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BallhawkFest 2014

BallhawkFest is coming to our Nation's capital this summer, and trust me, you don't want to miss it. Go ahead and mark the details on your calendar:

Saturday, July 19

Nationals Park

Nationals vs. Brewers

I've been in contact with everyone who attended last year's BallhawkFest in Philadelphia, and a large portion of them have already made plans to attend again this year. I think the timing of the event -- the first series after the All-Star break, is a perfect time for our community to have our annual gathering. I especially love mid-July because no other major sports are on the radar. Basketball is over, football hasn't started up yet, and baseball is the only game in town.

Plus, the July 19 date looks like it'll be attractive to people from a variety of cities. There won't be any games that weekend in Baltimore or Philadelphia, so ballhawks from those two cities shouldn't have any reason not to make the short drive to DC. The Mets will be out of town too, and most NYC ballhawks seem to welcome any break from the ballhawk-unfriendly Yankee Stadium. The Indians and Reds will also be out of town, so ballhawks from those cities can also attend if they're up for a bit longer road trip. The Pirates have a home series that weekend, but I'm hoping some of the Pittsburgh crowd, arguably the top crew of ballhawks in the country, will sacrifice a PNC Park game to join us in DC. And of course I'm hoping that ballhawks from cities even further away will travel to DC for this one of a kind event.

So what will BallhawkFest 2014 be like? For the most part, it'll be just like BallhawkFest 2013, BallhawkFest 2012, or BallhawkFest 2011. Everyone who has participated in the past has LOVED it, so I figure why change it? We'll hit some baseballs at a local park, eat and hang out and a local restaurant, and snag a boatload of baseballs at Nats Park while sporting out BallhawkFest t-shirts.

I'm working on a new addition to the festivities in 2014 though. It's called the "Skills Challenge" and will test ballhawking skills in a variety of categories. I'm still working through the details, but ballhawks will be tested on their ball retrieving skills, speed/quickness in tracking down balls, fly ball snagging, and toss-up snagging. There will be an overall winner as well as winners in each category.

The Skills Challenge will start the day's festivities and will be followed by our annual Home Run Derby. I've already booked one of the nicest softball fields in the DC area and I made sure to find a field with an outfield fence approximately 300 feet from home plate. I'm looking forward to seeing what kind of power our ballhawks will display this year. If you hadn't heard, the past two years were dominated by Rick Sporcic who sent dozens of balls sailing over the fence.

After the Home Run Derby, if time permits I'm hoping we'll have enough people to play a 9 vs 9 softball game. This is something I've planned to do in past years but we haven't quite had enough people on hand to do it. I'm hoping that this is the year we finally pull it off.

Around lunch time we'll leave the softball field and head over to a nearby restaurant for the annual BallhawkFest Luncheon. The food will be good and affordable, we'll have plenty of cool door prizes, and I'll present the official awards from the 2013 season.

Then it's on to the main event. We'll gather at the front of the line to enter Nationals Park and begin a ballhawking extravaganza. If you've never been to BallhawkFest, it's truly a sight to see -- basically everywhere you look there's a ballhawk, and virtually every home run ball is contested by at least one member from our group. Yes, it's definitely more challenging than a normal game, but it's a lot of fun at the same time. And if you're wondering, in past years almost nobody has been shut out. In fact there was only person who got shut out last year (we won't talk about who that person was though).

So those are all the details for BallhawkFest 2014. If you're considering attending the event, drop me an email to get on the official email list. All of the specifics for the event are hashed out via this list.

BallhawkFest 2014 -- DON'T MISS IT!

Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to

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