Tagged: Mike Pelfrey

Red Sox vs. Twins @ Target Field (05-26-15)

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!

Unfortunately, the weather had other plans:
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The rain didn’t stop me from getting my first ball of the day, from Nate Dammann, just a few minutes after entering the stadium:
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Around 5:15 Kyle Gibson and Nate came back out to the bullpen for another session. Afterwards, Nate hooked me up once again:
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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:

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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:

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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:
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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:
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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:

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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:

game info

When the game ended I got my last ball of the evening from Umpire Lance Barrett.

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Here’ the final group shot from afterwards (5 balls pictured because I gave 1 away):
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TOTALS: 6 balls at this game. 21 balls this year.

UP NEXT: Red Sox vs. Twins 05/27/15

Red Sox vs. Twins @ Hammond Stadium (03-05-15)

Although today’s Red Sox vs. Twins game would be played at Hammond Stadium, I began the day here:

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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:

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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:

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Next, I pulled out another baseball for Rafael Devers to sign:

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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:

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The player’s jersey said “Febles #12”, but i’m not sure what his first name is. Next, Michael Chavis signed the same ball:

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Chavis, 19 years old, is another really young player. Next, number 63 signed the ball:

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#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:

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Mike McCarthy signed next:

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Next was Kevin McAvoy. He was drafted in the 4th round of the 2014 draft. Here’s that one:

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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:

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Ty Buttrey also signed for me:

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Javier Rodriguez was the final player to sign for me:

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When the practice fields opened at 9 o’clock, I headed this way:

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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:

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My first ball was one that landed in a bullpen. The gate was open, so I walked in to retrieve it:

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After a few minutes one of the players tossed me this:

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My third ball was a foul ball that was sliced over the fence:

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Moments later there was a ground ball that was hit down the right field line. I was able to field it myself:

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Only a few minutes later I had retrieved yet another ball that was fouled off:

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When practice ended around noon I made my way over to Hammond Stadium:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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When Rosario stepped back into the cage again, he sent another my way. This time I was able to snag it myself:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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(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.

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Here’s the group picture from the day (Six MLB balls are pictured because I gave one away):

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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

2015 Fan Fests of the AL Central Division

Over the last few years I have annually posted an entry about the upcoming Fan Fests that will be hosted by the teams in the AL Central Division. If you’d like to see last year’s entry, click here. This is the entry for 2015.

sox

Date: January 23-25, 2015

Hours: Hours have not yet been announced.

Location:

Hilton Chicago

720 South Michigan Avenue

Chicago, Illinois, 60605

Parking: Hotel Parking

Admission Ticket Pricing:

  • Single Day Passes:
  • Weekend Passes: $40 for adults, $20 for children 13 & under. 3 & under are free of charge.

SCHEDULED TO ATTEND

Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, “El Duque” Orlando Hernandez, Bobby Jenks, Geoff Blum, Joe Crede, Tadahito Iguchi, Scott Podsednik, Aaron Rowand, Jose Abreu, John Danks, Zach Duke, Adam Eaton, Tyler Flowers, Avisail Garcia, Conor Gillaspie, Dan Jennings, Jake Petricka, Jose Quintana, Alexei Ramirez, David Robertson, Jeff Samardzija, Don Cooper, Todd Steverson, Herold Baines, Robin Ventura, Tim Anderson, Courtney Hawkins, Micah Johnson, Carlos Rodon, Bo Jackson, Ron Kittle, Carlos May, Bill Melton, Minnie Minoso and Billy Pierce.

Fan Activities Include:

  • Player Autograph Stations
  • Player Photo Stations
  • SoxFest Garage Sale
  • Additional activities are also in store for SoxFest.

Autograph Voucher Pricing: Included in admission price

Things that have improved from last year:

  • The White Sox lowered the price for a weekend pass by 45% compared to last year.
  • Although not confirmed, it seems as if SoxFest will offer more activities to fans.

If I was the GM I would…

  • Make it mandatory for the 40-man roster to attend SoxFest.
  • Donate a part of the proceeds to charity.

