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A Day to Remember
2005-05-09 04:16
by Alex Belth
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

Fortunately, Cliff has done his usual fine job of recapping a game. Emily and I were also at the stadium, but our seats were so spectacular that is was actually hard to keep perspective on what was happening on the field. The seats my mom scored for us were just up the left field line from the visitor's dugout, seats 11 and 12, in the front row! I mean, you've got to be kidding me, right? One step forward and we're on the field. Third base coaches Ron Washington and Luis Sojo were close enough to touch, and Eric Chavez and Alex Rodriguez weren't too far off either.

The seats were memorable, though they would not be my first choice if I could sit anywhere I'd like. Being so close, you lose perspective on the entire field a bit. More than that, you have to be alert on every pitch, in case a foul ball comes zipping your way. The first time Sheffield was up, he rocketed a foul ball over our heads and it scared the bejesus out of me. After that, I literally crouched down each time he came to bat. I didn't bring my mitt, but we were lucky enough to have a guy sitting next to us who did. To be honest, I was more concerned about Emily than I was about myself. But you really had to be on guard. No keeping score, or drifting off here. We were in the firing line.

We arrived early and caught the A's taking batting practice. Ken Macha strolled by and I said hello, and he said hi back. He stopped to chat with Octovio Dotel, who was taking grounders at third base, and then moved on to the outfield. Little boys lined up behind us and yelped like puppies at the players to chuck them a ball. This went on for the entire afternoon.

"A Rod, A Rod, I'll be your best friend if you give me the ball."

"Brown, I'll give you $20 if you get this guy out."

Eric Byrnes, who Em thinks is a dead-ringer for Steve Martin's youngest child in "Parenthood," sprinting in and out of the dugout each inning, in his vintage Charlie Hustle style. But nobody on Oakland was better to see up close than Bobby Kielty, with his great shock of orange hair.

The game, of course, turned out to be a good one. For me, the highlight had to have been Kevin Brown v. Byrnes with the bases juiced in the second inning. Not only because Brownie got the strike out, but because one of the balls that Byrnes fouled off, came skipping directly toward me. I stood up, leaned over the fence and scooped it up with no problem (they should all be that easy!). The first fould ball that I ever touched in my life, peoples. I got excited. Meanwhile, Em is next to me, like this sort of thing happens everyday.

Sitting behind us was a family with two young boys. They were at the game celebrating the older boys birthday. (The mother, who was trying to teach them to keep score, hadn't been to the stadium since Game Six of the 1981 Serious.) So, without really examining the ball--or perhaps waiting for the crowd to get on me for keeping it--I turned around and gave the ball to the birthday boy's brother. This secretly broke Emily's heart, but she didn't say anything until we got home. She thought I should have given it to the birthday boy, but I figured the other kid wasn't getting anything that day, so he should have it. (Later in the game, Skippy, the ball boy, tossed a ball to the guy with the mitt who was sitting next to us, and he promptly gave it to the kid whose birthday it was, so they both went home happy.) It wasn't until later that I had second thoughts about giving the ball up. I still couldn't believe that I had actually touched a ball that had been in play. But the best thing was the event itself, actually catching it. As nice as it would have been to keep it, I'm sure the kid I gave it to will cherish it more than me...well, maybe.

It's incredible just how hard these guys hit the ball. Rodriguez's dinger was a seed, and though judging fly balls to left and center was difficult from where we were sitting, I knew by the sound, his ball was gone immediately. Tino's homer was especially exciting, and Posada's bomb was the cherry on top of a terrific day for the home team. The only drawback was the nasty sunburn I got on my face and neck. We thought it was going to be overcast. "Well, that's the last time that'll ever happen to you," nurse Shapiro said to me later in the evening, as she applied cream on my face.

I smiled. "Don't look so happy, this is bad," she scolded.

I was still geeked about the foul ball. I was hurting later on, but it was okay. The Yankees won, and Em and I had a time we'll not soon forget.

Comments
2005-05-09 05:40:28
1.   STONER
Foul balls, ahhh yeah, foul balls. I recall my one and only brush with stardom, back when the Yanks were playing in Shea, it was around the 7th inning and I was well oiled in over-priced Budwisers, sitting down the right field line, a wide concourse right in front of my seat. Lou Pinella was at bat and fouled off a pitch towards the right field seats. I'm sittng there in my Bud haze, calculating that the ball is indeed going foul and damn, it's headed right toward me, hot dog, here's my chance to finally snare a foul ball. The fly ball lands ever so gently on the courcouse directly in front of me, takes a freakin room-service bounce right into my outstretched left hand (damnit, I'm right-handed - the Bud was in my right hand), and CLANG, the ball bounces off my rigid left hand into the hands of a scrambling youngster at my feet. I stood there, looking at my still rigid left hand, failing to comprehend how in the hell I ever dropped such an easy bounce, as booos rained down around my ears.
My buddy came back from the concession stand and asked what the hell all the booing was about - I just sipped the Bud (in my right hand) and stared at the field in despair...SIGH!
2005-05-09 05:43:06
2.   STONER
P.S. Those Buds could have been Rheingolds, come to think of it!
2005-05-09 05:55:35
3.   Murray
Got my first foul ball two years ago on a Saturday afternoon in September, when Boston's Andy Abad fouled off Felix Heredia's first delivery to start the ninth inning. Needless to say, the Yanks were losing if Heredia was pitching the 9th, but I went home happy.

