March 2009

Ballhawk League

I’m proud to say I have officially become a charter member of a new Ballhawk League.

Erik, over at COUNTING BASEBALLS blog, has come up with this great idea.
It’s a league comprised of ballhawks nationwide. 
The goal?  To collect as many baseballs as possible during the 2009 season. 
I’ve already planned on doing this, but, this makes it a bit more fun. 
Now, I can do it competitively against ballhawks around the nation.  How cool is that?

Like I needed any motivation, right? 

Here’s how I would like to see the ballhawk league structured:
(nice and simple)

Don over at THE ROCKPILE RANT, suggested a point system.  I’m down with that.

  • 10 POINTS – awarded for every game home run snagged.  It should not matter how you retrieve a game home run.  It’s the only one on earth hit by that actual player, on that particular day, for that exact career # home run.  It’s an official baseball statistic that will be recorded in every stat book until this world is destroyed by nukes.  It’s rare, people!  And it should net the lucky recipient exactly 10 points, regardless of method retrieved.  As long as that fan was the first to obtain possession of the home run ball.    (no buying game home runs)
  • 5 POINTS – awarded for every game ball snagged.  It should not matter how you retrieve a game ball.  If it was put in play, it should be recorded that way.  Whether you caught it in foul territory, had it tossed to you by a player after the 3rd out in an inning or asked an umpire at the conclusion of the game…if it’s rubbed with the mud it stands.  Again, as long as that fan was the first to obtain possession of the game ball.
  • 3 POINTS – awarded for every Batting Practice ball caught on the fly.  If you catch a BP ball on the fly, you should be rewarded with 3 points.  It takes a bit of skill to catch a BP ball, it should have a higher value than a toss-up.  As long as that ball left the bat and the next thing it met was your glove, it’s worth three. 
  • 2 POINTS – awarded for toss-up baseballs.  It’s fun yucking it up with the players.  It also takes a set of skills to get a player to toss you a baseball.  Especially when you’re too old, the wrong gender and don’t have D cups.  These count as official snagger statistics and should be credited accordingly.  Two, I say…two!!
  • 1 POINT – awarded for all other baseballs retrieved.  This would include (but not limited to) baseballs retrieved through some sort of device, trickery, scheming, luck, etc.  Ever find an easter egg just laying there in the bottom row of a bleacher?  Of course!  You were the first fan to obtain possession of it…it counts as an official ballhawk statistic…a player didn’t throw it to you…you didn’t catch it…so what?  It should count for something, right?

 
A FEW SIDE NOTES:
As much as I like getting autographs, I think it makes this a tad more complicated to grade.  I’m open to ideas, but, I think autographs need to sit this one out.

I agree with ZACK HAMPLE that there may need to be some sort of attendance factor recorded.  At the very least, it should be recorded as a side statistic.

I also believe each member of the ballhawk league must have his/her own blog to record his/her official statistics.  It’s free and easy. 
This will give each member his/her very own forum to display official statistics. 
It gives each member credibility, it helps ERIK-our founder calculate the stats and takes away any confusion in relaying information.

I also think each ballhawk league member that is a parent to small children should be rewarded because of this.  Like, 5000 one-time bonus points awarded for each kid that’s under 3 feet tall.  Also, each ballhawk league member that’s married should be awarded a one-time bonus point value of, let’s say, 500,000 points ;-0 

Okay, on a serious note…
This league is based on trust.  We’re all ballhawks.  We’re all in this thing together.  There’s no prize…just bragging rights.  Don’t be stupid and lie your way through this. 
There’s no honor in that. 

What do you think?
 

7 Days of Spring series coming soon 3/27-4/2…stay tuned.

Only 10 days until I arrive in Phoenix. 
It’s getting close. 
I can feel it. 
I need to be on top of my game.  For the sake of ballhawks everywhere, I need to perform.

Old faithful (my old glove) is ready. 
My new faithful (new glove) is not quite ready.  Just doesn’t feel right…yet.  It will.
My bags are slowly getting packed.
Visualization of ballhawking is in full swing. 
I’m ready.

