In 2013 I attended my first ever “true” Opening Day at Target Field. Having experienced that, I can see why MLB would not want to truly start the season in Minnesota for a while. It was below 30 degrees when the gates opened and didn’t get much better throughout the game.
In 2014, I continued my tradition of going to the Twins’ home opener, though when they took on the Oakland Athletics to start the Target Field year. I thought that Gate 34 would be a mess of people, so I headed to the center field gate, Gate 3 (for Harmon Killebrew) instead:
And much to my surprise, I got to see a different Twins legend there:
If you can’t tell who that is, let me zoom in a little for you:
That would be Baseball Hall-of-Famer, Bert Blyleven, who came out to gate 3 to greet fans as they entered the gate. I got to shake his hand and then took these pictures as he moved down the line of fans. Speaking of fans, it was the home opener. That means that there was an atypically-large crowd present. Not as big as I thought it would be, but big enough:
This worried me a little, but I had already come to the conclusion that while it would be a tough game to snag at due to the Opening Day crowd, I would get a couple baseballs from it being the Athletics, since I had gotten I believe seven baseballs the last game they had been at Target Field. I was kind of wrong about it, but we’ll get to that later. For now, here’s the view when I got to the left field bleachers:
And because it was the home opener, the other fans came quickly behind. Here was the bleachers within the first five minutes:
Not much, but I’m used to having only a couple of people to beat out in the left field bleachers in the first five minutes, so I just had a little less room than I normally did to work with. But I made the most of it. Or at least something of it as I caught a ball hit by Josh Willingham a couple of steps from my usual spot in left:
It was around then that my then-roommate, Sean, showed up:
As you can see, he really had by that point been desensitized to me snagging baseballs. I think it might have occurred when he and another friend tried briefly to shut me out for the game–before I was then able to snag nine baseballs that game. While he also doesn’t usually partake in the process of documenting my games, he aided by doing a little video work.
I moved to right field and…well there wasn’t much. Sean did take a video of me sharing my lack of excitement for Nick Punto as a batting practice hitter as well as an update video, but WordPress doesn’t allow me to add videos, so I’ll cut to the chase: The Willigham was the only ball I got.
So Sean and I went to the right field standing room for the national anthem:
Where I also managed to get a t-shirt from the t-shirt gun that TC Bear (the Twins’ awesome mascot, for those who are unaware) shot it from to me:
(Forgive the fuzziness of the foreground objects.)
Then I was able to experience something really nice/sad at the same time. Major League Baseball has a partnership with a charity by the name of Stand Up To Cancer. As a result of this, there will be certain games in which they have plugs for the organization/the cause they look to fight for. Since it was the home opener, they handed out signs at the gates. These signs were for people to write in the name of a person in their life affected by cancer whom they “stand up” for:
As you can’t read on the scoreboard (unless you clicked on the image and zoomed in), this was to take place at the end of the second inning where everyone would stand up and hold their signs up to recognize that almost everyone’s life is affected in one way or another by cancer–with the charity’s objective being to end the disease. Here is a picture of the stadium once this took place, which can give you a little bit of idea as to how it was when it actually happened with all of the signs lifted up:
With Terry Ryan having been diagnosed with squamous-cell carcinoma (a type of cancer) just two months prior in the offseason, many of the signs–particularly of the players–were dedicated to him. Others paid tribute to cancer’s effect on the Twins by writing Harmon Killebrew who had died almost three years earlier. Instead, I wrote the name of someone whose death preceded Harmon’s by just two or three hours:
And after that, there was one other thing I had to do. I had gotten some temporary tattoos, and for those who didn’t click the link I had on his name, Sean is a pretty big White Sox fan. He’s originally from a southern suburb of Chicago, so I forgave him enough to be roommates with him for a year. The opportunity to get him completely “Twins-ed” out was just too tempting. The result was the following:
He wasn’t thrilled to have to deal with the fallout from me inevitably posting the picture on social media his friends would see, but he was semi-cooperative once I started taking a burst of pictures by not ducking out of the frame.
We then got a picture together on the second level of the right field seats:
And that’s where I’ll end the entry. Normally I do a “STATS” section at the end of entries, but I will skip that for all of the games I write about having gone to in 2014 because it is now 2015 as I write this. If you really want some ballhawking statistics about myself (or the majority of all ballawks in the country), go to mygameballs.com. Here is the link to my individual profile from which you can stalk me.
Every year I do a statistical recap of my season from a Ballhawking perspective. Here is my version for the 2013 season. As always with these entries, feel free to leave any statistics you think I should include in the comments of the entry. But without further ado, here are the 2013 numbers:
Baseballs (B): 317 (5th on MGB(MyGameBalls.com))
Games (G): 64 (T-7th on MGB)
Balls Per Game (BPG): 4.95 (13th on MGB.)
Double-Digit Games (G10+): 6 (T-5th on MGB)
Game Balls (GB): 2 (T-28th on MGB)
Hit Balls (HB): 77
Hit Balls Per Game (HPG): 1.20
Balls Caught On The Fly (COF): 44
Balls Caught On Fly Per Game (CPG): 0.69
Thrown Balls (TB): 222
Thrown Balls Per Game (TPG): 3.47
Easter Eggs (EE): 8
Easter Eggs Per Game (EPG): 0.13
Cup Trick Balls (CT): 10
Cup Trick Balls Per Game (CtPG): 0.16
Balls During The Game: 12
Balls After The Game: 34
Average Competition Factor (ACF): 141,518 (14th on MGB)
High: 11 (T-11th on MGB)
And here are my 2012 numbers along with my 2013 number and percentage increase or decrease in that statistical category in 2013 in the parentheses:
Baseballs (B): 223 (317; +42.2%)
Games (G): 53 (64; +20.8%)
Balls Per Game (BPG): 4.21 (4.95; +17.6%)
Double-Digit Games (G10+): 1 (6; +500%)
Game Balls (GB): 3 (2; -33%)
Hit Balls (HB): 94 (77; -18.1%)
Hit Balls Per Game (HPG): 1.77 (1.20; -32.2%)
Balls Caught On The Fly (COF): 41 (44; +7.3%)
Balls Caught On Fly Per Game (CPG): 0.77 (0.69; -10.4%)
Thrown Balls (TB): 119 (222; +86.6%)
Thrown Balls Per Game (TPG): 2.25 (3.47; +54.2%)
Easter Eggs (EE): 7 (8; +14.3%)
Easter Eggs Per Game (EPG): 0.13 (0.13; 0%)
Glove Trick Balls (GT): 3 (10; +233.3%)
Glove Trick Balls Per Game (GPG): 0.06 (0.16; +166.7%)
Balls During The Game: 5 (12; +140%)
Balls After The Game: 16 (34; +112.5%)
Average Competition Factor (ACF): 143,718 (141,518; -1.5%)
High: 11 (11; 0%)
Overall Snag Tracker:
Stats Broken Down By Month:
Balls broken down by Stadium:
B: 146 (1)
G: 24 (1)
HB: 32 (1)
COF: 3 (T-1)
TB: 112 (1)
EE: 2 (T-1)
BPG: 6.08 (2)
Snag Trackers for just hit baseballs:
Snag Trackers for just thrown baseballs:
B: 68 (2)
Snag Trackers for Nationals Park:
Snag Trackers for hit baseballs:
Snag Trackers for thrown baseballs:
Oriole Park at Camden Yards-
B: 65 (5)
Snag Tracker for hit baseballs:
Thrown baseballs snag tracker:
New Yankee Stadium-
B: 15 (5)
Hit baseball snag trackers:
Throw baseball snag trackers:
B: 14 (T-11)
Hit baseball snag tracker:
Thrown baseball snag tracker:
Citizens Bank Park-
B: 5 (T-14)
U.S. Cellular Field-
B: 4 (T-13)
Additionally, let’s take a look at how I did with every ballhawk in 2013 that I attended three or more games with:
Versus Alex Kopp:
Versus Chris Hernandez:
Versus Grant Edrington:
Versus Garrett Meyer:
Versus Greg Barasch:
Versus Tim Anderson:
