Albert Pujols is closing in on #500 ….. lets hope he can wait a week and a half so I have a chance to snag it!!
Albert Pujols is closing in on #500 ….. lets hope he can wait a week and a half so I have a chance to snag it!!
So last week I hit the White Sox vs Indians on Thursday.
I got one ball during BP and probably could have got a few more had I yelled at a couple of players, changed my shirt and asked in a dozen different languages …. but as we all know “REAL BALLHAWKS DON’T BEG!” An occasional head nod at a guy picking up a ball is ok by Ballhawk rule 80342523.134 A. of course that is an unwritten rule so you’ll never find it. Anyway, I got a ball, I am on the board for 2014 and I might get to more games this year!
It’s so much more fun to run down a ball that you get or even catch it on the fly! As many of you know I, like many of the other Veteran Ballhawks are no really big on asking players for balls!
I have something fun in the works and I will let ya’ll know about it soon!
As for know it’s time to go watch and see if Mr. Pujols can get closer to #500
So it’s been a while since I have last posted. I went to a handful of games in 2013 and got a few baseballs.
With all the things I have going on right now it is just really hard to post and do everything else.
You can always check out my progress and stats on MYGAMEBALLS.COM – my Screen Name on there of course – MLBallhawk
I will try to check in and put up some posts! I can tell you that I will be at a few games this summer. Where?? Even I don’t know so just stay tuned and keep an eye on Mygamesballs.com ;-)
You probably won’t see John Witt’s name in any record books or his face on “Sportscenter”, but, his recent milestone is every bit as impressive as those that make news on the “worldwide leader”.
On May 8 at Dodgers Stadium, the famed ballhawk retrieved his 3000th Major League ball…a pretty cool milestone when you consider most of us would settle for just one!
HOVG: Let’s start from the beginning. When did you first start ballhawking? What made you get into it? Do you remember your first ball?
WITT: As far as getting into ballhawking, it was something to do while my dad took photos on the field. Of course, it might have had something to do with seeing my dad grab a Hank Aaron batting practice homer on the fly when I was seven at Milwaukee County Stadium. I caught my first ball in 1977. In fact, I caught two that night. The first was a ball hit down the line during batting practice. I was in horrible position in the second row. As the people in the first row leaned over, a security guard stuck out his foot. The ball hit his foot, flew over those in the front row and right to me. Then, during the game, after between inning warm ups, Chet Lemon threw his ball back to the ball boy, it got past him and I leaned over the wall and picked it up off the tarp that it had landed on.
HOVG: What is your favorite ball that you have snagged?
WITT: Favorite ball? Hmmm…I would have to go with getting the last rooftop home run at Old Comiskey Park hit by family friend Ron Kittle. On April 17, 1990, the wind was howling in for a game against the Red Sox. I had actually decided to get out of the cold and go home to watch the A’s play the Angels on ESPN since I had “ballhawk” friends there. As I got in my car, I turned on the radio and listened to the game as I left. As I went down Shields St., which is along the third base side of the park, I heard the announcers call a home run by Kittle. Then I heard, “I can’t believe he just hit that ball onto the roof”. As soon as I heard that, I immediately knew where the ball would likely be. I was just about to the street behind left field. As I almost made the lefthand turn onto the street, I saw a cop sitting there and chose to drive completely around Armour Square Park. As I made my way behind the leftfield wall of the park, I pulled into a spot against the fence looking into Armour Square Park. My headlights were shining right on the ball. I got out and as I hopped the fence. Another guy was running right at me. Thankfully I got to the ball first! I immediately went back and parked my car and went into the stadium to show off the ball to some friends. Shortly after that, I took the ball down to the front offices. Knowing this could be the last “roofer”, I told them I wanted to give it back to Ron. After the game, they took me and the ball to the door of the White Sox clubhouse. The door opened and Ron was standing right there, he looked out and said, “You caught it? You ain’t getting nothing” and the door closed. A couple seconds later, the door opened again and with that silly crooked smile that Kittle is known for, he said that he was just kidding and handed me one of his bats. He also signed the bat for me!
Later in the season, Gary Gaetti of the Twins just missed a rooftop home run by less than a foot. Thankfully it hit the facade and fell to the field!
