Spontaneity Shall Be Rewarded – Balls 109-116 (April 16, 2013)
The Angels were heading in to town. I was not too excited about this, since I had seen them last year and figured that the turnout would be huge, since their roster is nothing but studs. When the schedule came out I did NOT have them on a list of games to attend, since I’d rather not go to a packed house full of people there to see the opposing team.
Well, I am glad that plans can change, because when I saw just how many tickets were available on StubHub and for how cheap, I decided to go. The attendance was officially 23,299 last night, but that is mighty generous, especially when you factor in the fact that it was about 40 degrees, in the shade/dark, and the pace of the game would have made a snail blush. The first few weeks at Target Field have the same pattern – a pattern that started towards the 2nd half of 2012 – people show up and trickle in until about the second inning, they reach their max attendance, then by about the sixth inning people start to head for the gates… quite noticeably, too.
I knew that Mateo would be going to the game, and he was right on my heals for taking over the career lead for balls at Target Field (I am only ahead by 1 as we speak, so let me congratulate him now for passing me in the next few hours), but the surprise of the night was hearing that Paul (A Piece of the Game) was going to be there, too! Paul was itching to get some more baseball, and you could tell, so of course he found a way to make it all work. What I was NOT expecting was to see Paul inside the park before the gates even opened to the public; I got there around 4:30 and a little after 5 pm Mateo and I see Paul with a big grin on the other side of the gates. Apparently he had season tickets and they let him in early to watch BP, so of course I had to check this out.
I went over to gate 29 and showed my Season Ticket Holder ID and they let me right in to watch
the few remaining moments of BP the Angels stretching and throwing long-toss. Needless to say, I did not get a ball before the gates opened, but I was at least able to run over to the left-field bleachers before anyone else.
…But that’s when it started, my record night (to date) began as an error-filled horror show that left me wondering if this was the night that “the streak” would be finished. I could have easily had 3 catches on the fly if I was better positioned and didn’t get shy. (Why was I being afraid/shy?!) The first error happened when I went to my left a few strides and reached out for the ball. I was thinking “full extension”, but only went 95%… which meant that it hit off my glove and right to Paul. DAMN! Sure, i was one row lower than desired, but it was not impossible, and quite frankly, was an error on my end.
Then there was the ball that was hit a few rows in front of me. had I broke right away and got in position sooner, rather than later, I would have ended up with a ball instead of a person’s glove in mine with the ball securely in their glove.
Lastly is there was the incident number three. I was in the corner of the front row next to the bullpen and extended my arm over the bullpen area and the ball (again!) deflected off my glove and landed in the Angels’ bullpen area. I was convinced that my trifecta of errors was a sign, an omen of how the night would turn out.
The the clouds broke, the baseball gods shined upon me, and my fellow man helped me out by tossing me 8 (yes, EIGHT!!) balls the rest of the night… well, technically 9, but I do not count my give-aways, and the only reason i mention it here is because this one was a gamer that I gave away – you’ll see why I was able to afford a gamer later on.
DISCLAIMER: I thought I made a HUGE mistake early on, since BP was more crowded than I anticipated. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nowhere near being actually crowded, just relative to what I had anticipated based on tickets still available. Maybe this made me gun-shy, who knows.
There was a guy in bleachers that I talked to, but I couldn’t get a read on him. He was there with his son (maybe 8 or so years old) and he was getting frustrated that he was being shut-out, even though his son finished with at least a half a dozen balls. He was trying to tell me that a few of the guys “don’t give them away, those d-bags” and stuff like that. I agree, most guys toss up to kids, but there is no reason to get upset about it, especially if your son is the one raking them in. he told me that the trainer (who appeared to be Japanese?) was one of the guys who would never toss one up, this man tried yesterday to no avail, so it was with great pleasure that I was able to prove him wrong.
I took this man’s story of “not possible” as a challenge, and after a few times of asking politely and hollering when the trainer made a nice catch, I was rewarded with my first ball of the day – and only one I got during BP itself.
The trainer is in the background with the black pants on. I was able to rest easy at this point, my streak was safe for another day.
I thought I might be able to get another ball or two during BP, especially with the number of right-handed bombers in the lineup, but BP came and went, and I was standing by the bullpen with one ball in hand. I saw a few balls just sitting in the bullpens (one of which was my own error), so i decided to wait it out and hope for a toss om Nate Dammann – the Twins bullpen catcher. I shouted out his name after he put his pads on, and that’s when I got this:
I was still kicking myself for not making the other plays, but 2 balls is not a bad consolation…
…And if 2 balls is not a bad consolation, then 3 starts to erase the pain of the three you lost.
