I’ve been to a few hundred baseball games in my life. When I was a kid, I begged my parents to get us to the game three hours early so I could watch batting practice. I’ve sat behind the dugout, way up in the upper deck, and everywhere in between. I’ve even spent four hours on a blistering summer day in a “Standing Room Only” area just to see Barry Bonds pull a homerun to the opposite field (thanks, jerk). There are few places in life where I’m more comfortable than at a baseball game. Putting all of that on the table, do you know how many times I’ve gone home with a ball? Zero.
So, forgive me when the NY Daily News comes out with hard-hitting journalism like this and tells me if I go to a baseball game and can’t get one of these “everyday giveaways” that means either a) I look the “Elephant Man” or, b) I’m not paying enough attention:
Baseballs, which were once a rare treat to fans, have quietly become a giveaway that rivals seat-cushion night.
Oh really, they’re that common? How am I missing the feed bag for these no-longer rare “treats?” Maybe I’m just way off and all this giveaway stuff is just for kids. Alas, much like the era of promiscuous high school sexters and hipsters dressing like “Duckie,” perhaps I’m too old for this phenomenon. But, wait:
Zack Hample, a baseball collector who travels all over the country to get balls at different stadiums, agrees.
“I think Major League Baseball as a whole was so desperate to get fans back and be more fan friendly that they made an effort to have their players give away more baseballs,” says Hample, 32. “I started collecting a few years before that and it was certainly tougher to get players to throw you balls.”
Hample, 32, has written a book about earning the souvenir, “How to Snag Major League Baseballs,” and one analyzing the game titled “Watching Baseball Smarter.” He landed his first ball at 12.
Nope. There’s less hope for me than the publishing house that gave this dude a book deal.
Maybe getting that elusive baseball is a lot like finding that special someone: if you keep looking for it, it’ll never happen. Until then, I’ll just stick to drinking my beer and looking for people like Hample to heckle because he’s over 12 years old and still brings a baseball glove to the game.
In any case, I think this story just about sums up my experience:
About twelve years ago, my Dad and I went to spring training in Tampa, Florida. On a sunny afternoon, the Yankees were playing the Braves and the game had gotten out of hand. Late in the afternoon, the crowd had dispersed as the regulars had been removed from the game and the fans followed suit. Seeing an opportunity to sit unbelievably close,
we moved to the first row on the third base side, about 15 feet away from that inning’s Yankee third baseman: Mike Lowell. The last batter of the inning skied a pop-up just into foul territory a few feet from our seats – the anticipation built – this would be my chance. As Lowell got under it, he snapped his glove at the ball and began the trot toward the dugout. Swallowing my pride, I start screaming at him to toss me the ball. He jogs my way, pulls the ball out of his glove and tosses it… to the Pamela Anderson look-alike sitting right next to me. With my dream crushed, yet again, I see her turn to her equally-hot friend and exclaim, “Oh my God, another one! What am I supposed to do with all of these?” Peering past the hotness, I took a glance into her lap: there in her bag sat about a half-dozen game-used balls. Possibly noticing the forlorn look on my face, she offered me her most recent catch. I said, “No thanks.” The search continues…