Charlie Sheen once bought every ticket in the left-field bleachers at the old Anaheim Stadium in pursuit of one.
Men, like children, bring their baseball gloves to games in hopes of grabbing one despite the odds of one reaching any given seat, much less seats in the high upper decks of the stadium.
Fans show up at the stadium hours in advance hoping their odds of getting one are greater during batting prattice.
Some are caught on the fly, others are gained only after a scramble with others looking for the souvenir. Of course, we’re talking about a foul (or home run) ball.
Mine started in my late teens when I’d bring my glove to Phoenix Municipal Stadium, watching the Phoenix Firebirds and waiting for the baseball gods to deign me worthy of receiving such a gift.
One year ago this past Thursday, I came home from Arrowhead Hospital after an eight-day stay following cardiac surgery to repair two valves. Lifting anything over a handful of pounds was discouraged; standing in the path of a baseball lined off the bat of a major league player would have been considered suicidal.
One year later, I was at Chase Field for the Astros-Diamondbacks game in my regular perch in the press box along the first-base line. I’ve brought home one baseball in the past 12 years – it stopped rolling next to my hand after bouncing off a television monitor, the desk and a telephone. A baseball is a baseball but a foul ball isn’t always another foul ball.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Brett Myers went into his windup and released his pitch. Chris Young swung, making enough contact to send the ball on a parabolic arc toward the press box. And not just any part of the press box, but the airspace to my immediate left.
Someone said “head’s up.” I closed the screen on my laptop (having years ago watched a laptop get destroyed by a Matt Williams foul ball), stood up, shifted to my left, reached up with both hands and cushioned the rotating sphere as it spun into my palms, closing my fingers around my prize … all without fully realizing what I’d just done.
The press box cheered. Mark Grace, former major league and the Diamondbacks’ color commentator, applauded and signaled two thumbs up for the catch. I kept marveling that the baseball upon contact felt less like a hard surface than like clay, oddly enough.
And then I called my wife. And my mother. And added the photograph to Facebook. Because, from now on, I’m among the relative few (given how many millions attend baseball games ever day) who has caught a foul ball on the fly.
Perhaps you read this far looking for a real estate hook. I don’t have one. And I don’t need one. Because, paraphrasing Chevy Chase, I have a foul ball and you don’t.