When I was 5 I went to see my first baseball game at Wrigley Stadium in Chicago (1967). I was hooked. Forty-six years later, I’m still a Cubs fan. Most baseball fans would consider that a curse.
I don’t remember who the Cubs played that day, what the score was, or who won. The only thing I remember is a foul ball that landed about 20 feet from us. ”Do you think we made it on TV?” I asked my parents. ”Perhaps.”
Why do I remember that foul ball. Who knows? I think it was that baseball came close to me. I could almost touch it. I thought, “how cool would it be to catch a foul ball?” To actually touch the game.
I don’t attend many baseball games. Probably a total of 20 games over the course of my life. I played baseball growing up, from 8-14, but my sons grew up in England, where no one plays baseball. Cricket is similar, but different. My sons played basketball and soccer, so they never developed an appreciation for baseball.
Last Friday, I went to a Phillies game with friends from Biblical (Todd Mangum, Steve Taylor and Joe Longo).
Two years ago, we went to a Phillies game with this same group. The game was delayed by a thunder-storm, and went into extra innings, so it was going late. It was a work night, and Todd, Steve and I committed the unforgivable sin–leaving a tied game before it ended (at 11:00 pm), at the top of the 10th inning. During the 10th inning, a foul ball came to the section where we were sitting, and ended up bouncing onto the seat where Todd had been sitting. The kids sitting behind us ended up with the ball. If we were still there, I could have been fighting with my boss over a ball.
Last Friday our seats were on the lower level, behind 1st base, up about 20 rows. Prime foul territory. Early on, a foul ball landed about 30 feet from us. Joe said, “That’s probably the closest we’ll get to a foul.” I thought, “I hope not.” For the rest of the game, fouls were flying nearby, but not near enough to make a serious effort.
About halfway through the game, during one of the inning breaks, some folks wearing Phillies gear ran down to sing “Happy Birthday” to a kid a few rows in front of us. He was a real fan, baseball cap, Phillies t-shirt and glove, poised to catch a foul ball.
In the top of the eighth inning, the Phillies were losing to the Brewers 7-5. The Milwaukee shortstop, who is leading the National League in batting average, Jean Segura, came to face Phillies reliever Justin De Fratus. Segura fouls the ball off, toward first base. It’s coming toward us. I’m sitting on the aisle, so I step out. It’s hit high, but it’s in front of me, so I can’t get to it. No one catches it as it bounces on the stairs, two steps in front of me. The bounce takes it right up to face level for me about 18 inches in front of my face. I grab it. It’s mine! It was literally right in front of me (I didn’t have to punch anyone).
My 46 year-old dream has come true.
I dance, wave the ball, high-five the unfortunate guys around me who weren’t lucky enough to have a ball bounce in their face.
As I sat there staring at my treasure, it felt like God said to me, “What are you going to do with that ball?“
I said, keep it, put it on my shelf, maybe give it to my sons.
“They don’t like baseball.” Good point. Don’t give it to the sons. I’ll keep it for myself.”
Why not give it to the birthday kid?” I don’t know him. It’d be too weird.
“If you give him the ball he won’t care how weird you are.“
This debate went on for four outs, until finally I gave in.
For his 12th birthday, Brian (see picture) got a present of a foul ball hit by Jean Segura from a weird guy.