Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Confessions of a Dodger Fan - Catching the Dream

I recently attended a Dodger game with SoSG Sax, who brought his glove with him. As related in the At-Game Recap, the lady next to me asked if he had ever caught a foul ball. I lied and said, “Nope, but who am I to ruin the dream.” Which made me realize that I, unfortunately, have never experienced that very dream - the dream of catching a foul ball.

Now I did catch a home run ball, but during batting practice and not at Dodger Stadium, but at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in Baltimore, Maryland. However, the story goes further back than that incident. It was 1992 and I was at the new Oriole Park, incidentally again with SoSG Sax. Sax was more concerned about his other companion that he had met up with at the park and they were talking and having a beer in the bar beyond right field. It was still an hour before the game and I was more interested in the ballpark than their conversation, so I told them I was going to walk around. The park was brand new and the red brick motif was stunning. I walked onto Eutaw Street and was indulging in the brand new Oriole Park with the smell of Boog Powell’s ribs wafting from the grill and the sounds of the crowd echoing off the B&O Warehouse beyond right field. I then hear someone yell “Heads up!” and I look toward my left and see a ball screaming towards me. Stunned, I stick my right hand out to grab it. The ball careens off the ground and skips right into my hand...and then abruptly spins off of it like a gyroscope hitting a wall. BAM - and in less than a second and the ball is heading off towards someone else. There is a scramble for the ball on the ground and some lucky fan raises it up in victory. Feeling euphoric from my brush with greatness, I raced back to Sax and his friend, out of breath, and could only get out the words “Ball....hit hand...almost caught....” Sax and his friend looked at me like I was hit in the head with the ball, instead of almost catching it. Plus, I think I ruined their alone time.

I did return to the scene of the crime (I was robbed) about six years later. I was again walking Eutaw Street before an Oriole game and I heard someone say “Incoming!” I looked to my left and see a ball bounce right in front of me and arching right towards my position. It is funny how I can close my eyes and still picture that ball against the cloudy sky spinning straight for me. This time I jumped a little and caught the ball with two hands. Triumphantly, I held it up in victory. Redemption at last.

I have gone to Dodger Stadium on numerous occasions and have even brought a glove to some of the games. I sometimes sit along the third-base line on the field level behind the Dodger dugout trying to anticipate a left-hander that is late on a fastball. I see a number of fans on Diamond Vision victoriously displaying their souvenirs. I love watching someone catch a foul ball on the fly and their reaction afterwards. I also wonder what the proper etiquette is after you have the ball. Should you celebrate only if you catch it on the fly? If you pick it up from the ground is that sort of cheating? Should you give it to the little kid sitting in front of you or keep it and place it on your bookcase to collect dust (as my Oriole Park one is doing right now)? Have any of you caught a foul ball? If so, please share your story so I can live vicariously through you. I still wonder if I will ever catch a foul ball - hopefully on the fly and bare-handed. That will truly be a dream come true.

Have you...
Caught a foul ball on the fly?
Picked up a foul ball from the ground?
Caught a batting practice ball?
Caught a home run ball?
Never caught anything except a cold?
pollcode.com free polls


Wicks said...

Coors Field Dodgers vs Rockies in the late 90's. Todd Zeile hits a HR right to me and my cousin a Rox fan pushes me out of the way and catches the ball. Afterward he offered me the ball but I refused. How messed up was that?

rbnlaw said...

Right field pavilion at the Stadium. Dodgers v. Reds during batting practice. We're sitting mid way up toward the left side of the pavilion (closer to the bullpen). Dave Collins hits a shot 5 rows up from us; the ball bounces down the aisle right to where I'm sitting. I reach over and pick it up. As I do so, my friend dives on top of me and reaches for the ball about 5 seconds too late. When he finally gets off of me, he sheepishly apologizes and says, "Sorry, never got a home run ball."

Had a chance at a ball that the fielders toss around between innings. Sitting in Loge 163, Ethier turned to toss the ball he was using for warm ups (he was in left at the time, this was 2006). I couldn't believe: a) he was attempting to throw to the Loge and; b) he was throwing it straight at me. Unfortunately, the yayhoo sitting behind me decided he needed the ball more than my kids and flattened me right as the ball hit my hands. It fell harmlessly to the row in front who picked it up triumphantly as if they had really earned it.