My Overall Grade of SoxFest LAST YEAR: B-

My Overall Grade of SoxFest THIS YEAR: B

tribe

Date: January 24-25, 2015

Hours:

  • Period 1: Saturday, Jan 24, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Period 2: Saturday, Jan 24, 4-8 p.m.
  • Period 3: Sunday, Jan 25, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Location:

Progressive Field

2401 Ontario Street

Cleveland, OH 44115

Parking: “A limited number – due to a Monsters home game on Saturday night and a Cavs home game on Sunday afternoon — of $3 parking spots will be available in the Gateway East Garage. Those parking passes can be purchased online while fans purchase their event and autograph tickets. Fans are encouraged to purchase their Gateway East parking passes early, as supplies are limited.” – Indians.com

Admission Ticket Pricing: GA is $10 for adults and free for children 12 & under.

SCHEDULED TO ATTEND

Corey Kluber, Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes, Carlos Carrasco, Jason Kipnis, Cody Allen, Mike Aviles, Trevor Bauer, Michael Bourn, Lonnie Chisenhall, TJ House, Roberto Perez, Jose Ramirez, Marc Rzepczynski, Danny Salazar, Carlos Santana, Bryan Shaw and Nick Swisher.

Additional TribeFest 2015 participants will be announced at a later date.

Fan Activities Include:

  • Player Autographs
  • Kids’ Activities
  • Batting Cages
  • Clubhouse Tours
  • Q&As with Tribe Broadcasters and Players

Autograph Information:

  • “Fans can guarantee an autograph by purchasing an Autograph Ticket. Autograph tickets much be purchased IN ADDITION to a General Admission ticket. You will be allowed to select which autograph session you’d like to attend within your Tribe Fest event. In order to maximize the amount of fans able to experience each autograph session at Tribe Fest, the purchase of autograph tickets has been limited to four per autograph session per transaction. Additionally, only one autograph session ticket per person will be honored at each autograph station.” – Indians.com
  • “Fans can purchase an Autograph Ticket in two different tiers: Indians Alumni or Roster Player. These sessions will take place at an assigned time, and fans are encouraged to ARRIVE EARLY for these sessions. There is a cap of 250 fans per session, and each session will be closed once all tickets are sold.” – Indians.com
  • “Anyone holding an autograph ticket is guaranteed to receive at least one autograph, but specific players and alumni are not guaranteed. Player assignments will not be determined in advance, and are subject to change.” – Indians.com

Things that have improved since last year:

  • Last year children were $5 at the door. This year they’re free.
  • It seems like the Indians made it easier for fans to obtain autographs since last year. I still don’t like the autograph system, but it’s a bit better from last year.

If I was the GM I would…

  • Improve how the autograph tickets & sessions are set up.
    • The way the Indians have it set up now is unorganized and way more complicated than it needs to be.
    • I would model TribeFest autograph sessions after the Twins’ autograph sessions.
  • Make it mandatory for the 40-man roster to attend TribeFest.

My Overall Grade of Tribe Fest LAST YEAR: C+

My Overall Grade of Tribe Fest THIS YEAR: B

tigers

Date: January 24, 2015

Hours: 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Location:

Comerica Park

2100 Woodward Avenue

Detroit, MI 48201-3470

Parking: There are numerous other privately owned parking facilities within a 5-20 minute walk of Comerica Park.

Admission Ticket Pricing:  $28 for adults, $14 for kids 12 & under

*Tickets are sold out.*

SCHEDULED TO ATTEND: Justin Verlander, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez will be among over 30 Tigers players and coaches who scheduled to appear. The Tigers have not yet released the 2015 appearance schedule.

Fan Activities Include:

  • Autograph Booths
  • Fantasy Play-by-Play Broadcast
  • Main stages will host Q & A sessions and seminars.
  • Player Photos
  • Clubhouse Tours
  • Dugout Tours
  • Self-guided Tours
  • Display of historical baseball artifacts
  • Batting Practice in the cage
  • Detroit Tigers ice sculptures & LIVE sculpting demonstrations
  • David Chandler will operate an authentic bat lathe & provide LIVE bat carving demonstrations.
  • Detroit Tigers Authentics
  • Tigers Foundation Fire Sale.

The Detroit Tigers Kids Zone featuring:

  • Kids-Only Autograph Booth.
  • Miniature Comerica Park Stage
  • Free face painting and caricatures.
  • Baseball-themed games and activities for kids.
  • Video Game Bullpen.
  • Official 2015 Kids Club enrollment.

Autograph Voucher Pricing: The Tigers have not yet released this information. Autograph Prices will most likely not be included in price of general admission.

