Sunday, September 23, 2007

A final wave of the cap

Today me and Curveball took in the Twins 2007 final home game. I knew that I would be emotional today, just because it was the last game this season--but when Torii was introduced and I could feel a few tears welling up...well, I knew I was in trouble.

It was a wonderful game...Slowey pitched a wonderful game (9 strikeouts), Jones hit his first major league homerun, and Cuddy had a 4-RBI day. Oh ya, we also won the ballgame! But the focus of today's game was letting Torii know how much we appreciate him and how much we want him to stay (I will not say it was about saying good-bye).

I think it was an emotional day for Torii as well. It would have been nice to see Torii hit one more long ball, but that wasn't in the cards today. The crowd came to their feet each time Torii came up to bat, especially in the 7th when it looked like it would be Torii's last at bat for the day. Ozzie's decision to intentionally walk Hunter then drew a hearty round of boos (that decision cost them a run later). Hunter nearly came up to bat again at the bottom of the 8th, but it was not to be.

When Torii narrowly missed that final at-bat, it felt like we were denied the opportunity to cheer on Hunter one last time this season. But Gardy had other plans. Hunter came running onto the field as usual the top of the 9th. Nathan was warming up on the mound. Just as Nathan was ready to throw his first pitch, Tyner came running into centerfield. At first, I was like "what the heck?"...and then I caught on to Gardy's wisdom. He was giving us our chance.

The crowd came to their feet, chanting "Torii, Torii!!!" I don't think I was the only fan who shed a few tears (Lipgloss text me that it was a sobfest at her house) Torii tipped his hat to us as he left the field, but that was not enough for us. Scenes of Torii hugging his teammates played on the jumbotron, but we were still chanting "Torii". And then Torii came out and gave the fans one final wave of his cap.

I hope not.

Pics from the bullpen

Bullpen conversations
Nathan warming up

Garza's pre-game stretches

Blackburn signing before the game...he's a hottie!

Neshek coming over before the game...he's truly a great guy (and cuter than you think) that arm and come back even stronger next year!

The bullpen standing during the Anthem

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The final homestand

I apologize for my lapse in posting. I was in a bit of a baseball funk. I needed some time to accept that our baseball season will end at the end of the baseball season. No postseason for the Twins this year. No hopeful frenzy for fans. Instead we'll be sitting home watching the Yankees once again in the postseason. To be honest with you, right now I'm more interested in what national league teams are going to make it in.

Life has been busy and I thought September might sort of fade into the sunset with Curveball and I only taking in one last game at the dome this season. Fortunately, Curveball has helped me remember the thrill in end-of-the-season baseball, even when "you're not in it". Call it the return to baseball bliss.

Monday afternoon I came home exhausted from a busy day at work. I really didn't think I had it in me to go to the game. But Curveball asked, and well, it never takes much arm-twisting to get me to go.

We traded in a promotional coupon for two general admission tickets for $1. Yup. One dollar. 100 pennies. Curveball did throw in a bonus though--he bought tickets for Wednesday's game right by the bullpen--in the first row of section 136.

Back to Monday:

It was a small, somewhat pathetic crowd in terms of size. But the crowd more than made up for it in their devotion (vocally and emotionally) to the game. What I love about games at this time of year (when your time is "out of it") is the fact that the crowd that comes to those September games come because they love baseball. They come with knowledge of the game. They come to enjoy the game (not to party or do "the wave").

We sat up is section 212--right behind Cuddy. They offered a great view--the only thing you couldn't see were plays in the right field corner. It was an entertaining game with twists and turns. There was the weird play at 3rd when Hunter had to practically run over the 3rd baseman to get home (he had stolen 3rd and then got to go home following a bad throw by the pitcher). Even stranger was the play at 1st when the ump made a horrible call--not giving Bartlett 2nd when the 1st baseman held him captive. I would have liked to see that one on replay. Gardy came charging onto the field and the drama was on. I'll admit it--I get excited about that stuff. I was standing at the railing, yelling & cheering on Gardy and dissing the ump.

