Unlike the day before, I woke up to wonderful weather. However, with the 12:10 start time it was still unlikely that there would be batting practice. When the gates opened I found that the cage was not set up for bp:
I made my way down to where most of the Red Sox’ pitching staff was warming up. When he was finished throwing with his partner, Steven Wright hooked me up with their baseball. I was surprised to see that it was rubbed up with mud:
Prior to the game, Torii Hunter and Joe Mauer signed autographs from the dugout:
I was finally able to add Joe Mauer’s signature to my collection!
Thank you, Mr. Minnesota. Since I didn’t have a ballpoint pen I could either get his auto in Sharpie or not get it at all. I think I chose the better of the two.
Boston was the first team to score a run when Dustin Pedroia blasted a two run shot in the third. Hunter and Mauer each contributed to the handful of singles that gave the Twins’ a three run third. Aaron Hicks homered in the fourth to extend the lead to 5-2. In the fifth inning Pedroia hit his second two run shot of game. Rosario joined the home run parade in the 6th inning when he launched a solo bomb to right field. The Twins won 6-4. Click here to watch the highlight video from the game.
Following the game I was able to get an Ump ball from Umpire Dale Scott:
Here’s today’s results:
TOTALS: 2 balls at this game. 23 balls this year.
UP NEXT: White Sox vs. Twins 06/22/15
My day started off with every ballhawk’s worst nightmare… I forgot my glove at home! Luckily, Mateo Fischer was generous enough to lend me his for the evening. After swinging by the U of M campus to pick up Mateo’s glove, I was ready for some batting practice!
As soon as I photographed the ball I turned and gave it to the little boy who was nearby.
Besides a small crowd of other fans, the stadium was pretty much empty because of the rain. Seriously, Target Field looked like a ghost town:
More rain led to the eventual delay of the game. In the meantime, I made my way around the ballpark to where the Ryder Cup was on display. I’d never seen a golf trophy until now. Her she is:
The delay lasted for 1 hour and 21 minutes. I don’t remember what I did to pass the time, but I do know that it was BORING! As the start of the game approached I made my way to the Twins dugout. Dom hooked me up with a sweet mud rubbed ball from the ball bag:
Thanks Dom! Sneak Peak – this ball would get signed by Joe Mauer the next day!
The Twins scored in the first inning off of Trevor Plouffe’s double. Kurt Suzuki doubled later in the inning to make it a 2-0 ballgame. Boston scored in the second inning as Mike Napoli plated David Ortiz off a single to Aaron Hicks in center field. Little did I know, but those would be the only runs scored all night.
Mike Pelfrey pitched 7 strong innings, only allowing 1 ER off of 5 hits.
Blaine Boyer took the mound to start the 8th inning. He set the first two men of the inning down, and then he faced Dustin Pedroia. Boyer worked a 1-2 count before Pedroia fouled the next pitch, a 93 mph fastball, into the net. Dominic retrieved it and tossed it right over to me:
Prior to this, I had never seen those kinds of marks on baseballs before.
In the bottom of the 8th Torii Hunter stepped into the box to lead things off for the Twins. Clay Buchholz worked a 2-2 count on Hunter. The next pitch, a 92 mph fastball, was also fouled back into the net. Joe Mauer, who was in the on deck circle, stepped over to pick it up. A moment later, he tossed it to me:
I quickly, and smoothly, swapped it out for an old bp ball and then threw it over to a lady who had been asking for a ball for the last few innings. The rest of the game went by quickly and the Twins won 2-1. Click to watch the highlight video from the game. Here’s the info from the game:
When the game ended I got my last ball of the evening from Umpire Lance Barrett.
TOTALS: 6 balls at this game. 21 balls this year.
UP NEXT: Red Sox vs. Twins 05/27/15
I was back at Target Field for my second game in two days, but this time I was with my dad. It had been a while since we had gone to a game together so it was nice we could get to this one. My dad rarely chases after baseballs, but today he joined me in the left field bleachers. The result? A clean pearly white batting practice homer. My dad has snagged two baseballs in his life… One at Kauffman Stadium and one at Target Field. I was there for both!
I got my first of the day after I chased down a ground rule double that was hit by Kennys Vargas. I caught it as it ricocheted back towards the field:
The Twins portion of batting practice continued at a slow pace, but then I saw something that peaked my attention. I noticed that Shane Robinson was about to step into the cage. Back in spring training I caught a few of Robinson’s batting practice homers. Apparently Robinson had already been called up for quite some time, but I was unaware of it.
