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Memorial Day… what a great day to watch a game… not so much
for ballhawking. Tons of people tailgating, the park opening half hour later
than usual holidays, plenty o’ kids, only one team taking batting practice and
a geographical rival in town. That spells disaster for ballhawking. I knew
today would not be a high total day, and I was fine with it… Why, you ask?
Answer: Trever Miller and Ryan Franklin. I wouldn’t be doing much running
around or blending in. Let me explain…
Let’s go back in time, say, to the end of July 2005. On a
whim, we decided to go to two games in Minnesota
and see the Twins take on LHR Ron Villone’s Mariners. Ron is the player who
threw me my 1st career baseball and jump-started my ballhawking
career a few years prior. The day before we leave ends up being July 31st,
also known as moving day for about 50 players around baseball, also known as
the non-waiver trading deadline. Pretty much every left handed reliever or 4th
outfielder is on call to be moved, as well as players without (and a few with)
a no-trade clause. But I digress… Ron ends up being traded to the Florida
Marlins the day before we leave. We now have no one to see in Minneapolis.
Begging for a few autographs, all decked out in new Mariners
gear, every single Mariner walks by without even waiving… except one: Ryan
Franklin. Ryan tosses me a ball covered in Astroturf stains and signs another
ball. We tell him about how he is the friendliest Mariner on the team and the
discussion shifts to Ron Villone. We tell Ryan about how we expected to see
Ron. We find out the two of them were locker mates and how much of a “good guy”
Ron was. Exit 2005, enter 2006. Ryan Franklin is now on the Phillies. We attend
all 3 of the Phillies v. Brewer games where Ryan recognizes us as “them fans
from the Metrodome”. We end up following Ryan’s career, traveling to various
places in the country to say hey and watch him pitch. We’re pretty much on a
Let’s stick in 2006… but at an Astros v. Brewers game… A
left handed specialist named Trever Miller ends his pre-game warm ups and
tosses young Ballhawk Shawn a ball. Then another. And yet another. Three in a
span of 5 minutes. Whether he did this on purpose or not, I do not know. All I
know is that such great display of fan-friendliness and generosity should be
recognized. A few years, baseballs, cardboard “TREVER MILLER’S #1 FANS” signs
and a trip across the country to see him play in Tampa
later, we’ve gotten to know each other.
Fast forward to 2009. Both of my favorite players end up on
the same team: the Saint Louis Cardinals. This would be the first time all
three of us are in the same ballpark at the same time. The gates open exactly 5
minutes late and I jog my way down the 50 feet to the left field corner to
begin taking snap shots.
The Cardinals finish stretching and begin to play catch.
Ryan Franklin throws with fireballer Jason Motte, Trever Miller with Dennys
Brad Thompson managed to sneak his way into my pictures. A few simulated ABs and obligatory knuckleballs later, they were done
tossing. Trever Miller spots us in the crowd and meanders his way over. “How y’all
doin’?” he asks. “Good, how about yourself?” I respond with. On his way over,
Trever extends his right hand for a shake. I’ve only seen one other pitcher
shake hands like that and put his livelihood quite literally in the hands of a
stranger (and that player was coincidentally Ryan Franklin). We talked about
his family and him being back in the NL Central division. Trever Miller is a
class act, what a guy! As soon as it started, it was over. He scooted back
toward center field and that was the end of our Trever experience for the day. I
had to answer all the “How do you know him”s and the “who are you”s, making me
stand out even more.
Ryan Franklin was a little more discreet about his greeting
and salutation. Ryan would usually come over and talk like Trever did, but his
group had already shifted to left-center field. He’s just as good of a guy as Trever;
he signs anything and everything with a smile on his face and stays long enough
for everyone to say hey. A Cardinal’s righty rips a line drive down the left
field line that settles in the corner about 50 feet away from me. Two people
have begun to use the “cup trick” to try and snatch baseballs off the field
from the second deck. Seeing this, Ryan Franklin runs over to the corner and
scoops up the baseballs. He takes a look at one of them and begins to scan the
crowd. He finds me, gives me the “whats up” head nod, smiles, points, and fires
me a perfect strike for Baseball #1. I
holler thanks, give him the nod and smile back. Ryan knows whats up. He then
moves to the infield and takes a few ground balls at shortstop. I guess that
ball was special because it was the only tossup of batting practice that I saw.
BP ended and I was fine with my one ball, today meant a lot to me.
Yovani Gallardo carried a no-hitter into the 6th inning,
and not to be out done, Chris Carpenter took a perfect game into the 7th.
Neither historical event grew into fruition. The game was managed horribly on Ken Macha’s part in my
opinion. Nonsensical hit-and-run call and a gaffed call to the pen/double
switch. I’ll definitely take the 1-0 victory. I couldn’t sneak behind the
dugout today; in fact my rear never even touched a seat bottom. How
unprofessional are those Miller Park
ushers going to get? I return to my seat in right-center and find it a bit more
favorable than behind the dugout. Bill Hall’s walk off single dropped in right
in front of me, and I got Cardinals bullpen catcher Jeff Murphy to toss me Baseball #2 after the game.
A several Brewer fans found it necessary to throw elbows at
me as they passed, because I was wearing my red “USA Baseball” jersey. Roughed up for wearing a USA jersey on
Memorial Day. Who would have thought? Milwaukee…
we have some of the most classless fans in the nation. There is a certain team
that plays down I-94 with worse fans, but Brewer fans are getting there. Why?
Why is it necessary to push me in the back because I am wearing a USA Baseball shirt on Memorial Day? Oh
well, it wouldn’t ruin my day, a day which I regard as the best of the year. I’ll
give it a go again tomorrow!
I’ll leave you with a few more pictures…
Trever Miller fielding a grounder:
Ryan Franklin’s monstrosity of a goatee:
The Crew doesn’t wear red all that often:
2 baseballs today
59 on the season