June 18, 2013
As I wrote in my last article about being Switzerland, there are times when you want to be "neutral" to both teams so that they can't tell which team you're a fan of. There are also times during the ballhawking season that you'll need to be "invisible." What do I mean by invisible, you ask? Well, it means a couple of things, but mostly not being able to be seen so easily at the ballpark; I'll explain.
During the course of a 162-game MLB season, you, the ballhawk, will undoubtedly go to your fair share of baseball games, mostly at your home stadium. Unless you're lucky like the big city ballhawks in the east & the west that have two or three ballparks within a 100 mile radius of each other and can manage to make it out to all these ballparks on a regular basis and rotate around in terms of going to games, you are going to have to "hawk" in your own local ballpark a lot!
That said, if you go to a lot of games, as I do, back to back in the same ballpark, you are going to get noticed! This could be a good thing or a bad thing. It depends on what you consider good or bad. Going to a lot of games in the same stadium can lead you to some perks, with regard to some of the ballpark personnel. It's only natural that you will be liked by some people at the park that know that you are a true & loyal baseball fan and you'll make a few friends along the way. But what about the bad? Also, it's only natural that you will rub some people the wrong way coming to the ballpark all the time, as they will perceive you as a "ball hog" and as someone who is taking baseballs away from poor little kids! We ballhawks know this is not true because there are enough batted & thrown baseballs to go around for everyone that cares to snag a baseball during BP. But nevertheless, we know that the good & bad exist!
As I go about my business attending a lot of baseball games in hopes of snagging baseballs at BP, there are days that I want to be noticed by a certain team or player in hopes of snagging that commemorative baseball or a ball from one of my favorite players. Maybe I just want to rock the gear of my favorite team, and that team is not the home team, shall we say! So I rock my gear loud & proud, wearing all the colors I can find for that team that day... of course I'm going to rub the ushers & security guards the wrong way and probably some fans that might know me. Next, someone is going to say something stupid to me to try to upset me, berate me, or humiliate me (which doesn't work... I'm too mentally tough for that, but they try) and make me feel bad about my wardrobe choice. Then there might be a day when the Cincinnati Reds players see me in some other team's gear and scold me the next day about being a traitor. Oh, well... I WANT BASEBALLS!!! So, how do I fix this situation?
I call it... grey-out! What do I mean by grey-out? Again, I'll refer back to my military training. Well, we in the military walk around all day long looking like a bunch of "trees." That means we wear camouflage! The military also has camouflage for urban terrain (warfare in cities), and that camo is usually made up of colors such as grey, white, and black... but mostly grey. Why grey? Because things built in the cities are built with concrete such as buildings, walls, subways, etc. and concrete is the color grey!!! What are all baseball stadiums made of? You guessed it... concrete! After being hassled a bunch of times at the ol' ballpark, I had to find a way to be "invisible." The infantryman in me came out; I figured out that if you look at fans all wearing the same team colors walking around in the stadium or walking along the walls in an outdoor ballpark they stick out like sore thumbs wearing reds & blues (most teams' colors are red & blue). But if you ever notice a fan that is just wearing a grey t-shirt and jeans, let's say, at a distance he'll blend in to the background. Your eyes will only usually only notice the people in the colored outfits and the people wearing greys or whites will blend into the background. Check it out the next time you go to the ballpark. Your eyes will have a hard time picking up the people wearing grey, especially at a distance. This is especially good when you are in the outfield stands shagging balls and the away team starts to stretch out by the batting cage; it will be hard for them to see you & notice you from that far away!
So, I started to switch things up! I started to buy gear in the color grey. I now wear black tennis shoes with white laces, grey pants or shorts, and grey away jerseys of whatever team, a black generic backpack, and a grey or white hat of whatever team (Lids now makes MLB hats in all white, grey, or black, by the way--check it out). I will also sometimes wear my grey Army P.T. (physical training) T-shirt. I get the grey that I need from the Army T-shirt, plus I look patriotic to the players and get some "sympathy balls," too! I also, of course, move around a lot on grey-out days, as not to be noticed. I also devised a nice, new strategy: while I am shagging balls in the outfield and I'm wearing my grey-out gear, I stay/hide in the entryway tunnels at the ballpark. This way I can literally be hidden from the idiot ushers & security and blend into the concrete tunnel walls that are grey) and I'm out of sight of the ballplayers. Plus, I can still see the incoming baseballs being hit into the stands. All the while I'm out of sight of everyone else... sweet! I noticed that the ushers that like to give me crap can't find me as easily on my grey-out days.
I don't know what you wear to ballhawk at your park but if you want to be low-key for a day or so, try a grey-out. Players will still toss you baseballs, because you will still be in their gear. It'll just be harder for security to find you in the crowd when they try and snatch you up for using the glove trick or whatever else they take issue with. This grey-out outfit works especially well when you are walking around in the dark concourse areas in the ballpark under the cover of the second deck (a word to the wise).
So, that's my grey-out method. What do you guys think? Will it help you out at the ballpark? It works for me! Check it out the next time you are at the park: follow someone wearing grey and see if you can still see them from across the ballpark. Walk around the park and check out people from different angles and take notice of the people wearing grey, you'll be surprised! This won't fix all your ballhawking woes but it should help. Remember, this is for us "marked men" at the ballpark!
Well, as always, go have a ball... I will!
P.S. If you go to Zack Hample's blog, The Baseball Collector, you will see me wearing one of my grey-out outfits when Zack was in Cincinnati.
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.