5/21/13 – Dodgers at Brewers

For the first time in my ballhawking career, for today’s game I would have a semi-professional photographer following along with me, helping to document the day’s events. Andy Jesswein of ARJ Photography shoots weddings, concerts and now sports. Before I get into the entry I’d like to say “THANK YOU” to Andy.

Moving on…

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The roof was closed even though it was about 70 degrees and mostly sunny. There were some showers moving through the area, but I don’t believe it rained a single drop after this picture was taken. As a result of the roof being closed, the air inside Miller Park was not only ridiculously humid, but also stagnant. The Brewers could have announced the game as “Sauna Awareness/Experience Day” and no one would have doubted it.

Andy and I made our way into the stadium as a small group of Brewers pitchers began batting practice. I didn’t have to wait long for ball #1, which came from Joe Crawford.

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Did you see the ball 3/4 of the way between Joe and I in the above picture? Check out the ball about to settle in my bare hand in this next photo:

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The Brewers players and coaches don’t really like contributing to my ball collection. It isn’t anything personal, and (most) aren’t rude about it. They know I’ve got plenty already and they know that I’ll get plenty more as time goes. They like me to earn them, and there isn’t anything wrong with that. With that said, the above snag didn’t come without certain conditions

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Yep. I “had” to throw the ball back. Can you find the ball in the image below?

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I put “had” in quotations because some people think that wouldn’t be such a great deal… You work get a ball thrown to you, and it is yours to keep, forever and ever and ever, right? Kind of. Instead of “having” to throw the ball back, I prefer saying I “get” to throw the ball back.

Personally, I think the whole idea of:
(A) actually throwing a ball back onto the field
(B) seeing just how far I could throw it
(C) having a little piece of me back on the field being used by the players and
(D) the prospect of catching the same ball twice
are all awesome privileges and why I got to throw the ball back and not had to. I love throwing the ball back in, and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it wasn’t for super friendly, all around good guy Joe Crawford. Soon after, Andy and I relocated to the bullpen porch on the other side of the restaurant.

Andy snapped a few cool shots of pitchers throwing bullpen sessions, beginning with Chris Narveson:

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When Narv-dog finished, Alfredo Figaro toed the rubber for some delivery tweaks:

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And when Figaro finished, Marco Estrada stepped up for some between-starts work:

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There wasn’t much action at Fridays in terms of hit baseballs. A few landed in the narrow net that Fridays has installed to keep food and menus from falling into the bullpen. Usually I’ll glove trick the balls out of the net, which is only about a foot to 18 inches below the tables and give them to whoever bought the table nearest to the ball. However, today would mark a change in that trend.

Recently I was told by a Miller Park worker (who has a stringently, militant anti-ballhawk attitude) that I would be “kicked out of the ballpark” if I’m seen with a glove trick ever again, and not by ushers or security, but by the police. So the glove trick is going on indefinite hiatus. It is a shame because not only do glove tricked baseballs count towards my charity program with the Wounded Warrior Project, but they get given away to kids. I haven’t kept a glove tricked baseball in years. Oh well, that’s how Miller Park works. Fans don’t matter. Fun at the ballpark doesn’t matter.

</rant>

Rickie Weeks hit the only ball into Fridays on the fly, which I thought I was going to catch, Image

…but it sailed way, way over my head, the ball was un-catchable by 5 or 10 feet. See the guy just past my left shoulder in the Dodgers shirt? He was really wild, jumping at any fly ball and sprinting from one end of the section to the other. On this particular ball he hopped the fence to the left of the picture, booted the ball, hopped back over the fence and nearly pushed me on my backside while I haphazardly attempted to pick the ball up. Oh well.

The gates would soon open, and I convened with a friendly usher who is in charge of opening the gate to the field level. He likes to go grab any foul balls hit before the stadium opens and distribute them to younger fans. He passed by a ball on his first trip through the seats, so I gave him directions and he went back, returning with this:

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He handed the ball to me, presumably to keep. I mulled the idea keeping it and giving it away after the game, but I gave it right back to him a few moments later. On technicality, I had recorded ball #2. (This picture would have been EPIC if the ball was oriented correctly)

Andy and I headed up to the left field bleachers when the gates to the entire stadium opened and the Dodgers took the field.

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Carl Crawford tossed me ball #3 , which Andy didn’t manage to snap a picture of, and after that, I settled into the spot for Matt Kemp, with a sarcastic “game face” applied for effect:

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This is the best spot for ballhawking Matt Kemp, trust me on that. Take special note of where I’m standing and who is around me, and compare it with the next series of pictures.

