7/11/10: 1000th Career Baseball, 13th Career Home Run and 1st Career Ground Rule Double… ALL IN ONE DAY.

One day after snagging two
game home runs, I would be back at it again. First off, for the game, I would
be camera-less. I sincerely apologize. Long story short, my big night kept me
up late, blogging kept me up even later and rushing to the ballpark after 2
hours of sleep forced me to forget a few things. Luckily, my semi-on-field
performance would not waiver one bit. Though I only slept for 120 minutes, I
had dreams of the following picture:

Untitled-3.jpg

 

Over the years, Sundays
would prove not to be my day. Early starts after long-lasting nightcaps, all
fan giveaways and an almost certain lack of batting practice all work against
me on the day of rest. I’ve put up a career average in the area of just over 2
baseballs per game on Sundays. Needless to say, that’s frankly disappointing.

 

When I arrived at the
ballpark that morning, I was fully aware of the fact that my 5th
baseball on the day would be my 1,000th on my career. I was also
fully aware of my 2 baseball average on Sundays. I would either have to:

 

(A) Luck out and have a huge
day or

 

(B) Have a typical Sunday,
work my tail off and risk making my 1,000th snag a possibly mediocre
post-game bat boy toss up or

 

(C) Snag one baseball, keep
my streak alive and wait out the 2 week long break and attempt obtain my 1,000th
from Steven Strasburg, whom would visit
Miller Park
on the next home stand.

 

To be completely honest,
option C seemed, prior to entering the ballpark, like the most attractive and
likely option.

 

Before we move any further,
let’s take a step back and look at the significance of that four digit number…
1,000. Prior to July 11th of 2010, only two ballhawks in
America have ever been extensively documented as reaching one
thousand. One is the pioneer of the sport, Zack Hample, and the other is 33
year veteran John Witt. I was in attendance when
Milwaukee‘s own 15 year veteran Nick Yohanek cracked a grand
two seasons ago. Of course, there is the possibility of people flying under the
radar, miscalculations and flat out unimportance to some people, but its safe
to say less than 15 people have ever accomplished the one thousand ball mark. Not
to brag or blow my own horn, but if Ballhawking had a Hall of Fame, a ballhawk
with a 1,000+ career would be considered “a no-doubter.”

 

With that said, there was a
lot on my mind whilst waiting at the front of the line. Who’s going to hit it
my way? Do I try and make it a game home run or do I snag it during BP? Which
player should I attempt to obtain it from? Will I even do it today? When time
came to enter the ballpark, I was met with even more inquiries. An usher asked
me if I was “the guy who caught the Fielder home run”. Upon answering, the 15
or 20 people around me were absolutely intrigued. After answering as many
questions, my pseudo-press conference concluded, the turnstiles were functional
and I was off running.

 

Hoping for batting practice,
I entered
Miller Park‘s
right field gate, the gate closest to my preferred ballhawking location. I
cannot describe to you how excited I was when the batting cage crept into my jostling
field of vision. Mid-stride, I fist pumped, almost as to preeminently celebrate
the impending milestone. I knew fate was on my side.

 

Upon arrival in right field,
I found myself alone in exception to Milwaukee Brewer’s right fielder Corey
Hart. The Home Run Derby participant and hottest hitter in baseball and I had a
brief conversation.

 

“You’re going to win it,
Corey. I can feel it. You’re the man.”

 

“Thanks,” replied the soft
spoken giant with a hand wave. Moments after our conversation faded, he fielded
a deep line drive, turned around and hurled me this baseball, my 1st
of the day and 996th of my career:

July Gamers 001.jpg

July Gamers 002.jpg

 

Soon enough, I had my
baseball labeled and neatly tucked away and was ready to continue forging my
path into ballhawking history. About 10 minutes after Hart delivered my 996th,
Jim Edmonds lifted a deep, deep line drive about 15 feet to my left. Backpedaling,
almost sideways, I reach full extent at full speed. Over my shoulder, I reach
up, and haul in this baseball, the 997th of my career:

