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The Independent Critic

Mike Diedrich
74 Mins.

 "Ballhawks" Review 
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What is ballhawking, you ask?

For decades, on Sheffield and Wakeland outside Chicago's famed Wrigley Stadium, a group of loyal, quirky and some might gather modestly insane men have gathered in hopes of tracking down batting practice and home run balls in a pursuit that for some might seem incredibly trivial and yet in Mike Diedrich's affectionate doc Ballhawks the practice, hobby or whatever you want to call it is filled with nostalgia, passion and an abundance of heart for the group of men involved.

There's the group's elder statesman, Moe, who had 4,444 catches in his illustrious ballhawking career, a career that companioned his adult life with all its ups and downs including caring for a sick father, applying for firefighter training and, of course, endless inner debating about this often time-consuming and difficult to explain activity.

Dave, on the other hand, possesses over 3,000 caught balls and doesn't care quite as much what anyone thinks about a hobby that seemingly makes him endlessly happy.

Think about it.



How many home runs occur in a game? A couple? If you're lucky?


Foul balls?

Sure, they exist. But, seriously, can YOU imagine committing yourself so fully that you'd have such an outstanding ballhawking career over the course of your adult life?

Ballhawks takes place in what may very well be the final year of ballhawking outside Wrigley Field, a practice that made sense with Wrigley's limited bleacher seating and wider streets outside the stadium. Yet, in 2005, the beloved Cubs were on long awaited winning streak and Wrigley Field was due for a bleacher expansion that could very well render ballhawking obsolete as balls would become increasingly unlikely to exit the stadium.

In other words, this could very well be the final year.

A simple and straightforward 74-minute doc currently an official selection at the Indianapolis International Film Festival, Ballhawks works wonderfully because rather than regarding these men as unusual or quirky it simply has a rather sweet affection for them. This affection is never more evident than in the "final game," a game in which ballhawker Rich manages to achieve a final sense of satisfaction and, in turn, the audience watching the film can't help but share in his joy.

Ballhawks is comfortably narrated by Bill Murray, who gives the film the appropriate blend of respect and affection to make the entire experience a genuinely entertaining view.

© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic