September 16, 2016
I've been wanting to participate in the discussions on Twitter regarding the recent subjects of how balls should be logged, what a game ball is, umpire balls, etc., but 140 characters just wouldn't cut it. I know I'm relatively new to the "sport" of ballhawking, but after a year of standing in line 2 1/2 hours early, running around from foul pole to foul pole, wardrobe changes, and dozens of cup holder attacks, I think I can contribute some meaningful feedback without being emotionally vested in my stats.
My take on this subject is pretty simple - have respect for other ballhawks, and use common sense. Don't interfere with a toss-up to an intended recipient, even if you hand it right over to them. Let them have the thrill of catching a ball. If a ball is clearly being tossed to the kid next to you and he drops it, misses it, etc., and you are able to pick it up, give it to the kid. This should not be counted.
As far as the "toss me a ball and I'll give it to the kid next to me" play goes, I think it depends on the situation. If the kid is really small and has no fair chance of getting a toss-up on their own, I think it's a kind gesture. Should it be counted? Of course. You helped a kid get a ball that wouldn't have otherwise gotten one. Now, if you DON'T give the ball to the kid, then you're a scumbag. If you try this tactic and there is no kid, and never was a kid, then that's just a bush league move, but I guess it would still count. For the record, I've never used this method to get a toss-up.
The debate about whether an umpire ball should be counted as a game ball is a well-deserved debate. There is definitely some grey area there. Personally, I've snagged 10 umpire balls this season. Until a couple months ago, when this debate began, I had been logging them as game balls. When I snagged my first one, I didn't know how it should be logged. So, I browsed mygameballs.com to see how others were logging them. I found that several were being logged as gamers, so I followed suit. When I was personally called out on Twitter for doing so, I stopped. I wasn't trying to sneak anything by anyone, I just truly thought that's how they were to be logged.
Now, after reading and watching (shout out to Ballhawk Talk) the debate on this matter, I figure I'll add my two cents.
Umpire balls are clearly not the same as a practice ball and, therefore, don't deserve to be logged the same way. These balls have been specially prepared and specifically designated to be used as game balls prior to the game. There are basically two main arguments on this subject. First, is there any way of knowing if the balls were ever used in the game? The balls tossed up by the umpire may or may not have actually seen any action. However, it's fairly easy to tell if a ball had been used yet. I was tossed a ball by an umpire that was clearly used in some capacity. It had a dirt smudge and a grass stain. It may have been a pitch that went to the backstop and was subsequently put back into the rotation of balls to be used in the game. But, there's no way of knowing for certain.
Second, does being in the umpire's pouch constitute as being "in the game"? That's the trickiest part of this debate. All other balls that are logged as practice balls are off the field of play during the game, except these balls. They're part of the game. They aren't for warm-ups or taking infield. They aren't sitting in a basket or ball bag in the clubhouse. They haven't been hit a dozen times in batting practice. They're game balls, but not necessarily game USED. Should they be logged as gamers? Well, there's really only two types of balls you can log on the website - gamer or practice. The easiest and most logical solution would be to create a third type of ball that can be logged on the website - Umpire Balls. Another solution, that can be used in conjunction with the first suggestion, would be to create a point system for logging balls, similar to the Ballpark Showdown. Umpire balls would be worth more than a standard toss-up during batting practice.
HOME RUNS & FOUL BALLS
If a batting practice ball is hit by, let's say, Mike Trout, and then tossed up to you by another player, it's fair to say this should be logged as a toss-up from whomever threw the ball to you. The same goes for a batting practice ball that is obtained with the use of a ball-retriever. These should be, and, as far as I've seen, have been logged as such. However, I've noticed when it comes to game home runs, the same logic is not being used. For example, a home run is hit into the bullpen during a game. That ball is then tossed up to you. Shouldn't this be logged as a toss-up? If you obtain the ball with a ball-retriever, shouldn't it be logged as such? The same would apply to foul balls. If the third base coach tosses you a foul ball, don't log it as a foul ball snagged off the bat. It seems instances like these are the primary reason there is a "note" feature on the website.
The main objective, which I think we can all agree on when it comes to logging balls - continuity.
Boog is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.