You're way more generous than I am, Alex--I've been attending games since 1974, and I wouldn't give my foul ball to the Hall of Fame if they asked for it.

2005-05-09 06:27:04
4.   Jen
While it's not as exciting as getting a ball during a game, I did snag my first home run ball during batting practice this year. Sosa hit a high fly ball to the right field bleachers. I caught it right before it hit the railing. It hurt like hell but it was worth it.
2005-05-09 06:33:19
5.   Rob
I caught a mattingly hr ball once. one of his trademark rightfield bleacher shots. now that was a great day.
2005-05-09 06:38:24
6.   Clay Caviness
Great seats, Alex! Best seats I ever had was at Comiskey a few years back. Got walk-up tickets directly (and I mean directly) behind home plate, about 15 rows back. Perfect location. Someday I'd like to have seats like that at Yankee Stadium.

Murray's right - I'm still a kid when it comes to foul balls, and if I ever caught one I don't even think I'd give it up!

2005-05-09 06:44:54
7.   NetShrine
//Eric Byrnes, who Em thinks is a dead-ringer for Steve Martin's youngest child in "Parenthood," //

All this w/e, I thought, Macha looks a little like Larry David - and, Kendall looks like Robert Downey Jr mixed with Freddie Prinze Jr.........

anyone else see this?

2005-05-09 06:45:28
8.   Fred Vincy
Never got a major league foul, but when I went to a New Haven Ravens (AA) game on a cold and rainy Easter Sunday a few years back, there must have 75 fans in the entire park, and I gathered a bunch -- made up for a lot of years of futility.
2005-05-09 07:00:29
9.   rbj
Finally got to touch a foul ball last week, in AAA. Of course I missed it, and some kids got it. That's why I'm in the stands and not on the field.
And with back to back shut outs, is the pitching coming around or is the A's offense that bad?
2005-05-09 07:00:33
10.   yankee23
I've somehow had a lot of contact with baseballs. My first was nearly being hit by a Kirby Puckett foul ball when I was about 7. The guy who caught that wasn't nearly as nice as Alex.

But Coors Field is the place to go. In 2003 I managed to catch four bp home run balls and my roommate caught a Charles Johnson home run. That one went off my hand and I can still remember the feeling I got.

What a great game.

2005-05-09 07:05:06
11.   Alex Belth
Yo Dawgs. Before I left the house this morning I checked the Yankee Rewind we taped last night. The foul ball I got came on the pitch where Byrnes shattered his bat. And sure enough, you can see me leaning over the fence and snagging the ball. My own personal five seconds of stardom...
2005-05-09 07:11:44
12.   Patrick
Congrats. :)
2005-05-09 07:22:20
13.   Ryan
Is it okay for a grown man to bring a glove to a game? I've done it before, but I always feel like a tool when I do.
2005-05-09 07:29:49
14.   rsmith51
Ryan,

It is probably fine to bring a glove. If you have kids(or nieces or nephews with you), it works better.

2005-05-09 07:40:53
15.   Joe
NetShrine, a buddy of mine made the same observation a few weeks ago (http://soapboxsports.blogspot.com/2005_04_17_soapboxsports_archive.html)

Great story, Alex! You can tell a lot about a man's character with what he does with a foul ball.

2005-05-09 07:51:18
16.   Cliff Corcoran
The only ball I ever caught was a fungo hit by Lee Mazzilli out in left field while he was drilling Shane Spencer and Ricky Ledee on the left field carom before a Yankee-Met game in 2000 (this was the game in which Piazza hit a grand slam off Clemens, kicking their rivalry into overdrive--I had nosebleed seats over third base but got there early for BP).

