2010: Ball Hawking Season Recap – Home Runs

Way back in late July I wrote a post explain what I would be writing about for the next couple months left in baseball season. I said I was up for the challenge of taking pictures while ballhawking and bringing you a game-by-game account much like Zack Hample (got your name right this time) does. I lied. I wasn’t even close to up for the challenge. The difficulty of photographically documenting my baseballs was too much for me to handle. Maybe next season.

However, here is the first of a many-parted recap on this season in ball hawking and autographing from both I and Ben.

In Part 1, I will like to have a little fun and show videos of the gamers that we either nearly missed or were able to snag. We appeared in a total of 17 videos over the course of the season in which we had an opportunity to catch the ball. You will see some of our best tracks, some of our worsts, and some of our rookie mistakes. After all, not all of us can have the luck of Zack Hample. (Joke)

Here they come in chronological order:

Video #1: April 13th – Ty Wigginton’s 1st Homerun of 2010, 122nd Career Homerun

Look for: Two people in orange running from the right of your screen

Going into the 2010 seasons, Ben and I were merely autograph collectors. The only time we would “ballhawk” would be on days we didn’t have access to the season ticket holder early entrance. We would stand in right-centerfield and just catch balls until it was time for everyone to have access to the park. Even then, we would use the balls we caught for autographs. So when a ball came soaring to left field during a rainy game in early April, we were slow on the draw. You will see how we both struggle getting over a section and we never complete our run. The wet environment also may have something to do with it.

Video #2: April 13th – Ty Wigginton’s 2nd Homerun of 2010, 123rd Career Homerun

Look for: Two people in orange, one with a hood up and a book bag, running from the right of your screen in the second row

Since Ty Wigginton is such a nice guy, he decided to give us another chance at catching a homerun ball. Ironically, even though this ball landed within in the first two rows, we came closer. After moving down to heckle Carl Crawford in the tenth, Wigginton sent a shot in the same section as before. Ben and I both made a dash to our right (your left) through an open row. The ball landed on the ground in that same row and there was immediately a scuffle on the ground for it. Since I was in front of Ben, he attempted to shove me on top of the pile to get the ball. The ground was wet, I was already cold, and I was uninterested in catching a ball at this point. It wasn’t worth it … at the time.

Video #3: May 15th – Austin Kearns’ 3rd Homerun of 2010, 118th Career Homerun

Look for: A bare-chested fan (me) wearing an orange wig

This video is probably the one that is filled with the most mistake. For starters, I was more concerned with cheering on my team/winning Fan of the Game; I had chest painted and was not wearing my glove. My second mistake was crucial. Since the homerun was a go-ahead bomb in the top of the ninth, I just sat there and put my head down. The late reaction is what did me in as I was just seconds away from grabbing the ball. If I had not mourned the future loss, I would have easily had my first homerun ball.

Video #4: May 26th – Adam Rosales’ 4th Homerun of 2010, 8th Career Homerun

Look for: Two chest painted fans in the same row the ball is headed. If you can’t see us, you will after you read the description.

Unlike the previous three missed opportunities, this ball was hit in the exact same row where we were sitting. The ball was hit toward the aisle to our right but we were able to react quickly. Ben decided to drop down a row since I was closest to the right. I ran to my right, squeezed by the guy only other guy sitting in the row, and kept my eye on the ball. In mid run, I stuck my glove up and the ball came straight to me. I only needed to reach over a gloveless Phillies fan to catch the first homerun ball of my career. If you watch the video, you will see me bend over after catching it. I was merely picking up my wig. I DID NOT drop the ball. I also did not celebrate. I just walked back to my seat calmly, act like you’ve been there before. The fans were yelling at me to throw it back, telling me I wasn’t a real fan. The thought never crossed my mind to get another ball out of my bag and throw it back (did I even have another?), I was still shaking from the thrill. Later in that inning, a guy approached me and said he went to school with Rosales and said he would give me $40 for the ball. Sadly and regrettably, I accepted his offer. If I was a ballhawk at the time, I would have my first career homerun ball sitting right here in front of me.

Video #5: May 26th – Garrett Atkins’ 1st Homerun of 2010, 99th Career Homerun

Look for: The same thing as the last video. Its the same day … Dummies.

Believe it or not, after my first homerun catch ever, I had the chance to become a ballhawk legend already by snagging two homerun balls in one game. Garrett Atkins sent a towering blast to left field … why are you laughing? … and I once again made a move to my right. But, remember that guy sitting in my row? He decided to throw a block on me and I was unable to get passed him this time. He told me that he “didn’t want me to catch another one” and that “I could have the next one.” I said remarked “thanks” and walked away. As.. I mean butt. It would have been a tough grab for me but certainly doable. On a related note, Ben didn’t even move.