Versus John Lisankie:
Versus Rick Gold:
Versus Paul Kom:
Versus Ben Weil:
Versus Tony Voda:
Versus Zack Hample:
And now, let’s see how I stacked up in terms of my 2013 ballhawking goals:
I first got this idea when Ballhawk Shawn did this entry on the last day of the regular season. So now that it’s actually Thanksgiving (as I wrote the first part of the entry. I suck at getting things done on time. Plus I’m working on four projects at a time in addition to being a full-time college student in the midst of the end-of-semester panic.) and Tony Voda wrote a similar entry, I thought I would do the same for the people I have met this year and I owe a thank you. So thank you to all of the people that I mention in this entry and any others I don’t have time to include but I interacted with this season. You all made this the most special baseball season of my present life. In no particular order…
1. Alex Kopp and Avi Miller– Thank you so much for not only being good friends to greet and make my experience at OPaCY ten times what would have been otherwise, but it also takes great friends to allow someone to stay with them for the equivalent of weeks. Without them I definitely wouldn’t have been able to make 64 games this season since I would have been confined to just Nationals Park during the summer. Also, it was a ton of fun getting to stay and hang out with them. This applies to both of them but in different ways. Avi stayed up until the darkest hours as he, myself, and his sister watched MLB Network or whatever. I spent less time with Alex, but any time I spent between games with him was so much more appreciated since he had to wake up at 6:00 each morning to get to work in order to get off work in enough time to barely make the 5:00 OPaCY gate opening time. I’m sure you are aware of this, but you are welcome to stay with me whenever you need to do so. Thank you, Alex and Avi.
2. Chris Hernandez– It was for a night and technically his girlfriend’s house, but I am again thankful for friends who allow me to stay with them even if for one night. Those couple of days along with your trip here to Washington were a blast to spend with you. It was nice seeing you at more ballparks this season than any other person. Thank you
3. Todd, Tim, and Kellan Cook– Although we were only able to meet up fro two games this season, both were a ton of fun to attend. I would say you guys made added the most fun above replacement per game of any other family in the league. (Sorry; couldn’t resist.) But anyway, thank you
4. Greg Barasch– Although this is the first season not being next-door neighbors any more, that didn’t stop you from being nice and housing me several days and being the only person I know who enjoys playing catch and looking at ballhawk statistics as much as me. Thank you.
5. Ben Weil– Since I was now in Washington, we didn’t get to meet up as often as in past years. But in the, what, four different cities, we were able to meet, it was a blast each time. I’m glad especially thank I was kind of able to be a part of two special moments with you around. Thank you.
6. Zack Hample– Again like Ben, we were only able to meet up with you a couple of times in various different cities. And also like him, you were a part of some particularly large events of mine this summer. Unlike Ben, though, you were a couple of times the reason for the events. You were nice enough to invite me to witness your world record-breaking catch, and I can not thank you enough for being the reason I am a ballhawk, and thus the event known as BallhawkFest. Thank you.
7. Grant Edrington, Ed Lauer, and Tim Anderson– Although you guys didn’t house me during my days going to games at OPaCY and you guys made it maybe a less special place to ballhawk at, you made that community the best one I have ever experienced on a day-in, day-out basis.
8. Paul Kom and Tony Voda– I say day-in, day-out basis, because while we are a smaller community who doesn’t show up to every game, we’ve built a nice community here in Minnesota. Hopefully we can meet up sometime during the winter when our common hobby of snagging baseballs isn’t pulling us every five minutes in different directions and we can actually stay together and talk in person. (Psst. I suggest another sporting event since Paul is doing his entry series and/or Twinsfest. I still don’t know how that’ll work with the outdoor venue this year.) Thank you.
9. Rick Gold and Dave Butler- I don’t know if we count as a “community,” but it was fun getting to hang out with you two at Nationals Park. Rick, I don’t usually go up and ask ballhawks questions directly, but I would say you are the person I have learned the most about ballhawking through observation. Due to weird schedules on both of our parts, we didn’t meet up in ridiculously long stretches like 2012, but it was still great sharing the ballparks we shared this year. Although I saw you at many games last season, it wasn’t until this year that I felt like I really got to know you, Dave. In talking to you and just sharing Nationals Park with you plenty of times this year, it was a pleasure to get to know you and have a friend that I pretty much knew was going to show up to the ballpark. Thank you.
10. Takyi Chan- It’s odd to put an after-season thank you in for a person that you didn’t see all year, but it was very nice keeping in touch with you despite not being able to meet up with you at all during the year. I am disappointed that we couldn’t, but again, I appreciate the effort to keep in touch. Also, if I had a daughter in college, I would also value that over going to baseball games. Thank you.
11. Jonathan Mueller– Even though you “only” went to six of the same games as me, you probably had the biggest impact on this blog in specifically three of those games. I’ve always wanted to be able to get action shots during batting practice, and you really don’t know how nice it was to have someone who could handle and take pictures with the camera. I truly do I appreciate what you did by taking pictures those games. Thank you.
12. Sean Bigness– At the beginning of the season you weren’t, but being my now-roommate, thank you for keeping me sane and not completely internet-entranced by providing an immediately available friend who I could talk about baseball with and not completely annoy within the first three minutes of the conversation. I think as baseball-lovers we can relate to the fact that not everyone out there loves it as much as we do. Thank you.
13. Ballhawk Shawn– It was really nice meeting you for the first time at US Cellular. Hopefully we can talk a bit more this offseason. Speaking of which: Where yo’ collab ideas at?! We’re running out of offseason to work with! But anyways, thank you.
14. Garrett Meyer- Similar to Shawn, it was really nice meeting up with you in Baltimore and getting to talk at Alex’s place after missing you in 2012. Sorry I couldn’t take you up on that offer to go to a Royals game, but logistics got in the way of being able to physically get to Kauffman when a Royals game was taking place. Regardless, thank you.
15. Rocco Sinisi- While I ultimately ended up disagreeing with you more than I agreed and felt you could have done so in a different way, you did make me question what ballhawking really is about and how we should go abotu recognizing those who partake in the hobby. Thank you.
16. The ushers at OPaCY, Nationals Park, and Target Field- While two thirds of you may have bad reputations nationally, coming from primarily New York stadiums in 2012 to having you three as my primary stadiums in 2013 was a much nicer experience since all of you ushers were very kind to me. Now I realize that I went out of my way to make ties with you ushers, but the fact that you allowed me to do so despite the fact that I was a ball snagger is still a credit to your niceness. Thank you.
17. Stubhub and OPaCY season ticket holders- I realize I mentioned all of the latter by name earlier, but this duo I’m thank you for making a hobby that everyone thinks would be extremely expensive into a hobby that is only kinda expensive. So for saving me much of the monies, thank you.
