Sep 18, 2009
When it comes to Ballhawking, Donny Haltom does his homework. Perhaps no other ballhawk comes to games more prepared to snag balls, and it paid off this past week as he tallied 30 balls in Houston to win Week 23 of the Ballhawk League.
Averaging 10 balls per game over the 3-game week, Haltom primarily got his balls from toss-ups and his ball retriever. Of the 30 balls, 23 were either thrown balls or device balls.
Haltom's 19 thrown balls for the week were certainly no accident. Hoping to stand out from the other fans, Haltom does extensive research on the players prior to the game and tries to say something that will spark their attention. "I check to see which university players attended, then look up the nickname or mascot from that university," he said. "...It works especially well if it's an odd mascot, like Edwin Maysonet's 'Fighting Okra' of Delta State University or Troy Tulowitzki's Dirtbags of Cal State Long Beach." In addition to doing the background checks, Haltom also looks up players' birthdays and tries to send birthday wishes to any player who has a recent or upcoming birthday.
Without hesitation, Haltom selects his toss up from Roger McDowell as his most memorable snag of the week.
Haltom was also able to reel in 4 balls with his ball retriever, which he says is a little different than the one he used last year. In the past he has used Zack Hample's 'glove trick', but this season he got a new glove which didn't work well with the trick. So he switched over to what some call the 'cup trick', a plastic cup on the end of a string.
Because security at Minute Maid Park has increasingly cracked down on devices, he has had to think of ways to use the cup trick without being noticed. "The home bullpen in right center is simply too inviting, so I had to increase the stealth level of my new found cup trick," he said. "I did away with the string that I used to have wrapped around my wrist, which was not only clumsy but also stood out to the security guards who could see it on my glove hand. I replaced it with an old fishing reel that I had lying around the garage so now I can sit in the front row while lowering my cup covertly, then stand up for a couple seconds just to get it on top of the ball, and then sit back down while I reel it up."
Currently he is in 11th place in the Ballhawk League, only 6 balls away from the top 10. With a total of 161 balls for the year, he's hoping to hit 200 before season's end. With at most 4 games left, 3 of which feature the visiting Cardinals, he'll have his work cut out for him. "The St. Louis series is always difficult because the attendance is up, you don't stand out as much in Cards' gear, and the visitors side is always packed with fans," he said. "I'll have to average 10 balls per game to hit the 200 mark, which will be hard to do with the Cardinal series, but should be attainable on the Saturday game against the Reds."
Regardless of whether he makes it to 200, his 2009 average of 7.67 balls per game is 2nd only to Zack Hample.