A Season in Baseball's
Best Neighborhood

By Kevin Kaduk

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Excerpts From "WrigleyWorld" by Kevin Kaduk
The self titled "Ballhawks" look nothing like this when they set up shop Waveland. There are six or seven who act as perpetual Rawlings stalkers, though the number varies from season to season. Most of the Guys are past thirty. They were Canseco- style Oakleys, sweat shorts, and knee braces. Their appearances, however, are deceiving. When a ball is hit, their the first ones to track it, the first one's to make a move. Most of the time, their catching the ball in the air while everyone is still deciding
what to do.
For the Ballhawks, catching a baseball is only a matter of time. Simple math. Eliminate chance. Thats how they do it. Take X number of balls that clear the left field fence during games and batting
practice, multiply it by 81 home dates, and subtract a few for the days when the wind is blowing fiercely in or players hangovers cancel B.P. The end result is a baseball pie that gets divided by the dedicated few and regrettably for the Ballhawks, also by some lucky bystanders.
June 30th vs. Brewers
The Brewers and Cubs start out strong, each scoring five runs over the first four innings. A homer by Aramis Ramirez hits the left field fence but stays in the park.... The Brewers take control of the game by the time Milwaukee broadcaster Bob Uecker signs the seventh inning stretch.... By the eighth inning everyone has left except for Davison. If a ball comes out here its between me, him, and a dozen motor coaches. "A lot of baseball's come out here in the late innings," Davison Says....
With the Brewers leading, Carlos Lee comes to the plate. Over my headphones i hear the crack of
the bat and the groan from Santo. The gradually turning heads in the bleachers reveal that the ball is going to fly out of the stadium. There ! I pick up the ball. Its heading straight for Davison. He doesn't catch it on the fly. In pursuit, I head east down Waveland and.... this is a real possibility... is my first ball really going to be a gamer? I am, as the kids say, trucking. The ball hits up against the iron fence in front of the Budweiser house and bounces back onto the sidewalk. But just as i think i have a chance, Davison regains his footing and scoops it up. In the Bleachers the sun-tired and drunken fans start hooting for Davison to throw it back. Fat Chance. Davison returns to Waveland and Kenmore and, in one motion, scoops up a bogus ball from the plugs of the fire hydrant. He takes three steps and launches it into Wrigley. It lands in the outfield and rolls toward the infield. The Bleacherites go crazy. Davison's motion is so fluid, so secretive, that no one spots the bait and switch.
"Idiots," Davison says......
I hang around for the rest of the game -- a 10-6 Brewers win. It is sticky hot and I buy a bottle of water for the walk home. I am going home with nothing buy my empty glove. After three days of work, I have no baseballs to show for it. Stupid Ballhawks. Yet for the first time, I think I can understand the allure of coming out here as a Ballhawk. Apart from buying a few Slurpees, i haven't spent any money over the past three days. I haven't even had to mess with any scalpers. I haven't had to buy a ticket. But I've been in the game. I guess you could even say I was at the game. I've made some neighborhood friends. We did some quality bullshitting. An essential truth becomes clear, waiting for baseballs means your always doing something. Even if you are doing nothing.


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