I was at the rubber game of Mets-Yankees last night. Perfect baseball weather, lively crowd at Citi Field — half of whom were rooting for the enemy, it seemed. Although I must admit, the fans in pinstripes were pretty well-behaved. The Yankees have a bad week and their fans are humbled, I guess. That’s okay. They could stand a little humble pie now and then.
Anyway, when I settled into my seat, I did what I always do, especially when I’m close to the field (which is more often than not): I assess my chances of getting clocked by a foul ball.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I do not like chasing after or inserting myself in front of foul balls. I’ve attended hundreds of games in my life. Never caught or retrieved a foul ball. Had a chance about ten years ago during a game at Shea. The guy next to me scooped up a ball hit by Edgardo Alfonzo as it settled under the seat in front of him. And once, in the late 70’s, my friend Dave (who now works for the Mets) got his hand on a ball hit by Ed Kranepool, but let it get away.
I’m just happy I’ve never been plunked by one of those laser-guided orbs of cowhide. Why would anyone would jump in front of a missile off the bat of Albert Pujols or Ryan Howard at the risk of breaking his nose? Buy a ball on Ebay. It’s autographed, comes with a letter of authenticity and will arrive in the mail, not between your eyes. Every time I sit in a seat that seems right in the line of fire, I feel lucky when I leave the park unscathed. Like last month, I’m at the Mets-Nationals game. My seats are down the left field line, two rows from the field. I was sure I’d be ducking from a few screaming liners. Nothing all game. I felt blessed, even though the Mets lost and the lines at Shake Shack were too long.
I always think about that incident involving a woman at a Phillies game — sometime in the early or mid-60’s, I believe. She’s sitting in the field boxes at old Connie Mack Stadium and gets struck in the head by a foul. As she’s being carried out on a stretcher, she gets zonked again! Same batter, I believe. One in a billion. I don’t want to end up like that poor lady. Or like that guy Steve Bartman in Chicago. Ruined his life. Not to mention that of a countless Cubs fans.
So back to last night. The Mets are up 6-0. Johan Santana is cruising along. I’m sitting with my friend John in the field boxes — about ten rows up from the field, just to the third base side of home. Terrific seats, except for one thing: no protective netting overhead. Little chance of a screaming liner, but a real possibility of a high pop up. I do prefer the high pop up foul over the screaming liner. You have more time to react and conventional wisdom says that it won’t do as much damage. Nonetheless, I could live without the pop-ups as well. I think it was in the bottom of the seventh last night when one came our way. It was directly in our line and seemed to hang forever up in the cool night air of Flushing. As it began to descend, I was filled with dread: it’s heading our way! I stood up and prepared to — well, I’m not sure. Maybe I run away from the ball, maybe I just let everyone around me get first dibs (like my friend John, who was chomping at the bit to get a piece of the ball), maybe I cringe under my seat. I’m not sure of the best approach as I’ve fortunately never had to apply it. Anyway, the ball reaches its apex at about 100 feet (or maybe it was a 1000; it looked like it was in LaGuardia’s airspace), then spins forward — safely, about four rows in front of me. Once again, I dodged a bullet. I exhaled as I knew the odds were unlikely that another ball would head my way the rest of the evening. Then again, remember that lady in Philly.
I left after eight innings with the Mets up 6-1 and thereby dodged another bullet by not having to suffer through the top of the ninth as the Mets’ bullpen barely avoided another late inning implosion. It was a relief to learn, once I emerged from the subway, that the Mets had held on to win, 6-4.
Then again, nothing’s more relieving than shrugging off the foul ball blues.