After shifting over a section for Robinson, I caught the first and only homer that he hit:
When the A’s took the field I was hoping they’d put on a show, but they ended up hitting only a few into the seats. The home runs were scarce, but I was able to catch this ball that was thrown by Evan Scribner:
Batting practice continued for another 30 minutes or so, but it was pretty dull from that point on. When batting practice ended I joined my dad in the Legends Club until the game was about to start. At that point I made my way back to the Twins dugout. I took this picture just moments before the National Anthem was sung:
Did you see how empty the stadium was? The paid attendance for the game was 18,135, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were only about 16,000 in attendance.
Ball number three was tossed by a future All Star. Here’s a look at that beauty:
Okay, so Dominique is not actually on the All Star ballot, but he deserves a write in! This seems like as good a time as any to launch my #VoteDom campaign. Should they have a vote for the All Star Bat/Ball Boy? #VoteDom #AllStarDom2K15
After collecting my third of the day I hustled back up to the Legends Club in time for the first pitch. My dad and I had a stellar view:
Rain started to fall in the top of 6th inning, but the game continued without a delay. A steady rain shower set in for the next 2 innings, which caused a lot of people to leave the game early. I checked back in at the Twins dugout in the 8th inning and found a seat behind the home plate side of the dugout.
With two outs in the top of the 9th inning, Ryan Pressley worked a 1-2 count against Billy Burns. Pressley earned his 67th strike out as Burns went down swinging to end the top of the 9th. Kurt Suzuki ended up with the strike out ball and he tossed it to me as he entered the dugout:
Heading into the bottom of the ninth inning the Twins were down 2-1. Earlier in the game Billy Butler and Jed Lawrie had each singled in a run to give Oakland the lead. Brian Dozier scored Minnesota’s first run when he singled to center in the 8th inning. The Twins went down in short order to end the ninth inning as the A’s won the game 2-1. Click here to watch MLB’s highlight video. Here’s the info from the game:
Following the game I thanked Mr. Todd Tichenor as he exited the field:
The result? Didn’t even have to ask for this one:
Umpires are underrated and underappreciated so it goes along ways to say thank you after the game. They usually smile and then toss a ball up. Its a win win scenario.
The entry wouldn’t be complete without the cliché group shot:
TOTALS: 6 balls at this game. 15 balls this year.
UP NEXT: Red Sox vs. Twins 05/26/15
I wouldn’t have gone to this game had it not been for the Twins’ fantastic game day promotion:
As part of Star Wars night at Target Field the Twins gave away these special “Hughes The Force” bobble heads with the purchase of a special ticket. A few days prior I had noticed that all the special tickets were sold out on the Twins website. I called the box office and they said they’d have some available on the day of the game. When I got up to Target Field on the fourth I bought my ticket, then I hopped in line with Tony Voda to get my bobble head. When it was my turn to get my bobblehead I was told that my ticket wasn’t part of the promotion. I explained that the folks in the box office had assured me this was the correct ticket, but I was not given a bobble head. Way to go Twins… I still have to call a season ticket rep to get this cleared up.
On to batting practice…
My first ball of the day came early during the A’s portion of batting practice. It was a home run that was hit by an unknown A’s player:
After getting on the board early in batting practice I didn’t get my next ball until batting practice was nearly finished. This time it was a toss up from another unknown A’s player:
Could it have been the same unknown player as before? Who knows. Darn A’s, playing mind tricks again.
After batting practice, Target Field was taken over by the Evil Empire:
For some reason, I don’t think the Storm Troopers liked me very much:
Just before the game started Dominique tossed one to me straight from the ball bag:
I’ve never once asked Dominique for a ball, but he always hooks me up after we chat. What a guy!
When the game started I moved to my regular spot:
I started to watch the game from this spot at the end of last season. Since then I have grown very accustom to it. The view is fantastic. Plus, early in the game its a good spot for foul balls.
Although the first inning was a disaster for the Twins, I was happy because I witnessed something that I hadn’t before. After the A’s loaded the bases, Stephen Vogt stepped up to the plate and hit a grand slam! Luckily, the Twins used the force to score four runs of their own in the second inning. After the Twins gave up a run in the top of the 6th, my childhood sports hero, Torii Hunter, hit a 3 run homer to left field to give the Twins an 8-5 lead. The A’s ended up scoring two more runs in the later part of the game, but Glen Perkins was still able to come away with his ninth save of the season. Click to watch the highlight video from the game. Here’s the info from the game:
Phil Hughes (Hughes The Force) earned the W for Minnesota while Jesse Hahn (Han Solo) was stuck with the Loss for Oakland. Coincidence that both Hughes and Hahn pitched on Star Wars Night? I think not.
Here’s the group shot after the game:
TOTALS: 3 balls at this game. 9 balls this year.
