May 26, 2011
On a weekday, 7:05pm start at Oriole Park @ Camden Yards my routine gets started by leaving work at 4:00pm, going home to get my bag and feeding my cat before hurrying up to the stadium to be in line for the 5:00 gate opening. As I arrive at the stadium, usually meeting the local ball hawks (Avi, Zevi, Ben, Tim, Ed, Dave) and any visitors that may be joining us at the front of the line to chat, as we await the gates opening.
It's 5:00!!! We yell at the ticket takers as they await word to open the gates. Gates open! . . . . And they're off!!! Ball hawks usually go jogging towards the right field foul pole before getting their season ticket checked by the usher to enter the rest of the stadium, Stop running!!! yell out several ushers as we run through the stands to get to left field to find any baseballs lying in the seats or to get to the first home runs hit by our beloved Baltimore Oriole sluggers, or a tossup by a pitcher shagging balls in left field. I like to talk to the players as I enter the seats in left field as I look for and await balls to be hit.
This is what it's all about! As we catch, find, chat, run, position ourselves for baseballs. Players will usually interact by talking or playing catch with us, which I really appreciate. We season ticket plan holders get 30 minutes all to ourselves, before the rest of fans enter, which coincides with the Orioles leaving the playing field. Most of the ball hawks usually are fortunate and good enough to catch at least a ball or two (that's 5 for Ben) before the bigger crowd arrives.
As more fans enter and they see that we have already caught several balls and catching more we hear the questions, How long have you been doing this? How many did you catch today? What do you do with all of those baseballs? . . part of being a ball hawk. As batting practice ends most of us take a break before autograph or toss up opportunites, before game time. When the game begins I'm usually one to just grab a seat to catch the whole game, occasionally trying for a home run or foul ball. I like to relax and watch the game, as that's what I'm really there for. After the game, hopefully an Orioles win, I head to the dugout for a possible toss up of a ball, batting gloves or whatever else may come into the stands. After all, This is what it's all about!
Matt Hersl is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.