The Nov. 16 StarTribune featured a front-page story accusing me of misconduct at Target Field while pursuing my hobby of collecting baseballs (“Twins tell aggressive ball snagger: You’re out”). A reader chimed in several days later with her own scathing commentary suggesting that I’m deserving of criticism because I only think about myself and defy the rules others are expected to follow.

I collect game-used baseballs, just as other people collect autographs, trading cards or memorabilia. I’ve been fortunate to obtain a number of unique balls that I am proud of, including strikeout balls thrown by future Hall of Fame pitchers and balls that represent three of Joe Mauer’s 2,123 career hits.

I obtain nearly all of my balls by asking players, coaches or ball boys for them. There is no competition with other fans in these situations because the exchange occurs directly between me and the person on the field. I have no reason or inclination to accost other fans or harass children to get a ball, as the published information suggests. At the end of the day, it’s still just a baseball, not a gold nugget.

Sadly, the reporter chose to omit my comments and photographic evidence documenting that I give far more balls away to appreciative children than I keep for myself.

The reason I initiated legal action against the Twins in August was because I did not “tackle” anyone, as security manager Jeff Reardon alleged on the trespass notice form. Nor did I recklessly barge into a row of fans, as a supposed witness stated in her nonsensical and sensationalized affidavit that would not survive even a minimal level of scrutiny.

Target Field contains sophisticated surveillance equipment, with cameras trained on the premium seating areas at all times. The Twins claim to have video of the incident, yet have steadfastly refused to provide that video to me or others who have asked, including media. Prior to filing the lawsuit, I offered to drop the matter entirely if the Twins would show me video affirming their accusations. That offer stood during more than two months of civil proceedings.

The Twins instead chose to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers to ensure I couldn’t gain access to evidence that will exonerate me and render the trespass notice void. When Judge Bruce Peterson asked Twins attorney Jason Asmus during a hearing on Nov. 1 why the Twins refused to share the video, Mr. Asmus cited privacy concerns for the fans in view. However, because fans at a public venue have no lawful expectation of privacy, that argument fails and no logical reason exists for the video to remain hidden. (Unless, of course, it does not show what it has been purported to show.)

The author of Monday’s letter criticized me for stating that I would not respect the trespass notice. Why should I? Normally, a party seeking any sort of restraining order/injunction against another party must go through proper legal channels and present evidence that such action is justified and necessary. Unfortunately, the trespass statute allows a party to do an end-around the legal process, which happened here.

I’m all for a business being able to ban troublemakers from its property, but I also believe it’s the responsibility of that business to ensure that its actions are ethical and nondiscriminatory. I find it peculiar that fans who are ejected from the ballpark for fighting or unleashing profanity-laced tirades against players, staff or other fans are welcome to return another time, but a fan who is merely alleged to have acted rudely one time toward other fans while pursuing a baseball is banned for one year.

I’ve seen plenty of fans push other fans, fall on top of other fans and wrestle other fans in pursuit of a baseball, and none of those incidents even drew a reprimand from guest relations personnel.

Additionally, I have personal knowledge of an individual who has twice been banned from Target Field based on fabricated allegations. That is unacceptable. I did not engage in any wrongdoing at Target Field on Aug. 17 or during the more than 500 other games I’ve attended there and, given the sophisticated video surveillance system at their disposal, I challenge the Twins to prove otherwise.

I enjoy collecting certain game used baseballs. I much more enjoy giving balls to kids. That’s not going to change because certain people in the Twins organization frown upon it. As for the letter writer who believes I’m selfish, there are dozens of children in Twins Territory who would beg to differ.

 

Jason Gabbert lives in Plymouth.