Things that have improved since last year:

  • All fans attending will receive a free TigerFest beanie style hat, courtesy of 97.1 FM The Ticket.
  • New activity: Fantasy play-by-play broadcast

If I was the GM I would…

  • Turn TigersFest into a weekend event. The one day event is already sold out this year. Instead of hosting TigersFest on Saturday only, host it from Friday to Sunday.
  • Lower the price of admission from $28

My Overall Grade of TigerFest LAST YEAR: A

My Overall Grade of TigerFest THIS YEAR: A

royals

Date: January 30-31, 2015

Hours:

  • Friday, January 30
    • 12-2 p.m. Exclusive access for Season Ticket Holders
    • 2-9 p.m. Open to all fans
  • Saturday, January 31
    • 9-11 a.m. Exclusive access for Season Ticket Holders
    • 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. Open to all fans

Location:

Bartle Hall at the Kansas City Convention Center

301 W 13th St #100

Kansas City, MO 64105

Parking: There are many parking options close to Bartle Hall

Admission Ticket Pricing:

  • In Advance:
    • 1 Day Pass: Adult – $14; Youth – $8
    • 2 Day Pass: Adult – $20; Youth – $11
  • Day of Sale:
    • 1 Day Pass: Adult – $16; Youth – $10
    • 2 Day Pass: Adult – $22; Youth – $14

Youth prices are for children ages 6-17. Children five and under will be admitted for free.

SCHEDULED TO ATTEND:

Lane Adams, Willie Aikens, Jaime Bluma, George Brett ^, Lorenzo Cain, Louis Coleman, Christian Colon, Wade Davis, Brandon Finnegan, Al Fitzmorris, Joel Goldberg, Alex Gordon, Terrance Gore#, Jeremy Guthrie, Shane Halter, Luke Hochevar, Greg Holland, Eric Hosmer, Rex Hudler#, Ryan Lefebvre, Dennis Leonard, Mike Macfarlane, Denny Matthews, John Mayberry, Brian McRae, Kris Medlen*, Kendrys Morales, Mike Moustakas, Dayton Moore, Les Norman, Marty Pattin, Bill Pecota, Salvador Perez, Steve Physioc, Greg Pryor, Jamie Quirk, Shawn Sedlacek, Steve Stewart, Jerry Terrell, John Wathan, Willie Wilson, Yordano Ventura,Edinson Volquez, and Ned Yost.

^ Royals Awards only, * Friday only, # Saturday only (As of January 16th, 2015)

Fan Activities Include:

  • Player Autograph Sessions
  • Player Photo Sessions
  • Commerce Bank Main Stage
  • Teva Royals Diamond
  • Interactive games for children
    • Accuracy Pitch
    • Bunting Challenge
    • Batting Cages
    • Little Sluggerrr’s Playground
    • Speed Pitch
    • Steal Home Challenge
    • Video Baseball Simulator
  • Majestic Team Store & Authentics
  • Royals Charities Silent Auction
  • Royals Charities 50/50 Raffle

Autograph Voucher Pricing: The Royals have not released this information.

Things that have improved since last year:

  • According to Royals.com, RoyalsFest 2015 has a heavy focus on what fans have requested in the past – autographs.

If I was the GM I would…

  • Schedule Royals FanFest for the whole weekend instead of just Friday and Saturday.
  • Prior to the event, publically announce which team members are scheduled to attend FanFest, and how much money autographs will cost.

My Overall Grade of Royals FanFest LAST YEAR: B+

My Overall Grade of Royals FanFest THIS YEAR: B+

twins

Date: January 23-25, 2015

Time: Friday: 4:00-9:30 p.m.; Saturday: 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.; Sunday: 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Location:

Target Field

1 Twins Way

Minneapolis, MN

Parking: There are numerous parking garages around Target Field. Multiple public transit options are also available.