18. Every player who I saw toss a ball up in 2013- I don’t care whether it was to me or to a kid, if it was with a smile, or even if you meant to do it, tossing a baseball to a sometimes-suspecting fan is part of what makes baseball great and distances it from all other sports out there. So great, in fact, that there is a sub-culture surrounding simply the collection of these baseballs. So for being a part of this phenomenon, thank you.
19. All of the Twitter peoples- I feel like I neglect you/we don’t get to talk much sometimes, but whenever we do get engaged in conversation, it seems to mostly be for the better and go well. Including, but not limited to Andrew Miller, for being the reason this entry was published when it was. Thank you.
20. All of the commenters here- I know that I don’t get to responding to the comments as quickly as I should, but I really thing it is a great and awesome thing when you guys leave comments and we are able to have a conversation in the comments section of an entry I post. I hope we can develop the comments sections of these entries in the future. Thank you.
When I woke up for this game, I knew that all of my nightmares had been true. See most people have a nightmare about oversleeping an exam or job interview. Well I have nightmares of oversleeping a baseball game. It wasn’t exactly that bad, but I woke up late enough where I knew that I had time only to get my bag ready, get out the door, and sprint to the nearest major city bus stop, which was almost a mile away. I then realized realized mid-trip that I had taken the wrong bus, and that this one wouldn’t take me to Target Field. I had to get off this bus to run to the light rail, which then somehow got me to the game less than half-an-hour after the gates opened. And when I got in, I was greeted with a most welcome surprise:
Maybe you can’t tell, but there was batting practice going on. Unlike some teams, the Twins–as I have learned from the ushers–never take batting practice on Sundays, so the visiting team usually follows suit and forgoes it as well. However, the Indians had a possibility of a Wild Card game the next day, they had to stay sharp and take batting practice.
Upon entering the stadium, it took me less than five minutes to get a baseball. I have no clue who the who tossed it to me was since he was a coach-type person who isn’t on the roster, but it was good for my first ball of the day:
My next ball came when the Indians pitchers were throwing down the left field line. Again, I don’t know the name of the man who threw me the ball, but I can say that he was an Indians relief pitcher:
After that, I headed back up to the flag court. There I quickly got and gave away a Jason Kubel homer. And that was it for me for batting practice. After which, I headed to the bullpen. There Scott Diamond was just getting to the bullpen. I also met a ballhawk whose nickname is “Panda.” We had met several times at the dugout after games as we were both going for an umpire ball, where he actually instructed me to call him Panda. Anyway, he has always been nice, so we struck up a conversation there. During this I got both Scott Diamond and Rick Anderson to wave at me, so I figured that I had the ball in the bag if either of them ended up with the ball. Surely enough, Rick Anderson ended up with the ball, so I called out when he was high-fiving the other pitchers; and with an assist from Jared Burton, I got the ball:
And then it was time for the game itself. Like the previous game, (click the “previous entry” button at the bottom of this entry if you’re on the page for this entry only, or click on the title of this entry and then do that if you want to read that entry) the Twins were again doing the “autographed baseball every inning” thing, so I did that every at the bottom of every inning and positioned myself at the Twins dugout at the top of every inning to try to get a third-out ball. At the top of the first inning, the Twins sent this tweet out:
I had been at the team store by Gate 29 at that time, so I sprinted to the flag pole. I got there only about ten seconds after the tweet had been sent out, but there was already a sea of people with phones. (Well like five, but it might as well have been given how quickly I got there.) All of them were looking up and down at the flag pole area and then their phones in confusion. I didn’t see anyone with a ball fleeing the scene, so I assumed that the prize had not been given out yet. Using my previous experience with the contest, I figured the representative hadn’t yet arrived with the ball. So I looked around for a person with credentials hanging from his/her neck. And then I saw a woman that matched this description perfectly walking from my right. Before anyone could even realize what I was doing, I had claimed the ball. I know that there were definitely people who hadn’t seen me get the ball at all because two asked me after the fact if the ball had already been claimed by someone.
My next ball came at the Twins dugout. After several innings of trying, I finally got a Twin to toss me a third-out ball. Clete Thomas, who was the left fielder, made a catch for the third out. When he jogged back to the dugout, I thought there was no chance that I’d get the ball, since I was behind a crowd of five kids, so I backed up a little and took advantage of the fact that I was the only one actually with Twins gear on. Not expecting him to actually toss me the ball, I waved my arms. And he lobbed the ball perfectly enough that it just barely cleared the kids’ gloves and landed in my glove for the basket catch. But I then pulled out a ball from my backpack and gave it to one of the kids.
Then when I finally stopped going after the autographed baseballs, I went to the Indians dugout and got Yan Gomes to toss me a third-out strike out ball. It was the first time I’ve ever been able to adjust to the strike out ball. Usually I’m committed hard to the third-out ball on the outfield end of the dugout, so I miss the strike out third-out ball. This time, though, I was able to identify the fact that it was a strike out, go to the back of the section, and run down the proper staircase in time for Gomes to see my Indians attire:
Suffice to say I was proud of myself. However, I wasn’t able to get any of the other players from the two teams to toss me a third-out ball, so my next baseball wouldn’t come until the game had ended.
Unfortunately, the Twins were unable to win and force the first ever-three way Wild Card situation, so the Indians were on the field celebrating after the game:
The good thing about this, though, was that after C.C.Lee tossed me a ball at the dugout, Vinnie Pestano–who was walking right behind Lee and of course saw me get the first ball–tossed me a second ball without me even asking:
Little did I know at the time, but the first of these was my 200th ball ever at Target Field. This made it the first stadium I’ve snagged 200 balls at, and it put me at nine for the day. Had I been able to get to the outfield end of the dugout in time, I might have ended the day with 14 baseballs by how many the two bullpen catcher were throwing into the stands. But because of the amount of people who stayed because of the celebration, the area was packed and couldn’t get to that side in time. Instead I decided to try to get on the Twins side in case they were to throw up any miscellaneous items they no longer needed for the offseason. I didn’t make it in time for that, but I did get Panda to take my picture with the remaining six baseballs:
Now you may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned giving away three baseballs in the entry thus far. That’s because I don’t remember which baseballs I gave away before this point. This is because after this point I resolved to give away baseballs who had been nice to me all year. But before that, I made sure to run into Tony Voda for one last time. I don’t think I mentioned him before this point in the entry, but he was indeed there, and had an amazing game in his own regard. (To find out how, click his name, which will take you to his entry for this game.)
Now you may notice (1. That Tony is dressed up like Waldo. I’d like to explain it, but I think it’s best if you just imagine why he did it. I mean, it is pretty self-explanatory. But also…) that I have something made out to myself. Tony had been in the behind-home-plate club earlier in the game. So when I passed by on the Twins dugout side to talk to him, he handed that to me. You see, he did something in April of this year that was pretty awesome. He asked his readers (which I include myself in) if they wanted a hand-written copy of the entry he was going to write, and this (these words are a link to the contents of the envelope you see in the last picture) was the result. After that, I went to the ushers in that I most liked and gave away all but two of my baseballs. The two I kept were the one signed by Bert Blyleven and my 756 career baseball, because I thought it’d be fun to keep the ball that tied me with Barry Bonds if each of my baseballs were a major league home run. After which, I went on my way, but not before I took a final picture at Gate 34 with the Bert Blyleven ball:
And then got on the bus where I read the Events Operations Guide that one of the ushers gave me as a parting gift:
And with that I rode off into the sunset (literally) back to my apartment.
