Ugh, ballhawks

I’ve been going back and forth on topics for a few entries lately, for fear of upsetting some people on mlblogs and elsewhere, but then I came across this article about that damn little girl that sued the Phillies for Ryan Howard’s 200th homerun ball and it really got me thinking.

Of course, this girl managed to get the ball by pure chance. At 12 years old, she could very well be a ballhawk, but I didn’t necessarily get that impression. She seemed to have just been in the right place at the right time. Sorry, girl, but you and your family were completely in the wrong to sue the Phillies organization for that ball. If you wanted to keep the ball, you should’ve kept the ball when the original deal was struck, whether or not you knew the monetary value of said ball. Apparently, it was only after her mother heard what had happened and heard the significance of the ball her daughter had unwittingly traded back to Howard that the lawyer was hired and the suit was filed. I’m sure it’s an amazing feeling to get a game-hit homerun ball. I’ve never gotten one, so I wouldn’t know. However, if it were me, knowing the importance of that ball, I’d give it back to Howard for whatever was offered. And quite honestly, baseballs like that one aren’t really worth all that much when you consider the kind of career Ryan Howard is likely to have. He’s going to hit far more valuable balls than that one in the years to come. It was greedy of that young girl and her family to sue for the ownership of that ball. Whatever sentimental value she may have of having caught it is nothing compared to the sentiment Ryan Howard has of achieving that personal career milestone.

That being said, I’ve been toying with writing about my disdain for ballhawks. Adult ballhawks, in particular. Having read that article, it got me thinking about it even more than I already have and I decided to just write it, no matter how many people may be offended.

Ballhawks are people that go to as many games in a season as possible, their favorite team’s, games of teams with ballparks in close proximity, games in cities in which they happen to be on vacation–whatever the circumstance, if there’s a baseball game going on, chances are, the ballhawks are there. These people, often times grown men from what I can discern from the many blogs they write on this fine website, enter the parks hours early to attend batting practice to catch fly balls in the stands. Basically, what this amounts to is running up and down rows of seats and loading up their backpacks with as many balls as they possibly can. They often change apparel and hats to accomodate for both teams so players think they’re actual fans of the team, thus getting balls tossed up to them during warm-ups and bullpen sessions. Sometimes they’ll steal balls out of the bullpen by lowering their gloves on a rope and pulling the balls back up. Then, during the game, no matter where their actual tickets are located, these ballhawks will saunter all over the outfield seats, depending on which field a batter favors, to attempt to catch homerun balls. In some cases, they linger in aisles or at tops of stairs in order to get a leg up on the people that actually paid for those seats just to load up their bags with more baseballs.

Here are my many problems with people like them.

How many baseballs does one actually need? There are actually tallying systems out there that these people use to assign points to each ball caught. Seriously? Get a life. Some of these guys have thousands. For what reason, other than unimpressive bragging rights? There are young kids that eagerly bring their gloves to games, hoping for any chance that a foul ball or homerun might be hit their way and then these douchers come barreling out of the concourse, 2 levels down and 46 sections away from where their actual seats are, only to take that chance away. Oh sure, sometimes they give balls away to these little kids, but apparently they bring decoys and switch out “important” game-used balls so as not to lose points in their precious ballhawking league.

Do they have any sort of team loyalty or is it more important to decieve the guys warming up for the opposing team just to get a couple extra balls in that backpack? I mean, I know people that like more than one team. I like teams other than the Brewers, but I don’t own any Phillies tshirts or Twins hats. And I certainly wouldn’t be caught wearing anything other than Brewers attire while attending a Brewers game. If I were watching, say, the Pirates warming up and I saw Garrett Jones and Andrew McCutchen tossing a ball around and I thought it would be cool if they threw it up my way when they were done, I’d just yell their names. I wouldn’t pretend to be a Pirates fan for 2 minutes so they’d pay more attention to me. That’s just dumb.

And do these people have jobs??? That’s my biggest qualm with ballhawks. Where the eff do they find the time to go to all these games? And not only that, but go early enough to catch batting practice? And not only go early enough to catch batting practice, but go to so many games on the road? We know they’re not selling these balls they catch, so where does all this money come from? Going to baseball games isn’t all that cheap, especially when you consider the amount of travelling they do and the sheer amount of apparel they have to buy for every team they see.

