For the next few weeks, FoulBallz.com will include a series of short interviews with ballhawks and uber-fans of baseball. These fans all agreed to answer 10 simple questions, no pressure, and very little editing. It’s been a wonderful experience for me to get to know these individuals in some capacity through Twitter. I hope you enjoy reading the answers as much as I have.
Next up is Colorado Rockies super fan (that’s not evne close to an exaggeration either) Shannon Hurd. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoveTheRox.
1) When did you snag your first ball?
May 17, 2003 at Coors Field in Denver. The Rockies lost to the Expos that day 6-4. I don’t remember who or even which team hit it, as catching foul balls was a new experience and I didn’t think to record the player’s name. My methods have evolved throughout the years. I now document every foul ball catch by writing the date, teams playing and final score on the ball. As well I include the inning it was hit and the specific player who hit it. I typically get about six per year.
2) What do you think about the extended netting issue?
It’s ridiculous with a capital, underlined “R”! Major League Baseball is attempting to cater to “fans” that don’t pay attention to the game because they’re worried about declining attendance and/or lawsuits. You can never prevent all accidents, but you could drastically cut down on the number of them simply by putting down your smartphone and – here’s a concept! – actually watching the game! And if you’re still scared of getting hit, pick a seat outside of the danger zone; no one is forcing you to sit in the line of fire! Plenty of fans like me live for catching foul balls and it’s unfair to punish us because others don’t take accountability for their choices.
3) Did you play ball growing up?
No although I grew up in a sports family, which is where my baseball “fandom” began. My dad is commissioner of the Western Athletic Conference; my brothers played DI baseball; and we’ve had Rockies season tickets since Day One. In January 2016, my dad and I had the pleasure of attending Rockies Fantasy Camp at the team’s spring training facilities in Arizona. We were treated like professional athletes the entire time: We went through a try out and were put on baseball teams coached by current and former Rockies players. We played two games a day; received authentic uniforms and gifts; had full access to the clubhouse and training room; ate delicious meals prepared by the team chef; and enjoyed fun off-the-field events like Kangaroo Court, bull sessions and a dinner reception. Talk about the ultimate fan experience!
4) What’s your greatest memory of the game?
My greatest memory is also my worst. On May 11, 2007, I broke my finger playing volleyball. It was extremely serious – I shattered my joint – and when I came home to show my family, their first reaction was, “You need to get to the ER, pronto!” But I refused. We had Rockies tickets that night and I insisted on going to the game before the hospital. Unfortunately, the longer I sat at Coors Field the worse I felt. I was freezing, tired, had no appetite and couldn’t clap without pain. Nonetheless I stayed until the very end cheering for my team (Rockies lost 8-3). Afterwards I went directly to the hospital and surgery was scheduled.
As bad as I felt that night, what I didn’t realize at that time is that it would eventually lead to the coolest opportunity! A couple of years later the Rockies asked fans to submit stories illustrating their love for the team via social-media. I wrote about the time I chose the Rockies game over the hospital, and my story ended up being featured in Rockies Magazine! Through this, I met an editor with whom I kept in touch. Eventually, I met another fan who had a great story, so I pitched it to the editor I’d met at Rockies Magazine. He agreed to let me write it…and this turned into a regular gig! For the past three years, I’ve profiled one Rockies fan per issue (and counting!) It’s seriously like a dream come true to write for my favorite team’s magazine!
6) Is there a favorite spot in your park to sit?
I’m partial to our season tickets for sentimental reasons and also because they’re great seats! We have four seats 19 rows behind home plate, and two seats in the very first row along the third baseline (you can literally lean over the wall and touch the warning track!) The home plate seats provide the best overall view of the game, and the third baseline seats are perfect for snagging foul balls. I feel blessed to be able to experience the best of both worlds! Not to mention each area comes complete with its very own “Coors Field family” – fellow season ticket holders I’ve gotten to know and love over the years.
7) Tips for others who might want to try snagging more balls?
-Choose your seats wisely. Nothing is guaranteed but there are certain high-traffic areas that definitely improve your odds. At Coors Field, sitting in the front row along the first- or third-base lines; anywhere in the lower-level right-field stands; or on the Club Level to either side of home plate are especially good areas to sit.
-Bring a glove and never be ashamed for doing so. Bare handing is much harder and frankly, overrated.
-Pay attention to the game! I’ve seen many opportunities missed because someone was deeply engrossed in conversation and/or a phone.
-Choose less popular games where the crowd is thinner. Many foul balls bounce around several times before landing and the more space you have available to cover, the greater your odds of snagging one.
-Don’t overthink it! You’ll drive yourself crazy if you refuse to get up to get a snack, stretch your legs or use the restroom when you want to. Foul balls can’t be timed and you also need to enjoy the game.
8) What advice do you have to other fans? In general, or specifically.
If you’re visiting a stadium you’re not familiar with, study a copy of the seating chart before purchasing tickets from a scalper! I’ve heard of – although never personally experienced – situations where scalpers might show unsuspecting buyers (typically out-of-towners who look clueless, or anyone else who is rude to them) a fake stadium map. The diagram looks right but the seats are mislabeled. For example, seats directly behind home plate have the third deck outfield section number on them. So you end up paying big bucks for a seat way out in the boonies, and by the time you get into the stadium and realize what has happened, that scalper is long gone. Beware!
9) Do you prefer MiLB or MLB and why?
MLB because I’ve had more exposure to it. There’s so much more to keep track of in the minors, and I don’t feel like I have the time to dedicate to being a proper fan. I do like to follow hot prospects, however. I also definitely do my background research when the Rockies call up a new player.
10) If you could create one rule for pro baseball, what would it be and why?
Get rid of the DH for the AL. There’s nothing more exciting than seeing a pitcher hit! Additionally, NL and AL teams should be playing by the same rules.
BONUS QUESTION: Anything you’d like to add that’s not covered by the 10 questions?
I’m amazed by the passion of the fans I interview, and love hearing and telling their stories! I’ve learned that most fanatical fans have an emotional connection to the sport (i.e. it’s the way they still bond with a deceased parent). I also think it’s awesome how sports allow you to connect with people you might not otherwise speak with outside of a stadium.
Miss the earlier posts? Here they are: