Because it was Opening Day, tickets were hard to come by for a reasonable price. I thought that $15 was alright for a ticket in the 300 level so I bought 2 tickets there. My friend Asher and I left my house early and we got to the Mall of America around 9 a.m. If you haven’t ever been to the Mall of America, I would recommend checking it out sometime. There are hundreds of stores, two food courts, an underground aquarium, a movie theatre, Lego land, and an indoor amusement park called Nickelodeon Universe. Of course, that’s not all there is to do at the Mall of America. I’ll show you a few pictures to give you an idea what it looks like. If you have any questions about the mall be sure to ask me in the comments.
The mall of America was built on the same land where Metropolitan Stadium used to be. In Nickelodeon Universe there is a replica of home plate that marks the spot where home plate had been at the Old Met.
There is also a red seat on the wall from Metropolitan Stadium:
The seat marks the spot where Harmon Killebrew’s monstrous home run landed in the Old Met.
Speaking of Killebrew’s monstrous home runs… we arrived at the Giant Glove at 11:40.
Did you notice the people in the last picture were wearing winter coats and gloves? Yeah, that’s because it was 25 degrees when I got to Target Field. Later I would learn that this was one of the coldest Opening Day games in the history of Major League Baseball. This wasn’t the only cool thing about this game though; it was also the first Opening Day game to be played at Target Field.
Asher and I were greeted by Tony and his friend Jared. I believe that they have a tradition of attending the Twins home openers ever year.
In an effort to stay warm, Tony was wearing his big foot costume. He also wore it because it helps get the players’ attention. He wore it last year when he and his wife went to Kauffman Stadium. You can read his entry about Kauffman Stadium by clicking on this sentence. While you’re clicking links, you should read about THIS game from Tony’s perspective by clicking here.
Not too long after I took the picture, this happened:
The usher farthest to the left in the previous picture walked over to the gate and put the ball in my glove. This wasn’t how I thought I would get my first ball of the season, but I was on the board!
Then Mateo showed up out of nowhere and we were all engaged in conversation while trying to keep warm.
… and once again Mateo was reunited with big foot… You can read about it by clicking here.
A half hour before the gates opened a ball was laced to right field. It cleared the wall and zipped across the plaza inside the gate. Tony and I both had a beat on the ball and were lined up perfectly, but it bounced off the gate and rolled just out of our reach. An usher hurried to the gate and placed it in my glove.
This was only the second game that I got a ball outside the gates. This was the first game that I got two balls outside the gates.
When the gates finally opened at 1:00, the Tigers were just starting to warm up so I hurried to center field to speak with the usher from last year.
John is a very nice man. He has been a Tigers fan for all his life. He served in the Vietnam War when he was young. When he got back to America he got a job as an usher at Tigers Stadium. Just a few years ago he became an usher for the Twins at Target Field. He was surprised when I asked to take his picture. Maybe I’ll tell him about this blog next time I see him.
When John and I finished talking, I positioned myself here:
Do you see the arrow in the last picture? It is pointing to Al Alburquerque. More on him in a moment.
Asher wanted me to put his magnet schedule (the giveaway for Opening Day) in my backpack, so I turned around to do so. I had turned around for not more than 5 seconds when Al Alburquerque overthrew the ball and hit me in the back of my leg. I quickly snatched up the ball and looked at my new gem. Had I been looking, I would’ve caught the ball. His throwing partner asked for the ball back so I tossed it to him with the request of getting it back when he was done playing catch. He said he would give it to me when they finished throwing, but he never did. I decided to count it as my third baseball of the day because I had possession of it. I didn’t have to give it back, I chose to.
Shortly after this I got my fourth ball from Brayan Villarreal:
I gave this ball away to a family friend a few days after the game. He seemed to really appreciate the gift, so I was glad to do it.
This was the slowest batting practice I have ever witnessed. I saw a total of 3 homeruns the whole time. Plus, no matter where I went the Tigers were being frisky with their baseballs. Towards the end of batting practice I went to the Tigers dugout and talked with Ben Lacher and his dad. Ben is a pretty cool kid. In case you don’t know who he is, listen to/watch the interview I did with him. By the time I had gotten there Ben had already got 4 autographs.
