October 24, 2011
Where there are baseballs given away, there are people to snag them. Therefore, there are friends to be found from snagging at almost any ballpark in the major leagues. Many of us like to travel beyond the confines of our "home city" to explore. The prospect of the new and un-ventured draws us like moths to a flame. In planning these trips, there are so many things to think about: getting to the city, living accommodations, budgeting, etc. It can cause a real headache to plan all of these things.
Well too bad, because here's another thing to plan. At almost every ballpark there are people that catch baseballs. They break down into two major categories: those with a mygameballs.com account (from now on mentioned as gamers) and those without mygameballs.com accounts (mentioned as non-gamers). This is important because the methods for meeting them at the stadium are slightly different.
Meeting gamers is pretty straightforward:
1. Search For Regulars- Before you visit a stadium use the handy-dandy "Search Members" link to the right of the site's navigation bar at the top of the screen. This allows you to search members by which stadium they call their "Local Stadium".
2. If there is a member there that goes to a decent number of games at the stadium, use the fact that every mygameballs.com member has an email address registered and e-mail the person. Don't be shy, if you just hope that the person is going to be there on the same days, you might miss out on an opportunity to make a pretty good acquaintance. If the person is busy that day then you can rest on the fact that you tried to meet them but for many regulars at stadiums, they make day-of-game decisions on which games to go to and your e-mail may sway them to come that day. Even if things don't work out in meeting them at the stadium, you may still keep in touch for the next time you guys find yourself at the same game.
On the other hand, meeting non-gamers is a little more difficult. Unless the ballhawk in question is a well-publicized one, it will take an extra few steps to meet them.
1. Identify at the gate- If you get to the (or one of the) main Outfield gate(s) with time to spare, just look around in the time before the stadium opens for someone else that looks like they are getting to batting practice early to catch baseballs. Maybe someone with a glove, maybe it is someone with both teams' attire, or whatever paraphernalia you see that may serve a purpose in snagging baseballs. If they are the only (or close to the only) other person in line, strike up a conversation with them. Start by asking if they try to catch baseballs at B.P. often. This is the best time because once the gates open, both of you will be very mobile and even if you are willing to sacrifice snagging opportunities, they may not.
2. Identify in the Outfield- If you there is a ballhawk that you identify for whatever reason for the first time in the Outfield and not at the gate (i.e. you were at a different gate than that ballhawk came from, the other ballhawk showed up late to B.P. etc.), just keep them in the back of your mind. Identifying a ballhawk for the first time in B.P. can be a fairly common occurrence because ballhawks are much easier to identify then because part of what makes ballhawks so obvious is how they move after balls and this is something that can't be seen at the gates. Anyway, if you do notice a ballhawk in the stands, just make a note of it and refer to the fact later when the both of you aren't trying to snag baseballs. If you really are on a mission to meet a ballhawk at the ballpark, just briefly introduce yourself to the person and give them a place to meet at the end of batting practice to talk* (just ask if they were planning to do something then). The only exception I can think of to this rule is if there is a string of weak hitting hitters of the opposite side of the plate coming up (so if you are in Left Field and there are some weak hitting lefties due up in the group).
3. Talk to the person- I'm not going to tell you what to actually talk about with the person as this depends on what you and the other person's personalities are like. When batting practice does end and you meet up with that person wherever you chose, just start out with asking the person how they got started ballhawking. Since they are non-gamers, they obviously saw something on their own to start doing it. You don't have to talk with them for the whole time between B.P. and the game but just see if you can get to this next point:
4. Introduce them to mygameballs.com- I am relatively/very new to the whole ballhawking thing, but from what I have seen and heard, it has really grown from what it used to be. Sure there has been an astounding turnover rate but I was at this year's "Ballhawk Fest" and it was amazing just to witness how people who had never met became friends within a few minutes of knowing each other. I realize that it may sound counter-intuitive to grow one's competition, but to halt exploration in the name of fear is to never know and to never give possible progress the light of day.
*Nota Bene: Some ballhawks may be cuddlier than others when interacting with possible competition. Some can be a bit nasty if you get on their wrong side so it is recommended that you introduce yourself carefully.
Mateo Fischer is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.