Over years of ballhawking and reading blogs, I’ve picked up on some of the best locations for certain players’ batting practices. The above pictured spot is the area for Kemp. Kemp ended up smacking the first of only two balls into the left field bleachers and it was coming directly at me. I didn’t even have to move an inch for it. I got into position and prepared my glove and feet with a wide stance when all of a sudden…

ImageYep. This guy came from behind me, lumbering over the bleachers and not only hit me on the way past, but swatted my glove out of the way of the ball, which you can see in flight above. Notice how you can’t see me at all? Yep, the guy completely shoved me out of the way to get position of a ball hit right to me.

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See how my glove is notably lower than his? See how the ball couldn’t have possibly deflected off my glove, and it seems like the only way for it to get in it’s position is because he booted it? He’s starting to make a habit of this. This marks 2 days in a row.

I’m certainly not one of the guys who has a “don’t touch me” policy when ballhawking. If you think you can catch the ball, try and catch the damn ball. BUT I am a staunch believer in the community aspect of ballhawking. We’re going to share the bleachers every day this season, and you’re going to make acquaintances along the way. If you know a ballhawk has a play on a ball, like I did on the above Kemp line drive, let the guy catch it. Don’t go out of your way to try and catch the ball another ballhawk has position on and could have caught with his eyes closed, ESPECIALLY if you’re going to boot the play like that guy did.

Is that mentality out of line? Do you agree with me or not? Why? Tell me in the comments section.

That was all the action BP would yield. Andy and I headed over to our seats, where Zack Greinke was warming up for his first start at Miller Park since being traded last summer.

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Remembering the prior day’s debacle with Matt Kemp ignoring my autograph requests, I made it a point to try again today. We walked from right field to the third base line and got into position behind Kemp. Autograph dealers and eBay jerks from all around crowded the area, I recognized a few of them from as far away as US Cellular Field. Look how happy I was about that:

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I don’t like autograph dealers. Get a real job. Soon after this picture was snapped, Kemp obliged our requests.

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Kemp signing an article just before grabbing my baseball:

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The signature:

ImageAndy and I returned to our seats ready for the first pitch. A few innings into the game, some ladies sitting next to me were hollering for Carlos Gomez to toss them the between-innings catch ball. Gomez did so the next half inning, but his aim was a bit… off. Gomez lollipopped the ball right at me (he doesn’t really like seeing me get baseballs). So, without putting my glove on, without even standing up, I caught the ball, glove-on-knee, butt-in-seat. I gave it until one of the last possible seconds that I had to react, just to give the lady her chance to jump in front of me to grab it, which she hesitated to do. In this next picture the (dumb, useless) nets installed in front of the bullpen obscure the event:

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Immediately, I held the ball up in one hand, as if on a platter, and put the other up in the air as to say “here, I’m not going to keep this.”

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I had the ball in my hands for probably less than two seconds, but it still counts as ball #4. The woman was a little hesitant to keep the ball. She initially took it, but offered it back 30 seconds later. 

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, there was no way he was throwing that to me. He just threw it badly.”

“Are you sure you don’t want it?”

“…yes. I’m 1,000% positive.”

Gomez still gave me a dirty look. C’mon dude. You threw the ball.

Other than that, there wasn’t any action. I tried to get a third out ball one inning, but I wasn’t successful.

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Someone told me on my way back up the stairs that another kid got 5 of the previous 6 third out baseballs the Dodgers tossed into the stands. I’m not complaining, but sheesh, that’s got to be a record of some kind.

There weren’t any home runs hit near me, and I didn’t have a play on any foul balls. The game itself was boring, but spending it with Andy was fun.

That Gomez in-game toss up was my last ball of the day, and my 100-something’th of the year. I don’t know off the top of my head, I’d guess number 104 of this 2013 regular season. At this game I raised around $5 for the Wounded Warrior Project (over $80 this entire season not including game home run bonuses) and gave 2 balls away and threw one back onto the field.

Thank you for reading and check out my YouTube channel if you haven’t yet! Also, tweet with me!

Check back soon for some VERY EXCITING news. You won’t want to miss this upcoming entry, trust me on that.

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I’m baaaaaack…

Well, boys and girls, I’m back and blogging. This semester of school was incredibly tough and required my full attention. I barely had times to actually get TO the games, let alone blog about them. Alas, the semester is now officially over for me and I fully intend on recapping games I attend, sharing stories with you and hearing about your experiences.

