ballhawk

In the latest (October 7th) New Yorker, a Talk of the Town piece, “Dept. of Accumulation: Ballhawks” by Reeves Wiedeman, beginning:

Zack Hample caught his first major-league baseball when he was twelve — a defining moment in most American childhoods, but one that left him unsatisfied. If I can catch one ball, he thought, why not a thousand? Two decades later, a thirty-six-year-old bookstore clerk, with a shaved head and a soul patch, he is now the world’s preëminent ballhawk.

The metaphor in the compound is that the ball collector pounces on baseballs the way a hawk pounces on its prey.

The noun hawk in this sense can be verbed, as in this example from Wiedeman’s piece:

[Greg] Barasch has been hawking balls since he was fifteen

And then the V and its direct object can be the basis of a synthetic compound in -ing, as in this example from Wiedeman:

Ballhawking is a hobby of accumulation

Then, of course, the almost-inevitable back-formation (though not in Wiedeman’s piece). Two examples of PRS ballhawks:

Also, since he ballhawks in Baltimore, attending a bunch of extra games in Washington DC is always a possibility. (link)

Tony Voda: A fellow Target Field [the home ballpark of the Minnesota Twins] ballhawk. Tony loves traveling and enjoys donating to NAMI.org [National Alliance on Mental Illness] while he ballhawks. (link)

There are, not surprisingly, websites devoted to ballhawking and ballhawks.

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