So chances are if you have ever been to a baseball game, you have seen or even participated in the ball hawking that takes place during batting practice. For my entire life, I had never arrived at a baseball game more than like 30 minutes before start time, so I didn’t know that ball hawking existed until Zack Hample showed up in my recommended videos on YouTube 2 or 3 years ago. After watching many of his videos, I figured that a fun thing to do would be to bring a glove to the next baseball game I go to and try and catch home runs in batting practice. Four baseball games and two years later, I am officially retired from ball hawking. Let me explain how I got here. Back in June of 2017, I was packing for my trip to Baltimore to see some Orioles games when I checked my snapchat stories. One of them that was posted by a friend was extremely strange, in that the video appeared to be in first person and you could move your phone to change the perspective of the video. I immediately texted them to see how they made that happen. As it turns out, they were using snapchat glasses, or “Spectacles”. It was at that moment that I had the genius idea of borrowing my friend’s snap glasses for the trip in order to get first person footage of me catching a batting practice home run, and then posting it on my snapchat story. This seemed like a good enough plan at the time. I have played baseball all of my life, and I knew where most home runs landed at Camden because of the hundreds of Orioles games I have watched. Zack Hample made catching BP home runs look extremely easy, so I figured I could come up with one or two balls in the two games that I was going to. Things did not as easy as I expected.
Fast forward to when I arrive at Oriole Park. As I am walking to the gate at 5pm I reach into my pocket and pull out the Spectacles. Now usually I am not one that likes to draw a lot of attention in public, so I was pretty iffy about wearing these monstrosities at the game, but I figured I can put on a Jake Paul mask and deal with strange looks for a day. Here is some actual footage that I took of me in the bleachers, no clickbait.
So needless to say by the extremely boring footage you just watched, I came up with zero baseballs in both games. There are a couple reasons for this: it was a crowded weekend game, not many people were hitting home runs, I was extremely passive to any ball that was hit near me, and I was standing so far back that it would take an absolute moonshot for me to have a good chance at catching one. Once I had got home from the games, I knew that next time I went I was going to try much harder to get a baseball souvenir to take home from Camden Yards.
One year later, I headed back to Camden Yards to watch some more Orioles games. This time, I was going to try much harder to put myself into a better position to actually get a baseball. When the gates opened, only the right field bleachers were public, so I stood around on the flag court and by some of the seats to try and catch some home runs. This time, a lot more balls were being hit to the stands. When the left field bleachers opened, I went over and scouted out an area without many people with gloves. All around me was empty except for what looked to be a 16 to 18-year-old in a Royals jersey. Now the fact that one of the only games that I would get to go to this year was this Royals game (you know which one I’m talking about) is a travesty in itself, but I didn’t know this at the time.
After a few minutes, one ball went soaring to a section near me. I tracked it through the air, paced across about half a row, and it landed a few seats away from me. I didn’t think anyone was near me, so I casually reached down to pick up the ball when I was slammed into by the kid in the Royals jersey as he tried to snatch the ball literally out of my hand. Once it became clear it was in my possession, he sulked away from me. While this was not an ideal way to get my first baseball at a game, I was still pretty happy I ended up getting one. I figured I would stay out in the bleachers anyway to see if I could get another one.
Only a few pitches later another batter launched a rainbow that was headed for my section again. This time I knew I had a good chance to catch it. I kept my eye on the ball as I took a few steps back on the staircase and moved over a few seats. As the ball dropped I reached in front of the row ahead of me and felt the ball hit inside of my glove. I brought my glove back towards my body to take out the ball, but it slipped out because I had only snow-coned it. I bent over to pick the ball back up with my glove, but it slipped out yet another time. When I went back to pick it up again, I heard someone say “let me get that for you” and I saw an arm reaching through my legs to try and snag the ball away from me. I finally bare-hand the ball and turn around to see the same kid in the Royals jersey walking away.
I would give my overall experience ball hawking a 5 out of 10. While it was pretty satisfying getting those two baseballs, there was just so much tomfoolery that I had to navigate around in order to even get those baseballs. I would say that 70% of the people out in the stands in batting practice were there to have a good time and take home some baseballs. The other 30% of people were taking the whole thing way to seriously. I don’t mean seriously as in bringing their own backpack and gear, that stuff doesn’t matter. If ball hawking is their hobby and it makes them happy, by all means do it as much as you want. I mean seriously as in they try so hard at getting a baseball that when they don’t get one it pisses them off.
If you are a baseball fan, ball hawking is something that you should try at least one time, just to see if you like it. If everyone in the stands are nice people, you are probably going to have a really good time. The problem is that there is most likely going to be a kid in a Royals jersey that makes things way more complicated and annoying than they need to be. Don’t be a kid in a Royals jersey.