HOVG: In reading your blog, I see you expressed a little disappointment that you snagged your 3000th Major League ball by picking it up off the ground. I know running after that ball was mostly instinctual, but did you ever think about just letting it go and waiting for one to catch on the fly?
WITT: I did think about that, a lot, but after the crappy day of ballhawking I had a few days earlier, and the fact that I was the only one to see it go out, I just had to grab it. Plus it got number 3000 out of the way and took the pressure off me.
HOVG: Since you were outside the stadium when you snagged number 3000, you don’t really know who hit it. Does that bother you with such an illustrious personal milestone?
WITT: Fortunately, I did find out that Adrian Gonzalez hit the ball. Season ticket holders get into the park at four o’clock and some of them knew that I was outside of the park. They emailed me to tell me that it was in fact Gonzalez that hit the bomb to center that jumped the fence.
HOVG: Now, with the ball in your possession, do you regret not waiting for one on the fly?
WITT: I have learned never to regret anything. Number 3000 was something I had waited 36 years for, I definitely no regrets here on how I got the ball. Although it might have been nice to catch it on the fly, the most important thing was to simply get to 3000 and I did!
HOVG: You’re 43, but are showing no signs of slowing down. When is the “MLBallhawk” going to hang up the mitt?
WITT: Jokingly, I told some people that I could “retire” after getting number 3000. Then after grabbing five more baseballs, I realized that you just can’t “hang it up”. Hell, Wrigley Field ballhawks Moe Mullins and Rich Burhke are in their 60s and show no signs of slowing down. So at 43, it’s way to early to hang up the glove!
John Witt is a professional ballhawk who, over the past 35 summer, has caught more than 3000 baseballs during regular season Major League Baseball games. Among his game home run balls…Sammy Sosa’s 61st home run (1998), Bob Boone’s 100th career homer, Carlton Fisk’s 350th, Dave Winfield’s 450th, Dante Bichette’s first, 1989 NLCS home run by Kevin Mitchell, 2003 ALCS home run by Derek Jeter and the last roof top HR hit by Ron Kittle.
Check out the Hall of Very Good at http://www.HallOfVeryGood.com or on twitter @HOVG
So like every other Ballhawk in the world I went out in search of one of those pink Mothers Day baseballs. Unfortunately I was about the only Ballhawk that did not go home with one, or at least that’s how it seemed. After reading everyone elses tweets and blog posts I really think I was in the minority of those that did not come up with one.
With that said I still had a great time at the game despite the fact that it was 45 degrees! Here is the recap of the entire day:
The day started off with a great lunch with my Mom, my brother and his family. My mother has stage 4 breast cancer and so getting one of the pink MLB baseballs on Sunday would have been extra special. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, Regardless as you will see it was still a fun night for me. Here is a picture of (from L to R) my brother, my mom and me.
After our lunch I decided at the last minute to go to the game on Sunday night. I got to “The Cell” just before the gates opened and when I got inside the White Sox were already done with batting practice and the Angels were on the field. I have seen the Angels hit at home in Anaheim and was looking forward to seeing their entire BP session on the road. Unfortunately it did not live up to the hype! I headed over to the left field bleachers for the first part of BP. There were only about half a dozen balls hit into the stands and about twice as many regular Ballhawks in the stands. Some of the Ballhawks that were at “The Cell” on Sunday were, Dave Davison (@Super_Dave ) of Ballhawk.net, The Happy Youngster (@Happy), Shawn ( @BallhawkShawn ) and Mateo Fischer (@observebaseball). I have known Dave for quite a while and never saw Happy while I was there so I still haven’t officially met him.
I must admit though when I get to a park and there are new Ballhawks around I usually wait until after BP to play the meet and greet game. Why? Well it kind of played out with Shawn when I went around to RF to play the last group of Angels BP. I had been in the RF seats behind the visitors bullpen for a few minutes when I saw @BallhawkShawn walking towards me. We said HI to each other and shook hands and talked as BP went on. There were no baseballs hit near us until the last 30 seconds of BP.