There were also some stupid plays by both teams...and it actually seemed fitting that we won in the way that we did. A win is a win. And hey, we hit two homeruns! I haven't seen that at a game, since...

On a funny side note to Monday's game...Curveball and I were watching the Jumbotron greetings in the 5th inning and he was joking with me about not wishing him a happy birthday on the board (another year, Hon!)...and then I saw on the board something along the lines "Congrats newlyweds Lois Vossen and Jay..." Lois is an old high school friend that lives in California (but was obviously at the game). It's a small world. Congratulations Jay and Lois!

So Wednesday's game...

Curveball decided to spend the better portion of the day outside the dome trying to collect autographs from players on their way into the dome. As big as a autograph collector that he is, this is the first time he has done this. It paid off--he got lots of players to sign, including Gardy, Neshek, Tyner, Bartlett...and actually had a few brief conversations with a few players. I talked to him just as a few players were arriving and he sounded like a kid in a candy store. Ah, the simple pleasures in life!

Oh ya, one other sweet thing that happened while I was slaving away at work--I got a call from the Twins promotional office and I won tickets to Sunday's game for answering a trivia contest at Monday's game. The tickets are sweet too--section 135 (above the bullpen) in row 27.

Well, I was thrilled to bring the workday to an end and head to the dome. Curveball and I had decided to go into the dome earlier than we normally do in order to enjoy our sweet seats.

We've sat nearly everywhere in the dome, but never so close to the bullpen. We were in the first row right at the end of the pen. It was thee best place to watch the bullpen action. It was a horrible place to actually watch the game (I could barely see the batter), but every now and then I think this is a fun place to sit. I snared a few autographs on a baseball (Neshek and Boof) and took lots of pictures. It was interesting to see what the pitchers do while the game is ongoing. They do like to eat sunflower seeds and spit quite a bit (the fascination with spitting is something I've never really one point Guerrier took a swallow of water and then with great focus and attention, watched the water spray out of his mouth). Guerrier seemed very nice to the fans, Rincon too. Boof sat at the very end of the pen and at times was a little short with those wanting him to sign (I understand not wanting to sign the whole game, but kids don't always get that). Neshek came over and signed my baseball and let me take a picture. He is, beyond a doubt, a GREAT guy that is having a ball and appreciates this opportunity to play in the big leagues...and I think he appreciates the fans, because I don't think he's forgotten what it's like to be one). Word is that his shoulder is pretty sore...I hope he gets some rest and there's nothing to worry about.

The only downer to these seats was the two women sitting next to me. Total snobs with their designer purses. They were so irritated with the autograph seekers and yet, they apparently sit in these seats frequently. (It did seem o.k. with them, however, to get Rincon to sign a ball for them). They rolled their eyes every time I took a picture. Really, I wish I had turned to them and said "Who made you the fan police?" And they were, in my opinion, lousy fans. They never really cheered during the game. They rarely clapped.

But I ignored them best I could and enjoyed another winning game. Again, 2 homeruns by the Twins!! And (drumroll, please) Garza won his FIRST HOME GAME! Way to go, Matt.

So, with a joyous and yet heavy heart, I will be at the dome on Sunday to watch the final home game of the season. I can't believe the season is about to end. In a few weeks it will be time to review the season. The highs and the lows. And while I wish the Twins were continuing into the playoffs, for these next few weeks, I'm just going to savor the thrill of the game--and hold onto that feeling till next year.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A proposal on the jumbotron

A year ago on this Friday night (the date was actually Sept. 8th, but it was a Friday), Curveball (Joel) and I were at the Twins game. I have to previce this story by saying that he had been slightly annoying me all week...not for any real reason, other than he had been sort of weird, not himself...I couldn't put my finger on it but he wasn't himself. It wasn't anything major, but when he showed up at my place "late" (by this I mean he arrived about a half hour later than he had planned on arriving), I was even more in a tizzy. I'll admit it, I sort of laid into the poor guy. We were taking the city bus down to the Dome from my place in south Mpls and I always liked to arrive plenty early. But as we were waiting for the bus, I told him not to worry about it, I wasn't still mad. In fact, in an attempt to demonstrate my love and relax the guy, I told him that I had actually bought his birthday present that day.

