Albert Pujols of the Angels is just 10 homers shy of 500 in his career. Derek Jeter needs 15 hits to leapfrog Eddie Collins and Paul Molitor for No. 8 on the all-time list (whenever he returns), and Yankees teammate Ichiro Suzuki is just four hits shy of 2,700. Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee is one complete game away from the 2,000-inning mark.
And as long as we're tracking milestones entering the second half of this Major League Baseball regular season, let it be duly noted that the 50th episode of the hit MLB.com game show "Bucks on the Pond" was posted on Thursday. The "50 Bucks" show was taped at Target Field in Minnesota, making it 24 MLB parks visited so far, and this one stars four Twins fans who were only happy to be part of a baseball milestone.
"It's exciting to be a part of your history in the making," said contestant Lauren VanOverbeke, who will be teaching middle-school science back in Oakdale this fall. She is joined in this episode by friends Emily Cox of Mission, S.D.; Emily Werness of Rosemount, Minn.; and Bethany Mann of Minneapolis. After their show, they sat in the Home Run Deck and watched a Twins victory, making it an unbelievable day at the ballyard.
MLB.com has doled out $17,945 to fans in this series, and you'll have to watch the latest episode to see whether some of those bucks went to the Twins fans. Since the premiere episode last August, "Bucks" has featured an eclectic mix of contestants, ranging from two blue-painted lawyers in Kansas City to a quintet of British military officers in Baltimore to a bachelorette party at Wrigley Field to startup entrepreneurs in Boston.
"Quite a few stand out, but the last postseason had two of my absolute favorite shows," said Jeremy Brisiel, who has hosted each episode. "Two separate family teams. The first was the father-and-daughter Cardinals fans who both had squirrel puppets and clearly loved each other almost as much as the Cardinals. The second was in the World Series at Comerica Park and featured a father-and-son team of Tigers fans. They just personified father-and-son teamwork and that time as a teenager when hanging out with your dad is still cool, but it's not cool to show it. I just enjoyed watching that relationship."
Fans at the ballpark interact with J.B. and MLB.com's studio through the magic of technology in conjunction with game action inside, and new episodes are typically posted each Tuesday and Thursday. In creating a new experience for fans, MLB.com is giving people a chance to earn bucks while they spend bucks at the ballpark.
Contestants are asked a trivia question -- general knowledge and baseball -- on each pitch during a half-inning of baseball. Get the question correct and win money. Get the question wrong and it's a strike. Three strikes and you're out -- something that doesn't happen too often.
The questions' difficulty and value increase with the number of outs in the on-field action: $5 easy questions to start, $10 medium-difficulty questions after one out, $20 hard questions after two outs. If the contestant lasts longer than the team's at-bat, they win the bucks in their bank.
"Bucks" also involves a 2014 Hall of Fame candidate. Cross the $100 mark during the show and it's time for "Say The Word" powered by Ford SYNC. You can wager any part of your bank on the next question, which is asked each episode by Frank Thomas. Answer correctly and you win, answer incorrectly and you lose that amount ... and it's another strike.
"We are very fortunate to have the support of an organization like MLB.com, and especially the support of the teams who welcome us into their parks to produce our show," said Mike Furno, executive producer for MLB Advanced Media. "'Bucks on the Pond' is and always will be about the fans and enhancing their experience at the ballparks. MLB.com gets that. The teams get that. But most importantly, the fans get that, and we couldn't be happier that we've done this for 50 shows. Hopefully someday we'll get to 500."
Topics covered in this episode include Santa Claus, architecture, Twins roster, measurements, Greenland, Euro currency, Tom Sawyer, Twins managers, entertainers, baseball movies, mound moves, Twins hitting, music instruments, Van Halen and "The Big Lebowski."
"Emily Cox is a teacher out on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota, and she knew she was coming into town for a few days, so we all decided to get together and to go Target Field," said Werness. "That's awesome we got to be a part of (No. 50). I think 'Bucks' is a fun way to pass some time at a ballgame, and personally, I love trivia and seeing how much knowledge I might have picked up over the years."
What have we learned through "50 Bucks?" Maybe this:
• Travel the concourse in packs, as these Twins fans just did. The more contestants in each group, the more opportunity there is for consensus and right answers. Of course, the more contestants, the more that cash prize has to be divvied up, but three strikes means nothing from nothing. And use your club's social media, as four Brewers fans did.
• Know your team's trivia. The questions are a mix of baseball and popular culture, and for some reason the former causes more stumbles than the latter.
• Wager everything when the Big Hurt asks you the "Say The Word" question. These have been pretty easy so far, and it's the best chance to grow your bank.
In addition to the Twins, other clubs that have participated include the Angels, Astros, Athletics, Brewers, Cardinals, Cubs, D-backs, Dodgers, Giants, Indians, Marlins, Mets, Orioles, Red Sox, Reds, Rockies, Royals, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Tigers, White Sox and Yankees. Bookmark MLB.com/bucks and be on the lookout for the "Bucks" crew at your ballpark.