This entry is kind of like what retailers call a “soft launch.” I know I have a small group of subscribers and people who check back every so often… this entry is for YOU! I’m not going to promote it, I’m not going to post it on my Twitter page yet. This is solely to gauge the audience I have now and for me to share a little something cool with you (also to get me back in the swing of things, I’ve basically forgotten how to blog).

So while The Inherent Dangers laid dormant, here is what I was up to, mostly in pictures and videos:

First I caught Carlos Gomez’s 46th career home run (and 499th career hit) on April 19th:

I got lots of shout outs TV from various announcers for “risking my life” to catch the ball, even more on Twitter. My account (kind of) exploded with followers shortly after the catch. I don’t really like bragging or saying I made an awesome catch, but, you know, I really did make one hell of a catch.

Check out how low I had to get:

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One of the cooler things about the catch took place hours later. The highlight ended up being sponsored by Dairy Queen as the “Fan Favorite Moment of the Night” and was placed on the homepage of MLB.com. For a while my highlight and a story about Derek Jeter were flip-flopping for one of the most viewed pieces on the website. Kind of cool if you ask me.

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After that the ballhawking came back to reality, although only for a moment. A few days later, April 30th to be exact, I snagged Russell Martin’s 99th career home run. UGH! So incredibly, tantalizingly close to a milestone home run:

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It would have been cool to have grabbed career #100. I don’t really know what I would have asked for, I would indeed have asked for somethingI just don’t know what. Probably a bat. Whatever, it doesn’t matter now. And it REALLY didn’t matter the very next day, May 1st.

Again a Carlos Gomez game home run made its way to my glove, this time his 48th career home run:

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Only minutes later, THIS happened:

That was Michael McKenry’s 17th career home run and my 27th.

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A few days later someone told me “you pushed that lady right over to catch the home run” and someone else told me that I almost pushed a child over the railing. If any of you see that in the video, please let me know! (Here is a hint: you won’t see it, because I don’t do that)

A guy has a good day at the ballpark, and people put the squeeze on him. That is just the way it works at Miller Park. Oh, well!

A few days later when the Cardinals came to town I managed to secure this beautiful gem:

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And last but definitely not least, I headed to the Mothers’ Day game at US Cellular field to see the Angels face the White Sox. While batting practice was ridiculously boring for a team with Josh Hamilton, Mike Trout and Albert Pujols. The real action developed when game time rolled around.

I managed to grab a few Mothers’ Day souvenirs for my mother who happened to be along for the ride. Here she is modeling her gifts:

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We’re not entirely sure who tossed us his wristbands. As of right now, we’re guessing that it was Nate Jones, White Sox reliever (and since I just took my Business Statistics class and I’m in stats mode, I’ll say that with 95% a confidence level). The game ball came from Sox skipper Robin Ventura. This is definitely my favorite commemorative yet, I hope it makes a return next season.

That’s about all there is worth talking about in regards to actual ballhawking. My (regular) season stats are as follows:

20 games

95 baseballs

4 game home runs

-(Close to, I think just barely over) 80 cents per ball to the Wounded Warrior Project = about $75 to the WWP so far this season.

Lastly, my social media outlets. I’m on Facebook, but that’s not a ballhawk thing. I’m on Twitter @BallhawkShawn. You should follow me, I’ll follow you back! I tweet about baseball and updates on which baseballs I’ve caught, etc. In fact, I just got a new follower the other day. Maybe you’ve heard of him?

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Yep yep. Jose Bautista.

I’ve also made a YouTube channel. I post videos I take at the ballpark during batting practice. I’m just starting out, so the videos are small in number, but as the summer goes, I’ll have tons posted. Probably a few per homestand. Check it out if you have time! Here is one of my videos:

Well, that’s about all the new stuff since I took my academics-inspired blogging hiatus. I’m here to stay this time around. Check back often this summer, I’ll be recapping lots of games and blogging about various baseball related topics!

As always, thank you for reading.

Oh, WAIT! I ALMOST FORGOT! SEND WAYNE PECK TO THE ALL STAR GAME FOR FREE! If you have a few moments to spare, it only takes 30 to 60 seconds, click THIS link and follow Wayne’s steps.

The contest is OFFICIALLY sanctioned by and put on through MLB. All you have to do is nominate Wayne as your veteran of choice and they’ll send him, completely free, to be honored at the 2013 MLB All Star Game. He gave up his entire life to fight for YOUR freedom, this is the least you can do for him. He’s a great person, help a guy out!

Thanks for reading and KEEP YOUR EYE ON THE BALL!

