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?!)
This past weekend, I was able to play my first baseball of the spring.
Nick and Bryan Pelescak and I got together for a round of home run derby
at a field in South Fayette. Amy came along and took a few pictures.
We did three rounds of home run derby. The first round consisted of 15
outs, and the other two rounds were ten outs each. Any swing that
didn’t result in a home run was considered an out.
It was a pretty close contest, with the final score being Me 9 HR, Bryan Pelescak 8 HR, and Nick 4 HR.
The dimensions of the field were about 300 feet to left field, that’ pretty much where we all hit the entire time.
Here’s some pictures that Amy snapped from the bench.
Nick Pelescak pitching:
Making contact, hitting a line drive:
One of two home runs that I hit in round one:
Pitching to Bryan Pelescak
Bryan connects for a homer:
Me heading to the outfield:
Nick Pelescak taking a swing:
The last time we played home run derby last fall I think the score was also 9-8, with me barely edging Nick.
Spring is here. Baseball is back.
I wasn’t sure if I was going to go to today’s game at Progressive Field. After continuously checking the weather forecast throughout the morning, it looks like rain that had been moving through Cleveland would be gone.
Afterwards, Zack, Nick, Bryan and I went to Heritage Park to see if any balls had landed in the trees there. There was nothing to be found, but we did take a few photo opportunities:
Showing the Target Field balls:
and an even better picture, with a clear view of the Target Field Balls:
Afterwards, we would all go our separate ways. I chose to go to the Twins bullpen area. I had noticed a ball laying in the bullpen.
It was a little too far out to do the glove trick, so I elected to wait and see if I could get the ball tossed up to me.
For lefties, I sat over in right field.
And I stayed on the home run porch occasionally for righties.
I stayed until the very end of the game – the 11th inning.
And watched the Indians win in exciting walk off fashion:
Also, this was likely the last game that I’ll have the #1 game on mygameballs.com, as Zack Hample is poised to remove me from the top spot on Monday.
Here are today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 8 balls (5 hit, 3 thrown)
Season: 69 balls (43 hit, 13 thrown, 7 device, 6 found)
Games: 10 games
Average: 6.90 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 3
Career: 647 balls
Streak: 106 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
It was time for my return to Progressive Field in Cleveland. Of the ballparks that I’ve traveled to, I enjoy ballhawking most at Progressive Field.
I arrived at 3:30 and was second in line behind fellow Pittsburgh ballhawk Nick Pelescak.
When the gates opened, I was hoping to fill my pockets with Easter Eggs. Alas, I only found one ball, despite looking in virtually every row and seat. At the very least, I was on the board.
Game: 7 balls (3 hit, 1 thrown, 3 found)
Season: 24 balls (13 hit, 3 thrown, 5 device, 3 found)
Games: 5 games
Average: 4.80 balls per game
Career: 602 balls
Streak: 101 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
2009 through 5 games: 20 balls (Four balls ahead of last year’s pace)
I’ll close with another brief youtube video that I took from left field:
Recently, the Pirates invited their season ticket holders to come and take batting practice on the field at PNC Park.
This was the second year that the Pirates have done this, and the second year that I would participate. If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you may remember this entry from last year.
I had asked my dad if he’d like to go hit again, but he indicated that he wasn’t interested. So, I decided to ask Zack Hample, winner of the ballhawk league in 2009, if he’d like to come to PNC Park as my guest. Hample enthusiastically obliged, and brought along his mother and his friend Brandon.
Zack, two fellow ballhawks and friends, Nick and Bryan Pelescak, and I met at the stadium at 9AM. We promptly entered through the right field player’s garage door and walked down towards the field.
This was the view at the end of the tunnel.
And that, was that.
See you April 5th 2010, PNC Park.
I missed Monday’s and Tuesday’s games due to prior commitments. I was able to catch part of them on tv, and believe me, it was brutal. The crowds were as sparse as I had ever seen.
On Tuesday, fellow ballhawk league member and PNC Park ballhawk league member Nick Pelescak went on a rampage. He texted me to let me know that he had caught 11 balls during batting practice. The recognized official PNC Park record was 13 – set by me, back on June 13th 2009.
As the night went on, Nick would get a toss up ball during the game from Andrew McCutchen and Brandon Moss. It would come down to the players coming off of the field for Nick. Fortunately for him, Tim Tschida tossed him a ball as he walked off the field, giving Nick Pelescak the new PNC Park ballhawk record of 14 balls snagged in one game. After just three months, my name had been erased from the record book.
