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:
When I first heard of the fact that Zack was doing a book on the baseball itself I thought to myself, ” now why is he doing a book about the creation of the baseball. He should sell a second book solely on the topic of snagging baseballs. The other stuff will just come across as fluff to his fan base.” Boy was I wrong. I was hooked in the first few chapters of the predicted “fluff”.
If you notice, my book might be the most worn 1 day old book I at least have ever seen.
Let me show you the anatomy of the book.
Part 1: Baseballs in the news
Ch 1: The Souvenir Craze
Ch 2: Foul Ball Lore
Ch 3: Death By Baseball
Ch 4: Stunts
Ch 5: Foul Balls in Pop Culture
Part Two: Historical and Factual Stuff
Ch 6: The Evolution Of The Baseball
Ch 7: The Rawlings Method
Ch 8: Storage Preparation and Usage
Part Three: How To Snag Major League Baseballs
Ch 9: Before You Enter The Stadium
Ch 10: Batting Practice
Ch 11: How To Get A Player To Throw A Ball To You
Ch 12: The Game Itself
Ch 13: Top 10 Lists and Other Things Of Interest
I must say that every part seems like its own separate book. Each begin at the beginning of time for that respective subject. So will I in encompassing this book.
In the beginning, the world was a dark void where fans could not keep the baseballs they caught. That’s basically how the book starts, by introducing the fact that baseballs were too expensive for teams to replace. Then goes on to explain the fan revolt caused by this fact. Personally I would have had this section elsewhere in the book, but more on the structure later.
We then start to read the effect the value had/has produced many controversies amongst fans because of the greed of fans. Examples range from, Steve Bartman having to be transferred by his company to The Up For Grabs controversy. From there, he shows how the price of baseballs has evolved, showing the 10 most expensive baseballs.
Move on to chapter 2. He again builds the chapter from beginning to end. Starting with the effect of the institution of the “foul balls are strikes” rule and what had happened prior to that. Leading all the way up to Denard Span hitting his own mother with a foul ball in 2009 spring training. This is a chapter of crazy stories that was extremely well researched and was not the summaries of the incidents but the whole story.
Then a more in a ( somewhat) more somber version of the previous chapter ( Hample was not himself somber as he took the role of reporter but the stories were obviously sad) retelling the tales of deaths by the baseball ranging from Ray Chapman to the seagull that almost had Dave Winfield incarcerated for six months in Canada ( Why would he kill a seagull *on purpose*? He’s from Minnesota). This was essentially the same as the last chapter but I get the separation to create the effect of an in memoriam.
The next is the scientific experimentation section of the book with stunts ranging from Myth Busters in baseball to Pakistanis trying to smuggle heroin inside of baseballs ( dang dogs!).This provides practical knowledge and some great fun facts about how things in baseball were proved and some of the crazy things the lull of baseball has made its players attempt. This was again really fun to read and great for retrospective reference ( I love when I can actually use big words and they make some sense together).
Then come the more relevant facts of the book to today. Of the past chapters you might say ” but Mateo, how do they affect the price of tea in China”. They don’t. This chapter might not have an affect on anything in China but it sure does have more to do with the modern world. First Hample undergoes the endlessly critiqueable ( that is a word… right?) job of choosing the most relevant foul balls in movies and TV shows. He analyzes the logistical flaws with each of twelve scenes such as, did the extras reacts in Movies from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off to shows like CSI: NY. Although, the critiques were even more uniform than my team recaps and previews (ok, so maybe they weren’t that uniform). The next section in this chapter was a personal highlight, celebrity ballhawks. I don’t really care about the significance of the ball as much as the human element that it added to the celebrities. The Celebrities ranged from Charlie Sheen to Justin Bieber totaling 9 . The section was done like the others with fun in the section and loads of background information.
Now to the negative. Chapter six starts off Part Two of the book, Historical and Factual Stuff. This is a great reference book on its own but feels like your are reading every single plaque in Cooperstown on a section dedicated to the history of the baseball from 1847 to 2009:
The content which obviously cannot be avoided was about exciting as Irish history. That being: the English kicked them around, things got a little better, then they got kicked around some more, then they lived a little more happily in poverty, then there was black 47. Except in this section, after the initial architecture of the ball it was: hitters were complaining that the ball was dead, then they made livelier balls, then the pitchers complained about that, then they conducted some tests, then not much evidence showed up on the tests, and the last three steps repeated for about 100 years. Did I mention this section lasts for 62 pages? Had I been the author I think I would have merged this with various other sections but that’s just me. My advice to any reader is to read around it in some way shape or form. Either read it before or after the rest of the book and segment it so you don’t have to read it all at once. It definitely accomplishes the goal of being a history of the baseball’s evolution but might be best served as a reference when information is needed, as it might be tough for the more ADD readers ( I normally pay very good attention for long periods of time and still struggled sticking with this section).
