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A View From Deep Left

Ballhawk of the Year: Part II

Hmmm, let me see, where do I start? It is sad, that most of the people that read my last article didn't really understand what I was trying to articulate. I hope this will help them out. I wrote my last article not with the intent to DIVIDE the ballhawking community, but to bring it closer TOGETHER, by trying to address some issues, and bringing an innovative approach to growing our sport/hobby. I sincerely apologize if I have brought strife to the ballhawking community, as this was not my intent. But we have a decision to make as a ballhawking community, and that is, was this website created for one man's glory, or for all of us?

What I found out was, that we have a "Cult of Zack Hample". I got crucified for just daring to ask the question, is Hample now a pro, and if he should win "Ballhawk of the Year" anymore. Also, what I found out was that a lot of ballhawks were conflicted as to whether ballhawking was now a sport, or a hobby. I also received a lot of facebook "LIKES" on my last article, so I know that a lot of ballhawks and baseball fans liked what I had to say about the matter, but they were too afraid to leave me any comments. Some have told me personally that they liked what I had to say. I feel that these ballhawks were worried about receiving scorn from the "Hample-ites" if they had chimed in. This is too bad, as I would have liked to have heard what they would have had to say. Plus, I really didn't think I had to spell out what my last article was about, but I will.

My last article was about creating new opportunities for all the ballhawks on the website. It was also about growing our sport and sharing it with other ballhawks that don't know that this website exists. When I see an outfield at a major league baseball stadium, I see an "ARMY" full of kids out there that are all ballhawks that would love to be a part of this website! The problem is, all the kids don't know about the website yet, and one supreme ballhawk couldn't possibly reach all these kids, even if he did a million TV interviews. My point was, that we all have to take ownership of the website, and try to reach these kids.

This site exists by word of mouth, and we all have to go out there, and be positive role models for the sport of ballhawking, not just one ballhawk. Also, I felt that by creating a few new cool awards, it would help some of these kids find out about the website; they would then tell their friends, and they would tell their friends, and so on, and so on...starting a MYGAMEBALLS.COM website craze! My aim also, was to try and advance the sport, and recognize some of the new stars in the sport. Don't we all want to grow this sport? Don't we all want to pass this sport on to the kids? Don't we all want to recognize some of the other outstanding ballhawks for their accomplishments in the sport, and for the sport? What about the female ballhawks, where are they at?

Would it be that bad if some of the younger ballhawks like Alex Kopp was called an ACE? Would it be so bad if Shawn77 was crowned Home Run King for instance? How would it sound for a great guy like Garrett Meyer to be thought of as the Master of Game Ball snagging? What about my buddy Devo out in Anaheim, that goes to like 90 games a year at his age, and has to run up and down the steps at Anaheim Stadium. 90 games people, that's a lot of games, and why wouldn't we want to vote for him to have the title "Mature Ballhawk of the Year" for instance? What's it going to hurt? Can anyone tell me that? I was sticking up for all the other ballhawks in my last article that just do not get their due!

All us adult ballhawks and fans say..."give the ball to the kids". All the ballplayers always want to give the kids a baseball first. We all say that we are looking out for the kids. Are we? Are we really looking out for the kids? How are we looking out for the kids and the younger ballhawks if we don't want them to have a chance to win an award. Again, all we have now is a "ONE SIZE FITS ALL AWARD"!!! Giving out some new awards will excite the younger ballhawks to share the website with their friends. What are we all afraid of by not creating more awards? Are we worried that we might bruise someone's ego? And another thing, how is it going to be a big hassle to create a few new awards? Only one man has to mess with that issue anyway, that I know of, and that is Alan. Once Alan finds a way to incorporate the new changes into the website, it will probably look very nice. Can we all agree on that?

I had read that people were saying, that too many awards were going to give the kids a false sense of self worth, and that we were going to water down the awards system. This is NOT what I was driving at. I understand that train of thought, and I agree with that principle for the most part, however, I feel that the younger ballhawks today would love to embrace some new aspects of the web site. And, a few new awards will not complicate things. We also would not be watering down anything; again, all we have now is ONE award for Ballhawk of the Year. We would be trying to create NEW opportunities for other ballhawks to shine in the sport. This would be a good thing! I can't understand how this would not be a good thing, unless you are selfish.

I had read in some blogs and on twitter, that I didn't have the perfect solution for the awards system. Well I do have the perfect solution, and I will be revealing it in the future, however in my last article I was just throwing some new ideas out there to see what the ballhawking community thought about some of my cool new ideas. I was trying to let everyone have a say in it, but what I received back was hate and vitriol for my questioning of Zack's status as a professional ballhawk. It appeared that there were alot of ballhawks out there, that just wanted to keep Zack as the #1 ballhawk forever, and not recognize any other ballhawk for great achievements.