And what about families? If I personally knew a ballhawk, I would probably feel the need to hold an intervention. Baseball takes up a lot of any true fans time, sure, but a ballhawk? Man alive, that’s a lot of time to be spending at the ballpark! If my boyfriend or cousin or friend came home with a single ball, I’d be impressed, no doubt. If my boyfriend or cousin or friend came home with a backpack full of balls after every game, I’d say, “Dude, take it easy. You’ve got a problem.”

What bothers me the most is that it seems most of these people have this feeling of righteousness, like catching an inordinate amount of baseballs by way of deception, stealing (because, face it, that’s what the ‘glove trick’ really is) or diving in front of deserving young children is some sort of god-given talent. Anyone can do what they do, but it’s almost as if they choose not to realize that. I could get up and run halfway down my section for a chance to catch a ball, but I don’t because the ball doesn’t mean anything to me. I’d rather scream Ryan Braun’s name from the bleachers until I’m hoarse and finally have him half-heartedly wave at me than catch a foul ball.

But then again, I guess being a fan means different things to different people.

(Sorry about your ball, Ryan Howard.) 




  1. Michael David

    I totally agree with you here. The ‘ballhawks’ are pretty lame, and need to get a life. A game ball would mean more to my seven year old than these guys, but they’ll still try to take as many as they can get. A game ball is supposed to be a ‘rare’ suvenier(sp?), not something you get every game. It really ruins the meaning behind it. Go to the game and just have fun, if one comes your way, lucky for you.
    ‘Minoring In Baseball’

  2. meikd423

    biiiiiiiitch, thats not what its about. it seems really greedy from someone on the outside of the glass looking in, because you’ve never experienced it. it is a whole new way to experience baseball, and its a shitload of fun. Each baseball means something and for me, its been a great way to meet new people, travel the country, see and learn more about baseball from a whole new perspective. its a challenge with such a rewarding feeling once you finally get a ball. then, you want to do it again. its a game. its a hobby, its a PASSION and its not about how many balls you can stuff in your bag, or about bragging over thousands of balls. thats not it at all. theres nothing like going to a game early for batting practice and hoping, waiting for a ball to be hit in your direction, and when it does happen, you chase for it and your heart starts racing and if you do get it, the feeling is like no other. it doesnt matter how many balls you have. each one is just as fun and thrilling to chase after as the other. and like i said before, its a challenge. its not easy to show up and get 8 balls a game. The fun is in running through empty rows, creating something genius like a glove trick or cup trick to help get ball. the fun is in the competition with other fans and really, i could just go on forever. the point im trying to make is, you dont get it because you havent done it. you probably will never have a passion for it (because i honestly cant see a girl ballhawking and enjoying it) so you just dont understand. its like an addiction. it truly is an amazing hobby, you have to live it to understand it and really, you have no right bashing it unless you understand it, and if you DO bash it without understanding it, than you really are worse than the people who do it.


    Those who hate on ballhawks clearly have never tried it. Some like to hunt animals in the wild, but some of us like to hunt balls (and bats, and other souvies).

    The VAST majority of my 400+ balls would never have left the field if I hadn’t taken the time to know the player’s name, position myself well, etc. Those I snag out of someone else’s glove are other adults — cause I don’t take them from kids.

    And I have given away probably 100 balls to the very little kids you all are talking about — kids who would never have gotten a ball if I weren’t there, because their technique, quite frankly, stinks.

    If ever I snag a ball that a kid even MIGHT have gotten, I make sure they get one before the day’s over.

    As for “how many do I need,” I could ask the same question of virtually any hobby. We live in a culture where we don’t need MOST of the stuff we accumulate. How many beanie babies do you need? How many golf clubs do you need? How many shoes do you need (I’m talking to you, blogger!).

    It’s not about AMOUNT — it’s about FUN and the THRILL OF THE HUNT!