Video #6: July 10th – Aaron Rowand’s 6th Homerun of 2010, 127th Career Homerun

Look for: The closest two people wearing orange shirts

This was a rarity for us. We were not sitting in the left field bleachers of Camden Yards yet we were in left field at fairly new Nationals Park. It was our first time at the park and he were not masters of the track yet. Also, for some reason, Nationals Park was crowded. When Aaron Rowand ripped a shot to left field, both Ben and I jumped out of our seats and made a move down the row. I was in front and I stopped before getting there, knowing that the ball was going to land either in the front row or in the garden that lines the wall. The ball hit off the fan’s hands in the front row and fell into the garden where it fell through behind the wall. Tough luck for everybody.

Video #7: August 5th – Torii Hunter’s 17th Homerun of 2010, 252nd Career Homerun

Look for: Two shirtless fans running from the far right of your screen

Once again, we were both shirtless and chest painted (4x fans of the games in 2010). This time, we were both full-time ballhawks and both were wearing our gloves. Ben had said before the game that was going to catch a Torii Hunter homerun and this was his chance. When Hunter sent a ball to deep left, Ben reacted quickly. He ran to his left and was able to make it to the row where the ball landed. He made a lunge at where the ball rested, but was seconds late as it was snatched from right under his nose. Ben was still stuck looking for his first homerun ball. However, you have to admire the amount of ground he covered. Very impressive.

Video #8: August 16th – Adam Moore’s 3rd Homerun of 2010, 4th Career Homerun

Look for: Person in orange shirt running from the left to the right, then climbing the rows

On this day I had practically the entire left field sections to myself. Any homerun hit to that side of the field would have had a high percentage of becoming my second career homer. That is, of course, barring a blunder on my part. Of course, that is what happened when Adam Moore sent a 10th inning homerun towards me. I chose the wrong row in the nearly empty stands and the ball sailed at least five rows over my head. “Under-rowing,” as I have called it, became a trend for my 2010 season. I tried to climb the rows to get the ball and I had everyone beat to the row. That is everyone that was behind me. Someone sitting in the row ran over and picked it up seconds before I could get to it.

Video #9: August 17thMatt Tuiasosopo’s 2nd Homerun of 2010; 3rd Career Homerun

Look for: Person in orange shirt and hat running from the far (your) left of the section to the right

I was sitting in the far left of the section, planning for most of the balls to be hid closer to the foul pole. Matt Tuiasosopo proved me wrong as he ripped one to my right. Since I was sitting in an empty row, I was able to get all the way to the other aisle where the ball eventually landed. The ball hit the stairs and bounced down just before I got there. If I would have (A) reacted faster, (B) ran faster, (C) been sitting closer in towards the middle of the row I would have been able to use my size to reach over the shorter man who was standing right by the ball. I possibly could have made a try at the ball as it was, but I certainly didn’t want to hurt anybody.

Video #10: August 18th Matt Tuiasosopo’s 3rd Homerun of 2010; 4th Career Homerun

Look for: The fan in the orange shirt running down the stairs (Me) or the fan running from your right to your left (Ben)

In case you couldn’t tell, NO ONE was at this game. It had been raining for most of the day and they just barely were able to squeeze the game in. Ben and I were playing everywhere for homerun balls based on our knowledge of homerun hitters. Tuiasosopo sent a rocket close to the area where we were playing him, hitting it to hard for anyone to catch it. You can see the man in the black shirt make a lunge for it but has the ball sail just over his glove. At that time, it was a race between me and him to grab the ball that laid in the vacant seat. He had to climb seats while I had to run through through the row. He beat me by a nano-second to the ball where he was able to snatch it. I had arrived at the seat, tried to stop, and ended up doing a near split because of the wet conditions. The man in the black ended up being Rick Gold, a ballhawk from Oakland. It made it hurt that much more.

Video #11: August 22ndLuke Scott’s 24th Homerun of 2010, 100th Career Homerun

Look for: Fan running from the flag court to the seats in a white shirt

I had played for Luke Scott’s 100th career homerun for most of the day on Saturday (the day before) to no avail. Ben decided to attend the game on Sunday for the milestone homerun and he was given a great opportunity. While standing on the flag court where he could see Scott’s at bat, Luke sent a monster shot to the back of the seats, two sections away from the flag court. Ben, with his head up and eyes looking at the ball, made his run to the seated area where the ball landed just behind a fan. A scuffle on the ground occurred giving Ben just enough time to make his way over. Ben later remarked that he “just saw white and grabbed for it.” It was a napkin. No homerun for Ben yet.

