This was my view from outside Gate 34:
This was my first look at the field, more than half an hour before the stadium opened to the public:
This was my first ball of the day (a slicer by a right-handed batter)…
…and this was how I felt:
If you’re wondering how I got into the stadium early, let me ask you this: Do you remember when I met a member of the Twins’ front office on 5/5/10 at Target Field? And do you remember the private tour of the stadium that he gave me the following day? Well, this guy (who wishes to remain anonymous) hooked me up again this time around. Even though I could’ve gotten inside the stadium for free, I still bought a ticket; he then met me outside Gate 34 at around 4:15pm and walked me in through a side door. The best part about all of this was that he was totally cool with the whole ballhawking thing. He reads this blog, knows about my baseball collection, and wanted to help me add to it. His one request was that I *not* ask the players for balls before the gates opened. Beyond that, he told me that if any balls landed in the seats, I was free to retrieve/keep them — and of course if a player offered me a ball, well, I was certainly allowed to accept it. That’s what happened soon after BP got underway when rookie pitcher Scott Diamond saw me sitting half a dozen rows back and held up a ball for me.
“Oh!” I said, taken by surprise, as he tossed it to me. It was a real beauty:
My 3rd ball of the day was a liner into the seats by a left-handed batter on the Twins — no idea who. Here’s where it ended up…
…and here’s a closer look at it:
That’s quite an unusual mark, huh? I wonder how it got there.
Before the gates opened, I snagged two more baseballs. The first was sliced into the seats along the right field foul line by a righty, and the second was sliced to me by Matt Tolbert on the left field side. I caught that one on the fly.
This was my view from the corner spot down the left field foul line:
I was expecting dozens of fans to swarm the section when the gates opened — that’s how it was last year — but as it turned out, there were just a handful of folks who made their way down to the front row. Among them was my friend Brandon and his girlfriend Siobhan. (They could’ve gotten inside early with me, but instead chose to have an early dinner near the stadium. What fools!)
My 7th ball of the day was sliced into the mostly-empty seats by Ben Revere, and my 8th was thrown by Tsuyoshi Nishioka after I asked him in Japanese. Here’s a photo of him letting it fly:
Brandon, meanwhile, was trying to convince Siobhan to try to snag a ball, and when I saw her tiny pink glove, this was my reaction:
I was thinking, “Ohhhhhh boy, how the hell am I gonna compete with that?”
I know it’s tough being a woman, but when it comes to snagging baseballs at games, it’s the easiest thing ever. I explained to Siobhan that all she had to do was make herself seen/heard, and she’d be *guaranteed* to get a ball. She basically just had to stand there and hold her glove up, but for whatever reason, she got all shy about it and never made the effort. Brandon, for whatever reason, got pissed off at me for not helping her, but there was nothing else I could’ve done. So I kept on snagging.
When the Indians took the field, I got two toss-ups from players that I couldn’t identify and scooped up a grounder that was sliced down the line. I also got Jim Thome’s autograph. Here he is signing for me…
…and here’s the autograph itself:
Yeah, I got him to sign my ticket. You got a problem with that?!
Just before BP ended, my anonymous friend from the Twins’ front office took off. As a parting gift (as if bringing me inside the stadium early wasn’t enough), he gave me a copy of this gorgeous book — and then apologized for making me have to carry it around. Poor me.
I had 11 balls when BP ended, which, according to MyGameBalls.com, established a new single-game record for Target Field. (The previous record of nine was set by…me!!) As beautiful and classy and fan-friendly as the stadium is, it’s terrible for ballhawking; no offense to the Twins organization, but that’s why I have a disgruntled look on my face in the following photo:
Target Field is the 26th major league stadium that I’ve visited this season. Here’s a collage of the first 24.