I will provide daily blogs.  I will provide daily photos.  I will provide daily everything. 
From where I go to eat to what I go see.  Not just baseball.
You will be right there with me-if you choose.

Beginning March 27th and going until April 2nd, you will be my blogger travel partners. 
Please visit my Spring Training blogs daily.  You won’t be disappointed.
Analysis is gonna sit this one out. 
This one’s all about ballhawking, baby.

BTW, this was all inspired by my favorite MLBlogger…The Rockpile Ranter.
Thanks, D.

I’m ready to get it on.

HERE’S WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO ACCOMPLISH
(gotta set your goals…) 

1.  Land safely in Phoenix.
2.  Snag 50 baseballs (I do not count them toward my season total).
3.  Get a few autographs (Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Yovani Gallardo).
4.  Get a game used bat from a Milwaukee Brewers player.
5.  Take some sweet photos.
6.  Have my wife shoot some great ballhawking video.
7.  Blog daily.
8.  Return safely to Milwaukee.

cactus pic.jpg 

Packers Fan Fest the best fest

I’m back home and settled in.  My new autographed stuff has been put away. 
My brother Jon and I had a blast once again.
I’ve kissed my children and my wife and now it’s time to post some pics. 
Take a look.

Without further ado…
Collins Kampman & Crosby @ Packers Fan Fest 031409 006.jpgHere’s a picture of Packer Pro Bowl defensive lineman AARON KAMPMAN at his autograph table.  Aaron signed a Packers mini helmet for me.  A true gentleman.

Collins Kampman & Crosby @ Packers Fan Fest 031409 009.jpgHere’s Packers Pro Bowl Safety NICK COLLINS signing a mini helmet for me.  Congrats on your 1st Pro Bowl, Nick.  Hopefully, many more to come!

Gordon Red Batty @ Packers Fan Fest 031409 004.jpgSome of you may know that I’m a huge Packers equipment collector.  Jerseys, gloves, cleats, etc.  Anything I can get my hands on.  Well, above I’m pictured with the best equipment manager in all of the NFL- GORDON “Red” BATTY.  I had just finished watching “Red” put on an equipment clinic for fans when we posed for this picture.

Thanks for the informative demonstration, “Red!”

Kevin Greene @ Packers Fan Fest 031309 001.jpgPictured above is future NFL Hall of Famer KEVIN GREENE.  Kevin is one crazy dude.  He played crazy and now he gets the opportunity to coach crazy-for my Green Bay Packers.  Kevin signed the Carolina Panthers mini helmet shown in the picture.

Jerry Kramer signing print.JPGHere’s former offensive lineman JERRY KRAMER signing my print depicting the most famous play in NFL history.  “The Lombardi Sweep.”  ‘Nuff said.

Leroy Butler @ Packers Fan Fest 031309 002.jpgHere’s former Packers All Pro Safety LEROY BUTLER signing my 16×20 photo print.  LeRoy needs some fan-player interaction training.  I’ve met this guy numerous times over the years and he thinks his sheet don’t stink.  I can’t dig that.
Oh well, they all can’t be nice.

Ryan Grant signing cleats @ Packers Fan Fest 031409.jpgCurrent Packers running back RYAN GRANT signs my game used cleats.  Sweet..!

Willie Davis signing mini helmet.JPGBig ol’ WILLIE DAVIS signs my mini helmet.  Willie is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  It was an honor to meet you, Willie!

What a great weekend…Go Packers!

Headed off to Green Bay Packers Fan Fest

Every year since 2004, the Green Bay Packers hold a Fan Fest in March up at Lambeau Field.
 
Every year since 2004, I have attended.

So, off I go in a few hours to hang out with 3,498 of my closest Green & Gold blooded friends.

It’s a pretty neat event.  All kinds of autographs, interactive games, locker room tours, clinics, etc. etc.

I’ll have pics up when I return Saturday night.

Most NFL teams hold their own version of this type of event.

