April 9, 2012
Ball hawking is a serious sport! This article is written primarily for the junior ball hawks. You can always just grab your glove, jump in the car with a friend, and head off to the ole' ball park and HOPE to snag a ball or two, but if you want a nice baseball collection...one to brag about, then these are some of the things that you will have to do, endure, and keep in mind when planning your upcoming season trips to the ball park. First of all, you have to spend a lot of $MONEY$ to come to the ball park, and have a good time. You will have to spend the time to figure out which games to go to, purchase the tickets for those games, and manage your baseball season.
Next you'll have to do a lot of "HOMEWORK" before you even get to the park to enhance your chances of getting that all precious baseball---making line-up cards, studying the players & coaches photos, careers, and home towns...yes, I said home towns! I've seen many a player mess with younger "snot nosed" fans who were asking for a ball in a disrespectful manner, when the PLAYER started to ask the FAN some basic questions about who he was, where he last played, or where he was from, and the fan could not answer any of his questions. Needless to say, the player did not toss him or her the ball, and the fan looked pretty embarrassed too. So, you have to be prepared for all situations or questions! You have to practice your "glove trick" at home, oil up that glove and work the pocket. Play catch with a friend to keep your skills sharp. You have to check your gear, gloves, back pack, the items to put in the back pack, etc., and you have to GAS UP the car too...ouch!
Ball hawks need to be in good shape, and be tough! You have to have physical & mental toughness for this sport. I'll explain why in a minute. You will wind up possibly walking miles to and from the parking garage to the ball park, standing in line to get in to the park, running up and down stair cases once you're in the park, and along aisles. Ball hawks that live in certain areas like that of the northeast & midwest will have to stand in the COLD weather of April, May, and October, and the rest of us also have to stand for hours in the HOT summer sun "hawking" ...this can wear you out! Oh by the way, dragging your back pack all over creation full of gear & baseballs can take it's toll on your body & gear too. Now that you are in the ball park, you have to deal with the slow ticket personnel, grouchy security guards, the Cops, the ushers, and the stupid & goofy fans that don't understand our sport. You might have to deal with other non respectful & wanna bee ball hawks, fans that get in the way, the drunks, and the dozens of hot chicks that bother everyone while hanging on the railings (they're distracting in a couple of ways!). You will also have to deal with grouchy ball players that will dis you, pretend that you aren't there, and will sometimes try and hurt your feelings...this will "get your goat". Oh yea, you also have to eat on the fly.
Now to the meat and potatoes of the matter; that actual act of Ball Hawking! First of all, you have to be FOCUSED on the ball at all times, or you will either miss out on an opportunity to catch a ball, or lose some "chicklettes" (teeth) by not paying attention to a ball rocketting in from a power hitter! This takes a lot of mental stamina. You have to be ready to run up a stair case for a ball at "warp-one-speed" to beat your competition to the ball. You have to be ready to get in a scrap for a ball, and cut your knees all up, rip your pants, or pop a button on your nice brand new favorite players jersey. You must be willing to bang into the railings, seats, or trash cans at the park. You must watch out for that CRAZED fan that has never come close to a ball before, and is willing to knock you over for it, and is always three times your size...can anyone say Hockey Hip-Check!!! You have to have "THICK SKIN" at the ball park and the conviction of your sport, because you will surely be cursed at, and heckled by fellow fans, and talked to by ushers or security at some point for God knows what (just because they THINK you're a ball-hog probably)?
Another thing at the ball park is that you will want to be on high alert at all times for ball hawking opportunities, this can sometimes take away from the actual fun of watching the baseball game. You will have to keep reminding yourself that you are also there to watch a baseball game too. Ball hawking is just a game within a game. You might drive your Mom & Dad, girlfriend, or wife (or significant other) crazy at first at the park with always being into the ball hawking aspect of the game rather than being at the game with them, or to enjoy the game itself. Having to always be sitting on an aisle, carrying your glove around, etc., they might think that you're a little nutty at first, until they see your passion for what you do and learn to respect it. They will also see the joy you bring some young child when you give them a ball and make their day!
Now after all of this, and you've accumulated those few precious baseballs, you must find it in your heart to be KIND, and give up a ball or two! You must be gracious to your fellow ball hawks, and to those few kids that didn't get a ball that day. This act of kindness helps promote our sport & makes us friends at the park, and this will make you feel good inside too. This also helps endear us to those ushers and security guards that think we're greedy. Hand a ball to that "knuckle-head" usher that dislikes you, and tell him to give it to a little kid, and see this act of selflessness melt his or her heart (they might see us in a different light too).
Now, once home, you'll have to manage your baseball collection. You'll have to log all your balls on "MYGAMEBALLS.COM"! You might want to buy ball cubes for some of them...the more meaningful balls perhaps. You'll have to find a place to store them. You might want to blog about your exploits, or road trips. Then you will have to start the process all over again for the next game, or road trip! So you see, ball hawking is a sport and hobby that can take a lot of preparation time, money, and a lot out of you mentally & physically if you do it right, but dealing with all this will get you that rockin' baseball collection that you've always wanted!
Also, for all the HATERS out there of the very successful ballhawks that snag hundreds of baseballs during the season, remember that these hawks are spending thousands of dollars a season to obtain these balls!!! I know you can probably go into any Pro-Shop and BUY you a game used ball anywhere from $25.00 to $100.00 a piece, but isn't it more fun snagging them yourself & interacting with MLB players? I would like to state for the record, that I am not whining about any of this, I am simply pointing out to the novice ball hawk what it takes to obtain a huge baseball collection, and what you are in for once you start this hobby. Inform your parents about this, because once you are "hooked on hawking" there is no turning back! We do this for FUN, friends, and the love of the sport, and will gladly endure the hardships and cost. Like anything worth doing, you have to sacrifice! Go BIG or go home!
So stay strong! Play hard, but play fair! And, "GO HAVE A BALL"...literally! I will...
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.