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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Ryan Mort and I

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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

Playing Catch With Munenori Kawasaki

Earlier today at US Cellular field, Blue Jays SS and Japanese import helped make a baseball dream come true for me (for a second time in a week). Only a few days after I played catch with Ryan Cook of the A’s at Miller Park, Munenori Kawasaki ASKED ME to play catch with him.

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.

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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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7000 Coliseum Way

My name is Nick Badders and I'm a 15 year old living in the Bay Area. I am an Oakland A's Season Ticket holder than loves going to Major and Minor League baseball games and snagging balls. I have a great, supportive, and amazing family that accompanies me to all of these games, putting up with my insanity. I started snagging balls in 2011, and since then, I've snagged 95 MiLB Baseballs and 68 MLB Baseballs.. Follow me on my adventures from April to October and beyond!

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