Here’s the information (from packers.com) in case you are curious how the best team in the NFL caters to their fans : )

Packers Fan Fest 2009

What: Fifth Annual Packers Fan Fest. A celebration of
Packers football for the whole family that will allow fans the chance
to get up close and personal with their favorite Packers players, past
and present, as well as other members of the Packers family.

When/Where: March 13-14, 2009 at the Lambeau Field Atrium

Friday, March 13
3:00 p.m. – Miller Brewing Company Gate opens.

4:00 p.m. – Event kickoff ceremony.

9:30 p.m. – Day ends.

Saturday, March 14
8:30 a.m. – Miller Brewing Company Gate opens.

9:00 a.m. – Programming begin.

7:00 p.m. – Day ends.

Packers Appearing: Mark Murphy, Ted Thompson, Mike McCarthy, Packers coaches and other members of the Packers’ staff.

Current Players: Allen Barbre, Atari Bigby, Desmond Bishop,
Brandon Chillar, Chad Clifton, Daryn Colledge, Nick Collins, Mason
Crosby, Donald Driver, Brett Goode, Ryan Grant, Korey Hall, Al Harris,
Brandon Jackson, JJ Jansen, Cullen Jenkins, James Jones, Aaron Kampman,
John Kuhn, Kregg Lumpkin, Ruvell Martin, Tony Moll, Ryan Pickett, Jason
Spitz, Scott Wells.

Packers Alumni: Donny Anderson, Edgar Bennett, LeRoy Butler,
Paul Coffman, Willie Davis, Lynn Dickey, William Henderson, Jerry
Kramer, Dorsey Levens, James Lofton, Brian Noble, Jan Stenerud, Frank
Winters, Ron Wolf.

Appearance days and times will be released at the event. Players appearing are subject to change.

Autograph Sessions: Upon entering the event, each attendee
will receive a Fan Fest program containing three autograph tickets,
with each of the three tickets listing the location and time of its
autograph session. One of the tickets is for a double autograph session
featuring a current player and an alumnus. Fans must obtain the
autographs at the assigned times. Autograph sessions will be at varying
times during the two-day event, with some attendees receiving one
ticket for a Friday night session and two tickets for Saturday
sessions, and others receiving three tickets for Saturday sessions.

Each autograph session will be open only to fans possessing the
corresponding ticket. To further enhance the timeliness of the
procedure, no posed pictures will be allowed. One item to be signed per
ticketed person, per autograph session will be allowed. Players
appearing are subject to change.

An autograph ticket “trading zone” will be available for attendees
to trade autograph tickets with other attendees who have a different
player lineup. Attendees are advised to note the times on each ticket
in order to plan accordingly if making a trade. Selling autograph
tickets is prohibited.

The procedure, developed from fan feedback, Fan Fest review and
study of other, similar fan events, makes the process more organized
and guarantees each attendee a total of four autographs as well as the
opportunity to take in more attractions at Fan Fest. In addition to the
scheduled autograph sessions, fans will have the opportunity to
interact with Fan Fest participants on Saturday when some participants
randomly will be appearing at different areas of the event..

Activities:

  • Question-and-answer sessions with selected Packers.
  • Autograph opportunities.
  • Members
    of Packers coaching and football staffs will present ’101′ sessions,
    with focuses on offense, defense, special teams, strength and
    conditioning, college scouting, NFL athletic training and NFL
    equipment.
  • Tour of the Packers’ locker room. Open for a “self-guided” tour Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Raffle
    prize that awards the winner, plus a guest, a 30-minute meet-and-greet
    session with a player on Saturday. Participating Packers to be
    announced. Photographs with the players will be welcome, as will one
    autograph per person during the session. Raffle tickets (10 for $10, 20
    for $15 and 30 for $20) will be available for purchase Friday and
    winners will be chosen and announced Friday evening. Six winning
    tickets per player will be drawn and with each winner afforded one
    guest, the session with a player will total 12 people.
  • Other raffle prizes: autographed footballs, helmets and jerseys, as well as additional Packers items.
  • Raffle
    tickets – 10 for $10, 20 for $15 and 30 for $20 – are available for
    purchase Friday and Saturday on the 4th floor north balcony. Must be 18
    years old to purchase.
  • “Packers Garage Sale” special Packers items at bargain
    prices. Open while supplies last during event. Located on the third
    floor.
  • Food and drink will be available for purchase at Curly’s Pub, Frozen in Time and Atrium eateries.
  • The
    Gallery of Sports Art, featuring framed and unframed photos from the
    extensive collection of Vernon and Jim Biever as well as other artists.
  • The Highland Mint, featuring limited edition minted commemorative coin sets as well as framed Packers photos.
  • H.J. Martin & Son, featuring custom Packers carpet.
  • Catch
    the Moment photo booth – Stop by to get your picture taken in a variety
    of different settings. Dump Gatorade on the coach, catch a pass or call
    a play, be on the cover of the Game Day program – these photos get you
    into the game! Photographs are complimentary.