July Gamers 003.jpg

 

I didn’t have to wait long
to obtain number 998. The next batter in the cage would be Brewers’ stud 3B
Casey McGehee. Instead of playing home run derby during his final swings, he
poked a fly ball out to right center that would barely squeak past the outfield
wall. I didn’t catch this one on the fly, however. I was too busy labeling and
storing away number 997. Luckily, I was almost alone out in right field. I put
the previous baseball away, searched for the McGehee ball and eventually picked
up number 998 on the career:

July Gamers 004.jpg

July Gamers 005.jpg

 

When the first group of
Brewers hitters concluded, I was sitting incredibly close to history, with 3
more groups of Brewers hitters and 4 of Pirates hitters, I knew it would happen
today… I just didn’t know how. Prince Fielder would soon be stepping to the
plate, and after that the Pirates would send 6 left handed power hitters to the
dish.  I had settled on the goal of
catching a Prince Fielder BP blast for my 1,000th.

 

An unidentified Brewer’s
right handed hitter sent a line drive out near the visiting bullpen. When Joe
Inglett came to retrieve the ball, I acted on ballhawking impulse. Number 999
isn’t that important… compared to
what would be coming. I raised my glove, moved it side to side, and shouted out
to Joe:

 

“Whadaya say, Joey?!”

 

Joe responded with something
to the effect of “How’s it going bud,” he flipped me this baseball for number
999 and I was on… well… cloud nine:

 

July Gamers 006.jpg

 

After I thanked Joey, he
walked away to the right field corner to talk with a few of the Brewers bullpen
pitchers, bullpen coach Stan Kyles, and, most notably Brewers manager Ken
Macha.

 

After that, a few baseballs
were hit and took incredibly lucky
bounces towards me. I passed on about three baseballs, wanting the 1,000th
to be “special”. On one of the above mentioned occasions, a Fielder blast hit
about 30 feet behind me, rolled and caromed around and ended up literally 18
inches from my feet. I let it sit about 45 seconds before a few 20-something girls
walked by. I got their attention and said “you guys can have that if you want
it,” pointing to the baseball. It took them a few moments to comprehend what
was going on, but as soon as they caught on they went bananas. It was quite a
thrill for them.

 

Lets take a step back for a
second here… I’ve been a Ken Macha supporter for quite some time. Ever since he
took the Athletics deep into the playoffs all the way to his hiring in
Milwaukee. As a baseball fan, I appreciate his managerial
style and as a person, he’s a pretty cool guy. Of the few times I’ve met Ken,
he’s been awesome. I can’t say enough about his politeness and intelligence. He’s
quite the Civil War scholar and has a few colorful things to say (off the
record) about a number of things. Macha has been my, and Doug Melvin’s, guy.

 

Whenever I’m in the presence
of an MLB manager, I make it a point to call him “skipper” or “boss” and tip my
cap in respect. Macha is absolutely no exception. Shortly after Joe Inglett
sent 999 my way, another baseball was hit to literally the same spot on the
field. Only this time, Manager Ken Macha, fungo bat and all, would meander over
to right center field and retrieve several baseballs. Plenty of people had made
their way to the front row of the bleachers and began yelling at Ken. All of
them would call him “coach” and demand a baseball rather rudely; purveying the
fact they weren’t dedicated or respectful fans. Macha ignored about 5 requests
and hit as many baseballs back to the infield. I leaned over the railing about
15 feet above Ken, knowing fully well what a tossup would yield, and soft, but
firmly shouted “How’s it going skipper?” Ken looked up with a huge smile on his
face. I tipped my cap to Kenny and he asked how I was doing. After I responded
with “Absolutely wonderfully, how about yourself,” Ken Macha muttered something
and underhanded me my 1,000th career baseball:

July Gamers 008.jpg

I was ecstatic. I wanted to
hoot and holler and jump and jive and it took all my might to keep my
composure. I kept silent with a beaming smile, turned my back to the field and
had a brief moment of silence and self reflection. It was only a few short
years ago I was fielding my first career baseball, a gloveless kid at a
midseason interleague match up, from my all time-favorite baseball player Ron
Villone. Now, a mere 226 games later, I was reeling in my 1,000th.
All the great moments of my ballhawking life flashed before my eyes, everything
from my 1st baseball, to my 1st gamer, to my world-record
32 ball performance to my home run catches the night before. After thanking God
for blessing me beyond my wildest dreams, I had a peculiar feeling. The
greatest moments are yet to come.