As soon as bp ended, Asher and I went to the Dugout Box seats behind the Twins’ dugout. Tony had the same idea as we did, so we enjoyed each other’s company for the whole game.
The best part of the game itself was getting to see my favorite pitcher pitch for the first time:
He was electric. He fanned 7 batters in 5 innings without allowing a run.
Tony and I both tried for warm up and 3rd out balls, but neither of us were successful. In the top of the 7th inning I left the Dugout Box on the Twins’ side of the field, and went to the Dugout Box on the Tigers’ side of the field.
While I was running back and forth for foul balls in the cross aisle I noticed that Ben and his dad were sitting in the first row behind the dugout. I found a seat right behind them and started talking with them again. Somehow Ben or his dad had also snagged a baseball. As I got up to return to the cross aisle I was surprised to also see that Mateo was in the same section.
The Tigers beat the Twins 4-2 in 9 innings.
As soon as the game ended I got a baseball from the umpire, Jim Joyce, at the umpire tunnel. This was AWESOME because it was an Opening Day commemorative baseball!
The whole game Tony and I were getting worked up because the Twins weren’t allowing the players or coaches to give away the game balls. Not even the bat boy could give any away. All of the special balls were being sent to the authenticator to get authenticated. The Twins were *trying* to be frisky and save some money by selling the balls for $50 each. Anyways, I was thrilled to get a commemorative.
Following this I went to the 3rd base side of the dugout with Ben Lacher to see if Mario (the Tigers equipment man) could hook us up with something from the game. It didn’t look like Mario was going to hook us up so Ben and his dad left. Asher and Tony showed up and we all waited for Mario to finish cleaning the dugout. Tony and I got his attention by calling his name loudly. Mario indicated that he would come over soon. When he finally came over to us he was holding 3 baseballs. He tossed the first to me, the second to Tony, and the third to Asher. This was my 50th lifetime baseball!
Mine and Tony’s were each commemorative! Asher’s wasn’t commemorative, but it was his first ball! Asher doesn’t ballhawk and has no interest in starting, but he was still happy to get the ball. Mario is in the background of the previous picture.
This is Asher and me after the game:
And here are my two new gems that are being displayed on my shelf:
I don’t usually do this in the entry itself, but I feel it is necessary for this game. Big thanks go out to the following:
- Both Twins employees. Thank you for putting me on the board for 2013 and for doing it before the gates opened. Brilliant.
- Brayan Villarreal. Thank you for rewarding fans who wear Tigers apparel to Tigers’ road games.
- Al Alburqueque – maybe?
- Jim Joyce. Thank you for my first umpire ball and my first Opening Day Commemorative.
- Mario. Thanks for being awesome and hooking me up with a commemorative. You have hooked me up with 3 balls in 2 games.
- Asher. Thanks for going to the game with me! You made all of this possible.
- Ben Lacher. Thank you for the insight about Mario. I owe many thanks to you. You’re the man!
- Tony Voda. Thank you for the tradition of “Thanks” at the end of your entries. Thanks for chilling at the game!
- Mateo Fischer. It’s always great seeing you at the ballpark. I enjoy your company.
A Piece of The Game MVP:
Umpire Jim Joyce: He gave me my first umpire ball, which was also an Opening Day commemorative. This was an awesome ball!
Player of The Game:
Justin Verlander: He only allowed 4 hits in 5 innings while fanning 7 batters. Solid start for Opening Day. If it were later in the season he would’ve pitched more than 5 innings. He had a very strong start and earned the win.
Here is my final haul from the game (5 balls pictured because I gave one back to a player) :
As you can see, I grabbed a few ticket stubs on my way out of the Stadium. I also found an extra magnet schedule off the ground on my way out.
- 6 balls at this game
- 6 balls in 1 games this season = Avg. 6 balls per game
- 11 consecutive games with at least 1 ball
- 11 consecutive games with at least 2 balls
- 5 consecutive games with at least 3 balls
- 4 consecutive games with at least 4 balls
- 4 consecutive games with at least 5 balls
- 11 consecutive Twins home games with at least 1 ball
- 9 consecutive Twins home games with at least 2 balls
- 4 consecutive Twins home games with at least 3 balls
- 3 consecutive Twins home games with at least 4 balls
- 3 consecutive Twins home games with at least 5 balls
- Gotten at least 1 ball from 11 different teams
- 50 total balls