The next section was based on the actual construction of the ball and is taken mostly from Hample’s trip to the Rawlings Baseball Factory in Costa Rica. The chapter goes from how to deconstruct a baseball( which is awesome if you ever get the chance to do it. Though I would not use nail clippers but an object similar to an awl to get the stitches off as they were too deep for me to get with the clippers) to the process to what commemorative baseballs are and how they are made. This is a great section, very informative with pictures to explain most things that a person would have questions about.
We are now on chapter 8 of 12 and the last of chapters on the baseball itself. This chapter is about how the balls are kept so that they are in prime playing condition at game time. This starts with the story behind the creation of now commonly used Lena Blackburne mud that helps pitchers grip the baseball.It then goes on to explain how teams started keeping balls in temperature and humidity controlled rooms starting when the Rockies used a humidor to counteract the arid nature of Coors Field.
Now ow ow the moment you have all been waiting for or or (well most of you anyway), How To Snag Major League Baseballs alls alls. Even though the rest of the book was great, this seemed to flow with a little more life than the previous two. First, this part has its own introduction.
The section starts off with chapter nine, the pre-game preparation. This was a great tutorial in what to do before you get in covering all the basics it ranged from how to choose a game to what to do when you arrived at the stadium.
He then goes on to explain the intricacies of the most important snagging time, batting practice. This was a bit more descriptive than the original namesake of part three. For example, when I started going early to batting practice I was hung up on the idea of hitters from both sides of the plate being able to hit the ball to me and so I stood in foul ground. A strategy I learned was almost completely wrong and should only be used on occasion when the situation demands it. You will have no problem if you have gone to batting practice but for the more inexperienced ballhawks there are technical problems such as the failure to mention that most rails block you from moving to a specific side if you are not standing in a place where there is a gap like here:
The next chapter is the toughest to put into practice, getting a player to toss you a ball. This is because the form in which you get different players to toss you a ball can vary so much from player to player. What I do like is that he does not write an aggressive strategy but one more along the lines of “it caint huit” or ” it can’t hurt” for those who don’t speak Brooklyn. He wrote the strategies that will always put you in more favor with the players and don’t have the possiblity of a backfire (although if you change hats right in front of players from either team “it caint heylp”). I guarantee that if you follow these instructions you will get at least one baseball for every two games you go to ( and I say this reluctantly because that is an average of .5 balls per game, meaning that my skill only accounted for 2 balls a game which is pretty sad).
Finally, most casual fans don’t care about bp balls. They don’t mean anything. A game homer(or foul)’s where it’s at. In this chapter Hample goes from what the real odds are for catching a foul ball to how long NYC security guards will kick you out after the game. This section goes into great depth because great depth is required. It is well written but I am surprised he didn’t have any fun with his home runs celebrations given the informal atmosphere of the book:
The last chapter was, at least for me, the best chapter of the whole book. It was a chapter going from the top 10 ballhawks of all time to how to document your collection. I found this chapter to be more informative of the whole book. The interviews with the ballhawks were fantastic because I knew of them but did not know them as a person. For example, I found out that I share a birthday with Minnesota’s best ballhawk, Greg Dryden. I know that the 10 best ballparks section will help me get a few extra baseballs at the respective stadiums.
All in all, like I told the author yesterday, this is one of my favorite books top 5 if not higher. The book was great and I would recommend the book to any mildly interested in baseball.
If you want to buy it, the paperback is $14.95 discounted on Amazon and Ebay though ( I don’t think I have a Canadian following) and is available in most bookstores. Hope you enjoyed and find the review useful.
First, Happy New Years to every one.
Second, I was thinking of my new year’s resolutions and realized that they were all ballhawking related. So, I thought I should share them with anyone who cares. Hey! I heard that thought. You don’t hear me thinking mean thoughts like that about your hopes and aspirations. Then again, you don’t have my powers of super awesome mind reading.
Anywho, here are my goals for the following season in ballhawking. Not necessarily in this order.
1. Go to AT LEAST 40 baseball games.- I went to 20 games last year and started about half way through the season so this should be do-able.
2. Average 4.0 balls per game.- I was hovering around 3.5 in the last two months. So, I think this could be achieved. Note: at this point I am still a pitcher. Ergo, I am absolutely horrid at tracking balls in the air and catching them. For example, my only game ball was a ball that I overran and then scrambled to get. This can obviously be improved by pure experience.
3. Go to 10 stadiums.- I am definitely going to the 3 South-East stadiums. There are 8 stadiums that I can get to otherwise. That is eleven by my count. This definitely depends on how my dad is feeling in the summer (whether or not he is in the mood to schlep me or not) . However, the 3 South- East are a definite as this is the Marlins’ last year in Dolphins… no Land Shark…. whatever that Stadium is called now, and I want to get me a commemorative baseball.
4. Get 100 baseballs.- This is dependent on how many games I go to, but if I go to 40 and keep my pace for last season. I would… finish… just… shy… of 100. Wow, that was deflating.
