So now that I am up to date on all of my ballhawking adventures I have some free time to describe some of my ballpark experiences in more detail and/or give you a behind-the-scenes look into what I do before/during/after the game.
I mentioned my camera bag in the previous post, so I figured “what better place to start than with that valuable piece of equipment?” It may sound boring, and may very well be, but it plays a huge role in my ballhawking adventures. Baseball players have their routines, rituals, and very specific pieces of equipment to help them in a game, so being a ballhawk and having your own “game” to prepare for means that you also have routines, rituals, and pieces of equipment for each game you attend. I won’t really hit on the routines and rituals, but the equipment (as long as it goes in my camera bag) is all detailed below, in no particular order.
Role #1: Autograph Station
First of all, I don’t just document stuff with my camera, the need for a bag is much larger than holding the camera body and two lenses. Since I will still occasionally seek an autograph I have the autograph necessities packed in the bag. Such accessories include NUMEROUS pens and markers, you never know when one will act up or die, or if a guy will steal one to sign more autographs. I like to have a few regular blue ball-point pens (cheap Bic pens; no fancy tips of liquid that either smear, bleed, or fade), a few silver Sharpies (my color of choice), a few gold Sharpies, a couple black sharpies (try to go with the dual-tipped pens that include fine-tip and marker), as well as a FAT permanent marker. The FAT marker isn’t for signatures, but emergency/make-shift signs. I find sign making to be fun and potentially hilarious results. Plus, signs have helped get acquaint me with a few of the players and eventually get toss-ups or other cool things.
Role #2: Ballhawk Station
When it comes to baseball games, I am overly prepared, but it’s definitely my thing. I actually like going to games, there are so many things to do and so many ways for ME to have fun at a game. I may be on a mission, but it’s a mission of my choosing, making it a FUN mission to be on. As for the ballhawking utilities in my ‘Batman Utility Belt’-like bag, there isn’t much, but it’s all very important. I have a booklet of stickers that are all pre-numbered. I do not like to mar the balls in anyway, some people write on theirs to keep track, me, I sticker them then as soon as they get home I take the sticker off and put them in a ball cube (yes, I am even brand loyal, since I want to have them stack nicely). The stickers do not leave any residue, so they fit the role perfectly. I also keep my tickets in the bag with me. This might not seem like a ballhawking strategy, but I promise that it is (more than just me being anal about not bending the tickets, since I collect those too). I have found that if you keep your ticket with you, but in a harder to reach place, security is a little less likely to make you dig it out and believe that you belong in that area. Plus, you can always revert to saying that you just want to take some pictures and will get out of the way as people show up. I’ll also try to print a roster of the opposing team and put the sheet in my bag the night before, just so I know that it’s there and in one place.
Lastly, the glove. I keep my glove in my camera bag as I walk to the stadium, and sometimes as I walk from the stadium back to my car (as long as it’s not full of balls). As soon as I am at the gates, however, the likelihood of my glove being in my camera bag at anytime are nearly 0% (rain delays being the exception). I have been sticking with my catcher’s mitt as of late, just out of personal preference and to set me apart from others. Otherwise I have relied on my trusted infielders’ glove. Both gloves were ones that I used back in high school, so they know my hand quite well.
Role #3: Photograph Station
Now on to the camera itself. I am new to the ‘cool camera club’, but I know that what I have is more than just an average camera compared to the rest of the baseball spectators. It’s not overly nice, but I can definitely get a few good shots a year. I like to snap off probably 100 or so each night, depending on my location. It’s somewhat hard to balance the hawking with photographing, but depending on the section I have a pretty good idea which times work best. As I described above, I have the camera body and two lenses. I have one close range lens and one longer range lens. If I am sitting in the dugout box seats I will use my longer range lens and get some decent close ups of a few guys (my crowning achievement of 2012: getting the first pitch to Brian Dozier in his big league debut). A recent addition to my lenses was a fish-eye lens. For a bit of fun look for the “fish-eye” skit from Portlandia. It’s not the best fish-eye, since it’s a cheap adapter, but it allows a new fun thing to try.
The next pieces are crucial: I carry 2 spare batteries with me, because I HATE running low. Again, I have never really needed an extra if the one is fully charged, but I am overly prepared. Lastly, I have a backup memory card. Originally I just wanted more than 1 GB because that fills up relatively easily, so I obtained a 4 GB card. Then one day I had an issue with the 4 GB card because of the formatting after I uploaded the pix from the card to my computer. I was lucky because I still had the 1 GB card and it still worked. So I learned my lesson, be prepared even on the memory card front!
Here’s that photo of Brian Dozier’s first pitch in the bigs. I had this put on a canvas and then autographed by him. It turned out very nicely. If you go to Fan HQ in Ridgedale Mall they even have some 8 x 10s (and maybe a few large prints) on hand. I offered up my shot and Shaun accepted it. In no way am I a true photographer or published, but in that moment I felt a little validated in my hobby. I snapped a single frame at just the right time, no color fixes or anything. I knew that it was history and prepared myself as best as I could and with a little bit of luck I was able to catch it just perfectly.
So, do you want to see it all packed? Here it is…
That’s it. That is everything that goes into my camera bag… BEFORE the game! Now if I have a great day at the park, this is potentially what it could look like…
Yep, 2 in one of the side pockets, 1 in the other, and 13 in the main part of the bag. I might be able to sneak one or two more in there is I got creative, but 16 seems like plenty of room. I have never needed to fit more balls than that, but it doesn’t mean I’m not prepared. I also wear khaki shorts to baseball games, and if it were absolutely necessary, I think I could fit in an additional 6 or so balls throughout all of my pockets. As much as I would love to see that day, I also fear that day. The walks back to the car can be a bit long, and if it’s hot, steamy, rainy, cold, or any other weather nuisance, the trip back with that much stuff in my pockets and in my camera bag seems tough.
**I missed one crucial instrument in my photos: my iPhone. This is where I take my notes of each ball, look at opposing rosters, check out other info/data that could be helpful, and get my weather/radar feed.**
For a bit of perspective, here is what 16 would look like. Add another 6 from my pockets, and… well, I cannot even comprehend it. I mean, I just cracked 50 CAREER balls, if I hit a mega-day of 16+, that’d account for nearly 30% (or more) of my current ball total.
I’d be interested to hear other people’s stories of how they prepare for a baseball game, or the times where you were ill-prepared and something went wrong. I have plenty of stories of not being prepared. I’d like to think that I am to the point where nothing could get by me, but just when I think I am there something else will pop up and I will have to add to my routine. I think that “Part 2” of the preparation story will be a typical “Day In The Life” for a game day. Who knows, maybe I’ll slowly convert to taking short videos in the future. For now, I’ll concentrate on taking pictures of my experiences.
Even though there was no game, I’d like to thank (again) Mr. Trevor Plouffe. He is now tied for the lead with the guys that have given me the most baseballs (4, all this year; tied with Ron Gardenhire and Justin Morneau/Justin Morneau’s bat). I hope that he is going to be here for a long time. He has shown his power, and I think that next year he’ll grow and see that average head north. Thanks also go out to Zack Hample, Mateo Fischer, and numerous other ballhawking bloggers out there that helped me develop my routine/strategy. I haven’t completely copied one person, but the info I was able to gather and apply to my interests and my local ballpark really transformed me from “baseball-stumble-upon-er” to whatever it is that I am today.