We arrived at the dome and Joel had to pick up the tickets. Joel had arranged to buy tickets for "good seats" behind home plate. He said something about getting these seats for our "anniversary" (we had been dating 6 months). I didn't think anything of it...hey, I'll take good seats anytime I can get them!

We settled in. There was a family with two young boys sitting next to us...they were really cute and wearing "Joe Mauer sideburns". I did notice Joel being sort of fidgety at one point, playing with a straw or something in a way not typical of him. I almost made a smart comment like, "Nervous or something?", but I didn't want to resurrect the tension between us from earlier in the evening.

Garza was pitching that night, but not having his best outing. We were behind in the 5th inning and it looked like Garza may already be done for the night. Before the Twins came up to bat in the 5th, I looked up to the Jumbotron and read "Risa, I love you. Will you marry me? Love, Joe."

Now the first thing I want to point out is that it read "Joe". The man sitting next to me is named "Joel". He never goes by Joe. I read it a second and probably third time. My heart started racing. I'm many other Risa's could be here...did they mean Joel? (Note: this is not the sort of thing you want to be wrong about). It really was one of those surreal moments, when time takes on a different dimension. Everything became a little fuzzy. I finally realized the woman next to me (who Joel had clued in while I was in the bathroom) was asking me if it was "yes" AND Joel was trying to get on his knee and get the ring out of his pocket AND there was a cameraman right in front of us.

The second thing I want to point out is that the answer was always, without a doubt, "YES". Joel asked me exactly how I wanted to be asked--at a Twins game on the jumbotron. I love baseball. I think it's very romantic (as long as you both love baseball--Joel had actually "found" me on by typing "twins baseball" in the common interest search). And I think any man who will ask that question in front of 40,000 people...well, you don't have to doubt their committment.

Obviously, I wasn't expecting a proposal that evening. He didn't give me any hint that he was going to propose that night...and after the fact, I realized that his "weirdness" all week was due to his nervousness. He had spent the night before (a rare evening we were not together) posting on one of the baseball blogs about his plans to propose.

Back to the proposal...

It was wonderful. We were on the jumbotron, but the cameraman had a hard time capturing it because a hotdog vendor had decided our row was the place to set up shop (and Joel was too nervous to tell him to go away). Joel had a wonderful engagement ring for me...a 1987 World Series ring (a replica for fans). Both of us were shaking when the whole thing was done.

Shortly after the proposal, I got a cellphone call from my boss. I said to Joel, "I can't believe work is calling me right now. I am so not dealing with problems at work." But on the other end, Sue was asking, "Did you say 'yes'?" One of my co-workers was at the game, saw it all and had called Sue. Then Joel asked me if I was going to call Julie, my best friend (who lives in New York).

I was dying to call her, so I went out to the concession area...made the call and got her voicemail. I left a message something like, "Umm, we're at the Twins game and Joel just sort of proposed..." Julie picked up the phone before I could finish and laughed, "he sort of proposed..."

It was a magical evening. The Twins came up to bat in the bottom of the 5th and started hitting. Neshek started pitching and got the win.

Really though, I think I was the winner that night.

Oh ya, one final..."I (meaning "moi") was such a dope for being mad at you" moment...when we got back to my place, Joel went to his car and opened up the trunk and pulled out a dozen roses. That's why he was a half hour late that night...he had stopped to buy roses for me and hid them in the trunk, so I wouldn't see them till post-proposal. The whole proposal tells you why I love the man...he pays attention, he really tries to do those things that matter.

So yup, we got married June 3rd. It wasn't a baseball-themed wedding, but we did have Twins mini-helmuts on the cake. I think, as Joel said that evening a year ago, we'll have lots of fun growing old together. And that will include lots of baseball games!