4/1/13 Tigers at Twins: Target Field- Opening Day

Oh how great this day was:

4113 Opening Picture

I still sort of can’t believe that it really happened. Oh, and by the way, I refer to great in its true sense and not the sense it has come to mean. As in although it was great in the “awesome” sense, there was also great cold, and great hoopla, and a great amount of “stuff” happening.

What do I mean by “stuff”? Well, here’s some shots of the Target Plaza that show the greater level of activity than 30 minutes before the gates open on a regular game day.

First off, here is my view of Target Field’s Gate 34 just as I arrived from my last class of the day:

4113 Target Plaza

Then, there was apparently something being filmed at my usual napping spot in front of Gate 34:

4113 Glove

And then the gate itself. With its own personal radio booth, courtesy of 96.3 K-Twin:

4113 Gate 1

And then a second picture. This time more of the people at the gate, partially to show you how people were dressed up to deal with the sub-30 degree temperatures:

4113 Gate 2

Once I got to the gate itself, there were…well, normally I would say “familiar faces”, but that wasn’t necessarily the case here. The first person who I recognized was Paul Kom, along with his friend, Asher:

4113 Paul and Asher

And then there was Tony Voda, who I didn’t really recognize because this is how he looked from my initial perspective:

4113 Tony in Bigfoot costume

He was also here at the game with a friend, whose name was Jared. Here are the two of them, with the photo credit going to Paul:

4113 Tony and Jared

I was actually supposed to have a companion of my own in the way of Sean, but something came up for him the day of. I tried to get a few other people to come with me, but all of them had things going on. I truly do not get some people. I get not going to just some game, but it’s Opening Day of Major League Baseball! Anyway, long story short: no one ended up being able to make the game and I ended up taking the $33 hit and going with my imaginary friend, Tommy McActuallywantstogotoabaseballgame. Then, at 1:00, the gates were finally opening:

4113 Tom Kelly opening gate

Remember when I said there was a great amount of “stuff” going on? Notice Tom Kelly helping in the opening of the gates on the left hand side. I think I would have absolutely ate that up if it weren’t around 20 degrees and the gates weren’t opening for the first time this season.

Unfortunately this was the view as I ran in and got my magnetic schedule:

4113 View as I got in

The Twins had started batting practice early, so they got done right before we entered and the Tigers were still several minutes from getting started. So I went over behind the cage and tried to get a ball from Rafael Belliard:

4113 Rafael Belliard

I yelled out to him, but unfortunately all I got was a wave and a smile. To be fair, I only yelled out “Rafael!”, but I was going to follow it with “Can you toss me a ball please?” I think he thought I was just saying hi.

My next opportunity came when the pitchers warmed up down the left field line:

4113 Pitchers down the line

Unfortunately one ball went to a much smaller and cuter game-goer than I, and then the second, I found out had already been promised to Paul because he had thrown back a previous overthrow.

Then it was off to the outfield. Therein lied the problem with Opening Day. You see Target Field is a pretty bad ballhawking stadium ceteris paribus, but it especially wretched with any substantial crowd because it is so reliant on the first few rows of the outfield sections. In left field, it was crowded enough that the first rows that were clear enough to run through were under the overhang, where no balls could be hit. In right field, the actual seating was completely full, so I would have had to stand out in the standing room section and hope that a ball get hit out there. Translation: I went into the section of seating in right-center field and asked for toss-ups. Unfortunately for me, the man patrolling the patch of ground in front of this section was Doug Fister, who although he may not be like this all the time, was being an unresponsive jerk. By the end of the day, I didn’t even mind that he completely rejected me several times. There was an early teenage girl dressed head-to-toe in bright orange who was yelling his ear off (politely) for almost half-an-hour with no avail. Once Fister moved out of the section, though, I got my first ball of the day pretty quickly from Drew Smyly:

4113 Smyly Ball

I then spent the rest of my batting practice in the standing room. Apparently I wasn’t smart enough to realize that if it’s tough to get the ball out there normally, it is nearly impossible to get a ball into the standing room when it’s below 30. So (shocker!) nothing came out there with Prince Fielder having already hit.

I did see something very interesting while I was in right field, though:

4113 Ice in right field

If you can’t make out what it is that arrow points to, I’ll just tell you. It’s ice. This marked the first time I had seen ice in a stadium that wasn’t being used for the purpose of refrigerating beverages. I guess the whole “it’s usually 90+ degrees whenever I’m in a baseball stadium” thing comes into play here.

As I started to head toward their dugout, the Tigers dugout, they finished batting practice, and I don’t know if it was the cold or what, but usually if I start heading to the dugout before batting practice itself, I’ll beat the ball bag to the dugout. This time, however, the pack-up process was accelerated by about 200%.