5. Catch a game homer at Citi field (preferably, before anyone else does it).- It has never been done before by a mygameballs.com member because of the ballhawk’s death valley that is right field and the left field furthest from home plate in the major leagues, but Citi Field ballhawks tend to lie closer to the dugouts and therefore there is no professional competition in left field. However, there is an over hang that prevent a home run from going more than ten rows back. So, I can see why they are by the dugout but, I’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain.
6. Get five game-balls total.- Now this one, I’m not too sure of. If I sit in a spot to do it, t’will be a piece of caketh. But if I don’t, then it will be near impossible because only 7 people achieved this feat last year. And that, is why you never start a sentence with a conjunction.
7. Lead the mygameballs.com community in Umpire balls for my first full month of ballhawking.- The only reason this would be difficult is if I am going for Home Runs in Citi Field there is an evil gate that prevents fans from going to the dugout seats (umpire tunnel) from the outfield. Therefore, I would have to get to the dugout seats by getting tickets from exiting fans, a fickle source. Besides that, I have a secret weapon to get umpire balls. This is why I only expect to lead for my first month because I know Citi Field ballhawks will want to know where I got it and then have just as good of a chance to get an umpire ball as I do.
8. Be in the Top 10 for mygameballs.com at some point in the season (preferably after the last game of the world series).- Now if I average 4.0 balls per game. I would only have to go to… 35 games to be in the 2010 top 10. Like I said, many of these (if not all) are dependent on the degree to which the first goal is accomplished.
9. Post entries regularly. This is the hardest goal yet. This goal depends not on whether I know Spanish or can catch a baseball. It is a matter of pure sit-down-and-write-itness. I was previously known as the “if only he applied himself he could do well” kid. This might shine through if I am tired from running around and blogging on back-to-back-to-back-to-back games which will probably happen if I want to go to forty games (considering I will lose most of April, May, and September to Fordham P Baseball).
10. Aaand a Paaartriiidge iiin a peaaar treee.- I like round numbers and nine doesn’t really accomplish this goal. So, I wanted to have a tenth goal but had no actual tenth goal and so this is just to fill up space and satisfy my round number goal and… Why am I still writing?
Anyway, I hope your New year’s resolutions are accomplished as well (unless they make mine even a degree harder ’cause like I said, I don’t feel like applying myself that much more.) and I’ve said it a million times to other people but what ever you never, ever, exaggerate anything, especially your goals.
I know I haven’t written anything in a while. I started a world series preview but this was as far as I got by the first game
I personally prefer a good pitcher’s duel to a shoot out. That’s why I love this series. Four good pitchers for the Giants, three for the Rangers, it will be amazing.
MVP: Matt Cain-
This may seem strange as a choice for MVP. Now, I am not saying that he will be voted MVP of the series or even that he will be the best pitcher on his team. I do not think Cain’s scorless streak will last the world series but will pitch close too that quality. I predict Tim Lincecum will pitch almost as well as Cain if not as well. However, Tim Linceucum is going against Cliff Lee two, possibly three times. I think that Lee will pitch better than Lincecum and beat him in at least one of those games. Cain on the other hand, is pitching against C.J. Wilson twice and will not have to pitch as well as Lincecum to win a game. I think the Giants will get two wins out of cain, which is pretty valueable in a best of seven series.
Cy Young: Tim Lincecum-
“But mister, why would you have one pitcher as the most valuable player and the other as the Cy Young while they are on the same team?” Well young grasshopper, the logic behind this is that I predict Lincecum will pitch better but Cain’s preformance will be worth more because he will get more wins out of pitching to the quality that I think he will pitch to. Thus, he will be more valuable to his team than Lincecum. If Lincecum wins 2/2 or 3/3 games in this series against Cliff Lee than this all changes but I think winning 2/2 games is more valuable than 2/3.
Silver Slugger: Tim Lincecum!!! … Or maybe Buster Posey/Pat Burrell
Some of the old with some of the new. Pat Burrell will get many more at-bats with the DH spot in three out of the first five games. He had the second highest slugging percentage on the Giants despite being close to the end in batting average. Buster Posey has shown only improvement under pressure and shouldn’t stop now.
X-Factor: Brian “fear the beard” Wilson
This article is not about that. This article is an end of the year review of my ballhawking. This one will be interesting for the fact that I only blogged about one game but here it is.
Avg: 2.8 balls per game
Retriever: 0 (no retrievers allowed in NYC) but for those who are wondering I will use both a cup and a glove trick. For some things I have a really unimaginative mind.
Hit: 0 ( At the end of September I went to games in which bp was rained out and stayed in the habit of getting thrown balls into October which you can see on my mygameballs.com profile http://www.mygameballs.com/baseballdata?db=fischerm )
Avg: 4.33 ( wow how’d I do that)
Competition factor for the year: 1,985,159
I will blog about the off-season moves of the different teams but the volume of articles will pick up very much in the spring and summer when baseball starts up again.