It happened again. This was the 3rd time in my short ballhawking career, and second time in a row that this has happened. Statistically speaking, up until this point 50% of my Target Field balls were snagged this way… I caught it outside the stadium!
Again, I got to the park early (catching a trend young ballhawkers?) and waited at the Puckett gate and was handsomely rewarded with my ninth ball of my career.
Getting a ball using this “method” makes me feel a little confused. There are parts of me that love it. A ball retrieved in such a fashion means it was crushed. If it was crushed then, more than likely, a star player hit it. If a star player hit it and he plays for the Twins (taking BP at that time) then it could be Jim Thome. If it’s Jim Thome, then that ball was smacked by a future Hall of Famer AND insanely nice man. That would be awesome news. A similarly awesome feeling comes from the fact that it feels like balls are not normally snagged in this fashion. how many people can say that they caught a ball (let alone 3, and eventually more) while waiting OUTSIDE of the stadium?! I can!! It’s like I have something that I shouldn’t, it wasn’t meant to be released to the public.
The downside? It feels cheap in a way. I am not in the stadium, I wouldn’t have to have a ticket to get a ball, and whats the point if you get a baseball without watching the game? Are you even a fan of baseball if you don’t watch the game at hand? I love chasing the ‘Officially Licensed MLB Issued Game Ball’ but I have that bond and appreciation from it because I care about the game so much. Why would you want to bring home ‘part of the game’ if you don’t like ‘the game’? It’s not just a practice that I do because I have to in order to fill a quota. I set goals of getting one each time now, but that for each game I attend. I also want to see the game, hopefully witness an amazing play, a rare feat, and hopefully my favored team wins. I love to shout and cheer during the game, too. It’s a complete package to me, and I guess… OK, I’ll step down from my soap-box before this goes on to be even more winded than it already is.
I just feel conflicted is all. I don’t even have a chance to see who hit the ball, it’s a true shame. There is some coolness to developing a myth, but (and this is the reason why I write/blog about this stuff) there is an even cooler feeling of being able to tell an accurate story to others. Should I be able to have kids, I want to be able to tell them every detail should they care to listen to my stories. I will tell enough fables in my time, some amusing and on purpose, others due to twisted memories and unfortunate, unintended fallacies. Sharing what I feel is a treasured collection with them and being able to give such a vivid account of each individual story is the name of the game (to me).
Needless to say, as this is a story about the ninth, and ONLY the ninth ball, the ballhawking story ends here. There was no second ball for me in the cards, and it was by my own trail that I weaved. I ended up getting in the gates, running down towards our seats in the lower 3rd base area out by left field. I wanted to take it easy, after all, I was at this game with my wife, and I didn’t want to look like a ‘crazy ballhawk’ in her eyes just yet.
Andre Ethier end up signing autographs in front of our section, so I decided that I might as well have him sign something, and this was one of the very few times in my ballhawking history that I decided to have a ball that I previously snagged signed by a player (especially one that had nothing to do with that particular ball). I had nothing else for him to sign on me and the grapher in my decided this was the best thing to do. I have since become much more of a ballhawk and a much smaller autograph seeker (if I do want something signed, it’s planned out).
The ‘Andre Ethier Rule’ was born: No signatures on balls, with VERY few exceptions. If the person tossing you the ball signs if before they toss or offer to sign it directly before/after then it’s OK. If there is an old-timer in the Hall of Fame that I care about and would love to have in my collection is signing at the game and all I have is a ball, then it’s a ‘game-time’ decision.
Thanks go out to Andre Ethier. First of all, he took the time out to sign for MANY people right before the game. He even took numerous posed photos and was a great sport about it all. Secondly, I now have a rule named after him, so even though it was kind of a ‘mistake’, I am glad that I was able to learn and know what would make me happiest.