ANYONE EVER CATCH A FOUL BALL OR HOME RUN?
Having watched baseball for 52 seasons now, I still enjoy watching the reactions of fans getting balls hit into the stands. Some simply give them away to others, some hold them up as though they are now some kind of champion. Some seem to make a career of it, like that bearded guy with the glove in the left field bleachers at Coors Field. Some take pleasure in throwing the ball back on the field. Others like me rarely see a ball anywhere near us. However, there was that one magical moment back in the first season at Coors Field that ended my personal drought.
Back in the late ‘60s watching a game at Connie Mack Stadium, I had a near miss. I was sitting about 30 rows up behind the third base dugout. For some reason, I set my drink down and said to my buddy that Willie Montanez was about to hit a foul ball to us. Why I thought that I’ll never know, but on the very next pitch he hit a line foul about three seats to my left. I was as prepared as a fielder when it left the bat and dove for it across the laps of those near me. I did get a bare hand on it but had no chance to hang on. Had I made the catch it would have been more spectacular than any play Nolan Arenado has ever made.
Looking around I spied the ball rolling under a seat. Two of us lunged for it and began a wrestling match. It was only then that I realized that we were actually fighting over a dropped souvenir baseball, as it was Autographed Ball Day at the park! I then looked up to see a guy about 5 rows behind us holding up his prized trophy. It was the closest I would ever come to getting a game ball until…
I was in Golden for an Economics Class at the Colorado School of Mines. At the start of the first session, the instructor said he had 4 tickets for the game that night that he couldn’t use. Before he asked the question this 41 year old adult was already waving his arms in the air like a little kid. Four of us lucky souls were seated about 20 rows back in Section 130 directly behind home plate. It was like any wonderful evening at the ballpark, other than the unusually great seats, and we were having a great time. I had been to games at Mile High, including Opening Day in 1993, but I was still marveling at the sight and smell of real grass at the new Coors Field. Having recently relocated from southeast Ohio, I had spent the previous 15 years traveling to “cookie-cutter” stadiums in Philly, Pittsburgh, and Cincy primarily to see the Phillies play on that dreaded AstroTurf.
Around the fifth inning, Ellis Burks got under one and launched a high foul behind the plate. I stood and turned and watched as two guys about five rows behind us reached for the ball. It bounced off their hands and about 15 feet in the air. It came straight down at me and I didn’t miss this time. Using the two-handed skills I was taught as a youngster I squeezed that thing for all I was worth. I was not to be denied.
Some jump up and down, some shrug, some calmly hand it to a kid. Me, I just stood there yelling in falsetto like I had just been kicked between the legs or returned to puberty: “32 Years! 32 Years! 32 Years!” Everyone around was laughing, sharing the joy I felt. Someone asked what I meant by that, to which I replied, “I went to my first ball game in 1963 when I was nine and this is the first foul I’ve ever had!”
An usher came and after giving the thumbs up all clear signal asked me for my name and address. Those with me said it must be for some liability protection issue as they could not understand it. I knew the Phillies in years past had a PR thing of sending Honorary Contracts to fans that had caught foul balls, so I suggested that that may be the case this time. A couple of weeks later I got a package in the mail from the Colorado Rockies. Indeed, inside was my Honorary Contract signed by Bruce Ruffin.
“Oh somewhere in this favored land the sun is shining bright;
The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,
And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children call;
And there was some joy in LoDo – mighty Bob had caught the ball.”