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The Year of the Commemorative

In 1968, pitching totally dominated batting in the Major Leagues. Bob Gibson (22-9, 1.12 ERA) and Denny McClain (31-6, 1.96) lead the way for the pitchers, and faced off against each other in a memorable Cardinals-Tigers World Series. Pitching was so dominate that the season became known as "The Year of the Pitcher." To *re-level* the playing field between pitchers and batters, MLB lowered the mounds in 1969.

Ballhawks and all baseball fans across the Major Leagues are being treated to a different kind of "Year of the..." in 2012. Fans' gloves across MLB's 30 ballparks are more-frequently-than-in-the-past opening up to reveal even more excitement than usual in 2012. Marlins Park Inagural Season. Camden Yards 20th Anniversary. New York Mets 50th Anniversary. Houston Astros 50th Anniversary. Dodger Stadium 50th Anniversary. And, the GRANDDADDY OF THEM ALL, Fenway Park ONE-HUNDRED YEARS! In the bleachers and grandstands of America, it is unofficially "The Year of the Commemorative."

And we officially love it.

Snagging any baseball at a Major League game is an amazing experience. But snagging a commemorative baseball makes the experience even more amazing.

Tim, Kellan and I have been been lucky enough to open our gloves to commemorative baseballs a personally unprecedented eleven times in 2012, and we're only two months into the season. We have managed to snag: 1 Marlins Park Inagural Season, 2 Mets 50th Anniversary, 3 Camden Yards 20th Anniverary, 4 Dodger Stadium 50th Anniversary, and 1 Fenway Park 100 Years baseballs. This has more than doubled our total commemorative baseball collection (in both total volume and total commemorated events -- you can see our entire commemoratives collection here: http://www.cookandsonbats.com/baseballs/commems.html). While not a conventional *snag* and not counted in our "official" collection, Mariners bullpen catcher and Cook & Son Hall of Famer Jason Phillips also gave my dad a "Japan Opening Series" commemorative baseball for me, Tim and Kellan after the Mariners returned to Arizona from Japan.

One exciting thing about commemorative baseballs is trying to figure out where and when you will have an opportunity to get one. In 2011, the only regular season commemorative baseball was the Angel's 50th Anniversary baseball. We saw the Angels at Citi Field and Camden Yards and got several baseballs from the Angels, but none of them were commemorative. It looked like we would end the season without taking home an Angels baseball. And then we got three in the final series of the season...between our Seattle Mariners and the visiting Oakland Athletics.

This season, it seemed like the most difficult commemoratives for us to get would be the Dodgers and Astros baseballs. But then we ended up getting four Dodgers baseballs when we saw our Mariners play in Denver. Interestingly, all four were tossed to us by Mariners. The Mariners have not played the Dodgers this season. But the Rockies were just two games removed from a series in Los Angeles and apparently returned to Colorado with a heap of Dodgers baseballs that they gave to the Mariners for BP.

In addition, we got three Camden Yards baseballs (all from Orioles) in Kansas City, two Mets baseballs at Citi Field (including a nice rubbed-up umpire baseball), and one Marlins Park baseball from the Marlins bullpen catcher's equipment bag at Nationals Park.

That leads us to our most recent and most gratifying commemorative of 2012. We recently visited Boston to participate in the 100th Anniversary of Fenway Park. The anniversary itself is an incredible event of unprecedented historical signifance in the United States. While I have since the unveiling of the 2012 commemoratives thought that the Mets baseball was the best looking design, it was a feeling of pure elation last weekend when home plate umpire Ed Rapuano tossed us a "Fenway 100" commemorative baseball after the Red Sox recent walk-off win over the Rays. After gloving it at Fenway, the Red Sox baseball is definitely my favorite of the season. I am ecstatic that we were able get the Fenway baseball at Fenway, instead of somewhere else, and getting it from the umpire made it even better becaues it meant that our Fenway 100 Years baseball was actually on the field of play during a regular season game during Fenway's centenntial celebration.

So two months into the 2012 season, we have collected five of the six 2012 commemorative baseballs. Predictably, the one we have not yet gloved is the Astros 50th Anniversary baseball. Our best bet to round out our 2012 commemoratives collection is to try to get an Astros baseball in August at Citi Field. You can bet we'll make the effort. Hopefully it pays off.

We are by no means unique. Across myGameBalls.com, you can watch the membership trying to complete a collection of their own. Like us, Zack Hample currently stands at five. He only needs the Fenway Park baseball. Of course, he also snagged the Japan Opening Series baseball IN JAPAN. Zack Weiss is getting close too. He has collected all four National League commemoratives, but is still trying to track down the Camden Yards and Fenway Park baseballs. Maybe inter-league play or a trip to Cleveland will help him in his quest. In the BBQ-sauce dipped heartland of Kansas City, Garrett Meyer has quietly collected the Fenway, Camden Yards and Dodger Stadium baseballs -- the stadium anniversary trifecta. Down in Houston, five baseballs into his 2012 season, Angel Arroyo has already snagged a couple Astros commemoratives.

Who will be the first to collect all five? The smart money is on Hample, who might do it on a (potential) upcoming Fenway trip. How many members of myGameBalls.com will end up owning all six 2012 regular season commemoratives? Who knows! Hopefully all of us.

Good luck and, whether you snagged a commemorative or not, be sure to have loads of fun at the ballpark (or ballparks) this season.

C & S is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.

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