(S)no(w) Place Like Target Field! – Balls 103-108 (April 12, 2013)
I had been targeting a Mets game to go to ever since the schedule came out. I was really wanting to go to the Friday game, since it was the only night game, but I was keeping my options open in order to get the best deal. When I heard that the weather for Friday was calling for snow & cold, and coming off of a blizzard/April snowstorm the day before, I knew that Friday’s game would be the best value.
This game was the first 7:10 game at Target Field in 2013, and boy how Mother Nature did not like that idea. If you are a Twins fan and can think all the way back to THREE whole years ago, this marked the 3rd anniversary of the first regular season game at Target Field. The weather that day for the 3:10 game started off drizzly, and eventually we had a few glimpses of the sun, but the temperature was a balmy 45-50 degrees… something the fans in attendance at this game were praying for. Don’t get me wrong, I actually really liked the weather, it’s an added element of surprise and “I was at that game” kind of bragging rights, but as far as the Twins business strategy is concerned, this game was a dud.
The Twins were well aware of the less than stellar atmosphere that the weather was going to provide for the first ever visit by the Mets to Target Field, so they decided to advertise “Free Coffee and Hot Chocolate” at the gates during the game. This was the first time that they have ever provided an unscheduled freebie of any dollar value, so you know that it was a last ditch effort to hold onto the 24,000 estimated people that had bought a ticket already (thanks to the usher who showed me cheat sheet with that figure). A few times during the summer they advertised “free water” at the gates, but they already had the big Gatorade buckets at the gates for the staff, and they were more concerned about heat stroke and death, not uncomfortability.
So after watching ticket prices for about 3 days, I finally pulled the trigger at about 10:30 on Friday. I had wanted to sit in the Dugout Box, since I figured a cold game would be low scoring and not many long-balls, plus I could warm up in the semi-private area in the Dugout Box section. Tickets at their lowest were going for about $35… GREAT! The only problem was that I needed a single, but all these tickets were sold in 2 or 4. Spending $70 for a $82 seat was not a great bargain, so I waited.
That’s when it appeared, a ticket for the greatest section in Target Field, for about the same price as the TWO tickets in the Dugout Box. The cheapest tickets for this section are $185 and for a Friday Night game, I am guessing that they were actually $225… and I paid WELL under half that, closer to a quarter of that price. Why are they the greatest tickets? The view, the accessibility to the dugouts, and the FREE FOOD! Yep, I upgraded without having to pay more AND I got a 4-star meal along with all the snacks I could want. Pictures of this glorious area will be shown after the main feature. Great segue, Tony!…
The Main Feature:
I am relatively new to ballhawking, but I would guess that the question in my mind is strikingly similar to even the veteran ballhawks, “How do you prepare to snag balls in the snow?”
I was worried that the field conditions and further precipitation would hinder the chances of actually having BP. I was still going to get to the field early, but I was trying to temper my expectations by telling myself that it was only a 50% chance of seeing batting practice. My excitement returned when I saw the batting cages up when I got to the gate.
Here was my walk, from close to my parking spot and closing at the Target Field gates (a la Mateo Fischer’s “Before the Gates Open” series).
OK, so now we all have an idea of the awesomeness that is Minnesota, let’s continue.
Speaking of Mateo, he showed up around 4:30 and we chatted with a Mets fan at the gate. We discussed my favorite, Robin Ventura, and his knack for hitting grand slams, we talked about the obvious snow, and then we also talked about the radio booth set up at Gate 34. Inside the booth were Ron Coomer (former Twin) and Lindsay Guentzel (former MLB Fancave member from MN!!). I decided to enter the sweepstakes that the booth had setup, and then as I went to reclaim my spot at the gate, who do I see inside the booth? MATEO!! Lindsay and Mateo had met each other a couple of times and she was familiar with his blog and the whole “ballhawking” idea so of course it was a great way to promote coming out to the gates early. (Disclaimer: K-TWIN – 96.3 FM in Minneapolis – is owned by the Pohlad family, so of course there is a huge interest to promote Twins games on that station.)
The Twins either did NOT take outdoor BP early on or if they did, they were NOT hitting very much, especially towards gate 34. When we got in, the Twins were on the field and swinging the bats, but it was definitely not a 100% effort (Mauer and a few others were staying warm and probably took BP in the indoor cages). I roamed around, looking for Easter Eggs, but to no avail. I ended up trying to snag a few in left field, but there were very few that made it that far, so I decided to plant myself over by the Mets’ dugout.
The Mets were warming up as the Twins finished off, and I hoped that I could snag a toss-up or two during this period.
*Self-pimping notice* Here is my photo of the day from Instagram:
If it’s acceptable to take pride in one’s work, I will admit to it with this photo. For some reason it looks either painted or like an old-time photo from the early days of color-printing in magazines.
As people were holding off until the very last minute to get to the game – in order to stay cold – here is what greeted them at the gates:
Anyone else ever experience snow on the turnstiles? Yeah, this was a first for me, too.
I found a decent place to try to snag a warm-up ball, it was right next to Mateo and another ballhawk; we all positioned ourselves with one section in between each other. Here is the full view to give you an idea of just HOW dead it really was in the stadium. (As always, click to enlarge.)