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Cactus League Adventures: Day 1

As some of you may or may not know, my family takes an annual trip to Phoenix every spring to take in some Cactus League action. Most of our cool stories and tough autographs come during Spring Training, so to say we look forward to the trip would be an enormous understatement.  I’ll spare you all the cliché “oh it is SO hot” and “I’m just glad to be back at a baseball game” nonsense and jump right into the action. Let’s hit the ground running.

Several days prior to our departure, I scanned a Cactus League master schedule, just for fun. I noticed something perplexing on the schedule for the Seattle Mariners: a WBC opponent AND night game. It was clear that the Mariners would play an exhibition against a WBC qualifier, but which team exactly was a mystery. I knew I HAD to be at that game.

First off, if the game wasn’t a night game, we wouldn’t have been able to make it, as our plane landed at noon and we got to our hotel at 3:30. Secondly, we stay within walking distance of the Mariners/Padres complex. Things fell into place quite nicely.

The schedule simply stated “ASIA WBC at Mariners”, so I was expecting to see Team Japan, but when I checked the Peoria Sports Complex website while our plane was taxiing around the runway, I was met with a pleasant surprise: “Team Asia” had now become the Netherlands!

The family put our bags and luggage into the hotel room and rushed to the complex. The Mariners and Netherlands were taking BP on some back fields, which, if you don’t know are basically baseball heaven. It’s the closest you’re going to get to the players. You feel like you’re basically part of the squad. Several of Netherlands’ players came trickling out of the clubhouse, heading to field 2 to begin a full squad workout. This provided a great opportunity for autographs and pictures.

First came Rob Cordermans, my favorite WBC pitcher. Robbie was an awesome dude, signed plenty of autographs and shook my hand and thanked ME for being cool to him. Class act. Robbie and I:

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Next came Loek Van Mil. If you don’t know who Loek Van Mil is, well, here you go:

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Yeah. He’s over 7 feet tall and the tallest professional baseball player.

A slow trickle of players eventually turned into a steady flow. Players like Andruw Jones, Wladimir Balentien, Andrelton Simmons, Xander Bogaerts and Jurickson Profar came through and before I knew it, practice had begun. Since this was all taking place on backfields, it was impossible to get behind the outfield wall to ballhawk, so I had to stay behind the foul lines:

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While the pitchers were finishing up playing catch in the right field corner, I made my move for ball #1 of 2013. I identified David Bergman as my “target”. He finished throwing with Van Mil and stood around. He was manipulating a knuckleball grip when, from about 40 feet away, I asked “let’s see that kuckler, David!”

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Bergman (#47) looked at me, looked at the pearly white, brand new baseball in his right hand, and tossed it to the ground in front of him. He began do dig through the pitcher’s ball bag and pulled out the dirtiest, grimiest, beat up baseball I had seen in quite some time. He flipped it over the fence, about 20 feet short, and I gobbled it up in my glove. Baseball #1 of 2013 was officially in the books!

When I opened my glove up, the back of the baseball was showing. Without even inspecting the ball, I turned to my girlfriend and said “this is a Little League baseball”. It was obvious that the ball wasn’t major league quality. The seams were rather big, the surface kind of plastic-y. Brooke (my girlfriend) took the ball out of my glove to look at. She turned it over a few times and said “no, it isn’t, it’s something else,” Oh, okay. It’s an NCAA baseball, I thought. Turning the ball around, we discovered that the ball was acutally a Korean professional baseball league baseball.

SAY WHAT?

Yup, check it out:

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One of the coolest parts of being stuck in foul territory was that we were right up against the field’s bullpen. Bert Blyleven (#28) was coaching Shairon Martis on pushing off his back foot and keeping his front shoulder closed. It isn’t every day that you get to be a fly on the wall of an MLB Hall of Famer’s pitching instruction:

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Other than that, there really was no action. The Netherlands’ hitters sliced a few line drives back my way, which I retrieved with fervor.  BP was soon over, and it was time for the players to head back in. During BP, I managed to get a few autographs from Team Netherlands, from players like Curt Smith, Andrelton Simmons, Loek Van Mil, Rob Cordemans, Jurickson Profar, Xander Bogaerts, and Shairon Martis. Holy hell!

The game started soon thereafter, and it was preceded by a video tribute to Greg Halman. It was very touching.

I’ll keep the game description short, because I’m ridiculously tired, the game really doesn’t count and it wasn’t very exciting. In the first inning, I narrowly missed out on a Wladimir Balentien home run off Jon Garland. I set up down the power alley and Balentien went almost to dead center. I rushed and ran as fast as I could, but I was about ¾ of a second too late.

