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BallhawkFest 2013 Brings 17 Ballhawks to Philly

Well attended event features career performances from Kopp, Sporcic, Hample

Zack Hample's Blog

Over 30 balls were snagged in total by BallhawkFest participants.

Seventeen members gathered in Philadelphia on Saturday for the third annual BallhawkFest. The day featured a home run hitting contest, a luncheon at McFadden's Restaurant, a hotly-contested battle to snag baseballs during batting practice at Citizens Bank Park, and a thrilling 12-inning game between the Phillies and Braves.

But even before the official BallhawkFest festivities began, Baltimore ballhawk Alex Kopp started things off with a bang. Five of the BallhawkFest participants met at Camden Yards on Friday night for some pre-BallhawkFest snagging, and Kopp was the night's big winner. For the second time this season he snagged a Chris Davis home run ball, and for the second time the homer was significant enough for Davis to ask for the ball back.

The home run was Davis's 40th of the season and was a monster bomb onto Eutaw Street where Kopp tracked it down. Once again, Kopp got to meet Davis after the game, this time returning the home run ball in exchange for a fitted Orioles hat, a used signed Davis batting helmet, and two signed baseballs.

BallhawkFest participants were buzzing about Kopp's big snag when they gathered the next morning at the FDR Park softball field near Citizens Bank Park. It was time for Kopp and the others to show that they could hit baseballs as well as they could snag them from the bleachers.

The ballhawks divided into two teams and competed in a six-inning modified home run derby. Home runs counted as five points, balls landing in the outfield without being caught counted as one point, and everything else counted as an out. The bats came alive for both teams, with the winning team recording over 100 points. The winning team was comprised of Rick Sporcic, Zack Hample, Alex Kopp, Mark Kopp, and Harrison Tishler.

Individually, Rick Sporcic was the big winner for the second straight year. Sporcic decidedly hit the most homers, routinely connecting for towering bombs that hit the top of the tree beyond the fence in left field. Home Runs were also hit by Todd Cook, Zack Hample, Alan Schuster, Jeremy Evans, and Max Pinsky.

Following the home run derby, the group gathered at McFadden's Restaurant for the BallhawkFest luncheon. Several presentations were made, starting with a t-shirt/card signing for the family of Matt Hersl, the Baltimore ballhawk who was tragically killed earlier this year. BallhawkFest 2013 was officially dedicated to Matt, who in 2011 came up with the idea to have a yearly gathering of ballhawks.

A raffle was then held for a variety of door prizes. The prizes, donated by Ben Weil, Rick Crowe, and Todd Cook, included a Darryl Strawberry jersey, a Jay Bruce jersey, a Minnesota Twins long-sleeved shirt, and a Mark Buerle bobblehead. The bobblehead was won by three year-old Kellan Cook.

Finally, the official award certificates from the 2012 season were presented. Todd, Tim, and Kellan Cook received the Photo Scavenger Hunt award, Mateo Fischer received the Junior Ballhawk of the Year Award, and Zack Hample received the Ballhawk of the Year award.

The ballhawks then headed to the gate for the main event -- ballhawking at Citizens Bank Park. Despite a big crowd and weather conditions only allowing for the Phillies portion of batting practice, there were a number of notable accomplishments. Mateo Fischer and the Cooks led the field with five balls apiece. Jeremy Evans and Rick Gold were the only ballhawks to snag BP homers on the fly. Quinn Imiola snagged the final third out ball of the game after Craig Kimbrell's save in the 12th inning. Everyone successfully snagged at least one ball (with the exception of BallhawkFest organizer Alan Schuster).

The biggest accomplishment of the day was Zack Hample's snag of a game home run off the bat of John Mayberry. Hample snagged it on the fly in the left field bleachers to record his 25th lifetime game home run ball.

BallhawkFest 2013 proved to be a fun-filled event for everyone involved. A special thanks to BIGS Sunflower Seeds for providing seeds to all the ballhawks.

Read more about BallhawkFest 2013 on Zack Hample's Blog

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