Admission Ticket Pricing: Adults: $20; Kids (14 and under): $10

SCHEDULED TO ATTEND:

  • Friday, Jan. 23:
    A.J. Achter, Neil Allen, Oswaldo Arcia, J.O. Berrios, Bert Blyleven, Tom Brunansky, Byron Buxton, Rod Carew, Logan Darnell, Butch Davis, Brian Dozier, Brian Duensing, Tyler Duffey, Eduardo Escobar, Casey Fien, Eric Fryer, Kyle Gibson, Dan Gladden, Gene Glynn, Nick Gordon, JR Graham, Nate Hanson, Mark Hamburger, BJ Hermsen, Aaron Hicks, Kent Hrbek, Phil Hughes, Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Mike Kvasnicka, Gene Larkin, Joe Mauer, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone, Paul Molitor, Max Murphy, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Parmelee, Mike Pelfrey, Brandon Peterson, Glen Perkins, Trevor Plouffe, Jorge Polanco, Ryan Pressly, Stephen Pryor, Eddie Rosario, Taylor Rogers, Miguel Sano, Danny Santana, Ervin Santana, Jordan Schafer, Roy Smalley, Blake Schmit, Kurt Suzuki, Caleb Thielbar, Michael Tonkin, Kennys Vargas, Joe Vavra, Tanner Vavra, Treysen Vavra, and Jason Wheeler.
  • Saturday, Jan. 24:
    A.J. Achter, Neil Allen, Oswaldo Arcia, J.O. Berrios, Bert Blyleven, Tom Brunansky, Byron Buxton, Rod Carew, Logan Darnell, Butch Davis, Brian Dozier, Brian Duensing, Tyler Duffey, Eduardo Escobar, Casey Fien, Eric Fryer, Kyle Gibson, Dan Gladden, Gene Glynn, Nick Gordon, JR Graham, Jim “Mudcat” Grant, Nate Hanson, Mark Hamburger, BJ Hermsen, Aaron Hicks, Phil Hughes, Torii Hunter, Jacque Jones, Corey Koskie, Mike Kvasnicka, Tim Laudner, Joe Mauer, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone, Paul Molitor, Max Murphy, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Parmelee, Mike Pelfrey, Brandon Peterson, Glen Perkins, Trevor Plouffe, Jorge Polanco, Ryan Pressly, Stephen Pryor, Eddie Rosario, Taylor Rogers, Miguel Sano, Danny Santana, Ervin Santana, Jordan Schafer, Blake Schmit, Kurt Suzuki, Caleb Thielbar, Michael Tonkin, Kennys Vargas, Joe Vavra, Tanner Vavra, Treysen Vavra, and Jason Wheeler.
  • Sunday, Jan. 25:
    A.J. Achter, Neil Allen, Oswaldo Arcia, Tom Brunansky, Byron Buxton, Rod Carew, Logan Darnell, Butch Davis, Brian Dozier, Tyler Duffey, Eduardo Escobar, Casey Fien, Eric Fryer, Kyle Gibson, Nick Gordon, JR Graham, Nate Hanson, Mark Hamburger, BJ Hermsen, Aaron Hicks, Phil Hughes, Torii Hunter, Mike Kvasnicka, Joe Mauer, Trevor May, Alex Meyer, Tommy Milone, Paul Molitor, Max Murphy, Ricky Nolasco, Chris Parmelee, Mike Pelfrey, Brandon Peterson, Glen Perkins, Trevor Plouffe, Jorge Polanco, Ryan Pressly, Stephen Pryor, Frank Quillici, Brian Raabe, Eddie Rosario, Taylor Rogers, Miguel Sano, Danny Santana, Ervin Santana, Jordan Schafer, Blake Schmit, Kurt Suzuki, Caleb Thielbar, Michael Tonkin, and Jason Wheeler.

Fan Activities Include:

  • Auctions
  • Player Autographs
  • Player Photo Sessions
  • Sports Memorabilia and Collector’s Show
  • Self-Guided Clubhouse Tours
  • Twins Yard Sale
  • BINGO
  • Reading with Twins mascot TC
  • Fan Feud
  • Special Panel Discussions
  • Boardwalk-style Amusements
  • Behind-the-scenes Fan Experiences
  • 10th Annual Diamond Awards

Autograph Voucher Pricing: There are multiple autograph stations spread out through Target Field. You pay “x” amount of dollars to get everyone’s signature who is in the station.

Things that have improved since last year:

  • The Twins have added a few new fan activities.

If I was the GM I would…

  • Lower the Admission price from $20.