I had a chance to redeem myself when Balentien came to the plate later in the game, I believe the 7th inning. By this time I was done chasing gamers, and moved on to trying to catch a foul ball. Balentien sprayed a ball over my head onto the concourse over the seating bowl, and I rushed back to grab it. It bounced around a few fenced/restricted areas, and without getting too specific, I got to the ball before anyone else did. I’ll leave it at that.

(I seem to not have any pictures of it at the moment. I SWEAR to you I’m not making it up.)

After the Balentien ball was under control, I headed to the outfield where I found ballhawk TC. We chewed the fat, made plans for the next day and said our goodbyes. The game was over. The day was over. This blog entry is (almost) over.

Can you guys tell I’m still rusty when it comes to blogging? I’m not too articulated or linguistic yet. Like everything else (including my tracking fly balls), it is Spring Training for me as well. It’ll all come back with time!

Day 2 will be much more detailed. I’m SUPER tired as I write, going on about 20 straight hours of travel and baseball. Come back next time to see who hit me THIS game home run:

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I’ll leave you with a few photos from day one and two of my Cactus League adventures:

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Bert Blyleven signing an autograph for my mom, Sue

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Shairon Martis signing my Netherlands team baseball

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Here is a picture my girlfriend Brooke took of me way, way out in LF, doing my signature (can I call something *I* do “signature”? Do I have to let someone else call it “signature” kind of like a nickname?) glove flip.

.That’s all. Thanks for reading!

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2013 Charity Project: The Wounded Warrior Project

As some of you returning readers and Twitter followers may recall from last season, I’m following in the footsteps of a few other ballhawks trying to give something back in a very “take, me, my”-type of hobby. Last year’s project benefited Pitch In For Baseball. This year, for a few reasons, I’ve switched the beneficiary to The Wounded Warrior Project. I don’t have any official affiliation with The WWP, however.

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-What do they do?

The Wounded Warrior Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization aimed at rehabilitating our Nation’s wounded soldiers. Their aims and goals can be summed up rather easily.

To honor and empower wounded warriors; to foster the most successful, well-adjusted generation of wounded service members in our nation’s history. Fun, Integrity, Loyalty, Innovation, Service.”

Through various rehabilitation programs, TWWP seeks to help our combat veterans attain a sound mind, fit body, economic empowerment and community engagement. Long story short, they let our veterans know they’re not forgotten, they’re not alone and they help them assimilate back into American culture and lifestyle.

-How do I pledge?

That’s a great question! The answer is relatively simple, cheap and fulfilling. During the regular season, I average roughly 300 to 375 baseballs caught. Some of them are significant, and some of them are very mundane. My goal for this year is 350.

I’ll ask donors to pledge on a per-ball basis. Essentially, if someone were to pledge $0.01 per ball, at the end of a season, assuming I perform at an average level (350 baseballs caught), the donor would be reminded of their total pledge, which in this case would be roughly $3.50. Pledges are not locked in, and merely a pledge. You don’t need to donate the full amount, or any at all for that matter, just what you feel comfortable with. Pledges can be made anonymously, or if you’d like, I can add you to the master list of pledges that I’ll be updating throughout the season.

-If someone were to pledge $0.02, their expected donation would be roughly $7.00.
-If someone were to pledge $0.05, their expected donation would be roughly $17.50, et cetera.                                                                                                      

Basically, you come up with an amount you’re comfortable donating at the end of the year, say, $10. Since I’m expecting to catch 300 to 350 baseballs, you would pledge 3 cents per baseball I catch.

$0.03 x 350 baseballs = $10.50 electronic donation in October.

Your pledge x Total baseballs caught in 2013 = Final amount donated

Get it?

-Anything else I should know?

Here are a few more little factoids to possibly help persuade you to pledge:

-I don’t see a penny of the money, ever.

-I don’t handle the money, and will actually refuse cash donations. It can get sketchy and people can make off-the-wall accusations that way, so I’m just going to avoid it altogether.

-All donations are tax-deductible (but, as usual, you should consult a tax professional before claiming the deductions).

-If someone pledges $1+ per ball and makes the full donation, I’ll personally buy you a ticket to a late 2013 game at Miller Park. I’ll feed you, buy you a few age-appropriate beverages, and you can keep any baseballs I snag that day, (!)excluding(!) a game home run. Essentially, I’ll give you ballhawking lessons! Also, I’d like to see some sort of receipt of donation before our adventure, just to make sure everything is kosher!