Snap back into reality and
back into the game… minutes after I recorded my historic 1,000th baseball,
the Brewers began to trot off the field and I changed into my Pirates hat. Over
the course of the series, the Pirates became uncannily aware of who I am and
what I’ve recently accomplished.

 

The first game of the
series, LHP Javier Lopez asked how many baseballs I had. After I told him I was
(at that point in time) 15 away from 1,000, he looked at me with a shocked look
and sent #986 my way. Ross Ohlendorf had used me as part of a prank on fellow
starter and Yankee farmhand Jeff Karstens… during the Pirates trip to
Miller Park
in late April, Ohlendorf and Karstens were playing pre-BP catch near the tarp
in left field. Towards the end of their catch session, probably on the last
throw, Ohlendorf, whipped a 90-something fastball about 3 feet to the left of
Karsten’s glove hand. Since Karstens had his back to the stands, he had no idea
what transpired. He quickly turned around, frantically looking for a crying
child or bleeding woman. All he saw was me, standing like a statue, framing
Ohlendorf’s pitch. All three of us share a laugh and a thumbs up and move on to
other BP-related activities.

 

This time around, Ross
Ohlendorf and I shared another peculiar moment. Baseball people know the
pitchers are the dumbest guys on the field. With this said they try and rob
home runs during BP and impersonate the guys that play behind them when they
take the mound. Ryan Church lifted a moon shot right at Ross Ohlendorf and I.
Sprinting backwards, Ross climbs the wall, reaches up to grab the ball, and I
sort of rob his robbery attempt. Seconds after I catch the ball only about 10
feet above Ross’ glove, he slams his it on the ground in anger and goes on a
tirade. I shout “Sorry, Ross.” He turns to me and says “Naw, it’s alright. I
was pretending that was the last out of the World Series!” Later on Ross and I
would have a discussion about how Andrew McCutchen likes to lay down after tracking
lazy fly balls and catch them with his back on the turf and how it’s the bee’s
knees with the pitching staff. The Pirates are the most fan friendly team in
baseball, hands down.

 

Recently acquired pitcher
Sean Gallagher threw me 1,001, without request. The rest of Pirates BP was
pretty dead until the second or third last ball put in play. It was a fly ball
sent into shallow right field, about 50 feet infront of me and 40 feet from the
wall. Jeff Karstens and Ross Ohlendorf race to the ball and fight over who gets
to field it. Ohlendorf comes up the victor and they have a brief discussion.
Both of them look to me, flailing their arms in the air to get my attention. He
throws me the ball without my asking and the moment ball number 1,002 hits my
web, BP is over. After I thank the duo, they trot into the dugout… game time.

 

Cut to the top of the 2nd
inning… Pirates OF and former Met’s super-prospect Lastings “Blasting” Milledge
hit a home run to dead center field. See the guy in the yellow shirt all the
way to the right of the screen? That’s me. The ball landed on the X:

screenshot.jpg

 It was there that Carlos
Gomez tossed me my 3rd game home run in 2 days, and my 1,003rd
career baseball.  It was a pretty bland
snag. I was the only one asking for the baseball. After I caught Carlos’ throw,
I held up three fingers, for three gamers, in an effort to gain the color
commentator’s attention, but to no avail. Here are a few shots of the baseball.
See the mark where “M” for “Milledge” is tattooed on the ball from his bat?
Here’s the video.

