December 29, 2011
myGameBalls.com has been up and running for three years now, and so far every year has been better than the year before it. 2011 was no exception.
Ballhawking continues to grow rapidly as a hobby/obsession, attracting new participants both young and old. As a community we now have members in every MLB city, and snags are regularly being recorded at every stadium in the country. There were many highlights in 2011, definitely too many to write about here, but I'll try to touch on all the major ones:
First and foremost, ballhawking recieved tons of national press in 2011, due in large part to this year's award-winning ballhawks. Zack Hample, the Ballhawk of the Year, went on an unprecedented snagging spree, finishing the year with an incredible 1,157 balls. His record-breaking season featured 131 games, 49 double-digit games, 26 game balls, and three game home run balls. He snagged a rookie's first career homer on two separate occasions, snagged a homer at the Home Run Derby, snagged three foul balls in a single game, and broke the single-game record by snagging 36 balls at Great American Ballpark.
Tim Anderson, the Junior Ballhawk of the Year, became somewhat of a legend at Camden Yards in Baltimore. In August he became a media sensation after snagging home runs in three consecutive games, and then got more national attention after snagging two gamers in a single game in September. In all he snagged nine game home run balls, good for first place on myGameBalls.com.
As a community, the cumulative stats recorded this year were impressive as well. We snagged 7,628 balls, 42 game home run balls, and 90 foul balls. Oriole Park at Camden Yards recorded the most snags with 1,094, followed by PNC Park with 837, Angel Stadium of Anaheim with 692, Nationals Park with 673, and Citi Field with 509.
Another big thing that happened in 2011 was the first annual BallhawkFest, held on July 23 in Baltimore. The event featured a home run derby, a gathering at a local restaurant, and a Saturday night Orioles game at Camden Yards. Despite temperatures reaching 105 degrees, everyone in attendance had a great time and the group combined to snag over 50 baseballs. If you're wondering, BallhawkFest will definitely be back in 2012. Stay tuned for details, to be announced sometime before the beginning of the season.
myGameBalls.com sponsored another Photo Scavenger Hunt in 2011, giving members the opportunity to compete for a MLB Gift Card by taking fun and interested photos of themselves and others at MLB games. Todd, Tim, and Kellan Cook were this year's winners for the second consecutive season. And yes, the Scavenger Hunt will be back in 2012.
The myGameBalls empire was also expanded in 2011. A Minor League version of the site was launched, which featured 28 members who combined to snag over 1,000 baseballs during the year. With hundreds of Minor League ballparks scattered throughout the country, the potential for growth on myGameBalls-Minors in enormous. Expect to see many new members in 2012.
The one "lowlight" of 2011 was the technical difficulties that occurred around mid-season, causing pages on myGameBalls.com to take around 40 years to load. My web host, Mochahost, had suddenly moved the site to a new server with no explanation, and immediately we all began experiencing the painful slowness. I battled for weeks with incompetent tech support guys before begrudgingly agreeing to upgrade my hosting plan (paying 3 times as much) just to get us through the baseball season. When the season ended I immediately cancelled my account and switched the site hosting to Oxxus.net, which so far is working very well.
To anyone reading this, if you ever need web hosting for your website, do not under any circumstances choose Mochahost. And to all the myGameBalls.com members who continued to record balls on the site despite having to wait an eternity for pages to load, I greatly appreciate your patience and understanding as I worked to resolve the issues.
Lastly, thanks to everyone who helped to make this season a success. From the columnists who volunteered their time to write interesting stories to the Baltimore ballhawks who helped me organize BallhawkFest to the countless members who wrote emails offering feedback and suggestions, it was truly a group effort. I'm already counting down the days to the 2012 season.
Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.