During the summer of my senior year in college, I got some great info while listening to the radio in my car going to work. The announcer for KFAN, the sports talk station, announced that they would be sponsoring a signing of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau on the Saturday before I went back to Washington. It was going to be at a Best Buy, one that was a reasonable distance from my house, but I was determined to get there.
I arrived at work with a huge grin on my face, hoping that the schedule would be forgiving enough that I could make the signing. I knew I would need an hour to get to the Best Buy, a few hours to beat the throngs of fans that would be showing up, and twenty minutes to go home and change. Luckily, I was not working until the evening shift, which gave me two hours after the signing to get there without a problem. Clutch, right?
According to my plans, I needed to get two baseballs for them to sign, and maybe a few cards that I didn’t mind ruining if they got screwed up. After work, I went to target and went straight to the sporting goods section, only to find that the official balls cost 15 bucks a piece. I dug in my pocket and pulled out the tips from the night before, praying that I would have enough for the balls and some tax. As I counted the ones, I came to a total of 36 bucks, plus money for gas. It couldn’t be any more key, at least not to me!
The day arrived and I could not even stay focused enough to pack my stuff that I needed for the long drive we would be taking the next weekend. I actually showed up about four hours before I needed to be there, just to make sure I had a good spot in line for the signing. I was number 5 in the line, and little did I know how important that would be later. After buying a lawn chair at target to chill in, I started talking with the other people in line. It was awesome to see the stuff they had brought. One guy had a complete set of the Twins Medallions, mounted, framed, and signed by every player and manager except for Mauer and Morneau. Another guy had some framed lithographs that looked absolutely amazing, and I wished that I had something similar. A lot of people came with the mini batting helmets, which I thought were awesome. Me? I just had my balls and a few cards. I knew it would be one auto per person, and I collect the signed baseballs. That’s what I came for. I figured Id have another chance at Twinsfest for the fun stuff.
As the hours past, we talked about collecting and the evil shops from around the Minneapolis area, just having a whole afternoon of talking about the Twins and their future. Around 4, they let us into the store through a back entrance (we were waiting outside), and I finally saw the magnitude of how many people showed up. The parking lot was jammed, filled with about 700-800 people all circling this Best Buy. It was a sea of people, and more showed up every minute.
I was still number five in line, and they brought us in to stand next to the podium and stage they had set up. After about ten minutes, we heard cheers coming from the back, which we knew were Joe and Justin coming into the store. They had a security escort through the back of the store, but you could tell they were just there to have fun. Justin asked me how long I had been waiting, and I said that I had been there since before noon. He thanked me for the support, shook my hand, and went to go sit down at his spot. I had brought along a blue ball point, but I saw that they had hundreds of pens on the table. I didn’t take any chances, so I had mine at the ready.
Joe was first and I put the ball, as instructed on the table for him to sign. He was signing on the sweet spot for the guy before me, so I was going to nicely ask for the same. I wasn’t going to sell the ball, but for display purposes, I needed a sweet spot sig for my collection. Before I had the chance to say anything, he picked up the ball and signed the loop, much to my surprise. My mouth kind of dropped open with a partial word, and he realized that I wanted something different. He said, “Oh, dude, im really sorry, I thought Justin AND I were going to sign this one.” I (very nicely, considering my shock) said, “No, its cool, my fault, can you please sign it again on the sweet spot?” He laughed and sort of gave me the ‘you sure about this?’ look before doing it. He signed again, and we both laughed pretty hard. He hit Justin on the shoulder and showed him the ball, and the Justin laughed.
I handed Justin a fresh ball, and he said, “should I do this one three times?” but I just laughed and said that he should sign the sweet spot. He chuckled and happily obliged. He thanked me again for waiting in line, and I started to leave. Joe shouted that he was sorry again, and I gave him a signal that it was cool with me. I mean, how often do you have a story like that? I still have both the balls, and I still tell the story to the people who come over and see my display. They always laugh about it with me, because they know it was all a part of the chase.
Funny enough, I went to Twinsfest that year with my then girlfriend (now wife), who was madly in love with Justin. Mauer and him were signing together again, and I couldn’t resist the temptation to get more stuff signed. She had a few balls with her, and I advised her that she needs to TELL Joe to sign on the sweet spot, because otherwise it will end up like my other one. As we approached she got kind of scared, but eventually lightened up. Justin signed her ball and picture, but she couldn’t bring herself to confess her love, thank god. She did just as I had told her with Joe, and he happily did what she said. Joe took one look at me and said, “Man, I promise I wont screw yours up this time!” Justin laughed, I laughed, and I told him I didn’t bring a ball this time, because I didn’t trust him. He laughed again, and signed my mini batting helmet perfectly.
You know, its these types of stories that makes me feel good about being a fan. You know that players who have a good time have the best fans, and you can count me among that bunch. Mauer and Morneau are my favorites, even though my wife said she would divorce me to marry Justin.