This is it. This is the quintessential query for every living baseball fan, AL or NL, young or old, big-market or small-market...
Would you stick your hand into a plate of nachos to grab a foul ball at a major league baseball game?
What??? That's not the burning question?
Well, the reason I ask is that after attending hundreds of games from age six to 36 I have never caught one. Not a home run ball, not a lazy foul pop, heck, I never even had a player take pity on me when I was a kid and toss a ball in my vicinity during batting practice.
The supply of baseballs seemed endless during batting practice, how could I not get one of those? So, I'm trying to get to the bottom of what I, and many of my baseball fan brethren, would do in order to get our hands on that holy grail of baseball fandom.
Oh, did I mention that my luck finally changed? I'll get to that...
Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a game at brand-spanking new Citi Field. As a matter of full disclosure, I should mention that I am, in fact, a life-long Yankees fan (save your boos, please) but was given the best ticket any die-hard baseball fan could ever receive—a free one. My hard-working corporate friend scored a few hard-working corporate tickets, and I was the beneficiary of one of them.
It was a beautiful night for a game, the Mets were playing their divisional rival the Florida Marlins, and we had ample opportunity to tour Citi Field during pre-game in all its 21st century wonder.
Biggest pro: very intimate so the fans are right on top of the action making noise.
Biggest con: it's as if Shea Stadium never existed, there is no homage to it at all save a circle on the outfield wall (which is black, not blue—another oddity).
But back to the game. The Mets jumped out to a 6-1 lead courtesy of the first career grand slam by rookie catcher Omir Santos. After that the game was largely uneventful with the respective pitchers settling in and only allowing one run for the remainder of the contest. This gave us time to tour Citi Field some more and, eventually, we settled in for the eighth inning, which is where my night took a turn for the memorable.
JJ Putz is now on the hill for the Mets and walks John Baker, which should have brought us to superstar Hanley Ramirez, except that Ramirez was hit on the hand with a first inning pitch and left the game immediately.
Enter Ross Gload...a journeyman of sorts playing for his fifth team in an eight-year career. Gload stands in, takes a huge cut at a Putz fastball, and skies it high into our general section down the left field line, but it's just a little too far from our row for me to go barreling down the aisle for an attempt to catch it.
Then came the payoff pitch. The next pitch is nearly identical, only the foul ball is hit right...to...me.
I remember saying, "That's right here!" as I tried to brace myself for what was going to be the biggest catch of my life. (I played plenty of baseball games in my life but THIS IS A FOUL BALL; the story is timeless, people! Timeless!). The ball is drifting and drifting and drifting and just as it gets to our row, I realize it's too far over my head to catch it, which leads me to wheel around and see pure mayhem.
The ball hit in the row of people behind me creating a maelstrom of beer, water, popcorn, and nachos and ricocheted two or three times until it bounced directly under guess whose seat. I got down on the ground, out scrambled two or three people, blindly reached my hand underneath and BINGO...the Holy Grail.
Out of 45,000 seats, my white whale came to rest in a plate of nachos under mine. After thirty years and countless ball games, my mission was finally accomplished.
No matter that it was a foul ball...no matter that I technically didn't 'catch' it...no matter that I ended with several rows of fans laughing directly at me because I had so much nacho cheese dripping off the leg of my jeans that it looked like I had bathed in it...no matter, I say.
The important question is whether or not I would stick my hand into a plate of nachos to grab a foul ball at a major league baseball game?
You're damn right I did...
Special thanks to my friend LJ, Ross Gload, and the random kid who brought me napkins to clean off the nacho cheese.
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