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?!)
I attended only one out of the final five games of the homestand. Things have been busy lately with a new baby, a tripled workload at work (100 students to 325), and a house to upkeep.
I made sure to attend this game though as Zack Hample would be in attendance. Hample if you don’t know is a New York City ballhawk on his way to snagging 1,000 baseballs this year. He has already attended over 100 games this year and is planning on visiting all 30 major league stadiums this year.
Before the gates opened, we got a picture, taken by Ian Weir:
The man on the left is one of Zack Hample’s clients, I believe his name was David (Zack has a business that charges $500 to attend a game with him), Zack is in the yellow shirt, them Nick Pelescak, Zac Weiss, and myself. The children are David’s.
Once the gates opened, I got on the board early by getting a toss up from Jason Grilli. He’s been with the team for only a short amount of time, so he hasn’t been made anti-fan by Joel Hanrahan yet.
My second ball of the day was a clean catch right behind Ian Weir here:
Ball #3 was a ground rule double that skipped over the fence quickly and off of Ian. He slowed it down and deflected it right to me here.
My fourth ball was another clean catch in the second row of section 136. I had to climb over a bleacher or two to get into position.
When the Brewers came out I got ball #5 off the bat of Ryan Braun. He hit it to the back of section 135, so I scooped it up as it was rolling under the bleachers down towards the front row. One of the ushers started heckling me screaming at me “You just stole a ball from that kid!” and “You’ll get yours.” The kid had already snagged three balls of his own, and he was two rows below where the ball had hit. Since there was a sparse crowd, if I wasn’t there the ball would’ve eventually rolled down to him, but you would’ve thought that I ripped the ball from his hand.
I later went up and confronted the usher (who’s not a regular in left field) and explained that I didn’t steal a ball from anyone. The ball was on the ground when I picked it up. I further pointed out that I gave my sixth ball of the day, which was glove tricked in left field to a young fan in the front row nearby who hadn’t gotten one yet (in the light blue).
The family was ecstatic. The usher, who I guess was upset that I had already gotten too many baseballs possibly realized he overreacted and was happy that I gave one of mine away. I typically always give the glove trick balls away if I have to ask someone to let me in to the front row for access to the ball below.
I was making my way over to center field, and De La Cruz was retrieving a ball. I was above the bullpen and just held my glove up and he threw me a perfect strike. Here he is over in center field.
After BP was over, I took off and went home, stopping off at GetGo later that night to get 27+ gallons of gas for free.
My next game will be 9-5-11. Yeah, it’s basically a 2 week break. I thought about attending 9-3 with Nick in Washington DC, but heard from him that there wasn’t batting practice due to a concert.
I don’t know if I’ll get to too many more road games. I’d like get to most of the few remaining home games at PNC Park and then possibly a playoff game in October. We’ll see.
My goal is 413. I have 11 games left (3 of those are day games – which I’ll leave if there’s no BP). So I need to 57 balls in those 11 games which is 5.2 a game. My average this year is a tad over 5.3. Should make it somewhat challenging.
Game: 7 balls (4 hit, 2 thrown, 1 device)
Season: 356 balls (149 hit, 75 thrown, 84 device, 48 found)
Games: 67 games
Career: 1,478 balls
I came into today needing just six baseballs to break the single season record of 543 baseballs snagging in one season. After a dismal performance at my last game on September 29th, I was determined to bounce back.
Amy and I arrived at Cincinnati around 3PM, in plenty of time before the 5:07 gate time.
We parked a ways a way and made the walk along the Ohio River, but had fun goofing around on the way to the stadium:
Amy was along to keep me company and take pictures to document today’s possibly record setting game.
Coming into the game, I needed six balls to break the all time single season record of 543 set by Zack Hample in 2008.
We killed some time before the gates opened by walking around Great American Ballpark, including wandering around the team store.
Here we are outside of the main gates:
I was able to secure a ticket through my Baker’s Dozen Partial season ticket plan. Since I only had one seat in the plan, we went to Cincinnati hoping to buy an extra ticket for Amy. Since the game was sold out, we had to turn to scalpers. The cheapest ticket available was $250, and Amy refused to let me pay that. She insisted on sitting outside Great American Ballpark while I went in and did my thing. I reluctantly agreed and rushed inside when the gates opened.
Upon entering the stadium, the Reds were warming up.
Including Aroldis Chapman, the 105 mph throwing rookie.
I tried to get one of them to toss me a ball but failed. And since BP was getting underway, I darted out to the left field seats to get to work.
There, I caught ball #1 on the fly off the bat of catcher Corky Miller here:
I was to chase down my second ball soon after as it rattled around a seat in the same general area.
I used the Cleveland stick to prod a ball on the batter’s eye close enough to reach for ball #3.
And returned to left field to snag a Jonny Gomes home run here:
That was the last ball I got during the Reds portion, and the seats were really starting to fill up when the Phillies came to bat.
After getting shut out by the first group, I headed over to right center field in hopes of snagging a Shane Victorino, Ryan Howard or Chase Utley home run ball to tie the single season record. It happened, and I happened to be video taping when it did. The ball hit behind me and ricocheted down towards me, and I was able to smother it just as several other fans reached for it. Here’s the video evidence! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eTdHPeEtoug
So, at the very least, I would finish the 2010 season tied for the single season record.
In the meantime, I didn’t get anything else from that group, and my hope rested on the final group of bench players. Since they were mostly right handed, I headed back to left field.
That’s when this guy:
I don’t know who:
Launched a deep fly ball. It was going over my head, so I started running up the stairs in the open aisle. I was able to make the catch as I headed up the stairs in a reaching back hand fashion. It was a great catch, and it set the single season record at 544 balls in a single season!
After making the catch, I asked a nearby fan to take a photo for me with the ball.
I left after batting practice to meet Amy, I didn’t want her to be alone for too long. I showed her the record setting ball:
She was really happy for me:
Re-enactment of the catch of 544:
It was getting late, so I bid farewell to Great American Ballpark,
and the 2010 season, as this was my final game.
Game: 6 balls (5 hit, 1 device)
Season: 544 balls (261 hit, 131 thrown, 75 device, 77 found)
Games: 88 games
Average: 6.18 balls per game
2010 Game Balls: 6
Career: 1,122 balls
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.
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.
Since the Pirates are out of town for a week, and I’d like to snag my 500th career ball sometime in 2009, I decided that I needed to make a road trip or two this week. My first stop would be Camden Yards in Baltimore.
I attended this game with two friends, one of whom is in the ballhawk league (Andrew).
We arrived at 3:30 and got our tickets. There are two gates that open at 5:00. The Eutaw Street gate near the Babe Ruth statue…
And the one on the opposite end, nearest to the right field foul pole.
Which didn’t happen.
We stayed l
ong enough to watch all of the batters from each team hit, and then left the game early. We had a four hour + drive, and made it back home a bit after midnight.
Here are today’s baseballs:
And the sweet spots:
Game: 3 balls (3 hit)
Season: 263 balls (137 hit, 84 thrown, 42 device)
Games: 56 games (5 of which didn’t have BP)
Average: 4.70 balls per game
Career: 429 balls
Streak: 71 consecutive games attended with at least 1 ball snagged.
I was interviewed recently by Alex Prewitt, a sports writer for USAToday. He came across this blog, and was intrigued about the Ballhawk League and ballhawking in general. I spoke with him by telephone for 40 minutes Sunday afternoon. He had lots of great questions, so I was really looking forward to the article.
The print version is a bit shorter than the online version.
To read the entire online version, click HERE.