January 2011

PirateFest 2011: Grading the players, managers and others

Baseball experts grade trades, but obviously there has not been a big trade in Pirates baseball lately. PirateFest is a way of players and coaches saying thanks to the fans and some players do it better than others. This entry is meant to grade the players on their off the field activities and behaviors and in Christmas terms show who was naughty and who was nice.

Manager Clint Hurdle Grade- A+: Clint Hurdle gets it; he knows that Pirates fans have dealt with a losing team for 18 seasons and he knows how hungry this city is for a winner. I was at PirateFest on Friday and Sunday and both days Hurdle was active. Friday he endured two consecutive hours of questioning from fans (Ask Pirates Management which he also participated in on Saturday and Q&A involving all players and coaches) and also had interviews with Joe Bendel of ESPN 970 AM and Stan Savran for Inside Pirates Baseball. I was at the Savran interview, and before it, he posed for pictures (including one with me) and signed autographs. He really is the anti John Russell as he tells you what he thinks and tried to make an effort to talk with as many fans as possible. He was very active on Saturday as well I heard. A small complaint was after his obligation of participating in the Youth Clinic on the baseball field, he left. Still, after the clinic he signed autographs for as long as he could and talked with some fans. Before he left he thanked host Joe Klimchak and shook my hand and left. Kudos to Hurdle for making us all huge believers in his philosophy. Here’s to hoping, he can keep the players motivated and build a winner.

Jeff Banister- Grade A: Banister had a tough role, because if you did not identify him, chances are that not many Pirate fans would have known who he was. He had only one question directed towards him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A so it was tough on him there. Also, when the players were escorted to the break room, I saw Banister being escorted and no one ran after him for an autograph or anything. Banister was a big part of Saturday’s and Sunday’s Youth Clinic. I saw a part of the Sunday event and Banister seemed to be a big hit with the kids. One kid asked him if he had a World Series ring and Banister said that he did not, but he took off his Minor League ring and let the child hold it and pass it around. The fact that Banister trusted a kid with a valuable possession of his and also was able to interact with parents and children really speaks a lot about him as a person. Banister stayed longer for autographs than Hurdle after the Sunday clinic. Banister still will not be a household name, but remember, he almost became our manager and he showed glimpses of being able to handle the job.

Ray Searage Grade C-: This grade would be lower if he did not participate in Saturday’s Youth Clinic. Searage got a lot of questions thrown at him at Friday’s Season Ticket Q&A. One such question involved whether Searage or Chris Snyder should receive more credit for the pitchers improving their numbers. Searage immediately replied “Sny-rich” which drew some laughs. Searage was not used much and I did not see him at all on Sunday which was a shame as I would have been interested in talking with him. Still, I am taking it a little easy on Searage, especially since fans have not been too high on pitching coaches in the recent past.

Garrett Jones Grade B+: Jones was at PirateFest on Friday and Saturday. Jones made an immediate impact on Friday as both him and Kevin Correia were the first to sign in the MVP Zone which was exclusive for season ticket holders. Jones was active throughout Friday as he participated in two games, autographs signings and the season ticket holder Q&A. Someone asked Jones a question and said, “hypothetically if you were to marry my daughter, which Pirate would be your best man?” Jones paused as the question was an awkward on all counts and then answered Steve Pearce as he was a good friend. After the question, the audience could hear Jones whisper awkward into the mic. Still, not many would answer that question. Jones is really nice to the fans and if you ask him for an autograph, he is one of the nicest guys to get it from. Jones is an engaging guy. He got some points taken off for not attending Sunday’s festivities as I know a lot of kids love Jones. Still, he made an impact on PirateFest.

Jose Tabata Grade B+: Tabata was a huge hit at his first PirateFest. The fans loved Tabata and his charm, as well as his willingness to sign countless autographs for fans. The fans loved when he said “Black and Yellow” when mentioning that he would root for the Steelers. Tabata needs to be less shy and show more of his personality. I was able to break through because I spoke to him in Spanish, but he is not completely comfortable with English yet and that forced him to be a limited and that is why he did not get an A.

Neil Walker Grade B-: I know that I am grading Walker harshly, but he is “The Pittsburgh Kid”. Walker was sick for two days although he did appear Friday on Inside Pirates Baseball and the Player Q&A. He agreed to use “Black and Yellow” by Wiz Khalifa as his new at-bat song in order for one Pittsburgher to support another. Despite being sick, Walker tried to make up for lost time by making appearances on Sunday and it was noticed by parents and kids, but still regardless of the excuse, I was a little under the weather Sunday but I still showed up.

Andrew McCutchen Grade D: I have a huge problem with Andrew McCutchen and it is his off the field attitude. I am a huge fan of his on the field play but off the field he is conceited. I had a similar problem with Nyjer Morgan as both shine when a camera is in their face, but when it is off, they seem to care less about being anywhere. I first encountered this with Cutch at Bowling With the Bucs. I don’t know how to describe it, I mean he signed stuff, but he just felt indifferent and didn’t really feel like talking. McCutchen started out Season Ticket Q&A by signing a kid’s baseball, but soon the autograph requests came in and he kept saying “we’ll see”. Cutch fled quickly afterwards. Fellow ballhawk Erik Jabs also put up a Youtube video of McCutchen at a Caravan stop rolling his eyes at someone who was talking to Ross Ohlendorf because he was taking too long to get to him. At PirateFest on Sunday, he was in the public autograph signing wearing just a black shirt. All of the Pirates wear their home jerseys and it has been that way for years, the problem was corrected during Sunday’s MVP Zone signing session. McCutchen will have to improve his attitude, and fans need to see what is going on.

Paul Maholm Grade A+: Maholm is always good with the fans and if he does go at the trade deadline, then it will be a true loss for Pittsburgh. Maholm posed in photos with fans at a booth on Friday and also signed a ton of autographs all three days. He was a part of games such as Minute to Win It and the Perogie Eating Contest and he is a clear fan favorite. Maholm also was one of the Pirates with which it is easy to communicate with. Hopefully, some of his teammates will take note.

Brad Lincoln Grade A: Lincoln put himself out there, signing autographs for the public and even signing in the Pirates team store. It is easy to root for Lincoln to turn himself around after a disappointing 2010 season in the Major League level. Lincoln was at PirateFest all three days.

Kevin Correia Grade A: Correia told Rob Biertempfl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he went to PirateFest to meet his soon to be teammates but he was very social with the fans as well. He put himself out there right away signing for the season ticket holders on Friday in the MVP Zone. There was a video of him released showing a child how to release when throwing the baseball as part of Saturday’s Youth Clinic and he offered encouragement to the child. Correia also signed autographs even when he did not have to and also was willing to talk with the fans. I really hope that he has a nice season, and I believe that if he has any run support, that he will be the breakout player of this team.

Jeff Karstens Grade A: Karstens was at PirateFest all three days and he was active during all of these days. Karstens signed countless autographs without complaining and also participated in a lot of games. He was not a part of Friday’s season ticket Q&A as I believe he was signing autographs elsewhere at PirateFest. What is holding him back a little bit is that he is shy and he is not that engaging when it comes to interacting with the fans. Still, like Maholm, Karstens is very active in Pirates initiatives in the community.

Ross Ohlendorf Grade A+: Ohlendorf easily could have stayed home. I mean he is having a disagreement with Pirates management over his contract and it could take him to arbitration. Freddy Sanchez missed PirateFest a couple of years ago because of this and Doumit missed both the Caravan and PirateFest over a loss of favor in the organization. Ohlendorf could have pulled a Doumit and not come, but that is not Ohlendorf’s style. Not once did I hear Ohlendorf complain, and he signed many autographs and even on Friday when he was supposed to leave the main stage right away, he still signed an autograph and allowed me to take a picture of him. Ohlendorf is one of the nicest players on the team.

James McDonald Grade D+: I heard that McDonald was very nice on Saturday, but still because of illness he was not at Caravan stops and he was only at PirateFest on Saturday. This is supposed to be the ace of the staff and to not have him consistently represent the team gives him a low grade.

