Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Why Can't I Have Some Balls?

As anyone who knows me will tell you, I'm a huge baseball fan.  I've been attending games since I was about six years old, when my folks took me to Shea Stadium for a Mets-Cardinals twi-night double header.  In the forty years since that night, I've attended anywhere from 15-75 games per season which, if my math is correct, works out to a whole lot of games.  Most of the time, I've had really good seats.  Lower tier, down the line, prime location.

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.

Last season,  I was at another Cal League game between the High Desert Mavs and the Inland Empire 66'ers.  Some friends of mine, we'll call them the Watsons, own a skybox at Mavericks Stadium (not as luxurious as it sounds -- it's still the low minor leagues), and they invited me and my family to join them for the game.  Seven-year old Robby Watson spent the entire game running around the concourse and playing on the grassy hill located in foul territory down the right-field line.  He was completely unaware that a baseball game was going on.

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.
Have I not been a loyal fan?  I came back after the strike of '94, remember?  I chose to turn a blind eye to the steroid scandal of the late 90's and early 00's, didn't I?  Doesn't this earn me something?   It doesn't have to be a game-winning home run by Derek Jeter.  Hell, at this point I'd settle for a stray foul ball popped up by the backup right-fielder for the friggin' Modesto Nuts.  Beggars can't be choosers.

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.

And die.

Know what? I'm fine with that.

Just bury me with my souvenir and put on my gravestone, "HE HAD A BALL".


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notactuallygod said...

Maybe HE's telling your something, but you don't want to listen?

Ever hear this one:

Floodwaters come and jeeps are sent to evac the town, but a godly man refuses, saying "God will save me". He prays devoutly. Water rises to the second floor and a rescue boat comes, but he waves them off from the upstairs window "God will save me" and he returns to prayer. The waters rise to the roof and a chopper comes by, but of course the man refuses again.

The water rises over his head.
He drowns.

He comes before God in heaven and asks "My Lord, I prayed and had faith that you would save me! But you didn't, why O Lord why?"

And God shakes his head, clearly annoyed "I sent you a jeep, a boat and a helicopter. What more did you want?"

Eva Gallant said...

I just hope you don't have to endure the rest of your days without balls!

Bill Yates said...

Oh my gosh, this is funny stuff! I love stories like this.

Jeanne said...

Thank God your fixation isn't with hockey pucks.

Bethany@ImperfectMom said...

This reminds me of my friend who has never gotten sizzling fajitas. You now how when you order fajitas they come on the skillet piping hot and sizzling away? She orders them often, but never in her life have her fajitas been sizzling when they are given to her. Her tablemates, yes, but not her. Once, while she was in the restroom, her fajitas arrived, full sizzle. Her brother took a picture of them with his phone, and showed her when she got back to the table. That's the closest she's ever come to properly served fajitas.
You'll catch a ball someday, and you'll be the happiest guy in the ballpark when it happens!

EmptyNester said...

Chuckle, chuckle, snort LOL!!!!! I'm sorry you haven't caught a baseball- but what a hilarious post! Oh, and I won't tell you about my brother at a Braves game.

MikeWJ at Too Many Mornings said...

This is one of the hardest hard-luck stories I've ever read. I don't give a shit about baseball, but I actually feel for you, Knuck. Well, hope springs eternal, and maybe this year will bring you something good. The Cubs, too.

Danger Boy said...

Man, it's got be difficult to be as ball-less as Bieber for so long! I hope you get a lot of balls in the future, or at least one good one.

Mariann Simms said...

If it makes you feel better, I've never caught any balls, either. Then again I've never gone to any games...but I'm sure I'd have the same luck.

Great post, as usual. :)

Kevin T said...

I was at a Padres game last year sitting in the Field section about 15 rows back from the 3rd base line above the dugout. It was early in the game and I decided to take a photo because it was a lefty up to bat. I had a Blackberry Storm at the time and always had a delay between when you pressed the camera button and when the picture showed up on screen.

I went to take the picture, but a vendor walked in front of me, so I waited for the next pitch. I timed my shutter press to take the picture right as the ball crossed the plate. While I awaited for the picture to pop up on the phone, all of a sudden the phone was gone from my hand and my neck stung a little bit. Needless to say, I was really confused as to what had just happened, and then was even more so when I looked around for my phone and noticed everyone staring at me.

Turns out in the second before the photo was about to show up on the screen I took a screaming line drive directly from the bat to my cellphone, which knocked it out of my hand, dented the case and knocked the battery out. The ball then ricocheted off the left side of my neck and landed in the lap of my friend sitting to my right.

I'd like to think that had I not been taking the picture I would have caught the ball or at least knocked it down. And sadly, when I got my phone working again 6 innings later (bent battery pins), the photo of the pitch was not on the phone.

Chris@Knucklehead! said...

@NotGod: I HAVE heard that one, actually. Hilarious. I mean, what was the guy expecting? Teleportation?

@Eva: Yes, I'm hoping that myself.

@Bill: Thanks!

@Bethany: Man, now I want fajitas.

@Mike: I am determined to make this the year. And trust me, you guys will be the first to know about it when it happens.

@Danger: In the words of Lance Armstrong, "As long as I have one ball, I'll be fine."

@Mariann: Alabama must have a minor league team, right? You should check it out!

@Kevin: I love Petco Park. Not really a Pads fan, but it's a great place to watch a game. And what a picture that would've been!

Fred Miller said...

I know how you feel. What I would give to have Steven Segal catch my jab with an S-block and slam me to the floor.

I got almost knocked out by one of my instructors once. That was pretty cool.

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