2014 Ballhawking Goals

A very common thing for us ballhawks to do, bloggers or non-bloggers, is to anticipate the coming season by putting our stated goals in writing. These goals are almost always a great reflection of what of a ballhawk each individual is. People who like to think they’re skilled like to set lofty goals. Rookies like to make them rather simple. Every year, my goals have seemed to get more and more specific and wordy. For 2014, I’ve kind of narrowed my scope down rather dramatically. I believe that my 2014 goal and associated manifesto (yes, I’ve got a ballhawking manifesto for 2014. How nerdy!) will give you rather blunt insight on the ballhawk I am, what I value and judge all of our respective collections. My ballhawking goal for 2014:

Become the first fan in possession of  as many game home runs as possible through any and all means necessary.

It’s that simple. I need to make sure I’m in position to do this at all times. Sometimes people like to say “nothing good happens after midnight” when referencing drinking or nightlife. I’m going to adjust that a little bit for our ballhawking world. Nothing good happens in foul territory.  You know that good ol’ quote “Death before dishonor,” right? I’ve kind of adopted a goofy, half serious, half sarcastic mantra or manifesto, call it what you will: Death before foul territory. If you see me tweeting or referencing “DBFT,” now you know what it means.

Good luck to all of you in 2014.

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A Message to Younger Ballhawks

Today I was faced with an all-to-seemingly common occurrence: someone picked a fight with me and used “you’re a ballhawk” as their leverage. Other than this being a complete absence of an actual point in the discussion, it shows that whoever is purporting this is just plain lazy.

What they think they’re saying by criticizing a ballhawk: “You are a nerd with a dumb hobby.”

What they’re really saying: “I don’t understand your hobby and I am misjudging it.”

Some people like to drink too much, some people like recreational drug usage, some people like to gamble their savings away and countless other ridiculous resource-wasting, time burning hobbies out there take over people’s lives. Yet somehow, people want to criticize and ostracize us for our chosen outlet of fun.

If you’re a veteran ballhawk, you have been through your fair share of this and this blog entry is probably pointless to you. However, if you’re a youngster or just starting out, listen up…

Don’t let anyone, and I mean ANYONE put you down for this hobby. You’re a collector, aficionado, fan, and in some cases an athlete all rolled into one.  So what?  You’ve found something you love that in reality doesn’t hurt or affect anyone? Some of my best friendships in life and relationships most important to me have been forged through networking and practicing in this hobby of ours.

Do not, and I repeat, DO NOT let anyone put you down or get you thinking twice about being a ballhawk. Don’t get bullied out of this great way to spend time with family and friends.

You’re meeting great friends, staying out of trouble, learning life experiences, watching America’s game and amassing a great collection of sports memorabilia. Never, ever let anyone bully you into feeling ashamed or doubt your status as a ballhawk. Embrace it!

Want Some Free Stuff? Here is a Contest…

Hello everyone! I’m proud to announce a social media contest/giveaway that I’ll be putting on for the next few weeks. I’ll start with the basics. The contest will run from right about NOW… until NOVEMBER 1ST.

How do you win? It’s pretty simple. The winner will have:

-Shouted me out on Twitter, gained me followers, RTs, favorites, etc.
-Viewed, commented and subscribed on my YouTube videos/channel
-Viewed and commented on my MLBlog
-And encouraged and enticed others to do the above

The winner won’t be determined by total number of shout outs or comments, or any “total” of anything.

The winner will be determined by effort put forth. Who will win? The person who shows they want to win the most.

