be the 28th out of the 30 current stadiums – they had been to Minneapolis’ finest stadium, the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, but that has been deceased since last year (and out of baseball service for over 5 years).

But if you want to learn more about “The Guest Formerly Known As Greg” (his official Minnesota name), listen to episode two of “At the Gates.”


Speaking of “At the Gates,” they were wet.  They were very, very wet.  Rain came in earlier in the day and never fully went away.  The weather was nothing short of humid and after each line of storms/rain came through, another line formed in its wake.  I thought things were looking good around 3 or 4, but then the last line formed and guaranteed NO BATTING PRACTICE!

No BP for a ballhawk is like spoiling a movie or an episode for a nerd – and yes, ballhawks are the nerds of baseball (for the most part), and I fully accept that.  While not good news for Paul and myself, this was even worse for Greg (at least on paper).  To travel to a new stadium, riding an average close to 15 balls/game, and to only have a shot at snagging warm-up balls and game balls, this severely limits the number possible.  The good news?  It was a Thursday and there were no bobbleheads to be given away (something I could not say about my trip to Houston in two days).

If you can do simple math, then you will know that I got SIX balls this game (and a special surprise to be shown below).  Paul ended up with FOUR.  And Greg?…  He just had to show off and put up more balls than Paul and I combined… ELEVEN!


(Paul ordering a Jimmy Johns sub.  Greg doing “the thinker.”  Me taking a rare selfie.)

Ball #1:


Once inside the stadium, we were at least given a slight hope of getting on the board – the pitchers were warming up.

I believe that all three of us got one within the first few minutes.  This ball in particular was from Glen Perkins.

Ball #2:


Another warm-up ball, this time from Trevor May.

Ball #3:


Straight from the ball bag, courtesy of Eduardo Escobar.

Ball #4:


What appears to be a game used ball, but given to me from the ball bucket (not bag) from Dominique.  Dom uses the bucket to hold balls that he doesn’t give to the authenticator or toss up into the stands.  It was probably a hold out from a previous game, but there is no way I will ever know.

Ball #5:


A 3-2 pitch to Albert Pujols via Tommy Milone in the top of the first.  Yep, a ball swung at by a future hall of famer.



Thank you, Trevor Plouffe!  I love snagging not-baseballs, too.  The collection will look AMAZING someday, when I can properly display it all.

Ball #6:


The last of the night, another gamer tossed by Dom.

The Haul:



Thank You:

  • Dominique – toss-up hat trick.
  • Glen Perkins
  • Trevor May
  • Eduardo Escobar

Late! – Balls 475-482 (September 2, 2015)

Chicago White Sox 0 – Minnesota Twins 3

Target Field – Minneapolis, MN

September 2, 2015

Well here’s something that you don’t hear all that often.  I was not EARLY to the gates.  In fact, I missed out on 96% of the “early entry BP” for season ticket holders.  I knew this was a reality when I couldn’t get out of work until after 5 – once the gates had already opened for those with the STH pass/privilege.  I even thought about canceling my game and just going home… Oh, how wrong I’d be.

I parked drove like mad to get to the closest place to park (with quick access to the gates) and then ran like a crazy person to gate 34.  No time to do a podcast (unfortunately), but looking at my phone I saw that it was 5:25 with just a few more blocks left.  I *might* just make it in before the “regular people.”

I walked through the gate, got my ticket scanned, and ran to the flag pole – 5:29 pm.

In that one minute of early entry, I received a big ol’ goose egg.  Quickly I went down to the foul area of right field – closer to Alexei Ramirez.  On the way down…

Ball #1:


…an usher found a ball as I ran passed him.  He looked up, I showed him my glove and he actually tossed it to me.  Not only do a lot of ushers not give up baseballs, but if they do it is usually to a small child.  I was on the board within 5 minutes overall.  Whew; exhale.

Ball #2:


After asking Alexei a few times, I finally gave up and faced the fact that he probably wasn’t going to give me one.  Even though we played around a bit – nodding, pointing, cheering, etc. – he went 5-10 minutes without tossing one over to me (he had about a dozen opportunities).

Then, without me saying anything, he got a flyball, looked over and just threw it to me.

I was beginning to feel better.  What was a certain disaster in my head (late to the gates and all the concerns/missed opportunities), two on the board is not exactly a bad day – especially with more than 3 hours left at the park.

Ball #3:


As it was the last hurrah for many youth baseball teams before the kids have to go back to school, I stayed in the foul area for BP.  Nothing worse than being around multiple teams of kids all of whom brought there glove and worse yet, all who scream for a ball EVERY time one comes anywhere near them.

Bobby Thigpen, one time single season saves record holder, tossed me ball #3 for the day.  I was beginning to think I could get my average of about 5 balls this game.  Again, not bad for a “lost game.”

Ball #4:


Now positioning myself by the White Sox dugout, I flashed my glove (and Sox shirt) to anyone with a baseball who would look over towards me.  It paid off when a White Sox worker looked over after helping clean up the baseballs used during BP.  He tossed one back in the bucket and the other to me.  He was wearing a grey polo and khaki pants, probably a trainer?

Ball #5:


Dominique.  Enough said.  Five balls in one game?  I cannot complain.

Ball #6:


Shortly after Dom hooked me up, Eduardo Escobar did the same.  I came into the game around five and a half balls per game, so hitting 6 only helps the average.  I went from nearly aborting the game to having an “above average” total.

Ball #7:


Anyone ever heard of the Golden State Warriors?  Alright, most of you already know where I am going with this.  Klay Thompson – NBA Finals winner, himself – has a brother named Trayce who plays for the White Sox.  He was at the plate in the 4th inning, with Tommy Milone pitching, and this was the ball he tipped foul to make it 0-2.

Ball #8:


Anyone else ever heard of Miguel Sano?  Well, he tossed me my final ball of the night, a warm-up pitch by Daniel Webb in the bottom of the 7th.  He came in with 2 out to face Trevor Plouffe.  This ball was used in the previous Joe Mauer at-bat (a strikeout).

And that’s it.  Nearly 50% more balls snagged this game than my yearly average.  Unbelievable.

The Haul:



Thank You:

  • Dominique
  • Alexei Ramirez
  • Twins Usher
  • Miguel Sano – for hitting homers AND tossing me baseballs.
  • Eduardo Escobar
  • Bobby Thigpen
  • Unknown White Sox worker – Bill Brasky?   I don’t know.

Extra Credit/Help Wanted:

Anyone ever been to Minute Maid Park?  If so, please leave comments or let me know on Twitter (@TonyV433).  I will take any and all tips/tricks possible.  I’d like to snag a gamer of any sort and put up a respectable number – I am closing in on career ball #500, and would like to still do this in 2015.

THANKS!  (Anyone with tips/tricks will get shoutouts on the “At the Gates” show that I do from Minute Maid Park.  If you have a special message you’d like me to read, I would even do that.)

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  NOW AVAILABLE to download on iTunes and should be up in the near future.  For any additional info and behind-the-scenes peeks, check out Twitter, Instagram, and email.

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).


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.



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…


(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.)


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 283 other followers