UP NEXT: A’s vs. Twins 05/05/15
My first Opening Day was back in 2013 when the Tigers and Twins kicked off the season at Target Field. I missed the home opener in 2014, but I decided that I wouldn’t miss it this year! I was very anxious for a chance to get my hands on the first commemorative baseball in the Manfred Era.
Once inside the stadium, Brian Duensing tossed me my first regular season baseball of the year; a 2015 Opening Day ball! Just kidding, but how cool would that have been?! Seriously, though, this is the pearly white that Brian tossed up:
It felt good to get a ball so early in batting practice, but it felt even better when I got my second ball just a few minutes later. This one was courtesy of Aaron Thompson:
Because the Twins weren’t displaying a lot of power during batting practice, I didn’t mind getting a few toss ups instead. It wasn’t long before 1:30 rolled around and the Royals replaced the Twins on the field during batting practice. I was hoping to get my next ball when the Royals finished playing catch in left field. I tried to their attention, but my chances diminished as each pair finished their game of catch. Finally, as the last pair of players finished throwing, an unknown Royals player tossed me this rustic looking baseball:
When the Royals began taking their cuts in the cage I headed out to the left field bleachers. There was such a beautiful array of colors on the field:
I spent about half the Royals bp in the bleachers before heading over to the Twins dugout for the rest of bp. Since I’d already snagged a few baseballs today, I was ready to focus on snagging an Opening Day commemorative baseball. Having said that, this is where I moved to:
This was the one game where I had a chance to get one of these special baseballs. I was going to spend as much time next to the dugout as possible. Sometime between getting to the Twins dugout and the singing of the National Anthem, Tony and I were joined by Cam Bailey! Soon it was time for the singing of the National Anthem:
Following the National Anthem Kevin Garnett (and family), who was joined by Tyus Jones, took the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch!:
When the game kicked off, I took a pretty nice panoramic photo. It’s one of my favorites:
Although the Twins were the first to score a run, the Royals were the first to put some distance on the scoreboard between their opponents. By the end of the sixth inning the Royals were ahead 5-2. Trevor Plouffe homered in the seventh inning, but the Royals managed to pile on seven additional runs by the end of the game. The Royals beat the Twins by a score of 12-3. Click to watch the highlight video from the game. Here’s the summary and other info from the game:
After the game I got my fifth ball from Umpire Paul Nauert:
Not only was this the first time I’d gotten a ball from someone who’s first name was also my first name, but this was another 2015 Opening Day commemorative ball. This was my second mud rubbed commemorative ball of the night! I made it to the opposite side of the dugout just in time to get one final ball. This one was thrown by Lorenzo Cain as he entered the clubhouse:
I made sure to take an artsy photo of the commemoratives after I left the ballpark:
The final group shot includes the awesome sweatshirt giveaway from the game:
TOTALS: 6 balls at this game. 6 balls this year.
UP NEXT: A’s vs. Twins 05/04/15
With this being my last full day in Florida, I wanted to make the most out of it. I showed up at Hammond around 9:30 for the 1:05 game. The gates would soon open at 10 o’clock but for some reason I thought they opened at 11:00 o’clock. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize the gates were open until 10:30. The day was off to a slow start already (or so I thought)…
As soon as I entered the stadium I hurried to the left field grass. This was my view:
The first five minutes were crazy! I immediately caught back to back homers that were hit by Mitch Garver as I ran into the section. I didn’t have time to photograph them on the spot, but i’ll have a group shot at the end of the entry. Then another ball was sent my way, but the wind carried it onto the practice field that was just beyond the boardwalk. An unknown Twins coach tossed it up upon my request:
Shortly after that I snagged an absolute gem, thanks to Danny Ortiz:
All of that happened in less than 5 minutes! Things slowed down a bit after the first few minutes, but the pace of batting practice remained on high! Miguel Sano was the highlight of the next group in bp. When Sano stepped into the cage I backed up to the top of the berm:
As you can see from the previous picture, the other people were hanging out at the wall. Because I was the only person behind them, I was basically guaranteed any home run that cleared there heads. That is exactly what happened. I easily snagged Sano’s first homer because it cleared everyone else’s head. For the remainder of the round I stepped onto the boardwalk whenever Sano stepped into the cage:
It was a good decision because I came away with another Sano homer. After it bounced on the boardwalk and off the scoreboard, the ball landed safely in my glove. The final group of Twins hitters consisted of mostly lefties so I moved to the right field side of the stadium. This was the view to my left:
…The view straight ahead:
…And the view to my right:
I didn’t catch any homers, but Casey Fien tossed me this pretty thing:
Number eight was also a toss up, but his time from Mitch Garver:
Quick Recap: Two homers and a toss up from the same guy in the same batting practice. Dang, I hope Mitch makes the squad this year. It’d be nice to have him at Target Field ;)
Soon the Orioles began to play catch down the first base line so I moved to the grass berm on that side of the field. As you an see, there were a lot of players on the field:
As I stepped onto the grassy berm I heard a lot of players shout, “Heads up!” because a player had overthrown a ball. It just so happened that it rolled right up to my feet:
Moments later, Yamaico Navarro hooked me up after he and his throwing partner finished:
I hit double digits when I made a sliding catch after chasing down a liner that was hit to the berm. Everyone was pretty impressed with my catch. Even a few of the players were surprised. Anyways, here’s a picture of that one:
When the Orioles started to hit in the cage I made my way back to the left field berm. When I arrived I saw that I had some competition. Not only was the berm filling up with people, but there were also a few other ballhawks with experience. I did my thing and I proudly came out on top!
