So I’m a Major League ball hawk: I am only really concerned with getting baseballs at Major League games because, well, it’s the pros. But, I will admit, it is kind of cool getting different balls from different minor or independent leagues as well as different collegiate conferences.
I had heard that Towson University and University of Maryland would be playing a game at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen — home of the Ironbirds. Since I’m a Towson University student, and fellow ball hawk Alex Kopp is a Maryland graduate, we decided to attend the game and see what came of it.
In all honesty, I had never been to a minor league ballpark before to see a game. Ever. So this experience would be . . . an experience.
When I completed the 35 minute drive to Aberdeen, I met with Alex, and he wanted to do some exploring:
Here is where we were:
Guess what he was looking for:
Random freakin’ baseballs.
That ball is a Wilson A1030, your run-of-the-mill baseball that you can find in any sporting goods store. We assumed this ball had been used for batting practice for one of the teams earlier in the day.
Alex also found some barely covered, muddy baseballs that we could not tell what they were. But he also found a Ripken League baseball.
We were curious as to which balls they would be using during the game. For Towson’s home games, they use official CAA baseballs, the conference they play in. For Maryland, they, of course, use ACC baseballs (until next year). But this game was being played at a neutral site, so there was also a possibility that they would be using those Ripken League balls. Another far-fetched possibility was commemorative Ripken Cup (that’s what they’re calling this thing) baseballs. But, that was doubtful.
I thought they would be using ACC baseballs, because it is a major conference with more funding than, say, the CAA.
There was also another question: could we keep the baseballs? At most college games, when a ball is hit foul, the teams ask for it back so that they do not run out when the season nears the end. But this was being played at a big-ish stadium where balls could really go anywhere.
Anyway, we got our tickets ($3) and waited outside the gates for them to open at 6:
When we went in, they handed us these:
Which became handy later.
On the field, there was no batting practice (which really isn’t a problem), but some University of Maryland players were playing games in shallow right field:
Meanwhile, Alex and I walked around the stadium. Probably the coolest part of the park is the Marriott across from the park, behind the third base side. Why is that cool? Check it out:
It was designed to look just like the Warehouse at Camden Yards.
We walked around in the seats down the third base line and just hung out. On one of the walls down the line there was a wicked hole that looked like it was made by a sharp liner:
When in the seats, I noticed something else: all of the railings were plastic, PVC piping, even the ones that prevent fans from falling onto the field. On top of that, most of them were cracked and broken. Toto, this isn’t the Major Leagues anymore.
As Alex and I walked over to the first base line, I asked him if he brought his ball retriever, hoping to God that he didn’t. He did. And guess what else he did:
Used it. He fished-up a ball that was old as hell and barely stitched together.
For the game, we settled on a spot down the third base line that had more room than ever to run for a foul ball. I’m not kidding. Look to our right:
To our left:
Directly behind us:
The weather was kind of crappy. For the beginning of the game, it sprinkled a little bit and there was no sun. As it got later, it got really cold. We were both glad there wasn’t an Orioles game because we would just be freezing there, too, and for even longer.
One thing I learned about college baseball: there is not as many foul balls as the majors. If this were an MLB game, Alex and I would have grabbed more foul balls that we could have ever imagined. But in this game, Alex counted 10 balls that went out of play. Four of them went out of the stadium, one went back onto the field, and the others went into the stands.
Early in the game, Alex was able to get one off the bat of Towson outfielder Dominic Fratantuono. And I was right: they were using ACC balls.
And no one came to take them back.
A little later, I got mine: a deep foul hit by Maryland outfielder Anthony Papio. It landed over to the right of that white tent pictured above. Check out the ball:
Later, Alex got another one and gave it away to a little kid who came asking for it.
If you’re wondering, Alex does keep track of the minor league, college and Major League balls (in fact, he recently got his 1,000th overall baseball). However, he will not be counting those muddy balls he found outside the park. He will, however, count the two foul balls he got at this game.
The game ended a little after 9:30, and before we left we looked outside for those balls that left the park, but we couldn’t find them.
. . .
For every game I go to during the 2014 season, I recap my ball hawking adventures for Eutaw Street Report. Follow this link to read-up on all of my crazy ball hawking stories.