My kids still talk about that one.

Side note: The batting practice ball was signed by Lou Brock about a year later when he came to my college radio station for an interview. Two years later, my brother was seen using it to hit grounders to friends in the alley behind my mother's house.

Fred's Brim said...

been lucky enough to get two from the ground:
1. sitting at the wall way down the third base line at Shea for a Mets - Padres game. Padre Ricky Henderson fouls one off that manages to make it all the way down to us. I lean over the wall to get it and the wall was just a few inches too tall for me to get. I lean back and while everybody is still leaning down scrambling for the ball, the ballboy picks it up and tosses it to me. we tried to get Ricky to sign it but he said he couldn't do it during the game. That ball was later stolen. The lesson: don't bring baseballs to work.

2. Saw the Dodgers play in Montreal with my Dad. Montreal in those last days had terrible crowds, so much so that they sometimes didn't sell tickets in the back section of the field level, although some people sat back there so they could stretch out. My dad and I sat in the last row of the bottom section, right in front of the walkway. Jolbert Cabrera hit a foul ball that went into the back section right behind us, smashed off a seat and came back to the walkway, where I reached over the railing and grabed it on a room-service hop.

3. Nearly got a foul ball in KC from Ken Griffey Jr in an extra innings game. An enormous friend of mine moved faster than I (or anybody really) thought he was capable of to get it. I had just remarked that we hadn't seen a foul ball to the left side all game.

4. had a screaming line drive bounce off my hand in Oakland. I don't remember who hit it (Carney Lansford maybe) but I do remember having absolutely no chance at catching it or beating the savages around me from digging out from the seats

Steve K said...

Never caught a baseball, but I did pick up a hockey puck off the ground at a minor league (WHL) hockey game. I was sitting a few rows behind one of the goalies, the puck popped over the glass and landed five feet to my right amid some empty seats. Needless to say, the arena wasn't too full...

Unknown said...

I was at a Giants/ DBacks game at Candlestick Park and Stan Javier hit a foul ball down the third base line in my section and I won the scrum for the ball. I think it was in 1998.

Another time, I was in the front row behind the visitors dugout when Dodger Stadium had all the foul territory and Craig Biggio hit a pop up and the guy next to me got it and gave it to me. Weird to think how early in Biggio's career it must have been, the Astros still wore those ugly road jerseys that looked like their home jerseys.

QuadSevens said...

I've caught two batting practice balls, and had one thrown to me by Andre Ethier.

1. The first ball I caught was at Angels Stadium (back when they were still from Anaheim) and I was there with my family at the age of 14. I was watching batting practice from the left field foul pole and suddenly a fly ball is headed my way. It's tailing towards the foul pole so I lean in and reach around the pole to catch it on the fly. I can't remember who hit it or which team it was, but it was a rush.

2. The second bp ball I caught was last year at Dodger Stadium. About a 14 year gap, but worth it. I was standing out in center field watching batting practice for the Mets from the warning track with my Dad. After about 10 minutes, a ball comes screaming at us off the bat of a Met. A crowd of people start moving toward the area where the ball is going to land. My Dad in front of me reaches up with his glove, but he's too shallow. I reach up and hear the loud POP of the ball hitting my glove. I play it off like I missed it, then show my Dad the ball and we both get excited.

3. The last ball I got from the seats during a game. It was about 2 weeks ago on a Saturday afternoon with free tickets from work. I had my parents and 6 friends with me for this hot game. I believe it was the game that the Dodgers moved to 10-0 at home. We were sitting field level in aisle 50 near the foul pole. All game long, girls were yelling "I love you Andre Ethier!" from directly behind us. As a joke, a bunch of guys started yelling the same thing. Apparently we caught his attention because he threw his warmup ball our way during the 7th inning. It bounced off the hands of a guy in front of me, and I picked it up off the floor. My ex, and plenty of other girls, would kill for that ball. It's now sitting on my desk at home next to the ball I caught on the fly at Dodger Stadium.

Alex Cora said...