- 9 Balls at this Game (2 pictured because I gave 7 away)
- 317 Balls in 64 Games= 4.95 Balls Per Game
- 9 Balls x 30,935 Fans= 278,415 Competition Factor
- 126 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 31 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 5 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
- 201 Balls in 38 Games at Target Field= 5.29 Balls Per Game
- 36 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 16 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- 5 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 11:15-5:30= 6 Hours 15 Minutes
And to wrap up this entry, which was for my last game of the season, I would like to write to end with this preliminary forecast of what is to come. Obviously I can’t tell the future, and I do love ballhawking. However, this shall be my last season of full-time ballhawking for the foreseeable future. I have been trying to do it as long as I can, but with this being my sophomore year of college, I think it’s time for me to start doing something work-related during my summers instead of spending it going to baseball games and then writing about them. Not to say there’s anything wrong with it; Go ahead and do that for as long as you can. But with the “work” world readily approaching, it seems like I need to get an internship or something related. This coming Tuesday I have a face-to-face interview at Target Field regarding a Baseball Operations position. I feel as though I am a really good candidate for the position, but there are also–I’m sure–many other VERY qualified candidates. So if I get this internship, I will be working that the whole summer and will then almost definitely not going to any Twins games as a ballhawk, but I may be able to attend other teams’ home games. If I don’t get that internship, my next option would be to try to get an internship with the St. Paul Saints, but I’ve heard those are very time-demanding, so I don’t know which games I could even try to make.
As for the offseason, I plan to make it pretty much the same as last year. So I will post my review of my season ballhawking next, and then I’ll make a video of the entry ideas I have for the winter and you’ll vote throughout the offseason as to which entries you want to read. (I’ll explain the details more clearly in the video.) I’ll probably be blogging 1-2 times per week until I run out of offseason to do so. Past that I have no clue what I’ll be writing about, but rest assured that I will be writing about something. So until then, thank you for reading this season, and we’ll see where this blog is when the 2014 season rolls around:
In my second-to-last game of the season, look who decided to join me at an unfamiliar gate:
It was Paul Kom. Actually, though, there are a couple odd things with this picture. Yes, we were both at a gate very foreign to the both of us, but 1. You may notice I’m pointing to my glove. I decided to go with a catcher’s mitt this game instead of my lefty glove. 2. We thought of this idea completely independently of each other. You see there was also another person joining us for this game, my friend Jonathan Mueller. You may remember him best as the person who joined me on the night I snagged my only home run off the bat of Trevor Plouffe. Well Jonathan and I both walked from the University of Minnesota campus. In doing so, we almost *had* to pass by Gate 34. In doing so, I saw Paul and the man most commonly known as “Waldo”, formerly know as Greg Dryden:
It was at that point that I informed Jonathan we were going to go to Gate 6 in right field. I made the decision that I didn’t want to compete with both of them in right field as the gates opened, so I was going to go to left field. I decided to go to Gate 6 since I had seen the people from there get into the left field seats faster than myself the last few times when I came from Gate 3 in center field. Less than a minute after getting there, I got a text message from Paul asking me if I had gotten to the stadium yet. This inquiry quickly led to him telling me that he planned to come to Gate 6. Keep in mind that he had no clue I was there.
Once we got in, I quickly ran into the left field seats whereas Paul went first to the seats down the left field line. The result? A quick 1-0 Mateo lead. As I was running down the steps of the left field seats, a Twins righty hit a ball in the first section from the foul pole. I COMPLETELY lost the ball in the sun, so I ducked for cover instead of running towards the spot I thought the ball was going to land, but when it did land, I ran over and grabbed it for my first ball of the day:
Or maybe I was just telling him what Shairon Martis’ name is. I’m not really sure which.
Then when the Indians started throwing down the left field line, I headed over there. There, I got Michael Brantley to toss me a ball. Extra-super special e-shoutout on Twitter to whoever can find the ball in this next picture:
Here’s a hint:
I then headed out to the flag court where I did a bunch of running after baseballs like this one:
Only one of which I actually ended up getting. Here’s a four-picture collage I put together to show you what happened:
Top left: Me seeing the ball bounce off the concrete past the guy who was in front of me.
Top right: Looking up at now again-airborne ball as it floated through the air.
Bottom left: Me watching the ball that is now on its descent and in the frame of the picture hoping that my catcher’s glove would be able to make the catch.
Bottom right: Nor with all of the eyes out on the flag court on me, making the catch–much to the chagrin of the guy pursuing the ball from behind.
My next two baseballs came from the same person. When I went to the right-center field seats, there was a kid there who asked Chris Perez for a ball. When Perez threw it into the flower bush, I ran down, and made it very clear that I gave the ball to the kid after pulling it out of the flowers. As a “reward” for doing this, Perez then tossed me the next ball he fielded:
Coincidentally, Jonathan took a picture at this same exact moment:
And that would be my last ball of batting practice.
After BP, all three of us–myself, Jonathan, and Paul–went to the bullpen. Both Paul and I got one of these there:
If you can’t tell the autograph, I got mine from Anthony Swarzak. I don’t remember who tossed Paul his two. Let me explain what these balls are and why I didn’t count this as a “snag.” Every fan appreciation weekend of the year, the Twins each sign one of these tee balls and toss them into a random part of the crowd. I didn’t count mine because while it did come Anthony Swarzak, a major league pitcher, it was still a tee ball and felt cheap.
We then decided to all stay in the left field seats and play home runs for the game. In the second inning, though, I looked at my Twitter timeline and noticed that the Twins sent out this tweet:
Granted, we had already missed the first two innings of the contest at that point, but I still asked both Paul and Jonathan if they wanted to do it. They did, and actually got three of the baseballs to my none. Paul got the first two baseballs after we started:
And Jonathan was in the right spot and was able to get the final autograph ball:
We then went to the flag court and took advantage of another perk of Fan Appreciation Weekend. When we saw a Target Field employee with a box, we realized that it was them about to hand out some sort of prize to the section on behalf of some Twins player. Because of what we thought was going to happen, I went and sat down in the section right before the inning break. And as a result, I got a bag of Cracker Jack:
But I wasn’t the only one. Jonathan was smart enough to act on my observation as well and got a bag for himself:
And that was it for the excitement during the game. After the game, all three of us headed down to the dugout. Paul and I tried for an umpire ball. Here’s a shot Jonathan got of both myself and Paul asking home plate umpire Tony Randazzo for a ball. (I’m on the far left and Paul’s on the far right.)
Good for us, both were able to get a ball from him:
But don’t feel bad for Jonathan. In looking through the seats for ticket stubs to send to my friend Avi Miller, I found this for him:
And with that upside-down bag of chips, all of us left to go to Paul’s car, and we all went home; Paul staying at my apartment for the night before heading of to the game the next afternoon.
