So there I was, intently watching the game, when John Rodriguez kicked back a foul ball that sailed over our seats, ricocheted off the cement balcony of the level above us and then landed in my chair… while I was still sitting in it.
That’s the Cliff’s Notes account of what happened. Here’s the "in living color" version:
Now, I suppose I must start by explaining: I don’t chase foul balls. Never have. Not even as a kid. I’ve gotten them before, sure, but more often than not, they found their way to me, not the other way around. Either someone else caught the ball and gave it to me or it got knocked around enough that eventually it just rolled my way or something like that.
I’m not much of a souvenir hound all together, really… In the sense that I seldom ask for autographs or the like (and certainly not while the guys are on the field). Although, to be fair, I must say that I’ve acquired my share of keepsakes. But honestly, most were received without much effort on my part. Either I’ve gotten things as gifts, or a player has given me something because I happened to be sitting nearby or by some other form of dumb luck. (Did I tell you about the time I got trapped by a torrential rainstorm in a field supply closet with the trainer for the Cardinals’ Triple A team? The next thing I know Dan Haren, Bo Hart and John Gall were visiting me on the set of a movie I was filming in New Orleans. No joke. I mean, seriously, you can’t plan something like that. But stuff like that happens to me more times than you can shake a stick at.)
Ok. I did ask a player for his broken bat once… during a game as he was coming off the field to trade sides between innings. And, yes, he gave it to me… signed. (Beau Allred, playing for the Cleveland Indians’ Triple A affiliate of the time: The Colorado Springs SkySox. I was in junior high or high school at the time.)
But my point is, generally, when I go to a game it’s to watch baseball. Leave all the extracurricular activities to the folks who are trying to figure out how to occupy themselves for nine innings. Seriously, as grown men (and every now and then, women) fight with each other– clawing, elbowing, punching– climb over children, scale walls and shove old women aside just so they can jockey for a ball, I find no need to get involved. To get knocked around by a bunch of over-zealous ball hounds, isn’t something that appeals to me. Not even for a prime Major League keepsake.
For the most part, I just keep my eye on the ball so that neither I nor those around me get hurt. So it was today when J-Rod hacked one over the backstop. I watched it sail over my head, whack off the cement balcony above our section and bound back in my direction. As the ball was on the rebound, peripherally I could see and hear the bodies gathering from nearby sections. From the "Here it comes!" and "Get over there!(‘s)" and "Move, move, move!(‘s)" I knew the ball was destined to be caught (and soon!) though I wasn’t looking forward to the melee that was bound to happen right behind me.
So, casually, I turned my back on the free-for-all– to face the field– and bent out of the way.
From my "sheltered" position this is how the impending crash of bodies unfolded: There was much scuffling and shuffling. Some grunts and groans. There might have even been a cuss word or two. And then came the expected contact from foreign bodies…
Except it wasn’t the kind of contact I had been expecting. Instead of the whams and bams of people far more aggressive than me, or the sharp knock of a hard-hit ball in motion, or the weight of off-balance men, or the cold, sticky splash of someone’s beverage, I felt something far different. What I felt slid softly down my side and rested itself on my right hip. It had no discernible weight or force but had the motion and determination of a foot sliding into a sock. As if someone had tucked a rolled piece of paper into this soft spot for safe keeping.
Not knowing where the volley for the foul ball had led or was leading, I gently turned to see what it was that had nestled itself against my side… and that’s when the man in front of me and down a few seats announced, "It’s right there, honey, in your chair." And sure enough, there, wedged between my hip and the arm of my chair was the ball.
I couldn’t believe it. (How did all those yahoos miss the ball as it came fluttering down off the balcony?!) I can only imagine that after slip-sliding from one grasping hand to another set of out-reached fingertips, it pinballed itself to me. (And I suppose no one was willing to go fishing for it now that it was lodged by some woman’s rear end.)
So, I simply reached down and picked it up, becoming the proud owner of an Official Major League Baseball, made by Rawlings and hit into the stands by Cardinals outfielder John Rodriguez in the third inning of a matchup between St. Louis and San Diego at Pet-co Stadium on Memorial Weekend of 2006.
Once again, I bumbled my way into being in the right place at the right time. Typical. And so continues the string of random occurrences by which I have been amassing a lifetime’s worth of cool and interesting memorabilia. (Don’t worry. I’m a pack rat. I keep everything.)