-Do you want to pledge a high amount per ball, but are worried that I’ll go crazy, and snag 700 baseballs? First off, I won’t, but that’s not the point. Pledge your amount, and denote a pledge ceiling. “I’ll pledge a quarter per ball, up to $20.00,” for example.

-Last season, several people also made “bonus pledges” for game home runs I catch. That’s also a very cool option. Last season, each game home run I caught was worth an additional $9.

Personally, I don’t see a reason someone COULDN’T pledge!

Contact me via a comment here, or on Twitter to pledge!

Let’s do some GREAT things this season, while having an even better time!

Currently (3/7/13) we have 4 donors totaling $0.87 per baseball. We need to grow this number!

DONATE HERE:

https://support.woundedwarriorproject.org/default.aspx?tsid=66&campaignSource=WEBSITE&source=ONLINE

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The “Steroid” Ballot

On 9 January, 2013, the Baseball Writers Association of America, or BBWAA, releases the results of the 2013 Hall of Fame voting. I’m going to assume since you’re reading my blog, you’ve got a decent grasp of what that really means. Overall there’s a long drawn out process overshadowing the whole thing, so just in case here are some basics too get you up to speed:

  • In order to vote for the Hall of Fame, you need to be a BBWAA member for at least 10 years.
  • This year’s ballot features players from 1993 and later, but also not after 2007.
  • This year’s ballot features 37 players.
  • If a player receives <5% of the vote, they are not featured on the ballot the next year, players receiving 75% or more of the vote are inducted into the Hall.
  • Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro are on this year’s ballot, which is gaining notoriety for being “the steroid ballot”.

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Long story short, this is going to be a tough ballot, probably one of the most scrutinized in history, no matter which direction it goes. Why? Because as baseball fans, we still haven’t figured out how to memorialize the “steroid era”. Do we celebrate it? Do we shun the players? Do we forget it? Do we chalk it up to “not cheating is not trying”? The debate on how to handle steroid users and the Hall of Fame is as hotly contested in baseball circles as the Fiscal Cliff is in Washington, DC (Wait, never mind. Those guys don’t do anything.)

Before we go any further, I’d like to say that this is MY blog. This is how I feel. This is how I would vote, and how I think the game should be conducted. If you disagree with me, don’t just tell me, tell me WHY. Articulate your thoughts and arguments. Keep in mind this is written from a fan’s perspective. It is important to understand that I do buy into some former player’s analysis that nearly “everyone” was juicing. I believe it, and it’s part of who I am as a baseball fan and plays out in my decision making process. Yes, I do make some assumptions, but in life you have to make some assumptions to get anywhere.  

But I digress. I recently read an article by Tom Haudricourt, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s baseball writer, BBWAA member, and Hall of Fame voter. He explains in his article that when he saw the names of four of baseball’s most scrutinized, suspected performance enhancers,

“Remembering the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ foundation upon which our nation’s legal system is based, [he voted for] all four names.”

Which names were they? Bonds, Clemens, Sosa and Piazza. This specific quote incensed me. Here’s where I begin the rant.

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The Baseball Hall of Fame is our place, as baseball fanatics, to exalt what we are most proud of, the players who displayed excellence on, off the field and everywhere in between. But, let’s get real here. These guys play a game for a living. They, in reality, are just performers, purporting our chosen outlet of relaxation and consumption.

What do I mean by that? Baseball is ours. Fans might not be making the billions of dollars that MLB incorporated does, but that doesn’t make MLB, Inc. the owners. Without us, professional baseball is nothing. There is no need for people to play baseball professionally; there is no need for vast spring training complexes or sprawling big league stadiums. Baseball is the fans. The Hall of Fame is the fan’s. The writers don’t work for newspapers, they work for us. The players don’t play for owners, they play for us. Long story short, baseball is for the fans, and the fans should be the driving factor behind all pertinent decisions. I’m not exactly advocating an all-fan vote for the Hall of Fame, which would probably be a miserable failure. But, what I am suggesting is that the Hall of Fame, while deciding the criteria may be tough and voting not easy, doesn’t belong to the BBWAA or baseball… It belongs to the fans, and the fan’s sentiment of the period should be reflected in commemorating the era’s greatest.

The baseball Hall of Fame is not a jail, its voters not judge nor jury, and its final tallies not the proverbial gallows. To espouse an “innocent until proven guilty” mantra when debating the admissibility of performance enhancers is erroneous. I say again, they play a game. I love baseball very much, more than most things, but, it’s a game. To say that someone is entitled to immortalization in the Hall of Fame is outlandish. Baseball players are indeed entitled to many things, their paychecks, freedom of speech, and the constitution in general. Under close examination and research, it was found that enshrinement in the Hall of Fame is not, I repeat, not, included as a guaranteed inalienable right.