- 6 Balls on the Game (5 pictured because I gave 1 away)
- 308 Balls in 63 Games= 4.89 Balls Per Game
- 6 Balls x 24,074 Fans= 144,444 Competition Factor
- 125 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 30 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 4 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 6 Balls
- 192 Balls in 37 Games at Target Field= 5.19 Balls Per Game
- 35 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 15 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- 4 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 6 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:45-1:14= 9 Hours 29 Minutes
While I was expecting to see him at the game, I’m kind of glad I went to see Tony Voda at Gate 29 when I didn’t see him as I got to Gate 34:
This is because as I started talking to him when he was waiting for the early batting practice for season ticket holders, the Twins employee who is in charge of the early batting practice came up to the both of us, and I got this:
I guess he just assumed I was there to get into early batting practice, so he handed me the pass to get in. Just like that I was going to get in for batting practice an hour earlier than normal. Awesome. They actually brought us in the stadium a little earlier than that. Here’s where we were at about 4:15:
And by before 4:30, I had this in hand:
As Ryan Pressly was done and headed to the ball bag with his baseball, I called out to him and he tossed me that baseball. I think that may be the earliest I’ve ever snagged a baseball at Target Field. Since I didn’t want too many Twins pitchers seeing me get a baseball before they spread out to cover the whole outfield, I just sat back and saw Tony get a ball tossed to him by a Twins player. Who? I’ll give you one hint:
I then got a ball while the Twins pitchers were still throwing, but that’s because it wasn’t intended for me. Shairon Martis identified the girl in this next pitcher as a worthy recipient, but he underthrew her; so I reached out into the flower pots to get the ball and hand it to her:
Since I was thinking about getting season tickets when this game happened, I knew going to early BP a lot was a real possibility, so I made my goal to give away half of my baseballs while we were the only people in the stadium. My next ball came not on the left part of the overhang section, but on the right. Since I was the only one to see him field the ball, I was the only one to ask Mike Pelfrey for a ball and got him to toss it to me:
My fourth ball felt pretty good since I got it tossed to me over someone. When Oswaldo Arcia fielded a ball in the outfield, I called out to him by name. When he turned around, I was in about the third row of the section, but there was a guy in the first row almost directly between Oswaldo and myself. So what I did was pointed at my glove and ran back three rows. At this point, the man realized Arcia was looking back at him and thought he was going to toss him the baseball, but that’s when Arcia tossed the ball over his head and right to me:
The guy was so sure that the ball was intended for him–but thankfully not in an angry way–that he talked to me at the end of early batting practice (not knowing that I was the same person who had snagged the ball earlier) and told me that Arcia had tossed him a ball but overthrown him and “another guy got it.” I then gave this ball to what was surprisingly the only kid (and there were like seven kids there) who had not yet gotten a ball.
My next ball was the only hit ball I got while the Twins were hitting. I’m not sure who it was, but I caught the ball on the fly towards the right part of the center section in the overhang. (There are three sections in the overhang even though I sometimes refer to the overhang as a whole as a single section.)
Then when the Indians started to hit and the rest of the stadium opened, Tony left the right field seats and headed over to the left field line. I decided that the group hitting, along with the crowding that would take place if we both went to the same spot were grounds enough for me to stay in the right field seats for a couple more minutes. But it only took a matter of seconds after Tony left to affirm the decision. Michael Brantley hit a ball to my left (I was in the right-most section in the overhang.) so I ran in the row at the back of the section and caught it:
That spot is where you’ll see I put the “1” on. As I caught the ball, an older couple in the second row made a comment about the catch (I can’t remember what it was since I write this over a month after the fact, but I hopped down into the second row to talk to them) Brantley then hit that very pitch even further to to my left, so I ran a few steps over and caught the ball:
I proceeded to talked to them, and ended up giving the wife of the couple what I think was the first of the two Brantley balls, but I couldn’t tell since I had both of them in my possession at the same time, and they might’ve gotten mixed up.
I then talked to the guy who the Arcia ball had gone over the head of, and I told him that since he hadn’t gotten a ball in early BP, I would give him the next baseball I snagged. So when I got Danny Salazarto toss me a ball in the right-center field seats, I went back to the right field seats just ot give the man the ball:
I then headed back to the right-center field seats. There I got Brad Mills to toss me a ball in the corner spot by the batter’s eye after a couple minutes of pestering him semi-frequently:
I gave this ball away to an usher who has always been nice to me. I instructed him to give the ball away to the first kid with a glove to pass him:
Little did I know, this was my 300th baseball of 2013. This is mildly relevant because it marked the first time I have ever snagged 300 baseballs in a season. This also began a mini “giving away” spree for me as I then did the same thing with to this kid who missed a home run out on the flag court–which, to be fair, I also missed:
But wait, what ball did I give the kid. I mean I guess you assumed that I gave him one of the baseballs I had snagged earlier, but I actually snagged and gave him my tenth ball of the game. I got Scott Kazmir to toss me a ball in the right field seats:
And that would be it for batting practice. My next baseball would come after the game and was thrown to me by Indians reliever Bryan Shaw as he went into the dugout:
I could’ve had my all-time record, but one of the Indians bullpen catchers–both of which are AMAZING for baseballs at the dugout after the game, by the way–Armando Camacarro tossed three baseballs to the guy just to my right as he entered the dugout.
And right after that, I waited for Tony to finish up his snagging things and got a free Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup from an attendant in the Legends Club, or whatever they call it at Target Field. (Pretty much every ballpark I spend any notable amount of time at besides OPaCY has a fancy-schmancy section of gated-community seating right behind home plate; all of which go by different names, so I don’t bother to remember which is which.)
After getting it, I just took in the fact that I was pretty much the only fan left inside a beautiful major league ballpark. (I had been there about twenty minutes after the final out had been recorded at this point.)
And then once Tony was done trying to get baseballs from dugout attendants, I finally headed out and got one last picture of Target Field in all of its majesty:
Four games down in the week, two still left to go.
- 11 Baseballs at this Game (5 pictured because I gave 6 away)
- 302 Balls in 62 Games= 4.87 Balls Per Game
- 11 Balls x 24,929 Fans= 274,219 Competition Factor
- 124 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 29 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 3 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
- 186 Balls in 36 Games at Target Field= 5.17 Balls Per Game
- 34 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 14 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- 3 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:12-12:14= 9 Hours 2 Minutes
As was my tradition toward the end of September, I got to the stadium before batting practice began and stood out by Gate 34 trying to get a long home run ball:
But then I went to Gate 3 about twenty minutes before the gates opened in order to be the first one in line over there:
When I got in, I quickly got Al Alburquerque to toss me a ball by being the only one in the left field seats who knew his name:
(He’s the one to the left of the group of two.) I then went on to miss a Torii Hunter home run ball. I tracked the ball about forty feet to my right, turned, and jumped for the ball, but it tipped off my glove and bounced to my side where another person got it. I was mad I couldn’t come down with the ball, but then almost the exact same scenario, so I started the exact same way:
But when I got to the point where I needed to turn and jump for the ball, I climbed on the bleacher, and thus had a much smaller jump to make and caught the ball. I then gave the ball away to the kid in the red. Usually he’d be too old for me to give him a ball, but he had a cast on his right leg, so I made an exception.
I then headed over to right field for the second group, which included Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. I first had a a near miss with a Prince Fielder ball. He bombed the ball over my head in the the standing room, so I bolted back and ran to the spot where the ball was headed:
But the ball took two bounces to a ticket scanner I was the person closest to the ball as the ticket scanner got it, so I stuck around for a second to see if he would give the ball to me; but I left when it became apparent that he was going to keep the ball for himself. For both Martinez and Fielder, this was my view:
And so when Martinez hit a ball that bounced off the wall you see in the lower left hand of the picture and bounced into the back row, I ran and picked it up. That would be my third and final ball of batting practice. I then gave the ball away as batting practice ended to a kid who had not tried hard but still had not gotten a ball all of batting practice.
