Sunday, April 05, 2015

How To Lose A Foul Ball

The first (and probably) only time I'll hold a foul ball.
I've been struck by lightning, ridden a zamboni and last spring at a Reds game, a got a foul ball.

Basically, I am on fire.

I had gotten us baller seats to celebrate Ray's birthday. It was to be a night of close-up baseball, stadium food and fireworks. Ray was already enjoying a gigantic basket of fries early in the game when a high-foul pop-up came into our section. I nudged him. 'Yo, life-threatening ball ricocheting into our section, look alive.'

He glanced up and promptly returned to his fries. A few rows behind us what looked to be about 10 dudes starting clamoring for the ball, grabbing and pulling and pretty much knocking each other out for it.

The ball bounced up a row up, then another and then the people next to me started grabbing for it.

That's when the ball rolled beneath my seat.

It was as if fate herself had gently placed the ball in section 115, Row W, seat 15. I snatched it from under my seat and proclaimed "I GOT IT!"

I couldn't believe it. A major league foul ball, in my grip. Gotten fair and square. I beamed. Three dudes a few rows ahead of me turned and scowled out of jealousy. I beamed directly at them.

I leaned over to Ray to note how amazing it was, how this ball just landed right here for us, and how cool. We couldn't believe it.

We started to wonder whose bat it came off of. In all the excitement, we weren't sure, but we could figure out.

That's when the woman a few seats down asked if she could take my picture with it. Sure! I held up my trophy as she snapped my photo and then she said, "If I ever caught a ball, I would give it to a kid."

My smile faded.


I briefly considered my obligation here. Am I supposed to start looking for needy kids in section 115? The needier the better? But what if I want to keep it, can I do that? What if I want to give it to a kid I know? Or my dad, a lifelong Reds fan?

I've been a Red's fan my entire life, thanks to my dad, who is also a life-long Reds fan. My dad took me to my first game when I was 8 at Riverfront Stadium to watch Johnny Bench catch his last game at Johnny Bench Night. I got a Red's pennant with Johnny Bench's photo on it.

Pack your bags, you're going on a guilt trip

A few minutes after the woman snapped my photo Ray said, "You should give it to the kids behind us."

I stopped beaming.

I didn't want to give it to the kids behind us. I was excited. No one ever gets foul balls at baseballs games and it wasn't as if I took it from the kids or like they were even trying to get it. I think they were playing on their iPad or something.

Besides, I knew he only said it because that woman had said it.

"What are we going to do with it," he asked.

What are they going to do with it, I wondered.

I looked at the ball and admired the scuff mark left by the bat. I envisioned writing the date on it, our seats, who's bat it came off of and who pitched it. I was going to tell my dad how awesome it was; he was going to be so pumped to hear this story. I thought maybe I'd give it to him for Father's Day.

But between Ray and the woman, I felt like there was some rule that I was supposed to give it to a kid. That I wasn't allowed to keep it, or that keeping it made me a jerk when there were kids in the stadium.

So I had Ray take my photo with it so I'd at least have evidence it happened before I gave it away.
Ray snapped the photo and I turned to the dad behind us and asked him if he'd like to give the ball to one of his kids.

He looked at it like it had the plague on it.

"Uhh, I guess," he said, and just stared at me.

Ingrate, I thought. So I turned to his son directly behind me and asked if he'd like to have the ball.

The kid just looked at me like, "Uhh, whatever stranger lady giving me some random baseball."

They couldn't have cared less about that ball, but it was too late. I had handed it to the kid. He didn't thank me. His dad didn't thank me. I think they only took it to be nice. Which is what I get for succumbing to peer pressure.

I immediately regretted it.

It was as if the ball lost its magic as soon as I claimed it. It went from being a ball I got at a Reds game to a ball some random lady handed to them 10 minutes later. I don't think they even knew it was a foul ball.

Misery loves company

The next day I called my dad to tell him the story. Misery loves company and I knew he'd be as miserable about it was I was.

He went from incredulous: 'YOU GAVE IT AWAY?! YOU GAVE IT AWAY?' To quiet resignation: 'I can't believe you gave it away...'

We were beside ourselves. I told him I'd forgive him if he gave me up for adoption.

'What you should have done is told Ray to have some more fries and keep his mouth shut.'

'Yeah, he and that lady both should have kept their mouths shut," I said.

It felt good to have someone on my side, someone who thought giving it away was as dumb as I did. (Even though I was the dumb one.)

My dad then explained his decision tree on worthy and unworthy kids to give a foul ball to.

'Now, if me and the kid were both going after it and I got it, sure, I'd have given it to him and been happy to do it. But I can't believe this... What'd that kid behind you have to do with anything? He wans't even going for the ball! I'll tell you what, if I ever catch a baseball at a Major League baseball game like that, nobody's getting my ball. And if that kid is healthy and can walk, he's definitely not getting it. I've never even held a Major League ball!"

I cracked up laughing. Basically, if you are a kid who can walk without crutches or a wheelchair, you are not getting my dad's imaginary foul ball.

Ray tried to make me feel better by telling me that the kid's dad was a jerk and that the kid was probably going to be really excited to have the ball when he got home. He'll probably take it to school to show his friends, Ray said.

He's probably home schooled, I snarked. 

Well, It's a Good Story (Sort of)

It's been nearly a year since this happened and it's always entertaining to hear the mixed reactions from people about it. Mostly people feel sorry for me and console me by noting it was good deed. Others just think I'm a moron.

Why do kids automatically get the ball? Screw those kids!

Deadspin offers this chart to determining if you deserve a foul ball, which I see their point. But this Dodgers fan's post called Please Let My Dad Keep His Foul Ball is my favorite. He hopes that his old dad will one day get a foul ball while also fearing that the surrounding crowd will angrily make his dad give it to a kid.

I am still seething at myself for giving away that baseball. It was stupid. I regret it. So if I ever get another one, which is likely never, I'm keeping it and I don't care what squalling kid is around me to complain about it. And then I'm going to give it to my dad, because there is no way that a kid, even a kid I know, but especially a stranger's kid, would be more excited to have it.


Epilogue: It's good to know people who know people... A friend of mine who works for the Reds was able to get me a ball for my dad for Father's Day, so at least he could hold a Major League Baseball. It doesn't have the scuff of a bat on it, but it is an authentic ball that COULD have been someone's foul ball, or home run, or Grand Slam. (Giving this ball it's own imaginary future has been half the fun.)

My dad keeps it on his desk in a plastic baggie... "so it won't get dusty," he says.