My anonymous friend had actually given me two parting gifts. In addition to the book, he shared an insider piece of knowledge. He told me that after the national anthem, all the Twins players were going to throw autographed baseballs into the crowd near the dugout. Before I headed over there, I decided that if I got one, and if it was an official ball, then I’d count it toward my grand total. Of course, I’d counted the Mexican League ball that Jeremy Guthrie had thrown to me as part of an elaborate prank on 7/23/11 at Camden Yards, but that was different. I can’t really explain why. It just was. And I’ll admit that I kind of regret counting it. Therefore, when the national anthem concluded and Carl Pavano tossed this ball to me…
…I decided that it wouldn’t count. I could’ve made a case for counting it — it WAS, after all, thrown by a major league player on a major league field at a major league game — but somehow it just didn’t seem right. Subconsciously, I think I wanted to even the score and prove to myself that I’m not so desperate to pad my total that I’ll count ANYthing. (I didn’t count the autographed ball that Mike Trout gave me outside the visitors’ clubhouse after I returned his 1st career home run to him on 7/24/11 at Camden Yards, and if you want to go back even further, I didn’t count these four balls that I found on 9/22/05 at Shea Stadium because they weren’t official balls, and I hadn’t seen them actually being used by the players. Some people might argue that it’s cheap for me to have counted the six balls I snagged before the gates opened here at Target Field, but what can I say? I go by instinct. When you attend hundreds of games in dozens of stadiums, weird circumstances are inevitable. Sometimes I count the balls and other times I don’t, but ultimately it’s my decision. So there.)
Five minutes before the game started, I worked my way down to the Indians’ dugout and got Asdrubal Cabrera to toss me his warm-up ball. I then stayed there for the first few batters…
…before moving here:
That was my view from the standing-room area in deep right field. It was tempting to stay near the dugout and try to snag a 3rd-out ball, but given the significant home-run catching opportunities, I simply had to be in the outfield. Not only was Jim Thome batting clean-up with his 602 career homers, but there were three guys in the Twins’ starting lineup with ZERO career homers: Chris Parmelee, Joe Benson, and Brian Dinkelman. (BTW, Dinkelman hits more foul balls than anyone I’ve ever seen, so stay on your toes whenever he’s at bat.)
In the top of the 2nd, Carlos Santana blasted a homer that landed 30 feet to my right. I got a late break on it (as you can see in the replay) because I was looking in my backpack for a clean BP ball to give to a kid who was walking by at that moment. Even if I hadn’t been distracted, I don’t think I would’ve caught Santana’s homer. I just would’ve gotten really close, but still, it was incredibly frustrating. Over the course of the day, I gave away four baseballs.
Between innings, I wandered a bit and took some photos. I noticed that the trees in front of the batter’s eye were gone…
…and I marveled at the new/gigantic/vertical video board, if that’s even what it should be called. Check it out:
In the photo above, the reason why it says “Rene” is that Rene Tosoni had just been announced as a pinch hitter. It was the bottom of the 5th inning. The Twins were losing, 5-0. Brandon and Siobhan, I discovered, had left the game and gone to the Mall of America, and in the bottom of the 6th, he made me leave too. He and I were going to be at a game in Kansas City the next day, and he wanted to get a head start on the driving. Of course, soon after we got out of Minneapolis, we stopped for an hourlong dinner at Chili’s — time I could’ve spent at Target Field — but hey, not everyone likes baseball as much as I do.
Finally, as if it had been scripted to infuriate me, Jim Thome blasted a home run to right field with two outs in the 9th. I wouldn’t have caught it, but still, screw that.
Goodbye, Target Field:
It was fun while it lasted.
• 1,019 balls in 117 games this season = 8.71 balls per game.
• 778 consecutive games with at least one ball
• 303 consecutive games with at least two balls
• 175 lifetime games with ten or more balls
• 43 games this season (at 18 different stadiums) with ten or more balls
• 5,681 total balls
(I’m raising money again this season for Pitch In For Baseball, a non-profit charity that provides baseball equipment to underprivileged kids all over the world. Click here to learn more.)
• 59 donors
• $7.36 pledged per ball (if you add up all the pledges)
• $88.32 raised at this game
• $7,499.84 raised this season