And I've never caught a foul ball. Never even got within "Holy crap, it's coming right at us" range.
I know what you're thinking. "What's the big deal, you can buy an official Major League baseball for about eight bucks." Well of course you can, but that's not really the point. It's not the "having," it's the "getting." I own several baseballs, many of which have been autographed by legendary ballplayers like Reggie Jackson, Yogi Berra, and the immortal Russell Earl "Bucky" Dent.
But that's not the same thing as possessing an authentic, right-from-the-field-of-play Major League Baseball artifact. Or a Minor League Baseball artifact, I'm in no position to be picky about it. I go to plenty of California League games to see the High Desert Mavericks and the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, and even in 4,000-seat stadiums filled to twenty-five percent capacity, I've caught nothing more than undercooked-hot-dog-induced salmonella.
I can almost hear the Baseball Gods laughing at me.
Here's what I'm talking about. Several years ago, I had a season-ticket package for the aforementioned Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, then the Class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres if such details matter to you. My seats were about fifteen rows behind the visitors' dugout. Optimum foul ball territory.
I had tickets to thirty-six games that season. I attended thirty-five, and as I'm sure you've guessed, I came away from each of those games with no balls in my possession. Since I didn't want the tickets for that one remaining game to go to waste, I gave them to a colleague of mine named Linda. She was a sweet lady, early 50's, and she was excited about taking her husband to a ballgame. I was happy to share my tickets with her.
She came to work the next day, ran up to me, and said, "CHRIS! LOOK! I CAUGHT A FOUL BALL!"
Well shove a hot dog up my ass and call me Babe Ruth.
Linda was sitting in my seat and a foul ball fell in her lap. Now, when I say it fell in her lap, I don't mean she picked it up from the aisle when it came to rest, or the ball boy tossed it to her between innings. I mean, it was fouled up onto the roof above the grandstand, rolled down, caromed off the lip of the overhang and fell into her lap. The way she tells it, she wasn't even looking.
She showed me the ball. I was expecting it to be autographed, "To Chris, Ha ha, Baseball Gods."
It wasn't. It just had the official logo of the California League with the signature of the commissioner. Linda offered to give the ball to me. I refused it. Bitterly.
He got two foul balls.
One bounced into his hands while he was in line for nachos, the other hit him as he was rolling down the grassy knoll.
This led to a conversation with Robby's grandfather who told me about a game he'd attended in the late 70's.
"I was in the bleachers at Yankee Stadium, and a home run ball came right to me," he remembered. "I still have it. It was hit by the Yankees' right fielder, popular guy, jeez, what was his name . . . "
I sighed. "Reggie Jackson?"
"YEAH! That's the guy!"
Either Grampa was not the biggest baseball fan in the world, or his memory was failing. He was treating the life-altering experience of catching a home run off the bat of the great Mr. October as though he'd picked up a crumpled Whopper box outside the local Burger King.
Baseball Gods, why do you mock me so?
|And you thought I was making it up.|
So yeah, it's become sort of an obsession. I'm not going to go all bizarro-lunatic about it and take a huge fish net to a Little League game (they don't let you keep the ball anyway, as it turns out). I'm not going to dash like a madman through an empty section of seats at Mavericks Stadium and elbow a little girl out of the way to get one. But I am determined. I will take my glove.
Knowing my luck, here's what's going to happen. I'll be 83 years old, sitting in the $2,000 bleacher seats at Yankee Stadium III. As I take a sip of my $150 Bud Light, I'll get drilled in the chest with a line-drive home run by Ken Griffey IV.
Know what? I'm fine with that.
Just bury me with my souvenir and put on my gravestone, "HE HAD A BALL".