For the past three years, the top three ballhawks in terms of balls snagged have remained fairly constant. Zack Hample, Erik Jabs and Nick Pelescak have been at or near the top each year. In 2009, the year ended with Hample first, Jabs second, and Pelescak fourth. In 2010, Jabs finished first, Pelescak second, and Hample third. This past year, Hample finished first, Jabs second, and Pelescak third.
However, with the hobby of ballhawking growing, ballhawks have become more serious. Many are making multiple road trips to different cities to increase their games attended and thereby inflate their balls snagged total. It is quite possible that a new ballhawk challenges for the top spot, or the top 3. Let’s take a look at the candidates (not named Hample, Jabs, or Pelescak) that could challenge for a top 3 spot (in no particular order):
Garrett Meyer (garrett37):
2011: 324, 4th place in 2011. Career: 437
Garrett snagged 324 balls in 2011 and put pressure on Nick Pelescak throughout the season for third place before slightly fading in September. Garrett has a the daunting task of snaggingbaseballs in Kansas City, which features the latest opening time in the major leagues. Although KC allows paying customers in early for a BP tour, they confine all fans behind the dugouts. If Garrett plans some lengthy road trips during the summer to ballhawk friendly parks while KC is out of town, he could be a major contender.
2011: 273, 7th place in 2011. Career: 369
Rocco ballhawks regularly in Cincinnati, and despite his age, he has emerged as Great American Ballpark’s top ballhawk. Rocco has an advantage of utilizing a BP tour in which he gets earlyentrance into GABP an hour before the general public. He also finds handfuls of baseballs in the seats that help inflate his overall numbers, and make him a serious contender. If Rocco continues to improve as a ballhawk, and he has many tricks up his sleeve, a 300+ season is probable. I have seen him in person in Cincinnati, Cleveland and Pittsburgh. Plus, if I am not mistaken, he is retired, so making it to weekday games even in another city is an option.
Dave Stevenson (flavadave10)
2011: 311, 5th place in 2011 Career: 311
Dave emerged as Baltimore’s top ballhawk in terms of balls snagged in2011. I had the opportunity to see him in action, and although he’s not the top Baltimore ballhawk in terms of snagging hit balls, he does quite well with getting balls tossed to him. He also has a huge advantage of living in the Baltimore/Washington DC area. The Nationals and Orioles have an extremely staggered schedule, so when the Orioles are home, the Nationals are on the road and vice versa. So, Dave could easily attend over 100 games and snag 400-500 balls if he really wanted to dedicate himself. If he snagged 311 in his rookie season, whoknows what he could do to follow it up?
Tim Anderson (gu3)
2011: 235, 8th place in 2011 Career: 323
Tim started off 2011 putting pressure on Nick Pelescak for third place, even passing him up early in the summer but faded as the weekspassed in terms of balls snagged. He did however garner national attention for snagging nine game home run balls. The question will be if Anderson strives for total baseballs or game home runs (or both). Also, since he ballhawks in Baltimore, attending a bunch of extra games in Washington DC is always a possibility.
Devin Trone (devoT)
2011: 281, 6th place in 2011. Career: 421
Devin attended the second most games in 2011 with 88 and has the benefit ofliving in a region where he can attend multiple games. Since he lives in the Los Angeles area, although Anaheim seems to be his home ballpark, making a short trip to Dodger stadium isn’t out of the possibility. I also thought I heard that LA is opening 3 hours early for season ticket holders in 2012, which would present Trone numerous opportunities to rack up big numbers.
Rick Gold (jqfc)
2011: 224, 9th place in 2011. Career: 1,241
Gold is yet another Baltimore ballhawk, which presents him with the opportunity to attend many road games by taking a short trip to Washington. He attended 79 games in 2011, and averaged three per game, so by attending 20 more, he could easily reach a 300+ season. Gold also seems to pride himself on catching home runs as his main source of balls and doesn’t often seem to call out for balls or use a glove trick- if he starts doing those, then watch out.
Ben Weil (piazza)
2011: 214, 10th place in 2011. Career: 258
Weil attended 84 games in 2011, and snagged 214 balls, an average of 2.55. He lives in New York, so he has to deal with tough crowds, but could be poised to improve. He also has the advantage of having piles and piles of jerseys at his residence for each team.
Alex Kopp (akopp1)
2011: 168, 14th place in 2011. Career: 214
Alex Kopp is, in my opinion, likely to have a breakout season in 2012. Despite placing in 14th place in 2011, he averaged 5.60 balls per game, which was second place among all ballhawks attending at least 30 games. I met him in Washington DC once over the summer and he snagged at least a dozen balls. If Kopp attends say, 80 games, he could easily end up in the 400-500 ball range.
Ben Huff (bhuff)
2011: 172, 13th place in 2011. Career: 239
I was in Baltimore for a few games this summer and Huff stood out to me as the most athletic ballhawk. He seemed to have the best range and catch the most batted balls of the regulars there. However, he faded throughout the season and eventually dropped out of the top 10 on mygameballs. Again, he has a huge advantage, as do the other Baltimore ballhawks of living near Washington DC. If him and another friend team up to take road trips, his totals could be off the charts.
Mateo Fischer (fischerm)
2011: 161, 15th place in 2011. Career: 222
Fischer earned some recognition as a runner up for junior ballhawk of the year. For only being 17, he is a well-traveled ballhawk, often attending a good deal of road games. However, he will be limited by his age, as he will have school to deal with – thereby making it tough for him to attend weekday games during the school year.
Zac Weiss (wewill1992)
2011: 137, 16th place in 2011. Career: 205
Weiss was PNC Park’s most improved ballhawk in 2011, and was the only regular to improve upon their 2010 season. (All other PNC ballhawks suffered a drop off of about a ball per game in their average.) Weiss’ game consists mostly of using conversation to get balls tossed to him, and using his blazing speed to locate Easter eggs. Weiss really needs to improve upon his hit ball snagging ability to become a major contender. He’s spending this offseason bulking up and honing his baseball skills to become a serious threat to the other ballhawks of PNC. He’s probably also one of the most prepared ballhawks, usually arriving first at the gate and preparing with a lengthy warm routine and throwing. With a goal of 206 baseballs in 2012, he’s not going to be in the top three, but could break into the top 10 on mygameballs, thereby giving him All-Star ballhawking status.
This list features many ballhawks who have yet to really establish themselves, as only one, Rick Gold, has over 500 baseballs. There are a handful of ballhawks who didn’t actively compete in 2011 because they either took some time away from ballhawking or simply decided not to update their stats on mygameballs.com. A list of top 2012 contenders is incomplete without mentioning Happy Youngster (1,143 career balls), Shawn Bosman (1,112), or Greg Barasch (1,099).
Good luck in 2012 everybody.
71 more days to opening day…
(and 71 more entries?!)