I didn’t plan to attend this game, but since I was in Minneapolis I figured I might as well go to it since it would be my last chance until next season. When Tony and I met at Gate 34 around 9:00, it finally sunk in that this was it.
We hung around gate 34 for a bit and then I spotted Didi Gregorius and Ender Inciarte as they were approaching the stadium. I already knew that Didi would turn me down again today, but I walked up to them already knowing what I was going to say. I was still mad about how cocky he acted towards the little boy the previous night. I got up to him and said, “Didi, could you please sign my ball?” Just like last night, they kept walking and acted as if I wasn’t there. I caught up to them and in a much different tone I said, “Last night you crushed a five-year old boy by telling him that you don’t sign autographs after a loss. Today is a new day, now will you sign this ball?!”. Just like that he stopped and turned towards me. I could see from the look on his face that he was furious, but he signed the ball and stormed off. HAH! It was HILARIOUS.
This was the same ball that was signed by the Diamondback players yesterday night. This ball now had the signatures of Joe Paterson, Zeke Spruill, Didi Gregorius and Ender Inciarte.
When the gates opened at 10:30 I lined up behind Kyle Gibson and Nate Dammann as they played catch:
When they finished, Kyle threw the ball to me:
Moments later, Logan Darnell and Ben Richardson wandered out to play catch. Logan Darnell signed an autograph for me on the ball that Schafer and Pinto had signed last night:
It was only a few minutes later when Lester Oliveros and Aaron Thompson finished playing catch. Aaron Thompson tossed the ball to me, then they both walked over to sign it as well:
You can see Lester Oliveros in the background of the previous picture. After he signed the ball for me he started doing some sprints in the outfield. After taking that picture I moved a section closer to home plate because that’s where Trevor May was playing catch. He tossed the ball to someone else, but I still got his autograph when I asked if he would sign few autographs:
Trevor also signed the ball from the previous night.
It was a bit strange how smoothly everything was going. After only being in the stadium for 10 minutes I had already gotten two baseballs and four autographs (six if you count the two outside the stadium). I expected it to stop, but it just kept on going!
I got my third ball from Brian Duensing when he and Ben Richardson finished playing catch. It sure was a beauty:
I expected Brian to leave the field right away, but he stuck around to sign autographs for a long line of fans. He eventually made his way down to me and I was able to thank him up close for the ball he had thrown to me. Brian also signed for me, but I had him sign the ball from the other night:
By 11:00 o’clock I was one ball shy of reaching a ballhawking milestone. Including spring training baseballs, I was sitting at 199 baseballs. At 11:06, Anthony Swarzak finished up with Nate Dammann and threw me my 200th baseball Here’s what happened next:
Wow. Everything was going my way today. I couldn’t believe it!
As the game drew near, I met up with Tony at the Twins’ dugout. From here, things continued to go both of our ways. Tony got a few baseballs and we each got a few more autographs. The first was from Ryan Pressley:
Pressley also signed the ball from the previous night. That ball now contained the signatures of Jordan Schafer, Josmil Pinto, Logan Darnell, Trevor May, Brian Duensing and Ryan Pressley.
Next, I was able to get Trevor Plouffe’s autograph:
You know what’s cool about this ball? I had originally caught this ball on the fly when Trevor Plouffe hit it during batting practice at Hammond Stadium on March 6th during spring training. It took 6 months, but I finally got it signed by him!
The final autograph that I got was from my All-Time favorite baseball player, Paul Molitor:
Molitor signed the ball I had gotten earlier from Kyle Gibson. This was the fourth time I’d been able to get The Ignitor’s autograph. This would be the last autograph of the season for me. Coincidentally, he also signed my first autograph of the year.
Dominique hooked me up with my fifth ball of the day. This one was from the ball bag:
Thanks a lot Dom! That was it for pregame, lets go to the game!
Phil Hughes took the mound for Minnesota, as did Vidal Nuno for Arizona. The Twins got off to an early 1-0 lead in the first inning when Kurt Suzuki walked with the bases loaded. The Twins scored again in the second inning when Trevor Plouffe hit a sac fly to center field.
A.J. Pollock stole third base during the sixth inning and Trevor Plouffe, while tagging Pollock, broke his forearm. He was immediately taken out of the game and it was clear that he was done for the remaining four games of the season.
David Peralta then hit a sac fly and A.J. Pollock scored from third.
My next ball was also from Dominique:
Randall Delgado was pitching to Eduardo Escobar with 1 out in bottom of the 7th inning. With an 0-2 count, Randall threw a 76 mph curveball in the dirt. Bobby Wilson tossed it to Dominique and Dominique tossed it to me.
Did you see that it was raining? This made it easier to get baseballs because more and more baseballs were getting to dirty to reuse.
My seventh ball was thrown to me by Ron Gardenhire:
It’s not a very good picture, but that’s alright. This was the ball that the Twins used for their eighth inning infield warm ups. The ball had gotten dirty enough that when Vargas threw it to Ron Gardenhire, Gardenhire just relayed it to me.
Phil Hughes was pitching to Jake Lamb with 2 outs in top of 8th inning. Hughes worked a 1-2 count and then threw a called strike to Lamb to end the inning. Kurt Suzuki rushed to the dugout and to my surprise hooked me up with the ball! This was Phil Hughes’ 842nd career strike out, and his 186th of this season. With that strikeout Hughes set a new single season Major League record for Strike-Out to Walk Ratio (his ratio was 11.63 : 1.00) for pitchers with a qualifying amount of innings. Immediately after getting the ball from Suzuki, everyone around me began telling me, “Give it to the little girl!” Without thinking about the significance of this baseball, I gave it away before I thought about swapping it out with another ball. This was the ball that Phil Hughes used to set a Major League Record and I accidentally gave it away to someone who doesn’t have a clue of its significance!
I do not have a picture of the ball to prove that this happened, but there were plenty of witnesses. Tony Voda can vouch for me because he saw the whole thing.
The game resumed after an hour and five-minute rain delay, and the Twins ended up winning 2-1. Here’s the recap from the game:
After the game I got my ninth and final ball from Casey Fien. This was also directly from the ball bag:
I would’ve reached double digits, but when Dominique threw me what would’ve been, someone jumped in front of me to catch the ball. I’m not complaining, i’m just thinking about what could’ve been. Not many people reach double digits without batting practice. I was so close to doing something that so few can say they did.
Here’s the final haul:
The first eight baseballs pictured were from today, and the other three I brought for autographs. There were eight baseballs pictured because I gave one away. This was the first time I’d been to all three games of a series. From this series I totaled 17 baseballs and 16 autographs. That was a great way to end the season!