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Why Ichiro didn’t catch those balls

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Ichiro failed to catch two doubles hit by the Twins on Saturday, and people are asking why. I have a simple answer.

Seattle Mariners v Minnesota Twins
This isn’t one of the catches in question but this is Ichiro.
Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

During Saturday’s Mariners vs. Twins game at Target Field, Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano hit back-to-back doubles to mid-left field in the 6th inning. Both balls were hit in the vicinity of future Hall of Famer Ichiro Suzuki, and he failed to catch either one. This did not go unnoticed by fans.

Etc.

MLB.com only has video of the Sano double in question on it’s website, though Mauer’s was pretty similar and had a similar outcome. You can watch the video here.

From the video alone, obviously, it looks bad. It looks like Ichiro should have caught that ball. Now, I am very biased here, but it’s pulling me in several directions. I am a die-hard Twins fan until death (duh), but Ichiro is also one of my very most favorite baseball players of all time.

Here’s the low-down: I was there, watching this play in person. Usually I don’t think that gives me any extra insight into what happened, but in this case it did. I was not even surprised or caught off guard when I saw Ichiro fail to catch either the Mauer or Sano double.

Why?

IT WAS COLDER. THAN. BALLS.

It was 27 F degrees at first pitch during Saturday’s game. TWENTY-SEVEN DEGREES. FAHRENHEIT. DURING A BASEBALL GAME.

Not only was that easily the coldest game ever played at Target Field, it was the sixteenth coldest game ever played in Major League history (according to Baseball Reference). I was there and I can back this up — it was colder than week-old polar bear shit. I was wearing panty hose, athletic pants, snow pants, knee-high socks, thick boots, a wife beater, t-shirt, long sleeved t-shirt, sweatshirt, a thick Kirby Puckett uniform, a neck warmer, a knit hat, and two pairs of gloves. I was in the Townball Tavern for several innings. I still left the game in the 7th inning to go to a nice, toasty Ikea (they have Swedish meatballs and fabulous roasting pans for $10).

I watched both of these doubles hit to Ichiro, though, and I was not surprised at all when he didn’t catch either one. It didn’t even occur to me that these might have, should have been caught. It probably looked more dubious on TV, but it was completely understandable if you were there in-person, wondering if the frostbite and $11 beer was worth it.

I imagine this is what people saw on TV:

Here’s what it looked like if you were actually at the ballpark:

Yes, the field is heated at Target Field — but I’m not sure it’s heated to the point that 27 degree games are sane or comfortable. And the pads are not heated. The warning track is questionably heated. Your muscles and bones are only heated by your body, which, in these temperatures, are rapidly losing heat. The pads on those outfield walls will never be harder or colder during a game. Of course Ichiro didn’t try to slam up against them to make a catch. That could literally be career-ending, even for a not-44-year-old.

The Mariners still won the game anyway.