Orioles vs. Twins @ Hammond Stadium (03-08-15)

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:

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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:

20150308_102702 ball 3

Shortly after that I snagged an absolute gem, thanks to Danny Ortiz:

20150308_103012 ball 4

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:

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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:

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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:

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…The view straight ahead:

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…And the view to my right:

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I didn’t catch any homers, but Casey Fien tossed me this pretty thing:

20150308_104947 ball 7

Number eight was also a toss up, but his time from Mitch Garver:

20150308_110401 ball 8

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:

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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:

20150308_111140 ball 9

Moments later, Yamaico Navarro hooked me up after he and his throwing partner finished:

20150308_111302 ball 10

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:

20150308_111531 ball 11

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:

20150308_114134 ball 12

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:

20150308_114508 ball 13

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:

20150308_114738 ball 14

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:

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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:

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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!:

20150308_130459 ball 15

…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:

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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:

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box

Here’s the group picture that I promised at the beginning of the entry:

Capture

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.

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