As for the game, I was down in the “moat” of Target Field. And so, I decided to take a look inside of the third base lounge:
Considering how many times I had sat in the moat seats, it was kind of sad that the only time I had ever been there was when I was in the Race at Target Field mascot race. And then it was even just for a second since we were using it as a way of getting back to the -1 level concourse. Anyway, as I walked in, the view stayed familiar, since the door which I had exited through was immediately visible in front of me:
But when I turned my head to the right–which was much harder in a giant mosquito costume–I saw what I had previously missed on my last trip to the lounge:
Besides the overpriced food–which makes sense for the lounge’s usual clientele–it’s a neat place.
I then made it back out to the field for the Tigers infielders warming up. When they were done, I got Ramon Santiago to toss me my then-fourth ball of the game:
During the game I then played third-out balls. After several inning of trying, I was coming to accept the fact that I was never going to get one since I was playing the outfield end of the dugout and Max Scherzer was striking out pretty much every Twins player he got out. In about the fifth or sixth inning, though, he got the last Twin of the inning to pop the ball out to Miguel Cabrera. When Miggy headed to the dugout, I flashed my glove, and when he noticed my Tigers gear, he tossed me the ball:
And then the people who had been watching me go up to the dugout every third out and encouraged me every time offered to take my picture after I go the ball:
And that was it for snagging, but when the Tigers finally won the game, they had clinched the AL Central. So I got to experience my first ever postseason celebration:
It was fun in that I knew the Tigers were making the playoffs even if the Twins managed to sweep them, but it was still kind of not since it was the Tigers celebrating on our field. That said, it *was* my first ever time watching one of these celebrations, so I made sure to stick around for it. And with the amount kind-of-sad faces that stuck around, I’d say that was the general sentiment–except for, you know,all of those weirdo Tigers fans in attendance:
And so ended the Tigers series. Next up would be the Indians, who the Twins could potentially knock out of the playoffs. Three games down in the week, three to go.
- 5 Balls at this Game (1 pictured because I gave 3 away and somehow can’t find the Cabrera ball)
- 291 Balls in 61 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
- 5 Balls x 26,517 Fans= 132,585 Competition Factor
- 123 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 28 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls
- 175 Balls in 35 Games at Target Field= 5.00 Balls Per Game
- 33 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- 2 straight Games with at least 3-5 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:21-11:18= 7 Hours 57 Minutes
The day started off well with a trip to Gate 3:
I like Gate 34, but when it’s not freezing out, Gate 3 has a certain level of serenity to it. That said, I got to Gate 3 only after first taking a trip to Gate 34 for over thirty minutes to try to get a ball bouncing out on the flag court.
After I got in, I got my first two baseballs courtesy of Prince Fielder. The first was a ball that I had tracked, but got into a row too early, and so when I realized the ball was going a good sized distance over my head, all I could do was jump and hope to find the ball in my glove when I came back down. I didn’t. But since there was no one behind me, I just turned around, saw the ball rattling around in the seats, and picked it up:
And when I realized that Prince Fielder was getting warmed up, I moved back a little so I could run back on the flag court if he launched a ball back there. Well he did. So I ran back to the spot where I took this picture from:
But when I realized the ball was falling short, I stopped and kept my eye on the ball. At that point, the man you see in front of me also realized where the ball was headed. So as he backed up to the spot where the ball was headed, I went forward to that spot. We got there at the same time, but he was in front of me. Because of this, I dipped under his glove and then jumped up as the ball fell down to earth. As I came down, I had no clue who had caught the ball. My guess was that we had both missed it and the ball was bouncing away from us on the flag court. When I looked in my glove, I was both surprised and felt bad for robbing the man so badly. Had I been moving backwards instead of forwards, the man would have caught my glove in his glove. Although he congratulated me on the catch, I still felt I owed someone a favor, so I gave the ball to the kid in the lower right-hand part of the last picture.
And then it was time for some more poaching of sorts. Rick Porcello meant to toss the ball to the kid in this next picture:
But as you can kid of see by the arrow I’ve drawn, he tossed it short and it hit the railing and bounced in the flower pots. Since I was behind the kid in case of an overthrow, I quickly jumped down the rows and pulled the ball out of the flowers and handed the ball to him. I then snagged two baseballs from a Tigers player I didn’t identify. I do, however, know the kid I gave the second ball of the two to:
See the guy in the leopard print suit and golden glove? Of course you do. But do you remember him from my Opening Day entry? Well, if you read that entry, it should be no surprise that he’s a Tigers fan, which is why he was at this game. Anyway, I talked to him for a while, and it came up that he had promised the kid under the arrow I’ve included a ball. I responded with that I would give him a baseball if I snagged another one first. And I snagged a ball less than thirty seconds later, so I did.
And that was it for BP. So for the game, I headed out to left field and sat in the bleachers there for most of the game:
But towards the end of the game, I ran to the dugout area in order to get ready to run down for an umpire ball when the game ended. In that inning or two between me getting there and the game ending, something special happened. Chris Parmelee hit a foul ball that was going straight over my head. Before it could even reach me, though, I started sprinting back. I then saw the ball land in a row, and so I immediately ran into the row and fell on the ball, much like an offensive lineman on a fumble. Yay!
While I’d have MUCH rather it been a game home run, with this being the last week of the season, I was just glad to have gotten my first game ball of the season period. Unlike last year, it wasn’t so much me being completely incompetent when it comes to game balls; I just didn’t have many opportunities. In 2012 I remember about ten home run situations where I feel I could have had a home run had I done *something* different once the ball was hit; even if I did the correct “textbook” thing. But in 2013, there was definitely less than five of those same scenarios, if not less than four. Anyway, it was really nice to finally get one.
After the game, I headed to the umpire tunnel and got a ball from home plate umpire Brian O’Nora:
And just like that, my day went from an average five-ball game to a pretty good seven-ball game. I then gave one of my baseballs away to a kid on my way out of the stadium. Two games down in the week, four to go.
- 7 Baseballs at this Game (3 pictured because I gave 4 away)
- 286 Balls in 60 Games= 4.77 Balls Per Game
- 7 Balls x 25,541 Fans= 178,787 Competition Factor
- 122 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 27 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 170 Balls in 34 Games at Target Field= 5.00 Balls Per Game
- 32 straight Games with at least 1 Ball at Target Field
- 12 straight Games with at least 2 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 3:32-11:04= 7 Hours 32 Minutes
I know that one’s ballot for voting on these awards is usually a private matter, but I think I’m going to go ahead and make my ballot as well as the reasoning behind it so some other voters out there can get at least one other person’s perspective on the voting besides their own. I am by no means the “right” way to vote on the award; simply, my way of voting is *a* way of voting on the award, and I thought it’d be fun to share it.
Also, even though the ballot is restricted to three candidates, I’m going to give my top-5 for each award, since I think there are many more than six total worthy candidates. The name in parentheses is the person’s mygameballs.com username, since you’ll need that to vote for them.
