September 18, 2013
Well, in a summer full of scam artists we have another dilemma that we might have to come to grips with. We may have to come to grips with the fact that we might have a professional ballhawk in our midst. Why is this a problem? Because the rest of us amateur ballhawks cannot compete with a guy who is being sent to ballparks to ballhawk on someone else's dime. If they are snagging baseballs on someone else's money, then those are free baseballs. Isn't that reward enough? Plus, they get to count them in their stats. I wish someone would pay me for 500 free baseballs. If we are going to give out awards for ballhawking we need to set standards and have achievements to meet. Obtaining an award for something shouldn't just be a popularity contest, or a one size fits all contest. My "Military Mind" says we should have to meet a set of standards to earn the award.
We in the ballhawking community have a question for all the ballhawks out there to figure out, and that is: what is a "ballhawk of the year?" What is it that makes a person ballhawk of the year? Is it the guy or gal that snags the most overall balls at the end of a season? Is it the guy or gal that spends the most money to go to the most ballparks in a season? Is it the person that snags the most game balls, i.e. home run balls, foul balls, third out balls, etc. Or, should it be a combination of all of it? Should it be like the scavenger hunt where you get points for all your accomplishments throughout the season, or should we keep it like it is? Everybody's tired of the same guy winning it every year for the same thing, because he snagged more balls than everyone else! And all the nine to fifteen year-old boys will throw their vote to the same guy without considering all the facts or accomplishments. People have been grumbling about this to me behind the scenes so I thought that I would write this article about it.
I have recently been pondering another question, and that is: if you get sponsored to go and ballhawk, are you now a professional ballhawk? Have you left the realm of average amateur ballhawk that pays to go and attend games versus getting someone to pay for your ticket and expenses to go hawk? And if you are a professional ballhawk, should you get to win ballhawk of the year? Should we make a new category just for that person, and recognize them as Super elite or something like that? If you have snagged over 2,000 baseballs maybe we should have a super elite status for you and you can't win ballhawk of the year anymore. You've snagged so many baseballs that we know you're a super badass! Or make it like they do in the martial arts where if you snag 1,000 baseballs you're like a black belt of ball snagging and add a degree for every 1,000 more baseballs snagged. After 10,000 baseballs snagged, you would be the tenth degree grand master of snag! Remember, the average person in their entire life time may never snag even one baseball at a game...keep that in mind!
Ballhawk of the year is an award, and with any award, no matter what the field or endeavor, there has to be criteria to be met for the recipient to receive the award. That said, what should it be? Should a "pro ballhawk" be able to win it over the regular amateur ballhawks? If we were all local amateur bass fishermen competing in a competition and we were all fishing in a contest with our junky old rod & reels and junky fishing boats, all catching about five to six fish apiece, and some hot shot professional fisherman came to our pond with a new top of the line bass boat and with the best fishing pole and equipment and they also could go to all the best fishing spots around the area and could also count those fish totals in our little contest, not just from the one pond, and somebody paid them to do it, and they were catching, like, ten to fifteen fish a day, because they had better equipment and better fishing spots, and everyone else was stuck in the same little fishing spot just catching their five fish, let's say...would that be fair? Should they win the fishing contest? This might be a bad example, but you know what I'm driving at...I hope. If you were being sponsored by someone for only one year, and then you went back to amateur ballhawk status then this is a moot point!
Should we have a separate category for mature ballhawks, maybe forty years old and older? Should we have a female ballhawk of the year category? Should we expect the mature and female ballhawks to be able to compete with the fit and able eighteen to forty year-old male ballhawks that can run like a deer, and who go to the gym every day? What about senior ballhawk of the year--sixty plus? By the way, did everybody see the incredible upper deck foul ball catch made by great grandmother Virginia Smith in San Francisco on 09/09/2013? She is probably eighty plus years old. Anyway, we have a junior ballhawk of the year category, why not the other three? In boxing, they have weight classes; why? Because, they don't expect a 140 pound man to be able to knock out a 240 pound man, that's why!
