I recently had the opportunity to conduct an interview with a lifelong Dodger fan, season ticket holder and a ballhawk at the Dodger game. For those of you that don’t know what a ballhawk is, basically it’s someone that stands in the bleachers or pavilions during batting practice trying to catch fly balls and toss ups from players. ‘Moneyball Steve’ is someone that you can see doing this in the Left Field Pavilion at every home game for the Dodgers. I figured he would be the perfect person to do my first interview with. I gave him a list of questions and he gave honest and passionate answers to each one. So here you go, my interview with ‘Moneyball Steve’.
- How long have you been a Dodger fan? A season ticket holder?
“I’ve been a Dodger fan my whole life, born and raised in Los Angeles. Season ticket holder, this is my sixth year. I bought mini-plans and I started when Manny (Ramirez) was here. I don’t know if you know this but I collect 500 Home Run hitter balls, also bats and jerseys but mainly the balls. They’re the hardest things to get. When I heard Manny was coming to town, I think he had just passed 500 or he was under 500…but he was going to be coming up on all these milestones. I finally bought tickets full time for the season when they changed ownership. I felt like that was the time we we’re going to get serious about winning a championship.
2. What is your favorite memory over the last five seasons for the Dodgers?
“Well I have a lot really, but last year I have to say I got Justin Turner’s World Series Game 1 winning Home Run ball. We hadn’t been in the World Series in 29 years. Earlier in the season I caught my first Dodger Home Run ball on the fly, that was fun, it was a Corey Seager ball. It was a crazy story, I was sitting there in the first inning and I’m looking to my right, looking to my left and I’m thinking god it would be a good time for someone to hit a Home Run, there’s no one here yet. As a ballhawk, you kind of look around and you make a path in your mind. I look up, Corey is up, boom! Second batter of the game, he hits it and its coming right to me but to my left. I jumped down to the row in front of me and ran to another row and caught it out of the corner of my eye. I caught that sucker. That was really exciting, that was fun. Anyways, those are two of my top memories.”
3. Favorite Baseball memory ever?
“I was in the Loge Level watching the Kirk Gibson Home Run. As a Dodger fan, that’s gotta be the top. I was here for Kershaw’s No Hitter but I mean, there’s another story behind that. I was yelling put in ‘Kirk Gibson’ and the guys behind me were saying ‘he’s a gimp, what’re you talking about?’ I said, I don’t care, he’s the only guy on that bench that can end the game with one swing. Sure enough, here he comes and the rest is history. Those guys behind me were like ‘Oh man you were right!’. I’ll say one thing, when that Home Run was hit, for the people that were here, they’ll remember but most people don’t know this, I swear to god I suffered hearing loss that night. There was 45 minutes straight of screaming, yelling and cheering and nobody left. It was like, the baseball moment of my life. They were out on the field interviewing Kirk Gibson, they couldn’t even hear themselves talking. That was my favorite baseball memory ever.”
4. I see you catching balls in batting practice, how long have you done this and how many baseballs do you have since?
“I actually started by the suggestion of Bobby from Dodgerfilms. He used to tell me, you gotta get out and come to batting practice, it’s a lot of fun. Where I work, I do get off early enough to get here in time for batting practice. Eventually, late into the 2014 season I started coming to a few of the batting practices and it’s addicting man. It turns you back into a 12 year old, when you catch a ball, it’s like this is actually really cool, it’s fun. In 2015, we had the Home Run catching competition and unfortunately, things went south between me and Dodgerfilms. I’ve been doing it ever since because it’s so fun. I probably have somewhere around 850 balls. About 50 of those were from 2014 and the rest are since then. I have plastic buckets in the garage full of baseballs. I’m going to do something with them one day, I have plans. The one plan I had was to put them on a wall in the house but I calculated this out and I’d have to do this until I’m about 79. I’ll do something else with them.
5. Who is your favorite Dodger of all time? Currently?
“Favorite Dodger of all time, when I was younger it was Steve Yeager because I was a catcher when I played. I’ve never really thought about that so I guess I’ll stick with that. A close second would be Steve Garvey. I’ve met him several times, super nice man. I also like Ron Cey a lot. I’ve met that whole infield many times. They’re all great. They were back from the days when these guys were genuine and they’d talk to the fans. I’m not saying that these guys don’t, especially our team now, there’s a lot of genuine guys on that team too. Puig is awesome, Turner is awesome. I met him a few years back, it had to be 2014. He hit 2 Home Runs off of Bumgarner in one game and his second one knocked Bumgarner out of the game. That was when the Dodgers went on to win their third World Series. I met him right after (Justin Turner), and I bought both of those Home Run balls from the fans that had gotten them. I met Turner and I said, ‘Hey Justin, I’ve got both of those Home Run’s that you hit off of Bumgarner’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Man that’s super cool’. I told him if he ever wanted them back, we could work out some sort of deal, money doesn’t have to be involved. Turner looked at me and said he’d take me up on that deal but that I should enjoy those balls for a while. He signed them for me, notated them, everything I wanted. Those balls are so amazing, Turner was so nice but, Puig is one of my favorites as well, he’s incredible.”
