May 19, 2010
We've all been there before. You're hot on the trail of a baseball or in the motions of a double digit game, and some oblivious fan does something so mind-numbingly dense that it throws you off your game. We have our pet peeves at the ballpark, and this is my top 10 most annoying things fans do at the ballpark:
Any ballhawk has been stuck in this situation: you've just caught a baseball and the person next to you wants to give you a tip? or two? or three? and the story about their first baseball. Sometimes I'll divulge my true being: a top-notch ballhawk and explain to them that I'm rapidly approaching my 1,000th career baseball. After they pick their jaw up off the floor, they ask as many questions, often costing me chances at more baseballs. Most of the time, I just smile and nod, going along with whatever story they're telling me. It reminds me of my rookie ballhawking days. Even though these wannabe ballhawk coaches take my attention off the field, most of the time they're good natured and trying to help me out. For that reason, they're the least annoying thing on my list (but still pretty annoying).
It happens at every game I ballhawk. I'll be walking along Miller Park's concourse and I'll collect as many middle fingers as baseballs. Why? You're sure giving your home town a good name. I can only speak for Milwaukee, but it seems like making your home town as inhospitable as possible is the new "in" thing to do. I really don't understand it, but I rarely draw more than the bird and the classic "***hole" chants. In all reality, I enjoy the attention, especially when the home team gets routed.
This one is pretty simple. The fan who asks "who's that?" or exclaims "OH MY GOD THAT'S GONE" on routine pop outs. The fan that wastes your time by asking who Trevor Hoffman is or makes you chuckle by telling you his friend Robert Fick has an outside chance at the Hall of Fame. "Fair weather" is dripping off these fans.
This is a rather frequent happening, as well. Some wise guy wants to give me flak for being an adult with a glove at a baseball game. Besides the facts that A. the guy never has a girl with him, and B. later begs for a ball, he's never doing anything productive. Dude, I'm a collector, a baseball fan, and an athlete rolled into one. I'm investing my time in a quality, enjoyable hobby while you're searching for a designated driver. Live and let live, or complain and let hawk.
No! You can't have the ball. You don't even have a glove. Why do people insist on asking other fans for the baseballs they worked for? Did you not just see me sprint 3 sections over, run down the stairs, catch the BP homer and nearly tear my ACL while falling over the bleacher? No, I guess you didn't, you were too busy being the guy from #7. A few seasons ago, I was privileged enough to catch 6 Ken Griffey, Jr. BP home runs. In the middle of snagging, a man approached me offering me $50 cash for each ball, and eventually bartered his way up to $100. Don't ask me why, but he had the cash. I politely declined his offers. I don't sell, that ruins the game. So what if its my 10th ball of the day? I worked for that ball, you want a handout. When all else fails, I'll tell them about my own collection, as well as that of other elite ballhawks like John Witt, Zack Hample and Leigh Barratt. This usually enrages them and they demand the baseball. They just don't get it.
If you've ever caught a baseball at a game, you've undoubtedly heard it, its as much of a guarantee as the pop of the ball hitting your glove. "Give it to the kid!" hollers the guy 10 rows back, double fisting his $7.75 High Lifes. If the kid needs a ball that bad, why don't you go catch them one? The best part is when they point to the kid playing on his game boy or demanding to go to the gift shop. Nah, that kid probably won't appreciate that ball as much as the next. I'll give a baseball to a kid, no problems. But I'll wait until the end of the game for one with an empty glove. They'll appreciate it much more than the other kid. The funny part is that children have a much better chance at getting a ball than I do, purely for the fact that they're half my age. I've seen a group of 3 kids get 10 toss ups... in 20 minutes. But who says I don't have a little brother at the game? Who says I don't have nieces and nephews? Oh yeah, that's right, I do. I'll take care of mine before yours, just like anyone else. Kids will get their fair shake.
Ballhawks make a part of their living standing out from the crowd. Some people are amazed at how far simple "please" or "mister" can take them, with emphasis on ballhawking. Conversely, what makes people think "HEY BALL" or "GIMMIE THAT BALL" will pay off? In reality, the section they're in goes from sec. 129 to sec. don't throw any balls here. Not only do your seat-mates hate it, but it blackballs the ballhawks around you.
When they were handing out last names, some players weren't quiet as lucky as the rest of us. Alan Butts, Luis and Albert Pujols, Chien-Ming Wang, and Rusty Kuntz come to mind. They've all heard your jokes at another time and place, and that time and place is called high school. Not to mention the fact that this is the team's 4th road trip of the year, so you probably aren't all that original. Sometimes it isn't a player's name that supplies the antics, it's their on-field performance. Don't you think they already know they suck? They're fully aware they're hitting .197 or that they just dropped that fly ball, and the only person more upset about it than they are is probably the manager. Once again, it blackballs your entire section from toss-ups. And finally, next time you think about heckling the players, just remember, they're making 10x what you would be if you were at work. That should shut your mouth pretty quickly.
Dude, I just talked to that player for 20 minutes, about everything from where he went to school to how he holds his splitter. He knows I'm a fan, he knows where I'm standing and he knows who I am. When he walked away, picked that ball up and fired it right to me, the only fan in his team's uni, I think it was meant for me. After all, he is a Major League baseball player; I think he could hit his target from a few yards away. That ball you just knocked me over for while diving really was meant for me. Sorry.
You aren't going to catch it. Even if you had the presence of mind to put your drink down and have both hands free, you still aren't going to catch it. On game home runs, the ball speed off bat regularly exceeds 110 mph, which is hard enough to catch with the glove, even when it slows to the area of 95 MPH. How many times do you see a guy without a glove make a catch? You don't. Ever. And when you do, it makes the top play on SportCenter. The odds of me catching this ball are 1 in 1,000,000, and I don't even want to know your odds. You had your chance at a ball a few hours ago while you were heckling me during BP. This really is the #1 most annoying thing fans do at the ballpark!
Ballhawk Shawn is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.