How much is a baseball worth to you?
As a kid, I would always bring my baseball glove to games, in the hopes of snagging a foul ball. My family rarely sat in the outfield, so home runs weren’t usually an option for me, but we’d always try to sit either behind home plate in the upper deck, or by 1st/3rd base in the lower level of the Metrodome.
I did come close two times, prior to working with the Twins. The first time, I was about 12-ish when we were near the right field corner where the giant
Kemp’s Land o’ Lakes’ milk jug would stand in later years, and we were watching the away team’s batting practice (can’t remember which team it was). One of their coaches was down the right field line, hitting fly balls to the outfielders. Well, one poor hit with his fungo bat sent a wayward baseball up to where myself and two of my siblings were standing. Unfortunately for my brother and I (the ones that played softball at the time), our sister was in between where the ball would land and where we stood. Instead of moving out of the way for one of us, she attempted the awkward keep-her-body-as-far-away-as-possible-while-still-trying-to-reach-the-ball-with-her-glove shuffle. The ball ended up bouncing two seats away from her and went back onto the field.
The second time was at a St. Paul Saints game a couple years ago. I went with a college friend of mine for the Norm Coleman/Al Franken rotating head bobblehead, and we got seats in the left field bleachers in foul territory. At one point, a chopper was hit down the line which hit the top of the fence and bounced up near us. My friend Craig didn’t see it, but I tried to reach over him and grab it. However, it was just out of my reach and a man sitting behind Craig was able to get it.
After joining the Twins organization, getting baseballs became easy. Considering that the ushers get to sit through about half of the Twins’ batting practice every single game, and Section 239 gets hit by a few baseballs every homestand, I’m able to collect a few. Last season, I kept a few for myself and some friends despite being discouraged from keeping baseballs (and got publicly called out by a supervisor in the elevator of our parking ramp after one game), and I eventually had two baseballs for myself and three I gave away to my girlfriend and two other friends. After that, every baseball I snagged was going to a kid.
Well, almost every one. I did get a baseball hit by Jason Kubel one day, and I was just feeling like getting rid of it as soon as possible. Shortly after gates opened, I saw a guy a few years younger than me with a Kubel jersey and orange Twins cap on, so I decided to give it to him. But then I spotted his orange cap the next game, and the game after that, and again and again… I didn’t just give the ball to a guy that came to every home game. I gave that ball to a ball hawk.
Every type of person that goes to a baseball game has their own pros and cons (which should probably be subject to a post later this year). Well, ball hawks are mostly negative in my opinion. They come to every game, try to grab as many baseballs as possible, and seemingly never consider giving up their collected baseballs to those that would actually have their day set by getting just a single ball. They also will do just about anything to get a ball. Remember Waldo from the Dome glory days? He caught Jim Thome’s first 2011 home run at Target Field, and then was promptly banned from the ballpark for the remainder of the season because he knocked over a kid chasing after the ball (Waldo’s had a long rap sheet and this was just the final straw).
There’s a buddy of that orange capped fellow above that is also a ball hawk, and one day I saw him running up the stairs in 239 to get a batting practice ball. As he passed a woman on the stairs, she promptly fell over. I was quickly yelling at the guy that he shouldn’t run in the section and that he knocked over the woman, and he yelled back that he never touched her. Well, after talking to that woman, she confirmed that she hadn’t been touched, but it was still a reminder of how dangerous it can be when you’ve got people sprinting in the seats with other people around them.
Apparently a baseball is worth harm to another person.
By now, I’m sure you’ve started thinking about the death of Rangers fan and firefighter Shannon Stone. He was attempting to catch a thrown ball from Josh Hamilton but leaned too far over the railing in front of him and fell 20 feet onto a concrete floor. He later died at a hospital later that night.
Stone didn’t really do anything wrong except remain determined to catch that ball from Hamilton, but that was only because he wanted to give it to his son. He did catch the ball, but ended up flipping over the railing, and the entire account of the incident is rather chilling.
Then, we nearly had a similar incident yesterday during the Home Run Derby. They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, these two are chock full of 2,000 words made up entirely of “You’ve got to be kidding me,” “Oh my God,” and “(bleeping) idiot!” comments.
(Bleeping) idiot indeed. Even worse is the fact that this guy, Keith Carmickle, and his friends had already caught 3 balls, and they still wanted more, which almost led to this guy falling about 20 feet to the pool deck below. Throw in the guy that jumped into the right-center field pool just to catch a ball…
…and we have two events that happened roughly 10 feet apart from each other that could have been far more seriously than they actually were. Ben Collin of That’s Twins Baseball did joke that the guy jumping into the pool just got herpes, but he easily could have landed on any of the Pepsi models lounging in the pool or slipped on that little rock structure he navigated before catching the ball.
Apparently a baseball is worth harm to yourself.
Edit: Here is video of Keith Carmickle falling over the railing on Fielder’s home run. Go to 2:34 in the video and watch the MLB Fan Cave sign.
I will admit that I’m partially saying this because I already have more than enough batting practice baseballs to last me a lifetime (three, and one was actually a gift because it was from the Dome’s final season), but I have to think that us fans need to start being smarter and more responsible when it comes to getting a baseball. Part of this plea is due to the fact that my section at Target Field is enclosed by a railing similar to the ones Shannon Stone and the Derby fan flipped over, and there awaits a 40-foot fall to the field if someone did happen to fall over.
Because the right field grandstand is directly above the field, I’ve had at least one fan a game lean over the fence to see the entire field. This isn’t just leaning over so you can see your friend a couple seats away, this is jackknifing at the waist so you can see the right field fence below, as you are actually standing above and in front of the fence. It’s very possible that a similar thing could happen at Target Field, and I promise you that it would be heartbreaking if something like that happened while I was working there.
A baseball should only be worth its retail price or the satisfaction of making a kid’s day. Nothing more.