For Children:

  • Open 3 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, and 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday
  • Kids Zone activities, including the ever-popular inflatables.
  • Kids-only autographs.
  • Coloring, Sony PlayStation and other activities.

2009 MVP, CY Young and ROY predictions

It’s March 12th, 2009. 
Time to make some preseason award predictions.  It’s always fun to predict the award winners, then look back at the end of the season and see how close you hit on them.
Make sure you include your predictions as well!!

Let me start with my favorite player.  An absolute stud.

Last night in the WBC game vs. Venezuela, you may have noticed a young star by the name of Ryan Braun (temporarily wearing #18) continue to mash.  Although the United States lost the game, he went 3-4 with a double, a pair of singles and an RBI.  The only time Venezuelan pitching retired him was on a 400 foot flyout to deep centerfield.

He collected 3 of USA’s 7 hits in the game. 
He looks ready to start the season.

So, I will go on record March 12th saying, “Braun will win the 2009 National League MVP Award.”

Am I a homer? 
Absolutely.  But, I truly believe this guy will rake in 2009.

     Here’s a picture of a few memorabilia items I have collected from Braun…
Ryan Braun bat, gloves, hr ball and stub 001.jpg
Ryan Braun bat, gloves, hr ball and stub 002.jpgPictured: 
Game used Rookie bat used by Ryan during ’07 season.
Game used batting gloves used by Ryan during ’07 season.
Game home run hit by Ryan 5/15/08 snagged by “Happy” with game ticket.
Happy Youngster contact card to prove authenticity : )

2009 NL MVP
Braun warmup pic.jpg

RYAN BRAUN
’nuff said.

Here’s the rest of my 2009 award predictions.

2009 AL MVP
Mark teixeira yankees.jpg

MARK TEIXEIRA
This guy has it all…plus hitting 3rd in the Yankees lineup won’t hurt.

2009 NL CY YOUNG
carlos zambrano pointing.jpg

CARLOS ZAMBRANO
As much as it pains me to say it…he’s good.  If he can lower his ERA, the wins will be there and he will take this award.

2009 AL CY YOUNG
Jon Lester.jpg


JON LESTER

This kid is damn good.  Plus, he has the offensive power behind him to rack up 20 wins in ’09.

2009 NL ROY
cameron maybin.jpg

CAMERON MAYBIN
The centerfield job in Florida is his. 
Welcome him to the show.

2009 AL ROY
david price.jpg

DAVID PRICE
Still considered a rookie in ’09, that offense behind him makes this young stud the obvious favorite to bring home the hardware.

So, who do you think will bring home these awards? 

I want your predictions/thoughts!!

I will post a blog at the all-star break with everyone’s predictions, an updated stats check of your picks along with links to everyone’s blog.

Good luck!

My ballhawking tribute video

Let me start off by saying – I did not make this video
You will never mistake me for someone who knows anything about technology.

A fellow Brewers fan put this tribute video together for me.  He did a nice job. 
All he wanted in return was for me to take him and his son to a Brewers game. 
Consider it done. 
I appreciate the thoughtfulness-thank you.

The song in the video is a children’s song by Justin Roberts called “Pop Fly.”
(brings back the kid in me).

Don’t forget to click the “HQ” button to watch in higher quality.

Hope you like it


The Arctic Tailgate = mission accomplished.

