August 13, 2012
If you're like the majority of ballhawks on this site, you try to get balls tossed to you as well as hit balls. A very important aspect of getting balls tossed to you is having the gear of both teams playing. If you go to enough games, this will eventually necessitate the purchase of gear from all 30 teams.
At retail price, 30 hats and 30 shirts could get...expensive...very expensive. That's why you aren't going to pay retail price. You are going to pay much less. After all, why pay full price for a hat or a shirt when someone lists one on eBay for a price that just screams, "I want to get rid of this thing." Obviously, to purchase an item on eBay, you need an account on the site and a means by which to pay for an item; some sellers allow the direct input of a credit card, but most will require you making an account on PayPal as well.
For those who don't know, ebay.com is an online auction site where people sell items. Contrary to its title as "online auction site", though, sellers list items in one of two formats: "Buy It Now" or "Auction".
In Auction, the seller lists a start price and a date and time when the auction will end. Buyers then start bidding on the item, starting at the price the seller listed it at. The buyer with the highest bid when the auction ends, wins the item. In Buy-It Now, the seller simply sets a price and the first buyer to click the button claims the item. In addition to being simpler than the Auction format is items are generally always listed lower, so they have the potentiality of costing less than a Buy-It-Now item.
The whole idea of this maneuver after all, is that unless you have a special reason for buying a hat or a shirt from a specific brand, you can make a very expensive part of this hobby of yours a lot less expensive. Even THROUGH Buy-It-Now, one can save up to 80% when compared to buying the hat or shirt at the stadium. That's not to mention, if you wait patiently enough for the uber cheap Auction deal to come along- and bid on it at the last moment (to ensure the price doesn't rise from several bidders bidding on the item). Again, it takes patience to find such a deal, but it may be worth it to put in the time if saving money for games is what you're after.
Here are a couple things to remember while buying your apparel:
1. The team comes first- First and foremost a t-shirt you buy will serve as an advertisement that you are a "fan" of the opposing team. Therefore, the main thing you are looking for is something a player can pick up from a distance. So a t-shirt with the team's logo as big as it can possibly be is optimal. My implication being: don't worry if the shirt has a player's name on the back. I used to be particular about this when I started buying shirts, but I found that it didn't really matter. Those shirts also tended to be more expensive than their counterparts. After a few years, I found most of the players were on a different team anyway. If you REALLY want to have a player's name on the back, or those happen to be the cheapest t-shirts available, err towards pitching. It's always nice to know you can your shirt around when asking for a ball from *the* player whose name appears on the back of said shirt. Pitchers, for the most part, are the ones who field baseballs during batting practice; o having a pitcher's name will allow you the best shot to get a ball from him. Outfielders sometimes field balls on a semi-regular basis (the "sometimes" reflecting how many outfielders in the league do it, not the semi-regularity that they do it with), but for the most part, having a pitcher's name on the t-shirt will maximize your chances of getting a ball.
Best case scenario: the pitcher is a reliever with a multiple years left on his contract. He is optimally a reliever because he won't miss batting practice due to it being his day to pitch or throw a bullpen session. And he optimally has multiple years on his contract because that somewhat assures he'll be on the team for a few years, meaning the back side of your jersey won't become useless as it would if he left the team the next year as a free agent.
2. Color is key- Although the whole idea of buying them this way is to save money, you may want to shell out a little extra to buy a color that fits how you will use it (particularly for a t-shirt, but this applies to hats as well). For most people, this means getting a shirt/hat in the brightest hue possible. Trust me, I know from experience. You don't want to be the one in all-black Orioles or Giants gear; you want to be the one in bright, bright orange. This is with one exception, though. The color is great because it catches a player's attention. However, if you are a person particularly skilled at "talking" players into tossing you baseballs, i.e. you do a ton of research into every single player's past to get a nugget you can use (say their elementary school's mascot), and/or you have a very loud voice and have no problem getting a player's attention without a bright shirt and hat, then you may opt to get a more discreet shade. If you're wearing neon yellow AND yelling for the whole stadium to hear you, the first toss-up may be the only one you get. Brighter colors are easier to pick up but also easier to remember. So, other players will be more likely to see you get the ball and when you ask them for a ball, they may just remember, "Hey, wasn't that the guy (or woman) who got the ball from my teammate. Yeah, it was, no one else is wearing neon yellow so it must be him. And he/she is asking for ANOTHER ball? Forget it."
3. The sooner the better- You don't have to start buying apparel right away, but it's best to start looking as soon as you can to familiarize yourself with what's cheap and what's not. Also, if you start looking earlier, you improve the odds of finding a really good deal on an item before the time comes when you "need" the shirt or hat (when a game is coming up in which that particular team is playing. Note: if you wait until the last minute to buy an item, that's usually when you'll end up overpaying for it). All this said, if you start looking/buying early, don't feel the need to buy every team's hat and shirt in one fell swoop. Like I mentioned, you may find a better deal later. Also, something might fall out of the sky that allows you to get apparel for even cheaper. I, for example, got a gift card to a sporting goods store from a relative after he returned a set of weights. From this, I was able to a hat and shirt of ten different teams. I also stumbled upon a Padres shirt at a garage sale my former middle school was having for $5. Also, many stadiums have vendors/stores outside them that sell apparel pretty cheaply. If you have a contact in the stadium's city, ask them before you travel there if that is the case and how much the items typically cost. You can then determine if it's worth your while.
Finally, I can't *guarantee* you'll be able to buy a hat for a penny or anything like that, but I'll say this: buying a hat and shirt would have cost me many times more had I bought everything at a retail price. My hope for all of you is that you can do the same and have fun doing it. So, I wish you all the best of luck and safe shopping.
Mateo Fischer is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.