My Overall Grading LAST YEAR: A

My Overall Grading THIS YEAR: A

Twins 2014 Winter Caravan – Part 2

I always love when the Twins Caravan stops in Rochester every January because it means that the next season is drawing near. This year, the Twins Winter Caravan visited Rochester on Tuesday, January 14 at the Ramada Inn. Kyle Gibson, Caleb Thielbar, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, Cory Provus, and Terry Ryan were all in attendance.

The event was supposed to start off with a 2013 Twins highlight video, but for the second year in a row there were technical difficulties. The video malfunction was ironic considering the Twins 66-96 record from the 2013 season.

After the video was postponed due to the “rain delay”, Corey Provus kicked things off with some Q&A. Each answered Provus’s questions, and any other questions that the audience had for them.

After some raffle prizes were given away, people could get in line for autographs. I only took a few pictures, and I’ll admit that they are not great:

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Left to right: Kyle Gibson, Caleb Thielbar, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, and Terry Ryan. IMG 1/3

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Left to right: Kyle Gibson, Caleb Thielbar, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, and Terry Ryan. IMG 2/3

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Left to right: Kyle Gibson, Caleb Thielbar, Tony Oliva, Paul Molitor, and Terry Ryan. IMG 3/3

Before this, I had never gotten an autograph on any of the baseballs that I’ve ballhawked because I like to keep them in the condition that I got them in. Usually I get a baseball card or a ticket signed, but this time I decided to get two baseballs signed. I figured that since it’s not every day that I have the chance to get Paul Molitor and Tony Oliva’s autograph (especially for free), I wanted to get their signatures on something more meaningful than a baseball card. After looking at all my baseballs, I picked the two that were in the best shape. If I were grading them on their quality, then I would give each a 9.5/10.

Paul Molitor signed my 97th baseball, which was thrown by an unknown Athletics player. Tony Oliva signed my 98th, which was a bp homer that was hit by an unknown Athletics player. I got both baseballs at the A’s vs. Twins game I attended last September. Kyle Gibson signed the ticket that I brought, and Caleb Thielbar signed an enlarged photo that was being supplied.

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When I was in line I told Kyle Gibson that I had been there to see his first Major League WIN on June 29 and how I had saved my ticket incase I would ever get the chance for him to sign it. A very big smile came across his face and he got very excited that I remembered his special day. It was a pretty cool 1 on 1 moment. Here’s a close up of the signed ticket.

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I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but Paul Molitor is my all-time favorite baseball player. Within the last year I (unintentionally) started a collection of Paul Molitor autographed memorabilia. I wrote “unintentionally” because I only sought out Paul Molitor’s autograph the first time. The second and third autographs came as a surprise. For example, I won a Paul Molitor signed baseball at a Twins game last September. That was a very big surprise!

What about the third autograph? Yeah, I bought a ticket to the Twins Caravan this year, but that was before I knew Paul Molitor would be in attendance. I wasn’t expecting him to be there until I checked the details for the event. Once again, I was surprised! It’s kind of funny how that worked out in such a good way!

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Overall, Twins Winter Caravan was a fun event to attend. Everyone heard from Terry Ryan about what’s going on inside the Twins Organization this offseason, and what they’re doing in order to get back on track this coming season. Over the offseason they have signed free agents Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes, Mike Pelfrey, Kurt Suzuki, and Jason Kubel, along with numerous Minor League players. The Twins also traded Ryan Doumit to Atlanta for LHP Sean Gilmartin, and finalized a deal with the Pirates that sent Duke Welker to Pittsburgh in exchange for Kris Johnson. One of the most popular “Transactions” this offseason has been the addition of Paul Molitor to the Twin’s coaching staff.

Saything that Terry Ryan hopes the Twins can turn things around in 2014 would be an understatement. Mr. Ryan wants nothing more than to leave the team’s troubles in the past. “Our biggest struggle the last three years has been that rotation and keeping overtaxing that bullpen,” Ryan said. “If we can fix the starting rotation, I think it will help fix some of the other problems we have, in particular our offense. We’ve struggled scoring runs as well.”

Terry Ryan also can not wait to get to spring training. He said, “I’m ready to go, Lets get down there and do something about it.” There were even a few different times he mentioned that pitchers and catchers report on February 16th.

I think I’m speaking for most of the people who attended the caravan when I say that for that brief 1.5 hours I forgot about the cold and snowy Minnesota winter weather, and I imagined myself in Fort Meyers for Spring Training, and at Target Field this summer. Let’s go Twins!

