Aug 13, 2014
For New York City ballhawk Greg Barasch, July 19th was a really long day. He woke up at the crack of dawn and boarded a bus to Washington, D.C., where he met up with a group of the nation's most fanatical baseball collectors. He competed with his fellow ballhawks in a Skills Challenge and Home Run Derby, then stopped off for lunch before heading to Nationals Park for the main event. In a clutch performance, Barasch snagged 8 balls to tie for the lead and extend an unbelievable streak of 62 straight games snagging at least 5 balls.
It was the wee hours of the morning before he arrived back home in New York, but it was all worth it. This was BallhawkFest.
The fourth annual BallhawkFest began at Virginia Highlands Park in Arlington, Virginia, where the first ever Skills Challenge started the day's events. Ballhawks competed in a speed and agility obstacle course, a ball retrieving challenge, a fly ball challenge, and a toss-up competition. Nick Yohanek, AKA The Happy Youngster, showed everyone why he's one of ballhawking's historic greats by winning three out of the four challenges and earning the title of Skills Challenge Champion.
The ballhawks then each took a turn at bat in the Home Run Derby, sponsored by FoulBallz.com. Home runs were hard to come by this year, but Rick Sporcic managed to blast three balls out of the park to win his third consecutive Home Run Derby crown.
Next on the schedule was lunch at Champps Americana, a popular Burger place next to Pentagon City Mall. Various awards from last season were handed out, and Yohanek and Sporcic were presented with myGameBalls.com trucker hats for their Championship performances earlier in the day. Nobody went home empty handed though, as over 15 door prizes were raffled off thanks to donations from Sporcic and Chicago's Rick Crowe.
An hour or so later, the BallhawkFest participants gathered at the front of the line outside Nationals Park. The stampede of ballhawks sprinting towards the left field bleachers when the gates opened prompted an array of "Stop Running!" shouts from stadium employees.
In addition to the BallhawkFest group, a sizeable crowd had also shown up to watch batting practice, making baseballs very hard to come by. Nevertheless, when the group gathered after BP to tally their snags, the total count came to 43.
Leading the way was Barasch and Todd Cook and Sons (8 balls apiece), followed by Yohanek (6 balls), Mateo Fischer( 4 balls), Harrison Tishler (4 balls), and Alex Coopersmith (4 balls). The only ball snagged during the game was a third out ball tossed by Jonathan LuCroy and snagged by Chris Hernandez.