I know that one’s ballot for voting on these awards is usually a private matter, but I think I’m going to go ahead and make my ballot as well as the reasoning behind it so some other voters out there can get at least one other person’s perspective on the voting besides their own. I am by no means the “right” way to vote on the award; simply, my way of voting is *a* way of voting on the award, and I thought it’d be fun to share it.
Also, even though the ballot is restricted to three candidates, I’m going to give my top-5 for each award, since I think there are many more than six total worthy candidates. The name in parentheses is the person’s mygameballs.com username, since you’ll need that to vote for them.
Ballhawk of the Year ballot
1. Greg Barasch (gbarasch)
I must admit, I didn’t have Greg in either of my top-2 ballot spots last year, and despite having only 13 more baseballs than last year total, I bumped Greg up to the top spot because he still had an excellent year. Unlike last year, Greg beat every single ballhawk on the site in head-to-head match-ups (which you can check for yourself by clicking here). Not only that, but he averaged almost a whole Ball Per Game (.93 to be specific) higher than anyone else on the site. He also had by far the best rate of double-digit games (1:3) of anyone on the site. The only thing that made me hesitant to put him at the top of my ballot was his lack of game balls, but he dominated his part of ballhawking enough this year to more than make up for that in my opinion. Not to mention, he did all of this going to a majority of his games in New York, both of the stadiums inside of which are tough places to snag baseballs and have a bunch of competition to deal with.
2. Alex Kopp (akopp1)
He perhaps didn’t have the average or total baseball count of other candidates, but like Greg, he dominated his own part of the ballhawking top-10. He had more game home run snags than anyone in the top-10 ballhawks. Heck, he almost had as many (8) as the rest of the top-10 combined (10). And also like Greg, I had my reservations about putting Alex so high up, but he also attended 92% of his games at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which has one of the larger constituencies of ballhawk competition in the country. It was not uncommon for him to have two or three ballhawks up on the flag court competing with him for game home runs. If he had the ballpark to himself, he would easily have double-digit home run numbers. Even as it is, he had a game to game home run ratio (8.25:1) almost three times better than the next best ballhawk in the top-10 (23.25:1). That’s amazing.
3. Zack Hample (zackhample)
He got beat out in terms of total baseballs by Erik Jabs 723-710. However, he made up for it in my mind by out-snagging Erik in game home runs (4-0), double digits games (27-23. Despite going to 14 less games), and Balls Per Game average (7.63-6.76). He is probably the most rounded of any of the candidates for the award.
4. Erik Jabs (ErikJ)
Besides the number two baseball snagger, Erik almost doubled the baseball count of anyone else on the site. That alone would be enough to get him into the top-3 if it weren’t for some great years by other ballhawks. Pretty much the only reason Erik did not make my personal BotY ballot is the lack of strength in the other statistical categories. However, it should be noted that he ballhawks in the ballpark with perhaps THE toughest day-in-day out competition in the country in PNC Park. He also leaves games right after batting practice, so that makes all of his numbers that much more impressive since he doesn’t have time during the games to pad his stats at all. I don’t think the magnitude of his feats should be minimized at all because of the fact that I have him in the four spot.
5. Rick Gold (JQFC)
To the outsider, Rick and his 3.23 Balls Per Game paired with his 265 baseballs might seem like a guy who just went to a ton of games in order to get a bunch of baseballs and get into the top-10. Well an outsider wouldn’t know that Rick only goes after hit baseballs. For a ballhawk, averaging anything that nears 3.00 Balls Per Game is a great season, so Rick’s 3.23 isn’t unheard of, but still a phenomenal season. You may be thinking, “Getting three and a quarter hit baseballs in a batting practice isn’t hard to do.” Well the problem with that is this was Rick’s *average* for all of the games he went to. This would be difficult average with regular batting practices, but one has to also keep in mind that this average also includes batting practices that have been rained out–which Rick is particularly prone to since he plans his games out often weeks in advance and doesn’t skip games when he learns the weather isn’t going to be ideal. Well all of those games are automatic zeroes for Rick barring a game home run snag. Speaking of which, Rick might’ve been higher on this list had he had a normal year of his in terms of game home run snags, but he had some tough luck and only snagged three. That is still the third best amongst the top-10 baseball snaggers on the site.
Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballot
1. Grant Edrington (fireant02)
With 2013 essentially being his rookie year ballhawking, Grant started off his season slowly, but then he picked it up and snagged the most baseballs of any junior ballhawk with 102, outpacing the nearest competitor by almost thirty baseballs. And he also accomplished what almost no other junior ballhawks did by snagging a game home run. He all of which whilst battling the very tough OPACY ballhawk competition.
2. Paul Kom (paaoool123)-
He snagged an impressive 73 baseballs in 19 games. The majority of which were at the not-very-friendly Target Field.
3. Josh Herbert (PGHawkJosh)
Snagged an impressive 48 baseballs for a junior ballhawk, but even more impressively did so in just eight games to get him the highest Balls Per Game average amongst junior ballhawks.
4. Maddie Landis (angrybird447)
Like Grant, this was also essentially her rookie season, so 54 baseballs in 14 games is really impressive.
5. Harrison Tishler (htishler)
One of the few “veterans” on the junior circuit, Harrison didn’t make it into the upper echelon in terms of total baseball snagging with his 43 baseballs, but did so in far fewer games this season than his peer, going to only 9 games all season.
If you want to, you can leave your ballot as a comment, but don’t feel like you have to. You may also notice that I made the “RE: Ballhawk of the Year Parts I and II” private, so in order to still have the comments that accumulated there somewhere public, here are pictures of all three sets of comments and my responses:
Let me start with this: I don’t mean to offend anyone in writing this article. (This is a response to the title article: “Ballhawk of the Year: Part II.”) Would I have rather not written this article/entry at all and never have to address such a divisive topic being brought up in an even more polarizing fashion? Absolutely. I tried to stay out of this completely as long as I could, but it has become apparent that while her jar has not yet been opened, the ballhawk’s Pandora has been created. In other words, I would have rather this not come up, but maybe we can actually get something positive out of this whole spectacle.
I will also say this: I am probably less infallible than anyone reading this. Why do I say this? I encourage you to challenge what I say, whether you are reading this on my blog or on mygameballs.com, in the respective comments section below. The only stipulation that make for leaving comments on my blog–since I don’t control the mygameballs comments–is you be respectful to one another. You can bash me all you want, but please debate each others’ points respectfully or…well, you’ll see what happens. Also on the note of commenting, since both articles are so long, I decided to organize my points in a way that wouldn’t going to completely bore everyone reading this while simultaneously making it easier to comment on specific points. How it goes is I will post Rocco’s point followed by my reaction to said point and rationale fro taking that stance right afterwards in a numbered fashion. So if you are commenting on a point I or Rocco made, just be sure to let the rest of us know which one it is so it’s much easier to find what exactly you’re referring to. This has and will continue to get messy in terms of people citing information and things of that nature, so I just wanted to organize it a bit.
(You don’t have to read this next paragraph if your first name isn’t Rocco and are more than welcome to skip it and dive straight into the response itself.)
Finally, before I get to my actual response to the two articles in question, I would like to say something to the architect of this whole kerfuffle, Rocco Sinisi: Rocco, I have heard many tales of your kindness and hospitality when it comes to travelers visiting GABP. I still do very much look forward to meeting you when our paths cross somewhere along the line. I also know you didn’t mean to incite what you did–or at least I don’t think you did. All of this adds up to say: Don’t think that I am being critical in any way of you as a person in my response to your articles below. Any criticism I express is simply of the ideas you have made public the past 1.5 months or so/how you have compiled your various arguments. All of that out of the way, let’s get to the response itself, shall we?
- Point: Zack is a professional ballhawk, and so he’s at an unfair advantage to us people who have to pay for our games.
