- Jon Hart
Q&A with Chris Hughes of MyGameBalls.com
Mygameballs.com gave ball hawking – which is snagging baseballs at the ballpark – an online clubhouse. Hundreds of hawks from around the country reported their snags and all the details to the site. On February 12, 2021, MGB founder Alan Schuster - the man who snagged Big Papi's 500th dinger - sold the site to TrueRank, a Toronto-based list-making and ranking app. StadiumJourney.com caught up with Chris Hughes, TrueRank’s social media coordinator, who’s also an enthusiastic ballhawk, for a quick Q&A.
STADIUM JOURNEY: So how and when did the purchase of MGB come about? Why did you purchase the site?
CHRIS HUGHES: The purchase of www.mygameballs.com came about after telling my dad (TrueRank's co-founder Bob Hughes) that it was for sale. I felt that MGB dovetailed nicely with everything that TrueRank was doing. With MGB’s impressive community of passionate hawks, I felt that we could find ways to integrate this energy with that of TrueRank, and vice versa. The main goal of the purchase was to grow the ball-hawking community and create a more efficient way to log baseballs.
STADIUM JOURNEY: How and when did you personally get into ballhawking? What about it gets your adrenaline going?
CHRIS HUGHES: I got into ball-hawking in late 2016. While watching YouTube, I stumbled upon a documentary about Zack Hample and was instantly drawn to his passion. I thought it would be something fun to try since I already enjoyed baseball a lot. What gets my adrenaline going about it is the unpredictability, not knowing when a home run ball might come your way. When I caught a home run on the fly at Dodger Stadium, I was filled with an inexplicable amount of adrenaline immediately after. Since 2016, I have snagged 90 baseballs and look forward to going for 100 this season.
STADIUM JOURNEY: What's your most exciting ballhawking adventure?
CHRIS HUGHES: My dad and I went on a road trip from Toronto to Cincinnati, Chicago, Milwaukee, and Detroit. Before the game in Milwaukee, we went to Friday's in left field. The restaurant’s patio gave us access to batting practice before the gates opened. I snagged three baseballs, including one from Curtis Granderson. After getting a ball in front of the bullpen before the game, I caught a third-out ball when Garrett Cooper lined out to Mike Moustakas to end the top of the 8th. Catching five balls in that game, along with watching 11 runs scored during the top of 5th, made this an exceptional experience.
STADIUM JOURNEY: What's the ballhawking scene like in Toronto? Are there a lot of hawks? How stringent is security? Does Toronto have its version of Zack Hample?
CHRIS HUGHES: The ballhawking scene is strong in Toronto. With a group of eight to ten regulars, you are bound to run into other members of the community at a game. Security is not that stringent, and I’ve had no issues. As for who is the Hample of Toronto, the current leaders from the area are Justin Swartz @JustinSwartz63 with 362 balls snagged and William Launderville @Threejag with 360. We’re especially excited here in Toronto, as we get to experience the long-awaited outfield renovations to the Rogers Centre. The fan experience and the ability to snag more balls, because of some changes to the dimensions of the field, promises to elevate Toronto ballhawking.
Ballhawkers meet at the first Game at Rogers Centre after the COVID pandemic, July 30, 2021. Pictured: Chris Hughes, Arsen Nikolic & Michael Farkouh
STADIUM JOURNEY: What's your favorite stadium to hawk in? And what's your favorite stadium to just watch a game?
CHRIS HUGHES: My favorite stadium to ballhawk has to be Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati. If you buy a ticket to the Reds Hall of Fame & Museum, you can get into the ballpark for early batting practice. I snagged four BP balls doing this. Oracle Park in San Francisco stands out the most for just watching a game. With the gorgeous view of the bay, a game there is a very memorable experience.
STADIUM JOURNEY: Best stadium or two to eat in?
CHRIS HUGHES: The best stadium I've eaten at was Citi Field. The lobster rolls in right field are amazing and a must-have if you are ever at a game in New York. Another must-have is California Pizza Kitchen at Dodger Stadium. The BBQ chicken pizza is amazing, and I would have it again!
STADIUM JOURNEY: What's next for www.mygameballs.com?
CHRIS HUGHES: We’re excited to announce that we have been coding a mobile version of the MGB website, which is scheduled to launch this season. It will allow users to easily and quickly log the baseballs they snag, using their mobile device. We’re also bringing back our Survivor Pool, which is starting on June 2nd. This is a weekly competition whereby participants select one MLB game to predict from a list of 10 being played from Friday through Sunday. Making an incorrect pick results in a strike. When competitors get three strikes, they’re eliminated from the competition, which will continue until one person remains. The winner gets a $100 Amazon gift card. We’re also excited to bring back Ballhawk Fest, the annual in-person ballhawk convention, which we’ll be taking applications for soon. Follow us on @myGameBalls for the latest.
Jon Hart is @manversusball