On of the Angels lefties launched a high fly ball right at us. I was camped out right where it was coming down and just in front of Shawn. Unlike most people that “Ballhawk”, I don’t stand there with my glove in the air waiting for the ball. I make sure I have position on others around me and then at the last minute I make my move and attempt to catch the ball. As the ball got closer I reached up just in front of Shawn and made the grab. The classic part of this (sorry Shawn) was afterwards Shawn saying to me “I had no idea what you were doing”. That is exactly why I wait until the last minute to put the glove up. They think it’s all theirs and then it ends up in my glove. The other factor there, and I don’t know if it factored in with Shawn or not, but with most “Ballhawks” knowing my history and number of balls caught it becomes intimidating for them. They tend to try harder and make mistakes, although Shawn did just about all he could. Anyway, it was cool to meet Shawn and snag my only ball right in front of him :-P
After BP we walked around by the dugouts and as I started to look for old friends around the park I noticed that my all time favorite White Sox player (and family friend) Ron Kittle was being interview in center field. I walked all the way out to center field and got there just before they finished up the interview. Here are a couple of photos.
As I got out to where Ron was being interviewed on the Diamondvision (thats what it was called back in the day). They were talking about his 7 roof top home runs at Old ComiskeyPark at this point. For those of you that don’t know, on April 17th, 1990 I grabbed Kittle’s final roof shot in Armour Square park beyond the LF wall of the old ballpark. After the interview as Ron was walking back around to go downstairs for the first pitch ceremony I got to talk to him.
I said to Ron, “Geeze Ron, you could have told them about the awesome guy that grabbed that last Rooftop HR.” He laughed and said “I know that was you, wasn’t it!” We continued to talk all the way to the elevator. He asked if it was me or my brother that had sent him a message earlier in the day and we talked about the Good Old Days at the old ballpark. Ron truly is a class act, he has always been a good friend to our family both before and after the passing of my father. All I can say is THANK YOU RON because you truly are a great guy and you made my night on Sunday.
After I talked to Ron I headed back behind home plate where I ran into a guy that has been working as Sox security for at least 25+ years. He told me he had some seats so I ended up sitting behind home plate all night and this was my view.
Unfortunately there were no foul balls that came up my way during the game but I did take a few pictures that I thought were pretty good. These are a few of the photos that I took. Make a comment and let me know which one you like!
The last photo shows the zeros across the Angels line. At this point Sale had a perfect game going but it would soon be put to rest by the Angels Mike Trout as he singled to center in the top of the 7th with one out. So I didn’t end up with a pink Mothers Day baseball and I didn’t get anything other than the one baseball in BP but I got to meet some fellow Ballhawks, some old friends and a almost got to see history! It was a great day all around! Damn I am easy to please!
It finally happened last night! As Baseball players chase their 3000th hit Ballhawks chase that same MAGICAL NUMBER! So here ya go with a re-cap of the days action!
The day started out with me arriving at Dodger Stadium about 3pm. If you go up by the ticket office and souvenir stand you can even walk into the stadium. While it looks like a nice day in the photos it had been overcast and there was actually a threat of rain. Thankfully when I walked in I saw all the BP stuff being set up by the groundscrew.
Here are a few photos that you can click on to take a look at!
Just before 4pm I met up with friend and fellow Ballhawk, Devo. Devo is a partial season ticket plan holder and has the neat little passes that get you into the parking lot and stadium at 4pm. Yes the Dodgers open the stadium to season ticket holders 3 hours before the game. They only let you down the left field line past 3rd base but it is always a good time.
We went into Dodger Stadium just after 4pm and went to the left field corner. I told Devo that my plan was NOT to do anything but catch my 3000th ball on the fly. We watched as a couple of Dodgers finished up some early BP and then the team started their regular BP session. I probably could have asked a player for a ball and I even told Devo that if I were going to ask anyone for a ball that the ONLY person I would ask was Javy Guerra.
Javy was a member of the Inland Empire 66er’s when I was the clubby there. One day after a 66er’s game the Dodgers put us all on a bus and we headed out to Dodger Stadium for the guys to see a Big League Game. That is actually one night I will never forget. After being on the field for Dodgers BP we headed over to our seats down the first base line for that game and I went to the RF corner to try to get a ball. I didn’t get a ball that night but the players and Javy sure had a good time yelling my name every time a foul ball came close to us!
