I have two passions, ripping into packs of cards and watching movies. And while I love the big mainstream films hits like “Avatar,” “Date Night,” "Toy Story 3" and “Hot Tub Time Machine,” lately it seems my Netflix queue is filed with documentaries. “Food Inc.” changed the way I eat and just last night I saw “Official Rejection” an awesome documentary about filmmakers trying to get into film festivals like Sundance. Its got Bryan Singer, director of “X-Men,” Kevin Smith, director of “Clerks” to name a few.
But the best is when I can combine my two passions, Baseball films. James Earl Jones' speech in “Field of Dreams” is one of the best speeches of all time. “The Pride of the Yankees” is a great classic and “The Life and Times of Hank Greenberg” is my favorite baseball documentary.
I recently saw a mention of a new baseball documentary that is just starting on the festival circuit called “Ballhawks.” It’s narrated by Bill Murray and follows the Chicago Cubs Ballhawks. If you are unaware, these are the guys who stand on the streets of Chicago, just outside of Wrigley, waiting for batting practice and home run balls to be hit out of the park, at which point they make a mad dash to catch, scoop up, fall on top of and fight for the prized possessions or as they refer to them, “pearls.”
The veteran of the Ballhawks, Moe, has over 4400 balls. Yep… over 4400. Another Ballhawk, Rich, has close to 3,400 balls.
Currently, this film is mostly playing in the Chicago area and will have a screening on October 2nd at the Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival at Cooperstown. I hope this film gets released on DVD, because I’d love to see it.
The Ballhawks kind of remind me of Zack Hample. He wrote the book on getting balls, “How to Snag Major League Baseballs.” He has a complete system, including a rigged glove that can be lowered to the field, just like a lure on a fishing line, and scoop up balls. To date, he has 4643 baseballs. Most of them come from batting practice, but he's also caught plenty of home run balls include catches on two consecutive nights at Yankee Stadium.
I dream of catching a ball, but to date have not caught a single one. The calculated odds of catching a foul ball at a major league game are approximately 1 in 1200, better than the lottery, but not great. I can’t help but think that the Hemples of the world are decreasing my odds almost to the point where it will never happen.
Perhaps it’s my fault that I can’t bring myself to show up to a ball game with my glove, that I wont fight other fans during batting practice for a “marked practice” ball, or that I won’t go to the lengths that Charlie Sheen went to in his attempt at getting a ball. In the mid 90’s, the "Major League" and “Two and a Half Men” star bought out the left field bleachers in Anaheim, all 2,600 of them, for a night in hopes of catching a ball uncontested. Not a single ball landed out there that night and to this day, Sheen still hasn’t caught a ball.
Maybe I should go all out, just to get one ball and be done with it. Here are some of the tips I’ve picked up if you want to snag a ball.
1 – Have your baseball glove on at ALL TIMES.
2 – Get to the game as early as possible, when the gates first open to the public. That’s when batting practice is happening and you'll have the least amount of competition.
3 – During batting practice, head straight for the left field bleachers. This is where a majority of the baseballs are hit.
4 – If your stadium has low walls along foul territory, like Dodger Stadium, ready yourself to bend over the wall and scoop up any foul balls traveling along the wall.
5 – During the game, try to sit parallel to the left and right fielders or over the dugout and don’t be afraid to ask for the third out ball. Same applies for sitting next to the ball boy/girl in the outfield.
6 – Know your team. If it’s a mostly lefty-hitting team, try for seats near third base.
7 – If all that fails, buy a Major League Baseball, buy some Lena Blackburne Rubbing Mud, cover the ball with the mud and put it on your shelf. No one needs to now the truth.
So has anyone out there caught a ball? Use the comments to share your stories.