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A Word From the Webmaster

2010: The Year in Review

It's hard to believe it's been two years since I first brainstormed about creating a website for ballhawks. If you would have told me back then that the site I was working on would amass over 200 members and over 20,000 balls in just two years time, I wouldn't have believed you. In fact, when I first launched the site and put a banner at the top proclaiming it to be the "Premier Website For Ballhawks," those words were little more than window-dressing. But here we are, two years later, and myGameBalls.com is truly the Premier Website For Ballhawks.

As 2010 comes to a close and I reflect on the year gone by, I think this year will go down as the year that the ballhawking phenomenon really took root across the country. 2009 solidified a core base of ballhawks who laid the foundation for the myGameBalls community, but 2010 marked the rapid explosion of ballhawking's popularity.

The groundwork for the 2010 season began about a year ago when I set out to create "myGameBalls 2.0," a new-and-improved version of the website. By mid-February, it was complete. Full leaderboards, single-season and lifetime records, cross-member searching, daily schedules and scoreboards, enhanced stats, improved photo sharing, The Snag Tracker -- it was all in place, and it came together just as I had envisioned it.

When the baseball season began, I couldn't wait to turn on my computer every morning to see who had snagged balls the night before. Like any webmaster I obsessively checked the site throughout the day, but as I looked over my website statistics it was obvious that lots of other people were becoming hooked as well. As we reached the summer months, daily hits were more than double even the best days from 2009.

Of course, website hits on myGameBalls.com were merely a reflection of what was happening among baseball fans -- Ballhawking was catching on. People who had only snagged a few balls in their entire life were suddenly hitting the ballpark multiple times per week in pursuit of baseballs. Older ballhawks who had all but retired from the hobby were back at it, some snagging over a hundred balls. Young kids were discovering for the first time the joy of catching a toss-up from a big leaguer.

It was truly an exciting year for myGameBalls.com, and I spent some time today compiling a list of noteworthy highlights. Here's what I came up with, and of course with all that happened this year there was probably some others that I missed...

  • myGameBalls.com columnist Matt Jackson was granted media credentials by the Los Angeles Dodgers. He attended a game at Dodger Stadium and spent the night interviewing fans who had snagged balls. The finished product was a three-part series that featured a variety of L.A. fans.
  • Zack Hample and John Witt were featured in the Sports Illustrated article "The Flight of the Ballhawks." The article also gave a mention to myGameBalls.com
  • myGameBalls.com and Erik Jabs' blog were both chosen as an "Editor's Pick" in Mike Dougherty's column in the Rochester, MN Post Bulletin newspaper.
  • myGameBalls.com members combined to snag 44 game home run balls, more than doubling last season's total. Many of these home run snags made their way onto Sportscenter and Baseball Tonight.
  • The Ballhawk League (BHL), organized by Erik Jabs, had another successful and competitive season.
  • Zack Hample broke the single-season record for average balls-per-game, finishing 2010 with 9.5
  • Erik Jabs broke the single-season record for total balls, finishing with 544
  • Post-season awards were given to Erik Jabs (Ballhawk of the Year) and Joe Faraguna (Junior Ballhawk of the Year)
  • Graphic artist Greg Platte designed the new logo for myGameBalls.com. The logo is now featured on t-shirts, hats, and other myGameBalls merchandise.
  • myGameBalls.com launched a minor league version of the site

From start to finish, the year was packed with excitement, and it was often challenging to keep the site updated with all the latest news. In mid-July when I took a week-long vacation, that week happened to be the most action-packed week of the year. During that week, myGameBalls members combined to snag seven game home runs, and when I returned from vacation I scrambled to get feature articles posted about all of them.

I spend a lot of time working on the site, but to me it's not really "work." It's fun. And thankfully there's a lot of people who are willing to help out in various capacities. I'm particularly grateful to the team of volunteer columnists who consistently provide me with interesting articles for the site.

I'm already thinking about year number three of myGameBalls.com. I'm making some improvements and enhancements to the site (not really a myGameBalls 3.0 -- more like 2.5), but I'm spending most of my time trying to think of ways to get us more visibility. I'm convinced that there are still hundreds of ballhawks who haven't even heard of myGameBalls.com, and it's my goal to get the message out to as many of them as possible. Please let me know if you have any ideas -- I always enjoy hearing your ideas about how to make this website bigger and better.

Happy New Year!

Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.

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