Been away from home for a few days and not in the right state of mind to play with my wife’s $2000 laptop.  So, I am now catching up on everything I’ve missed.

I slept in the vehicle pictured below…
Jamboree-front shot 016.jpgMy vintage 23 foot 1977 Dodge Jamboree motorhome.  A true oldie but goodie in all aspects.  Normally reserved for Lambeau Field and Brewers opening day, this baby took everything we could give it and is still standing.

I arrived at Miller Park on Thursday around 3 pm and set up my tent in line (I had to save my spot).
My tent & chair 010.jpg           No, I did not sleep in this thing.  Come on people, this wasn’t my first rodeo.
           I’m a seasoned veteran.

While everyone’s tents were tearing and blowing away from the wind, my little fella stood strong in the 30 mph winds that were ripping outside Miller Park over the weekend.
A strategically chosen location and a few sandbags inside anchored this baby down
(I was a boy scout, you know).

            So, at 3pm on Thursday my wait began for this…
The goal=tickets 008.jpg            I had the blessing of this lovely lady that made it all possible…
Clara 2year pics 275.jpg                                                 What an unbelievable wife.

So, I waited, I mingled, I waited some more, I ate, I had a few beverages, etc. 
Then, the cavalry started to arrive.

The first arrival was Matt.  I play summer leagues with him.  He’s our 2nd baseman.
Matt was just in time for the free pizza the Brewers were providing.
Matt Rink in pizza line2009 001.jpg           That’s Matt standing in the pizza line with the white and pinstriped Brewers jersey.

After we grabbed up our free pizza, we headed to the friendly confines (no, not the rat infested, crumbling Wrigley Field…but, my motorhome.

            Me and my free pizza…
Me happy with free pizza 003.jpg           About 20 minutes later…
half-eaten pizza 004.jpg               Is it just me, or, does free stuff just taste better because it’s free?

Next arrival was a friend of mine (Brent) that works on the Grounds Crew at Miller Park.  Brent’s job is awesome.  During games, his assignment is to attend to the visiting bullpen.  So, if the players need a mound touch-up, he’s their man.  Basically, he gets to stand in the visiting bullpen, watch the game and shoot the breeze with the visiting bullpen arms. 
Talk about a sweet gig. 

The next to arrive was my childhood friend Justin.  Affectionately known as “Juddy” in our circle of friends, Justin and I have been best of friends since grade school.  He’s a real stand-up guy (although he fell down a few times over the course of this party). 

            Here’s “Juddy” and I guarding the tent…
Arctic Tailgate Party 2009 012.jpgIt was around 5 degrees (with windchill) outside but thanks to a few Wisconsin made barley pops, we were not feeling the affects.

Our next attendee to arrive was “Ballhawk Shawn.”  Shawn is a talented young ballhawk who has what it takes to break some of my records (apparently, he broke my single game baseballs snagged record of 13 by snagging his own 14.  That’s a great day of snagging.  Shawn has his own blog here.  He tells me he will start blogging a bit more once the season starts.  I hope so…he has some good ballhawking/autograph stories to share.

            Here’s Shawn doing some early season bunting drills…
Shawn practicing bunts 029.jpg           Pretty good form…but that left hands needs to stay further down the handle. 
           It got the job done, though-advanced the runner to third.

The next troop (literally) to arrive was my good friend and co-worker, Dan.  Dan’s a heckuva great guy and a veteran of the Second Gulf War.

            Here’s a picture of Dan telling some war stories using Juddy’s prop…
Iraq vet & good friend Dan 025.jpg            Here’s a picture of Dan taking a break to wet his whistle…
Dan telling war stories and downing a cold one 036.jpg                                                          Ahhhhhhhhhhh…

Our next arrival is a very talented man in the shirt-making industry.  You may have seen his link on the right side of my blog.  If not, you need to check it out.  He and his business partner specialize in Milwaukee themed shirts.  They are hilarious.  Their business used to be called Insomniac Ink.  They are now known as “The Milwaukee Shirt Guys.” 
They were responsible for the production of my new “Happy Youngster” t-shirts.

