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Scenes from Spring Training: Easy come, easy go

Mar 9, 2012, 8:09 AM EDT


Know what I have never done? I have never caught a foul ball at a baseball game. At least not a major league game.

The only time I got anything was at a single-A game in Myrtle Beach back in 1989, and that hardly counts as the park then was smaller than some high school stadiums and there were only a few dozen people in the place.  Otherwise: bupkis. Nothing at double-A, triple-A or major league games. It never much mattered to me — I’ve written about how souvenirs aren’t that important to me —  but the fact still stands.

Or stood. Until yesterday.

I was at the Angles-Indians game in Goodyear. I was hanging out with Jonah Keri and, because that park’s very small press box was full, we asked if we could squat in one of the empty luxury suites. The ballpark folks obliged, so we took in the game from the front row of the outdoor balcony, above the screen, directly behind home plate.

Midway through the game — not long after Jonah and I actually discussed the fact that I had never snagged a ball — Felix Pie came to bat. He fouled one up and back and it landed on the nearly empty suite level, just down the outdoor patio from me.  Jonah said “There! There’s your chance! Go get it.” And I believe he was only 85% mocking me.

I slow-jogged over to get it — didn’t want to appear too eager — picked it up and admired it.

Just then Jonah said that he thought that there was a boy who would really like to have it. I turned around and there was a boy — maybe 10 or 11 years-old — who had been sitting on the far side of our level, looking hopefully in my direction. I gave it half a second’s thought, walked the ball over and gave it to him.

It wasn’t a hard decision. Just as Jonah pointed the kid out I was already beginning to think how silly it would be for me to keep the ball and that maybe I’d drop it down to a kid in the seats below us (though it was kind of far and might have hurt someone, so perhaps I would have had to keep it as a matter of public safety).  But there was a brief moment when I thought “wait, no fair!”

But it passed. And I guess now the question is whether I can say that I’ve snagged a baseball at a major league game.  It was in Arizona, not a big league ballpark. And I guess it was Felix Pie, and he only qualifies as a major leaguer at this point under only the loosest standards. And of course I didn’t walk away from the game with a ball.

Screw it. It counts. I got a ball.

On to Maryvale to see the Brewers today. At least I think. Over breakfast I may decide to pull a crazy Ivan and hit Scottsdale for the Reds and Giants. I dunno. I’m all discombobulated over yesterday’s events now, so who knows where I’ll end up.

  1. digitaldonnie - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:21 AM

    You sure Ot was Reds? I thought Felix joined the Indians. And they played the Angles yesterday

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:25 AM

      D’oh. Brain fart. I had Reds on the mind for some reason as I typed that.

      • Old Gator - Mar 9, 2012 at 11:51 AM

        Who cares? The real question is, what did you have for breakfast? Doctor Gator is concerned about what you ate today.

  2. phukyouk - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:22 AM

    “On to Maryvale to see the Brewers today.”

    here comes the moment of truth folks..


  3. digitaldonnie - Mar 9, 2012 at 8:39 AM

    Don’t worry about it Craig. We still follow you blindly.

    • Old Gator - Mar 9, 2012 at 5:59 PM

      Blind guy walks into a spring training park with his seeing eye dog on a leash. As soon as he gets into the main concourse, he grabs the dog by the tail and starts swinging it over his head. The usher hears the dog yelping and screeching and runs over to the guy and demands to know what the hell he thinks he’s doing. The guy replies, “just looking around.”

  4. jeffthomasb - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:04 AM

    Outstanding ‘Red October’ reference there, Craig. Haven’t heard that one since a friend of mine described Rick Ankiel’s “pitching” performance in that playoff game against the Braves lo these many years ago. He said something like, “You think the pitch is going to go straight toward the plate, but hold on– it’s heading into the dugout! He’s throwing Crazy Ivans!”

    And then my brother-in-law pipes in with another classic: “No, Ankiel just thinks he’s still throwing to Matheney.” Who, as you will recall, was sitting in the dugout during those playoffs, having accidentally butchered his hand with a knife a few days earlier…

    • paperlions - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:11 AM

      I think this is actually a Firefly reference; thought the concept of a quick about-face is similar.

      • bravojawja - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:57 AM

        It was in Firefly, but Hunt for Red October did it way earlier.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:00 AM

        Yeah, was about to say that: first saw it in Red October, still think of it as a Red October reference. When they did it in Firefly I was at first pleased and then was somewhat discombobulated, because it didn’t seem to fit in that world.

      • Old Gator - Mar 9, 2012 at 6:03 PM

        Of course not. Nothing really functions in the Whedonverse if you look at it closely enough. Joss Whedon is the poor man’s Tom Clancy. And the poor man’s Ray Bradbury. And the poor man’s Bram Stoker. He’s even the poor man’s M. Night Shyamalan, for Buddha’s sake, and M. Night Shyamalan was the poor man’s Roger Corman in the first place.

  5. shaggylocks - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:18 AM

    I once accidentally bought two pairs of tickets to the same game at Fenway Park, so I sold the cheaper pair (bleacher seats) to a coworker. He came in the next day with the Adrian Beltre home run that he had caught. FROM MY SEATS. That’s the closest I’ve ever come to a game ball, and that one still burns a little bit.

  6. cltjump - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:32 AM

    Even better? Getting robbed of a foul ball. Dude, I was 15, at my third major league game ever, on vacation in YANKEE FREAKING STADIUM to see Yanks vs. Rays. Foul ball hit right at me. Dude behind me leans down and spills some beer on me while successfully grabbing the ball. < Anger.

  7. acdc363 - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    When me and my brother were maybe 8 and 10 our parents took us to one of our first games at tanker stadium. While we were watching batting practice I believe it was Paul O’neil fouled a ball right at us and it nailed my brother right in the arm. Some super nice lady chased it down and gave it back to him and my dad spotted Orlando Hernandez standing close to us on the field. So my dad yells “Hey El Duque could we get an autograph?!” And sure enough El Duke himself strolled right over and happily signed the ball for my brother. We still have the ball of course and after that we just fell inthe love with baseball and the Yankees.

    • acdc363 - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:48 AM

      Well I meant Yankee stadium of course not tanker stadium. Damn autocorrect on mty phone.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Mar 9, 2012 at 11:02 AM

        “Damn autocorrect on mty phone.”

        It can’t be that good.

  8. l0yalr0yal - Mar 9, 2012 at 9:41 AM

    Moustakas fouled one off my chest last year in KC. Don’t text and sit.

    I grabbed it before the guy about five seats down came barrelling towards me. He looked like an idiot- no kids and in his mid-40’s trying to score a baseball from a minor-league prospect that had just been called up and (at the time) was batting roughly .180

    I gave it to a kid that was sitting in front of me. He was probably 7 or 8 and I think it made his life. He was there with his mom (didn’t look like dad was part of the picture). I saw them in the parking lot after the game and they said that Mike actually signed the ball. The kid was freaking pumped, it was awesome. My only regret is not getting his mother’s name.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:33 AM

      Sorry to say it, but anybody who sits there texting at a game deserves what they get.

      • l0yalr0yal - Mar 9, 2012 at 3:45 PM

        Right because when you own your own business, it’s feasable for me not to answer a message for three and a half hours from a client.

      • l0yalr0yal - Mar 9, 2012 at 3:47 PM

        That sounded a lot more hateful than what I was thinking in my head. It’s just one of those things I have to take, no matter where I am. But in regards to that last post, I didn’t mean to sound so malicious.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:35 AM

      And of course, I was referring solely to the part where it bounced off your chest. Good on you for giving it to the kid. There are people who wouldn’t even consider it. I’ve seen people knock over any kids in their way just to get a ball. It’s really pathetic.

      • natstowngreg - Mar 9, 2012 at 12:42 PM

        In the pre-game safety video at Nationals Park, they advise any fan who has wrested a foul ball from an elderly person, “C’mon tough guy, give the ball to a kid!” Words to live by.

        Excellent job of role modeling by Craig.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 9, 2012 at 5:22 PM

      Sorry, my comment came off more sharp than I intended. I intended it to be more sarcastic than mean-spirited. I thought I had expressed that in the next reply, but I guess not. No offense intended.

  9. davebrownspiral - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:36 AM

    Was the title to this post a Kip Winger reference? If so Stewart Stevenson approves.

  10. RickyB - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:41 AM

    Only ball I ever caught was at Wrigley in the early ’90s, about 21 years old, which is weird because I went to many more games at Comiskey. But with Eddie Murray at the plate, he fouled a ball directly at me at my seat in the second row of the upper deck behind home plate, right in line with the first-base foul line. But it fell just short of the upper deck. Next pitch from Mike Harkey, Murray fouled off, and I simply had to reach over to my right and snag it. OK, it’s true I brought my skillet to the game and dropped it, but I was able to scramble for it and claim it for myself. The NEXT pitch, Murray fouled off and it landed five rows directly behind me. I thought, “It’s just the first inning and all these balls are coming my way. I’m going to end up with three or four.” Nothing came close the rest of the day. Gave the ball to my grandfather, a die-hard Cubs fan, who had survived a heart attack a year earlier.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 9, 2012 at 12:31 PM

      Good story. I’m sure it made his day, if not year or more, right?

  11. El Bravo - Mar 9, 2012 at 10:49 AM

    Craig, you caught a pie ball so be happy. Be very very happy, b/c you could have caught a shitty cake ball.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Mar 9, 2012 at 11:05 AM

      Cake balls…. pshaw. I’d rather have a donut hole.

    • Utley's Hair - Mar 9, 2012 at 12:05 PM

      But Cake goes the distance.

      • bigdicktater - Mar 9, 2012 at 12:59 PM

        Well played Mr. Hair, well played.

  12. - Mar 9, 2012 at 11:11 AM

    I have one foul ball from a Major League game. It was at the Trop in the fall of 1998. We were actually in town to watch the Bucs & Giants the next day and decided to hit the Rays game upon arriving in town. Jose Conseco, then a Devil Ray, fouled one off into the next section over. I would have given it to a kid, but there wasn’t anyone else around. That ball sits on my desk at work and I practice pitching grips on it when I stressed or thinking.

    I’ve caught a few other balls at minor league games, and the NBC World Series but I have no idea what happened to them.

    And Craig I don’t know if you saw it in the Valverde thread. But we need a Cactus League ATH.

  13. foreverchipper10 - Mar 9, 2012 at 1:02 PM

    Who was pitching at the time? That is really who touched the ball even though it came off the bat of Pie.

  14. tacklemeelmo - Mar 9, 2012 at 2:15 PM

    I consider myself lucky when it comes to this topic. I have 1 foul ball from an MLB game (Lew Ford), and I had another one bounce right out of my hands (Torii Hunter). I also have several balls from batting practice. Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, and Frank Thomas are some of my finer BP balls. I also got Derek Holland’s phone number off a batting practice ball, although the ball (and number) were intended for the attractive female next to me. Still made sure I got the number heh.

  15. Gamera the Brave - Mar 9, 2012 at 4:47 PM

    It appears that today’s word of the day is “discombobulated”.
    I will make sure I use it in a sentence before the end of the day.

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