Charlie Morton Grade B: I did not see Morton much if at all on Friday. It seemed like he laid low unless he had an autograph signing. I know he played the games, but not much of his personality came out either. Still he did show up and did not complain at all, and for that he deserves a lot of credit.

Evan Meek Grade A+: Meek was great on all three days of PirateFest. He did not complain when signing autographs and he hosted a ton of games while at PirateFest. He made a funny banker at Deal or No Deal and at season ticket Q&A on Friday he really let his personality shine. After games and radio interviews, players are normally whisked away as soon as possible and not allowed to sign autographs, take pictures or sometimes even shake hands. Meek frequently made sure that he had time to do this. This review is unbiased although he is my favorite player and we had a couple of nice genuine conversations. Still, Meek is a great person and should have a great season.

Bob Nutting Grade B+: Nutting was very engaging with fans, myself included on Friday before his appearance on Inside Pirates Baseball and thanked all of us for coming. Nutting takes a lot of heat from fans, and a lot of the criticism he receives is unfair. I know it is easy to blame Nutting, but it is not all his fault. I am not saying that he is doing the best job ever, but still he obviously is doing something right if there is a record breaking crowd at PirateFest. I know that he was there on Sunday to speak to Suite Holders, but compared to Neal Huntington and Frank Coonelly, he was not out enough talking to the fans.

Frank Coonelly Grade A: The only thing preventing him from an A+ is that I did not see him on Sunday. I grade Huntington, Coonelly and Nutting harsher than others because they are expected to be out and about more than the others at PirateFest. On Friday, Coonelly was out and about all day talking to as many of the 3,500 fans that attended as possible. He posed for all kinds of pictures, answered questions at both Ask Pirates Management sessions, signed countless autographs and also tried his best to talk to the fans. The job he did is very commendable and Coonelly understands the need to talk to the fans to find out what they like and don’t like about what he is doing and the direction of the team. Here’s hoping that Coonelly will take in the fan’s opinions all season long in good times and bad.

Neal Huntington Grade A: Neal also took a beating from fans as like Coonelly, he had to answer questions in Ask Pirates Management. I did not see him make the rounds on Friday but he did make the rounds on Sunday and I was one of his many stops. For Huntington this is a make or break year as if the team does fail this season, he very well could go.

 I will have recaps of my Friday and Sunday adventures at PirateFest as well as pictures from Friday’s proceedings up later this week.

PirateFest 2011 Part 4

 I have heard a rumor involving the Friday autograph schedule for those season ticket holders attending Friday’s events. I forget the times and this is a projected list, so this very well may change.

Time #1: Garrett Jones and Kevin Correia

Time #2: Brad Lincoln and Clint Hurdle

Time #3: Evan Meek and Jose Tabata

Time #4: Jeff Banister and Charlie Morton

Time #5: Mike Easler and Bill Madlock

 These times were for the normal autograph lines and not the MVP Zone and again these could very well change, but with a week to go before PirateFest, it is a really exciting time to be a Pirates fan.

Zack Hample Interview Part IV

 As I said in the last entry, this post will be the interview in its entirety. I put a lot of time and effort in to this and I would like to thank Zack Hample author of The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches, for taking nearly an hour of his time to answer my questions. The interview itself ended up being over 14 pages and almost 5,300 words, but here is the completed product:

1.      You have written How To Snag Major League Baseballs and Watching Baseball Smarter, why a third book?

Zack Hample: “I just love to write first of all and I just love collecting baseballs. I love ballhawking, snagging, whatever you want to call it and although there’s some people out there who think that I’ve kind of already overdone it and sort of maxed it out, I still feel that there’s a lot more still to be said and it was even more than that even before I wrote this book. I had a vision for this book that was all about the baseball itself, and sort of an extension of my collection and my overall passion for this one particular hobby.”

2.      How did the title ultimately come to be?

Zack Hample: “The title was actually suggested by my editor and some other people at Random House. It took a long time to pick the title, and it was getting to the point where they needed a title because long before a book actually hits the stores, there’s publicity and there’s memos and releases and the publisher sends out stuff to bookstores to try and get them to pre-order the book, and they’re trying to generate interest way ahead of time and you have to be able to call it something at that point. Months ago, it really came time to make a decision and we went through a lot of ideas, and I really like the title that they ended up choosing. I think that it is catchy and I think it’s a pretty good idea of what the book is about.”

3.      We all know that a book takes research, how much research went into your book?

Hample: “A ton of research. I actually thought that this book, would be easier to write than Watching Baseball Smarter, and I’m such a big nerd with numbers and like to keep track of things. I actually keep track of all the hours that I spent writing, and Watching Baseball Smarter, took a total of about 1100 hours and I figured that this book would take less just because I knew there was going to be a lot of stuff on snagging baseballs which is pretty much all in my head and I figured I’d just be really passionate about the subject. My publisher actually told me that this book could be shorter. Watching Baseball Smarter, was 64,000 words, and they said for this one about the ball, aim for 50 to 70,000, so I thought great, if I can still get paid and write 50,000, then I guess that’s what I’ll aim for and that was my first thought, not like I was trying to sell anything short. Once I started getting into it, I just loved the material and kept finding so much of it that I really didn’t pay any attention to the word count and I ended up writing about 80,000 words and I needed to ask special permission to go over that limit. It took me a long time to write more words and it also took much longer than I expected because of all of the research that was involved. The bulk of my research came from the Hall of Fame. I was in touch with, Tim Wiles the Director of Research and he had a ton of information and he had several files on foul balls and the ball itself, actual Xeroxes of newspaper clippings dating back to the 1860′s and he told me that I was welcome to come up there and take a look at it for free. I guess otherwise I would have had to pay the admission to get into the museum that day, but that stuff is available to the public. That is way up-state in Cooperstown (New York) though, and I figured it would cost me a lot to get there, to rent a hotel and would have to stay a couple of nights am I just going to take all of my notes, in the span of two days? No I’m probably going to want to Xerox them anyway, so the other option was to pay $300 and have him Xerox everything and send it to me, so I chose that option. It wasn’t cheap. I also spent about a thousand dollars of my own money going to Costa Rica (a roundtrip flight, two nights in a hotel, etc..). I put a lot of money into this book which is how business works, you make an investment and you hope to end up with a great product in the end. The Hall of Fame sent me a phonebook sized stack of papers and I did nothing for a solid month, other then just comb through and read stuff and sort of methodically made my own index of what all of the different articles were about, categorized them and from there threw out a lot of stuff and highlighted a lot of stuff. That was a solid month of reading stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it. I felt like I was an English Major for a year and a half but other things involving research included visiting the Humidor where the Rockies store their baseballs. I knew that I was going to write about that in the book, and yes there were photos online and there were articles written, but like the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica, I could have written a chapter about it if I hadn’t been there, but I just knew that it would be a lot better if I could see it for myself. I also got to go and spend a day with the Phillies’ Equipment Manager and Citizens Bank Park on a day when the team was on the road. He took me into all of the secret areas of the stadium and showed me how he actually rubbed mud on baseballs that are used during games. So I went to certain places and gathered info along the way and even for the snagging baseballs section at the end of the book, I had already been to every Major League Stadium, but there were a few places that I hadn’t been to in about a decade and I knew that I wanted to write about those in the book. Again, I could have written stuff asking people about it, looking at photos and seeing charts of the stadium but I went to Atlanta for three games, I went to Cleveland for three games and I went on a few other trips just for the book. I kind of crammed those trips into last spring to beat one of the deadlines so I consider that research, and it was never ending really. So many interview requests and just a lot of online research, I sort of was poking around doing various searches and Google and just seeing what comes up and kind of following the leads and talking to people. That was a long answer, but that was because I did a lot of research. That’s why I took so long to write this book.”

