I scored some pretty good seats to a Royals game this week, behind the netting, but still good territory for any pop fouls that might have drifted back or ricocheted off the upper deck. I brought a buddy along and mentioned that I had attended well over 100 Major League games in my life, but had never caught a foul ball or home run ball. He said, “yea, I’ve only caught like five.”
“Two home run balls from Mike MacFarlane and Travis Fryman and some foul balls along the years,” he added. “It was easier when the stadium wasn’t as full.”
At that very same game, fellow writer Ryan Landreth was in the stands. And despite sitting in the upper deck, he landed this gem.
In the upper deck! So I have to know, what am I doing wrong?
I have sat all over the ballpark, but to no avail. As a kid, we generally sat either in the upper deck, or down in right field general admission, prime home run territory, but still a bit rare for balls to land. So I get why I might have a poor track record through my adolescence.
But as an adult, I have really sat all over the place. Outfield Sonic Slam seats. Field Dugout. Field Box. Behind home plate. Upper deck. No foul balls, no home runs, not even a tossed ball from a sympathetic first base coach.
Now I suppose I could be like Zack Hample, the overzealous fan who has made his name catching foul balls and home run balls, even facing backlash over procuring a ticket to the game at Fort Bragg to do so. There was a period where I would even bring a glove to the park, much to pointed mockery by my friends (and deservedly so).
Even more amazingly, it is not like I have whiffed like this guy. I have only come close once, during last year’s ALCS. I brought my son and two buddies for Game 2 against the Blue Jays. Some time around the fifth inning, my buddies went to get a beer. A Blue Jays hitter popped a foul ball over near our section, but too high for me to make a play on.
Ah, but the ricochet! Always be prepared for the ricochet! The fan several rows behind me couldn’t secure the ball. It bounced, then rolled to our row, resting just under a seat. The seat where my buddies had been sitting. The seat to the left of my eight-year old son, who I love dearly, but has reflexes slower than Salvador Perez beating out a ground ball. Having to navigate around him to get to the ball, I was too slow and lost out to a much larger gentleman a few seats over.
Some of it is probably passiveness on my part. Sometimes you have to be ruthless to get a ball, although this woman goes way over the line. To paraphrase a sports cliché, I just don’t want it badly enough. I have never been much of a sports memorabilia buff. I once got a signed baseball by Jaime Quirk and I’m pretty sure I played catch with it the next day. If I got a foul ball, I’d probably end up doing something silly and return it, like this girl. And if it was a home run from an opponent, I’d probably try to throw it back on the field, hoping for a Henry Rowengartner-type throw.
Have you ever caught a foul ball or home run ball? How much effort should you use in pursuing a ball? What is the etiquette - do you give the ball to a nearby kid?