Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Inside the Mind of a Batting Practice Ball Hawk

Barry Bonds’ 762nd – and possibly last – home run generated a mad scramble for the baseball. In the middle of that scrum was Jake Frazier. Frazier, a notorious Bay Area ball hawk who claims he missed out on the Bonds ball because he was “stoned to the bone”, had this to say about his technique:

If I hip-checked that guy, he wouldn't ****' be standin''s a baseball, man, it's a prize. You have to be aggressive. If you're not aggressive, you won't get it. You're out there playin' in a metal and concrete jungle, and there's people competing, so yeah, you know, you get little scrapes and bruises."

I sat down with Jake Frazier and got inside the mind of a batting practice ball hawk.


My first moment with one of Major League Baseball’s most notorious ball hawks took my breath away. No sooner had I introduced myself than Jake Frazier slipped inside my handshake and delivered a short, powerful uppercut to my stomach.

“Sorry about that, dude,” Frazier said, helping me to my feet. “Had to establish dominance.”

Meet Jake Frazier, a twenty-six year old San Francisco Giants fan who works in the medical marijuana business when he is not gobbling up batting practice balls at AT&T Park. His remarkable ball hawking success – Frazier has captured thousands of baseballs over the years – is as unusual as his fierce enthusiasm for a pastime most men leave behind in their pubescence. Frazier has denied so many a chance at a baseball over the years that his name has become an anathema to the dispossessed. They will tell you that when Frazier’s beaten you to a baseball, and possibly beaten you with a baseball, you’ve not just lost the scramble for a souvenir.

You’ve been Jaked.


Frazier first spotted his opportunity a few years ago when he arrived at the ballpark early. Kids hustling for batting practice home runs caught his eye.

“Anytime I see a crowd of little dudes going after something, I’m like, ‘I’m a big dude. I can have that.’”

Frazier grew even more excited when he recognized that the youngsters’ poor hand-eye coordination made for some exceptionally weak competition.

“I mean there were balls bouncing off their gloves, balls bouncing of their heads. Boink! Little dudes were clueless. I knew I could do better.”

It was only after wading into the youngsters that the 6-4, 240 pound Frazier realized he had his work cut out for him. His lack of a ground game often meant his aggressive checking worked against him.

“Yeah, someone hits a baseball my way and – boom! – little dudes flying left and right. Looks like a keg of dynamite going off in a Popsicle stick factory. But then the ball lands, and if I’m not right on top of the spot the ball’s rolling around on the ground. Little dudes are down there already. They move fast. Advantage: little dudes.”

Frazier realized that if we wanted to dominate the ball-hawking game, he needed a technique that would put the ball in his glove in the end, even if it didn’t start there to begin with. A television program about the interrogation of suspected terrorists led to an epiphany.

“I'm watching this show and suddenly I’m like, dude! So next time I’m at the game and a little dude beats me to the ball, I pin his ankles together with one hand, lift him off the ground, and waterboard him with my cup of Pepsi. Little dude drops the ball real quick. But I’m out a Pepsi. Not cool, man. Money doesn’t grow on trees in the medical marijuana business. “

Eventually, Frazier abandoned the technique for one he had mastered long ago while prowling the halls of his junior high school. It was while discussing this move with me that Frazier decided a demonstration was in order.

It was a demonstration I would regret.

“Let me show you what I do,” Frazier said. Displaying a quickness that belied his tremendous bulk, Frazier snaked around behind me and reached inside my belt. Suddenly I was jerked off my feet.

“Little dude picks up ball. I pick up little dude by the undies. If he doesn’t drop the ball right away, I’ll bounce him. Like this.”

Frazier began working me like a yo-yo.

“At some point, he drops the ball.”

I did not doubt that. The pain was excruciating.

“Before I let little dude go I’ll turn him around, get up in his grill, and say, ‘Congratulations, little dude. You’ve been Jaked.’”


I asked Frazier if he thought he might be taking his pursuit of batting practice baseballs too seriously. What was another baseball, when he had thousands already? Wouldn’t a baseball mean more to a youngster who didn’t have a single one?

Frazier insisted I was missing the point. For him, the bleachers represent a metal and concrete jungle. Frazier sits on top of the food chain.

“Dude, when a lion sees a monkey walking down a path in the jungle, does he tap the monkey on the shoulder and say, ‘Pardon me little monkey dude, do you mind if I eat you?’ No way dude. Monkey gets eaten, no questions asked. Circle of life, man.”

Frazier did admit that having dominated the ball-hawking game for so long, he was looking for another challenge. He thinks he might have found one in autographs.

“I see these little dudes lined up for autographs. What if I get in that game? Man, those little dudes stand no chance."