    Some ballhawks have terrible etiquette and don’t follow my code, but many, many of us do. So don’t hate on us — love us! We love baseball as much as you do — maybe more.

    p.s. I “have a life,” with a wonderful marriage, busy career, and son whom I parent well and is becoming a ballhawk himself! Everyone needs a hobby, and I can think of things a lot worse I could be doing with my time…


    If you are a little kid, and get a ball rolled to you across the dugout, what fun is there in that. It has about as much sentimental value as if the ballhawk next to you got it and handed it to you. if you didnt work to get something, then how much do you really want said item.
    Ballhawks dont steal all these precious moments from kids. All that matters to most of them is actually having the ball.
    And when you give a ball to a little kid, there is nothing better than the look of astonishment on his face that he is holding something that was used in a baseball game, and then his makes sures he says thank you.
    And if you are not trying to get a baseball, then dont complain about someone else getting 8 of them, because if you REALLY wanted the ball, then you would be trying as hard as a ballhawk.

  5. padreleigh

    I don’t really know how to respond to this. I like to ballhawk and if you do your homework and do it right, it isn’t that expensive. I only travel to other parks on my days off or vacation time. I’ve never missed work due to a game. It’s just really fun. I don’t think I’m a big loser or anything. My girlfriend doesn’t mind at all. It’s just a hobby. Just like people that like Star Trek and stuff. There’s plenty of baseballs out there to go around to the little kids and the ballhawks. I don’t know….just don’t judge us as bad. We’re normal folks.

    Leigh in San Diego

  6. bettencourt

    not to be rude but you say Ballhawks have no lifes but you are the one who spent prob. over an hour writing about how bad these guys are. i like to Ballhawk it is fun, there is nothing like your hart starting to race when a ball is hit to you in the stand, you would know that if you have tried. how about you come back next season then come talk to us. Coming away with a whole backpack full of baseballs is really rare in Ballhawking. Have you ever gotten a ball at a game it just feels as cool to get a ball no matter what your age.
    – Bettencourt

  7. bettencourt

    Another thing the guys who go to like 40 plus game a year that is how they spend their free time, We just love baseball is that so wrong. I would not doubt these people including be are some of the biggest baseball fans of all.


    you look pretty cute in your picture. you have a boyfriend? let me know if i can take you out. i’m not a ballhawk.

  9. ayellen

    You are absolutely right about the specific incident with the Ryan Howard baseball. 100%. But you cannot take a couple greedy parents and call them ballhawks, and you cannot hold the actions of the few against the goodness of the many.

    I know that you have issues with people who have no loyalties towards a team, but to American Culture, baseball isn’t about what team you have a loyalty to, it’s about the connection to the game, to the past, to the future, to the fans around you, to American Culture as a whole. There is nothing more exciting than watching a great baseball game, even if your team is losing. But my point is that everyone connects to the game differently. Some connect to the game through a team, as you do, some through the people they watch with, some through the ballpark itself, and some through the interaction. Baseball is not a very interactive game, and ballhawks turn it into an interactive game.

    No, I am not a ballhawk. I am an independent radio producer who has done many pieces about baseball and its meaning in the deeper soils of American Culture, and these fans have as much right to their version of the game as you do.

    On another note: I am a Red Sox fan. My father is a Yankees fan, and we actually talk to each other. I have dated many Yankees fans. I’ve also dated Mets fan, Oriole fans, Tigers fans…you name it. (and the one Washington Nationals fan who will admit that she likes the Nationals.) I’ve also dated people who don’t know baseball at all, and I can tell you that you should reconsider your own dating criteria as far as fandom, because it’s a great experience to share the game with a rival, especially if it would be that versus not sharing the game at all.

    I hope you can find a way to enjoy the game for the game itself and not for the Brewers and their successes alone even half as much ballhawks do.


  10. 15222xc

    When I go to baseball games I do try to snag baseballs. I (as do most other ballhawks) use various methods to catch these balls including asking the players to toss one up. Not only do these interactions with professional ballplayers usually result in a meaningful souvenir, but I can connect to the game and its players much closer. If we were in it just for the balls, we would just buy them at a sporting goods store, but the ones we snag mean so much more to us than if we were to just buy them. This is because each one we snag is like a book, and tells a uniqe story. Also, the feeling I get when I snag a ball is probably the main reason I do it. It’s a feeling that cannot be described in words. It’s a feeling of accomplishment, success, and connection with the sport we all love.
    I do strongly encourage you to try to get a ball thrown to you by one of your favorite Brewers. You will find that you feel a much deeper connection to whoever threw it to you than before. This connection makes superstars out of even the least known about September callups (at least for some of us).
    Judging by the feel your entry gave, I know it will be hard for all of us to convince you to change your mind, but remember: we really aren’t such a bad lot.