4.      What was your favorite part of the book to write?

Hample: “I am not even quite sure how to answer this, because just in sort of looking through the book, or telling people about it, it seemed that whatever chapter I’m talking about, is sort of like ‘Oh man I love this chapter, this is my favorite chapter!’ and then I start thinking about the one that came after it and it’s like, ‘No, that’s my favorite chapter!’ I really enjoyed a chapter called “Foul Balls in Pop Culture” and there’s kind of two things there and the main one was that I critiqued a lot of TV shows and movies that had scenes in them with foul balls. That was a lot of fun, to actually watch these things, sometimes in slow motion and sometimes twenty times to pick up on little details and sort of play the role of film critic briefly, I think that really turned out to be a fun section. The timeline, “The Evolution of the Ball” which is definitely the biggest single chapter in the book, is pretty intense. It was probably the toughest section to write because it was so long, but I learned the most probably from writing that. It’s not like I knew all of this stuff going into the book, I learned a ton along the way. The “How to Snag Major League Baseballs” portion of the book, that was great because I got to write it in the first person. I didn’t write about myself just to hear myself talk but I thought that it would actually kind of change the tone of the book and make it more personal and be able to tell some stories that could help people out. It was fun to kind of change gears a little bit and it almost resembled my blog at times, and I sort of felt more of a connection of the reader or who I imagine the reader to be. I guess the Rawlings chapter as well was just a thrill on a personal note. It was the last chapter that I wrote and my dad was really sick at the time, and he was diagnosed with cancer in June, and he ended up dying in September and his last few weeks alive, he and I worked on that chapter together (he is also a writer) and I did all of the work and writing, but I would write a sentence and then read it to him and he’d say ‘great’ or ‘no I don’t like that word, what else can you put in there?’ We combed through that whole chapter together and he was with me every step of the way and it was our last real great time spent together. My mom said that he didn’t really have energy to be awake a whole lot during the day but whenever I came over with my laptop, it just energized him and he was so happy to see me and to work with me, so when I see that chapter, there’s a lot of my dad in it.”

5.      What do you want people to think of your book?

Hample: “In general, I really love it when I can share my passion with people and then other people share it back in return, so it’s sort of my way of saying to the world, ‘look how cool baseballs are’. This sort of explains why I am such a nutjob about it, and why I’m so into catching them. I want people who don’t even like baseball to enjoy this book, just because it sort of intellectualizes an object, and brings to life something that I think most people, wouldn’t think about.”

6.      Who is the target audience for your book?

Hample: “I don’t think any diehard baseball fan would know half of the stuff in the first two parts of the book, probably not even 10 percent of the first two parts of the book. There’s some famous stories for sure, but I go into a lot of detail that I certainly never knew and I probably know as much about baseballs anyone going into this book. I certainly have baseball fans in mind just because I use baseball jargon and I just talk about certain things about the sport without stopping to give a ton of context, whereas in Watching Baseball Smarter, I did stop and took some time to explain things, because I was trying to introduce people to the sport they might not have known as much about it coming in, so certainly a more educated fan I guess for this book, but I don’t really think you have to know a whole lot about baseball. There’s certainly a few things you might not get if you don’t know about baseball, but there’s just so many fun stories that are great out of context that I think anyone can read. I think that maybe kids under 10 years old might have a tough time but I think this book will appeal to a wide-range of readers, I hope so anyway.”

7.      What is your favorite picture in the book?

Hample: “Probably the Justin Bieber photo, no I’m just kidding. Well probably, the photos from the Rawlings factory, I guess, just because it’s a place that basically nobody gets to go to. I was fascinated with it long before I even dreamed of writing this book, I always wanted to go there. I was there on a family vacation in 2005, and I contacted Rawlings and tried to get them to let me in and of course they said no. I don’t know, it was such an elusive place and I have many more photos on my computer from the factory that did not make it into the book because there was limited space and all that, but I think just looking at those brings back some great memories. We all want behind the scenes access, we want special privileges, we want to see stuff other people don’t get to see, and so that’s what I think of when I see those photos and it’s pretty cool to be the one who gets to share that with other people.”

8.      Why three sections, and why did you come up with the three sections that you came up with?

Hample: “It took a lot of planning and scheming and strategizing and the biggest challenge by far with this whole book, was simply figuring out how to organize all of the information. It just seemed logical, I mean it’s not like three is the magic number or anything like that, I mean I would have done five parts if there were five huge, different areas that needed to be talked about and at one point I just considered doing two parts. I knew it would be at least two, as I thought about doing a snagging part and then everything else, and there was even a time when I was considering four and I forget what the fourth one would have been but it really just worked out that way. The structure of the book kept evolving right up until the end.”

9.      You tried to incorporate the good of baseball such as how crazy people were in the early 1900′s over baseballs and the bad such as death in baseball. Why do you think there is so much good and bad in baseball?

Hample: “I think that baseball is probably a reflection of life in general, I mean it’s not all bad and it’s not going to be all great. I think that’s sort of the nature of the world and there’s just a lot of money involved in baseball and a lot of ego so there’s a lot of drama in that sense. You are dealing with a very hard object of course, that can travel more than 120 miles per hour when it leaves the bat so from a physical standpoint, there’s certainly the chance that destructive things will happen. I just think that’s sort of how it goes, it is what it is, and that’s what makes it so entertaining too as something great might happen but something tragic may happen as well and you sort of live and die with it, sometimes literally.”

10.  What inspired you to write down the complete history of the baseball (“The Evolution of the Ball”)?

Hample: “Just my own curiosity inspired it and I just felt like that was an essential part of it. It’s a book about the ball and in fact, when I tell people about the book, I tell them the title, and the first thing they ask is, ‘oh it’s like a history of the ball,” and it’s funny that that is the first thing they mention, and I have to say, ‘well yes, there’s a chapter about that but there’s so much more’. So I think without even really knowing much or thinking much about it, it’s sort of a logical obvious thing to write about and from a personal standpoint, I was fascinated myself in how it had changed and how it affected the sport along the way.”

11.  You made a youtube video recently showing all that was inside the baseball. What inspires you to break down the baseball… literally and would you recommend it to others?

Hample: “That’s something that I had done on my own a couple of times over the years, just out of curiosity. I’m not really particularly handy or good at fixing things or you hear stories about kids who took their parents microwaves apart when they were seven and then learned how to put it together and now they’re an expert mechanic. It’s not anything like that with me, I was curious to see what was inside of it and as far as the Youtube video goes, as with the book itself, it’s just something I love so much that I want to share with a wider audience  and it would be fun and interesting really for people to see it.”

12.  Why did you decide to put all of the pictures in of the commemorative baseballs, and how many different types of commemoratives out there?

Hample: “I don’t know the exact number, and it is kind of hard to pin down, because there have been prototypes of balls that were never released to the public but there are a  few collectors who have them. They weren’t ever used in games, so many are unsure if you count those. There sometimes is one logo which has three different versions and different background colors, so do you count that as three different ones or just one? It’s hard to pin down a number, but there are hundreds. I’m friends with someone who is a serious commemorative baseball collector, and he shared with me a master list at one point, and he was very helpful and it helped me come up with those 36 commemorative balls that you see in the book. The reason why I wanted to put those in there, quite simply, is who doesn’t love photos? My editor told me, that unfortunately we were not able to do color photos but she said you can have as many black and white photos as you want. Photos or any kind of visual really, bring stuff to life, and I just wanted to have a whole chunk of photos. When I pick up some random book in a store, I always flip through to see if there are pictures and I look at those and read the captions and I wanted that to be the case with this book, but not just have them clustered in one little area, but have them all throughout the book. I struggle with ADD, I haven’t officially been diagnosed, but I don’t want to read something that’s just hundreds of solid pages of text, I like it when it’s broken up a little bit with cool stuff to look at.”