I was glad for Nick – and was more motivated than ever to do my best to get the record back. Since about June 21st or so, around when the Indians/Pirates series began, I have put myself through a rigorous workout schedule. Every other day I lift weights – on the off days, I run three miles.
Today, I would forego my fitness and wellbeing to stay for the entire game, and maybe, just maybe, get that record back.
Around 2:45 PM, it started to rain hard, so I was about 95% sure that batting practice would be cancelled. At 3:30, I got a text from Nick saying the tarp was on the field. I decided that maybe I could get three balls today from pitchers and what not – and that would be a good day.
I arrived at the stadium a little after 4 PM, and faced no traffic at all on the way in. Pittsburgh is officially a ghost town for the next three days. The G20 summit is here, and it has basically transformed Pittsburgh into a military state.
I went down to the riverwalk to wait for Brandon Moss, Garrett Jones, or Ryan Doumit to send one out of the stadium. Usually, the riverwalk is bustling with people. Typically, I am asked no less than 50 times, “What are you doing? Trying to get a ball? Do they ever come out here? How many came out today? What happens if it goes in the river?”
There were military choppers flying over every so often.
And to my right.
Lots of room to run. Sometimes on Saturdays it can get quite crowded for BP, since there’s very few rows. On days like this however – there’s plenty of room to roam.
I got ball #8 in Phillips’ next round of BP. He launched a home run that hit half way up the rotunda facade. Typically, I would just stand and watch the ball, since it was directly down the line. Since no one was here, I ran over towards where the ball was going to hit – just in case of a crazy bounce. The ball would take a huge hop off of the rotunda, and fall in Section 133, where it would roll slowly down the steps up against the green wall in the picture below. I was able to pick it up.
It was about 5:45, and I had snagged 8 balls already…
However, I would get shut out for the rest of BP. I made a bad choice on two consecutive groups. I stayed in left field when there were two powerful lefties peppering the seats with homers. Then, I went over to center field for the last group, but got shut out there as well.
I decided that my new goal would be to put up double digits.
I got ball #9 in the first inning from Andrew McCutchen.
It was rather funny. Andrew finished throwing with Brandon Moss and turned to throw the ball into the center field seats. He stopped and laughed, almost as if he was thinking, “These guys again?” It was basically us four ballhawks that he sees all the time. He paused and looked at us, and then threw me the ball in Section 139. He has probably seen me the least, since I don’t typically stick around for the games.
Speaking of center field, look how unbelievably empty it was?
Thank you G20 and the Pittsburgh Media for scaring everyone away from Pittsburgh. And yes, those pictures were actually taken DURING the game!
I would try every inning for another warm up ball from an outfielder so I could record a double digit game. In the second inning, Nick caught Moss’ warm up ball.
In the third, I went back to center field, but changed my appearance, taking off my Pirates Tshirt and wearing my black under armor compression shirt. I also put on some ugly visor I had won after BP. I was hoping he wouldn’t recognize me and throw me another ball. No luck.
In the fourth, Moss threw his ball to an older ballhawk on the right field wall who misplayed it, and the ball bounced into a teenager’s hand.
In the fifth, I tried again with my altered appearance, but McCutchen threw it to some girl.
The sixth inning rolled around, and I was the only person that stood up for Moss when he looked for someone to throw it to. It helped that there were maybe 20 people sitting on the entire right field wall. After scanning the crowd, he tossed me ball #10.
Thank you Brandon!
I kept playing for more toss up balls in every inning. In the ninth, with my altered image, I was able to trick McCutchen into throwing me another one. I doubt he recognized that I was the same guy who he threw a ball to in the first inning. He lobbed it up, and I took a few steps to my right and made the catch. It was ball #11.
After catching each warm up ball, I switched the ball with an extra ball I had brought from home. In the past, I had been given guff by ushers or non friendly season ticket holders for catching too many outfield warm up balls. Now, I make sure that I hand the “decoy” balls to a little kid right in front of an usher or supervisors. I’m hoping they’ll think, “That guy’s alright.” I’ve got a whole box of them at home. They are balls given to me by friends who agreed in the past to pay for their tickets to games with the balls they’ve caught. Those balls obviously aren’t marked and don’t count in my stats. Their sole purpose is to use to give away.
After getting McCutchen’s warm up ball, smoothing keeping it in my glove, while slipping the decoy ball out of my pocket and tossing it to a kid, I left the outfield with Nick to go to the dugout area. On our way towards the main concourse we were stopped by a kind usher. He told me something along the lines about how nice it was that I gave a ball to a kid and offered me a ball. Of course I took it. It counts. An usher is a paid employee of the Pirates, not a fan, and balls given away by ushers, trainers, security guards count. It was ball #12. He told me that he had retrieved the ball from center field earlier and that it had gotten soaked when it rained earlier this morning. The ball was certainly heavy, so I put it in my bag, and will hold off on numbering it until it dries out.