  11. txfilmmkr

    I guess it’s easy to sit back and throw stones from the comfort of your keyboard when you obviously don’t have a scintilla of a hint about that which you speak. Perhaps if you took the time to get to know one of these evil ballhawks you might actually find some things in common with them and maybe even have a good time.

    But I can tell you’re a very deep person. After all, you’re a “total girly-girl” who “loves fashion, boys, pop music, and romantic comedies”. I’m sure that someone with such credentials can probably paint all ballhawks with such a broad brush and rest on your prejudices, knowing that your keen wit and love of fashion wouldn’t steer you wrong on such an important matter like human interaction. Right, sweetie?

    Donny in Houston
    Husband, Father, Attorney, Die Hard Astros Fan, and of course….. evil ballhawk.


    F___ you. You have no right to slam the people that make MLBLOGS what it is. ALSO, THE ONLY REASON PEOPLE ARE READING YOUR BLOG IS BECAUSE THERE WAS A LINK TO IT ON A BLOG WRITTEN BY ZACK HAMPLE (A BALLHAWK). AND, people go to ball games to have fun…you may have fun by sitting back and relaxing while watching the game. Ballhawks have fun by catching baseballs.



    Are you a “girl” or a woman? Since “girl” indicates a female who is not grown up – I guess that is accurate to call this blog “a girl’s viewpoint.” Grow up, honey.

    from a woman ballhawk

  14. bloggingboutbaseball

    Hi. I collect baseballs… and I’ve found that the term “ballhawk” has recently become the term to classify all of us that collect baseballs. I attended over 40 games in the 2009 season and caught about 120 baseballs… mostly during BP. For me, catching baseballs, whether they’re thrown by a player or I catch them off the bat, is a way to get closer to the game I love. Had I not invested so much time in this hobby I would never have learned such cool things about players (like how Eddie Guardado planned to celebrate his birthday or that Matt Palmer and I both have the name Matt AND both married women named Michelle) and coaches. And, yes, I give baseballs away to kids. One of the best feelings in the world was presenting a baseball to a boy celebrating his 12th birthday who, had I not been around, would have gone home empty-handed. I caught three balls that day and gave one away to him as he left with his family… he was thrilled. His mom nearly cried. Also, in the past two seasons this hobby has taken me to six different stadiums. I love baseball more than ever now. And, I must admit, I got into this hobby after following Zack Hample’s blog. He’s a good guy (I’ve met him), he’s generous, and he is snagging for charity now, too. He’s also a good writer and he LOVES the game of baseball. We all do. And by the way, I’m a grad student getting my M.F.A. and I’m married… I have a life. We all do. And catching baseballs is just a part of that life.

  15. happyyoungster

    “Perhaps if you took the time to get to know one of these evil ballhawks you might actually find some things in common with them and maybe even have a good time.”

    -Donny from Houston (12th comment)

    Now, that’s an idea…
    OPEN INVITE: Be my guest at a game next season. You can pick the game. No strings attached. Nothing to lose, a brand new perspective to gain.

    This invite is usually only reserved for exceptionally cool people like my lovely wife or Zack Hample. But, I’ll make an exception for you because, personally, I do not know you and would hate to pass judgment beforehand.

    “The Happy Youngster”
    Milwaukee, WI

  16. stargirlmol

    Hmm weird, this post was posted on Zach Hample’s page and now you’ve received a ridiculous amount of pro-ballhawk posts. Weird! I wonder if you would have had the same type of comments if it would have been linked to on any other normal baseball fan site. My guess is the reactions would have been quite different.

    That conan interview was great. They mocked him the entire time and he seemed almost oblivious. Hilarious.