At this point, I found myself in a very interesting situation: my ticket was in left field but I was now  in the moat behind the Tigers dugout. At this point I told myself I would see if I could stay until the players started warming up down the line. Ushers started checking tickets in the section, but through a series of maneuvers, I got past them and stayed in the section. Then when I didn’t get a ball from any of the Tigers players warming up, I decided “You know, they’re using the Opening Day commemorative baseballs. I might as well stay down here for the rest of the game.” And so, this became my view of the action for 9 innings:

4113 View of the game

A pretty nice view for my first Opening Day game ever, eh? What would have that cost at Yankee Stadium? Two, or three…thousands of dollars? Probably more since it was Opening Day. Want to know what’s even more sad about that fact? This is how Yankee Stadium looked in the ninth inning:

4113 Yankee Stadium Opening Day

I’ve only seen a stadium anywhere near that empty in a handful of cases, and all of them involved inclement weather. Oh, and if you’re even thinking of arguing that people wanted to leave because of the cold, please refer to the paragraph of text under the fourth picture in the entry.

What that seat also gave me a great view of was the storied Opening Day ceremonies. First, both rosters were announced. At which point every player lined up on the field as his name was called:

4113 Players lined up

Then, probably the best part even though I’m not overly-nationalistic was the national anthem. What they did first to prepare for that was bring the famed “giant flag” on the field:

4113 Flag spread out

They then had a veteran raise the flag on the mast as they always do. Except here’s where that “great” Opening Day twist comes in. The veteran who raised it this day was Rod Carew.

Onto the game, I was obviously going for third out balls, but the first two didn’t even make it to the dugout. I believe one was tossed into the stands by an outfielder. The other didn’t make it to the dugout because of this guy:

4113 Ski mask guy

First a little background information on said “guy”:

1. Yes, he is wearing a leopard skin suit jacket.

2. He was wearing a ski mask for batting practice.

3. You might see someone who holds up *a* sign during games; he had a stack of them for the different Tigers players.

4. He had a gold-plated glove.

5. Even though he was supposedly a Tigers super fan, he asked me on several occasions during batting practice to identify Tigers players. (That reminds me. I probably should have included this story earlier, but I don’t know where to fit it into the entry above so I’m just going to tell the story here in these parentheses. Anyway, a hilarious thing happened when the Tigers players came out to warm up before the game. A group of 3-4 Twins fans saw Austin Jackson run out to warm up and immediately starting yelling things like “We love you, Torii” or “We miss you, Torii,” and kept it going for a while until Torii Hunter actually came out onto the field. Then they just started to realize–and confirmed after asking myself–that they were indeed not cheering for Torii Hunter. Murmuring and a retreat away from the field ensued.)

6. He was one of those fans who demands respect for his team from the opposing fans while trashing their team.

Anyway, Miguel Cabrera had the ball and was headed to the dugout when he saw this fan in the corner of his eye, stopped, and threw him the ball. I wasn’t bitter at the time, and I was even more fine with it two innings later when Prince Fielder tossed me a third-out ball of my own:

4113 Ball 2

But wait do you notice anything special about this ball? How about now?

4113 OD Commemorative ball

Opening Day commemorative baseball, baby! And yes, this was the first one I had ever gotten as a result of this being my first Opening Day game ever. The rest of the game played, and the Tigers unfortunately pulled it out despite the Twins limiting Justin Verlander to his shortest start in approximately 3.5 years.

At the end of the game, my plan was to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jim Joyce. I was going to go down the main staircase to the umpire’s tunnel, but I surprisingly met up with Paul in the ninth inning and he took that staircase, so my plan was to go down the secondary staircase and yell out to Joyce before he got to the tunnel since this staircase was closer to where the umpires exited the field, but for whatever reason, people stayed in their seats, so there was no space in the front row for me to get down. Fortunately, though, Paul managed to snag his own Opening Day commemorative, so that made up for it. Basically, this was my reaction to not getting an umpire ball:

4113 Mateo at the end of game

In that: “I didn’t get another ball and I only snagged two baseballs this game, but so what? It was an absolutely great game/experience. (Minus the cold. I’m still trying to forget how miserable it was in the shade.)

Tony and Paul had three and four baseballs, respectively, when I left, and they each managed another from the Tigers equipment person afterwards to push their totals up to four and five. A ton compared to my measly two, but if there was one game I didn’t care, it was this one.

STATS:

  • 2 Balls at this game:

4113 Baseballs

Numbers 447-448 for my career (I realize that the last entry from this past season said I ended the season at 445, but in the offseason I realized that I never inputted my sixth baseball from my one game at Citizens Bank Park, so everything from that point on is technically one baseball above whatever I have it at. I just don’t feel like going back and changing all of the entries. This is just a day for long parenthetical insertions, I guess.)