The only game ball I ever made contact with came in 1991. I had joined a group of my mom's coworkers for a bus trip to a Yankees-Angels game and was sitting in the front row of the upper deck on the third base side. I was excited to see Dave Winfield back at the Stadium and also pleased to see Mark Langston start for the Angels. My brush came mid-game during a Dave Parker at-bat. I had just gotten a pretzel and a giant souvenir coke and had propped the pretzel and my scorecard in my lap with my pencil in one hand and the coke in the other. Parker fouled off a pitch and I couldn't tell where the ball was going, all I could see was that it was getting bigger. I soon realized it was headed directly at me, but it was too late to unburden myself in an attempt to catch the ball. All I could do was stick out the hand with the pencil in it in self defense and cringe. The ball hit the soft part of my right knee and ricocheted to the left under the seats where it was grabbed by another member of our group. I was devastated. Not only had the ball "chosen" me and I lost it, but I could just imagine the footage of me cringing appearing on WPIX as Scooter and Seaver had a good laugh at my expense. Despite the Mazzelli fungo that day remains unavenged.

2005-05-09 07:52:55
17.   Cliff Corcoran
Oh, and I've always thought that you should give your foul balls to the oldest fan nearby. They'll have the least opportunity to catch another one. That said, the first foul ball I catch is mine. After that I may become more generous.
2005-05-09 07:54:50
18.   NetShrine
Joe, thanks!

Here's my foul ball story:

This is an "almost" story. The year was probably 1978? Me, and my friends (Mario and Bernie) were going to a Twins-Yankees DH. At the last minute, Bernie could not go. He asked "Would you take my kid sister Liz in my place?" So, we did. We sat through the first game - nothing special. But, for some reason (maybe because we were just silly kids?) we decided to switch seats for the 2nd game (with Liz and I swapping chairs). Well, that was stupid. Late in the 2nd game, Carew came on as a PH against Gossage - and sliced a foul right into Elizabeth's lap (an absolute gimmie). She got the ball - which would have been mine had we not switched seats. Oh well, at least I have this stupid story. (Imagine? A ball thrown by the Goose and hit by Rod Carew!)

2005-05-09 08:06:25
19.   Murray
On a sunny Saturday afternoon in May 1995, Paul O'Neill flipped a ball to me in the center field bleachers at Fenway Park during BP. I don't count that as a legitimate get, because BP doesn't count in the standings. But it is the only true AL ball I have now.

My brother's first foul ball (Kenny Lofton hit it leading off a game at the Stadium three years ago) came not moments after he suggested that we switch seats for some now-forgotten reason.

I like Cliff's idea. Give a little kid a ball, and what does he have to look forward to? Make 'em work for it.

2005-05-09 08:17:16
20.   Alex Belth
Shoot Cliff, that is a good idea. Anyhow, the next one I get is mine, all mine I tells ya. And let me tell you something, you should be required to have a mitt in those foul ball seats, forget about what kind of tool you look like (and I agree, it can feel funny).
2005-05-09 08:23:26
21.   Mike from Hoboken
Actually, Murray, it was mroe than three years ago -- June 3, 2001. Lofton fouled the third pitch of the game, off of Pettitte, into the upper deck. The ball and the ticket stub from that game sit on the bookshelf in my bedroom. It's my only foul ball in almost 35 years of baseball-going.
2005-05-09 08:34:20
22.   NetShrine
//Before I left the house this morning I checked the Yankee Rewind we taped last night. The foul ball I got came on the pitch where Byrnes shattered his bat. And sure enough, you can see me leaning over the fence and snagging the ball. //

You have to get the head toaster to get that vid clip up on this site! ;-)

2005-05-09 09:18:29
23.   rbj
Chicks and kids can bring gloves, not men. Although, I've thought about amending that when sitting on the third base side, down in front, when Marcus Thames is batting. That is life threatening.
And yes Alex, you do need to get that clip up.
2005-05-09 10:17:54
24.   Dan M
Never got a ball in my 25 years as an attending fan, and would never give it up. That's why I think it's unfair that the bleacher crowd gets on people to throw back home run balls (and, because it's a Wrigley thing, not a Bronx or anywhere else thing).
2005-05-09 11:51:32
25.   Jon Weisman
I've gotten the sense over the years that this is an unpopular view, but I don't understand the criticism people get for keeping a foul ball for themselves rather than giving one away to a kid. I thought baseball was the game that kept us all young. Am I no longer allowed to have thrills and keepsakes because I've passed the age of 10?

I've gotten four foul balls - all of them on some sort of richochet, all of them as an adult - and I cherish them. I might give a kid a short-term thrill by giving him or her my foul ball, but the ball would have greater long-term meaning for me than for the kid.

I second Cliff's point about giving a ball to the oldest fan. Part of the thrill of getting a foul ball is that I waited so long to get one. My dad has still never gotten one. If I were to give any away, it would be to him.