6. What is your opinion of Friedman, Zaidi and Moneyball tactics?
“Oh boy this is a loaded question. I have no idea why it is here in LA. We’ve got this group, the Guggenheim group, they’re supposed to have nothing but money, they promised us a championship and they said money was no problem. Okay, then why did we Brandon Morrow walk after the season ended last year? Best setup guy I think this team has ever had. Then you take these guys, Friedman and Zaidi, they’ve done a lot of good for the team but they’ve also, my personal opinion, kept us from winning a championship. I’ll give you an example, last year we had a choice, we had to go pick up a pitcher. Everybody knows that Yu Darvish was available, but there was this guy over there in Detroit and he publicly came out and said I want to be a Dodger. Problem is, he had two years left on his contract. They made a financial decision to go with the guy that would be the cheapest and we could rent him for the rest of the season. They looked at the numbers but what they didn’t look at was that earlier in the year, Darvish was having trouble. He was exposing his pitches and it had been a problem. That was one of the reasons why Texas was done with him. We had an opportunity to sign Scherzer a couple of seasons ago and we let him go. So they’re making financial decisions, I understand we have a luxury tax and all that. Last year they got rid of the luxury tax and got rid of a bunch of players that were causing us grief. Now you’ve got the one ace that would’ve helped us get over the top in Houston and he’s got the lowest ERA in baseball. If he had been on our team last year, we would have won the World Series. This small ball and sabermetrics nonsense will only get you so far. Sabermetrics is great to judge a player by their numbers, then you got to look beyond that and look at how much heart they’ve got. I don’t believe that Friedman and Zaidi are in a position to freely sign whoever they want.”
7. Do you think the Dodgers will overcome adversity and win it all this season?
“Losing Corey Seager was a huge bomb. He’s our number two hitter and when the dude gets on a hot streak, it’s like having Bryce Harper on your team. That’s how big he is. There’s a lot of talk about maybe renting Manny Machado from the Orioles, we won’t resign him, I know that much. I think it’s a real possibility that they get Machado though. If we get some of our pitching back and healthy, and then pick up one big starter at the deadline, I honestly don’t see who is going to beat us. We’ve been playing like dogs**t most of this first half and we’re still only 3 games out of first place. I think once it’s all said and done, if were in first place and we win the division, I think we carry the swag and go back to the World Series and win. We got to get our pitching healthy, we need to get a top starter and I think we need to have somebody like Machado. If they stay hot, I think we can win it all with the team we have now.”
8. Sign Bryce Harper or re-sign Yasiel Puig?
“Here’s the thing, Bryce Harper is a great all around baseball player. To me, Puig is an elite outfielder. He’s a Gold Glover, he hasn’t won one yet but that’s just politics. Dodger fans are spoiled with his defense. Bryce Harper is most definitely one of the most elite power hitters in baseball. It’s a trade off. What’s going to happen with that? I have no clue. I think they’ll stay in house and sign Puig for millions less than they would with Harper but who knows. Personally, I’m a Puig fan, he’s matured a lot, he’s lost a lot of that craziness he had earlier in his career. He’s the complete baseball player now. They’re always finding a way to get this guy and kick him and make him feel like a child. Maybe they feel they need to. He’s an elite outfielder, he hits his big Home Run’s now and then, he’s still developing as a baseball player.”
Being my first interview, I thoroughly enjoyed this experience. Thank you to ‘Moneyball Steve’ for taking the time to answer these questions and helping me out. Glad to say I met a new friend at a Dodger game! If you’re ever at a Dodger game, be sure to look out for Steve in the left field pavilion and maybe even try catching some baseballs during batting practice. While you’re here, go check out Steve’s Instagram, @moneyballsteve . His account is a must for Dodger fans and ballhawks.
Talking about baseball is one of my favorite things to do. I hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I enjoyed preparing and conducting it. Let me know what you think and who or what I should talk about next!