8-2-13 @ Target Field – Astros vs. Twins

I only got to the ballpark 10 minutes early, but I still got a great spot in line. That’s because I got to jump in with Tony! Since it was Friday and the gates opened 2 hours early we were expecting to see part of the Twins portion of batting practice. Disappointingly the Twins left the field before the gates opened. Around 5:30 the Astros took the field:

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After they got all stretched out they played some catch:

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Matt Dominguez threw me my first ball of the day after he finished playing catch with another teammate.

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Less than a minute later Javier Bracamonte, the Astros bullpen catcher, was about to throw me a ball but a kid’s dad suddenly yelled, “He already got a ball today!” Yeah that’s cool, ruin my chances… especially when I watched his son snag 3 baseballs 10 minutes earlier! Things got weird after that. Javier dissed me, and then made fun of my Nike shirt. A very special thank you goes out to that random dad in the crowd. This ended up hurting my ballhawking opportunities later in the day. 

When batting practice started I moved to section 125 because baseballs were being hit into foul territory. I was paying very close attention the whole time, but eventually I turned my attention elsewhere for a few seconds. In that few seconds a ball was hit to my section. It was so close that it almost hit me! Luckily I saw it coming out of the corner of my eye just in time to catch it after it bounced off a seat a few feet to my right. That was almost really bad, but I was unharmed and I got the ball:

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Nothing worthwhile happened during the Third group of batting practice. Lets face it, this is the Astros. The Astros and “power hitters” are rarely used in the same sentence. You just can’t say that the Astros are a power hitting team… it doesn’t work. Its kind of like saying that the Milwaukee Bucks are good at basketball.

This was my view at the end of batting practice when the Astros jogged off the field:

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I raised my glove as Coach Doug Brocail walked past me and he threw me this:

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I know its not a great picture, but It will work. On an unrelated note, this is a better picture:

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You get brownie points if you can spot Tony in the previous picture. He even posed and made a facial expression for the picture.

Tony and I migrated to the bullpens in hopes of obtaining one of the 50th anniversary baseballs that the Astros were supposedly using during batting practice. Up to this point I had only seen one today, but that changed when the bullpen ball bag was brought out:

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Eventually the catcher practiced fielding wild pitches so I was able to get a look at EVERY ball in the bag. EVERY ball was commemorative, but I didn’t get a single one. No one did. YET. This is where you should visit Tony’s blog to see what happened next! Am I doing a decent job at building suspense? Go ahead and click here to read it! As for me, Javier bluntly ignored me because he instantly recognized me from earlier in the day.

Shortly before the game started Tony headed to his seats. I found a nice aisle seat next to the Astros bullpen and watched most of the game from this spot:

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Here’s Javier:

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Unfortunately I didn’t get to stay for the whole game. I watched the first 9 innings, but I didn’t have enough time to stay when the game went into extra innings. I was kind of bummed because I absolutely LOVE extra innings. I like it because (1) its EXTRA baseball and (2) its FREE baseball! That’s sounds a bit funny, but I like it for more than just those two reasons.

Lets drift back to the game. The Twins scored the first run of the game in the third inning when Joe Mauer hit a sac fly to score Clete Thomas. The Astros took the lead in the fifth inning and then the Twins tied the game in the ninth. There weren’t a lot of hits, but it was an exciting game. Ron Gardenhire must have been a little confused In the 13th inning because he sent Mike Pelfrey (a pitcher) to the On Deck Circle (in the DH spot). Correia, another pitcher, was sent to pinch-hit for Pelfrey before he reached the plate. It all worked out and it even helped lead the Twins to a vicory.

Here is the box score and scoring plays from the game:

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A Piece of The Game MVP:

Matt Dominguez:    He restored some of my ballhawking confidence, that I had lost due to the cold streak I had been on in July, by getting me on the board early in the day.

Player of The Game:

Brian Dozier:   He went 3-7 and had 2 RBI.  Most importantly his 13th inning hit won the game for the Twins (and snapped their losing streak)!

Here is the final haul from the game:

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  • 3 ball in this game
  • 36 balls in 11 games this season = Avg. 3.27 balls per game
  • 21 consecutive games with at least 1 ball
  • 19 consecutive Twins home games with at least 1 ball
  • Gotten at least 1 ball from 14 different teams
  • 80  total balls