Nick was with me and noted, “You’re only two away now.”
I would need a miracle.
Enter Jayson Nix.
I sat down in the box seats and waited for the game to end.
Nix would foul off a 1-0 pitch from Virgil Vazquez that would land in an aisle of the Lexus Club seats.
As soon as the ball was hit, I was off. The ball bounced off the concrete, and took a high hop in the air. I was closing in on the ball and reached out and caught the ball out of the air. It was my first career foul ball, and my first game ball of 2009.
Not only that, but it was my 13th ball of the game.
Even more, it was my 200th hit ball snagged of 2009.
Guess what else? Remember Nick Pelescak? Guess who hit his first career foul ball which he caught earlier in the season? Yeah, Laynce Nix. And who’s PNC Park single ball record was I chasing? Nick Pelescak’s. Somehow fate had taken over.
Here’s a shot from Reds TV of where the ball landed. I’m wearing the black under armor shirt with my hat on backwards:
And a shot from FSN Pittsburgh, as I’m reaching out to make the catch:
I just needed to get a ball from Bob Davidson, and I would have my name back in the PNC Park record book, sharing Nick’s record.
The Pirates would go on to lose the game, and I tried my best to get Davidson to toss me a ball. He looked directly at me, but tossed four balls to other kids.
I quickly ran over to the Pirates dugout to try and get a ball from someone.
I waited for the Pirates bullpen pitchers to come in. Only Matt Capps had a ball, and he tossed it to a little kid.
All of the players had exited the field.
All of the fans had left the stadium.
A security guard came over and told me I had to leave. However, I noticed that Herbie Andrade, the bullpen catcher, still hadn’t come in. I bargained with the security guard to just let me wait for “that player,” and then I would be gone.
Herbie walked slowly in, lugging a huge bag of equipment over one shoulder, and carrying another burdonsome bag in the other.
The entire stadium was basically empty now, except for me (standing in the front row above the tunnel), and Nick, who was standing a few rows behind me.
Herbie probably wondered, “What the F is wrong with these guys?”
I felt awkward, so I spoke to him in Spanish.
“Tienes algunas pelotas extras para mi, Herbie?”
He paused and fumbled around with the bags. Noticing that he was going to give me a ball, I continued, “Muchisimas Gracias. Eres el hombre.”
He the tossed me ball #14. I bid him farewell with, “Hasta manana.” Seriously, Herbie is an awesome guy.
My friend Nick couldn’t believe my luck. Within 1 inning, from the beginning of the 9th to the end of the game, I had snagged four balls.
I wanted one more shot at snagging a ball. There was only one place to go.
Outside to the tall grass that was buzzing with insects.
I stomped around hoping to step on a ball.
I continued to search.
After about 10 minutes of searching, fearing I would be arrested as a suspected g20 terrorist, and feeling bugs crawling on my legs, I relented.
Did the thought of jumping into the river and swimming 17 feet down, feeling around for a ball, and grabbing it to get 15 for the night cross my mind? Yes.
Did I jump in the river and actually try it? No.
Nick and I would share the PNC Park record of 14.
Here’s today’s PNC Park record tying and personal best baseballs:
And the sweet spots: (the usher ball is not numbered yet because it is soaked):
And a look at my first career foul ball snagged, and first game ball of 2009:
Game: 14 balls (8 hit, 6 thrown)
Season: 375 balls (200 hit, 112 thrown, 63 device)
Games: 76 games (8 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.93 balls per game
Career: 541 balls
Streak: 91 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
Attendance: 15,980 (couldn’t have been more than 2,000-3,000 that actually showed)
Race for 400 in 2009: Need 25 in 5 games, 5.0 per game (This could be do-able…)
I decided to attend this game in Cleveland, seeing as the Pirates were off and I would not be able to attend this weekend’s Friday and Saturday’s games due to a wedding.
I began the day with a career tally of 392 balls snagged. I would need 8 to get to 400. It would’ve been nice to get a landmark ball outside of PNC Park for once.
I arrived at the stadium at 3:35, and the Indians were already inside hitting. It is not unusual for Indians to be taking early BP, I’ve seen it many times, so I didn’t think much of it at the time.
