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The 7 Categories of Ballhawks

I hate categorizing people. Today's media, whether it be sports reporters, political pundits, or opinion writers, seem obsessed with creating categories, assigning labels, and placing people into them. I really can't stand it. Most aspects of life are far too complicated to put people into nice, neat groups.

That being said, I've decided to use my first column to talk about the various categories of Ballhawks. I know, it is highly hypocritical of me to do the very thing I despise, but let me offer a couple points in my defense. First, I will preface my list of categories by saying that most people probably don't fit into a single category. In general I think most everyone will have a primary category, but at least 1 or 2 secondary categories will ring true as well. Second, I won't be naming any names here, so I won't actually be putting anybody specific into a category.

Anyway, on to the categories...

  • The Collector - This type of ballhawk isn't too much different than a stamp collector or coin collector. For The Collector, ballhawking is more about the balls themselves than about the experience of snagging them. The Collector likes snagging a lot of balls, but he would gladly trade away 10 practice balls for a new commemorative ball.
  • The Competitor - The Competitor is usually a competitive person in virtually every aspect of life. Motivated by the desire to win, his goal is to simply rack up huge numbers and prevail against his fellow ballhawks. The Competitor uses every method at his disposal, using ball retrievers to scoop balls off the field, team rosters to call players by name, and hit-tracker charts to know where to stand for each hitter. In short, for The Competitor, stats are everything.
  • The Adrenaline Junkie - Excitement is the central motivation for The Adrenaline Junkie. He shows up to BP and snags a few balls but gets bored rather quickly. For him, snagging a home run ball during the game is the single objective at every game. He goes out of his way to get the perfect aisle seat in a prime home run section, jumping out of his seat and sprinting towards anything hit remotely near him. And once he snags one, he's hooked for life. The thrill of manuevering his way through a sea of roaring fans and catching the ball on the fly is like a drug that brings him back game after game.
  • The Fan - For The Fan, ballhawking is more about the players than the baseballs. A die-hard fan of the home team, he's memorized all of their names, batting averages, and ERA's. The chance to hold in his possession a ball that was thrown or hit by his favorite player is the driving force behind his ballhawking habit. The Fan often tries to get his baseballs autographed, and occassionally refuses to snag a ball thrown by a player or team that he hates.
  • The Athlete - Dodging seats and railings, sprinting down aisles, jumping for a ball just out of reach -- ballhawking gives The Athlete a really fun outlet for his athletic pursuits. Needing something a little more challenging than the local adult softball league, ballhawking lets the former high school athlete showcase his quick footwork and hand-eye coordination. The Athlete typically goes all out during BP but sits back and relaxes during the game.
  • The Hero - Most often a Father, The Hero lives for the moment that he can snag a baseball and present it to his son or daughter. Truly a hero in the eyes of his kids, his main motivation is seeing the ear-to-ear grin on a child's face when they get a Major League baseball. For The Hero, getting shut out is simply not an option. Leaving the gates with at least 1 baseball is a must.
  • The Businessman- The Milestone Tracker on is bookmarked in his web browser. The Businessman is constantly on the lookout for upcoming milestones and sets his travel schedule accordingly. Knowing that a single milestone ball can be worth thousands, he always seems to score a ticket right in the power alley of the future hall-of-famer going for his 500th dinger. If the big money ball comes his way, he's willing to put his body on the line to come down with it.

Personally, I probably haven't snagged enough balls to even consider myself a Ballhawk, but if I had to pick a category I would say it would be the Athlete category. During my high school baseball days I loved to shag flies in the outfield during batting practice, oftentimes trying to beat my nearby teammates to any ball hit near us. Ballhawking to me is pretty much the same thing, just with a fence and some seats in the way. As a secondary category, I would go with The Adrenaline Junkie. I almost always buy tickets in the outfield bleachers -- yes, partly because they are cheaper, but also because I love the excitement of a home run ball being hit into my section.

How about you? What category or categories would you put yourself in?

Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to

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