Number 12 was a homer that I caught on the fly after an unknown Orioles player hit it to deep left center field. My lengthy arms helped me to reach higher than anyone else who was trying to catch this one:
This was the first Selig ball today. My next was another homer on the fly. Yet again, it was hit by an unknown Orioles player:
This was another Selig ball, but it was the first that i’d snagged that was stamped “Practice” underneath the logo. After catching this one I hit a dry spell for a bit and missed out on four balls. Two were blatantly my fault because I simply dropped two homers after they tipped off my glove. I’m not sure why I couldn’t bring them in, but it was just one of those things to shrug off. The other two homers that I missed weren’t my fault. I tracked the ball well and camped underneath to catch it, but someone picked me off at the last second. That was frustrating because it happened twice.
I was still able to come away with one final homer from bp. I caught this one because I beat everyone else to it:
When batting practice ended I noticed that one of the experienced guys was numbering the baseballs that he had caught. When I saw that I knew he was familiar with ballhawking. I introduced myself and we ended up talking for a while. Here’s a picture of Mike holding the baseballs he caught during bp:
Mike is from Orlando, Florida, but lived in Chicago a number of years ago. When he lived in Chicago he used to ballhawk on the streets of Wrigley. He works a lot now, but travels to different ballparks whenever he has time. Seems like a cool dude!
A few minutes before game time I made my way to the Twins Bullpen:
I had already decided that once the game started I would stop ballhawking because I was at the game with a group of other people. I wanted to sit with them during the game instead of wandering like usual. Since I was one ball shy of 15, I was hoping to quickly snag one last ball before the game started. Immediately following the national anthem I was able to get Blaine Boyer’s attention. Let me just say… Blaine Boyer rocks!:
…And just like that I was done ballhawking for the day. Even though I was 30 minutes late I was still able to snag more baseballs than I did at the three other games i’d gone to! I made it to my seat by the time the first out was recorded. I liked the view:
Ervin Santana got his first Start for the Twins against Orioles pitcher, Ubaldo Jimenez. Santana pitched two strong innings before being replaced by Jose Berrios in the third inning. The Twins were the first to score thanks to Joe Mauer’s RBI double in the first inning. The Twins took a 2-0 lead in the fourth when Eduardo Escobar doubled in Eduardo Nunez. The Orioles earned a run off of Jose Berrios in the 5th inning, but they couldn’t push for anything more. Later in the game Casey Fien and Brian Duensing each pitched an inning before Mark Hamburger pitched the last two innings, earning the Save for the Twins.
Here’s the line up and box score from the game:
Here’s the group picture that I promised at the beginning of the entry:
Today’s Total: 15 MLB balls (11 Manfred, 4 Selig).
Spring Training Totals: 42 MLB balls (31 Manfred, 11 Selig), 5 Minor League balls, 1 Perfect game ball, 1 Whiffle ball, 1 foam ball, and 12 autographs.
UP NEXT: I’ll attend a Cactus League Game if I can while i’m in AZ, but otherwise my next game will be during the regular season.
