December 24, 2014
This is the time of year when I usually write up a "Year in Review" column, but to be honest, I'm just not feeling it this year. The last few years it's just been basically a carbon copy of the previous year's column -- a few relevant stats, some shout outs to the top performers, a word about BallhawkFest, and a few thoughts about the current state of Ballhawking and its future potential.
Don't get me wrong, there were definitely some cool things that happened in 2014 and it would probably be interesting to write up a summary of significant events to document the year in Ballhawking history. For me, the coolest thing to note was that we finally reached the One Percent plateau -- as a community we snagged over one percent of all the baseballs manufactured in 2014 (including Spring Training we totalled 9,769 balls out of the 900,000 manufactured). But aside from reporting that interesting fact, I'm just not up for writing a detailed Year in Review column.
But I'm excited about taking this opportunity to introduce a new yearly award -- The Snag of the Year. I've reviewed the MLB.com footage of all 39 of this year's home run snags and chosen five to be considered for the award. I took into account difficulty of the snag, overall athleticism, and the significance of the ball.
So let's take look at this year's nominees, listed in order by date:
April 16 - Leigh Barratt snags Tommy Medica homer at PETCO Park
July 21 - Ballhawk Shawn snags Billy Hamilton homer at Miller Park
August 5 - Tony Voda snags Kennys Vargas homer at Target Field
August 8 - Zack Hample snags Carlos Beltran homer at Yankee Stadium
August 31 - Grant Edrington snags Ryan Flaherty homer at Camden Yards
A couple quick notes on some snags that didn't make the cut. First, if the snag wasn't visible in the video, I couldn't nominate it even if it was an incredible snag. Sorry. Second, I limited it to one nomination per ballhawk. Some people might have two or three snags worthy of being in the top five, but I wanted to have five different ballhawks eligible for the award. And I was slightly worried that if a ballhawk had two really good snags nominated, his vote might be split between the two and allow someone else to win. Lastly, here's a few Honorable Mentions: Rick Gold, Dave Forstad, Tim Anderson
I wasn't able to integrate this into the Member Login area like with the Ballhawk of the Year Award, so we'll be relying on Survey Monkey. This means that non-members will be able to vote, but I think that's ok for this award.
UPDATE (1/2/15): Voting is now closed, and I ended up having to do a lot of manual adjusting due to some flaws in Survey Monkey. When I created the survey I checked the box to not allow duplicates, but apparently that didn't work. Someone tried to stuff the ballot box for Tony Voda by voting for him over 100 times (if you're wondering, the votes came from outside Tony's home state of Minnesota so it wasn't Tony himself). I tried to manually remove all the duplicate votes but eventually Survey Monkey told me I had to stop and pay for an upgraded account in order to keep removing them. Tony ended up with 24 votes but that included 12 duplicates so his official total was actually 12. That tied him for the lead with Grant Edrington who also had 12. Ballhawk Shawn was third with 9, followed by Zack Hample with 3, Leigh Barratt with 1 and Erik Jabs with 1. As a side note, I added Jabs' Home Run Derby Snag as an option after I originally posted this because I had overlooked it.
Congrats to the 2014 Co-Winners of Snag of the Year -- Grant Edrington and Tony Voda!
Alan Schuster is a contributing columnist to myGameBalls.com.