February 14, 2011
Baseball players are notoriously superstitious. Their rituals in everything they do make the game unique. Like baseball players, hockey has it's own nuances. One of them is that players during the warm-up prior to games have their own spot where they stretch and wait to take part in drills. Greats such as Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux had their spots that no one else would think of standing in.
What am I getting at? Well, it is easy to draw a comparison to this on the rink with what ballhawks do. When I started going to BP on a regular basis at PNC Park, I noticed the veterans to ballhawking had their aisles/areas where they would set up shop. I knew better than to take them.
Instead I was faced with the task of finding my own spot where I was comfortable. It isn't as easy as you would think. Certain hitters put the ball in certain places. It was tough figuring out the "spray charts" on Pirate and opposing hitters. I spent much of the first couple months of the season feeling this out.
Soon enough when summer came around, I had finally found my home. While some may shun the idea of standing in a place some 410 feet from home plate in left-center field, the North Side Notch (coined by Pirate broadcaster Greg Brown) was my spot that I'm sticking to. This is for a couple of reasons.
First, the crowds tend to be lighter in this part of left field. While the volume of balls is less, there is much less competition making it easier to get them. Another great perk is the entrance to the bullpen is there. You can always pick up a ball or autograph from a reliever. It's central location caters to both righties and lefties who like hitting to the opposite alley.
But this is just my opinion of a great place. I'm sure ballhawks have their own area where they feel comfortable. I'm curious to know what they are and what makes them a great place for snagging balls?
Steve Uhlmann is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com and also maintains a Blog.