Sep 15, 2009
New York Ballhawk Tony Bracco, AKA Makin Plays, refers to himself on his blog as a "Diehard Yankee fan and Ballhawk." Last friday, those two things came together in a huge way. Not only did Bracco get to witness Yankee superstar Derek Jeter break the all-time record for hits by a Yankee, but he also established a personal milestone by snagging his 100th ball of the season.
Coming into the game with 99 balls, Bracco fully intended to snag number 100 during BP, but inclement weather cancelled BP and he was shut out. So as the game began, he settled into his seat and focused on his other goal for the night, seeing Jeter break the hits record.
Sure enough, when the third inning arrived Jeter came through with a single to establish the all-time Yankee hit record of 2,722. The crowd went crazy, and Bracco was there to witness it all. He held up a homemade sign that said "Congratulations Most Hits Derek Jeter."
He held up the sign again during Jeter's next at bat, and shortly thereafter got a call from his friend Mike. "Before I could even say wat up he started blurting, 'you got on you got on TV'", Bracco wrote on his blog. "... O YEA!!! He asked me if I was wearing a white long-sleeved shirt and my NY Home jersey. I told him yes and he said that it was definitely me."
Bracco enjoyed the moment, but then focused on his Ballhawking goal that he had failed to reach during BP. He headed down close behind the dugout, hoping for a third-out ball. Unfortunately, rain put a damper on his plans and the groundscrew put the tarp on the field. During the delay, he made his way over to the Yankees bullpen, where some relievers were throwing.
As rookie Michael Dunn emerged from the bullpen door, Bracco noticed he was carrying a ball. And to his delight, Dunn motioned for him to put up his glove.
Bracco's blog entry recounts what happened next. "He lofted the ball up and I made the easiest one-handed catch of my life and it may be the most gratifying ball I've ever snagged. Whoever said patience is a virtue is a genius because tonight my patience paid off and I was handsomely reward with my 100th ball of the 2009 season and my 106th of my career."
With the snag, Bracco joined a group of less than 15 ballhawks who have reached the 100 mark this season. The majority of Bracco's 100 balls have come at New Yankee Stadium, although perhaps the most memorable came in August at Naionals Park.
Visiting DC to catch the Nationals-Rockies series, Bracco snagged his first career foul ball. Positioned behind the dugout preparing for a potential third-out ball, Bracco describes what happened next: "All of sudden in mid thought I hear the crack of the bat and I see the ball sailing over me. I jump out of my seat and run up the aisle about 3 rows. I hear and see the ball hit the hard pavement right about when I reached the row of seats it landed in. I immediately thought to myself 'This is it, my first foul ball, staring right at me, waiting for me to scoop it up!?' Just then I see an older man in his 40's begin to reach for it. OH NO YOU DON'T. Using my agile young body I quickly reached for the ball and got to it before the man did."
It was a great experience for Bracco, who has compiled some very impressive stats in only his second ballhawking season. This season he has averaged 3.03 balls per game and has primarily attended games in a very difficult ballhawking venue, New Yankee Stadium. Still only 20 years old, Bracco is bound to increase his numbers even more as he gains experience. With some luck, perhaps one day he might end up with as many baseballs as Derek Jeter has hits.