Mar 26, 2010
Halfway across the country from his usual snagging territory at Miller Park, Ballhawk Shawn arrived in Arizona ready to take the Cactus League by storm. It took him a couple days to settle in, but on his 3rd day of snagging he did just that, pulling in 20 balls at the Cubs/Brewers game.
But on March 10th, he wanted to take his ballhawking to a whole new level. "I knew one thing: the monotony and bleakness of 'home' was only 72 short hours away," he wrote on his blog. "I needed to do something special today."
And as he arrived for the Brewers' pre-game batting practice in the morning, the circumstances were literally perfect for a huge day of snagging. "Other than 3 security guards and a hand full of autograph hounds, I'm the only one in the ballpark," he wrote. "And even better, I'm the only one with a glove. Today, snagging would be so easy, my Mother, who accompanied me during today's game, would snag 6 of her own baseballs."
Warm weather, an empty ballpark, room to run beyond the outfield fence...it was a ballhawk's dream. Things were so good, in fact, that Shawn could abandon the typical ballhawking strategies. "Most ballhawks pick a 20 foot area they play, and don't leave the circumference until another round of BP starts," he wrote. "I threw this rule out the window. I took off running after EVERY fly ball."
Shawn went into a furry of snagging, chasing down just about everything that cleared the wall. He finished the first two rounds of BP with 13 balls and even got some acknowledgements from Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun. "It was pretty nice having an all star left fielder and a future hall of fame player applaud me on my ballhawking skills," he wrote.
Shawn stumbled upon 4 easter eggs and then got a toss-up to bring his total to 18. He had taken in so many balls by that point that a security guard told him he had reached his limit and would have to throw any more that he snagged back onto the field.
Shawn agreed, but wasn't about to stop snagging with Prince Fielder coming to the plate. "The guy is a monster," he wrote. "He unleashed a hail of white and red stitched fury upon right field, landing 8 baseballs into my glove. All of which I hurl back into the infield."
He finished the Brewers' batting practice with 26 balls, but his momentum was cut short when the Padres decided not to take batting practice. He still managed to find a few friendly players and took in 3 pre-game toss-ups, running his total up to 29.
As the game began, Shawn settled into his seat and stayed alert for foul ball opportunities. He didn't have to wait long thanks to Adrian Gonzalez, who sent a foul ball in Shawn's direction while he was still eating his lunch. Dropping his fork, Shawn jumped out of his seat, watched the ball hit a table, and then played the carom perfectly, pouncing on his 30th ball of the day and 2nd foul ball of the season.
Later in the game, Shawn got his chance again as Logan Forsythe fouled one off towards his position on the first base side. "I bolt off running, looking at the ball over my shoulder," he wrote. "It lands nearly symmetrically opposite of where I obtained the Gonzalez ball. It rolls slowly on a patch of grass until I snatch baseball #31 of the day."
The game ended with Padres' pitcher Mike Adams holding the game ball in his glove, and as he came off the field he flung it up to Shawn, giving him a grand total of 32 and putting an exclamation point on an amazing day of ballhawking. Shawn ended his Arizona trip with 67 balls, giving him the highest current 2010 total on myGameBalls.com
WEBMASTER'S NOTE: Shawn now shares the single-game record with Zack Hample, who snagged 32 balls at Kauffman stadium on June 18, 2009. This will no doubt reignite the debate about whether or not to count Spring Training stats in the totals and records. As you may recall, I decided to count Spring Training balls in 2010 but reserved the right to change that decision for 2011 and beyond. Got an opinion on this matter? Please share it in the comments section below.