Injury aside, there's nothing like catching a foul ball
Posted: Monday May 22, 2006 4:09PM; Updated: Monday May 22, 2006 4:46PM
Your chances of catching a foul ball increase dramatically if you attend a Marlins game.
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Imagine standing about 30 yards away from Alex Rodriguez, one of the hardest line-drive hitters in baseball. You're not wearing a glove, but A-Rod is there with his sable bat. An invisible pitcher throws a 92 mile per hour fastball that A-Rod rips directly at you with serious topspin. The ball bounces about five feet in front of A-Rod and picks up speed from the topspin, then bounces again about seven feet in front of you. You are under no obligation to catch the ball, except that maybe, you know, it might be kinda cool to catch a grounder from A-Rod.
But you don't have a glove and the topspin gives it a bad hop and the ball seems like it's going about 200 miles per hour and this whole thing happens in about 1.5 seconds.
Catching a foul ball just might be the ultimate in sports fan participation. Hockey became so dangerous that it added nets, increasing safety but subtracting the odds of snagging a loose puck. At an NBA game, the most you'll ever catch in the stands is a sweatband, maybe a towel, or maybe a player winking at his girlfriend or wife or both. At NFL games, fans can keep what they catch, but the NFL is so set against their game becoming interactive that they raise nets behind the goalposts to save loose balls.
A baseball foul ball is as good as it gets. They are completely unpredictable. They shoot off bats at angles not yet planned for, and this happens with an alarming frequency. That's why the ball finds Steve Bartman, or goes to the same fan twice in a row.
Home run balls are a different topic altogether. A home run ball, while surprising, comes at you straight on. You might have time to think to yourself, "Oh, crap, this ball is coming directly at me," but you've still got the time to prepare. In Oakland on Saturday, Tyler Snyder snagged Barry Bonds' 714th home run. Tyler later said about Bonds, "I hate that guy." But that's the magic of the whole thing. You get a chance, you make the catch, no matter who hits the darn thing.
On Tuesday night, a friend who works for adidas invited me and my friend Sam to the Yankees/Rangers game at Yankee Stadium. Adidas has a luxury box there, and with that luxury box comes four front-row seats. I don't say "front-row seats" meaning they're close to the field or that they're in that section where the waitresses bring you paper menus and you can order nachos without ever standing up. When I say front row, I mean precisely that. You walk down through the field-level seats and all of a sudden you're right there, the vivid emerald grass slapping you in the face.
I've never been a Yankees fan, but I was so pumped about my chance to sit close that I bought a Yankees hat from a street vendor, just so Steinbrenner wouldn't see me on TV in my Braves hat and have me ejected, which I totally wouldn't put past him.