Around Town: Meet the 'ballhawkers'


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Most people will never know how good it feels to catch a baseball that flies into the stands. Fewer still will know how good it feels to catch your 300th.

Before meeting Nick Pelescak, Erik Jabs and Jim Saylor in PNC Park's outfield seats before a recent Pirates game, I hadn't realized ballhawking had become competitive.

Mr. Pelescak, 28, an Army specialist, grabbed his 300th ball in a little over 100 games across two seasons while I was watching him in the left-field bleachers during batting practice late Friday afternoon.

Only minutes before, I watched his friend, Mr. Jabs, a high school Spanish teacher, catch one on the fly in right center field.

And in that same section was Jim Saylor, 62, of Stanton Heights, the acknowledged career leader in game-time home runs caught. The soft-spoken Mr. Saylor has caught 26 homers -- including two in one half-inning back in 2001 -- since he first caught one off the bat of a Houston Astro named Kenny Houston in 1984 at old Three Rivers Stadium.

"I love baseball and I love the feel of a ball, a baseball,'' Mr. Saylor said. "It's kind of like an addiction almost.''

Kind of? It is most certainly an obsession for these men.


Brian O'Neill can be reached at boneill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1947.


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