Fast forward a year and a half. I mentioned in my previous post that I didn’t want to become ‘that guy’. The guy that goes ballhawking, a person with a passion for chasing balls that is somehow synonymous with pushing over small children to inflate his self-worth (and ball total). I had seen the name “Zack Hample” before, and probably read some sort of article about him when I was younger. I just knew of a guy that had hundred (later find out, THOUSANDS) of official MLB balls in his collection, and you know what?,,, i found out that he had class and even gave away a fair share of his prized possessions (albeit right after catching them, before they became too prized, I am sure).
So now I was at Target Field, a new home for my hometown team. I knew that they had special balls for this season (and also last season in the Dome), and I thought (finally at the end of the season), “I want one of those things”, but I also still didn’t want to be ‘that guy’.
So I slowly re-introduced myself to the idea of snagging another ball… just one more… as long as it had a cool special logo. So as I waited outside the gates (got there at 4, gates don’t open until 5 on a Fridays) and with my glove in hand I decided to wait.
I was outside of gate 34, the main gate at Target Field. i thought that I had a decent chance at a good area in the park (for autographs, balls, who knows what else) if I just waited out here and raced in. Add on top of all of those things the fact that I could partially see the Twins taking BP and I was extra happy.
Finally 4:30 comes around, the Twins are really hitting the ball now, no tossing or bunting, they have their big lefties hitting. I noticed that a few started landing in the overhang section in right field, just a hundred or so feet in front of me. if someone hit one just right and just far enough, maybe they could hit one on the bounce to the gate… nah! That would never happen. I’d be too lucky, and that’d be a bomb.
Enter Jim Thome.
The man is a beast. A former Twin-slayer turned good guy with the switch of a jersey. He is one of the most highly respected guys in baseball and any team he plays for (and I’d venture to guess, any park he plays in) the fans instantly fall in love with him.
There will be another story of Jim Thome from this year (2012), but I’ll save that for another day. The main thing that you need to know (I know, NEED is a very strong word, and not one to be taken literally, I realize you have a choice to read/not read and care/not care), Jim hit one JUST RIGHT. It cleared the overhang seats and as my eyes got big and tracked the prize I realized my hand was only two bars over from where I estimated it would bounce towards.
I quickly re-position my hand and watch it bounce twice, perfectly in to my glove.
Could it really be this simple at Target Field?! Can you actually get baseballs without going in the stadium?! Without even buying a ticket?! (I bought a ticket, that’s why I was there, but in this example, you didn’t have to have one.)
This ball was definitely MINE. No help, no fretting, just being at the right place and at the right time.
I quickly looked at the ball… it HAD a special logo for Target Field on it. SWEET!!
So there you have it, my first unassisted ball, first at the new home of the Twins, and first outside of a ball park, and most importantly, my first that was touched/hit by a Hall of Famer.
…OK, it might also be my first as a ballhawk. Because once that ball landed in my glove, I was hooked. Catching balls could be so much fun, and I don’t have to fight with people over them. I just need to find good strategies and put myself in the right places, and surely the balls would come. I started researching ballhawking and trying to see what tips were out there, and that’s when it came full circle, of course the name Zack Hample would top my google searches for ballhawking tips. It was nice to see that he agreed with how I thought ballhawks should act like. His tips and unofficial rules calmed my fears and I realized that being ‘that guy’ wasn’t being that guy at all. You could be known as the “incredibly lucky/good ball grabber” without being a jerk and spreading those nasty stereotypes of what a person who is passionate about baseball and catching baseballs is like.
Thanks Big Jim and thanks Zack, you guys planted a seed. I am never going to have a hall of fame career like either of those two, but my passion was allowed to blossom into something I wanted to be, and that is so very rewarding.