I feel that the Hall of Fame is a place for the fans to display the players, games and memorabilia we cherish most. The Hall of Fame is our chance, as baseball fans in 2013, to say to future generations, decades from now “these were our best. These are the men and women we are most proud of. This is who we were, as baseball fans. Model yourselves after these people. This was greatness.”

Some day when we’re all stale and shriveled up, walking with a cane taking our grandchildren on a proverbial walk down baseball memory lane, do you want to look at a generation of cheaters, motivated largely by money disregarding safety, risking their lives and say “those were our heroes”? Would you be proud if every team was made up of 25 Barry Bonds? If each game was the San Francisco Bonds versus the Chicago Sosas, would you be happy to watch that as a true baseball fan?

Detractors like to counter this argument with questioning current members of the hall of fame. Baseball players have been cheating for as long as there has been baseball, they say. While this is true, it is the nature of the beast! In baseball’s infancy, the game lacked identity. Anything went. Spitballs, emery balls, beanballs, hard slides, doctored baseballs; the list goes on and on. In baseball’s early years, we were still figuring out what exactly it was. Towards the beginning, it really was just about the love of the game, playing hard and winning. They weren’t set for life for simply playing baseball. They cheated because it was part of playing your hardest. Today, players are motivated to cheat largely for the money. Then, baseball was played in back lots, muddy fields by hard working men playing because they loved the sport. It was part of the culture. To sum this up, I like to think of “baseball” as a person. When someone is a child, you don’t prosecute them for breaking a law. They don’t know any better. Children don’t know. However, when someone is an adult and break a law, they’re often prosecuted to the fullest extent the law provides. They knew better. Back when baseball players cheated left and right, doctoring the ball, fixing the game, etc., they didn’t know any better. Baseball was an identity-less entity. Today when baseball player cheat, they know better. We know what baseball is, and what we want it to be. As members of 21st century America, the dangers of steroids and the petulance of greed and poor moral character are supposed to be things we know to avoid with fervor.

While excluding players from the Hall in baseball’s early years would doom them to anonymity, today things are different. Keeping players like Bonds, McGwire, Sosa and company out of the Hall of Fame will not sentence their memory to death. We live in a digital age, video footage, pictures and media will live forever. They will not be forgotten. Let their memory live on, in the exact way we see them today; great enough to be remembered, but excluded because of suspicion and dirty deeds.

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I know who I am as a baseball fan. I know who I am as an American. I know how I want the game I love to be remembered. It deserves better.

Keep the Hall clean.

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New Year, New Blog Title

Some of you loyal visitors may have noticed a change in my blog’s moniker about two weeks ago. When I began my blog way back when, I had initially intended to not only blog about ballhawking but to also weigh in on a variety of baseball topics in general, giving you my “view” both on contemporary baseball matters and my literal view from the bleachers. The Ballhawk’s View was born.

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Tee-hee! Look at how cute I was back then! 13 game home runs. You rookie, former me.

A season or two and one forgotten password later, a new blog was born, and The Ballhawk’s View Part II came into existence. Around this time, my baseball thoughts (mostly complaints) were relegated to Twitter, and the blog basically died.

But now, I’m back into the swing of things and I have my eyes on the top 50 in the blogosphere. The Ballhawk’s View Part II didn’t really have a great ring to it, and I need to change that before I made my break at returning to the top 50.

I had experimented with a few different name changes, most recently 776 to 1: Beating the Odds. But why did I pick that? Some mumbo jumbo news magazine out of Las Vegas placed the odds of catching a ball at a professional baseball game at, well, 776:1. At first, I really dug that title, it had my “lucky” number 77, and those are pretty big odds. Maybe people would think I’m doing something really super-duper awesome. I left that title up for a few days but I wasn’t really feeling it. Mainly because I don’t think that figure is accurate.

While pondering potential titles, I remembered a sign that is posted all over Miller Park: The classic “Watch out for flying bats and balls” warning. I considered using exactly that, but it wasn’t too catchy or flashy. Kind of boring, actually. But I was on the right track.

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Every MLB stadium has some kid of warning or cover-our-asses clause in the contract you purchase (your game ticket) to watch the game. Sometimes they post the warnings outside the gates before you enter. I figured that I’d do a little research and find some of the best of those warnings. Why? Because those warnings are cautioning against our very beloved hobby. What do all ballhawks strive to do? We want to catch that ball careening into the stands. We want that bat helicoptering right at rich stiff’s heads behind home plate. Those warnings are what WE thrive on! The search for the quirkiest, wordiest, most dangerous sounding “don’t get hit by a ball” warning was on!

