May 8, 2010
Most diehard baseball fans follow a simple rule when attending games: never, ever leave a game early. Baseball history proves that crazy things can happen in the tail innings of a ballgame, and serious fans don't want to be absent when such a thing takes place. Yogi Berra said it best - "It ain't over 'til it's over."
To ballhawks, most of whom are just the type of fans to stay till the bitter end, the late innings provide more than just a chance to witness a dramatic comeback or record-breaking hit. As a lopsided score drives thousands of fans out of the park and towards the parking lot, ballhawks see a prime opportunity to score a game ball.
Just such an opportunity opened up for Seattle ballhawk John Schulstad on Tuesday night at Safeco Field as thousands of dejected Mariners' fans headed for the doors with their team down by a 5-1 score. The crowd dwindled to around 4,000 fans, but Schulstad wasn't about to leave. "I wanted to stay because that's the best chance to get a foul ball," he said.
Sitting amidst a sea of empty seats on the first base side in section 124, Schulstad got his chance when Carl Crawford fouled one back over his head. "Right away I knew I had a shot since nobody was around," he said. "I jumped out of my seat and started sprinting up the stairs."
Based on the trajectory of the ball, he sensed that it would carom back towards the field instead of away from it. He got into the perfect position and waited for it to land, and his instinct was correct. "It hit the pavement on the stairs and almost went over my head but I jumped a bit and snagged it," he said.
It was his first foul ball of 2010, and his first since snagging a foul ball at Yankee Stadium two years ago. In addition to the foul ball, he has also snagged 34 practice balls this year, giving him 35 total balls in 11 games, an average of 3.18 balls per game.