13.  Sticking to the same theme, what is your favorite commemorative baseball, either snagged or not snagged?

Hample: “I think the prettiest one is La Primera Serie from Monterrey, Mexico. The captions says that, ‘it is the first commemorative ball for actual regular season games that took place outside of the US or Canada’ and it’s too bad that there are not color photos in the book, because this particular ball is just gorgeous. The ball has alternating red and green stitches and the actual stamping from the ball is red, so it’s extremely festive. That’s a popular ball in general among collectors, and I think it is one of the coolest ones. I’m not sure about the rarity of the ball, there might have been a lot of them made and just sold as souvenirs, it’s only 15-years-old or so.”

14.  Now on to something both you and I are rather familiar with- snagging. You wrote an entire book on this topic earlier, how is this section different from that book?

Hample: “The first thing I want to say about it is that I didn’t simply copy and paste my first book into the final third of this new one. I completely rewrote it. A lot of the chapter names are the same, I got that right when I was 19 and wrote the book the first time, but looking back at that first book now, I’m actually kind of embarrassed by it. I think the writing is terrible and I wasn’t nearly as knowledgeable about this stuff and it’s not really a good book. I mean you could say ‘yeah well it was good for a college kid’ or whatever, but it’s certainly not my best work. I think that I had only been to a dozen stadiums by the time I wrote that first one, and now I’ve been to 48, and I talk about many different stadiums, many different players and stories, I’ve learned much more about this since I wrote the first one. The writing is better; it’s more fun, it’s more personal, and I sort of go beyond myself and beyond just catching balls and bring in stories about the sport too and sort of actual historical things and things that were in the news connected to ballhawking. I think it’s a good enough section that people that don’t even want to catch baseballs would have fun reading it.”

15.  If you could give a quick tip to those reading this interview that are interested in ballhawking that you do not normally give, what would it be and why?

Hample: “I have to say that every possible strategy that I’ve ever thought of is in the book, I did not withhold a single thing. The only thing that I understated in the book was when it came to sneaking past security and being sneaky. I didn’t want to go there, I don’t want to (tick) off anybody in Major League Baseball or get myself in serious trouble. It’s all there in the book, so I would just sort of reiterate the basic things, which are: show up early to batting practice, bring a glove, and invest a few bucks in buying some clothing of the visiting team as you’ll really get a lot of balls tossed at you. Those are just the basics, so just go out to a park sometime, and have a friend hit a few fungos and just practice catching fly balls, it can really be helpful, just learning how to judge a a ball. I don’t have an extra insider’s info, and part three of this book is so through that it may come back to haunt me. I’ve already lost out on a lot of baseballs because other people were there to catch them that got into it because of me, and they were using my own tricks against me. I’m willing to make that sacrifice and lose out on a few baseballs here and there just to be able to share this with a lot of people. There are many baseballs to be caught, and if my numbers are just slightly down at the end of the year, so be it, I’m sure there’s a lot of other people out there that will be happy to have caught those baseballs.”

16.  For those interested in ballhawking but who have never tried, what is the top saying you use to get a player’s attention for a baseball?

Hample: “My voice. I mean that might sound obvious, but I think if you’ve never really tried or have never you gone early, you might not realize that it is perfectly acceptable to shout out at the players as loud as you possibly can as long as you do it politely and you don’t expect anything and you’re not demanding and you say please. Just don’t be shy, raise your voice and make yourself be heard.”

17.  What is your favorite snag?

Hample: “I’m still going to go with the last home run ever at Shea Stadium (hit by a Met), just because it was incredibly crowded and it was a very historic game and I practically grew up in that stadium and I never caught a home run there in all the years that I’d been there, and then with just a few innings to go, I managed to do it, and to me that’s better then a Barry Bonds home run because Bonds is just one guy, and of course, there’s speculation that he may have done some dishonest things along the way. The Mets home run ball represents an entire organization, a city and a stadium so that one is going to be hard to beat, unless I catch somebody’s 500th home run or someone’s 3000th hit, maybe it will be a ground-rule double and bounce up to me.”

18.  Why should people buy your book? What makes it different from other baseball books?

Hample: “Well, because it’s fun and interesting and because I think a lot of books out there focus on a particular player, they focus on a team, they’ll focus on a particular World Series, they’ll focus on some history and there will be a lot of trivia, but my book it, as far as I know, there has never been a book that just focused on an object before like this or to this extent in baseball. It’s a different kind of baseball book, it’s sort of like a look at the sport itself through the lens of the ball.”

19.  Who is your favorite current baseball player?

Hample: “I’m going to have to go with Heath Bell. He’s been so incredibly nice to me and I already felt that he was my favorite two years ago before he was even a closer, and now look at him, he’s the man. He’s making all-star teams, he’s in the spotlight and he’s the man for the Padres so I think it’s got to be Heath Bell. I mean there are other guys I just love. I’ve always loved Jeter and Mariano. Mariano Rivera and Ichiro Suzuki- I love those two guys because they found their own unique way to succeed. I mean Mariano, just throws one speed and yet he just dominates and throws off Major League hitters, it’s unheard of, and Ichiro, he’s practically got his (butt) hanging out of the batter’s box and he’s running one way, his bat goes the other way and he weighs like 30 pounds with rocks in his pockets and he just should not be a professional athlete or baseball player, and it’s not just like he made it, I mean he dominates, so I sort of feel like he is an underdog even though he is still great, so I appreciate players like that.”

20.  What team is the best bp team for you?

Hample: “The Marlins. The Marlins have always been really generous with tossing out baseballs into the crowd and it may be because I have a wonderful teal colored outfit, but for a number of years, they’ve just had a ton of righties and just guys that really crush the ball. I’ve always put up good numbers and had a lot of fun seeing the Marlins play.”

21.  Since I will likely put this on my Pirates blog, what do you make of the Pirates?

Hample: “In general, I actually don’t keep up with off-season news, just because baseball completely takes over my life during the warmer months, that I actually like to take the winter months and get as far away from it as possible, so I don’t really know that much about what’s been happening in the Major Leagues in general since the end of the World Series and then you sort of go a step further back and talk about the Pirates, I couldn’t tell you a single move they made. For all I know, Albert Pujols may have signed with them but… wait, is Clint Hurdle going to be managing them? (Upon finding out that Garrett Atkins will join them) I think he has proven that he can hit a mile above sea level. I don’t expect good things from the Pirates, this season, just judging on past performance. I mean I would love for the Pirates to win the division, I would love it, again, I love the underdog and Pittsburgh is such a wonderful baseball city that just goes back to generations and I would love to see that franchise resurrect itself, but I don’t see it just turning around that quickly, but no one thought the Padres were going to do anything last year, I mean everybody thought that they were going to suck, and they did end up missing the playoffs, but they surprised a lot of people.

22.  What do you make of PNC Park from a ballhawking perspective?

Hample: “My best advice on how to handle right field at PNC Park is not to go there or hang out behind the bleachers before the stadium opens. I know I put PNC Park in my top 10, but it sort of barely squeaked in there. It is not a great batting practice park, but it’s really good during games. If I were just according to BP, I probably would have put Citizens Bank Park in there. I have become more home run conscious. There’s sort of that flat standing room area between the bleachers and that low second deck that helps a lot.”

23.  Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Hample: “Ballhawking as a cultural phenomenon gets a lot of bad press and there’s a lot of negativity associated with it. People have this perception that ballhawks knock over little kids and steal baseballs from them, just because I catch one ball means that someone else is deprived of it, but that’s really not how it works, and it’s something that kids of all ages just enjoy. I try to give back I’m raising money for a charity and I give a lot of baseballs to kids and I see other ballhawks doing the same thing. When my first book came out, I was sort of all about keeping every single ball and I even wrote a list of excuses not give people on why not to give them a baseball and I am pretty embarrassed by that now. My attitude has changed, and ballhawking has received a lot of press in the last few years and I think it’s going to get a lot more in the coming seasons when A-Rod starts taking aim at Bonds’ career record  and Pujols as well. Everyone is going to be hearing about ballhawks, and ballhawk related things. I think that the less people know about this, the more negative things they will tend to assume but I think for people who aren’t familiar with this, give it a chance, read the book, read some blogs of ballhawks, go on mygameballs.com, read some of the columns  and read your (Zac’s) blog. It is a really fun, positive hobby and like anything, there are some negative things that do arise, but it’s just pretty cool, and I just want more people to know about it and give it a fair shake.”