Some of the ballhawks that shag balls for the fun of it have wrote in stating; "who cares", and "what does it mater who wins Ballhawk of the Year"... Let's just have fun shagging. First of all, I respect and appreciate their opinions. And they are right, let's all have fun shagging! But it matters, because a lot of ballhawks are spending a lot of money and time to go to a lot of games, and different ball parks, putting a lot of miles on their vehicles, and getting a lot of bumps and bruises in the hopes of being voted "Ballhawk of the Year"! These elite ballhawks are competing against each other in a friendly way to acheive a goal, and that goal is to win the award. We must wrap our minds around the fact that there is a competition for this award. Also, this is where ballhawking becomes a sport! If you have a group of people chasing after a title/award, and you are keeping score of something (yearly baseball totals), then it becomes a sport. Plain and simple.

Also, we seem to have a bunch of ballhawks out there that appear to be confused as to whether ballhakwing is a sport, or a hobby. Let me help them out, and impart some wisdom on the matter: if you ballhawk to get away from it all, then the ball park and ballhawking is your "BEACH". If you ballhawk as you would COLLECT STAMPS, then ballhawking for you is a hobby. If you're in a competitive situation, and you are ballhawking to beat the competition for an award, then ballhawking is a SPORT. Once again, if you are keeping score of something, then it becomes a sport. I get it; not everybody is ballhawking to win awards, and only doing it to have fun. But some of us are competing! I understand that ballhawking to a lot of people is one of the following, a get-a-way from a busy life, a way to enjoy some sun, it is a way to meet people, it is a hobby, it is a collection to some, a stress reliever, etc. And I know ballhawking should be fun, and it is! It's totally cool, if you are not trying to compete.

Just for everybody's information, this whole competition situation started, because Erik Jabs happened to win Ballhawk of the Year back in 2010, and had posted bigger numbers than Zack Hample that year. Then it appeared that Zack in 2011 "went on a tear", and visited all 30 ball parks (on his dime), and posted 1157 baseballs for that year, setting himself up to win Ballhawk of the Year that year, and to apparently crush the competition. It would appear that Zack would not only set himself up for ballhawk of the year for 2011, but would leave a lasting impression that he should earn it for subsequent years as well. He made mention in his blog that year, that at the half way point in his quest to snag 1157 baseballs, that he had already amassed the number of baseballs that Erik Jabs had snagged by 2010's year end (544)...probably a little dig at Erik. Zack had now upped the ante for all the elite ballhawks to try and beat him every year for Ballhawk of the Year. That's where we are now a few years later. Again, as far as this is concerned, I don't think it is right that Zack now gets paid for the most part to go and snag baseballs, while the rest of us have to pay, to go and put up stats. I explained this part in my first article.

And by the way, Zack was complaining about me on his blog, as having this great bastion of ballhawking at G.A.B.P.? It used to be, but not anymore. Well it is true that I get into my ball park very early, but the Cincinnati Reds are the worst hitting team in the majors first of all (Votto & Bruce aren't the power hitters everyone thinks they are), the players won't toss up any balls to adult fans, and the Reds' "Brass" has put a clamp down on ballhawking ever since Zack Hample has come to G.A.B.P. with his Bigs Sunflower Seed people and all his TV cameras this year. NO glove trick, they are picking up all the Easter Eggs, and the players don't want to toss balls up to any adult fans...I repeat...any adult fans, and the Reds players (Mat Latos & others) have personally told me that they will not hit balls into the stands anymore so that we (ballhawks) can chase after them (and they don't unless they make a mistake, and hit the ball too hard).

So during the Reds portion of batting practice here lately, we just stand there "with our thumbs up our butts"! Avi Miller from Baltimore and others form Milwaukee, Chicago, and Pittsburgh that have come here can attest to this...I am NOT making this up! The Reds players actually now accuse me of being Zack, the guy with "7000 baseballs", after they saw him on our local TV sports shows, and they will NOT throw me, or any other adult fans with a baseball glove a ball anymore! I tell them that I am not Zack, but they don't care, they won't throw anymore baseballs to adult fans. So, to say that I have it made at G.A.B.P. is a joke! You can ask any of the Pittsburgh hawks that have come to G.A.B.P. on a regular basis to shag lately, they'll back me up on this one! Zack told the players all our tricks, and now they hate ballhawks here! Player don't like ballhawks, they like REAL fans. If the players think that you're a ballhawk..."your goose is cooked"! Some people are going to say that I am "crying" be it, but I deal in facts, and this is a fact!

