John Witt (born August 25, 1969 in Elmhurst, Illinois) American known for catching a large number of Major League baseballs. He is best known for catching over 5,000 baseballs at professional baseball games over the past 34 summers. Witt is also an author, baseball columnist and actor.
Witt caught his first ball at age seven, during a Chicago White Sox game at Comiskey Park in 1977. Over the past 14 years Witt has spent time working for minor league teams as a clubhouse attendant, concession stand manager, operations director and handling marketing and sales. Witt has also made money editing math textbooks, and openly admits having sold many of the balls he has caught for cash.
Since 1977 Witt has collected over 5,000 baseballs at professional baseball games in 35 seasons. Almost 4,000 of those are Major League baseballs (MLB). One hundred one of the MLB balls are actual game home run's from Major League baseball games.
On September 13, 1998, he grabbed Sammy Sosa's 61st home run at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Witt was actually not in the ballpark that day but was outside of left field standing on the corner of Waveland Avenue and Kenmore St. The ball came out just missing the apartment building across the street, bounced off a man's shin and then rolled right into the glove of Witt. Several regulars surrounded Witt and hustled him into a van for safety. Witt spent the next 30 minutes doing interviews, signing autographs and even had a visit from Jeff Idleson of the Baseball Hall of Fame to authenticate that ball. Initially turning down a reported five-figure sum, Witt later sold the ball for $7,500 to a collector in Chicago, who promptly returned the ball to Sosa one week later.
Witt has also caught other memorable and historic home runs over the years, including Dave Winfield's 450th career home run, Bob Boone's 100th career home run, Dante Bichette's first career home run, Derek Jeter's home run in game 3 of the 2003 ALCS, Kevin Mitchell's home run in the 1989 NLCS and home runs hit by Baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Murray from both sides of the plate in the same game in 1987.
Witt appeared in the 1990 series of Levi's Button Fly Jeans commercials (501 Home Run Kings) produced by Foote, Cone and Belding. The commercial was directed by famed movie star and director Spike Lee. In the commercial ironically Witt is ballhawking outside of Wrigley Field in Chicago. Witt appeared as an extra in several movies including a movie about baseball star Babe Ruth titled The Babe. Witt also appeared in the 2004 MasterCard commercial featuring Boston Red Sox fans telling what they would give up for World Series tickets.
In 2009 Witt worked with the Orange County, California chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to create Baseballs 4 MADD. Through Witt's ballhawking pledges were made for each baseball that he caught during the 2009 baseball season. Catching a total of 113 in 2009, Witt helped raise $778 for Mothers Against Drunk Driving's mission to stop drunk driving, support the victims of this violent crime and prevent underage drinking.
Witt's book titled, Taking Home A Piece Of The Game, was published by Createspace in 2009. Witt is also a columnist for the website Mygameballs.com and has written several articles for various other baseball outlets.
- Sharon, Keith (2006-06-13). "Ball hawk runs down fouls and homers". Orange County Register. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
- "One on One with John Witt". The Post and Courier. 2007-07-29. Retrieved 2009-12-03.
- Edes, Gordon (2003-09-16). "Ramirez gives new meaning to 'power alley'". Boston Globe.
- ,Charlotte clubhouse manager is a magnet for Major League home run balls (Charlotte Herald-Tribune July 6, 2000)
- "Flight of the Ballhawks". Sports Illustrated. 2010-08-16.
- ,MLBallhawk's Grand Total Reaches 5,000 (MyGameBalls.com)
- "McGwire has to back off for a day". SFGate.com. 1998-09-14.
- ,BASEBALL Sosa Matches McGwire With Homers 61 and 62 (NY Times Sports)
- "Lucky Catch-22". CNN/SI. 1998-09-16.
- Levis 501 Home Run Kings"
- adland.tv" (MasterCard commercial)
- MADD OC - Baseballs 4 MADD"
- Thank You Baseballs 4 MADD - MADD OC Blog"
- Taking Home A Piece Of The Game by John Witt"