2005-05-09 11:52:19
26.   Murray
I always ask people after that happens, "Wait, you mean throwing the ball back doesn't nullify the home run?"
2005-05-09 12:07:40
27.   STONER
All this giving away a foul ball makes me recall a 'family' situation I saw at the Stadium last year. Batting practice,Yanks are hitting, drive to the upper deck in right field, a father, mother, son, and a guy not affilated with the family, scramble for the ball. Wife picks it up, with a look of shock on her face- doesn't know what to do with it - so what does she do, she turns to the stranger and offers him the ball - the husband has a freakin meltdown - WHAT ARE YOU DOING, he screams at her, she freezes and the husband realizes how loud he was, slinks back into his seat, but the wife now realizes she made a major boo-boo and shrugs her shoulders to the stranger and sits down and hands the ball to her son. Had to be there to appreciate it.
2005-05-09 12:22:38
28.   brockdc
Good suggestion, Cliff. Plus, how do you know if the same ball you give to that 8-year-old won't be lodged in Scraps the dog's mouth within 24 hours? You don't, which is why we all need to keep our balls.

My only opportunity thus far came during an Angels-Yankees game at The Big A in 2000. The Rocket was pitching to some journeyman (I'd like to say Troy Glaus or Garrett Anderson, but that would be a lie), and the scrub fouled the ball back into the first row of the upper-deck, where yours truly and his buddy were sitting. I bobbled it and my buddy (who has never played an inning of baseball in his life) snagged it on the rebound. Being a great friend (and a non-Yankee fan) he gave it to me. The ball still has a big smear of pine tar on its hide.

2005-05-09 12:28:47
29.   brockdc
Stoner,

That is awesome.

2005-05-09 13:46:00
30.   Alex Belth
There's a good chance that the ball will wind up in the kid's scrap heap. It could also be one of the best moments of his life. Regardless, the way I figure it, you've got to do something like that cause it's right for you. Got no control over how it'll be received.
2005-05-09 17:20:34
31.   aboveavg
I actually caught Raffy Palmeiro's 536 HR in Baltimore last summer. AI went up to see Barry Bonds play the O's with a bunch of friend;s. We could ony get standing room tickets out above the RF wall. As soon a Palmeiro hit the ball I knew I had a chance for it, so I tossed my last 1/4 cup of beer on the ground and went right to where I thought the ball would land.

I was about 5 feet behind most of the crowd which had pushed up against the wall think the HR would just sneak over. The ball took one bounce and landed right in my hands. Next thing I know I am surrounded by security guards. I thought I might have accidentally ran over a kid or something in my haste. Turns out Palmeiro was a huge Mantle fan as a kid and wanted the ball back.

Security rushed me and my friends to the office section of the stadium to negotiate. The orioles PR guy seemed a bit disapointed to see a guy with a yankee hat had caught the ball. I managed to get me and my friends bumped up to behind home plate, in addition to a pair of great tickets for the next time the Yankees were in Bmore, a signed Palmeiro ball that was used that day, and a signed bat (with a few nice ball marks on it).

I stil hear it from family and friends for not getting more and I wish I had the only ball I ever caught, but I think I did the right thing. I don't see any reason to hold a guy hostage, he's the one that hit the HR.

2005-05-09 18:17:28
32.   Jay Jaffe
The only foul ball I ever got was at a Walla Walla Padres (short-A) game back in 1981. I ended up getting it signed by Bob Geren, who later played in the bigs for several teams, including the Yanks. I think he's on the A's staff now and is probably the manager in waiting.

The closest I've come at the stadium is a good one. A gray May Saturday in '99, my brother, my roommate and I were sitting in the front row of the Upper Deck, near third base. The Mariners' David Segui, batting left-handed, fouled one off, and as I looked at it spinning against the overcast sky, I judged a fly ball correctly for possibly the first time in my life. "That's yours," I told my roommate, who was on the aisle seat. He is a soccer player, with no baseball experience whatsoever. The ball indeed came right into his hands, but rather than cradling it, he lunged at it, knocking the ball over the railing. Dejectedly, he slumped down into his seat as the entire crowd of Yankee Stadium showered him with boos. Classic.

You're far too generous, Alex. Any ball I get, I'm keeping, and if I give it away, it goes no further than a blood relative (allowing for future kids).

2005-05-09 18:23:07
33.   e double trouble
Next time sign the ball before you give it away Alex. And here's another vote for getting that clip up on your site. Those five seconds could last a lifetime. Go Yanks.
2005-05-09 18:40:50
34.   stevo
This a doger fan from LA. I was wondering what everyone thought about charley steiner when he was with you guys, because he seems pretty horrible to me.
2005-05-10 05:54:32
35.   STONER
STEVO...

I liked Steiner, he has a dry delivery and wit, but he is very knowledgeable...give him time, he'll grow on you.

2005-05-10 19:03:34
36.   stevo
I do like his sense of humor, but he seems to call the plays like a fan, not like a a seasoned announcer. Maybe I dont like him because they paired him with steve "psycho" lyons, who seems to drag down whomever he is broadcasting with, evn though he seems like a nice guy.

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