October 19, 2009
Sitting in my dorm room really not knowing where to start this, I'll go with an introduction as this is my first column. My name is Gary, I live in north New Jersey, go to school at Monmouth University, and am a die-hard Mets, Islanders, and Giants fan. I've been fairly casually collecting baseballs since July 2007, even though I got my first a year and a month prior to that. My eleven year old brother often attends games with me and does pretty well on his own. There were a few ways I was considering going with this article, but I finally decided on one and hope you enjoy.
To me, collecting baseball related memorabilia is just such commonplace nowadays, that it almost lost its lust after being a young kid attending numerous batting practices with my father. I mean, at that point, it was all autographs, which clearly thrilled me (I vividly recall bringing in my Grant Roberts autographed ball to fourth grade show and tell), but by the age of fifteen, I just really didn't have an enthusiasm. I just knew I wanted to be at the ballpark as early and stay as late as possible, and needed to be entertained.
Jump to July 8, 2006. Shea Stadium. Doubleheader between the New York Mets and Florida Marlins. Front row seats in section six of the loge. Jason Vargas Fastball to Jose Valentin to my glove. I was hooked.
I soon stumbled upon Zack Hample's blog, and to me, the most intriguing section were the sections of his website on commemorative and interesting balls. Was it really possible that someone really could get this many baseballs? Teams really cared enough to put special markings and logos on their baseballs? Up to that point, I thought everything was just the standard, and I had to find out on my own.
My first batting practice ball was in July 2007, and for the rest of that year, I snagged fifteen more baseballs, all standard with nothing but the occasional practice stamp (which dazzled me the first time I caught one), and some training balls. Ever since the beginning of 2008, with three different commemorative balls being used having to do with stadiums, the first thing after getting a ball is quickly flipping it around and checking for a special logo or neat imperfections, as well as asking others around me for a look at a ball when they snag one of their own. One time comes specifically to mind, when a friend, Greg, also a member of mygameballs.com, caught a "The Bigs 2" commemorative ball and showed me it. I don't remember being in too great a mood after that, still not having snagged one, but I regress.
For me, when I look back and see World Series specific baseballs (I'm especially fond of the 1986 one, I wonder why?), the logo speaks about everything that the logo represents. A 1986 ball doesn't just represent a ball, because although I wasn't yet alive, I get chilling visions of Bill Buckner, Mookie Wilson, Ray Knight, and my dad sitting in the stands at game six. I envision the day I can show my children and grandchildren the baseballs from the final seasons of Yankee and Shea Stadiums and tell stories of the nights at the ballpark, the people met, the memories made, and the moments that make that baseball more than a round white and red object used to play America's pastime.
For me, some of my favorite baseballs are the gold stamped World Series baseball I received this season, or perhaps the multicolored stitching of the final All Star Game at the Old Yankee Stadium. As I wrap up this first article of hopefully more to come, I thank you for putting up with me this long, and you...What's YOUR favorite baseball?
Gary Kowal is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.