Here are the URLs you will need:

SHAWN.MLBLOGS.COM
@BALLHAWKSHAWN
YOUTUBE

And, here is the prize pool, from which the 1st place winner will be able to pick TWO items, and the 2nd place winner picks ONE item from the remaining prizes:

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Milwaukee Brewers 2012 yearbook featuring Ryan Braun
Brewers rally towel from 2011 playoffs
MLB Network drawstring bag
A whole crap-ton of  2011, 2012, 2013 baseball cards (stack roughly 1 inch high)
Brand new Phiten X30 Necklace
Phantom Yankees 2012 World Series ticket (my personal favorite)
2012 MLB Postseason MEDIA Lanyard (only given out to working media)
Ball cube with your choice of brand new or beat up MLB batting practice ball

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For right now, first place gets 2 things, second place gets one thing. If this contest REALLY takes off and I get to, say, 475 followers on Twitter, I’ll throw some bonus stuff in each winner’s package. Prizes sent via USPS. Okay, that’s that. Just get me views and comments on YouTube, get me followers on Twitter, comments and views on MLBlogs and you’ll be in good shape. Show me you REALLY want to win, and you’ll be in even better shape. 

Help me out on social media, get some cool free stuff. Simple, hey?

A Word of Advice for Younger Ballhawks…

When you’re out in those bleachers competing against the field, take a moment to just slow down and enjoy those around you. In the MyGameBalls era some of us are getting too wrapped up in the numbers game. Some hawks feel better suited to come home angry with 10 baseballs than happy with 1. You know what? That’s your prerogative, but take it from someone who’s been on the scene for a decade… the people you meet are equally important as the baseballs you catch. When you get down to it, a life long friend is indescribably, exponentially more valuable than some shitty BP baseball, and you can take that to the bank.

Make friends.

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank, again, my baseball family. The people I meet out in those bleachers are the finest people on the planet. I love you guys, you really are a sub-genre of my family.

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Thank You, Thank you, Thank You.

Going into 2013, the only real reason I had to expect a “down year” was superstition. Odd-numbered years had proven to be my poorest, and to make matters worse, I considered 2012 my best season yet. How could I top my 2012 performance in 2013? The answer is quite simple: go out and not worry about silly things, once that ticket gets scanned, drop the outside world and get lost in those bleachers.

Long story short, 2013 was my best season ever. To say that I’m the only one responsible for the success would be a lie. All the friendships I’ve made and nurtured over this year were crucial to me. Life and it’s nonsense nearly broke me down this summer, but you guys all helped me keep going. Here are a few personalized thank yous to people I’ve met with face to face in 2013, to let you all know I appreciate you so much:

TONY VODA and PAUL KOM: What can I say about my neighbors to the Northwest? While I completely despise your ballpark and team’s staff, I have nothing but respect for you guys. While Target Field may not have been too hospitable, you both more than made up for what was lacking. Getting to know you guys this season was great, and getting to share the flag court with you guys on August 27th is a ballhawking memory I’ll *never* forget. Keep grinding away, and as Tony said, “don’t be a stranger!” Oh yeah, Paul… do you work at Little Caesars?

ERIKA, JAKE, BRYAN, DAVE, LARRY THE SECURITY GUY AND THE REST OF THE FRIDAY’S CREW: You guys are awesome putting up with my nonsense day in and day out. I know most of your coworkers don’t really enjoy my company but you guys bucked the trend and decided to be friendly. In a ballpark full of people who look down on me and try to hinder my hobby, you guys always put on a smiling face and provide me with the badly needed inside-the-ballpark friendship. I’ve got to stop in this winter and hang out a few times; the off season is too long to go without seeing my Fridays buddies!

KENNY KASTA: Kenny! My Chicago road trip buddy! While other ballhawks are busy dealing with life and the curveballs it has thrown them, you’re always at the ballpark plugging away. I can honestly say that if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t have any of the fun Chicago has given me. Knowing that I’ll have a brother in the bleachers day in and day out makes it much easier to head back to the ballpark. Thanks for being a brother!

CASEY AND MATT: The Grafton crew! You guys weren’t around as much as I would have liked this season, but that doesn’t mean you weren’t still fun to ballhawk with. Casey, stop “Casey Ward-ing” people, and Matt, get out of the front row! Show up a little more in 2014, will you guys?

MATEO FISCHER: While our meeting was completely by chance, that Mothers’ Day in Chicago was enough for me to know that you’re nothing but a pleasure to ballhawk with. Good job on the pink ball and let’s get that YouTube partnership going this winter! Can’t wait to share the ballpark with you again!