 

Zack Hample Interview Part III

 There will be one additional part to this interview, however it will be the entire interview. This entry is the remainder of the interview, as somehow I managed to finish the interview. Here is Part III:

10.      What is your favorite picture in the book?

Hample: “Probably the Justin Bieber photo, no I’m just kidding. Well probably, the photos from the Rawlings factory, I guess, just because it’s a place that basically nobody gets to go to. I was fascinated with it long before I even dreamed of writing this book, I always wanted to go there. I was there on a family vacation in 2005, and I contacted Rawlings and tried to get them to let me in and of course they said no. I don’t know, it was such an elusive place and I have many more photos on my computer from the factory that did not make it into the book because there was limited space and all that, but I think just looking at those brings back some great memories. We all want behind the scenes access, we want special privileges, we want to see stuff other people don’t get to see, and so that’s what I think of when I see those photos and it’s pretty cool to be the one who gets to share that with other people.”

11.      You made a youtube video recently showing all that was inside the baseball. What inspires you to break down the baseball… literally and would you recommend it to others?

Hample: “That’s something that I had done on my own a couple of times over the years, just out of curiosity. I’m not really particularly handy or good at fixing things or you hear stories about kids who took their parents microwaves apart when they were seven and then learned how to put it together and now they’re an expert mechanic. It’s not anything like that with me, I was curious to see what was inside of it and as far as the Youtube video goes, as with the book itself, it’s just something I love so much that I want to share with a wider audience  and it would be fun and interesting really for people to see it.”

12.      Why did you decide to put all of the pictures in of the commemorative baseballs, and how many different types of commemoratives out there?

Hample: “I don’t know the exact number, and it is kind of hard to pin down, because there have been prototypes of balls that were never released to the public but there are a  few collectors who have them. They weren’t ever used in games, so many are unsure if you count those. There sometimes is one logo which has three different versions and different background colors, so do you count that as three different ones or just one? It’s hard to pin down a number, but there are hundreds. I’m friends with someone who is a serious commemorative baseball collector, and he shared with me a master list at one point, and he was very helpful and it helped me come up with those 36 commemorative balls that you see in the book. The reason why I wanted to put those in there, quite simply, is who doesn’t love photos? My editor told me, that unfortunately we were not able to do color photos but she said you can have as many black and white photos as you want. Photos or any kind of visual really, bring stuff to life, and I just wanted to have a whole chunk of photos. When I pick up some random book in a store, I always flip through to see if there are pictures and I look at those and read the captions and I wanted that to be the case with this book, but not just have them clustered in one little area, but have them all throughout the book. I struggle with ADD, I haven’t officially been diagnosed, but I don’t want to read something that’s just hundreds of solid pages of text, I like it when it’s broken up a little bit with cool stuff to look at.”

13.      Sticking to the same theme, what is your favorite commemorative baseball, either snagged or not snagged?

Hample: “I think the prettiest one is La Primera Serie from Monterrey, Mexico. The captions says that, ‘it is the first commemorative ball for actual regular season games that took place outside of the US or Canada’ and it’s too bad that there are not color photos in the book, because this particular ball is just gorgeous. The ball has alternating red and green stitches and the actual stamping from the ball is red, so it’s extremely festive. That’s a popular ball in general among collectors, and I think it is one of the coolest ones. I’m not sure about the rarity of the ball, there might have been a lot of them made and just sold as souvenirs, it’s only 15-years-old or so.”

14.      Now on to something both you and I are rather familiar with- snagging. You wrote an entire book on this topic earlier, how is this section different from that book?

Hample: “The first thing I want to say about it is that I didn’t simply copy and paste my first book into the final third of this new one. I completely rewrote it. A lot of the chapter names are the same, I got that right when I was 19 and wrote the book the first time, but looking back at that first book now, I’m actually kind of embarrassed by it. I think the writing is terrible and I wasn’t nearly as knowledgeable about this stuff and it’s not really a good book. I mean you could say ‘yeah well it was good for a college kid’ or whatever, but it’s certainly not my best work. I think that I had only been to a dozen stadiums by the time I wrote that first one, and now I’ve been to 48, and I talk about many different stadiums, many different players and stories, I’ve learned much more about this since I wrote the first one. The writing is better; it’s more fun, it’s more personal, and I sort of go beyond myself and beyond just catching balls and bring in stories about the sport too and sort of actual historical things and things that were in the news connected to ballhawking. I think it’s a good enough section that people that don’t even want to catch baseballs would have fun reading it.”

15.      If you could give a quick tip to those reading this interview that are interested in ballhawking that you do not normally give, what would it be and why?

Hample: “I have to say that every possible strategy that I’ve ever thought of is in the book, I did not withhold a single thing. The only thing that I understated in the book was when it came to sneaking past security and being sneaky. I didn’t want to go there, I don’t want to (tick) off anybody in Major League Baseball or get myself in serious trouble. It’s all there in the book, so I would just sort of reiterate the basic things, which are: show up early to batting practice, bring a glove, and invest a few bucks in buying some clothing of the visiting team as you’ll really get a lot of balls tossed at you. Those are just the basics, so just go out to a park sometime, and have a friend hit a few fungos and just practice catching fly balls, it can really be helpful, just learning how to judge a a ball. I don’t have an extra insider’s info, and part three of this book is so through that it may come back to haunt me. I’ve already lost out on a lot of baseballs because other people were there to catch them that got into it because of me, and they were using my own tricks against me. I’m willing to make that sacrifice and lose out on a few baseballs here and there just to be able to share this with a lot of people. There are many baseballs to be caught, and if my numbers are just slightly down at the end of the year, so be it, I’m sure there’s a lot of other people out there that will be happy to have caught those baseballs.”

16.      For those interested in ballhawking but who have never tried, what is the top saying you use to get a player’s attention for a baseball?

Hample: “My voice. I mean that might sound obvious, but I think if you’ve never really tried or have never you gone early, you might not realize that it is perfectly acceptable to shout out at the players as loud as you possibly can as long as you do it politely and you don’t expect anything and you’re not demanding and you say please. Just don’t be shy, raise your voice and make yourself be heard.”

17.      What is your favorite snag?

Hample: “I’m still going to go with the last home run ever at Shea Stadium (hit by a Met), just because it was incredibly crowded and it was a very historic game and I practically grew up in that stadium and I never caught a home run there in all the years that I’d been there, and then with just a few innings to go, I managed to do it, and to me that’s better then a Barry Bonds home run because Bonds is just one guy, and of course, there’s speculation that he may have done some dishonest things along the way. The Mets home run ball represents an entire organization, a city and a stadium so that one is going to be hard to beat, unless I catch somebody’s 500th home run or someone’s 3000th hit, maybe it will be a ground-rule double and bounce up to me.”

18.      Why should people buy your book? What makes it different from other baseball books?

Hample: “Well, because it’s fun and interesting and because I think a lot of books out there focus on a particular player, they focus on a team, they’ll focus on a particular World Series, they’ll focus on some history and there will be a lot of trivia, but my book it, as far as I know, there has never been a book that just focused on an object before like this or to this extent in baseball. It’s a different kind of baseball book, it’s sort of like a look at the sport itself through the lens of the ball.”

19.      Who is your favorite current baseball player?

Hample: “I’m going to have to go with Heath Bell. He’s been so incredibly nice to me and I already felt that he was my favorite two years ago before he was even a closer, and now look at him, he’s the man. He’s making all-star teams, he’s in the spotlight and he’s the man for the Padres so I think it’s got to be Heath Bell. I mean there are other guys I just love. I’ve always loved Jeter and Mariano. Mariano Rivera and Ichiro Suzuki- I love those two guys because they found their own unique way to succeed. I mean Mariano, just throws one speed and yet he just dominates and throws off Major League hitters, it’s unheard of, and Ichiro, he’s practically got his (butt) hanging out of the batter’s box and he’s running one way, his bat goes the other way and he weighs like 30 pounds with rocks in his pockets and he just should not be a professional athlete or baseball player, and it’s not just like he made it, I mean he dominates, so I sort of feel like he is an underdog even though he is still great, so I appreciate players like that.”

