Finally the day arrived. I say this after the fact but before it actually arrived I was a little worried about how ballhawk fest would go because I was worried about my streak being broken with so many ballhawks in attendance. Speaking of them, let me introduce to you all the ballhawks in attendance:
1. Garrett Meyer- #5 on the season leaders as of 7/26 and also the furthest traveled of us here coming all the way from Lawrence, Kansas.
2. Alan Schuster- The creator of mygameballs.com and organizer of this whole day long event.
3. Alex Kopp- A student at the University of Maryland who ballhawks really all over the place because he lives in New Jersey.
4. “Flava” Dave Stevenson- A ballhawk native to Baltimore who is very much a regular at Camden Yards.
5. Tim Cook- The second part of the now trio that is Cook & Son Bats’ Blog.
6. Oliver Rowles- Another ballhawk from New York that also usually inhabits the outfields of Citi Field or spring training stadiums when he’s at a game.
7. Zack Hample- Just click his name. If you don’t know him by now that such be sufficient. For the lazy people. He’s caught over 5,200 baseballs and inspired most of those present.
8. Mike Rowles- Oliver’s father and self proclaimed chaperone for the weekend.
9. Ben “…ny Batting Gloves” Weil- Yet another ballhawk from New York that showed up a bit late for softball (this picture was taken after we finished) because of the Lincoln Tunnel, “why are so many people going to New Jersey on a Saturday?”, etc.
10. Todd Cook- The primary unit in the Cook n’ Son trifecta.
-There were various people not int his picture who went to the game itself or were outside my lens.
1. Avi Miller- He just showed up for the game and didn’t show up for any of the pre-game festivities.
2. Jona- Zack’s girl friend who was simply outside of the picture because she too was taking pictures of the pre-group-picture set-up.
3. Jeremy Evans- This was a foreign name to me prior to ballhawk fest. Apparently he is a ballhawk from Pennsylvania who doesn’t have records of any of the balls that he has caught. I got all of this information from his mygameballs profile, I didn’t actually have much time to get to know him. The reason? He showed up at the game after the gates had opened and we were both focused on snagging baseballs.
4. Matt Hersl- He was “too sore” to play softball. He later admitted that he would have played had it not been 110 degrees. That actually was a hyperbole but it was over 100.
Obviously, the ten present and willing to play were not enough for a 9 on 9 softball game. Instead, Alan had devised a sort of Home Run Derby. Here we have Alan explaining the rules:
I don’t remember what the original format was but Alan added the fact that what he had said was merely a draft and anyone could add their own suggestions to it. Here we have everyone collectively having their “wait how are we doing this again?” moment before bombarding Alan with a plethora of suggestions:
This, inevitably changing how we were going to play the game. The rules, it seemed, changed by the half inning until the end of the second inning. This is what we ended up with:
- 7 innings
- 5 players on each team-once Ben showed up in the second in the bottom of the third-. Here is the roster:
- A half inning constituted of every player of the team hitting.
- A person finished their turn when they got one out with both a soft and baseball.
- An out was achieved by any ball that was not hit out of the infield or caught by the opposing team.
- An out could also be achieved if a person failed to swing at a ball within three pitches.
- A ball hit into the outfield uncaught was 1 point
- A ball hit beyond the fence were 5 points
Does that make sense? I hope so because I still don’t truly understand it.
Anyway, my team won 44-29:
It was headed by an excellent offensive effort by Mateo Fischer and… okay so I didn’t score any runs for our team but I did have the most catches for our team. Our actual offensive leaders were everyone except for me and Ben as all of them-I believe- play softball in a league elsewhere. The game ended in spectacular fashion as the final out was recorded on a ball hit over the fence by Zack Hample that was caught at about the 6’6″ mark by Alan Schuster. Although, being the ballhawk that I am, I was waiting on the edge of the fence in case Zack hit a Home Run. when the ball jumped off of his bat I jumped off of the fence and was waiting right behind Alan in case the ball kept on carrying. Had Alan not been there, a big argument probably would have ensued over my tactics. I did however, have the excuse that it was ballhawk fest.
After the game, we went to a restaurant named DiPasquale’s in an assortment of gas guzzling vehicles. I went in Alex Kopps’s car with Garrett Meyer:
That would be Alex on the left with Garrett on the right.