DAVE DAVISON: Dave, it was awesome to ballhawk with you as much as I did. You’ve taught me one key thing this season that I think is probably the most important new thing I’ve learned: not giving a f***. You’re goofy and funny out in the bleachers, but when it’s business time, it’s business time. I used to care too much, after ballhawking with you, I now know the less I care, the better.

“RUBE BAKER,” NICK KLENCK AND THE WAVELAND CREW: You guys don’t know how lucky you are to be Chicago ballhawks! You guys go hard. I didn’t see you guys half-ass a single play this season. You guys taught me to bust my tail and try my best. Can’t wait to get back to Chicago in 2014 and run around with you dudes!

NICK YOHANEK: I can sum up your entire paragraph with one word: MENTOR. Thanks for your lightheartedness and guidance! There is a lot of your values instilled in me to this day. I don’t think I would be the ballhawk I am if it weren’t for you.

ERIK JABS AND ROBBIE SACUNAS: You dudes are pretty solid. It was a pleasure meeting both of you guys and being able to share the ballpark with you. Erik, you’re quiet but there isn’t anything wrong with that. Speak softly and carry a big (Cleveland) stick. Robbie, you’re goofy and I need to be more like you and say forget all the seriousness. That DBacks game was tons of fun and I can’t wait until you guys show me how PIT does it at PNC!

US CELLULAR FIELD: I love you. Will you marry me? But seriously, you’re my favorite.

WHOEVER WROTE THE “MYSTERY LETTER” ABOUT ME HURTING YOUR CHILDREN AT MILLER PARK: You’re a boldfaced liar and your motive was clearly jealousy. You chose to write a letter and claim that I pushed your two children over on national television. The only problem: it was supposed to have happened on national television. Are you stupid? Keep hiding behind anonymity because you’re too childish and jealous to admit your REAL problem with me. The best part is that I KNOW you’re someone who I sit with during the games. Just tell me already, won’t you?

YACOV STEINBERG: You’re up and coming, buddy. Don’t let anyone get in your way. Put in lots of hard work and time and you’ll be just fine. L’Chaim!

GARRETT MEYER: Not many ballhawks travel to spring training, so when I heard that I would see you down in Arizona I was so pumped! It was fun to see you learn the ropes and have great success in the Cactus League.

ZACK HAMPLE: It was good to see you again, and per usual, I got yelled at for your glove trickery a few days later!

LEIMING TANG: We only briefly met during the last game of the season, but you were warm and friendly. Can’t wait you share a ballpark with you again.

BRANDON NEDOMA AND TMART: Show up a little more, will you guys? And TMart, don’t hide!

JAKE STARCK; Welcome to the MKE Ballhawk club. So cool to become friends with you this season and see you in 2014!

CHRIS HERNANDEZ: We didn’t talk much, but we DID share the Miller Park bleachers earlier this season. It was great to have you here! I wish you could have felt the surprise in my heart when you said Miller Park “wasn’t that bad.” I have to disagree with you! I know you do a little bit of traveling, so if you’re ever in the area again, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc, let me know for sure! It was awesome meeting a NYC ballhawk and his quiet, shy girlfriend!

Lastly and most importantly, my family. Mom and pops. None of this would have been possible with out you guys! Love you so much!

If You’re Thinking About Exaggerating Your Statistics…

Recently there has been a lot of confusion and drama in the MyGameBalls community about the authenticity of people’s statistics.  Here is a little something I threw together that sums up my feelings about honesty and ballhawking. It is important to note that this does not in any way reference anyone in specific. This in no way is intended to be directed at anyone, simply to try and prevent any future issues with authenticity. If you’re thinking about exaggerating your statistics…

Us ballhawks of MyGameBalls are rather simple people. In order to even join a website like MyGB, you’ve got to be rather invested in the hobby. Thousands of people roam the bleachers in hopes of catching a ball, but only a small, small fraction of a percentage of those people take the hobby seriously enough to join a community like MyGB, further illustrating how we feel about both the sport and ballhawking general. Members of MyGameBalls are the “one percent” of the baseball community, we are the top of the line. We take this hobby and the website very, very seriously.

