May 20, 2013
"Being Switerland", what does this mean? In a word, it means being NEUTRAL, or taking both sides of an issue. Or, staying out of trouble by not taking a side of an issue. As ball hawks, we have to be cognisant of this fact, as we seek to snag baseballs of both teams.
All of us have our favorite teams, I mean our childhood team...the team we truly route for, but as ball hawks, we all try and snag balls from the visiting teams at our ball park. It's a little different when we go on road trips to other ball parks, we can play-up to both the teams, but I want to concentrate more on what happens at our home park, with our home team.
As ball hawks, most of us hard core hawks have the gear of most of the teams in the league, you better if you really want a baseball. This is a known fact in ball hawking. We buy our tickets to the game, plan our pre-game strategy, pack our gear in our backpacks, fill up the car, and head off to the ole' ball park; we get inside the park and batting practice (BP) starts...yea...we're all happy getting ready to snag some balls, and as our home team is on the field taking batting practice & shagging baseballs, the other team (road team) decides to come out *EARLY* onto the field to start their BP...UH-OH!!! They ALL come out of the dugout and go right to long toss. As the visiting team is taking long toss, they're up by the outfield wall by where you are! Now what do you do? You're caught in the gear of your home team now! You're hoping to snag a ball from your home team, so you want to stay in their gear, but you don't want the other team to see you rocking the home team's gear either. You weren't planning on this, so how do you FIX the situation? I'll tell you what I do.
First of all, you can kind of figure out what teams come out for BP early: they are usually the teams that are from the other side of the country, and they have been on a long plane ride, and want to stretch their legs so to speak; Seattle to Tampa...Miami to San Fransisco, but not always. Sometimes it's teams from the other league during inter-league play that want to come out early and get familiar with the ball park. Some times it's teams that are having a rough go of it for the past few days, and their coach wants them to "step things up" a bit! Some times this happens on a *rain-out* day when the tarp is on the infield, and both teams come out for long toss at the same time. So, if you are heading out to a few games, plan to factor these things in, according to the teams and the situation. You'll have to watch MLB channels "Quick Pitch", or ESPN's "Baseball Tonight" to keep up with what teams suck at the time. You'll also have to keep in mind who's flying in, and from where?
One thing you can do to look NEUTRAL to both teams is, figure out and plan ahead of time what the teams' colors are for both teams that day, I mean, if you are going to see a game between the Cincinnati Reds, and the St. Cardinals, you can wear a generic RED T-shirt, and just swap hats...I know Zack Hample stated this in his book "The Baseball", so it's not really my idea, but it works! Some of you might have figured this out all on your own. You might not have read Zack's book which is very good by the way, so here's a plug for Zack. Some of the things I do when I get caught in this situation is, first remove my hat, if I'm wearing a generic shirt! My home team knows me anyway, and I know who they are, so if I want a ball from them I'll just ask for one. Also, I always want to look like a "Hard Core" baseball fan...which I am...even if I am wearing the generic T-shirt, I'll still wear my Phiten necklaces, or my Power balance necklaces and my glove of course. If you are going to go with the generic T-shirt, try to wear one that's ***baseball related***, like your MYGAMEBALLS.COM ball hawk fest T-shirt, or something with a big baseball on the front, NOT something that says "NASA", or those other goofy retro T-shirts that the kids are wearing today.
Back to the hat, I'll go hatless or throw on my WBC hat (team Puerto Rico) until I can sport the other teams gear completely. Believe it or not, changing your look a little bit by just taking off a hat or pair of sunglasses could just be enough for the other team or usher not to remember who you are and what you looked like a few minutes before. I do this all the time, I'll change my look just to trick the security guards. The people at the ball park (staff members, ushers, security, the Cops) will get used to always seeing you in a hat, sunglasses, and with a jersey on. You've got to change your look sometimes!!! You don't know how many times I'll be talking to some of the ushers that know me, and they say once I've changed my look by taking off my hat and sunglasses... I didn't know that was YOU! So, I know it works! Criminals use this trick all the time to ditch the Cops! Of course you can't change your pants or shoes, but most people don't look at your lower half anyway, and the players from the field surely can't see your shoes and maybe pants. By the way, I try and wear pants or shorts that make me look like the average "college kid", which is usually tan cargo shorts or pants...if you notice Hample in his videos, this is the look he sports too. Basketball shorts are fine too.
Another thing I like to do is, have a few ***different looks*** incase this situation arises. When I bring in my backpack during the colder months (Apr., May, Oct.) I always bring a MLB "Convertible GAMER Jacket" like the ones the players wear on the field during BP...the ones that have the sleeves that zip off...these gamers will give you a few different looks all by themselves (sleeves off or sleeves on). Also, the *gamer jackets* will change your look in terms of your weight; if you're skinny, it will add weight to you because they're kind of baggy, if you're heavy it will hide your weight (yes I think of everything...you should too)! You should at least have a gamer jacket of your home team in my opinion...yes they're kind of expensive, but worth it! By the way, players love to throw me baseballs while I'm in my gamer jacket; I guess they think I look like them, so I deserve a baseball! Also, if you were in a gamer jacket, and then change into a jersey, that will make a big change in your appearance!