Response: Eh. Yes but no. While I definitely see where you’re coming from, I would agree more if we were talking about a different ballhawk being the “professional” in question, but Zack went to 80 games last year to this year’s 92, and 131 the year before that without being sponsored. It would be one thing if he were reinvesting the money saved through being sponsored into a ton more games, but that doesn’t appear to be the case. It seems as though there is a money-independent threshold of games that he is willing to go to in a year. And I have a good guess as to why that is: blog entries. Most ballhawks would in fact reinvest the money into a ton more games, but having to write 2,000 words for every game makes you…surprise! Much less willing to go to 160 games a year; despite affordability.
2. Point: What is Ballhawk of the Year?
Response: I do agree with you here. It has always been the case that there is a question of what the award actually means. However, I would also say that as long as MLB doesn’t have a standardized way of choosing a Cy Young or MVP, I don’t think there should be a standardized way to choose Ballhawk (and Junior Ballhawk) of the Year.
Is it a flawed system? Of course. But so would be any standardized way of choosing Ballhawk of the Year. Therefore, I say we just go with our own little way of imperfect perfection and have what Ballhawk of the Year (and the junior derivation thereof) means be up to the discretion of each voter. For me it means the best overall ballhawk; but if someone thinks the awards are whoever snags the most baseballs or game home runs, they should be allowed to do it. Not to mention, any standardization of the awards renders the voting useless. And while that is a possible route to take, I like the fact that these awards are determined by peer-vote.
On a personal level, because of my way of voting when considering all of the statistical categories available on mygameballs.com–as well as calculating a few of my own–Zack has come out on top two out of the three years I have voted on the Ballhawk of the Year award. I can’t speak for others, but that’s the way I have voted for the award, which has nothing to do with personal affiliations.
3. Point: Disqualifications for Ballhawk of the Year
Response: This is gimmicky, but does bring up a good point. For the sake of time, I’m going to agree with you and say that ballhawking is a sport. Well ballhawking is unique from most other sports in that the person decides when they retire, and so it is just as likely for a ballhawk to “retire” at 18 as it is for a ballhawk to retire at 50. And it is not infrequent to see a ballhawk take a multiyear-long hiatus and then come back to ballhawking. What that means is I do like “inducting” ballhawks into a Hall of Fame while still ballhawking, if we ever choose to have something like a Hall of Fame.
I think here is also the best time to point out that we have a very small sample size of Ballhawks of the Year. There have been only four years in which Ballhawk of the Year has been voted on. Sure Zack has won 75% of them, but Barry Bonds, Randy Johnson, and Greg Maddux won their respective awards 100% of the time over a four-year period. I don’t think anyone was calling for a restructuring of their awards because of them. While I do agree that with the insulation of this “sport” we have the beginning of a problem, trying to implement a solution to the *beginning* of such a problem is a bit preemptive. I say we give it at least a couple more years to give other people a shot at having a breakout year and winning it with statistics alone instead of a “booster seat” win.
4. Point: We need age categories in order to give people with different abilities an even shot
Response: Good reasoning…but no. I like the idea; I really do. A ten-year-old doesn’t have the same snagging ability a thirty-year-old has, who doesn’t have the same snagging ability a seventy-year old has. That said, the categories you’ve made are waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too specific. Alex Kopp, Garrett Meyer, and myself were discussing mygameballs statistics one night, and Alex didn’t even think that there was a female ballhawk who had recorded 25 baseballs on the site ever. Determined to find one, I looked through the *whole* career leaderboard for people with at least 25 baseballs. And I did prove him wrong by finding one…but that was it; just one. Granted, this ballhawk had recorded all 37 of her baseballs–at the time–this year, but I think you see the problem in beginning a competition between one person.