Anyway, back to today’s game ……
Javy walked by and I said “Hello to him” and what do I hear ….. “Hey look, it’s the Ballhawk” ,,, that made my day. If you have never worked in baseball, especially the clubhouse, you don’t realize how great the relationships you make are. There is nothing like the fraternity of baseball.
Oddly I never took my camera out of the bag while we were in the left field corner. I must have had that feeling, actually, I am left handed and it is hard to take photos or video with a camera when you have a glove on your left hand. Hey FUJI, NIKON and CANON, one of you needs to make a backwards camera for left handed ballhawks so we can take photos and video with out left hand while we have a glove on the right hand!
There wasn’t a ball hit near us in the 45 minutes we were out there. At about 4:50 we headed over to the Left Field pavilion gate. Just as we were leaving the right field corner a new group was getting ready to get into the cage. That group included Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez, when he was with the Padres would hit some very high and long bombs to centerfield into “THE BEACH” at Petco park. At Dodger Stadium he has hit several BP homers into the center field opening.
As Devo and I were standing at the gate, which is about 120 feet from the center field opening and back drop, I noticed a ball that took one GIANT bounce over the larger gate and then looked as if it was headed toward the parking lot. I didn’t really want to go after it because I was committed to catching #3000 on the fly, however, Devo never saw it come out and no one else was around. I headed towards the center field area and the photo below explains where I picked up #3000. Lackluster I know but I had to get it out of the way, especially after the horrible night I had in Anaheim last week trying to get #3000. Below you will see 2 photos. One is with caption and the other has the details of the photo and where I grabbed #3000.
While it was not the way I wanted to grab #3000 it was finally out of the way. The most ironic thing about getting my 3000th baseball was the fact that I grabbed it OUTSIDE of a major league stadium. For most of you that know me and my Ballhawking some of my best “Catches’ have come outside of stadiums. After all I spent many years on the corner of Waveland and Kenmore with the Chicago Ballhawks and I did snag the last ROOFTOP HR at Old Comiskey Park that landed in Armour Square park beyond left field at Old Comsikey. So getting #3000 outside of Dodger Stadium was pretty cool!
Shortly after that gates for the left field pavilion opened and Devo and I went in. I decided to put the camera away because I wanted today to be a great day as far as chasing baseballs. As the Dodgers BP went on it was clear that there were not going to be to many balls hit to us in the LF pavilion.
The oddest thing of the day was the one baseball that just cleared the outfield fence and went down under the stands. I was the only person to run after it and it simply disappeared. I looked under carts, in trash cans and everywhere else and it was simply gone! Oh well, that was about the only chance I had at a ball in LF. I actually had tickets for both the LF pavilion and the RF All you can eat section (go figure). Actually I picked up the All You Can Eat ticket for just $12 which is basically the cost of a Dodger Dog and Soda.
With the Dodgers BP being really bad and now Arizona taking to the field for their BP session I went around to the right field Pavilion. I had a great seat in section 310 and I was in the 1st row. I didn’t have the aisle seat but during BP it doesn’t matter. I stood at the top of the steps and during the 1st two groups of BP it was terrible.
At one point one of the only lefties in the first 2 groups was up and a couple walked up the stairs. They stopped to gawk and look around and wouldn’t ya know it a very catachable ball was hit just over the fence but I could not get to it because the stair well was blocked by them. There was only that one ball that was even close in the first 2 groups. It was not 6:10 and the hitting group that was getting into the cage had 3 lefties including Gerardo Parra. After the usual hitting the ball the other way it started to rain baseballs in right field. Ok so I say rain baseballs, but with the dry spell, the 10 or 12 balls that came up was a rainstorm of baseballs.
My 2nd ball of the day was a BP homer that just cleared the fence, hit the ground under the stands and I ran down and picked it up. I probably would have caught this one on the fly had I not tripped going down the stairs.
My 3rd ball of the day was a ball that was hit to about the same spot as #2. This time I did not trip down the stairs and I made a nice catch leaning over the railing, catching the ball between the stairwell and the outfield fence.
