April 30, 2012
If you are a young or inexperienced ball hawk, or are new to mygameballs.com, and you are at a ball park and notice Erik Jabs or Zack Hample running around at the park, go and say hi to them, or any other ball hawk that you recognize from the site. It will be well worth your time; however, tread lightly, because they might be in full snag mode. The best time to meet them is before batting practice if you see them milling around outside the ball park, waiting to get into batting practice. Most adult ball hawks are great people, and will have no problem giving you a few tips or pointers, and pointing you in the right direction at the park to snag a few balls. I met Eric Jabs at PNC park outside the stadium a few years back when I was a relatively new ball hawk, and he looked like a ball hawk! He looked like a caged animal waiting to get inside the park and get going, and had his glove all hooked up with the glove trick and everything. I was making some small talk with the people outside the gate asking for tips on PNC park, and Jabs kindly told me where to go to snag a few balls while the season ticket holders were inside the park (there's a spot outside the park where you can "hawk" over-spill balls by RIGHT field).
The point is; he was totally COOL & HELPFUL! I wasn't a member of mygameballs.com at the time, and I didn't know who he was. He could see that I came all the way from Cincinnati to snag some balls, and he helped me out, so I wouldn't go home empty handed! He didn't have to say anything to me, but he did! Now that I know who he is, I respect him even more! I didn't realize that I was in the presence of ball hawk greatness at the time, or I would have followed him around some and checked out his game.
When I was an inexperienced ball hawk, and was going to the games and watching the people around me ask for baseballs, all I heard was "HERE, HERE, HERE!" The players wouldn't toss up balls at all, and an Atlanta Braves coach told me flat out that he would not toss me a ball because I was in the wrong gear. It was tough to get a ball. I was fighting an even bigger battle being a middle-aged ball hawk in a sea of kids! I wanted a ball just as badly as they did, but I didn't want to look like that knuckle-head old dude that jumps the kid. I really didn't know what I was doing at the time. I had to get an edge, so I went on Youtube to find out if there was any videos about getting a Major League Baseball ( because everything's on Youtube, right), and wha-la...Zack Hample popped up!
His videos were totally cool. I knew that I was on the right track as a ball hawk by watching the Zack Hample videos on Youtube. The videos gave me an idea of what ball hawking was all about, and I did start snagging a lot more balls. And through trial and error on my own at the ball park, I found out what things worked for me and what didn't work for the most part. Some things where harder to accomplish in different ball parks than others. I was doing all right at snagging balls. I was having fun, and getting better at it every year, and upping my snagged ball totals. I'm naturally an aggressive guy, and was learning the "game" of hawking each time I went to the park.
Last year I was lucky enough to meet Erik Jabs again in Cleveland (as you all know, he's a PNC Park, ball hawk local), and I got to watch him in action at Progressive Field. I was also lucky enough to meet and hang out with Benny "Bang Bang" from New York at G.A.B.P., and again at Progressive Field a week later, and of course the great Zack Hample came for three days to G.A.B.P. My wife and I, and some other local ball hawks were fortunate enough to have Zack sign our books, and hang out with us for awhile. We were able to watch these great hawks in action at our ball park, and hawk along side them. This was a treat! This was also a seminar on ball hawking 101, and an advanced class on ball hawking if you had the stamina to keep up with the likes of Jabs, Bang-Bang and Hample. These are "Big City Kids" that play for real!!! I am too, by way of the Bronx, L. A., and now Cincinnati. We also had an "old school" ball hawk from Chicago come to the Nati that was in Hamples' book, can't remember who right now.
Having some premeire ball hawks in our ball park was an eye opening experience. Being able to see how these guys operated in real life was amazing. The little things that these great ball hawks do that you can't see on their videos; the way they hold out their glove and call out to the players for player toss up balls; the seriousness, determination, and passion in which they approach the sport... and the way they run around the stadium, looking for ball hawking opportunities; it's eye opening. Hample was like a Jungle Cat that was just let out of a cage, or a drug sniffing Police Dog; he was all over the place, searching every crack and crevasse of the ball park for a baseball...he was relentless! I witnessed Hample snag those 36 baseballs the day he set the record for most balls in a single game...I shadowed him all day long. Erik Jabs was like a wide reciver with a glove...making catch after catch! Jabs out-caught everybody in the stands for home run balls...he could anticipate where the hit home run ball was going to land and get there so fast, and make the catch!
Hample personally showed me how to do the "Glove Trick"...WOW, how cool was that! We had some good conversations about strategies, ball parks, and stuff like security guards, etc. NOW, I scour every crack of the park for a ball, and I'm finding more "eggs" in new locations than ever! I'm bold with the glove trick, and I'm more aggressive than ever with player toss ups, umpire & third out balls, etc.! In the future, I would eventually like to meet all the great ball hawks, like Happy, John Witt, Devot, Flavadave10, NicholasPNC, GU3, Garrett37, the guys in Hamples book "The Baseball", etc. (I hope I didn't leave anyone out...sorry if I did). I would like to see how they all operate, and find out what tips they could impart to me. I can't wait to see some of these great ball hawks at Ball Hawk FEST this year and in the coming years!!!
***My point being***, if you ever get a chance to meet these guys...DO IT! THEY WILL ***UP*** YOUR GAME FOR SURE! Don't be SHY, and do say HI...
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.