Catching a foul ball at a baseball game is a miracle. The other catch is that if you snag one and you’re sitting next to a kid, you gotta cough it up. Kids deserve a foul ball, it’s the nature of the game. If you are lucky enough to get one, the memory will burn in your head; watching the stitched leather sphere spiraling down into cupped hands, the feel of the slap and the exaltation of the anonymous peers amongst you inevitably scours the sediment of ones happiness.
I first snagged a fly ball in the lean years of the Minnesota Twins, most of my buddies worked for ad agencies or brokerage firms and the season tickets were free game. Minnesota fans are the fair weather sort and Baseball was an after thought since their last World Series title in 1991. It was 1999 and the Twins had fielded a virtual Minor League squad to get slapped around in the American League Central. Companies owned season tickets and since the Twins stunk and the venue is indoors I got the trickle downs for the less than admirable match ups. I was unemployed that summer, so I’d ride my bike through the downtown buildings and pick up the season tickets from my college buds in their ties. One holmes in particular, Arch, who was a media planner, set me up with plenty of tics. We’d average about six tickets per home game free of charge and since they were primo seats, we’d hock them to scalpers for half price, buy upper deck general admission, drink free and pocket the change. I was making money. Our _____ & _____ tickets were right behind home plate and the scalpers would beg us for them. What normal fans didn’t know is that the Dome was so empty that you could sit virtually anywhere after the third inning. We’d do just that, moving around the Dome poking pinchies. Our goal was to catch a foul ball.
I have to admit that indoor baseball sucks, especially when it’s a sunny 77 F outside and you gotta sit in an air conditioned plastic palace with a bunch of posers. I didn’t care, the life of a super fan had its privileges. We got to sing the seventh inning stretch one Monday night. We didn’t catch onto the foul ball thing until my new best friend Mike W. entered the picture. He had purchased a set of season tickets in the upper deck for $125. He went to plenty of games, but wouldn’t come down to our cheat seats until after the sixth inning. Mike scores games.
So we meet Mike in the Rally Room which is this low ceiling bar in the Dome that has two for ones in the bottom of the second and top of the seventh, Mike would catch up with us there and then go sit in our primo seats. It’s all about the attitude. We’re sitting next to the home team left field bull pen one day and I tell Mike that I want to catch a fly ball.
“You should be sitting over there.” He says, pointing to the right field bull pen.
”Why’s that?” I ask.
””Cuz two lefties are pitching and the lineup is stacked with righties.”
Kid is a genius. We went over there through the rollerdome halls of the Metrodome and sure enough, in our sea of blue seats, foul balls rained from the sky.
Brad Ausmus of the Detroit Tigers hit my foul ball. We’d take girls to games and assure them a catch. Never failed.
This last summer I was all pumped for the Chicago Cubs to put the spank down on the rest of the league, but as the season progressed, I realized that I was foolish, yet my yearning remained despite the inherent realization that I was a fool. My girlfriend encouraged me by learning the whole “Murderers Throw” rotation and listened intently to my mindless banter about line-ups and Dusty Baker. She is wondrous, so I decided to shack up with her. The day after the big move was our week vacation to the Badlands of South Dakota. Our early start was delayed by a late night and we didn’t get on the road until noon.
We cruised through Southwestern Minnesota at small cafes and eerie, hollow towns until we realized that the space on a map is miniscule to roads traveled with a hungry hangover. I opened the paper and noticed that a minor league team, The Sioux Falls Canaries were to play that day and Sioux Falls, SD was three hours away. I phoned Mike W. to confirm if it was a home game and the time. He told me it was and the starting time was 7:04. Hmmm.
We pulled into Sioux Falls at 6:30 and scoped out a few hotels, our bet was the cheap no-tell one right next to the stadium. We paid cash and walked to the game. I was so excited holding my girls’ hand walking on a hot August night in a place I didn’t know to see a baseball game. Coincidence was that we had seen the Canaries play the St. Paul Saints earlier in the summer. I walked up to the ticket window and asked for some “sweet seats”. We got two behind home plate for $18 total. We sat down and laughed slap happy at the miniscule stadium and the serendipitous luck of this place and the vacation and our almost love. The announcer informed us that if this visiting batter in the first inning struck out, beers were two for one. He struck out. We walked into the concourse and bought two beers with nary a wait. After we got our beers I saw a foul ball sky over the seats and into the concourse. A kid snagged it and I began telling Dawn the story I just told… another foul ball…. another foul ball. I was chasing the kid around the slab concrete, and he was just too fast. He held up all three that inning. We laughed and Dawn told me I’d surely get one. Next strike out, next free beer, more foul balls, I didn’t get one. Same same next time. We left in the seventh on account that we didn’t care about the outcome and had an early start in the morning. We sat on a bench outside the stadium to soak up the day then we stood to leave. Dawn hugged me as I starred at a sign behind the bench that read,
Watch Out for Foul Balls
Oh how I wanted one. Dawn squeezed me tight and pointed over my shoulder. I turned to see the ball skying into the parking lot, through the glow of the bright lights, glistening with gnats. I ran. I picked up the rolling ball as the kid from the concourse came running though the front gates.
”Got it!” I said, holding the ball above my head.