I haven’t yet ravaged the 60+ demographic yet, but I assume I’d find almost just as bad a scarcity problem. If we add a Female Ballhawk of the Year, Senior Ballhawk of the Year, or two additional slots for Junior Ballhawk of the Year as you’ve suggested, we’re simply creating an even worse monopolized awards problem. Junior Ballhawk of the Year would be the smaller of monopoly problems since candidates are always losing eligibility, but that’s exactly the reason expanding to three is a bad idea. In two of the three years I’ve voted I’ve had a hard time putting together a list of three worthy candidates for ONE spot, forget about finding nine worthy candidates for three spots.
I think the problem with the other two awards is pretty self-explanatory, but just in case it isn’t: With so little competition, the same person would win the award every year. And if the thought behind creating the awards is it will get more people to join the site from these respective demographics, I don’t see that happening. People join the site to document their baseball collections because they heard about it somewhere; it is not until a person is in the community that they learn about the award. If there aren’t a bunch of female and senior ballhawks on the site, that’s because the message isn’t getting out to them fast enough, not because there is a lack of fitting awards.
5. Point: “Cult of Zack Hample”
Response: Maybe if this was 2009, but in going to stadiums and running into a large majority of the prominent ballhawks who have ever run into Zack, I can say that people no longer agree with Zack simply because he is Zack. It used to be that Zack’s blog was one of the very few peepholes into the ballhawking world, but as mygameballs has become more prominent in these recent years, people can take a look at other ballhawks by themselves, and as a result of that, come up with information that isn’t filtered by Zack. This has lead to people not going with Zack because he is the “king of the ballhawks” as some have labeled him. What that means, is if there are people defending him, it’s because they are actually against the points brought against him. There is a clear confusion here between your so-called dogmatic “crucifixion” by the church of Zack Hample and people actually disagreeing with the points you’ve brought forth. Could some people have phrased it a little more professionally? Yes; but comments sections on the internet aren’t exactly renown for their civility.
6. Point: Give other ballhawks some more recognition.
Response: You underestimate how much people browse the site. People know all of the names you have thrown out there. That said, I do agree that the articles during the season were a great resource in discovering more about these lesser-known ballhawks that no longer stands as prominent on the site as it once did. And as such, like yourself, I volunteer to write a percentage of these articles since I’ll be taking a reduced ballhawking role this upcoming season.
7. Point: Ballhawking is a sport.
Response: I agree with you but I don’t at the same time. In regards to this, I have seen people take to both sides, but I’d say I’m right in the middle. Being a sports management, I know that the actual, metaphysical definition of “sport” is a competition between two or more parties. So yes, even chess is a sport by technicality. That said, the modern-day, practical definition is it is an athletic competition. With all that said, I think it is both sport an hobby; it depends wholly on how you view it. So with you, Rocco, ballhawking is a sport, since it seems you are actively competing with the rest of us ballhawks out there. But with someone who is doing it just because collecting baseballs is a fun thing, it is a hobby. There is no reason for ballhawking to have an exclusive category since the duality of its nature reflects the duality of the people who partake in it.
8. Point: “Everybody’s thinking the same way.”
Response: Alan put up an column RIGHT before this one that shows we aren’t all thinking the same way. The column, for those reading this who didn’t read it, was the Top-15 Recent Improvements to MyGameBalls.com. While I only pitched three of the improvements listed on the site last offseason, I had a bunch of ballhawks tell me there should be something similar to the idea I had pitched just that past offseason, It would not surprise me to know that over half of the improvements listed came from member suggestions. This shows that ballhawks are in fact thinking outside of the mold that we have set for us. And I do acknowledge you as one of those ballhawks thinking outside of the box, but by the response you have generated, it appears as though the majority of the community does not agree with the changes you have set forth in suggesting.
Anyways, thank you for plowing through that. I’m going to go ahead and delete my “Update” entry, so here are the two videos I made if you haven’t seen them yet:
Since we are so close to the end of the World Series, my next entry will probably be my 2013 Ballhawk and Junior Ballhawk of the Year ballots, but I could potentially squeeze a game entry in before that.