Now, I will bring jerseys of each team or one team, and a T-shirt usually a MLB logo T-shirt, and I'll bring a long john top in RED or Grey that I can throw under any of these outfits to change the color scheme if needed. Yes, all these pieces of clothing can get heavy in your backpack, and you may loose some mobility as far as being able to run very fast with your pack, but you will be able to deal with the "Switzerland" situation once it arises! You might sacrifice Easter Eggs or hit balls for toss-ups, it depends on what you like to snag.
Back to the MLB logo T-shirt for a minute, I've noticed that this is a very good shirt to be "Switzerland" with! You will look like the hard core baseball fan, without pissing-off both teams. I have these T-shirts in a bunch of different colors, and to be "Switzerland", I will normally use the Black, the Red, the Grey, or the White T-shirts to stay neutral to all the teams. The Umpires love and get a kickout of these T-shirts too...this is the T-shirt I usually switch to, to go snag Umpire balls in at the end of the game by the way. This is a solid option, and is a MUST HAVE in any serious ball hawks wardrobe arsenal in my opinion! You can buy these T-shirts on Ebay for approximately $15.00...check it out. If it's during the hot summer months, I'll just have the jerseys and the T-shirt option to switch into, and play with the hat, shirt, and jersey combos. The WBC (World Baseball Classic) hats & gear are another great option to be "SWITZERLAND" with!
One more thing about clothing; I see alot of ball hawks that want to sport the backpack of their favorite team with some type of team logo on it...don't do it! I would suggest that you purchase a "sterile" colored backpack such as all black or see-through...yes, see-through is the new "anti-terrorist" backpack since after the Boston bombings. The reason why is, if you are running around the ball park in Phillies gear, and wearing a Cincinnati Reds backpack, I don't think the Phillies players are going think that you are a true Phillies fan! You might be able to get away with this if you sit up high in the stands to snag balls, and you don't come down to ground level and get close to the players, but if you ever come down to the lower 1st or 3rd to watch long toss, they (the players) will definitely see you up close and notice the backpack you have slung over your shoulder! And when you ask for a long toss ball, the player might just call you out on your choice of gear!!! Avoid this and just buy a sterile black backpack..this will help you become "Switzerland!"
Another great tactic I use in conjuction with all this is to disappear for a few minutes. I will leave the seating bowl or outfield stands for a few minutes to go change clothes, and emerge in a new location. Yes I might miss a chance to snag a few batted balls, but it will increase my chances for player toss-ups later. I will usually do this anyway during the break when the two teams change positions on the field, and the home team runs off to their clubhouse, and leaves the away team on the field all by themselves. It's kind of like being "Clark Kent", and changing in the phone booth...you come out a whole different person. But I will give it a good 5 minutes at least to not be seen; this will kind of RESET BP for me, and give the players a chance to forget about me and forget where I was! It also gives me a chance to catch my breath and put away my baseballs from the 1st half of BP. It's like doing a "Combat Roll" in the Infantry,,,when your enemy is shooting at you, and gets a bead on you at your position, you do a Combat Roll to pop up in another spot to move forward and get up to start attacking him from another position. Look it up, it's in the Urban Dictionary.
Another thing I'll do if I can't change clothes or leave a specific seating section because you might be on a BP tour is, "hunker down" low in the front row seats, or get close to a large group of fans and blend in, or hang out over by one of the bullpens (if nobody's in it), or batters eye...use these things as COVER until you can change clothes or your home team moves off the field!
Being caught in this situation doesn't happen all the time, but you have to be ready for it. It might happen only once during a 3 or 4 game set with a visiting team, but it might happen more than once, so you have to be prepared! The bottom line is, that you have to stay calm and think. You know what will happen to you if the home team or the other team sees you in the wrong gear...that's right...no more baseballs for you; trust me...I know, I pissed off the Reds players the other day when they caught me in Angels gear on opening day (my childhood team)...now they won't toss me a ball!!! Sam LeCure scolded me about being a Reds fan...ouch! So, you have to use your tactics, your gear, and your smarts to prevail in this situation. Use the baseball stadium to your advantage. Also, don't let the players get the jump on you...get the jump on the players, and be prepared!!! Nothing I'm stating here is illegal, there is NO crime in changing your clothes ( just do it in the bathroom)! I hope this info helps you out the next time a "Switzerland" situation arises. Drop me some comments, I'd like to know what you all think about this. Also, be looking for my new article about "GREY-OUT"! It's going to be another clothing related article. As always, "GO HAVE A BALL"...I WILL!
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.