Great stories!
Wicks: Family rivalries are wicked.
rbnlaw: A LOU BROCK signed ball?!? Aw, man, that is a shame.
Fred: Just replace the ball from you desk with a red stapler.
J Steve: Was the crowd chanting "Throw it back!"
Andrew: Tell everyone it was a Bonds ball and sell it for a million.
QS: Since he doesn't take pictures with fans, you should ask Ethier if he will take pictures of inanimate objects like the baseball he threw to you.

Steve Sax said...

Nice new avatar, and great post AC.

I am eligible for multiple answers to the poll, so I didn't vote...

Unknown said...

AC, I was just killing time at work and found the box score to the game on baseball-reference and despite me knowing exactly who hit the fall ball I got, it somehow slipped my mind that BB hit his 388th home run in that game. And as it was 1998, it was right about the time he got roid envy.

Clearly, I need to get back to work.

Orel said...

Have I mentioned Rob Flippo threw a ball to me?

Great post, AC! My only other encounter, with a BP HR, also involves SoSG Sax. What is this, SoSoSG Sax?

karina said...

I've got a few balls from games, but i haven't caught any of them.

My first ball was handed to me by Manny Trillo, around 2006. It was the last game of the playoffs and Aguilas were out of race, playing with Leones, which lost every chance in the first week, so there were like 80 people in the stadium (its capacity is around 25,000). He is the first base coach of the team, caught a foul ball barehanded and just handed it to me. I felt embarrassed because there were lots of children yelling for it, but Manny Trillo said "this is for her, because she's such a good fan". I didn't miss any game of that season, by the way. Next season, he gave me a commemorative game worn cap, but that's another story.
The second ball i was handed (this is even more embarrassing) was around 3th or 4th inning and i got distracted watching my baseball crush ( he plays first base on winter baseball), whom plays for another team, a foul ball got in my direction and i only could react covering my head with my hands. Luckily for me, the ball hit the 13/14 year old boy who was sitting next to me so i cleaned his injury with no water antiseptical soap, from the dugout someone sent ice and a towel and i helped the kid with the ice and the towel, when it melted i put some antibacterial cream and another cream for muscular pain i had on my purse , so kid ended up giving me the ball, because he said i had taken care of him. I refused but he insisted, saying he'd wish he was older so i could take care of him everyday. I was sooooo embarrassed. Basically, i was given the ball because i don't carry a bag, but small luggage on my shoulder.
I'm friends with the daughter (Fabiola, someone remembers her from a previous avatar?) of one of the stadium vendors, so baseball players are always giving her practice balls, bats and even gloves, she's given me a couple of them, just because.

karina said...

Great stories everyone, by the way.

Rob said...

Foul ball at Wrigley. It was late in a game that had already suffered one rain delay, and was threatening another (the game was in fact called before the end, as playing conditions grew increasingly treacherous). Most of the crowd had already headed home, but even so when Neifi Perez fouled a ball almost straight back over the screen, there was a sizable knot of fans scrumming for the foul.

It landed against Helen's foot. I guess it was just meant to be.

Rob said...

From that same game: star-struck wife plus broadcaster/snubbed HoFer Ron Santo.

Neeebs (The Original) said...

Don Wilson from the Astros, circa 1971 threw me a ball during batting practice.

I got into a tug of war with a "bigger" kid and won the battle.

ten minutes later Roger Metzger hit a ground ball by the field boxes and I jump onto the field, slipped on the dirt, to get the ball.

Needless to say, the security guard took the ball away from me because I jumped onto the field. Mom says, "how do you know that he went onto the field?" Security guy said, look at the dirt on his pants. That's dodger dirt.

So I ended up with ONLY one ball that day. I still have the ball.

But alas, I've had plenty of near misses in my days, but never got another ball.

Alex Cora said...

Karina: Manny Trillo? I always wondered what happened to him. I think I have 30 of his 1983 Fleer baseball cards somewhere.
Rob: Did you wrestle the ball away from Helen too?
Neebs: Was that Don "The Dragon" Wilson? Hey, on the field during a game and they didn't kick you out? Wow!

Rob said...

No, no need to arm-wrestle Helen for the ball; it's of more interest to a Cubs fan anyway.

Rob said...