Ballhawking is not a sport. Ballhawking is not a job. Ballhawking is only and will always be only a hobby. There are no “professional” ballhawks. Those of us who choose to compare and share statistics spend hundreds of thousands of dollars as a whole, and often times tens of thousands of dollars as singular members, to buy tickets, travel and lodging just to partake in a hobby. There is nothing to gain from ballhawking but a sense of self-earned accomplishment.

Does the money, time, effort equate with catching a few baseballs? Not all the time. We sacrifice a ridiculous amount of money, time, effort and heart to show people what we have EARNED and compare it with other people who have also EARNED their fair share. While you may think that since there is a “leaderboard” on the website that ballhawking is a competition, it isn’t. The website is a tool to compare collections, not to beat your chest and say “aha! I am better than you all!” Keep that in mind.

Over the past ten years of ballhawking, I’ve amassed one of the most impressive collections on the planet. 30 *game home runs* and close to 2,500 baseballs later, I look back and consider how I got to this point. If you want to talk money, we’re looking at easily $100,000 to $200,000 in travel, lodging, tickets and various expenses, and that isn’t even considering the value of the time taken. This hobby has claimed numerous friendships and intimate relationships from my life. I’ve lost friends, girlfriends and missed family events because of how much I love this hobby and the feeling of self-accomplishment it gives me. Consider that. All that money, time, effort, friendships and relationships squandered because of how much I value the self-accomplished feeling and adrenaline rush ballhawking provides. Is that my fault? Probably. But I think this hobby is worth it.

What does that matter? Why does it matter at all? The value of a ballhawking resume hinges SOLEY AND COMPLETELY ON THE TRUST AND CREDIBILITY OF EVERY SINGLE MEMBER OF THE COMMUNITY. Lying about your statistics and baseballs you’ve caught completely destroys everyone’s investment of time, effort and heart. It completely eviscerates it.

Since people began exaggerating statistics, I have to begin worrying about people calling “shenanigans” on my games and statistics. I see someone post a great game and I have to think to myself “maybe he didn’t really grab those baseballs” and it sucks, it really, really sucks being stuck in that predicament. This gives me a headache.

Now I don’t know how old any of you are or anything about your character, and I’m not claiming to. I’m not passing judgment and I’m not condemning anyone to banishment. I’m not that guy. Part of my strong Christian faith leads me to understand that people make mistakes. Co-axially, people deserve second chances.

I encourage you to get into the bleachers and ballhawk as much as you can. Do everything you can to get out there and start/continute your own collection. However, tread lightly. If you’re going to say you caught 9 baseballs, you’d better have a picture of those 9 baseballs. Something I try and do to help people trust my statistics: I’ll include the day’s ticket (with date and game time) in any pictures of baseballs I take.

Go out, have fun and earn your collection. Balhawking returns increase with effort. As with anything in life, you get out what you put in. The cheap becomes expensive. It will take you a while to learn the ropes, but I have confidence with time and interaction with the welcoming community, you’ll do just fine. Being new or lacking in skill is nothing to be ashamed of. Everyone has to start somewhere. Know that experience only comes with time. Be proud of what you have, no matter what it is. If you’re ballhawking to be “better” than someone else, you’re ballhawking for all the wrong reasons.

No one hates anyone, no one is angry, no one wants anyone banned for life. We just want honesty. If you’re thinking about fudging your statistics, take a while to move away from MyGameBalls, learn a few things out in the bleachers and ballparks, and come back refreshed with honest, earned statistics. I look forward to seeing what you can do. I have confidence that you’ll learn and bounce back quickly with a nice collection.

If there are any questions you have about anything, need ballhawking tips or just need a buddy to talk to, feel free to reach out to me. The community of MyGameBalls is not only open and welcoming, but we’re also forgiving.

I don’t know if the community agrees with anything I have to say, so I’ll simply sign this as “Ballhawk Shawn” and leave it to them to comment accordingly.

Regards,

-Ballhawk Shawn