November 1, 2010
Back in April I posted a list of 10 Goals for 2010. While most every ballhawk establishes individual snagging goals for the season, I thought it would be fun to have some cumulative goals for all of us to shoot for as a group. As promised, I'm back at the end of the season to post a follow-up column with the official results.
As I sat down to compile this report, I quickly discovered that I would have a couple of diffucult tasks: 1) Severely over-hyping our successes, and 2) severely downplaying our failures. So without mentioning just how many failures there were, let me start with our successes.
One of our goals this season was to snag at least 25 game home run balls, improving over last year's total of 15. I'm proud to report that not only did we meet our goal, we more than tripled last year's total, finishing with 43 (Oh, for the record, we haven't officially "finished" yet...we've got some skilled ballhawks in Texas and San Francisco that just might snag a big one this week to add to our total). 24 different members snagged a gamer this year, which to me is really exciting. We're snagging balls when it really counts, we're getting our faces on Sportscenter, and we're proving that we aren't just BP ballhawks.
Another goal was to snag 500 balls each at Nationals Park, Dodger Stadium, and Camden Yards. While we fell short at Nationals Park and Dodger Stadium, we reached the goal for Camden Yards, finishing with 708 balls. Camden Yards has become a popular destination for ballhawks throughout the East Coast, and even has been argued to be our nation's "Ballhawking Capital." It should be noted, however, that the other stadium making a claim to being the Ballhawking Capital, PNC Park, produced a total of 824 balls (falling short of our goal of 1,000 balls there but still impressive).
A couple other stadiums to mention are Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and Miller Park, both of which produced less than 100 balls last season. With a goal of 100 balls at each this season, I'm happy to report that we surpassed 200 at each, finishing with 267 at Miller Park and 207 at Rangers Ballpark. This is a testament to the emergence of Milwaukee's Ballhawk Shawn as one of the nation's top ballhawks, and the steady improvement of Texas ballhawks Dirk Elliott and Brian Powell throughout the season.
Another huge success this season was in the area of player toss-ups. Having snagged 1,036 last year, I set this year's goal at 1,500. Incredibly, we more than doubled last year's total to finish 2010 with 2,223 player toss-ups. I'm not really sure how to interpret this one. Either we're becoming more skilled at getting players to toss us balls, or the players are becoming more generous.
Ok, on to our failures, and in an effort to downplay them I won't list them all here. To sum it up, we fell well short of our overall goal for total balls, and we also failed to reach a lot of our stadium-specific goals. Our foul ball productivity decreased from last year as well. So here's my analysis...
The first and most obvious statement to make is that many of the goals were set ridiculously high. I'm not quite sure what I was thinking when I set a goal of 10,000 balls -- I guess it seemed like a cool number to shoot for -- but in any case it wasn't really a reachable goal. Same goes for a lot of the stadium-specific goals.
The second thing to note is that a lot of last year's star ballhawks dropped off significantly this year. Take a look at last year's Top 10. Several of those guys snagged less than 25 balls in 2010, and a couple of them didn't snag any. When I made the goals I assumed, incorrectly, that last year's top ballhawks would continue to snag balls at the same pace. I didn't take into account that people's interests change, their schedules change, and a variety of other factors keep them away from the ballhawking scene in any given year.
Regarding the decline in foul balls, I'd say that's directly correlated to the spike in game home runs. While there were still a decent number of foul ball snags (44), ballhawks for the most part are preferring to play the bleachers during the game. They'd rather give up four or five chances at a foul ball for the rare opportunity of a home run ball coming near them. Some of you may disagree, but personally I really like that trend. Our 43 gamers this year average out to more than one per week, and if the trend continues it could potentially increase to two or three per week. It's pretty cool to sit down every night to watch Baseball Tonight knowing there's a possibility I'll see one of our members snag a home run ball.
For next year, I'm thinking we should stick with the exact same goals as this year, with a few exceptions. Let's try for at least 50 game home runs, 2,500 player toss-ups, and 9,000 total balls. I know 9,000 seems random and is still kind of a stretch, but here's my reasoning: It has been reported that MLB uses 900,000 baseballs during a typical season, so 9,000 would give us exactly one percent.
1 Percent in '11! Let's do it!
Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.