20.  What team is the best bp team for you?

Hample: “The Marlins. The Marlins have always been really generous with tossing out baseballs into the crowd and it may be because I have a wonderful teal colored outfit, but for a number of years, they’ve just had a ton of righties and just guys that really crush the ball. I’ve always put up good numbers and had a lot of fun seeing the Marlins play.”

21.  Since I will likely put this on my Pirates blog, what do you make of the Pirates?

Hample: “In general, I actually don’t keep up with off-season news, just because baseball completely takes over my life during the warmer months, that I actually like to take the winter months and get as far away from it as possible, so I don’t really know that much about what’s been happening in the Major Leagues in general since the end of the World Series and then you sort of go a step further back and talk about the Pirates, I couldn’t tell you a single move they made. For all I know, Albert Pujols may have signed with them but… wait, is Clint Hurdle going to be managing them? (Upon finding out that Garrett Atkins will join them) I think he has proven that he can hit a mile above sea level. I don’t expect good things from the Pirates, this season, just judging on past performance. I mean I would love for the Pirates to win the division, I would love it, again, I love the underdog and Pittsburgh is such a wonderful baseball city that just goes back to generations and I would love to see that franchise resurrect itself, but I don’t see it just turning around that quickly, but no one thought the Padres were going to do anything last year, I mean everybody thought that they were going to suck, and they did end up missing the playoffs, but they surprised a lot of people.

22.  What do you make of PNC Park from a ballhawking perspective?

Hample: “My best advice on how to handle right field at PNC Park is not to go there or hang out behind the bleachers before the stadium opens. I know I put PNC Park in my top 10, but it sort of barely squeaked in there. It is not a great batting practice park, but it’s really good during games. If I were just according to BP, I probably would have put Citizen’s Bank Park in there. I have become more home run conscious. There’s sort of that flat standing room area between the bleachers and that low second deck that helps a lot.”

23.  Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Hample: “Ballhawking as a cultural phenomenon gets a lot of bad press and there’s a lot of negativity associated with it. People have this perception that ballhawks knock over little kids and steal baseballs from them, just because I catch one ball means that someone else is deprived of it, but that’s really not how it works, and it’s something that kids of all ages just enjoy. I try to give back I’m raising money for a charity and I give a lot of baseballs to kids and I see other ballhawks doing the same thing. When my first book came out, I was sort of all about keeping every single ball and I even wrote a list of excuses not give people on why not to give them a baseball and I am pretty embarrassed by that now. My attitude has changed, and ballhawking has received a lot of press in the last few years and I think it’s going to get a lot more in the coming seasons when A-Rod starts taking aim at Bonds’ career record  and Pujols as well. Everyone is going to be hearing about ballhawks, and ballhawk related things. I think that the less people know about this, the more negative things they will tend to assume but I think for people who aren’t familiar with this, give it a chance, read the book, read some blogs of ballhawks, go on mygameballs.com, read some of the columns  and read your (Zac’s) blog. It is a really fun, positive hobby and like anything, there are some negative things that do arise, but it’s just pretty cool, and I just want more people to know about it and give it a fair shake.”

 

 

Zack Hample Interview Part II

 I apologize for this post coming later than expected. I had to write a lot of articles for publication and also had my second semester of college start this week so naturally I was busy. This part of the interview accounted for a little over 21 of the over 48 minutes recorded between myself and Zack Hample author of The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches. As a side note, there will be one or two additional entries with the remainder of the interview, which will be posted as soon as I get the chance to do so. Without further ado, here is Part II (see I rhymed there :) :

1.      You have written How To Snag Major League Baseballs and Watching Baseball Smarter, why a third book?

Zack Hample: “I just love to write first of all and I just love collecting baseballs. I love ballhawking, snagging, whatever you want to call it and although there’s some people out there who think that I’ve kind of already overdone it and sort of maxed it out, I still feel that there’s a lot more still to be said and it was even more than that even before I wrote this book. I had a vision for this book that was all about the baseball itself, and sort of an extension of my collection and my overall passion for this one particular hobby.”

2.      How did the title ultimately come to be?

Zack Hample: “The title was actually suggested by my editor and some other people at Random House. It took a long time to pick the title, and it was getting to the point where they needed a title because long before a book actually hits the stores, there’s publicity and there’s memos and releases and the publisher sends out stuff to bookstores to try and get them to pre-order the book, and they’re trying to generate interest way ahead of time and you have to be able to call it something at that point. Months ago, it really came time to make a decision and we went through a lot of ideas, and I really like the title that they ended up choosing. I think that it is catchy and I think it’s a pretty good idea of what the book is about.”

3.      We all know that a book takes research, how much research went into your book?

Hample: “A ton of research. I actually thought that this book, would be easier to write than Watching Baseball Smarter, and I’m such a big nerd with numbers and like to keep track of things. I actually keep track of all the hours that I spent writing, and Watching Baseball Smarter, took a total of about 1100 hours and I figured that this book would take less just because I knew there was going to be a lot of stuff on snagging baseballs which is pretty much all in my head and I figured I’d just be really passionate about the subject. My publisher actually told me that this book could be shorter. Watching Baseball Smarter, was 64,000 words, and they said for this one about the ball, aim for 50 to 70,000, so I thought great, if I can still get paid and write 50,000, then I guess that’s what I’ll aim for and that was my first thought, not like I was trying to sell anything short. Once I started getting into it, I just loved the material and kept finding so much of it that I really didn’t pay any attention to the word count and I ended up writing about 80,000 words and I needed to ask special permission to go over that limit. It took me a long time to write more words and it also took much longer than I expected because of all of the research that was involved. The bulk of my research came from the Hall of Fame. I was in touch with, Tim Wiles the Director of Research and he had a ton of information and he had several files on foul balls and the ball itself, actual Xeroxes of newspaper clippings dating back to the 1860′s and he told me that I was welcome to come up there and take a look at it for free. I guess otherwise I would have had to pay the admission to get into the museum that day, but that stuff is available to the public. That is way up-state in Cooperstown (New York) though, and I figured it would cost me a lot to get there, to rent a hotel and would have to stay a couple of nights am I just going to take all of my notes, in the span of two days? No I’m probably going to want to Xerox them anyway, so the other option was to pay $300 and have him Xerox everything and send it to me, so I chose that option. It wasn’t cheap. I also spent about a thousand dollars of my own money going to Costa Rica (a roundtrip flight, two nights in a hotel, etc..). I put a lot of money into this book which is how business works, you make an investment and you hope to end up with a great product in the end. The Hall of Fame sent me a phonebook sized stack of papers and I did nothing for a solid month, other then just comb through and read stuff and sort of methodically made my own index of what all of the different articles were about, categorized them and from there threw out a lot of stuff and highlighted a lot of stuff. That was a solid month of reading stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it. I felt like I was an English Major for a year and a half but other things involving research included visiting the Humidor where the Rockies store their baseballs. I knew that I was going to write about that in the book, and yes there were photos online and there were articles written, but like the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica, I could have written a chapter about it if I hadn’t been there, but I just knew that it would be a lot better if I could see it for myself. I also got to go and spend a day with the Phillies’ Equipment Manager and Citizen’s Bank Park on a day when the team was on the road. He took me into all of the secret areas of the stadium and showed me how he actually rubbed mud on baseballs that are used during games. So I went to certain places and gathered info along the way and even for the snagging baseballs section at the end of the book, I had already been to every Major League Stadium, but there were a few places that I hadn’t been to in about a decade and I knew that I wanted to write about those in the book. Again, I could have written stuff asking people about it, looking at photos and seeing charts of the stadium but I went to Atlanta for three games, I went to Cleveland for three games and I went on a few other trips just for the book. I kind of crammed those trips into last spring to beat one of the deadlines so I consider that research, and it was never ending really. So many interview requests and just a lot of online research, I sort of was poking around doing various searches and Google and just seeing what comes up and kind of following the leads and talking to people. That was a long answer, but that was because I did a lot of research. That’s why I took so long to write this book.”

