March 31, 2011
We read about it whenever a big homerun is hit. We read about the guy who was in the right place at the right time, often without a glove, at the game as a fan of neither team - barely even a fan of baseball - only there because a buddy forced him along, and he catches a milestone ball worth thousands of dollars.
It makes front page of Yahoo, a feature on a CNN news broadcast, and the dude gets his fifteen minutes of fame with interview after interview only because he was at the right place at the right time. Only because his friend made him go. He's getting offers from collectors and museums for that ball that he picked up off the ground after all the other jamokes with gloves were too uncoordinated to make the catch.
Those are the big ones.
The smaller ones hover in the mygameballs community, garnering praise from those who care about the ballhawking hobby. The smaller ones are hunted, caught by lifers who love baseball, love hawking, and never goes to the stadium without his mitt.
There are smaller ones every major league season; some can be planned for while others are of the single-season variety.
For those of us hunting, there doesn't seem to be a list put together before the season starts. We usually search on a game-by-game basis, checking the team statistics before leaving the house for the park.
Here is my complete milestone guide for the 2011 Major League Ballhawking Season:
The Potential Gem:
These milestones don't necessarily have to come in the form of a homerun, but if the ball happens to find its way over the fence, jump on it and guard it!
Derek Jeter - 3,000th Hit
After breaking the Yankees' record for most hits in a Bombers' uniform, Jeter now sets his sights on becoming the 28th player to collect 3,000 hits in a career. Jeter enters 2011 with 2,926 hits, 74 shy of the milestone. Since Jeter's official rookie season of 1996, he has not hit less than 156 hits in a year; not even last season when he struggled to hit .270.
It's no secret that Jeter's skills are deteriorating and that he only has a few seasons left in the tank, but 74 hits are well within reach.
A ballpark estimate of when Jeter would knock his milestone hit would be around the Yankees' 55th - 65th game which scans a West coast trip to Seattle, Oakland, and Los Angeles. But you best believe that the Yankees are going to make him wait it out until the Yanks return home to face the new-look-yet-more-dangerous-than-ever Boston Red Sox.
A simplistic estimate shows that the chance of Jeter's 3000th being a homerun is 1 in 15, or 6.7% probability.
The Realistic Gem:
These balls have to be roundtrippers, will most likely be hit in 2011, and are historically significant.
Alex Rodriguez - 630th and 631st Homeruns
The Yankees' slugger enters 2011 with 613 homeruns, sixth all-time. His 17th homer of the season will tie him for fifth all time with Ken Griffey Jr., with is 18th, of course, placing him in sole possession of fifth.
Even though the future Hall of Famer saw a sharp decrease in his statistics in 2010 - career lows in AVG, OBP, OPS, and SLG - 18 homeruns are well within his reach, hitting at least 30 in every full major league season.
Since A-Rod averages about 15 at bats per one homerun, and he averages 3.7 at bats per game during his time with the Yankees, he should be expected to hit numbers 17 and 18 between games 65-80 that he plays. This is around the same time as Jeter's 3000th hit. Double whammy!
Jim Thome - 600th Homerun
The big lefty with raw, farm power needs only 11 homeruns to become the eighth player in major league history to slug for 600 homeruns.
When healthy, Thome seems to average around 20 homeruns a season at his current age. But with a Jason Kubel as his back-up at DH for the Twins, Thome needs to hit well in order to keep his job.
It may take him a little while to knock for the illusive 600, but he should conquer it this season.
These balls all have to be chance to be hit in 2011, but they all aren't historically significant. They'll probably get you a meeting with a player and probably some autographed stuff. If not, you have a pretty sweet ball.
As always, be aware of the youngsters who have yet to put one over the fence. The first homerun in a player's career will surely get you some stuff!
Tim Anderson is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.