I had originally planned to attend the Marlins vs. Red Sox game at JetBlue Park today, but at the last minute I decided to visit a “new to me” Spring Training ballpark. After driving for about an hour I arrived in Port Charlotte, Florida. Charlotte Sports Park is home to the Charlotte Stone Crabs and is also the Spring Training home of the Tampa Bay Rays. Here she is:
Until the night before this, I was completely unaware that the Rays played in Port Charlotte. I also knew nothing about the complex or what it looked like. I tried to look for pictures online, but they didn’t help much. I decided that the best way to become familiar with the complex would be to arrive early. That’s what I did. I pulled into the parking lot at 7:00 am. and was at the gate to the practice fields by 7:10:
There was just one problem. The Rays’ training complex was not open to the public on game days. That meant that I would not be able to explore the practice fields. It also meant that I had gotten to the ballpark three extra hours early for nothing. Not entirely. I’ll explain, but first look at this map of the complex:
Since I had a lot of time on my hands I decided to explore other parts of the complex. I made my way back towards the home plate gate and then past the third base gate. I continued until I was near the pond that is behind the left field wall:
It was pretty gross looking back there. I found a few old baseballs and tennis balls that had already seen their better days:
Like I said, it was pretty gross back there. Later on I even found out there was an alligator back there! Good thing I left when I did. Yikes!
Take another look at this map:
I was extremely surprised, but I was able to snag a few baseballs out here! My first was thrown a pretty good distance by a Rays player who I didn’t recognize. Here’s a look at the Selig ball that he threw to me:
My next ball was another Selig ball, but this was a batting practice home run that I retrieved after it cleared the right field wall:
I was able to snag one more ball before heading to meet Grant Edrington, an established and respected Baltimore ballhawk, at the third base gate. This one was thrown by another Rays player who I didn’t recognize:
Grant and I both forgot to take a picture together, but here’s a picture of him that I got off his blog:
Once inside the gate, this was my view of home plate:
This was the view looking out towards the left field wall:
After walking towards the left field foul pole you will run into the boardwalk. The boardwalk extends from foul pole to fole pole and is great for getting around the stadium. This is the point of view from the left field corner looking towards center field:
When the Twins began their portion of batting practice Grant and I positioned ourselves along the boardwalk in left field. After a few batters had taken their cuts I was able to catch this Miguel Sano homer on the fly:
A few moments later Sano stepped back into the cage and I caught another that he sent my way. This time I had to reach over the railing of the boardwalk into the bullpen in order to make the grab. It was another pearly gem:
Grant was able to snag a few toss ups during batting practice, but otherwise we were both limited to a few balls when the Twins were on the field. One of the reasons was because Sano and Vargas simply hit the ball to far. Many times they sent the baseballs into the swampy pond outside the ballpark.
After batting practice we stayed on the left field side of the boardwalk because there were so many baseballs that were left in the bullpen from batting practice. You can’t see all of them from the picture, but there were nine baseballs scattered in the Twins’ bullpen:
Also, in case you’re wondering, Grant is the person in the forefront of the previous picture. At the time, he was talking to a kid who from New Jersey who we had met at the ballpark. I apologize for blanking on your name, but if you’re reading this please remind me of your name.
Sometime as the grounds crew was prepping the field for the game, Twins’ coach Neil Allen made his way out to the bullpen. He tossed me this somewhat used baseball:
Okay, I take it back. It was a Selig ball, so it was more than somewhat used. There were so many baseballs that he threw another to me:
There were still a few balls left in the corner of the bullpen when the game started. Mitch Garver was super nice and tossed one of them up to me:
When the game started the three of us went our separate ways and did our own thing for a while. I took a few laps around the ballpark and watched the game from different spots. When I came back to the Twins bullpen, I noticed there was still one ball left in the corner from batting practice. After politely getting Eric Fryers attention, it became my ninth ball of the day:
About 20 minutes after that, Coach Eddie Guardado threw me my tenth ball of the day. This one was used as a warm up as a new pitcher warmed up in the bullpen. I’m not sure which pitcher it was at the moment, but i’ll find out from my pictures and eventually update the name on here. Anyways, when the pitcher got called into the game the ball ended up with Eric Fryer. Fryer tossed it to Guardado and Guardado threw it up to me:
Grant and I met up on the boardwalk in the 8th inning and we made our way to home plate. The view was great! Check this out:
Before I entered the stadium I expected it to be a pretty dumpy ballpark. The exterior is kind of ugly and most of the pictures online don’t make the ballpark look very good. Regardless of my expectations, I was thoroughly impressed with the interior of the ballpark. I really do think that this is a great ballpark to watch a game of baseball at. There is a nice cross aisle that allows fans to easily get from one baseline to the other, and there’s also the boardwalk that does the same thing in the outfield. I love that there are grass berms for fans, and I especially like how the bullpens are set up so that fans can easily watch the activity in the ‘pen.
We made our way down to the dugout when the game finished, and Grant was able to snag one final ball of the day. I focused on getting a nice picture of the Rays celebrating their victory:
The game wasn’t terribly exciting. Both pitching staffs did a great job today, but unfortunately that usually makes for a long ballgame. The Twins allowed two runs off just five hits while the Rays only allowed one run off of seven hits. Here is the box score from the game (courtesy of espn.go):
I haven’t had time to take a group picture yet, but as soon as I do i’ll upload it here.