Ballhawk of the Year ballot
1. Greg Barasch (gbarasch)
I must admit, I didn’t have Greg in either of my top-2 ballot spots last year, and despite having only 13 more baseballs than last year total, I bumped Greg up to the top spot because he still had an excellent year. Unlike last year, Greg beat every single ballhawk on the site in head-to-head match-ups (which you can check for yourself by clicking here). Not only that, but he averaged almost a whole Ball Per Game (.93 to be specific) higher than anyone else on the site. He also had by far the best rate of double-digit games (1:3) of anyone on the site. The only thing that made me hesitant to put him at the top of my ballot was his lack of game balls, but he dominated his part of ballhawking enough this year to more than make up for that in my opinion. Not to mention, he did all of this going to a majority of his games in New York, both of the stadiums inside of which are tough places to snag baseballs and have a bunch of competition to deal with.
2. Alex Kopp (akopp1)
He perhaps didn’t have the average or total baseball count of other candidates, but like Greg, he dominated his own part of the ballhawking top-10. He had more game home run snags than anyone in the top-10 ballhawks. Heck, he almost had as many (8) as the rest of the top-10 combined (10). And also like Greg, I had my reservations about putting Alex so high up, but he also attended 92% of his games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which has one of the larger constituencies of ballhawk competition in the country. It was not uncommon for him to have two or three ballhawks up on the flag court competing with him for game home runs. If he had the ballpark to himself, he would easily have double-digit home run numbers. Even as it is, he had a game to game home run ratio (8.25:1) almost three times better than the next best ballhawk in the top-10 (23.25:1). That’s amazing.
3. Zack Hample (zackhample)
He got beat out in terms of total baseballs by Erik Jabs 723-710. However, he made up for it in my mind by out-snagging Erik in game home runs (4-0), double digits games (27-23. Despite going to 14 less games), and Balls Per Game average (7.63-6.76). He is probably the most rounded of any of the candidates for the award.
4. Erik Jabs (ErikJ)
Besides the number two baseball snagger, Erik almost doubled the baseball count of anyone else on the site. That alone would be enough to get him into the top-3 if it weren’t for some great years by other ballhawks. Pretty much the only reason Erik did not make my personal BotY ballot is the lack of strength in the other statistical categories. However, it should be noted that he ballhawks in the ballpark with perhaps THE toughest day-in-day out competition in the country in PNC Park. He also leaves games right after batting practice, so that makes all of his numbers that much more impressive since he doesn’t have time during the games to pad his stats at all. I don’t think the magnitude of his feats should be minimized at all because of the fact that I have him in the four spot.
5. Rick Gold (JQFC)
To the outsider, Rick and his 3.23 Balls Per Game paired with his 265 baseballs might seem like a guy who just went to a ton of games in order to get a bunch of baseballs and get into the top-10. Well an outsider wouldn’t know that Rick only goes after hit baseballs. For a ballhawk, averaging anything that nears 3.00 Balls Per Game is a great season, so Rick’s 3.23 isn’t unheard of, but still a phenomenal season. You may be thinking, “Getting three and a quarter hit baseballs in a batting practice isn’t hard to do.” Well the problem with that is this was Rick’s *average* for all of the games he went to. This would be difficult average with regular batting practices, but one has to also keep in mind that this average also includes batting practices that have been rained out–which Rick is particularly prone to since he plans his games out often weeks in advance and doesn’t skip games when he learns the weather isn’t going to be ideal. Well all of those games are automatic zeroes for Rick barring a game home run snag. Speaking of which, Rick might’ve been higher on this list had he had a normal year of his in terms of game home run snags, but he had some tough luck and only snagged three. That is still the third best amongst the top-10 baseball snaggers on the site.
Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballot
1. Grant Edrington (fireant02)
With 2013 essentially being his rookie year ballhawking, Grant started off his season slowly, but then he picked it up and snagged the most baseballs of any junior ballhawk with 102, outpacing the nearest competitor by almost thirty baseballs. And he also accomplished what almost no other junior ballhawks did by snagging a game home run. He all of which whilst battling the very tough OPACY ballhawk competition.
2. Paul Kom (paaoool123)-
He snagged an impressive 73 baseballs in 19 games. The majority of which were at the not-very-friendly Target Field.
3. Josh Herbert (PGHawkJosh)
Snagged an impressive 48 baseballs for a junior ballhawk, but even more impressively did so in just eight games to get him the highest Balls Per Game average amongst junior ballhawks.
4. Maddie Landis (angrybird447)
Like Grant, this was also essentially her rookie season, so 54 baseballs in 14 games is really impressive.
5. Harrison Tishler (htishler)
One of the few “veterans” on the junior circuit, Harrison didn’t make it into the upper echelon in terms of total baseball snagging with his 43 baseballs, but did so in far fewer games this season than his peer, going to only 9 games all season.
If you want to, you can leave your ballot as a comment, but don’t feel like you have to. You may also notice that I made the “RE: Ballhawk of the Year Parts I and II” private, so in order to still have the comments that accumulated there somewhere public, here are pictures of all three sets of comments and my responses:
Let me start with this: I don’t mean to offend anyone in writing this article. (This is a response to the title article: “Ballhawk of the Year: Part II.”) Would I have rather not written this article/entry at all and never have to address such a divisive topic being brought up in an even more polarizing fashion? Absolutely. I tried to stay out of this completely as long as I could, but it has become apparent that while her jar has not yet been opened, the ballhawk’s Pandora has been created. In other words, I would have rather this not come up, but maybe we can actually get something positive out of this whole spectacle.
I will also say this: I am probably less infallible than anyone reading this. Why do I say this? I encourage you to challenge what I say, whether you are reading this on my blog or on mygameballs.com, in the respective comments section below. The only stipulation that make for leaving comments on my blog–since I don’t control the mygameballs comments–is you be respectful to one another. You can bash me all you want, but please debate each others’ points respectfully or…well, you’ll see what happens. Also on the note of commenting, since both articles are so long, I decided to organize my points in a way that wouldn’t going to completely bore everyone reading this while simultaneously making it easier to comment on specific points. How it goes is I will post Rocco’s point followed by my reaction to said point and rationale fro taking that stance right afterwards in a numbered fashion. So if you are commenting on a point I or Rocco made, just be sure to let the rest of us know which one it is so it’s much easier to find what exactly you’re referring to. This has and will continue to get messy in terms of people citing information and things of that nature, so I just wanted to organize it a bit.
(You don’t have to read this next paragraph if your first name isn’t Rocco and are more than welcome to skip it and dive straight into the response itself.)
Finally, before I get to my actual response to the two articles in question, I would like to say something to the architect of this whole kerfuffle, Rocco Sinisi: Rocco, I have heard many tales of your kindness and hospitality when it comes to travelers visiting GABP. I still do very much look forward to meeting you when our paths cross somewhere along the line. I also know you didn’t mean to incite what you did–or at least I don’t think you did. All of this adds up to say: Don’t think that I am being critical in any way of you as a person in my response to your articles below. Any criticism I express is simply of the ideas you have made public the past 1.5 months or so/how you have compiled your various arguments. All of that out of the way, let’s get to the response itself, shall we?
- Point: Zack is a professional ballhawk, and so he’s at an unfair advantage to us people who have to pay for our games.
