Ballhawks Ruining It For The Rest Of UsS

You see them at every baseball game. The obsessive geeks who stake out batting practice and clamor over beautiful girls just to get random fly balls from third-string catchers. But now they're refining their tactics and upping their demands.

Now I would never get all Grumpy McOldschool and tell people how they can and can't enjoy their sports ... but these people need to stop. We all know the tale of the Happy Youngster and his hardball negotiating tactics, but he is not alone. There's Zack Hample (who you've also met before), who charges other people $500 to attend games with him and learn his ballhawking secrets. (He has 4,000+ baseballs from 46 different stadiums.) There's Tom Snyder who asked for a jersey and two signed bats in exchange for Carlos Gonzalez's first career home run and when that offer was refused, asked for the totally reasonable sum of $10,000. I don't think that's how negotiation works.

Ballhawking is now its own sport and people are flying around the country, competing with each other to nab more (and more lucrative) home run balls. It's not about catching a souvenir—it's about catching that valuable milestone that you can ransom back to a big leaguer for swag. Teams are now leery of these folks, knowing that whenever one of their players does something meaningful they have to enter into complex negotiations with some punk in the bleachers. The man who caught Ken Griffey's 600th home run sold it at auction for $42,000, but not before asking for "a few things that were out of hand," according to Griffey.

All you need to know about Hample is that he brings a hat and shirt for both the home and away teams to every game, so that he can change clothes to match whichever team happens to be taking practice. Pretending to be a fan so you can get someone to throw you a batting practice ball isn't a hobby, it's a sickness. Plus, there's a lesson to be learned in the fan who gave Adam Dunn his 300th home run ball back for free. Dunn gave him more goodies—a signed jersey, three signed balls and tickets—than anyone.

Fans Play Hardball After Snagging Even Obscure Milestone Home Runs [Wall Street Journal]