Today’s Total: 10 MLB balls (5 Manfred, 5 Selig).
Spring Training Totals: 27 MLB balls (20 Manfred, 7 Selig), 5 Minor League balls, 1 Perfect game ball, 1 Whiffle ball, 1 foam ball, and 12 autographs.
UP NEXT: Orioles vs. Twins @ Hammond Stadium (03-08-15)
Although today’s Red Sox vs. Twins game would be played at Hammond Stadium, I began the day here:
Yes, you may have guesses it, I was at JetBlue Park. JetBlue is the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox. Last year I attended two games here, but I wasn’t impressed with the stadium. It is a beautiful ballpark, but the atmosphere is more like an MLB stadium than a spring training stadium. Although I don’t particularly like JetBlue Park, I love the practice fields that are in the facility. I arrived bright and early at 7:00 o’clock and spent the next two hours waiting here:
As players finished up in the batting cages they walked through the gates that were in the previous picture. From there they would head to the practice fields. This is a great place to get autographs because the players have to walk past to get to the practice fields.
The first player to sign for me was Trey Ball. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the 7th round of the 2013 draft. He has a nice signature:
Next, I pulled out another baseball for Rafael Devers to sign:
Last year I realized that each year I will start to see more players who are close to my age. Devers is the youngest player to sign an autograph for me. Devers is only 18 years old, yet he is the 5th best prospect in the Red Sox organization.
I’m not sure who signed my next autograph, but I like how it looks:
The player’s jersey said “Febles #12”, but i’m not sure what his first name is. Next, Michael Chavis signed the same ball:
Chavis, 19 years old, is another really young player. Next, number 63 signed the ball:
#63’s signature is pretty legible, but I cannot make out exactly what it says. At this point I’m not sure who it is, but if anyone knows, please let me know.
Javier Guarra, another 19 year old, also signed the ball:
Mike McCarthy signed next:
Next was Kevin McAvoy. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. Here’s that one:
Whitson was the next player to sign for me. I checked online to find his first name, but Karsten Whitson was the only name that came up. This wasn’t Karsten Whitson, so i’m still not sure who this is:
Ty Buttrey also signed for me:
Javier Rodriguez was the final player to sign for me:
When the practice fields opened at 9 o’clock, I headed this way:
After stretching and doing infield warm ups for more than an hour and a half, batting practice began. I positioned myself between two practice fields because it was a great spot to snag baseballs. Take a look:
My first ball was one that landed in a bullpen. The gate was open, so I walked in to retrieve it:
After a few minutes one of the players tossed me this:
My third ball was a foul ball that was sliced over the fence:
Moments later there was a ground ball that was hit down the right field line. I was able to field it myself:
Only a few minutes later I had retrieved yet another ball that was fouled off:
When practice ended around noon I made my way over to Hammond Stadium:
Once again, the gates were open and fans were allowed to walk around the stadium. I found a nice place to sit in the shade on the third base side:
I stayed there for a little more than an hour. At one point I even feel asleep for about 20 minutes. Around 2:30 I got up to move to a seat that was near the Twins dugout. After sitting down I found this under the seat:
Awesome! Do you know what was NOT awesome? As soon as I took that picture an employee walked down the steps and said, “You’re not supposed to be in here. How did you get in the Stadium?” I told him that the gates were open so I walked in the front door. There were even employees who told me to take a look around the stadium. I could tell that he thought I was lying. He hesitated and then followed by saying, “Well you’re not supposed to be in here.” I told him that just like the other fans who were walking around the stadium, I had been inside since noon and that he was the first employee who had said such a thing. He said, “The gates don’t open until 3 hours before the game starts so you shouldn’t be in here.” This guy thought I was making all of this up! I don’t know what his deal was, but he escorted me out of the stadium. What a load of garbage!