Back to the awards part of the debate; alot of people said that the new awards would be sort of gimicky, and would not add much to the website. Obviously I don't feel that way, and this is why. I feel that the smaller awards that I have proposed only point to the larger award anyway. Let me give you some examples; in the Military, they have a bunch of awards for all kinds of achievements, but everyone mostly knows about the Medal of Honor for instance. This is the top Military medal for bravery, and heroism, but the lesser medals like the Bronze Star and Silver Star, are nice to have too, and only make the Medal of Honor that much more impressive! Not everyone is going to earn the MOH, the military knows that, so they have the other awards to win for bravery to keep the morale up of the soldiers, and to honor other lesser feats of bravery.

Plus, the lesser awards point towards the larger award. What about awards like the Oscars? The Academy nominates and gives out a Best Picture, and a Best Actor award, for the top performances in the movie/entertainment business, but they also have lesser awards for the best supporting actors, and directors, etc. Why do they (the Academy) get to give out more than one award for great achievement, and we can't? Does this make any sense? WE CAN! Again, this is our website, created for us ballhawks. What Zack Hample and his followers want is one award, so that Zack can dominate the sport, and their hero gets to win it every year! WOW, really? That sounds kind of selfish. And getting rid of the award altogether is stupid too, in my humble opinion, because the elite hawks are all still going to compete! As long as there is a LEADER BOARD...they are all going to compete! So, why get rid of the award...that's MASS PUNISHMENT for the rest of us that want the award, and that just doesn't fly in the civilian world, and it definitely doesn't fly in the military!!! Everybody hates mass punishment. All of you out there need to stop your busy day, and really think about this for a minute, before you just jump to conclusions!

There are different aspects of ballhawking that I would like to see recognized by LEADERBOARDS/AWARDS:

  6. ACE title, for life, for the ballhawk that snags 5 or more Game Home Run balls on the fly!

I would like to see these NEW categories for Ballhawk of the Year implemented:

  1. Junior Ballhawk of the Year ( 0 to 16 years old )
  2. Adult ballhawk of the Year ( 17 to 45 years old )
  3. Mature Ballhawk of the Year ( 46 to 59 years old )
  4. Senior Balhawk of the Year ( 60 plus )
  5. Female Ballhawk of the Year

We all have to move forward and grow the sport. We have to recognize some of the new stars in the sport, and give some of the older ones some love too. We could start by adding these new categories now. I will get with Alan, in reference to trying to standardize some new criteria for these, and possibly other awards later. This is not about watering down the awards system...we don't really have an awards system yet. That is what I am trying to implement. We can recognize the top ballhawks for achieving high levels of skill in different aspects of the sport. This is just common sense.

A famous WWII general, General George S. Patton, once stated in his book the "Patton Principals", and I quote, " if we are all thinking the same way, then NOBODY'S thinking"! Translation: you can't have everybody thinking the same way on an issue, then there is no debate! The General wanted healthy debate on an issue! General Patton knew that in order to be an effective leader, and to be able to implement a great Battle Plan, he needed good information from his staff, and subordinates with the courage to tell him if his plan had a flaw. Gen. Patton did not like "Yes-Men", people that would kiss his butt to tell him what he wanted to hear, so they could curry favor with the general...he needed bold leaders in their own right that could think for themselves, and tell him the TRUTH. Soldiers die in combat if you don't implement a good battle plan. The same can be said for the ballhawking community. Good ballhawks are getting screwed over, by not recognizing their great accomplishments. This is what my first article was about, I was trying to provide good leadership for the community, and trying to find out what everybody had to say on the matter.

The ballhawking community will die if we all just worship one ballhawk. I know that this website was initially created to promote the exploits of Zack Hample, but that one ballhawk will eventually get old, and fade out, and then what are we left with? We need to get away from the "Cult of Zack Hample", and think for ourselves, and take ownership of our website, and embrace ALL the ballhawks doing great things in the sport!. My hope is this time everybody will read this article as a mature adult, and come to a greater understanding of ballhawking as a sport.

There is no turning back now; if you did away with the award, the "Superhawks" will clamor for it's return! The award is what we look forward to all season long. It's what stokes our competitive juices! It's like our own version of the World Series. We, all over the country, wait to find out who is going to be crowned *BALLHAWK OF THE YEAR*! We get to look at that person's face on MYGAMEBALLS.COM's front page for 6 months during the off season. So, as always...GO HAVE A BALL...I WILL!

Rocco Sinisi is a contributing columnist to

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