July Gamers 012.jpg

July Gamers 015.jpg

 Fast forward to the bottom
of the 9th inning… Utility man and borderline hall-of-fame
outfielder Jim Edmonds hits a ground rule double right under my trademark
section. Long story short,
Miller Park
is a very ground rule double-friendly-ballpark, but a very ballhawk-unfriendly
one as well. With that said, I’ve never snagged a ground rule double, and doing
so was added to my ballhawking bucket list, posted a few months back. I figured
I’d have to do it on a road trip or just get extremely lucky… until today. When
Andrew McCutchen’s hands went up, as to call “time”, I was all over the ball.

July Gamers 016.jpg

July Gamers 018.jpg

July Gamers 019.jpg

 

 “‘Cutch” I began to scream and flail my arms.
He tossed me my 1st career GRD, 1,004th career baseball
and 9th of the day. I labeled the baseball, set it away for safe
keeping, and moments later, Corey Hart hit a walk off home run. Everyone left
happy, but none happier than I.


And so concluded the best series of my
ballhawking career… so far. Better days will come, soon. Thanks for reading and be sure to comment!


 

 

3 Comments

Congrats on 1000 !! . but I have to take issue to these statements ” … 1,000. Prior to July 11th of 2010, only two ballhawks in America have ever been extensively documented as reaching one thousand. One is the pioneer of the sport, Zack Hample, and the other is 33 year veteran John Witt…….”

I personally know 4 people besides John who have more than 3000 ” documented ” home run “catches ” not toss ups. These guys have been in Sports Illustrated and Baseball Weekly and other shows like Oprah for example , since before Zack or yourself ever caught ball one so save the Zack The Pioneer for those who don’t know better . Ballhawking is not asking a player or stadium employee for a baseball. That is called begging and illegal in most states…. lol.

Let me know how many you have caught without the aid of any one else and I will check with the real ” pioneers ” of the sport if you could be included in the Hall of Fame . And no , string on a glove or ball cup dont count either , nor does finding a ball in the seats when you walk into the park ….geeez …. lol . Don’t mean to rag on Zack , he is the best at what he does, but Ballhawking is not it.

Good job though. :)

Congrats on 1000 !! . but I have to take issue to these statements ” … 1,000. Prior to July 11th of 2010, only two ballhawks in America have ever been extensively documented as reaching one thousand. One is the pioneer of the sport, Zack Hample, and the other is 33 year veteran John Witt…….”

I personally know 4 people besides John who have more than 3000 ” documented ” home run “catches ” not toss ups. These guys have been in Sports Illustrated and Baseball Weekly and other shows like Oprah for example , since before Zack or yourself ever caught ball one so save the Zack The Pioneer for those who don’t know better . Ballhawking is not asking a player or stadium employee for a baseball. That is called begging and illegal in most states…. lol.

Let me know how many you have caught without the aid of any one else and I will check with the real ” pioneers ” of the sport if you could be included in the Hall of Fame . And no , string on a glove or ball cup dont count either , nor does finding a ball in the seats when you walk into the park ….geeez …. lol . Don’t mean to rag on Zack , he is the best at what he does, but Ballhawking is not it.

Good job though. :)

Oliviacat, Thanks for reading. You can take issue with any statements you want, that doesn’t make you correct. When I say “extensively documented”, I mean the event was met with pomp and circumstance. When John Witt or the other 3 people you claim to know have know did it, I guarantee it wasn’t a blip on anyone’s radar compared to when Hample, Jabs, Myself and Barasch surpass 1,000. Thats what was indicated by my statment. Also, for the record, John Witt does not have “3,000 home run catches.”, nor are they all “documented” as you claim them to be. He has about 40 game home run catches, 70 game home run toss ups (or begging, which you claim to be illegal), and the rest of his basballs were thrown or caught or found by minor league, high school, college, and a few professional players, so save “John Witt the hero” for someone who doesn’t know any better.

If you don’t like where the current “ballhawks” are taking the sport, feel free to disengage at any time. And prior to last season, 90% of my baseballs were caught on the fly. Plus, I don’t use the glove trick. It’s banned from Miller Park.

Out of curiosity, how many baseballs have you hawked? How many game home runs? Olivia, it is very, very hard to take you seriously.

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