Given that minor league baseball has been in the news lately — I’m a Yankees fan, but they’d better not mess with the Lowell Spinners — plus the wintry mix we’ve had around here lately, I figured I’d pull out this one from May 8, 2016.
It was a harmless foul ball into the left field corner of Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, where I was watching the New Hampshire Fisher Cats and the Reading Fightin’ Phils.
The left fielder picked up the ball, tossing it aimlessly in the general direction of third base. The ball stopped next to the tarp, about 30 feet from where I was sitting, and the umpire picked it up.
I don’t remember who first told me that if you catch a ball at a baseball game, you get to keep it. It was probably my uncle. I’ve never actually caught one, even though I was good a chasing down foul balls at my brother’s Little League games.
They made you give those back, however, although there was at least that one moment where everything stopped for you as you threw the ball back over the fence.
I came close to getting a ball at an Albany-Colonie Yankees game years ago. My brother and I were sitting in the back row of the grandstands, and a foul ball hit the chain-link fence behind us, bounced behind our shoulders, glanced off my thigh and landed in the hands of fans sitting a row or two below us.
But the chances looked good in Manchester. My father-in-law and I were close to the field (that’s former Yankees infielder and current Fisher Cats manager Bobby Meacham pictured above wearing No. 10; my father-in-law tried to replicate his chance meeting with Joe Girardi, but Meacham didn’t hear him), and after the students being honored left, the crowd was down to what you might expect for a Thursday morning game when the temperatures were in the upper 40s.
In other words, there were about 100 people in the ballpark, and the four sections next to us were empty.
I started to think about strategy if a ball headed our way. Would I jump over the seats in front of us or behind? Would the kids in the front row put up a fight? Should I run to the ball, or play it cool and walk over?
And why did I care so much about getting a ball at a AA game when I’ll be 44 years old in a few weeks?
Then the umpire picked up the throw from the left fielder.
It has always confused me why umpires or players throw out pitches that are in the dirt or foul balls, but will keep playing with baseballs that were hit on the ground in fair territory. Are the grass and dirt not the same?
But when the ump picked up the ball next to the tarp, it suddenly hit me … he was going to be tossing the ball away before the next pitch, and my father-in-law and I were the only people near him.
Sure enough, the next thing I knew, his underhand toss was headed straight for my chest. I caught the ball with two hands, and it was mine.
Sure, it wasn’t a screaming line drive where I showed off my great hands, or throwing myself in front of someone to keep them from taking a ball in the head, but I had gotten a ball.