Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Chasing Hillary and Foul Balls

                                                                                                "I got her!"

As outlined in many of my recent posts, catching Hillary Clinton is proving tougher than catching a foul ball at the ball park, which leads me to my sermon of the day.

Catching foul balls.

As I have now reached my 71st birthday and have just recently visited my 50th state, I have only a few goals left in life. One is becoming a grandfather, which will happen in March 2017. The other two have to do with baseball. The first of those is seeing the Cubs win a  World Series after 53 years of Cub fan futility. The experts say that will likely happen this year, but then again, I have been there before (1969, 1984, 2003). The other is catching a foul ball/homer at a big league game, something that has never happened since I attended my first in Milwaukee in 1957. There is something of the little boy in me (and millions of other guys) that desperately wants to get a ball, but the odds are very small given that your average game is watched before 20,000-40,000 fans.

I remember when the LA Angels were playing their games in the 1960s at Dodger Stadium and drawing 5-10,000 a game while the Dodgers usually sold out. Thus, I went to many Angel games. (I love the thought of being at a ball park with only a few thousand fans, but those days have all but disappeared.)  The closest I ever came to getting a ball then was during batting practice. I was sitting in the left field bleachers and the Angels' Joe Adcock launched a high drive directly at me. My seat was next to the railing and a tunnel that led to the concourse. As I reached to my right I thought that the ball would bruise my bare hands so I better catch it with some give drawing my hands back. Alas, the ball went right through my hands and down the tunnel into the concourse. Had I had a glove on, it would have been a can of corn as they say in the Bigs.

The other time was in 1980 when I went to a Dodgers-Padres game at Dodger Stadium. We had great seats along the first base line on the field level. I recall clearly that Dave Cash was the Padres batter. A right-handed hitter, Cash checked his swing on a pitch and fouled it off right at You-Know-Who. In fact, it was headed right for my lap. Trouble was, I was holding a hot dog in my right hand and a beer in the other. As I hurriedly tried to set the hot dog and beer down, the ball landed in my lap and skidded away to some lucky fan in front and to the right. Curses! Foiled again.

Aside from foul balls or homers, I would even settle for one of those cheapies where a player, coach or even the ball boy tosses a ball into the stands. As long as it's a genuine game ball. (Batting practice ball is second.) Recently this year, I caught a Padres-Nationals game in San Diego. During batting practice, I settled into an area in the right field bleachers where you could buy a beer and sit at tables. There was a roped-off line guarded by an usher. Fans would stand around and yell to the outfielders shagging fly balls to throw one into the stands. It was kind of like people throwing peanuts at the monkeys at the zoo. I wasn't going to make a fool of myself like that, but if one of the balls made it past the first line of fans and landed at my feet, I would be happy to pick it up. After all, it was only batting practice. There was this one jerk in the his 40s who was so exuberant that the usher had to keep shooing him away from the rope line.

"It's only a ball", he kept saying.

"Trying to get a ball for my kid", the jerk answered.

Soon enough, there was a loud thud as the Jerk crashed over the rope line, knocked over another guy and walked away with his ball disappearing from view.

Then during the game, I was seated near the left field foul pole, and sure enough, there was The Jerk taking up a position a few rows away (with no kid). He was drinking beer and loudly conversing with some guys nearby using plenty of four-letter expletive deleteds. I figured that if a ball was hit my way I was going to have to contend with this guy bowling me over the get that ball. The last thing I needed  was to try and drive home with a broken arm.

While strolling around Petco Park, I came to a concession stand called Padres Authentics. There you could actually buy a game ball for $30. It had a seal on it so when you got home you check on the Internet and find out the date, the game, the pitcher and the batter involved with the game ball. (I think all the teams are doing this now, the Cubs for sure.) I thought about it, but then I figured it was like paying for sex with a prostitute (or what I imagine that must feel like).   I passed. Maybe when I am too old to go to a game I might do it.

Buy a ball, that is.

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