May 5, 2012
After much anticipation the 2012 baseball and ball hawking season is underway. The long Chicago winter is over and the first series at the Cell was finally here. I made BP for two straight days and had a blast, I found several eggs and had a few come my way. Detroit and Fielder were impressive considering the wind off the lake knocking the balls down fairly regularly. The second series of the home stand featured Baltimore. I went all three nights and kept my streak alive by finding a few each game. April 19th was a day game and I was unsure if I could go.
Alas, I get to work on Thursday and the impulse to ball hawk overtakes me and I start planning my early departure and get to the park. The attendance for the first three games vs. Baltimore was dismal and competition was nonexistent. I figured that the day game with school in session would be empty and this was my chance to hangout in the left field bleachers and snag my first home run ball ever. I call my son and he and his fiance join me in this effort. I get to the park a little late and to my surprise the Sox are taking BP, so I head out and find a few eggs to get my day off to a nice start. I put on my Orioles hat and start getting balls tossed up without even asking, I know this is going to be my lucky day.
Adam Jones comes to bat in the fifth inning I believe. The ball is hit to my left and I am blocked by my future daughter in-law. I continue making my way over to where the ball is hit. I am not even close as it hits the empty bleacher s three rows up and bounces back onto the field. Alejandro De Aza, centerfielder for the Sox, picks up the ball and tosses it towards a few young boys in the front row. The ball hits the rail and drops down to the dead area between the fence and the stadium bleachers. I run for my ball retriever and snag the ball with the second try. The crowd and I were excited; high fives all around followed by the curious folks that want to see the gadget. This was the most fun I had ever had as a ball hawker. Talk about setting your goal and getting it done, I was on cloud nine.
This is where my trouble started. You see fellow hawkers, at U.S. Cellular Field, retrievers are not allowed. In fact I was warned by the left field bull pen security guard last year not to have it in the park. I said sure and used it primarily in right field where security was amused by my efforts of retrieving balls. Apparently this guard was not happy with me snagging the home run ball, and six days later while Boston is taking BP and I am in right field, waiting on Big Poppy. I notice him waddling over from his post . I have been attending BP since 2006 and he has never come this way. As I see him coming I know this is bad. The impulse to run kicks in, but I remember I am 51 years old and realize that is a bad idea. Left field bull pen guy calls for back up and sure enough I get escorted by two other guards to the hooskow in the bowels of the cell. I am written up and told to leave my toy at home, as next time I will be arrested. I agree and leave the park a little embarrassed and disappointed that I missed BP.
Saturday comes along and I get to the park early. I enter through The Stadium Club entrance and notice that the elevator is stopping at the concourse level. This is real luck, as I can get to BP very early and snag all the eggs, no competition at all. Now I have been warned not to do this back in 2007, but it was so tempting. I decided to wait until about 3 minutes before the gates open and still be the first into the left field bleachers. As I am walking the concourse to the bleaches the PA system announces the park is open, so I walk straight down the bleachers. There waiting was the security guards who said they watched me enter the park early. Well, another BP spent in the bowels of the cell and this time the guys were a little less amused with me.
The big chief was summoned, a man 10 years my junior, and he lectures me and lets me go. Thus, I have not been banned from the park but the tricks I have learned over the years that have helped boost my totals have been eliminated. Some of the fun and excitement are gone too. I have my home run ball in my collection along with the memory of snagging it. I will be back to the park but I will follow the rules, for now.
Rick Crowe is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.