The Story of the Balls:
Balls 1 + 2:
I know that I am jumping around a lot, but you must forgive my frozen memories and my lack of taking a photo of the first ball in the location where I received it. The first ball came from the Twins’ Bat Boy as he was packing up the equipment after the Twins got done with BP. I briefly went over to the Twins dugout for the sole reason of snagging my first ball and I was rewarded. It felt good to get my first “snow ball”.
After spending my 5 minutes behind the Twins dugout (after I had done my stops in left field), that’s when I positioned myself in the panorama above. I flashed my glove to a few guys, but stayed quiet, since they were not yet finished with the balls. Apparently I caught the attention of the Mets coach, because he was starting to collect the balls, now that the bats were alive and guys went into fielding mode. The coach spotted me with my glove ready and there it was, ball number two of the day.
If there is one thing that I learned from BP in the snow, it’s that the snow and moisture REALLY strip the balls of logos/writing and do make them rather water-logged. I don’t know why this was a surprise, but I just figured that the frozen precipitation was harder to penetrate the leather and it didn’t seem like that much moisture compared to rain.
After the tossing finished, I debated between statying by the dugout for toss-ups or trying to snag some HRs. The fact that Mateo had left for HRs and I didn’t feel like very many would actually reach the stands made the decision pretty easy to stay. Couple that with the prime spot for autographs being open by the Mets dugout and I figured that I had a shot to use that ground as a ballhawking post.
As guys came in from the field to take BP, I would flash my glove and see if any had a ball in their pocket to toss to me. Most guys did not, but this wasn’t too worrisome, since I was not seeing a crap-ton of home runs.
Then Jordany Valdespin came jogging in. He had a ball ready for me and tossed it up with ease.
(Sorry, I had to take the photo later, since I forgot. I was busy targeting more balls, that I didn’t take a photo of it until nearly the start of the game. Like the worn off logo?)
In a similar manner to Jordany, Ruben Tejada came jogging in, but he did NOT have a ball ready to toss to me. I motioned that there was a ball in front of the dugout and so he went back out, grabbed it and then tossed it to me before going back in to the locker room.
After a terrible 16-5 loss by the Twins, I finally made my move to try to snag an extra ball or two.
I didn’t want to admit to this, but I DID make a terrible mistake that should have led to a gamer being directly caught by myself in the Champions Club. It was 3 feet behind my seat, but due to the weird angle, I thought it was carrying further back, plus my glove was off (WTF?!), and I had to do a 180, which was not pretty. Plain and simple, it was an E10 on my part. I am still kicking myself.
I went to the Twins dugout first, tryied for a lineup card, but nothing. Oh well, let’s try the Mets’ side…
I got over to the Mets’ dugout and asked the bat boy for the lineup cards, but they were already gone, so I asked for a baseball. He complied by bringing out about 8 baseballs for nearly all of the fans still hanging out by the dugout. (Read Mateo’s blog at this point, because he was also involved in this.)
Boom! I thought that his was my last ball of the night, which I was content with…
As I started making my ascent up the stairs, I decided to swing by the Twins’ dugout. The only guy left was the security guard, which I figured would be a dead end.
I was then pleasantly surprised when I saw him pick up a ball from the helmet rack area and turn around with it. My glove was like a girl at Mardi Gras, ready to flash on command. He looked around, no one else in sight, and turned back to me to deposit my 6th and final ball of the night.
There were a handful of girls that were now in the section above the Dugout Box area (Diamond Box) that started shouting that they wanted the ball instead. The guard said something like, “I looked around but didn’t see anyone!” He obviously would have given it to teenage girls, but I was at the right place at the right time. Don’t feel bad, though, because he went back in the clubhouse and got them a few baseballs… plus they already had a few from the Mets’ side. All’s well that ends well.
So here is the stash that I pocketed from this snow game:
Six balls, three scorecards, three lineup sheets, 3 boxes of candy, and my ticket. The Champions Club offers free scorecards, so of course I had to take a few. I actually grabbed the amounts at random, so it’s odd that – minus the ticket – everything came in a multiple of three.
The Rest of the Story:
So here are a few pictures, which i hear are like reading a thousand words, each. Right?
Holy crap, that is a ton of baseballs!… Nope, just snow flakes.
Silly Met. Is he trying to stick his tongue out at me or eat a snow flake? (Answer: the former)
In Champions Club you have direct access to watch the Twins indoor batting cages…
While you eat delicious meals at a four-star restaurant…
After which you can walk out and have views like this!…
And see the first pitch from a completely padded seat!…
Then stop over to the dugouts and feel like you are part of the team.
Well, that’s a wrap. I’d like to thank Mateo Fischer for the good company at the Puckett gate. Thanks to Brandon Nedoma, too (he was the other guy I mentioned above that was hawking balls). Brandon just followed me on Twitter as I am writing this, so that is how I learned his name… I’m not a creepy stalker. Thanks to all of the Mets players that tossed me a ball – Jordany Valdepsin, Ruben Tejada, random coach guy, and the great Bat Boy. Thanks also to the extended Twins staff – Bat Boy and Security guard, I’m looking at you! Lastly, thanks to the guy who listed the ticket for such a steal on Stubhub. he was nice enough to show up and offer me my paper ticket in addition to my e-ticket – as a collector of my ticket stubs, this was HUGE!