It wasn’t long before I stumbled upon my friend Nick “Happy” Yohanek’s picture from a trip to Coors Field with Ballhawk Kenny Kasta. Coors Field cautions fans about …

“[I]njury resulting from the inherent dangers and risks of observing professional baseball”


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That’s Ballhawk Kenny modeling the sign, and Ballhawk Happy behind the camera.

Uh… Did I miss something? Are baseballs tipped with razor blades? Do they explode on impact? Maybe the ushers come over and hit you with lead pipes if you get a souvenir. Who knows, but Coors Field makes watching baseball seem really, really dangerous. Like when you step into Coors Field you’re entering a portal to Kandahar or the Sudan…with landmines under each seat. The sign makes ballhawking sound like being “The Hurtlocker”.

So with some minor editing to accommodate length and fluidity (I just removed “and risks” and “observing”), I had myself a new blog title. Hopefully it makes me sounds like a badass. Sarcasm. But yeah, that’s the new blog title. Enjoy.

Thanks for reading, Mom and Dad! And Brooke! And everyone else!

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****In all seriousness though, Coors Field is awesome from what I’ve been told. No ill will intended and any remarks were laced with sarcasm. The people were friendly, the scenery pristine and presentation beautiful. It’s a safe place. Go see games there. Spend your money there. Explore Denver and have the time of your life.****

Can I Have YOUR Autograph?

“You can’t do that here. That’s stealing, knock it off,” a policeman in Kansas City once told me.

“That the coolest damned thing I’ve seen in a while,” an usher in Surprise, Arizona told me about it in 2012.

“It’s illegal, that is all there is to it. It’s also trespassing. If I see it again you’ll be removed from the ballpark,” a Miller Park usher told me in 2009.

“That’s pretty neat. How’d you do that?” asked a Dayton Dragons pitcher.

And finally, “Hey, do you think you could use that thing to get this ball my kid dropped a minute ago? I’ll buy you a beer or something” asked countless parents in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

They’re all talking to me about the same thing, but what is it?

An integral part of any serious “numbers-game” ballhawk’s repertoire, the glove trick can be an indispensable tool. It reaches where your hands cannot, and opens you to countless opportunities to reel in another baseball that otherwise would be impossible to obtain. Some stadiums and their staff view it as dangerous and illegal, on the same plane as lock picks and concealed weapons. Other places, like San Francisco and Atlanta, fans are encouraged to build their own and try it out behind the outfield walls. Be it theft, be it trespassing, be it genius or good clean fun, ballhawks everywhere employ the glove trick.

I’ll be honest and say that I didn’t come up with it; rather I learned it from Zack Hample. I couldn’t tell you where he learned it from, that’s on you to ask him. One thing is for sure: I’m the only ballhawk to use it regularly at Miller Park. People actually have started making spinoffs of the glove trick, none of which really work too well.

A few days ago, I was thinking about naming my glove trick, just for the hell of it. I was going to come up with some fear-inducing, overly aggressive name to brandish across the glove trick itself, a sarcastic jab at the people who call it thievery and trespassing. I’ve come up with a few things, like:

  • “Seek and Destroy”
  • “Ball Buster”
  • “Go-Go-Gadget Criminal Trespassing”
  • “The Claw”
  • “Glove-on-a-noose”

I haven’t chosen a name yet, and I’m open to suggestions as well. But, as I was thinking where to write the new name, my next great glove trick idea hit me…

What if I use my glove trick as a virtual “ballhawk yearbook” of sorts?

What do I mean by that? Well, you see, whenever another ballhawk and I share the bleachers, after we initially meet or after BP I’d like them to sign my glove trick and leave an inspiring (or sarcastic, “roast of Ballhawk Shawn”-esque) comment. Kind of like the last few pages of a high school yearbook, yeah?

So beginning in 2013 Spring Training, any ballhawk who I’m ballhawking in the same stadium with will be welcomed to sign my glove and write me a little message, to give me courage, make me laugh or just plain ol’ remember you by. I hope to have a glove full of graffiti by the end of next season!

PS: I’ll be completely dumping my current glove trick for a newer (but actually older glove), stealthier model. It’ll be a black glove with a black string, made of Army 550 parachute cord as suggested by Rocco Sinisi.

Thanks for reading!

-Shawn

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