Chris Fink learned the hard way about the power of the crowd when he caught A-Rod's first-inning home run and, after vowing he'd never do such a thing, threw the ball back on the field.
Chris and Kristin Fink live in downtown Minneapolis, within a few blocks of the Metrodome. They are enthusiastic Twins fans and this year purchased a Flex 40 season-ticket package.
Kristin was in Ohio on business, so Chris took friend Kyle Magstadt with him to Monday night's game with the New York Yankees.
"The tickets we get are 'best available,' so I came over here this morning to get two seats down low in left-center field," Chris said. "I wanted to be close to Go-Go [Carlos Gomez]. I hate to admit it, but I have kind of a man crush on him."
There was a Yankees fan sitting a row in front. He turned toward Fink and gave him a wide-eyed look.
The woman next to the Yankees fan responded with a gentle elbow to her companion and said: "Oh, what's your problem ... you have a man crush on A-Rod."
Fink and Magstadt arrived in their seats a few Livan Hernandez pitches into the Yankees' first.
"I sat down and saw that Derek Jeter was on second," Fink said. "And then a ball was heading toward us. I didn't even know who had hit it. Honest."
Chris said he dislikes the tradition of throwing back an opponent's home run that has developed in the Dome's left-field bleachers.
"I've never been in favor of the throwback because it's something we stole from the Cubs fans in Wrigley Field," he said.
Fink paused, took a sip from his beer bottle and said: "I found out the peer pressure is unbelievable. This is the first home run ball I've ever gotten."
This time, the home run ball hit by a Yankee headed right for Fink. He reached ... and caught it?
"Let's go with that," he said. "Let's say I caught it clean."
And then came the pressure.
"You have the ball in your hands for one second, and there are 100, 200, I don't know how many people, hollering in unison, 'Throw it back, throw it back,'" Fink said. "I always said, 'I would never throw back a ball,' but the approval of the crowd is irresistible, I guess."
That is particularly true when one of the people hollering is your pal -- the bushy-bearded gent right next to you.
"Yes, I was standing right here hollering, 'Throw it back, Chris. Throw it back," Magstadt admitted.
Fink nodded and said: "And then when I did throw it back, what did you say?"
There was a moment of silence and Fink said: "Next thing I hear is Kyle saying, 'I'm pretty sure that was A-Rod who hit the ball. Maybe you should've kept it.'"
Fink is 30. Everything being equal, he'll be in his early 40s with many adventures awaiting on that summer day when Alex Rodriguez is honored in Cooperstown, N.Y., for his first-ballot induction into the Hall of Fame.
The information on his plaque in 2021 will include the fact that A-Rod was the first and remains the only player to reach 800 home runs. And when the hologram of A-Rod is standing in their living room on the Finks' virtual-definition television transporter, Kristin will turn to her husband and say:
"And here he is, ladies and gentlemen, Chris Fink of Minneapolis, the gentleman who threw back home run ball No. 526 for A-Rod on June 2, 2008, at the long-demolished Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome."
Fink took another sip of suds and said: "I started having regrets while the ball still was bouncing across the turf."
More Yankees fans sitting in the next section tried to add to Fink's regret by shouting, "How could you do that? We would've bought the ball from you."
Magstadt made Fink feel better by shouting: "Typical Yankees. You think you can buy everything."
Fink received several calls on his cell phone from friends who saw him retrieve the ball and make the unfortunate throw either on ESPN or FSN North.
"I also tried to call my wife in Ohio," he said. "She either didn't see it, or she did see it and she's not talking to me."
Fink works for Mesaba Airlines. He wanted to make sure a reporter relayed this message to the public.
"Assure everyone that I have no important decision-making responsibilities at Mesaba," he said.
Patrick Reusse can be heard weekdays on AM-1500 KSTP at 6:45 and 7:45 a.m. and 4:40 p.m. • firstname.lastname@example.org