After waiting an hour and a half outside the stadium, I was finally able to re-enter when the gates opened. I quickly got my first MLB ball of the day when Phil Hughes and Mike Pelfrey finished playing catch:
When batting practice started I headed to the left field grass but since the first group was filled with mostly lefties, I moved to the seats in right field. There I snagged a home run that was hit by a Twins player who I didn’t recognize. It was a nice clean Manfred ball:
When Eddie Rosario stepped into the cage he began to hit some deep fly balls to right field. All of a sudden he sent a shot to deep right center field. I tracked the ball well, but at the last moment lost it in the sun. I was able to get out of the way, but the ball bounced back onto the field. Luckily, Danny Ortiz was nice enough to toss it up to me:
When Rosario stepped back into the cage again, he sent another my way. This time I was able to snag it myself:
Kennys Vargas was also in the same group as Rosario. Vargas started leftie but each time he stepped into the cage he would switch to a different side of the plate. It didn’t matter which side he hit from because he would crush the ball either way. When he was batting leftie I was able to snag one of the only homers that he hit that stayed in the park:
When the next group started to take their cuts I decided it was time to move back to left field. Shane Robinson had hit a couple homers in bp yesterday so I knew where to position myself for him today. Sure enough, he hit one in my direction:
As soon as I made the grab I saw a little girl so I decided to give it to her. A big smile came across her (and her parents’) face! The Twins’ portion of batting practice ended shortly after that. The Red Sox did not take batting practice because they had taken it at JetBlue Park before driving over to Hammond. I was a bit bummed because I was having a really good day ballhawking!
Since bp ended around 5 o’clock I had to wait around for nearly an hour and a half for anything to happen on the field. Finally the Twins and Red Sox started to warm up on the field. I spotted Pedroia in the dugout:
While the Red Sox practiced on the infield there were a few people from Sun Harvest who threw foam oranges into the crowd. I flashed my glove and they threw one to me. When the Red Sox finished their pregame infield warmups the ball was thrown to Manager John Farrell. When I asked him for the ball he tossed it up without hesitation:
This was only the second Selig ball that I had gotten so far. Otherwise, the rest were all the new Manfred balls. By the time the game was about to start, the sun had almost completely gone down. This was the scene immediately following the National Anthem:
Joe Kelly got the start for Boston while Kyle Gibson threw the first pitch to start he game for Minnesota. The Twins started out strong and were able to take a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Torii Hunter singled in his first plate appearance at Hammond Stadium for 8 years and was able to pick up an RBI in the process.
By the end of the third inning the Twins were winning 6-4. I decided it would be a good time to leave because I would be leaving on a high note. I had a great day ballhawking, I saw my favorite childhood sports star make his first appearance back on my favorite team, and my team was winning. It was a good time to leave. As I was making my way out of the stadium, the Red Sox managed to load the bases. At the exact moment that I left, Dusten Pedroia hit a grand slam that gave the Red Sox an 8-6 lead. Wow, my timing was great :)
I was sure to get a good picture of the stadium when I left:
(Six balls were pictured because I gave one away.)
Later in the game the Twins came back and won the game 9-8. Molitor’s squad was now 2-0 in their first two games.
Here’s the group picture from the day (Six MLB balls are pictured because I gave one away):
Todays Totals: 7 MLB balls (6 Manfred, 1 Selig), 5 Minor League balls, 1 foam ball, and 12 autographs (11 pictured).
Spring Training Totals: 17 MLB balls (15 Manfred, 2 Selig), 5 Minor League balls, 1 Perfect game ball, 1 Whiffle ball, 1 foam ball, and 12 autographs.
UP NEXT: Twins vs. Rays, Friday, March 6th
Some of you might be surprised that i’m in Florida for Spring Training. For others, especially if you follow me on Twitter, it is no surprise because I’ve been talking about this for a few weeks now. Anyways, I arrived on Tuesday afternoon and this was the first game I’ve been to so far this year. The earliest I arrived to a spring training ballpark last year was 8:00 a.m., but this year I arrived at Hammond Stadium at 7:00 a.m.. I got there the extra hour early because I wanted to catch the sun rise as I drove to the ballpark. The recently renovated stadium looked stunning as I drove into the parking lot:
I wasn’t sure when the players would begin to practice but I figured I might as well maximize my time in the warm weather. I soaked in the sun until the first group of players finally entered the practice fields at 9 o’clock. I could see them from a distance so I made my way to the fields.
At 9 o’clock all of the minor league players reported to the field closest to the twins baseball academy:
As far as I know, the only notable players in that extremely large group were Nick Gordon, Kohl Stewart, James Beresford and Max Kepler. After wandering around for a few minutes I found my first ball of 2015! With Selig out and Manfred in as commissioner that meant that the signature on the baseball changed this year. That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but most ballhawks have been pretty excited to see the new baseballs. This wasn’t a Manfred ball, this was a Selig that was left over from last year:
Regardless of the name on the front, it was still a beautiful baseball!
Part of the 2-year renovation plan included a baseball academy and dormitory for the minor league players of the Twins. The buildings weren’t finished when I visited last year, but since then they have been completed and opened:
A bit closer to noon I spotted Mr. Terry Ryan, the Twins GM walking into the practice fields.