At the restaurant, we split into two tables: Alex, Garrett, Dave, Oliver, Mike (Oliver’s dad), and myself at one table and everyone else I don’t feel like naming at the other table. If you want to find out who was at the other table, just take out everyone I listed from the first picture, add Jona and Matt Hersl, and Viola! you have the second table. At lunch, I obviously ate but there were other goodies to be given out. Ben Weil provided different items to be given out of names being picked out of a hat. I got a bobble head doll of the “best mascot in baseball” as I am always hearing. Don’t I look just thrilled:
No not really. This is almost the worst bobble head I could have gotten minus a bobble head of the Yankees mascot. On the other hand, we did receive our official ballhawk fest T-Shirts:
The two faces because I the front was a very nice design but was only made to provide the basic information. The back because I was commemorating my deceased father by wearing this with his first initial on it instead of mine. For the better observants of baseball, you may have noticed that I have been wearing a sweat bands with the initials WRF. This is also to commemorate him. For those who haven’t noticed, here is a link to a picture
I took in Atlanta with the band on.
For even more observant people, can you spot three items in both pictures that were photographed in this entry
. Note: they may not be showing the same side that I photographed.
Anyway, it was late enough that our car went directly from the restaurant to the field. We took pictures, talked some more… blah, blah, blah. Enough of this preliminary shtuff, let’s get to the game.
I was about the fifth into the left field seats because I had to wait for Avi Miller (who provided me with season tickets the games before and after this one, thank you) to show his season ticket card and get us in to the section. I quickly made up for it by catching up to two of the other ballhawks in my section after I weaved through a family of non-balhawkfestians.
When I got to the section I picked a spot behind you-know-who in the second railing opening in the second aisle from left center:
Normally this would be snagging suicide but I figured I would just got with the best available spot as a cavalry of a dozen ballhawks would soon be upon me. I quickly got on the board by picking up a Mark Reynolds Home Run that landed behind me and half way into the row:
I think the only two people going after it were Matt Hersl and Zack Hample but can’t really remember.
The next ball came relatively soon after that Derrek Lee hit a ball about three steps behind me. I slowly backed up and simply reached up to catch it on the fly:
The next ball was also hit by Reynolds… I think. It was hit in the same general area as the last one as Reynolds was hitting them pretty well. I was one of the people that went furthest back on that ball but it still went over my head. It just kept carrying and carrying:
It hit off of the seats behind me and I picked it up… I think. To tell the truth, I remember this specific ball but don’t know if I actually got that specific ball. I do however, know my third ball was snagged in a ball hitting off of the seats and me picking it up.
My fourth ball was a little clearer as I was closer to the foul line to get a ball from the Angels pitchers (I didn’t get many balls from the Angels because my shirt arrived the day I got BACK from Baltimore and I had to settle with turning a Nationals jersey inside out) when an Orioles hitter-I think it was J.J. Hardy- hit a ball into the seats behind me. I went under where the ball clanked down thinking it would roll down the seats. The other fans chasing after it didn’t know this so I quietly pulled the ball out while they kept frantically searching for it. That gave me four balls for the day.
I then had a cold streak where most of the Angels player ignored me because I couldn’t identify them (it was so hot that they all had on the shirt they normally have under their jersey thus no number to identify them by) and a few balls I barely missed out on. To me this was a sign that I should leave for the flag court once people started arriving that didn’t have season tickets.
This was a good choice. When I arrived in the flag court the group including Russell Branyan started hitting. For those who don’t know, Russell Branyan is a DH type hitter that has enormous amounts of power but just doesn’t do much else. He did not disappoint.
My first ball from him came when he launched a ball to the deepest part of the ballpark that could still be considered the flag court. Here is the view from where the ball struck the fence:
Can you see now what I mean? A foot further to the left and that ball is in the center field section. Thankfully it hit off the bottom of the fence and became a slow grounder back to me.
The second ball was an absolute blast:
To explain, the ball hit off of the canopy over Boog’s grill, bounced to the right, dribbled into the Weed & Lemonade stand (not pictured) where I picked it up.
The third and final ball I got out there was also hit by Russell Branyan and was also a bomb:
The right most pair of dotted arrows are the balls path wile the pair of solid arrows are my path to the ball. The ball bounced off of the railing so quickly I had to barehand the ball directly of the metal with my right hand. It hurt a bit but it was worth it. However, it might have caused me to miss out on another ball depicted by the dotted arrows on the left. Branyan hit yet another ball to near the top of the fence, because the last ball had ricocheted so quickly, I played a little further back and waited for the bounce but the ball went perfectly between the bars and someone else grabbed it.