At the gates I was greeted by PNC Park ballhawks Bryan Pelescak and his brother Nick. They were the first ones in line and had already snagged balls over outside the left field gates. The top three ballhawks at PNC Park had all made the trip (We all have over 100 balls snagged apiece this season). There would likely be some stiff competition today.
When the gates opened, I ran into the right field bleachers to search for Easter Eggs. I ran down the center area of the right field seats, looking around quickly for any balls. I got down to the front row and spotted a ball to my right. I picked up ball #1. On the board. A few feet further in the same row was ball #2. Another section over was ball #3. I then spotted another ball but a police offer hurriedly went over and picked it up. “I need this,” he snorted. “It’s cool, I already found some,” I said. I then ran over to Heritage Park. This was within maybe a minute or two of the park opening, so I was hoping I would be the first one there. However, a young ballhawk, maybe 14 years old had beaten me there. He was trying to reach a ball that was at the back of the wall underneath the fence in heritage park. He stood up and began to walk away, but then saw me out of the corner of his eye and went back to the spot. I went over and asked if he had anything to get the ball with, he said he didn’t. I got out my 72 inch ruler and told him he should also check the tall grass for balls. It took me only a few seconds to push the ball closer to me, and I had ball #4. I probably should’ve given it to the kid, but I was in such a hurry to get back to right field to look for more Easter Eggs that I just ran off. I felt guilty a minute later as soon as I realized that I snubbed the kid. It was a jerk move on my part. I didn’t feel so bad after the teen sent me a nasty hateful email (apparently he knows of my blog – how else would he know to run directly to Heritage Park?) filled with swear words and random personal attacks. (Don’t worry Marty R from Salem OH, I won’t post your message or any of your personal info here (IP address, etc)-I’m not going to sink that low – just think before you go spouting off) I’m sure next time he’ll be better prepared with a device of his own to get those hard to reach balls in Heritage Park.
I continued to walk up and down every row searching for balls while Nick and Bryan did the same thing. I soon found ball #5, tucked at the bottom of a folded up chair. Nick also found five. Progressive Field is an Easter Egg heaven.
Then I realized something was wrong. There were no Indians on the field. The groundscrew had come out and started watering the dirt on the infield.
Not good. I was off to a fantastic start, and the Indians are a great right field hitting BP team. I would’ve had an excellent chance at double digits.
The crowd was sparse too.
When the ball was in view, I went to work. I had to be quick because there were policemen in the market pavilion behind me, and a worker who’s supposed to watch the bullpen. I was able to get the ball on the first attempt, and slowly reeled it in for ball #7. A few impressed spectators asked me how I was able to get the ball, and I explained the glove trick to them.
I went back to left field, but it was really crowded at this point. I had little range.
Luckily, a right handed batter hit a ball that bounced on the warning track, and into the trees in Heritage Park. I had a chance to nab my 400th career ball. I ran up the steps in center field and over to Heritage Park.
When I got to the spot, a teenager had a ball and was gloating about his prize. Oh well. I decided to check anyway. Wouldn’t you know it, there it was, a ball that was tucked away at the back of the outfield wall behind the base of one of the trees. It would be a tough ball to get because one of the monuments prevented me from inserting the collapsible ruler straight on.
After some finangling, I was able to get the ball close enough to reach in and grab ball #8 (#400).
I ended BP over in left field. Unfortunately, the last group featured utility players and back ups, so few home runs were hit.
I ended the day with eight baseballs. I went back to Heritage Park to do one last check for any balls that I may have missed. On my way there, an old guy, who had been repeatedly pestering me in right field for baseballs offered to buy one off of me for $3. I turned him down. “Sorry, I don’t sell them.” When I was looking for balls in Heritage Park, along with Nick, a teenager offered Nick $20 for a ball. When Nick turned him down, he made me the same offer. I also turned him down. “I don’t sell them, plus I wrote on all the ones I got. Sorry.” I told him. If I had brought along some extras I would’ve sold him one. I probably have at least 100 MLB balls at home that I didn’t snag, and aren’t part of my official collection. I use them to give away on occasion, especially in times like the scenario that played out with ball #4 today.
After BP, I took off, hoping to get home before dusk. Which I did achieve, even with a stop at Wendy’s for dinner. (Small Chili, 1 Grilled Chicken Go-Wrap).
I haven’t been staying at many games lately. I don’t have time to with my new hobby.
And the sweet spots:
Game: 8 Balls (5 hit, 3 device)
Season: 234 Balls (124 hit, 75 thrown, 35 device)
Games: 47 Games (5 of them didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.98 Balls per Game
Career: 400 Balls