4.      What was your favorite part of the book to write?

Hample: “I am not even quite sure how to answer this, because just in sort of looking through the book, or telling people about it, it seemed that whatever chapter I’m talking about, is sort of like ‘Oh man I love this chapter, this is my favorite chapter!’ and then I start thinking about the one that came after it and it’s like, ‘No, that’s my favorite chapter!’ I really enjoyed a chapter called “Foul Balls in Pop Culture” and there’s kind of two things there and the main one was that I critiqued a lot of TV shows and movies that had scenes in them with foul balls. That was a lot of fun, to actually watch these things, sometimes in slow motion and sometimes twenty times to pick up on little details and sort of play the role of film critic briefly, I think that really turned out to be a fun section. The timeline, “The Evolution of the Ball” which is definitely the biggest single chapter in the book, is pretty intense. It was probably the toughest section to write because it was so long, but I learned the most probably from writing that. It’s not like I knew all of this stuff going into the book, I learned a ton along the way. The “How to Snag Major League Baseballs” portion of the book, that was great because I got to write it in the first person. I didn’t write about myself just to hear myself talk but I thought that it would actually kind of change the tone of the book and make it more personal and be able to tell some stories that could help people out. It was fun to kind of change gears a little bit and it almost resembled my blog at times, and I sort of felt more of a connection of the reader or who I imagine the reader to be. I guess the Rawlings chapter as well was just a thrill on a personal note. It was the last chapter that I wrote and my dad was really sick at the time, and he was diagnosed with cancer in June, and he ended up dying in September and his last few weeks alive, he and I worked on that chapter together (he is also a writer) and I did all of the work and writing, but I would write a sentence and then read it to him and he’d say ‘great’ or ‘no I don’t like that word, what else can you put in there?’ We combed through that whole chapter together and he was with me every step of the way and it was our last real great time spent together. My mom said that he didn’t really have energy to be awake a whole lot during the day but whenever I came over with my laptop, it just energized him and he was so happy to see me and to work with me, so when I see that chapter, there’s a lot of my dad in it.”

5.      What do you want people to think of your book?

Hample: “In general, I really love it when I can share my passion with people and then other people share it back in return, so it’s sort of my way of saying to the world, ‘look how cool baseballs are’. This sort of explains why I am such a nutjob about it, and why I’m so into catching them. I want people who don’t even like baseball to enjoy this book, just because it sort of intellectualizes an object, and brings to life something that I think most people, wouldn’t think about.”

6.      Who is the target audience for your book?

Hample: “I don’t think any diehard baseball fan would know half of the stuff in the first two parts of the book, probably not even 10 percent of the first two parts of the book. There’s some famous stories for sure, but I go into a lot of detail that I certainly never knew and I probably know as much about baseballs anyone going into this book. I certainly have baseball fans in mind just because I use baseball jargon and I just talk about certain things about the sport without stopping to give a ton of context, whereas in Watching Baseball Smarter, I did stop and took some time to explain things, because I was trying to introduce people to the sport they might not have known as much about it coming in, so certainly a more educated fan I guess for this book, but I don’t really think you have to know a whole lot about baseball. There’s certainly a few things you might not get if you don’t know about baseball, but there’s just so many fun stories that are great out of context that I think anyone can read. I think that maybe kids under 10 years old might have a tough time but I think this book will appeal to a wide-range of readers, I hope so anyway.”

7.      Why three sections, and why did you come up with the three sections that you came up with?

Hample: “It took a lot of planning and scheming and strategizing and the biggest challenge by far with this whole book, was simply figuring out how to organize all of the information. It just seemed logical, I mean it’s not like three is the magic number or anything like that, I mean I would have done five parts if there were five huge, different areas that needed to be talked about and at one point I just considered doing two parts. I knew it would be at least two, as I thought about doing a snagging part and then everything else, and there was even a time when I was considering four and I forget what the fourth one would have been but it really just worked out that way. The structure of the book kept evolving right up until the end.”

8.      You tried to incorporate the good of baseball such as how crazy people were in the early 1900′s over baseballs and the bad such as death in baseball. Why do you think there is so much good and bad in baseball?

Hample: “I think that baseball is probably a reflection of life in general, I mean it’s not all bad and it’s not going to be all great. I think that’s sort of the nature of the world and there’s just a lot of money involved in baseball and a lot of ego so there’s a lot of drama in that sense. You are dealing with a very hard object of course, that can travel more than 120 miles per hour when it leaves the bat so from a physical standpoint, there’s certainly the chance that destructive things will happen. I just think that’s sort of how it goes, it is what it is, and that’s what makes it so entertaining too as something great might happen but something tragic may happen as well and you sort of live and die with it, sometimes literally.”

9.  What inspired you to write down the complete history of the baseball (“The Evolution of the Ball”)?

Hample: “Just my own curiosity inspired it and I just felt like that was an essential part of it. It’s a book about the ball and in fact, when I tell people about the book, I tell them the title, and the first thing they ask is, ‘oh it’s like a history of the ball,” and it’s funny that that is the first thing they mention, and I have to say, ‘well yes, there’s a chapter about that but there’s so much more’. So I think without even really knowing much or thinking much about it, it’s sort of a logical obvious thing to write about and from a personal standpoint, I was fascinated myself in how it had changed and how it affected the sport along the way.”

 

PirateFest 2011 Part 4

The Pirates have put the autograph schedule as well as the event schedule, which is something they have not put up before. As a side note these are the autograph lines however the MVP Zone lines will not be put up. It usually is just who is available. 

 

PirateFest 2011 Live Event Schedules**

Saturday, January 29
Event Time Location Participants
Minute To Win It 12:00 Noon – 1:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Evan Meek, Joe Klimchak
Softball Clinic 12:00 Noon – 1:00 p.m. PirateFest Field TBA
Youth Baseball Clinic 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Clint Hurdle, Jeff Banister, Kevin Correia, Bob Walk
Deal or No Deal 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Jeff Karstens, Charlie Morton, Greg Brown
We Are Family Feud 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Neil Walker, Jose Tabata, Joe Klimchak
Pierogie Eating Contest 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Paul Maholm, Greg Brown
2011 Pirates Q&A 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage 2011 Pirates, Greg Brown
Reading with the Parrot 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Pirate Parrot, Cannonball Crew
Ask Pirates Management 4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Clint Hurdle, Neal Huntington, Frank Coonelly, Greg Brown
Minute to Win It 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage James McDonald, Joe Klimchak
Pierogie Eating Contest 5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Ross Ohlendorf, John Wehner
Deal or No Deal 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage James McDonald, Greg Brown
Guitar Hero 6:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Andrew McCutchen, Joe Klimchak
Sunday, January 30
Event Time Location Participants
Youth Baseball Clinic 12:00 Noon – 1:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Clint Hurdle, Jeff Banister, Joe Klimchak
Deal or No Deal 12:00 Noon – 1:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Evan Meek, Tim Neverett
Minute To Win It 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Paul Maholm, Tim Neverett
Guitar Hero 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Jeff Karstens, Joe Klimchak
We Are Family Feud 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Paul Maholm, Charlie Morton, Joe Klimchak
Pierogie Eating Contest 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Brad Lincoln, Tim Neverett
Deal or No Deal 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. PirateFest Stage Ross Ohlendorf, Tim Neverett
Reading with the Parrot 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. PirateFest Field Pirate Parrot, Cannonball Crew

