PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Batting practice is underway at PNC Park, and a dozen “ballhawks” armed with gloves chase down home run balls in the left field stands.
“The thrill of a ball hitting your glove and actually looking down and it being there. That’s exciting,” says Tex Ritter of Oakmont.
“It’s just like playing catch in the back yard and catching fly balls in practice,” says Erik Jabs of Jefferson Hills. He should know. The Point Park News Service recently reported that the website http://www.mygameballs.com named him Major League Ballhawk of the Year.
The Steel Valley High School teacher nabbed 731 major league baseballs last year, or a total of 2,887. He says his passion began at PNC Park in 2007.
“I caught a home run ball. And just the adrenaline from catching that just drew me in. And from there I kept going.”
Erik says there’s strategy to it.
“I like to stand farther back, because I have a whole row to my left and a whole row to my right. If a home run’s hit, I’ll have more range.”
There’s a towering drive, to deep left center. It clears the wall, and a little girl named Paige Yarian surprises herself by making the catch.
“I just put my glove out,” she says, “and it threw my glove back. And I didn’t think I got it. But I looked, and I got it.”
Meanwhile, the Ballhawk of the Year has post-batting practice plans.
“Now I’m going to go and find my family, and watch the game.”