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.
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.