Aug 20, 2011
Lou Beechen, a 59-year old ballhawk from Riveside, California, finally snagged his 100th lifetime Major League Baseball this month. Beechan's ballhawking career spans five decades, with his first ball being recorded when he was just eight years old.
His dad gave him his first major league baseballs when he took his brother and him out to the Angels Spring Training facilities in Palm Springs in 1961 for Picture Day, when his dad got out of their car and found three baseballs from the batting cages outside the park. They were National League balls, but they didn't care -- to an eight year old, a ball is a ball. He still has the balls.
Beechan caught his first ball on the fly in Palm Springs at an exhibition game when he was twelve. He has forgotten some of the details, but he remembers catching it and getting a cheer from the crowd. He still has this ball.
Since he has joined MyGameBalls and has been going to Angels Stadium ballhawking regularly over the last couple years he has started to keep detailed records of his snags. He has gone back and recorded most of the balls that he has gotten in past years, including the first ball he caught in a Major League stadium at the Kingdome in 1980. He gave this ball to a friend who attended the game with him.
While pursuing his hobby he has met some interesting people, like Devin Trone, Matt Jackson, Rob McCoy and T.C.Collins, with whom he has had some great conversations. Some of their best conversations happen before and after batting practice. Like most ballhawks they talk about the ones they got and the ones they did not get, and according to Beechen, "Experience is the best teacher." They also share injuries, prevention such as using knee pads and placements in the stands. Some of them have gone to other stadiums together. Most are competitive, but Beechen says their goal is to "shag and especially catch balls at batting practice at the stadium."
Beechen is a Resource Teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School in Riverside CA. In the off season he referees high school football and basketball to keep in shape. This is going to be his 30th year. He is 59 years old and he thinks he does well competing with some of the younger ballhawks. Like most of the ballhawks he has given baseballs away, to his students at school, people at the stadium and family members.
This year has been special, says Beechen, due in large part to the Angels 50th Commemorative balls. He has kept a lot of them and has given some to friends and family as well. He gave one to his father for Fathers Day, he is 88 and in an assisted living facility.
Beechen says he still gets a rush when he catches a ball on the fly, like recently when he snagged an Ichiro Suzuki batting practice ball (also a Commemorative). He has reached the 100 ball mark on MyGameBalls-Minors as well and is the only ballhawk other than John Witt to have recorded 100 balls on both sites.