            Here’s a picture of Ross taking some cuts…

Ross about to square up on one 030.jpg
No, that’s not Boris Yeltsin pictured above…
boris yeltsin.jpg
It’s T-Shirt Ross!!

   Here’s a picture of Ross proudly displaying one of his soon-to-be world famous creations…
Ross w happy shirt 022.jpg                                              He just doesn’t know it yet.

The last to arrive was a very well-known ballhawk at Milwaukee County Stadium and Miller Park.  His name is Mike and he has lots of energy.  He’s a CPA by day and a ballhawk by night.  I believe his career game home run total stands at 26.  He has snagged over a thousand career baseballs since 1987.  He’s a fun guy to have around.

            Here’s “Big Mike” enjoying some heat from the fire…
Legendary ballhawk Big Mike by fire 021.jpg  Mike’s a former college offensive lineman turned accountant.  I’ve known Mike and his Dad for over 10 years now.  He gave me my first bit of ballhawking advice back in 1998.  I remember it vividly.  He said, “rule #1 of batting practice…never watch a baseball you can no longer catch.”  Great advice.  Thanks for all the tips over the years, Mike.

     Here’s a picture of the line of tents that surrounded Miller Park by midnight Friday night…
Tent line 005.jpg            Here’s another…
Another pic of tents 006.jpg            Here’s a group shot…
Group shot 019.jpg                                                  I was the cameraman.

            Here’s a picture of me pract
icing my swing for the upcoming baseball season…
More swing 034.jpg
            Dan and I in need of some sleep…
Dan & I needing sleep 026.jpg           Here’s a picture of pure party destruction…
party scene 007.jpg            More of our party destruction…
The destruction 047.jpg                I assure you…no one was hurt (physically) in the making of this scene. 
                A few feelings were probably hurt, though!

            Here’s another group shot with a strange lady who stopped by the party…
Group shot w strange lady who wanted to skip line 020.jpgThat’s her in the red coat.  We did not know her.  She heard a few of “Big Mike’s” stories and I think she was in love.  No, not really.  But, she did want to skip the line and get in our spot with us.  Are you kidding me, lady?  We’ve been here since Thursday and you want to get in line with us Saturday morning?  Whatever. 

I think I will designate the lady pictured below (in red coat) as the first official
                            “Happy’s yahoo of the day”
Strange lady told to hit the road 037.jpg         I told the lady to hit the road (not those exact words but something to that effect.
As you can see by the picture, “Big Mike” befriended the lady but that was as far as she got.  You can see her packing her bags and moving on in the picture above.
It’s all about principle…nothing personal, lady.

            Here’s a picture of two Gulf War (2nd) vets enjoying the fire…
Juddy & Dan 042.jpgI mentioned Dan was a veteran of the 2nd Gulf War…Juddy served in Iraq/Kuwait as well. 
You both kick some serious butt.  Way to go, boys.

Manny being Manny…
manny being manny.jpg

AND…

                                                     Juddy being Juddy…
Juddy being Juddy 024.jpg                                             More Juddy being Juddy…
Juddy with making same face 039.jpg
                             Juddy makes that face a lot.  You know the one. 
                             I love Juddy like a brother.  He’s like family to me.

Finally, 5 am rolled around and the last three standing were:  Dan, Juddy and I.  The rest of the fellas had retreated home. 
So, we decided to grab a quick nap before the line moved inside the stadium.

            Here’s a
pic of us standing in yet another line inside of Miller Park…
waiting in another line w sausages 049.jpgThose are the so-called “World Famous Racing Sausages.”  (I’ve seen those things run around so many times that it has lost its luster long ago).  But, they’re a staple of Brewers home games, so what the heck.

                                             Finally, around 9:30 am…
Ticket finishing line 009.jpg                                                         The finish line.

              I purchased my max. allowed (4) for Opening Day.  Mission accomplished.

                                                I came, I saw, I conquered.
I came I saw I conquered 044.jpg                     Special thanks to the boys for joining me.  What a blast!
                                    Now, let’s get this season going.

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