Video #12: August 31stJed Lowrie’s 4th Homerun of 2010; 8th Career Homerun

Look for: Fan in orange running from the right, up the steps, and has the ball sail over his head

Example of under-rowing number two. This time I was only off by about two rows in my quest for the ball. Make this a lesson to all you ballhawks – ALWAYS go higher first. Do you know how many times I have “over-rowed” a homerun ball? Never. How many times I under-rowed? I don’t want to talk about it. Unlike the other homeruns, this one did more physical damage than mental. I don’t recall if it was when I originally tracked the ball or when I chased after the bounce, but I ran into a side of the chair. I had a bruise on my thigh bigger than a baseball for over a month.

Video #13: September 14thAaron Hill’s 24th Homerun of 2010; 88th Career Homerun

Look for: Fan in black running across from right to left

Under-rowing number three. I never even went up a row; I just ran straight across the row I was sitting in. I thought the ball was going to come right to me but it just kept sailing. I didn’t have an opportunity to rebound on this one as the large man a row above where it landed pounced on it and threw it back. Under-rowing, under-rowing, under-rowing. Guess what I’m working on this offseason?

Video #14: September 14thAdam Jones’ 18th Homerun of 2010, 49th Career Homerun

Look for: Fan in black running up the steps then back down

After under-rowing the last homerun hit my way. I told my friend, who was sitting with me, that my first move on the next one will be up the steps then back down. When Adam Jones struck one in the 8th, I immediately ran up the steps, evaluated the flight of the ball, the quickly ran back down. Thankfully, the ball was going to land right in the stairs and it was hit high in the air, giving me time to recover. I reached over the mob of five people and caught the ball thanks to my height and the height of the step I was on compared to everyone else. My second homerun of the season was another clean catch, this time of a ball hit by an Oriole. One of the six people I caught the ball over was Rick Gold, the one who stole a homer away from me just a month ago. You can read more about it here.

On the last game of the season I got Adam Jones to sign the ball. Here is how our conversation went:

Me: Can you write homerun #49 on there for me?
Jonesy: This isn’t a homerun!
Me: Yes it is!
Jonesy: You caught it!? Good job! Whats the date on it?
Me: UHHHHHHHHH Dammit! I don’t know!
Jonesy: You gotta know! Let’s see who were we playing?
Me: Blue Jays
Jonesy: Oh yeah, hit it off of Jannsen. I don’t know the date either. Here you go.

This ball may be the most treasured one I have. Thanks Adam!

Video #15: September 17thAlex Rodriguez’s 24th Homerun of 2010; 607th Career Homerun

Look for: Nothing

If you watched the video first you may be saying. “Hey! That ball landed in the bullpen! No one caught it!” You would be correct. However, there is always the possible toss-up. Ben and I both made a mad dash over to the bullpen in hopes one of the players would pick it up and throw it to us (since we were two of the few Oriole fans in attendance). Sure enough, Alfredo Simon picked the ball up and tossed it up to Ben who beat me to the spot. Ben finally got his first gamer and it was a huge one. Read more about it here.

Video #16: September 18thCurtis Granderson’s 19th Homerun of 2010; 121st Career Homerun

Look for: Nothing

Just like the last ball, this one landed where no one was sitting, in the sod farm. Ben wasn’t even in the section next to it at the time and I had left, disgusted at all the Yankee fans. Ben raced over to the section knowing he had a chance at a toss-up. He was able to get next to the railing as the groundskeeper went to pick it up. He was able to get his attention and he tossed it up to him. Ben reached over the railing and the ball landed in his glove. His second homerun of the season was landed on back-to-back days at a packed Camden Yards. That would be if the Yankee fan next to him wouldn’t have knocked it out of his glove and back down to the sod farm. The groundskeeper then chucked it up into the seats over Ben’s head, making sure it wasn’t dropped again. Ben was not able to rebound.

Video #17: October 2ndBrandon Inge’s 12th Homerun of 2010; 135th Career Homerun

Look for: Chest painted fan running from right to left

Here is all you have to know about it.

Conclusion

As you saw from our seventeen videos, we have a lot to work on this offseason. From the beginning of the year to the end, our skills got progressively better and our results were more favorable. Be sure to look for our next recaps.

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