Neifi Perez thinks about where to send a foul ball. Back and to your left, Neifi, back and to your left.

Neeebs (The Original) said...

AC: I was 9 years old, plus they were alot more forgiving in those days.

rbnlaw said...

Brother's reaction to me when I caught him: "Who's Lou Brock?" We were both in our 20's and didn't like each other much. He's the same one who buried my entire Hot Wheels and Matchbox car collection in the backyard of our home in LA. Never found; never forgot.

Adam said...

I was in Florida for Spring Training last year and on my way home I stopped to see the Dodgers visit the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium. I was sitting right behind the plate and about half way through the game I decided to walk around and check out the stadium, which was only about 10% full being a midweek day game.

My exploration of the stadium brought me to a deck in left field home run territory; right behind on top of the Dodgers bullpen. As I stood and watched Dodger relievers warming up, I heard the PA announcer say that Dodger First Baseman John Lindsey was coming up to bat. Knowing that Lindsey had a big bat and I was in home run territory, I put my camera down on the ground, where I kne2w it would be safe.

I felt like an outfielder getting into my ready position as the pitcher got ready to throw each pitch. Finally, I heard the crack of the bat, but had no idea where the ball was going. I looked down toward Left Field where I saw the National Left Fielder running straight for me. I looked up and saw a tiny black dot coming right for me.

I took a few quick steps back from the railing and readied myself for impact. As the line drive approached at what seemed like the speed of sound I placed my hands in front of me, in catching position. But, at the last possible moment, I chickened out and quickly stepped left where I would be out of harms way. I turned around in time to play the carom off the wall. The ball bounced right back to me, off my chest and in to my hands.

It was a very euphoric feeling and I exchanged some high fives with the few other people who were on the home run deck with me, but I really wanted to share my moment with people who I thought would appreciate it. So the first thing I did was to pull out my cell phone and go to DodgerThoughts were I could share my victory with the world.

It was a great trip to Florida for Spring Training where I got to experience the final year of Dodger Town first hand and catching a home run ball really put the experience over the top.

Falling LEAVes said...

1. (5-12-07) Dodgers vs. Reds. During batting practice, my friend Kevin and I were standing in the left field, by the foul pole and the baseline boxes. He wasn't paying attention, but I noticed a ball was hit to Joe Beimel. I elbowed Kevin and told him to call Joe, which he did. Joe glanced at us as he bent down to get the ball. When he straightened back up, he tossed the ball to Kevin. I still claim that he got the ball because I told him to call Joe, or else he would have been oblivious to it.

2. (5-15-07) We were standing in fair territory of left field section during BP. A ball comes at us and I watch it as it hits the foul pole on the fair side. It hits a chair, rolls on the ground, hits Kevin on the back of his foot, and rolls under the seats. Kevin puts his glove on it and tries to get it. I try to get out from under his glove since he wasn't moving it. Some old Chinese guy comes from the row behind us, reaches down, and snatches it out from under Kevin's glove. To this day, I still tell Kevin that he should've gotten the glove out of the way so I couldn't gotten the ball before the old man did.

3. (3-28-08) We were in the left field pavilion for the Red Sox/Dodgers exhibition game. Kevin and Sherisse were standing in the lower half of the bleachers. I was standing on the walkway chatting with someone and the usher. The Red Sox were taking BP. A ball comes flying out to the bleachers. No one else is running after it on the walkway except me. I know it's going to be over my head, and I hope it bounces back towards me. As I'm reaching up for it, this older guy with glasses knocks me over for it! He was taller than I am, so he got to the ball during the bounce before I did. We both fell on the bleachers, and he kept the ball. I still get mad when I remember that. I went back to the people I was talking to. They all said that ball was mine and he came out of nowhere and knocked me out of the way. Even the usher agreed.

4. (6/5/08) The Cubs were taking BP and they hit a foul ball into the left field section. The ball bounced, hit my hand, and rolled into the row I was standing in. There was no one there to get in my way, and I finally GOT MY BALL!!! I brought my friend Maria to her first game and she teased me that I looked like I was going to cry.
I've had other close calls, but not close enough where I absolutely should have gotten the ball like the 3-28-08 game.