I only said a quick hello because I didn’t want to disturb him while he was working. Later on, though, he approached me and said that a lady had told him that I knew everything there was to know about the Twins. She was obviously stretching the truth a bit, but Mr. Ryan was still amused. We ended up only chatting about baseball for a few minutes, but then we continued for a longer time as our conversation shifted towards other topics that weren’t even related to baseball. He’s a fun guy to talk with!
Right before leaving the complex to run to Publix, I found my second ball of the day. This time, though, the ball was from Tom Kelly Field:
The ball had been wedged between the concrete, dirt and flowers. Aside from the odor and filth, there was still something different about this ball. I’m not sure when or by whom it was used, but the ball was a “Rawlings Perfect Game” ball. For the record (and for those ballhawks who are wondering), I did not count this in my MLB total.
After gaining early entrance into an empty stadium, I explored where most people do not. As I was hoping to find my second MLB ball of the day, I stumbled upon this whiffle ball:
I was considering taking it with me, but it was filled with a gross looking mixture of dirt, bugs and condensation. It was better to leave it where it was! I was finally able to snag another MLB ball from the boardwalk down the left field foul line. I had quite the view from there:
The ball was courtesy of Aaron Thompson. He threw it to me when he and Alex Meyer had finished playing catch.
Although the change in signatures is a very subtle change, I do like how it looks. Although small in detail, it still brings about something new to the most important element in the game.
It wasn’t too long until I was in possession of another ball. This time from Ricky Nolasco:
Ball number 5 came from the air. It was a homerun that i’m pretty sure Eddie Rosario hit:
Up to this point I had been in the grass berm in left field. For almost all of batting practice there were only two other guys and myself in the whole grass section. There was absolutely no competition! My success continued.
My next two baseballs (numbers 6 and 7) were both home runs that I caught on the fly. Coincidentally, they were also hit by the same player – #21 Shane Robinson. Here’s number 6:
And here’s number 7:
The Twins left the field around 5:15 and soon the Minnesota Golden Gophers hustled out to take their turn on the field. I was surprised to see that the Gophers had a few players who could crush the ball. Their portion of batting practice wasn’t great, but I was still able to snag a home run. The ball was brand new, an obvious keeper, but as soon as a little girl asked for it I felt obligated to give it away!
Sophomore Troy Traxler, a catcher and outfielder for the Gophers, hooked me up with my 9th ball of the day:
Batting Practice ended shortly after that, but I was able to get another toss up before the game started. When the Twins finished their pregame infield warm ups, catcher Eric Fryer tossed me my 10th ball of the day:
When the game started I sat in my ticketed seat. This was the first game in a long while where I sat in my ticketed seat for the whole time! Who could blame me, though, with a view like this?:
Although the Gophers were the first to score, he Twins ended up beating them 3-1. The big names in the Twins Lineup were Buxton (he went 2-3), Vargas (1-3) and Sano (1-1). Jose Berrios got the start for the Twins and was able to pick up the win after pitching 2 innings of scoreless baseball. One other thing worth mentioning is that this was Paul Molitor’s Managerial Debut! His first “W” (although it won’t officially be recorded) came against his old college team!
There’s no highlight/recap video for this game, but I did find this special video that the UofM made after the completion of the game:
I’m in the video multiple times. Whenever the left field grass is shown, i’m in the frame. In one of the shots it showed me chasing down a home run ball. Just look for the guy in the blue shirt!
Here’s the final haul (Nine MLB balls are pictured because I gave one away):
Spring Training Totals: 1 MLB Selig Ball, 9 MLB Manfred Balls, 1 Perfect game ball, and 1 whiffle ball.
UP NEXT: Red Sox vs. Twins, Thursday, March 5th.
The Twins Winter Caravan visited Rochester on Wednesday, January 21 at the Kahler Apache hotel. Brian Duensing, Brian Dozier, Phil Hughes, Jack Morris and Dick Bremer all made the trip down to Rochester.
The event started off with a 2014 Twins highlight video that assessed each player individually. The video was interesting, but it got a bit long after a while. It did a great job in showing the talent that our farm system has! Following the video, Dick Bremer started a round of Q&A with each of the Twins’ members. Each answered Bremer’s questions, and then answered any questions that the audience had for them.
After some raffle prizes were given away, we were able to get in line for autographs.
Brian Dozier signed a ball that I had originally caught on the fly when he hit it during batting practice at Hammond Stadium on March 6th during spring training. The rest of them signed baseball cards that I brought with. Here’s a picture of everything signed:
This is always a pretty short entry, but I still enjoy putting it together for each caravan. As far as I know, Morris, Duensing and Dozier had been on plenty of Caravans in years past. This year, however, was Phil Hughes’ first time taking part in one. It was nice to get to see some of the players before Spring Training gets underway. Go Twins!