Moving over to foul ground when Branyan wasn’t up, I was hoping to get a ball tossed to me but after getting completely ignored by a coach who was the only one shagging balls in that part of right field, I gave up as that was probably it for me over there. I then went over to center field:
right center was pretty dead because of those Angels fans but left center could have brought me something but others had the same idea as me:
We were now in Angels bp so you can find a ballhawk by looking for a red or yellow shirt. Anyway, as I was putting away my phone from that picture and grabbing my cup of free ice the Orioles were providing, I heard the slight roar and saw people moving like they were getting ready for a fly ball. I looked up and a ball was going right to my left. It bounced into a seat and I started running after it but another kid in a grey shirt plucked it out of the seat. I was really mad. Had I been paying attention, that would have been an *very* easy catch to make. That was it nothing else for bp.
For the game, I stood out in the flag court once more:
as my second goal- after getting one ball this day- was catching a Home Run on ballhawk fest. Wait… before I get too far from that picture, let me recount all the balls I gave away this day.
1. In center field, I saw a kid after batting practice who had a glove and asked him if he had caught a ball. He said no and I handed him one.
2. I saw he had a brother or friend with him and so I gave one to him too. These two were the last two balls I caught from Branyan.
3+4. The guy pointing and the guy in purple started off their stay in the flag court by telling me and Alex (standing to the right of those guys) that they were going to catch any ball hit into the section but once we started talking they showed some genuine appreciation/awe for us ballhawking and started to talk further to us. They then both asked if they could buy a ball off of me for a dollar each. Normally, the answer would be a definite no but since they showed such an interest I didn’t mind getting ripped off, as baseballs go for about $10 in the stores, and selling two of my baseballs as it *definitely * was not for the money. As far as I was concerned, this would be the best day for spreading the news of what ballhawking was because there were so many at the ballpark and I had my attention grabbing Ballhawk Fest T-Shirt on. The balls I gave away were my Derrek Lee ball and ball #4 that I think was hit by J.J. Hardy. This quickly turned into Jason Giambi and Derek Jeter by the time the guys got back to their friends.
After batting practice, I was in the lead in terms of baseballs caught at ballhawk fest. Leading Zack Hample by a margin of 7-5. Just before the game, that shrunk to 7-6. As nice as it would have been to widen the gap and surely get the most baseballs at the first ballhawk fest by sitting in a more ball friendly spot, I was sticking with my plan as I would have NEVER been able to forget a Home Run that would have gone into the flag court had I not been there. So, this was my view for the rest of the game:
Actually no, that would have been an improvement on my view of the game. For ballhawking purposes, I was about twenty feet behind this spot and as a result couldn’t see any of the game minus whatever replays and such showed up on the scoreboard. The closest ball I came to was a foul ball that Bobby Abreu pulled just to the right of the foul pole (looking from Abreu’s perspective). I had no chance at it. The only reason I was up there was because it was the second day of two righty pitchers starting and I figured the line-ups would be lefty heavy. Out of the 18 batters, 8 were lefty. So I was stuck on 7 balls. In the middle of the game, I had heard that Zack had caught a foul ball and we were tied from Alan Schuster. I would have tried for an umpire but the game was so close that I was just sensing a go ahead Home Run by Russell Branyan but alas, it never came. That was it.
I then went over to the Angels dugout for the closing pictures and such:
The yellow was definitely flying. Oh and by the way, that is Jeremy Evans in the Orioles hat between Alan (in the white hat) and the person in orangeish getting out of their seat.
Overall I would say it was a VERY fun and similarly exhausting day. In the end, I did end up being the co-leader for the first annual ballhawk fest. That might just have to go on my resume for my first job application.
- 7 balls at this game (3 picture because I “gave” four away)
numbers 149-155 for my career:
- 49 straight games with at least 1 ball
- 18 straight doing so on the road
- 14 straight games with at least 2 balls
- 6 straight games with at least 5 balls (could I maintain this streak the next day with no batting practice? No one comment on this if you have seen my mygameballs profile)
- 3 straight games with at least 6 balls
- 2 straight games with at least 7 balls (sorry have to get them out of the way while I still have them)
- 7 balls* 20,311 fans= 142,177 competition factor
- Time at game 4:18- 9:46= 5 hours 28 minutes