Aug 12, 2009
Erik Jabs loves to compete. That pretty much goes without saying - he recruited the best Ballhawks from around the country to compete against him in the first annual Ballhawk League. So he wasn't about to let a little thing like a back injury get in the way of battling his fellow Ballhawks in Week 18, especially when his hometown Pirates had a home game on every single day of the week.
Attending 6 games at PNC Park, Jabs limped his way to a 22 ball performance, finishing 8 balls ahead of the 2nd place ballhawk, Zack Hample. Of course, Jabs was helped by the fact that Hample and most other ballhawks in the league didn't attend many games in Week 18. And his PNC Park rivals, Nick and Bryan Pelescak, didn't make it out to the stadium. Nevertheless, Jabs' main competition was probably his own lack of mobility, which he made up for by going for more glove tricks and thrown balls than he typically does.
The back problems actually started in late July, when he played a home run derby with some friends. "When it came my turn to hit, I jogged in from short left field, where I had been shagging, and bent over to pick up a loose ball on the infield," Jabs wrote on his blog. "About half way down while I was picking the ball up, I felt a sharp, crippling pain in my lower back. It felt as if someone had stabbed me with a knife and twisted it."
Jabs spent that night and the next day in excruciating pain, even fainting at one point, before making a trip to the chiropractor. The diagnosis was severe back spasms and the doctor treated him with 18 hours of electromagnetic therapy.
Astonishingly, Jabs was right back at PNC Park for Ballhawk League Week 18, but was still in a lot of pain. Without the ability to scurry through bleachers for home run balls, he was forced to change his approach. Jabs quickly became proficient with a ball retriever, snagging 7 device balls, and also perfected the art of getting toss-ups, finishing the week with 6 thrown balls.
The week had a number of memorable moments. Jabs snagged his 250th ball of the season on August 5, retrieving it via his "Cleveland Stick". The next day, he had a memorable encounter with Dennys Reyes when Reyes picked up a ball in the outfield. "He pretended like he was going to throw it, but released his grip as he made the throwing motion so that the ball slipped out of his hand and landed behind him," Jabs wrote on his blog. "'Buen chiste', I yelled down. It means 'good joke' in Spanish." It worked, and Reyes tossed him the ball.
Despite his condition, Jabs did manage to snag a few BP home run balls. On August 8th, he grabbed a Steve Pearch homer. "I had to hobble over one section and just managed to snag the ball at the last second," he wrote. "I stumbled a bit and regained my balance by grabbing onto the bleacher back support." In addition to that ball, Jabs also snagged 9 Hit balls, well below his average but impressive nonetheless.
Competition continues to heat up in the Ballhawk League. Zack Hample remains the clear leader in total balls, but Jabs and Happy Younger are locked in a battle for 2nd place. Happy Youngster currently has 262 balls, with Jabs close behind with 260.