La Velle E. Neal III has covered baseball for the Star Tribune since 1998 (the post-Knoblauch era). Born and raised in Chicago, he grew up following the White Sox and hating the Cubs. He attended both the University of Illinois and Illinois-Chicago and began his baseball writing career at the Kansas City Star. He can be heard occasionally on KFAN radio, lending his great baseball mind to Paul Allen and other hosts. Mark Rosen borrows him occasionally for WCCO-TV.

In the afterglow of No. 600

Posted by: La Velle E. Neal III under On the road Updated: August 16, 2011 - 12:33 AM

i covered Paul Molitor's 3,000th hit when I worked for the Kansas City Star (I guess that means I also covered Chuck Knoblauch's 1,000th hit).

I was there for Cal Ripken's 3,000th hit, which happened at the Dome.

This was better to watch. Don't get me wrong, hitting a baseball is one of the hardest things to do is sports. To do it 3,000 times is amazing.

To hit it in the seats 600 times is mind-boggling. And Thome has done it without the cloud of PED use hanging over him like it does Bonds, Sosa, McGwire, A-Rod and others. 

The man is 40 years old. And he's still hitting bombs to the opposite field.

``The thing that everyone doesn't see is that he probably gets here an hour before everyone,'' Justin Morneau said. ``I get here early and he's probably here an hour before I am. How much work he goes through,, even the days he's not playing, How much work he goes through, he prepares he does everything just to get his body ready for four at bats, or pinch hit if he is not starting that game.

``The amount of work he puts in is amazing. If you had a camera follow him around, the cameraman would get tired from watching.''

Here's the point of this blog. How they got the ball.

The Twins had been concerned about how they would be able to track down the ball if it was hit in Target Field, but they had dozens of people they could send out into the crowd to reach whoever caught the ball. Once on the road, they were at a disadvantage.

But the baseball Gods smiled on them Monday as Thome went oppo.

``I remember Frank Thomas once telling me, `Man, don't ever lose that left field swing,' '' Thome said.

Both bullpens are in left field. The ball landed in the Tigers bullpen. Bullpen coach Mike Rojas ended up with the ball, And he simply handed the ball over the wall separating the two bullpens to Matt Capps.

``Cappy ran off with it like this,'' said closer Joe Nathan as he pretended to prance with the ball like he just recovered a fumble.

As the Twins wrapped up their win, Thome's son Landon, had the ball in his hands in the visitors clubhouse.

Good thing Thome never lost that left field swing. And didn't hit the ball 450 feet.
 

 

 

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