    I was at a game this past season and my boyfriend caught a foul ball. We laughed and enjoyed how cool that was for a minute or so, and then he turned behind us and gave it to a 5 year old boy. The sort of thing a man does, wanting to share the experience with someone who would appreciate it more. That ball may cause that kid to be a baseball fan for life. Baseball should be about having fun, watching the game, meeting new fans, and sharing the experience with everyone around you.

    Knocking down women and kids, pissing off players and the organizations that made you a fan in the first place? Seems a little ridiculous. Need a rush? Go sky diving.

  17. stargirlmol

    ps. people like YOU are what make mlblogs what it is. Honoring other peoples opinions while at the sametime expressing yours. And not feeling the need to stoop to the level of posting links “strongly encouraging” people to write negative comments on someone else’s blog. Some of these comments are just proving what you have to say about ballhawks correct.

  18. nymetsgrrl94

    It wasn’t necessarily a ballhawk that sued the Phillies. You are making the assumption that the 12 year old girl is the same as the grown men. And by the way, the adults clearly have jobs or else they wouldn’t be able to afford the tickets. That’s pretty obvious and another bad assumption on your part. And obviously you’ve never gotten a ball at a baseball game because if you had you would know the feeling to get just one. Maybe you’re jealous of them, I really don’t know. But just because you wrote a long post about disliking a general group of people doesn’t mean it’s well thought out or has a legitimate point.


  19. dodgerduder

    You pay money to host a MLBlog, and you use it to attack ballhawks?

    I think you would be a hypocrite to say they are the ones without lives….

    You are a brewers fan, and considering the only reason they have had success in the last like, 20 years, is because of a fluke rental (CC Sabathia) edging out the biggest flop team in history (the Mets)…….. I think you have more relevant things to vent about.


    Ok, stargirl
    Ballhawks DO NOT knock down little kids or women.
    Also, there are much worse people at baseball games, like the many people who yell at ballhawks for catching too many balls, then harass us and tel us that we participate in a variety of sexual acts that are physically impossible. Now which is worse, catching 5 balls at a game, or violating the law, and harassing a person?

    and skydiving sounds a little ridiculous to me. How many people did ballhawking?

    And can someone please help me figure out why every person who hears about a ballhawk just ASSUMES that we knock people down? C’mon, thats just ludacris. In fact, i bet most of the people who knock other down in order to get a ball are a) not ballhawks, but college kids or b) knocking down a ballhawk, which is so hypocritcal, but typical of all the haters


    Its supposed to be how many people die ballhawking?
    Not many. Now how many people die?get serious injuries skydiving?

  22. skikola

    stargirl, you’re out of line.

    “And not feeling the need to stoop to the level of posting links “strongly encouraging” people to write negative comments on someone else’s blog.”

    Where are you getting this from? This is what Hample posted in his entry, “Go to her blog and leave her a comment and show her the error of her ways. I would just suggest that you keep your comment clean and avoid personal attacks. Even though she started it, there’s no need to stoop to her level.”

    I guess you just felt like making it up and throwing quotes around “strongly encouraging.” Nice.

    Hample just wants us to try to point out the misconceptions that are perpetuated by the ignorant. Generalizations and judging people, people who in reality you know nothing about, isn’t cool. The vast, vast majority of ballhawks do not contribute ANYTHING negative to the baseball scene, quite the contrary. Get over yourselves, haters.

    “I was at a game this past season and my boyfriend caught a foul ball. We laughed and enjoyed how cool that was for a minute or so, and then he turned behind us and gave it to a 5 year old boy. The sort of thing a man does, wanting to share the experience with someone who would appreciate it more.”

    This reeks of a judgmental, high-horse, holier-than-though attitude. Get over yourself and let other people enjoy their hobbies. They’re not hurting anyone. Sure, there are a-holes, but to generalize is just wrong. Oh, and I hope you realize that there are a LOT of 5 year old boys out there that would never have gotten a game-ball if not for the generosity of ballhawks. It’s a hobby like any other hobby. There are a-hole collectors in every realm that would knock over a younger kid to get in a better position to add to their collection. That doesn’t mean everyone who collects said item is an a-hole. See how that works?????


