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.
Miss the earlier posts? Here they are:
Next up is Alan Schuster, owner and president of one of the coolest baseball websites ever: MyGameBalls.com. His hobbies other than baseball include golf, basketball, amusement parks, and board games. Also, many people tell him he’s a dead ringer for Nascar driver Carl Edwards.
When did you snag your first ball?
I didn’t snag my first ball until the age of 28 on a random toss-up at Nationals Park. I had been to tons of games prior to that but rarely could convince whoever I was going with to show up early for batting practice. Interestingly, my first snag came about a few months before I started developing myGameBalls.com.
2 ) What do you think about the extended netting issue?
I can’t stand it. People should be able to sit in those seats and enjoy the game unobstructed while assuming the risks involved. That being said, I would be ok with certain sections being off limits to children (although I have no idea what the appropriate age cutoff would be).
3) Did you play ball growing up?
Yes, I played baseball from age 6 all the way to my Senior year of high school. Starting at age 11, I played essentially year-round, just taking a few months off in the winter. After high school I tried to be a walk-on player at Furman University, but missed the final cut. Then after a couple year layoff I couldn’t stay away so I co-founded Furman’s Club Baseball team and played club ball for two years. Since then I’ve retired from baseball but play Men’s League Softball every spring.
4) What’s your greatest memory of the game?
Believe it or not, snagging David Ortiz’s 500th home run ball was actually not my greatest baseball memory. My greatest memory, by far, was my high school team winning the 1998 Virginia State Championship. Celebrating on the field with teammates who I had played with since Little League was indescribable, and I’ve never felt a greater sense of accomplishment than achieving this championship with a group of friends who talked about wanting to win states since we were young.
This is pretty ironic since I now run a ballhawking website (mygameballs.com). My worst baseball memory is watching the Orioles (my favorite team) lose the 1996 ALCS, in part because Yankees fan Jeffrey Maier reached onto the field of play to intercept a ball from the O’s right fielder and give Derek Jeter a crucial homer. The ’96 Orioles were stacked and I really thought it was their year to win a championship, so I was crushed when they went down in defeat. I watched the Maier incident from home, but I also attended another game of the series in Baltimore and watch them lose another closely-fought game.
6) Is there a favorite spot in your park to sit?
Front row in left field. I know ballhawks tend to sit a few rows back to maximize their chances, but for me the front row is a fun place to sit regardless of ballhawking chances. I love having a completely unobstructed view of the field and being able to watch the left fielder track down balls from close up.
7) Tips for others who might want to try snagging more balls?
I’ve only snagged about 30 balls in my lifetime so I’m probably not the best guy to give tips. But for what it’s worth, one thing that helps me get more balls is to never give up on a ball until it’s in the hands of another fan. You never know when a ball might take a crazy bounce or fall through the hands of another fan or sail over the heads of a big crowd who all misjudged it. If there’s room to run, I’ll run towards a ball hit four sections over and look for a chance to swoop in and grab a ball that takes a lucky bounce in my direction.
8) What advice do you have to other fans? In general, or specifically.
To the average fan, I’d encourage them to try showing up for BP with a glove and trying to snag some balls. I think there’s a ton of people who would find this to be tons of fun but don’t do it because it’s considered a dorky thing to do. They don’t want to be mocked by their buddies or whatever so they stand on the concourse drinking a beer when the athlete side of their brain is telling them to jump in and join the fun. Understandably, a lot of them don’t want to take balls away from kids. But the reality is that the vast majority of kids can’t successfully catch a baseball that hit 400 feet and might even get seriously hurt if/when they try to catch one. So I’d encourage adult fans who have good baseball skills to go out there and snag some homers, and they can give the majority away to kids if they want.
9) Do you prefer MiLB or MLB and why?
My local team is MiLB (Norfolk Tides) but I definitely prefer MLB. In all sports I prefer watching the highest level possible. I love watching the best athletes the sport has to offer, and I love the ballparks. Attending an MiLB game on occasion is fun, but just doesn’t compare with the big leagues.
10) If you could create one rule for pro baseball, what would it be and why?
This is kind of random, but I would eliminate pinch runners. I’ve never liked the fact that guys with Olympic sprinter-type speed can be inserted into the basepaths in crucial playoff situations to help win the game. Anyone who scores a run in a game should be a guy who earned his way onto base via a hit or walk. My rule would be no pinch runners, period. If a guy gets hurt on the bases, too bad. He either has to run the bases hurt or come off the field and take an out.