My 4th ball of the day was a toss up from an unknown Diamondbacks pitcher.
Ball #5 of the day was another ball that was hit into the first row of the section just above the stairs. A guy leaned over to make a barehanded grab and the ball hit his hands and fell right to my feet.
So with 5 baseballs caught basically within 20 minutes it turned out to be a very good day!
Below are some photos of players warming up before the game tonight! Clayton Kershaw, Didi Gregorious, Matt Kemp with Dodgers Stength and Condition coach Steven Downey and Wade Miley.
This picture below shows fellow Ballhawks and friends DEEP LEFT and DODGERFILMS aka Bobby Crosby along with a couple of their friends. Bobby has a lot of great videos that he has taken over the years at Dodger Games of himself catching home run balls during BP and games. Unfortunately this year the Dodgers and MLB have basically cut him off from filming anything. Hopefully they let him film again because it is a lot of fun to watch his videos!
Below is my view during the top of the 1st inning. I had the 3rd seat in the row and all was good until the bottom of the 1st when the people next to me showed up. Thankfully there were no HR’s hit this way during the game!
After warming up the Dodger outfielders toss up the ball into the stands. I had told Devo earlier in the day that every game I have sat in the RF All You Can Eat Pavilion I have got one of these warm up baseballs from Andre Ethier. After warming up in the top of the first Matt Kemp had the ball and threw it into the Left Center seats. During the bottom of the 1st innings the people sitting next to me came in so I moved to another section and in the photo below you see my view.
In the top of the 2nd inning Ethier and Kemp started playing catch. The guy in the grey sweatshirt in front of me and his buddy were to busy eating, in fact everyone but me seemed to be to busy eating . When Ethier turned around with the ball I stood up, raised my glove and Ethier threw it right to me. It actually scared the crap out of the guy in the grey sweatshirt because he had no clue the ball had been thrown.
Shortly after I got this ball I decided it was time to leave. Yes, us Ballhawks do occasionally leave games early. Plus I had a flight out of Orange County at 7am so I needed to get some sleep!
One of these days I will get someone to follow me around with a camera and sponsor me. Until then I am stuck taking the occasional photos here and there and writing more than taking photos!
It was an great night finally getting my 3000th baseball (regular season/All Star / post season/WBC)
It was 26 years ago today that I snagged game home runs hit by the Orioles Hall of Famer Eddie Murray from both sides of the plate in the same game!
Unfortunately we didn’t have the internet or blogs back then so I don’t have a long detailed blog post. The short version is this:
They used to close off the upper deck in Old Comiskey Park. We would sit in the Left Field upper deck at the edge of the last section they let you sit in. When a HR was hit we would run around and grab it. On this night Eddie Murray blasted a shot into the LF upper deck in the 4th inning. I got up and ran after it and got to the ball and picked it up.
Shortly after grabbing this HR some friends from school who were sitting in the RF corner came around to check out to see if it was actually me that got the ball. They talked me into going over to sit by them in about the same spot in the RF upper deck. We got over there just as the top of the 6th inning started and with 2 outs Eddie Murray stepped in again.
Honestly I had no clue who was up because we were to busy talking, in fact it was later that I even figured out that Murray hit both HRs I got that night. Anyway, Murray hit his 2nd home run into the RF upper deck. I ran around and grabbed it and as I went back to my seat the usher in the area grabbed me and said I had to give him the ball. “WHY?” I asked and he said that I no one was allowed to get the balls out there. YEAH RIGHT. He grabbed my arm and was not going to let me go so I tossed the ball to a friend. Just as he released my arm I went up the stairs and told my friend to throw the ball back to me. Once I had the ball I ran down the ramp and me and a couple of friends hid out in the RF Bleachers.
As we were going down the ramp to the lower deck two security guards passed us and they were headed into the upper deck. I didn’t find out until a couple weeks later that they were going to try to get the ball back because with these 2 home runs Murray became the first player in Major League history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in back to back games!
Wish I would have know that before, like a typical teenager needing money, I sold the baseballs (to 2 different people) for a lot less than they were worth then and definitely worth now!
Oh well …. it was still one of the coolest nights I had with friends and as a Ballhawk!