Foul Ball Blues

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.

Bartman: the dark side of foul balls

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.


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2 responses to “Foul Ball Blues

  1. Larry Jenchel

    Friday afternoon – 5/28, I read your blog on foul balls. Just a few hours before heading out to last night’s Mets-Brewers game at Miller Park with my son, AJ.

    Our seats are 2nd level, behind the plate, just in front of the press box. 1st pitch of the game to Jose Reyes, and he fouls it back. It is a high pop coming directly to my son who is sitting to my left. We both froze — kind of as you describe. I didn’t know whether to go for the ball, or run and hide. My son too. We both froze. But we made the catch.

    Not of the ball, but of the guy sitting in back of us who just had to reach across AJ and the woman sitting next to him. The guy caught the ball. We caught the guy. A 40 year-old man risking injury of himself and those around him for a $12 baseball. I just don’t get it.

    Maybe I am being a little harsh. Maybe if he hadn’t have gone for the ball, it would have plunked AJ in the head. Maybe we both helped each other. Maybe he saved AJ from the ball, and we saved him from himself as he tumbled over the seats.

    Sometimes, at the ballpark, it all works out.

    At least until Corey Hart’s two run home run in the bottom of the ninth.

    • Sounds like you caught the foul ball blues. And you’re not being too harsh. Little good can come of chasing after foul balls. Except for that guy in Philly whose little girl grabbed the ball he caught and tossed it back on the field. It got him on the Today Show and millions of YouTube views. Probably a book deal also. But that’s okay. I prefer him to Philly fans who get tasered and puke on fans.

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