4113 Sweet Spots

  • 2 Balls in 1 Game= 2.00 Balls Per Game
  • 2 Balls x 38,282 Fans= 76,564 Competition Factor
  • 63 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
  • 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
  • 57 Balls in 15 Games at Target Field= 3.80 Balls Per Game
  • 14 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
  • Time Spent On Game 12:05- 7:46= 7 Hours 41 Minutes

19 Comments

Pingback: 4-1-13 @ Target Field – Tigers vs. Twins OPENING DAY!!! « A Piece of The Game

I was in NY for Mets Opening Day, on the same day as Yankees Opening Day. I thought that was awful that it was so empty in the ninth (It was because they were losing.) Especially on Opening Day! Citi had more people in the ninth (they won.) I don’t believe either stadium sold out completely but they were both packed at times. I mean there were at least 40k people at Citi… But stupid Mike Francesa said otherwise and made a big deal out of the Mets proclaiming a sellout when it sounded like he didn’t even watch the game, here’s the link. I listened to this on the way back. Very Big Mets Hater- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=boQX-glAlxQ

bdweingarten- I don’t think he was being particularly mean to the Mets. I actually have heard him criticize the Mets before. If there is one thing that he was completely lying about is that he does censor his callers insofar as he very frequently cuts their call off during his rebuttal so they can’t rebut his rebuttal. So even if he made an argument that doesn’t hold water, he sounds like he won the argument because the caller doesn’t get the chance to call him out on his BS.

I definitely agree with you on that last part. But they played a great game and he spent the whole time complaining about it and never got more then 2 sentences about the actual game. He said he’d be surprised if their were 30,000… Well every seat in my section was taken, and I mean AT LEAST 90% of the seats were taken, not accounting for those that were sold to secondary sellers and not resold. I remember he went berzerk on the Mets last year in September after they got swept by the Rockies in 4 games. He’s unfair to the Mets in general, it’s in his blood.

bdweingarten- I think any journalist who isn’t affiliated with any given team has to maintain a certain level of unbiased-ness or they’ll lose their job. That said, there are a lot more Yankee fans in the New York Metro area, so he’s much more likely to lean that way because he’s alienating much less people when he talks badly about the Mets than when he does so of the Yankees because there are a lot less people who like the Mets.

Mateo – Awesome article. That ice is asinine. I live in the area, this winter has been ridiculous and definitely not conducive for baseball! What do you think of the Twins start so far? Where do you see them at the end? -Will

Will- (Great username) I’m just thinking also how ridiculous it would have been had the Twins played just a week earlier. That would have been crazy. I personally love the start they’re off to. I definitely didn’t see it coming, but they’re also showing some flaws, which isn’t good either. Basically, we’ll see how they’re standing at the end of the month. I see them somewhere right under .500.

Read in the Star Tribune today that the Twins are going to start having the $15 early BP tickets.

Wish I could have been there for opening day, but looking forward to being “home” at Target Field in a few weeks!

Kelly- Wow. There goes my life savings, if that’s true. And also, welcome back whenever you do manage to make it back here to Target Field.

Hate to intrude, but when will this start? I’d love to get one for when I’m out there.
– Chris

Chris- It was just announced as the shortest promotion in Twins history. It was supposed to start, if I’m correct, on Friday’s game, but it was announced less than an hour ago that it was being cancelled. Translation: it lasted less than a day.

Awesome entry, I loved your perspective on the game! Tony, Asher and I all did they same thing as you did except behind the Twins Dugout. Those were $118 per ticket, I’m glad we just got around the ushers! When’s your next game?
-Paul K

http://apieceofthegame.mlblogs.com

Paul- Thanks. My next game is almost definitely this next Friday against the Mets.

I wish I had been able to get a commemorative baseball! Opening Day in Oakland was crowded, but FUN! I would say there were more people in the stadium for BP than there were for a few games last year. There were a lot of foul balls into the stands too! One of my favorite photos in this entry is the giant flag photo. Why? I noticed the guy in the #42 full Twins uniform. Thought that was pretty neat.
-Nick

http://nbbaseball.wordpress.com/

Nick- Yeah, it was surprisingly crowded at Target Field as well. I thought the cold would scare off a lot more people than it did. I guess it was a combination of it not being *that* cold compared to the last few months and devoted fans. I also liked the person in the 42 jersey. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I thought it was cool, especially with the new movie coming out soon.

Very nice, congrats. A *bit* jealous. I tried getting an Opening Day ball at Citi the 2nd game of the year, figuring there’d be leftovers in BP, but to no avail. You’re allowed to roam freely at Target for BP?
– Chris

http://ballhawker.wordpress.com/

Chris- Thanks. It definitely could have just as easily not happened too, though. I was very close to going up to my “actual” seat at the end of batting practice and running between the two sides of the outfield before I realized that the odds of someone launching a homer in this weather were not in my favor. And yes, you’re allowed to go wherever you like during batting practice, except for maybe the club level, but I’ve never tried that.

Chris- No problem.

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