9/16/11 at Target Field

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.

BALLHAWKING STATS:

• 12 balls at this game (eight pictured here because I gave four away)

• 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

CHARITY STATS:

(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

13 Comments

Nice work… can’t wait to see your sucess at Busch!

Man, it sucks that that Pavano ball is a cheap China ball…that autograph will bleed and/or disappear within the next couple of years…

I found out while I was there that the trees actually got taken out because they were a “distraction” to the hitters.

Ooh…looks like you’ll have to book another trip to Houston next season…the Astros will be using a commemorative 50th anniversary ball during all home games next year:

http://houston.astros.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20110922&content_id=25069234&vkey=news_hou&c_id=hou

Hmm.. interesting stadium….

Hey Zack,
It was great to finally meet you at Busch the other night. i enjoyed watching you to see how its done in person. I should’ve caught Freese’s homerun but didn’t feel like crushing a 9 year old to get it. I was really sorry to hear about your streak (I guess that entry will be up soon) but I was really happy to see your enthusiasm about starting another. Keep up the good work big guy and I hope our paths cross again sometime.

This is really, really awesome!

Going back through your old entries (6 years ago!!!!), it’s remarkable to see that you didn’t count balls that you gave away (and reading about the first ever ball you gave away). Based on that, you actually have amassed MORE than your stated total. Sometimes I wonder with the whole ballhawking thing, how to handle certain situations. Like tonight, I asked Rays bullpen assistant Stan Boroski for a ball after the game, he attempted to toss it to me, underthrew it TWICE, then of course OVERTHREW it on the third try. It rolled away, some guy picked it up, and the cop even said to the guy “That ball is for him,” as he pointed to me. I kinda disappointingly shrugged my shoulders, told him he could keep it, and left. But truth is, that ball WAS intended for me. I asked for the ball. I was the ONLY one at the bullpen. I was the only one in Rays gear. But to get that ball back from another fan who retrieved it would’ve felt cheap, even though it should’ve been mine. But then, if a player overthrows a fan, and we get the ball and give it to that fan, we tend to count it, though maybe we shouldn’t. Sometimes I think we should only count balls we keep, even though we choose to give them away. And sometimes I think even if we are offered a ball, intended for us, from a fan, we should accept it, cause it IS still a ball from the field of play, and it was intended for us. Sorry for my rant, I don’t even know why I did right now. Nice job will 11 :-) I got 3 in 3 games there lol.

Tmuddly17 is Zack’s consecutive game streak over?

Spoiler?!? Arrgh.

The streak is over!?!?! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

I stumbled upon your blog on accident by clicking a link to find out how many baseballs were used by the mlb in a year. I am glad i did now. I am 16 and ever since i went to my first baseball game when i was 7 at Minute Maid Park I wanted to visit every ball park before i died. I came one step closer this past summer by asking to go to Atlanta for my 16 birthday instead of having a party and a present and it came true. I began to read this, instead of doing my homework, and was really jealous. I want to do what you are doing and be able to bring joy to other kids at the ball park by just giving them a ball. Keep doing what you are doing and I hope to one day see you at a ball park.

NICK-
Thanks. My Busch entries are up, so hopefully you’ve seen ‘em by now. As for the Pavano autograph, it’s already looking crappy. As for the Astros commemorative balls, hopefully I can just snag a few at Citi Field, but I *will* go to Houston if need be.

MATEO FISCHER-
The hitters need to get over it. Trees are good.

JON MADDEN-
Interesting and beautiful.

TMUDDLY17-
Hardy-har-har. The streak. Riiiiiiight. :-)

BEN-
Your rant was much appreciated. No need to apologize. I agree that it’s hard sometimes to know what should count and what shouldn’t.

BRENDAN ADAMS-
The streak is still very much alive.

KSLO69-
Not really.

NICK (CITI FIELD)-
No no no, TMuddly was just making a silly joke. It’s all good.

CALEB-
Thanks so much for this comment. I’m glad you found my blog, too, and that we’ll run into each other at a game soon. When I was your age, I had only gone to a few stadiums, so stick with it. You’ll get there eventually. It becomes a lot easier when you get older and have some money of your own saved up.

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