PirateFest 2011 Autograph Schedules*

Saturday, January 29
Time Player 1 Player 2 Player 3 Player 4
10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. Jose Tabata Brad Lincoln Charlie Morton  
11:30 am – 1:00 p.m. James McDonald Kevin Correia Al Oliver  
1:00 p.m. – 2:30 p.m. Garrett Jones Ross Ohlendorf Bob Friend  
2:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. Mike Easler Bob Walk Bill Madlock Sean Casey
4:00 p.m. – 5:30 p.m. Andrew McCutchen Jeff Karstens Paul Maholm  
5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. Neil Walker Evan Meek Jim Rooker Doug Drabek
Sunday, January 30
Time Player 1 Player 2 Player 3
12:00 Noon – 1:30 p.m. Andrew McCutchen Brad Lincoln Kevin Correia
1:30 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. Evan Meek Ross Ohlendorf Al Oliver
3:00 p.m. – 4:30 p.m. Jose Tabata Paul Maholm

Charlie Morton

2011 Pittsburgh Pirates Promotions

I was on the Pirates website and saw all kinds of pictures for some of the promotions. Also as a side note, I also found that the band Train who is famous for singing songs such as “Drops of Jupiter”, “Calling All Angels”, “Hey Soul Sister” and “If It’s Love” will be performing at the final Skyblast of the year on August 6. Here are the pictures of the promotions. A lot of these promotions (5 of them are for kids), the first promo is a celebration of the 1971 World Series Champions and also of note the Neil Walker bobblehead is the first bobblehead sponsored by Root Sports which will replace Fox Sports in the Spring :

 

 

 

 

 

Zack Hample Interview Part 1

 I had the priviledge of interviewing ballhawking King Zack Hample on January 14 about his book The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals and Secrets Beneath the Stitches which is due March 8, 2011. Please do not ask me anything about the book as all I will tell you is that Zack gave me a galley which is a copy of the book that is not quite complete but is close to it. Zack told me that it was his first interview about the book which made me happy. We talked for a little under an hour and he really seemed to enjoy the talk we had and at times it seemed to be more than just an interview. I will write a book review at another time (probably closer to release date), but to get you excited to get the book I will type the interview. It was really long, so the next entry I do will not be the whole interview but I will give you pieces at a time, perhaps a couple of days apart just to get you even more excited for the book. By Monday I will have the first part up so please follow along as I will have the complete Zack Hample interview up soon.

PirateFest 2011 Part 3

Here is a breakdown of the PirateFest features:

1. The autograph schedule was what I had already put out along with the addition of Charlie Morton and the four alumni to the schedule. I am sure the broadcasters and some additional alumni may sign as well. The autograph schedule you will soon see on the Pirates website will be for the long lines you see which depending on the day you go could have a weight of up to three hours. The guys I am interested in meeting are Banister, Lincoln, and Correia. However I am most excited to see my buddy Evan Meek. If you are a Pirates season ticket holder, you will have received MVP Zone access. For those who are non-season ticket holders but live close to the area and want to get season tickets, this is one of the many areas the Pirates reward you in. The line is thirty minutes at the longest which was on Saturday, the most crowded day.

2. The chance for fans to get individual game tickets starts on Saturday January 29 at 10 AM. Season ticket holders and people who get the E-Bucs newsletter already have had their chances to purchase these tickets. I am unsure of Skyblast dates and games such as the Boston Red Sox series will be available for those fans yet, but still a chance to get tickets to the games you want to go to.

3. As the press release said, upon entry, fans will get a 2011 Pirates wall calendar as well as a pocket schedule and the usual PirateFest program. This is a nice gesture by the Pirates, especially since the price for tickets has gone up this year. The pocket schedule was always made available at PirateFest at the season ticket areas as well as other areas at PirateFest but at least fans will be able to get a schedule to take home. The program itself is just a couple of pages and includes a foldout, but at least the players, schedules, games and location of all things PirateFest will be made available in the program. The foldout itself is a popular space for autographs.

4. The Ask Pirates Management feature is going to be at PirateFest again this year and these sessions are always enjoyable.

5. The games are always a big draw and one of them is “Pirates Minute to Win It”. It will be interesting to see how they will pull this off. The games I usually have the most doubt on are the ones that turn out best, but what tasks will they use and what will be the big prize. “We Are Fam-A-Lee Feud” is back after a season or two off. This was a fun event last time it was played as five Pirates players, coaches and alumni squared off against five fans, and I know each fan got autographs from all five members the last time. “Guitar Hero” is back from last season. I myself am terrible at the game but there are quite a few people that are good at it. Andrew McCutchen is supposedly the king of the game among the Pirates players but he even lost to someone last year. “Deal or No Deal” will be back again, but it is getting a little old and the hour long games with Howie Mandel no longer exist. The big prize last year was season tickets. It will be interesting to see what the big prize will be especially on Friday when it will only be season ticket holders there. Also making its return for the first time in a couple of years is the Perogie Eating Contest. Since I have lost the weight, I have no chance at this either, but I am sure it will be up other people’s alleys.

6. Kids will get the fun zones as well and so are the lost treasures. There is some good lost treasures but almost everything there is an overpriced jersey.

7. For the first time there will be a charity auction to benefit Pirates Charities. I am sure everything will be overpriced, but it still will go to a great cause.

8. I am sure that the Pirates will show all kinds of promos which will excite a lot of people. It is a chance to find out what is to come.

 Again when I see the schedule for PirateFest I will put it up

PirateFest Part 2

 There will be a part 3 for a break down of these features and a part 4 when the autograph schedule comes up, but the press release on information of the year’s PirateFest has been released. I actually got the press release in my email and thus found out about this before it was released. Here are the features:

 

Details for PirateFest 2011 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Saturday, Jan. 29 and Sunday, Jan. 30 have been announced.

PirateFest hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 29 and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 30.

New in 2011, Pirates season ticket holders will have exclusive access to PirateFest on Friday, Jan. 28.

Tickets for PirateFest are $12 for adults and $4 for fans ages 14 and younger and can be purchased in advance online, or by calling 1-800-BUY-BUCS or at the door at the convention center.

This year’s event will feature the following:

• Free autograph sessions with Pirates players, including Andrew McCutchen, Neil Walker, Evan Meek, Garrett Jones, Jose Tabata, Paul Maholm, Jeff Karstens, Ross Ohlendorf, Brad Lincoln, Kevin Correia, James McDonald and Charlie Morton along with new Manager Clint Hurdle, Bench Coach Jeff Banister and Pitching Coach Ray Searage (*).

• Autograph sessions with Pirates alumni Al Oliver, Doug Drabek, Bill Madlock and Mike Easler.

• Opportunity to purchase 2011 individual game tickets for the first time beginning Saturday, January 29 at 10:00 a.m.

• All fans attending PirateFest will receive a 2011 Pirates wall calendar, 2011 pocket schedule and PirateFest program upon entrance.

• A 60-foot replica baseball field to host Youth Baseball Clinics with Manager Clint Hurdle and coaches Jeff Banister and Ray Searage.

• Q&A Sessions with the players as well as “Ask Pirates Management” with Pirates President Frank Coonelly, Pirates Executive Vice President and General Manager Neal Huntington and Pirates Manager Clint Hurdle.

• The chance to join your favorite players in versions of Pirates “Minute to Win It” or “We Are Fam-A-Lee Feud”, take on Pirates players in “Guitar Hero”, play “Deal Or No Deal” and take part in Pierogie Eating Contests.

• Giant Eagle Kids Fun Zone, featuring many activities for children, along with nutritional information on a variety of foods available at Giant Eagle.

• Pirates “Lost Treasures” area to include game-used jerseys, bats, baseballs and more available for purchase.

• A charity silent auction with proceeds to benefit Pirates Charities.

• Inflatable rides, batting cages and carnival games.

• Information on 2011 Pirates Season Ticket Packages and Group Outings.

• Information on the Pirates 2011 promotional schedule.

*players, coaches and schedules subject to change

Fans can also make a canned goods donation at the Pirates Charities booth throughout the weekend. Fans making a donation of any kind will receive a Pirates decal.

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