I was still sticking around the bullpen area and was going to try my luck with the Angels staff. I had looked at the roster (including coaches) and had memorized a face and name.
I decided to shout out and get his attention early on, in order to gauge whether or not I should stay and try for a ball or just go over to the dugout box area. He acknowledged me and said he would after throwing a little bit. Turns out it would be quicker than that, since he decided to pick up an extra ball as he went to get his warm-up ball, then tossed me ball 3 of the day.
There he is, walking away in the bullpen.
I thought I would have a good chance of getting a toss-up during the game, since I was able to score a seat in section 5 for dirt cheap. What surprised me (this night was full of surprises) was that only about half of the people in the Dugout Box area decided to show up for the game. So before the first pitch i decided to try my luck in the 3rd row in section 6, aisle seat next to the rail that separates Dugout Box from Champions Club. I made it the whole night without moving… until the 8th inning, when I went to the FIRST row!
The Twins must be trying to get a decent stock-pile of balls to sell at their game used post, because for most of the game (until about the 7th or 8th) the Bat Boy was tossing all balls to the authenticator directly below me. I was still able to get one in the middle of the first inning, though, because Jason Vargas threw a pitch in the dirt during warm-ups and it was tossed over to the Twins dugout by the umpire. Since it was not a pitch during an at-bat, the bat boy looked up and I flashed my glove. Like that, I had my first “gamer” for the 2013 season. (Yes, the two Opening Day balls were without a doubt “gamers”, but I cannot pinpoint when they were removed from the field of play, eliminating them as “gamers” to me.)
My night could have ended here and I would have been happy with my total.
It COULD have ended there, but it DIDN’T! Another toss-up of a gamer, this time from Eduardo Escobar who was warming up Mike Pelfrey in the middle of the third inning. Escobar took the last warm-up pitch that he caught and tossed it up to me. His attitude during the game and towards the fans is quickly shooting him up my ranks of favorite players.
Two gamers tied my personal best for any one game.
Records are made to be broken, right? Anthony Swarzak came in to pitch the 6th inning and was FANTASTIC. He retired all three batters in a row, getting them all to strike out… on only 12 pitches! He tossed 10 strikes and 2 balls in his first frame, and after his third K, Joe Mauer came in to the dugout and I flashed my catcher’s mitt while shouting “Joe!” a few times.
The mitt must have done the trick, because I was the intended target along with a nice nod.
Somewhere around the 8th inning I got another toss-up (gamer) from the bat boy – shown in the photo above – but I decided to give it to someone else, since I felt a little weird having that many balls while sitting in one section as everyone looked on. I looked for a kid, but there were absolutely none around me. Instead i gave it to the couple sitting behind me that had cheered for me after catching the Mauer toss-up.
The game ended – TWINS WIN!! – and I tried for any last balls possible. Brian Dozier was signing autographs and before he went in the locker room for good, he tossed up 3 balls, of which I was able to catch one.
Once the well was dry on the Twins’ side, I went over to the Angels side and asked the only person remaining, the bat boy, if I could get a toss-up. He happily obliged, and in doing so helped me set a new personal best!
On my walk back to my car I was both pumped about my haul and disappointed. I was incredibly happy to set a new best, but I knew that I could have had my first ever double-digit game!
Oh well, at least I got to see my first (of hopefully many) Twins win of the season. I am starting to feel like a terrible luck charm for my favorite player, Trevor Plouffe. It seems like he does really well in games I am not present (a HR the day before) and then terribly when I show up (no hits and an error). I hope to correct that track record, too.
Here is my complete haul from the game:
I failed to mention before that it was draw-string bag night. These draw-strings are the cheapest bags I have ever seen when it comes to draw-string bags. It’s kind of funny, since these bags are not known ass incredibly durable to begin with, so the fact that they used micro-thin material in order to save a few bucks made it easy to see why most of the bags were left on the ground in the stadium. I also caught a t-shirt from the cannon while waiting for balls by the bullpen before the game; the good thing about that is the coupon for a free meal at Perkins.
Now for a LIST of thank yous:
- Los Angeles Angels Trainer
- Nate Dammann
- Tom Gregorio
- Twins Bat Boy
- Eduardo Escobar
- Joe Mauer
- Brian Dozier
- Angels’ Bat Boy
- Mateo and Paul – great seeing you guys at the park, as always.
- Minnesota Twins – for winning and having outdoor baseball!