There has to be a level playing field somewhere. What about a "home run king?" The hawk that snags the most game home runs in a year would get that title, just like Pete Rose got the title "Hit King." You would own it (the title) for a year, then you would have to earn it again. If you get the award for three years in a row, you would be recognized as the "home run king" of all time! What about having a glove trick of the year award winner? The guy or gal that performs the most glove tricks in a season could be declared "King of the Glove Trick" for a year. Another thing I was thinking about was, what about something like this: calling a ballhawk an "ace" for life, if he or she snags five or more game home run balls on the fly? If the home runs can be verified, via ESPN Hit Tracker for instance, we could all pitch in $10.00 to Alan Schuster, and buy that ballhawk a baseball glove of their choice up to $300.00, for instance, for an award instead of a certificate, and present it to them at Ballhawk Fest. Or, maybe a gift certificate to Dick's Sporting Goods for things they might want to buy. Maybe Zack Hample can get Bigs Sunflower Seeds to kick down $300.00 for the new glove. You would also maybe get a Gold background on your MyGameBalls.com screen page with gold baseballs adorning it, if Alan could do something like that. What do you guys think about something like that?
Maybe Alan could make a ballhawk Hall of Fame so even if you drop out of the sport, we could still remember you, and honor you! Like Matt Hersl, or when us old guys hang it up. This way we could come to a certain page on the website, and see who has done what. Back to Ballhawk of the Year; let's look at what it would take to be able to put yourself in the running for ballhawk of the year in my estimation (this is just a hypothetical template). You would have to first be an elite ballhawk; by that I mean you would have to at least snag 100 baseballs in a season. That's a lot of baseballs! You would have to go to at least three different baseball stadiums within the 2014 baseball season, for instance, that were not your home park...that would be one different park every two months... three roadies in six months (Yankee Stadium and Citi Field count as one, as do Angel & Dodger Stadiums, Chicago, and the bay area). You would have to snag at least one type of game ball to qualify. You would have to snag at least one commemorative ball and an umpire ball that year. You would have to have glove tricked at least five baseballs in a season. But, let's remember not to lose our minds and get in trouble or arrested trying to accomplish our ballhawking goals here... please! Please behave at the ballpark, and follow the stadium rules. Let's not run over any little kids or old ladies in the pursuit of an award! Let's not get anybody hurt or sued.
This would be very hard to do if you are not good at asking for toss ups from players (third out balls). What if you don't feel that you can get into a scrum for a ball, or can't afford the expensive seats by the dugout to snag a foul ball on the fly every night, or you may not have the skill that it takes to snag a game home run ball on the fly. But hey, this would get you out of your comfort zone! These tasks would be the minimum standards in order to qualify for the award. I'm sure most of you out there are saying to yourselves, I can do all that... can you??? What if you get an injury and can't run for a foul ball? What if you don't have the money to spend on any road trips that year, because you have to pay for your college books... you're out of the running!
You see, it wouldn't be that easy. This would make it a grind, and it would make you have to think about planning an overall strategy for a season of ballhawking in order to beat your competition and your fellow ballhawks. It would give us something to talk trash about at our Ballhawk Fest lunches in the future. It would infuse some extra excitement into our ballhawking season! My standards are just a guideline...you can think of some of your own and tell Alan about them. What we have now is... the guy with the most baseballs at the end of the baseball season wins, or the guy we like the best wins! I don't think that's right. Show me some overall ballhawking skill. Show me some determination! Let's make it a bit of a challenge. Let's set some standards! Let's not just make this a popularity contest, let's see if someone else can win the award besides the same ballhawk every year, shall we? If what we have now is only one award for the entire ballhawking community, I think this is a drag. Awards make people feel special. Why not try to recognize some other great achievements in our sport! What do you all think about this?
I am trying to think through this predicament. I am trying to provoke some thought on the subject, and I am trying to see if we can all come up with a better "mousetrap" if you will. I am not calling anyone out here. I am asking everyone to think as a rational and mature adult about the matter. I am trying to see what we all think about this, and to see if Alan will add these new categories to the award, and to give everybody a chance to win an award. Please drop me some comments, so that Alan can gauge what everybody has to say on the matter. I have already called Alan and told him that I would write an article about this subject and he wants some positive feedback. Alan is interested in seeing what the ballhawking community has to say about this subject. So, as always, "Go have a ball,"...I will!
Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.