  23. stargirlmol

    I have one more quote actually “But then again, I guess being a fan means different things to different people”.
    Thanks for inspiring the lively debate carpie19!
    I will continue to be a fan every way I know how, and that means something different to everyone as we’ve clearly read here. Looking forward to the ’10 season!

  24. skikola

    excuse me? how am I a hypocrite?

    I don’t believe I judged anyone with my comment.

    I was just trying to point out the misconceptions perpetuated by the ignorant.

    And yeah, those quotes are better. It was something actually said by someone.

    Being a fan every way you know how is great. Ballhawks are being fans probably in a very similar way to you, with just one addition. They like trying to snag baseballs. What’s the big deal?

  25. stock350

    See..the major problem I have with people that are “against” ballhawks is the name calling, the negative assumptions, and the constant badgering over something someone does at a baseball game. The other problem I have with ballhawk haters is the fact that they think all the little kids at the stadium are entitled to every baseball hit into the seats. I have been to over 100 games in my short-lived life here on planet earth and every game I attend I witness more kids getting baseballs, autographs and whatever else the baseball players get. And I think that is wonderful. I encourage kids to come to the stadiums because when I was a kid thats all I wanted to do.

    Now I am a grown adult. I make my own money, I have my own car, and I live twenty minutes from a Major League stadium. I attend college, and I work part-time and in my free time I like to go to baseball games and see how many baseballs I can get per game. I dont get a lot. Maybe three or four. But to me that is fun. When I was a child I never got any baseballs because my father was the one that drove, made the money, and took me to games. So I had to live by HIS rules. Well, now that I am a grown man I get to make my own rules and do what I want at games.

    I just dont understand why people have to call Ballhawks losers, douchebags, retards or no-life nerds. I dont get all the hate. And you know what? Most of these haters are beer drinking college kids that attend maybe one or two games a year.

    Bloggers like this guy;
    That constantly rip on guys like Zack Hample, and this guy;; Nick Yohanek, and I will admit. There have been controversial stories about guys holding out with milestone home run balls for a laundry list of things from baseball players. But if you think about it; what does that really cost a team that is worth $224 Million dollars? Im not saying its right but Im not saying its wrong either.

    As far as the article about the little girl suing Ryan Howard, well, the whole story goes like this. Girl catches baseball, Phillies ask for ball back, Girl requests to be met by Howard with signed baseball after giving the baseball back, girl waits until after the game and is escorted to the Phillies clubhouse, Howard had already left with baseball in hand, girl is left with nothing. Do you think thats right to cheat a little girl like that? All you haters are claiming that ballhawks trample kids, push over the elderly, and steal baseballs from infants. Where is the justice here when the Phillies cheat her out of a signed baseball? Of course her mother was pissed. They werent trying to make money. They just wanted what the Phillies promised.

    So in conclusion. There are plenty of ballhawks, men and women alike, that are married, have successful jobs, families, girlfriends, boyfriends etc. Kids arent the only fans at games. Kids are entitled to everything hit or thrown into the stands. Kids actually get to participate in A LOT more programs than adults. And Zack Hample snags baseballs for charity.

    Just because these guys go to games and snag baseballs while youre up in the stands drinking $8 dollar watered-down beer doesnt make them any less of a fan. No one is trampling kids, no one is “stealing” baseballs, and no one is getting in the way of someone else trying to enjoy the game.

    Its time to get along, and let people do what they do at the stadiums.

  26. stock350

    Kids ARENT** entitled to everything hit or thrown into the stands. Kids actually get to participate in A LOT more programs than adults. And Zack Hample snags baseballs for charity.

    Just because these guys go to games and snag baseballs while youre up in the stands drinking $8 dollar watered-down beer doesnt make them any less of a fan. No one is trampling kids, no one is “stealing” baseballs, and no one is getting in the way of someone else trying to enjoy the game.

    Its time to get along, and let people do what they do at the stadiums.

  27. phillieswschamps

    I just have one thing to put into perspective. I’m 15 and I consider myself a ballhawk, I do well in school at a very academically strenuous highschool so I “have a life.” And instead of going to baseball games and darting around for baseballs on a Friday night would you rather have me doing drugs and drinking? Cuz if that’s what you would consider more of a good/normal life then this country is officially going insane.

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