April 13, 2013
When I'm at the ball park, everyone always asks me; why do I like to shag balls so much...they really mean ...at your age! Let's look at this question, and break it down. What does this actually mean? What are people REALLY trying to say, or tell me?
I preceive this question two ways; 1.) that they are telling me that I am too old to be doing what I'm doing, and look goofy as hell doing it, or 2.) I shouldn't be shagging balls, because these balls being hit at batting practice should all be for the little kids! Really? What is it that I am exactly doing wrong by shagging baseballs? Can anybody please tell me that? Mariano Rivera still likes shagging balls at 43 years old! Last year, a 95 year old woman snagged a baseball at a AAA game in Stockton Cal., and was so excited and kept the ball...a 95 YEAR OLD WOMAN!!! Does anybody care how I feel when I snag a baseball??? Why does all the fans around me cheer when I snag a homer on the fly? What about my wife, she snagged a Brandon Phillips foul cut on the fly with her glove the other day, and the whole stadium saw her and cheered her, the usher gave her a certificate for the accomplishment...did they know that she's 51 years old?!
In my estimation, baseball is probably the most ***American*** thing I can be invovled with as a civilian, the only other thing more American is being a Soldier in the military. There is nothing wrong, or Illegal about snagging baseballs or bringing a glove to the old' ball park. It is a time honored tradition, and it should be encouraged...hell, it should be celebrated! Fans that have "heart-burn? with it should try it before they knock it. Age should have nothing to do with having a good time at the ball park. Some people have fun in different ways at the ball park; some like to drink and watch the game, some like to girl watch at the game, some like to score the game, and some just like to hang out with their friends at the game and chill...I like to watch baseball and snag some balls.
Snagging baseballs is exilerating. Every fan that you see snagging a ball at the park raises the ball in the air in jubilation, like they just won the lottery! Shagging baseballs is also a great workout. It is just as good as getting on a stair-master by running up and down the ball park stairs chasing after a baseball, and walking from section to section to get into position to snag a Major League homer! It's better than buying a gym membership ! Also, how great is it, being outside sitting in the sun, routing my team on, and making friends at the ball park. What could be better than that?! Ball hawking also keeps you young! We had a saying in the army, that you had to have a little bit of "Little Kid" in you to make a career out of the military. The same thing applys about ball hawking...you have to have some ?little kid? in you at batting practice to be a ball hawk in my opinion. My little league days are long gone, but when I put on my glove, I feel 9 years old again! It's great therapy.
Having mature ball hawks at the ball park helps the kids and the teenage hawks. Mature ball hawks actually stick up for the "mini-hawks". We scold the idiots that JUMP the mini-hawks, I know I do. We teach the mini-hawks how to ball hawk; ask for player toss ups, perform the glove trick, get into position for a home run ball, motivate them to ask for a baseball from the players, the security guards, or the Umpires. We teach them to make the line-up cards and help them with stratage'. I watched Zack Hample two years ago when he was visiting at G.A.B.P., and he was truly a gentleman to the stadium personnel, the fans, and the kids! I watched him take time out to sign books for fans, help the kids snag balls, help me out with statage & the glove trick, and give a bunch of baseballs away to kids...he even gave one to my wife! He gloved tricked a ball right in front of me, and signed it and gave it to the Hall of Fame tour guide from the Reds, a female named Connie...nice! I watched "nicholaspnc" (Nick) from Pittsburgh help the little kids at our ball park, and give them a few baseballs. I'm sure Devon Trone, "Padreleigh", and the other mature hawks out west are helping the kids out in their respective ball parks, that's what mature hawks do, and that's what it's all about...helping fellow ball hawks. Erik Jabs helped me out in Pittsburgh some years back! Some of these kids don't have Dads, and their single Moms come up to me and ask me to help their son or daughter snag a baseball during BP all the time. Of course I take the time out to help them. Us mature ball hawks are sometimes roll models for the little kids...I bet all the little kids in Pittsburgh look up to Erik Jabs, I've seen them there pointing him out. So if you're at the park, and you see the little kids struggling, give them a hand!
I also want to state for the record, that we (ball hawks) get MORE BASEBALLS for the kids than we get for ourselves!!! I help get more balls thrown to the kids from players, because I am standing by them, and because I know who the players are and I call out to them... then the player usually sees me the "OLD GUY", and throws "MY ball" to the kids, and then the player realizes that there is a group of kids behind him, and throws some more balls to the other kids (not all players are aware that there are fans behind them during BP...some of them are just chatting away talking about the girls they picked up on the night before!). The kids don't really know what they're doing, and their Dads are worthless in terms of helping them snag a baseball! I am not trying to sound "Holier-than-thou", I'm just saying that we do a lot of pre-game work & research studing the players & coaches to get a baseball, and the kids profit off our hard work. 300 baseballs a season don't just fall into your lap, you have to work for them! Some fans don't know this. Some fans have "heart burn" with how many balls I snag at the park, until they see how many I get for the kids. I watch so many WIMPY Dads just stand there when their kids are trying to snag a baseball, and they say nothing to the players! Then I step in and say; hey Bronson (Arroyo), can you toss the kids a ball please, and then he (Bronson) usually turns around tosses up a few balls up to the kids. I step back from a bunch of glove trick balls every year to let the little guys have a go at it...they run up to me and say... hey, can I try and glove trick that ball, and I say, yeah...go ahead little dude...get your glove trick on!
What people don't know about mature ball hawks is, that we are great ambassadors for the game of baseball (I wish the Pro baseball teams' "Brass" would learn this fact). We know the game and the players very well. While we are at the game, a lot of people come up to us and ask us stuff about the game, the players, and the ball itself. We enhance the game day experience for a lot of different fans from batting practice to the end of the game. Some of us are actually pseudo big brothers to the younger ball hawks that want to hang around us at the park. So Dad's of the "Mini-Hawks" (if you are reading this), when you see us mature/extreme adult ball hawks at the the ball park, don't dog on us or berate us; come say hi to us and see if we can help your kid snag a baseball. All the mature ball hawks that I know are great guys and gals that are willing to help out the little kids at the park. They (the fans, ushers, and security at G.A.B.P.) are finally realizing that am a nice guy, and not a "Ball-Hog", and am willing to help people learn & understand our sport.
So, the next time you see a mature ball hawk at the game this summer, remember, don't give them crap, just say hi & thanks. We're all getting older, one day we will all be mature ball hawks! As always, "GO HAVE A BALL"...I will! Hope to see you all this summer at the ball park!
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.