Response: Eh. Yes but no. While I definitely see where you’re coming from, I would agree more if we were talking about a different ballhawk being the “professional” in question, but Zack went to 80 games last year to this year’s 92, and 131 the year before that without being sponsored. It would be one thing if he were reinvesting the money saved through being sponsored into a ton more games, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It seems as though there is a money-independent threshold of games that he is willing to go to in a year. And I have a good guess as to why that is: blog entries. Most ballhawks would in fact reinvest the money into a ton more games, but having to write 2,000 words for every game makes you…surprise! Much less willing to go to 160 games a year; despite affordability.
2. Point: What is Ballhawk of the Year?
Response: I do agree with you here. It has always been the case that there is a question of what the award actually means. However, I would also say that as long as MLB doesn’t have a standardized way of choosing a Cy Young or MVP, I don’t think there should be a standardized way to choose Ballhawk (and Junior Ballhawk) of the Year.
Is it a flawed system? Of course. But so would be any standardized way of choosing Ballhawk of the Year. Therefore, I say we just go with our own little way of imperfect perfection and have what Ballhawk of the Year (and the junior derivation thereof) means be up to the discretion of each voter. For me it means the best overall ballhawk; but if someone thinks the awards are whoever snags the most baseballs or game home runs, they should be allowed to do it. Not to mention, any standardization of the awards renders the voting useless. And while that is a possible route to take, I like the fact that these awards are determined by peer-vote.
On a personal level, because of my way of voting when considering all of the statistical categories available on mygameballs.com–as well as calculating a few of my own–Zack has come out on top two out of the three years I have voted on the Ballhawk of the Year award. I can’t speak for others, but that’s the way I have voted for the award, which has nothing to do with personal affiliations.
3. Point: Disqualifications for Ballhawk of the Year
Response: This is gimmicky, but does bring up a good point. For the sake of time, I’m going to agree with you and say that ballhawking is a sport. Well ballhawking is unique from most other sports in that the person decides when they retire, and so it is just as likely for a ballhawk to “retire” at 18 as it is for a ballhawk to retire at 50. And it is not infrequent to see a ballhawk take a multiyear-long hiatus and then come back to ballhawking. What that means is I do like “inducting” ballhawks into a Hall of Fame while still ballhawking, if we ever choose to have something like a Hall of Fame.
I think here is also the best time to point out that we have a very small sample size of Ballhawks of the Year. There have been only four years in which Ballhawk of the Year has been voted on. Sure Zack has won 75% of them, but Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux won their respective awards 100% of the time over a four-year period. I don’t think anyone was calling for a restructuring of their awards because of them. While I do agree that with the insulation of this “sport” we have the beginning of a problem, trying to implement a solution to the *beginning* of such a problem is a bit preemptive. I say we give it at least a couple more years to give other people a shot at having a breakout year and winning it with statistics alone instead of a “booster seat” win.
4. Point: We need age categories in order to give people with different abilities an even shot
Response: Good reasoning…but no. I like the idea; I really do. A ten-year-old doesn’t have the same snagging ability a thirty-year-old has, who doesn’t have the same snagging ability a seventy-year old has. That said, the categories you’ve made are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too specific. Alex Kopp, Garrett Meyer, and myself were discussing mygameballs statistics one night, and Alex didn’t even think that there was a female ballhawk who had recorded 25 baseballs on the site ever. Determined to find one, I looked through the *whole* career leaderboard for people with at least 25 baseballs. And I did prove him wrong by finding one…but that was it; just one. Granted, this ballhawk had recorded all 37 of her baseballs–at the time–this year, but I think you see the problem in beginning a competition between one person.
I haven’t yet ravaged the 60+ demographic yet, but I assume I’d find almost just as bad a scarcity problem. If we add a Female Ballhawk of the Year, Senior Ballhawk of the Year, or two additional slots for Junior Ballhawk of the Year as you’ve suggested, we’re simply creating an even worse monopolized awards problem. Junior Ballhawk of the Year would be the smaller of monopoly problems since candidates are always losing eligibility, but that’s exactly the reason expanding to three is a bad idea. In two of the three years I’ve voted I’ve had a hard time putting together a list of three worthy candidates for ONE spot, forget about finding nine worthy candidates for three spots.
I think the problem with the other two awards is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case it isn’t: With so little competition, the same person would win the award every year. And if the thought behind creating the awards is it will get more people to join the site from these respective demographics, I don’t see that happening. People join the site to document their baseball collections because they heard about it somewhere; it is not until a person is in the community that they learn about the award. If there aren’t a bunch of female and senior ballhawks on the site, that’s because the message isn’t getting out to them fast enough, not because there is a lack of fitting awards.
5. Point: “Cult of Zack Hample”
Response: Maybe if this was 2009, but in going to stadiums and running into a large majority of the prominent ballhawks who have ever run into Zack, I can say that people no longer agree with Zack simply because he is Zack. It used to be that Zack’s blog was one of the very few peepholes into the ballhawking world, but as mygameballs has become more prominent in these recent years, people can take a look at other ballhawks by themselves, and as a result of that, come up with information that isn’t filtered by Zack. This has lead to people not going with Zack because he is the “king of the ballhawks” as some have labeled him. What that means, is if there are people defending him, it’s because they are actually against the points brought against him. There is a clear confusion here between your so-called dogmatic “crucifixion” by the church of Zack Hample and people actually disagreeing with the points you’ve brought forth. Could some people have phrased it a little more professionally? Yes; but comments sections on the internet aren’t exactly renown for their civility.
6. Point: Give other ballhawks some more recognition.
Response: You underestimate how much people browse the site. People know all of the names you have thrown out there. That said, I do agree that the articles during the season were a great resource in discovering more about these lesser-known ballhawks that no longer stands as prominent on the site as it once did. And as such, like yourself, I volunteer to write a percentage of these articles since I’ll be taking a reduced ballhawking role this upcoming season.
7. Point: Ballhawking is a sport.
Response: I agree with you but I don’t at the same time. In regards to this, I have seen people take to both sides, but I’d say I’m right in the middle. Being a sports management, I know that the actual, metaphysical definition of “sport” is a competition between two or more parties. So yes, even chess is a sport by technicality. That said, the modern-day, practical definition is it is an athletic competition. With all that said, I think it is both sport an hobby; it depends wholly on how you view it. So with you, Rocco, ballhawking is a sport, since it seems you are actively competing with the rest of us ballhawks out there. But with someone who is doing it just because collecting baseballs is a fun thing, it is a hobby. There is no reason for ballhawking to have an exclusive category since the duality of its nature reflects the duality of the people who partake in it.
8. Point: “Everybody’s thinking the same way.”
Response: Alan put up an column RIGHT before this one that shows we aren’t all thinking the same way. The column, for those reading this who didn’t read it, was the Top-15 Recent Improvements to MyGameBalls.com. While I only pitched three of the improvements listed on the site last offseason, I had a bunch of ballhawks tell me there should be something similar to the idea I had pitched just that past offseason, It would not surprise me to know that over half of the improvements listed came from member suggestions. This shows that ballhawks are in fact thinking outside of the mold that we have set for us. And I do acknowledge you as one of those ballhawks thinking outside of the box, but by the response you have generated, it appears as though the majority of the community does not agree with the changes you have set forth in suggesting.
Anyways, thank you for plowing through that. I’m going to go ahead and delete my “Update” entry, so here are the two videos I made if you haven’t seen them yet:
Since we are so close to the end of the World Series, my next entry will probably be my 2013 Ballhawk and Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballots, but I could potentially squeeze a game entry in before that.