November 8, 2010
No one is born able to run, talk and walk. Ballhawking is no different. I've compiled a list, in no particular order, of mistakes I've seen the younger generation of ballhawks make, rather habitually. Mind you, this is just my list. I encourage you to put these to use, add your own, or even criticize or challenge me on a few of these. Enjoy.
1. Calling out the wrong name
You've got to know your potential "tosser uppers." Calling out the wrong name will almost black list you from a possible toss up. It's not that hard, just scout the roster the night before, or print it out and carry it in a lanyard.
2. Wrong/lack of apparel
When you're going for a job interview, you dress up, right? Well, when your ballhawking, you need to look the part as well. You can only make one first impression, and it just so happens the first is the most important. Do you want to be seen as the kid in a grey t-shirt? Or the kid in that bright orange Giants super fan shirt? The details make the difference.
3. Charging/backtracking a ball that shouldn't be
When you're out in the bleachers, you're player number 10. You're the extra outfielder. When a fly ball is sent in Ryan Braun's direction, he doesn't charge right away. He doesn't back track immediately, either. He gets a good read on the ball, then makes his move. You should do the same. Just because you're in the bleachers doesn't mean you're not an outfielder in fan's clothing.
4. Following a ball you can't catch
Keep your eye on the live ball. If I had a dime for every time I've seen a kid chase a ball that is way out of reach during BP, I'd be rich. You'll get more chances, I promise! It's batting practice! You've got to know when a ball isn't worth chasing anymore. You can give up your lucky spots, and more importantly, you take your eye off the next ball, which will probably be sent in the general direction of the previous one. The only feeling worse than missing a ball you've chased for 5 sections, is seeing one land in the spot you just deserted.
5. Getting mad for not making a play
Keep your heads up, guys. No one fields 1.000. Never. It just doesn't happen. Yeah, you may have gone the wrong way, or the ball might have even glanced off your glove. But don't fret! I've seen countless new ballhawks fail to make a play, or even blow one, and stomp out of the bleachers and hang their head. You're only hurting yourself. If you find yourself in this rut, take on the closers mentality. That was last ball. There will be a new one coming at you, very soon.
6. Going to too few of games
This one is pretty simple. How can you put any of these tips or strategies into use if you're not at the ballpark?
7. Being too aggressive, or being passive
Don't you hate it when the guy a few rows behind you keeps yelling throughout the game? Or when the guy the row infront of you keeps standing up? Same with ballhawking. Players get screamed at all over the country for baseballs, day in and day out. And, the veteran ballhawks around you are exposed to it just as frequently. They're never receptive to aggressiveness. Conversely, keeping quiet and following all the rules to a tee won't get you anywhere, either. It's a feel thing.
8. Going for only toss ups or on the fly baseballs
A ball is a ball. What does it matter how you got it? The story is just as cool for tossups as it is for baseballs on the fly. Seize every opportunity for a baseball, no matter the method.
9. Avoiding crowds/Staying in one too long
Most ballhawks know the right spots to go for certain players or teams. This leads to tight clusters of people in certain areas in the ballpark. Sometimes people know what they're doing with positioning. Sometimes, they don't? they just stand there because the top ballhawk is in the area. You've got to know when it worth it to contend with 20 other people, and when to cut your losses and move on. Again, it's a "feel" thing.
10. Not taking/seeking advice from veteran ballhawks
We know what we're doing! Someone doesn't amass thousands of baseballs on accident. Many of the "legendary" ballhawks have been doing this for longer than a few of you have been alive. Take advice from us as much as possible! Ballhawks don't like to divulge their secrets or tips, after all, anyone with a glove is another competitor. So when we do open or playbooks up, or offer a tip in passing, LISTEN! It takes an awful lot to for us to spill the beans.
And remember, only 4 months until gloves start popping again for spring training!
Ballhawk Shawn is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.